December 31, 2008

NFL Thoughts

11) I'll start with the Cleveland Browns since they are the talk of the town here in Columbus. It was obvious that Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel were both gone several weeks ago, so no big surprises here. I actually don't think Phil Savage is a bad personnel guy. He made some shrewd moves to get Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas in the same draft, and he also made some good moves on the o-line. He's just not a good GM though. He actually reminded me of Wayne Krivsky a little bit. He made some good personnel moves, but it never seemed like Savage had a plan on how to build a winning football team. He would be a valuable guy in the Browns' organization, but probably not as the lead guy.

As for Romeo, he HAD to go. Romeo is a nice jolly fellow, but he was an abomination as a head coach. I've never seen a guy less engaged with his team on the sideline. It was almost as if Romeo was just being paid to watch the game from the sideline.

The good news for Browns fans is that the owner Randy Lerner genuinely seems committed to doing all that he can to build a winning franchise in Cleveland. He has made some disastrous moves with the awful Butch Davis Experiment and the Savage-Crennel combo, but at least the guy is willing to put the dollars on the line to build a winner. Money does not appear to be an obstacle at all for Lerner. He has already contacted Bill Cowher (who apparently promised to the Steelers ownership that he would never go to Cleveland), and now he's talking to Scott Pioli and Mangini and probably will talk to Shanahan.

I'm admittedly a little leery of these New England guys now that we've seen so many of them fail outside of New England (Mangini, Weis, Crennel, etc), but I do think Scott Pioli would probably be a great hire for the Browns. After reading that Patriot Reign book from a couple years ago, I got the impression that Pioli is an equal partner to Belichick in terms of identifying personnel and running the organization. Pioli is a Bill Parcells disciple (heck, he even married Parcells' daughter, which is terrifying when you think about what Bill Parcells' daughter must look like. I digress), so he most likely understands what it takes to be a winning team in the NFL. Great line play, great depth, great coaching, a winning atmosphere, and high-character guys who are going to be professionals in the locker room. This is the Parcells/Belichick model, and it has proven to be successful no matter where it is implemented.

Should be interesting. I am pulling for the Browns to make a good hire because I would like to see Brady Quinn have some success in the NFL. This team has some nice pieces with Brady Quinn, Joe Thomas, Braylon Edwards (if he gets his head on straight), The Soldier, some good o-linemen, and some decent defensive players. It wouldn't take much to get this team in the playoff hunt.

10) Moving on to another franchise that seems to be snakebit no matter what they try. The J-E-T-S......JETS! JETS! JETS! I'm not going to say that I have any idea about the inner workings of the Jets organization, but I think this move by the Jets is emblematic of what has ailed the Jets for years. They cannot seem to settle on any sort of direction as a franchise. Every move with the Jets is "now! now! now!" They go out and blow a bunch of money on free agency, they give away draft picks for a geriatric Brett Favre, and now they fire Mangini. It seems like they are just trying to get their names on the back page of the New York papers. That was the problem with the Mets for a number of years, and I feel like the Jets have fallen into the same pattern.

It seems like the Jets are turning over their organization once ever couple years. The only time when the Jets really seemed to have a plan as a team was when they had Parcells. I don't even think Mangini had a chance to prove himself as a coach. The guy went 10-6 in his first year, he has a bad second year, and then he goes 9-7. In the meantime, he's dealing with new quarterbacks every year and new running backs and new defensive players. Instead of plunking down all that money on free agency, how about actually drafting some good players and developing from within?? In the NFL, it is too tough to be constantly building through free agency. There are so many "system guys" in the NFL that it's hard to know if these free agents are going to be effective on a new team. You are always better off drafting your team and molding those guys into your system.

If the Jets didn't think Mangini was the guy, fine. But I don't have a lot of faith that the Jets are going to be any better without him. I actually thought he was doing a pretty good job with the Jets. And now he's gone. Oh well.

9) One bold move that I think will turn out to be the right move was Denver's decision to make a move on Mike Shanahan. On the surface, getting rid of Shanahan was bizarre when you consider Shanahan's track record, but here's a look at his record in the last three years:

2006 - 9-7
2007 - 7-9
2009 - 8-8

It's not awful or anything, but things have definitely gotten stale in Denver. Shanahan has also been the GM there, and he's been hemorrhaging money in that role. Denver has had a number of bad free agent signings, and they haven't drafted all that well either lately. Shanahan was in Denver for 14 years, and it was probably time for a change for him and for the team.

