No More Dauphins, Please

AP/Michael Conroy

Photo: AP/Michael Conroy

I don’t necessarily mean to tear apart either Jim Caldwell or Jim Mora the Younger on their ascensions to head coach status with the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks, respectively, in order to replace Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren. Whether they are the right choices for their franchises will be borne out next season.

What I’m going to angle at again is that succession plans, as far as head coaching goes, and never mind the sport, are shit. More often than not, when a coach leaves, even voluntarily, there are fundamental aspects that need to change in the operation of the product on the field that aren’t meant to be kept. You can see this by the sheer fact that Mora is getting rid of coaches and bringing in new guys, but this happens after an underachieving season.

The question is: does ensuring continuity paper over bigger problems? Entirely possible. Let’s use Mora first: he was the secondary coach and assistant head coach last season, one in which the Seahawks secondary wasn’t all that great (although everyone on that damn team was hurt.) This is just a mild example.  As for the Colts, this isn’t Caldwell-specific, but it’s troubling — the defense bled just enough again to keep them from advancing. What, or whom, does Caldwell bring to the table to fix this?  Should Jim Irsay and Bill Polian have looked around at the multitudes in the head coaching market to see if they had the right approach to address this problem?

Only time will tell whether the dauphin approach truly works, but on its face, it seems like it’s asking for more turbulence rather than real continuity.

(When I’d previously tackled the “coach-in-waiting” thing, it had to do with colleges and the minority coaches issue. It doesn’t apply here: an exemption in the Rooney Rule allows assistants to be promoted to head coach if it is written into their contracts.)

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Home Is Where The Upset Is

"Can you hear me now? Good. Thanks for making Eli suck today."

"Can you hear me now? Good. Thanks for making Eli suck today."

Eagles 23, Giants 11 – It seems rather odd to me that Eli Manning has been playing in the Meadowlands for his career and yet has trouble throwing in the winds. I thought the addition of Brandon Jacobs for the Giants would turn the tide in their favor this week, but Donovan McNabb’s velocity on his passes cut thtrough when Eli’s fell weak, making the big difference after both defenses generally took the right approach to stopping the running games.  Philly’s defense fared better, stopping New York from ever reaching the end zone. Five trips to the red zone resulted in no touchdowns.  If you’re a Giants fan and the play-calling on 3rd and 4th downs made you want to pull a Buddy Ryan on Kevin Gilbride, I understand. It’s like Andy Reid transferred his crappy play-calling essence across the stadium today.

With no rooting interest left, I’m going to go with Donny Mac: despite all the times Philly has tried to run him out, I want him to win a title — because it will shut them up for the rest of his career.

Steelers 35, Chargers 24 – Final score not completely indicative of the beatdown handed out by the Pittsburgh D upon Philip Rivers. The Bolts offens never really go right after that first quick touchdown drive, and while Ben Roethlisberger completed some great throws and had the opportunity for others, Wilie Parker was the star of the game offesnively, darting in and out of the SD front seven during the entire game.  There was nothing as satisfying as watching Rivers get pounded by Lamar Woodley and Brett Kiesel.

Ravens 13, Titans 10 – Bad delay of game call late obviously, but I have a dirty suspicion that Blatimore would have converted a 3rd and 7 just as well as a 3rd and 2 at that point, because the Titans’ offense shot itself in the foot too many times with turnovers to give the D any encouragement. While Joe Flacco got some deep balls going, we’d advise holding off on the fellating. Those deep throws obscured some rather pedestrian stats and he’s not very good with the short to intermediate passing game. At this point, he’s a younger Dilfer, and Baltimore lost Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington in the War of Attrition. I saw seven guys fall thanks to injury in the second half alone.

