Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The coaches they are a changin'

Well, we've already seen Eric Mangini (Jets), Rod Marinelli (Lions), Romeo Crennel (Browns), and Mike Shanahan (Broncos) get their walking papers. There are other coaches that shouldn't be resting easy today, including; Jim Haslett (Rams), Herm Edwards (Chiefs), Marvin Lewis (Bengals) and, while I don't expect it, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a change in New Orleans at the expense of Sean Payton or one in Dallas at the expense of Wade Phillips. We already know that there will be changes in Seattle, and while it would surprise me, I think Jacksonville might consider a change. That's at least ten potential coaching changes in the offing.

Little more than 30 percent of the league's coaches could be collecting unemployment before this year's free-agent class has a chance to hit the market. I want to take a moment to go through each of the above and address some of the issues...

I'm not going to address Seattle as Mike Holmgren is leaving of his own accord, so let's start with Mike Shanahan. I've always felt that Shanahan was one of the league's more overrated coaches. I will give him credit for creating and running an offensive scheme that could probably make me a 1000 yard rusher in the NFL - and I'm a broken down 38-year old with bad ankles. However, for all his offensive genius, he's regularly missed in his search for the heir apparent to John Elway (consider, Bill Belichick, traditionally considered a keen defensive mind, has already had two quarterbacks perform up to snuff after Drew Bledsoe, then the best quarterback in franchise history, went down. Shanahan is on his third since Elway, the last two are journeyman back-ups, and the jury is still out on the current one).

A lot of people are surprised by the Shanahan firing. I'm not. Since Elway's retirement, Shanahan has had ten seasons of which he only had four seasons of more than nine wins. In his four seasons with Elway he had only one that had fewer than 12 wins. Even with the one 8-8 season in 1995, Shanhan averaged 12 wins per season with Elway as his quarterback. Since Elway's retirement Shanahan has averaged 9 wins per season and eight per season for the last three.

The team was in command of its destiny until it lost four of its last six, including losses to the moribund division rival Raiders, and the struggling Bills. Two winnable games that would have made the final game against the Chargers moot.

In Kansas City, Herm Edwards' fate is held in the hands of whoever replaces long-time president Carl Peterson. If I were a betting man, I would say his days in KC are done. I like Edwards but feel he has some shortcomings as a head coach. He seems to make bad decisions in critical pressure situations, which is what lost him the job in New York. My guess is that he returns to a coordinator position.

In the Meadowlands Brett Favre was the coach-killer. Honestly, as little as I like Eric Mangini, that late season collapse should have signaled the end of Mike Tannenbaum who saddled Mangini with Favre.

The reasoning for dropping Mangini who had two winning seasons in his three years there was that Tannenbaum gave Mangini a revamped offensive line, a former MVP at signal caller, and a beast in the middle on defense - never mind that the collapse can almost wholly be laid at the feet of Favre, Tannenbaum's hand-picked savior of the franchise, or that the quarterback they cut in favor of Favre arguably had an MVP-type season, or that the beast of a nose-tackle wasn't fit enough to stay on the field and be effective in the fourth quarter.

So Mangini is looking for work. If he can't land a head coaching job, it should be interesting to see if anyone will take him on in some capacity. My guess is that Spygate burned a lot of bridges for him.

Rod Marinelli was the beneficiary of Matt Millen's handiwork finally coming to full fruition. Marinelli may or may not be a good coach, but getting stuck with Matt Millen's picks, it's hard to tell.

Crennel's undoing was having a locker room full of really talented guys that couldn't figure out what it took to win, and Jim Haslett - well, Haslett had a couple of issues working against him, not the least of which was that the Rams are just plain bad.

Also a problem for Haslett - the double standard in the application of the Rooney Rule.

Mid season the Rams wanted to give Haslett an incentive laden contract. If he met the incentives, he came back as head coach, if he didn't, then it was at the discretion of the Rams. The NFL decided, as Haslett was an interim head coach, that the provisions were in violation of the Rooney rule.

Here are my problems with that -

The spirit of the rule was that it open up interview opportunities for minority coaching candidates. The 49ers were allowed to sign their interim head coach, Mike Singletary, to an extension without having to interview anybody - so, in essence, Norm Chow, Romeo Crennel, and possibly soon to be unemployed Herm Edwards, and Marvin Lewis had no chance to interview for the HC position in San Francisco. Not to mention the obvious inequity in regards to the way the league handled two coaches in the exact same position based solely on the color of their skin.

Also, I fail to see how what the Rams did is significantly different to what the Cowboys did in signing their offensive coordinator to a contract stipulating that he becomes head coach when Wade Phillips leaves, or the fact that a similar contract exists in Seattle between the Seahawks and Jim Mora, Jr.

In essence, Haslett got screwed because the NFL decided to apply the Rooney Rule capriciously.

In Cincy I expect that Lewis will be gone after six turmoil-filled seasons during which he averaged fewer than seven wins per season, and broke the eight-win barrier only once. Hailed as a defensive guru, only once - this past season - were his defenses in Cincy ranked higher than 20th, and at 16th, they were barely in the top half of the league. The average rank for his defenses since getting the job - 23rd.


Teresa said...

I bet you can add Indy to the list, although we already know who the new coach will be. I would love to see us get someone like Shanahan--but that will not happen under Bill Polian. Polian is a great drafter--but I wish he was a little more aggressive.

Kevin Smith said...

You're probably right, but until Dungy says he's gone, I'm not going to include him on that list. I still don't get how the Rams wanting to sign Haslett was a violation of the Rooney Rule, but teams having these "Coaches in Waiting" contracts isn't. That kind of bothers me.

The one thing I don't like about Polian in regards to his drafts - and maybe this is the Dungy preference thing - is the size of the guys. Those small guys on the defense can really get worn down at times. I don't mind it from the edge rushers, but I've always felt the Colts would do better with a couple of big beefy guys in the middle of that D line.

Teresa said...

The small defense is a Tony Dungy thing. It is in the media here all of the time. Bill has done a good job of keeping us out of completely horrible picks like Ricky Williams and Ryan Leaf. We could have had both of those guys and we got Manning and James. He is also good at finding gems.

Kevin Smith said...

True enough. And you're right in regards to Dungy, and to Polian's credit, he works with his coaches.