I think it's a great move for Denver if they make a good hire on a GM and a coach. There are some good candidates out there, and they still have Cutler and some other good young players to build around. They could easily be right back in the mix if they make a good hire and follow it up with a couple good drafts. Denver seems to be willing to spend whatever it takes to win, and they are a first-class organization all the way.

As for Shanahan, I still think Shanahan is a good coach. After reading that book "A Few Seconds of Panic" about the kicker who was trying to make the Broncos, I came away with the impression that Shanahan is highly-respected and a very detail-oriented guy. He had a good thing going in Denver, but he may also have needed a change in scenery after so many years in Denver. Give Shanahan a new project and a new audience, and that might be all that he needs to be successful somewhere else. If I was the Browns or the Lions or someone like that, I'd definitely be at least talking to Shanahan.

Shanahan might need a personnel guy to run the show with him, but he's definitely a good coach with a good system.

8) My god are we really going to have to deal with more "will he be back?" stories about Brett Favre?? Why does anyone care about Brett Favre?? At best, he's a regional figure who still matters in Wisconsin. AT BEST. But no one else cares what happens to Brett Favre. If he retires, great. If he comes back, good for him. I could care less. I thought the Jets made a bad decision to bring him in for this year, and I think they'd be crazy to be counting on him again for next year.

7) I couldn't be happier to see that the Cowboys are bringing back Wade Phillips for another year. Next year will be the third year in the post-Parcells era, and Jerry Jones is quickly undoing all the good work that was done under Parcells. He has been giving away draft picks for stiffs like Roy Williams, and the talent base in Dallas is steadily eroding. You could have seen this coming from ten miles away. They are going 6-10 next year at best. All Jerry Jones has proved in his time as the owner of the Cowboys is that he has no idea how to run an organization by himself. I don't know why he continues to delude himself that he can run this team by himself. He needs a GM and a personnel guy to run that team, and he needs to get out of the way. I think Jerry Jones has a lot of great qualities as an NFL owner (he will do whatever it takes to win and spend whatever needs to be spent), but he can't get out of the way of his own ego at times.

6) Since it appears that everyone and their mother is going to be after Cowher this offseason, I figure that I might as well throw in an opinion on Cowher and whether or not he is truly the savior that he is being made out to be. Look, I like Bill Cowher a lot. I watched the guy up close for 15 years with the Steelers and saw what he did for that franchise, and there is no denying his record. Cowher is a great motivator, the players love him, he knows tough football, and he has a
ton of credibility in an NFL locker room. I think Cowher is a good coach, and I certainly don't think any team is making a mistake by going after him.

The only thing I will say that gives me pause is that the Steelers literally have not missed a beat since Cowher has left. They just keep on trucking. Great defense, great character, toughness all over the place, the most physical team in the NFL for the most part. Same as they were under Cowher. Nothing has changed. You almost have to wonder if Cowher was just a product of the great Steelers organization. The Steelers seem to produce at least one hot assistant every year, but just about all of these guys have been busts as head coaches in other organiazations. Dom Capers, Chan Gailey, Jim Haslett, Mike Mularkey, Dick LeBeau. All those guys went on to be head coaches, and all of them were busts. The only guy who has had some success so far is Ken Whisenhunt, but who knows how he'll turn out in Arizona. All these guys were supposed geniuses in Pittsburgh, but then they couldn't hack it on their own without that great personnel department and the culture of winning that you have in Pittsburgh. I'm beginning to wonder if the Steelers MADE Bill Cowher, and I wonder how successful he would be outside of that Steelers culture.

And how do we know that Cowher has any clue how to be a personnel guy in the NFL?? I'm assuming that he is going to end up being a coach and a GM wherever he ends up, but I don't think he had much to do with personnel in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a philosophy for drafting players that doesn't appear to have anything to do with Cowher. Draft guys with great character who were productive players in college. They have a the 3-4 scheme and a tough physical offense. That's Steelers football. It's a very simple formula. And while Cowher was part of that identity, I wonder how much he had to with this identity.

A perfect example of this Steelers magic is Dick LeBeau. It absolutely amazes me that people are talking about Dick LeBeau as a hall of famer as an assistant with the Steelers. I'm not saying that I disagree or anything based on what he has done in Pittsburgh, but I saw LeBeau for six years in Cincy as an assistant and as a head coach. He was AWFUL. Maybe not quite as bad as David Shula, but certainly right in that neighborhood. He tried some of the Steelers blitz schemes and defensive packages, and nothing worked. The Bengals were lifeless under LeBeau. And then he heads back to Pittsburgh and suddenly is a genius again??