Cardinals 33, Panthers 13 – Not quite sure what compelled John Fox to empower Jake Delhomme to throw into double and triple coverage rather than just completing handoffs — the Arizona defense helped, but that can’t be all of it — and it resulted in six turnovers for Delhomme, who telegraphed passes, threw to Steve Smith in triple coverage, and looked like he did for much of the 2007 season prior to going down for the season. That’s probably the last game he’ll play in a Carolina uniform.  Delhomme wasn’t the sole problem: not doulbe covering Larry Fitzgerald the entire game seems like the error of a first-time head coach, no someone like Fox, who ought to be on thin ice next season.

A Hobo Disciple To Replace The Rat Fink

AP/Stephan Saviola

AP/Stephan Saviola

I’m not sure it’s necessarily fair to tar Josh McDaniels with the brush of the failures of Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, or Charlie Weis.  Crennel and Mangini were defensive people, and so is Bill Belichick by training, thus, it’s easy to wonder how much control they had over their side of the ball. Weis’ trouble is that his arrogance didn’t work well with a college program — along with his poor play calling and planning.

But let’s just say that hiring McDaniels to run the show and bringing in Dom Capers to run the defense doesn’t really strike this Broncos fan as the best of ideas.  Capers is a very good coordinator, but I was a supporter of trying to get Rex Ryan in for an interview. Someone has to make the defensive side of the ball shape up again.  Then again, the only defensive minded coach the franchise ever hired was Wade Phillips, and look how that turned out.

Any choice Bowlen made wasn’t going to be better as a coach than Mike Shanahan. I think I and every other Broncos fan had accepted that. However, since Shanahan was so responsible for personnel, the failure on the defensive end was so much more connected to hiim because he drafted and signed those guys.

McDaniels is a blank slate. We don’t know what he’ll do with a team. What will be more important is to evaluate that hire in combination with the GM and other personnel folk that Bowlen brings in to work with him.

Usually These Sorts Of Things Don’t Take Two Years

adamjonesThere are all kinds of unanswered questions regarding the release of Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones in the wake of a proposed Outside the Lines report by ESPN’s John Barr. The quick rundown, from the Four-Letter’s standpoint, is that Jerry Jones released the cornerback after Barr contacted the Cowboys’ organization about a response to allegations that Jones hired someone to shoot at men he had a dispute in while a member of the Titans (albeit suspended) in 2007. (This happeend in the ATL; a random reminder that all sorts of cool stuff goes down in that city late at night, but for an athlete, not much of it is good. I had a hell of a time the one time I set foot in there, at least while not cursing the traffic.)

While lamenting that Jones is again getting cut or disciplined for shit he was never convicted of in court (yes, I understand Lord Rog is gonna nail ass to the wall for even being arrested; that doesn’t mean I have to like it as policy), a bigger question arises: if the inquisition from the Four-Letter is behind the release and the NFL knew about the allegations, then it means a couple of things:

  1. This obviously was of no concern to the league because no one could put Jones there at the time. There wasn’t enough evidence.
  2. Jerry Jones had to have known about this when he signed Adam Jones. I find it hard to believe otherwise.

That said, why the uproar now over a confidential informant whom we don’t know a whole lot about (and with good reason)?  There’s obviously a lot of bluster behind the whole thing, and Jones appears to be very, very pissed, even threatening a lawsuit against ESPN. Be looking forward to Sunday; see if this OTL piece tells me anything or is a hack job on what seems to be the channel’s favorite subject: athlete misdeeds.

Randy Lerner Loves Him Some Coach Hobo Disciples

manginiGenerally, when owners in the NFL decide to clean out the entire front office, it’s usually along the lines of a complete housecleaning, resisting anything that could reek of the prior regime. But that probably doesn’t apply to Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, who apparently could not get enough of hiring Bill Belichick disciples — specifically, his defensive coordinators — and now he’s done it in sequence, replacing Romeo Crennel with recently canned Jets coach Eric Mangini.

It sounds like one hell of a mancrush, if the Cleveland Plain-Dealer is to be believed:

Lerner was informed of Mangini’s firing during a sit-down with Cleveland reporters. His eyes lit up at the news and he almost immediately made arrangements to meet with Mangini the next day. Lerner was so impressed that he never wavered from Mangini as his first choice.

In fact, Lerner effectively chose Mangini to head his football reorganization ahead of GM candidate Scott Pioli of the New England Patriots.

Once close friends and former roommates, Pioli and Mangini became estranged when Mangini left the Patriots as defensive coordinator to coach the Jets. When Lerner surmised that the relationship between Mangini and Pioli might be unworkable, Lerner proceeded with plans to make Mangini the coach.

I have no reason to doubt Mangini’s connection (likely emotional) to the franchise as a 14-year old ballboy.  I also will say that he got an extremely raw deal from the Jets; despite some bonehead coaching handles and obviously not handling the defense as well as needed (the Jets’ secondary was awful), that didn’t seem like a firing year to me. He should have been on the hot seat for next year, for sure. But anything coming out of the Meadowlands about the Jets’ coaching search informs you of how dysfunctional that organization is compared to the Giants (what other owner leaves the country on vacation while the coaching situation is in flux?)

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t think this might not blow up in someone’s face. Homecomings are always awkward, made all the more so by a need to guide a team crumbling on both sides of the ball.

News League Recap, Finals

So, this is a week late, but it’s time to congratulate Run Up the Score, who assumes the throne as 2008’s champion of the Channel 4 News League by topping Marco in the final game.

Twisted Fister 96.26, Area Man 92.52 – A bad week in Week 16 for both of Marco’s wide receivers, Andre Johnson and Anquan Boldin, couldn’t help bolster the 35 points he got from DeAngelo Williams. Thus, RUTS takes the title with a balanced attack in which only three starting slots did not yield double digit points.

Monday Night Jihadis 114.82, Matt Jones’ Yayo 98.34 – 20+ from both Philip Rivers and the Miami defense in Week 16, plus only 3 starters scoring in single digits, got me third place over Awful Announcing.

(Still got some kinks to work out in adjusting scoring for next year…)

A Necessary Bloodletting

So long, and thanks for the Super Bowl titles.

So long, and thanks for the Super Bowl titles.

If the Rocky Mountain News is to be believed, the firing of Mike Shanahan after 14 years and back-to-back Super Bowls came down to an ultimatum over Broncos’ D-coordinator Bob Slowik. Owner Pat Bowlen wanted him out; the Rat Fink wouldn’t fire him, even after this horrendous defensive season. So, out goes the coach that helped John Elway and Terrell Davis take Denver to the Promised Land.

Truth is, it probably should have happened a couple of years ago. Maybe not the firing, but at least a reduction in the Fink’s authority; a removal of the exec VP of football ops title he held — with an Isiah-style plan, rebuild in one or two years or you’re done. The trends in the NFL have changed again; coaches who hold final personnel say are an endangered species. Only Coach Hobo continues to wield this power in New England; someone will give Bill Cowher similar power to return to the ranks, but that’s it.

When Shanahan fired GM Ted Sundquist last year (and I say Shanahan did it rather than Bowlen for a reason), all the focus went on him and a very visible inability to identify defensive talent and the right coaches to bring them along. Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams were the only two recent draft picks on defense that turned out ot be anything decent.  (Verdict’s still out on Marcus Thomas; Spencer Larsen could be really good.)

You never want to be the person pulling for the coach who won two titles to get fired, but I had come to that conclusion after watching seasons where the Fink blew through DCs every year with no defensive improvement; at the very least, he needed a GM to check and balance.

Shanahan wanted all the responsibility, accepted it, and did well with legendary talent. Now, he has to accept the loss of his job for sustained mediocrity. Such is life in the NFL, and maybe, just maybe, the Broncos needed to cut losses now and start over, because no matter how promising that offense looked with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Tony Scheffler, the defense would have let them down — and after so many DCs, that goes straight to the man who wanted all that authority and responsibility.

So, thanks for the titles and the aggressive play-calling, Coach, but the franchise needs to go somewhere you can’t take it any more. It happens. Nothing can last forever when you go 1-4 in the playoffs in the 10 seasons after the glory years.