If you are going to shell out $10 million a year for somebody, it better be a guarantee. Bill Parcells is a guarantee. I even think Marty Schottenheimer is a guarantee based on the fact that he has won in Cleveland, Kansas City, and San Diego. Bill Cowher is not in that "guarantee" category yet if you ask me. I'm not saying he can't get there, but he wouldn't be the first Pittsburgh guy who didn't pan out elsewhere.

5) Meanwhile, the elephant in the room is the man just mentioned before. Bill Parcells. Apparently his contract in Miami lets him renegotiate and become a free agent if Wayne Huizenga is not the owner of the team. With rumors that Huizenga is about to sell the team, Parcells might start looking around. Would he bring Sparano with him wherever he went?? If you were Cleveland, why not see if Parcells is interested?? You have Brady Quinn, a decent line, some playmakers. Now you just need a direction. Parcells would put them over the top and make them a consistent playoff team. Wouldn't he worth the $10 million that Lerner seems to be willing to pay for Pioli or Cowher??

4) I'm trying to figure out who I think is less deserving of Hall of Fame consideration. Brian Urlacher or Tiki Barber. Maybe the two most overrated NFL players of the last 20 years. If I had a gun to my head, I'd say Urlacher is less deserving. That's how little I think of Urlacher. I think the guy is a slightly above-average player who has been turned into a mythological figure because of his skin color and because he snarls a lot. The next time I actually see Urlacher in
position on pass coverage will be the first time. If he was black, NO ONE would know who he is. I stand by that statement 100%.

3) Is Pete Carroll going to put himself back into the mix for an NFL job?? Maybe that's why he did that 60 Minutes interview to get his name out there a little bit more. I wonder if he is eventually going to get bored with Pac 10 football and going to the Rose Bowl every year. What else does he have to prove in college football?? And maybe he's getting a little annoyed by the lack of a legitimate postseason. USC seems to get jobbed in the polls every year.

Plus, Pete Carroll lost his offensive coordinator and some other assistants. Maybe he'll view this offseason as a chance to make a clean break from USC and get back to the NFL.

I think Pete Carroll is good for college football, and I would like to see ND beat them someday with Pete Carroll there. With that said, I think the possibility of Carroll going to the league is always out there. He does seem like he enjoys USC and his missionary work, but you never know.

2) Some playoff picks while I'm at it (no lines or anything; I can't pick spreads in NFL games). I have been a half-baked NFL fan this year, but I do enjoy the playoffs.

Saturday Games:

Atlanta over Arizona (4:30 pm NBC) -- Maybe I'm missing something here, but this one seems obvious to me. Atlanta is red hot, they have a hot quarterback, they have a good o-line, and a good running back. They have the right type of team for the playoffs. Meanwhile, Arizona is completely falling apart, and they are like the Notre Dame team of 2008. Flashy on the edges but soft in the middle. Soft teams don't win in the playoffs.

Indianapolis over San Diego (8pm NBC) -- If I was a Colts fan, I'd be a LITTLE nervous about this game. San Diego is sort of hot right now, and the trip to the West Coast makes me a little leery. Don't the Colts always struggle with San Diego?? I really think the Colts have a great chance to make a run in the playoffs, but this game is a little tricky. My feeling on this game comes down to Peyton Manning. If he has the ball in the closing minutes, he is going to find a way to win this game for the Colts. He's the MVP of the league this year in my eyes.

Sunday Games:

Baltimore over Miami (1:30pm CBS) -- The locals in Naples are going to be rocking for this one! Dolphins fever is sweeping all of South Florida. I admittedly haven't watched much of the Dolphins this year, but I'm a believer to some degree in the Ravens. I was a Ravens skeptic for a number of years, but they are better this year under John Harbaugh. And Flacco is a half-decent quarterback who is a significant upgrade over the dark days of Steve McNair and Kyle Boller. The Ravens are not as anemic offensively as they were under Brian Billick (who is probably the most overrated head coach ever). I can't stand the Ravens, but I think they'll get a win in Miami. I think they actually have a great chance to make a run in the playoffs.

And if anyone doesn't think Ray Lewis is on the juice, they are kidding themselves. How did the guy suddenly go from a player in obvious decline to a stud once again?? Ray Ray is one of the most obvious juicers in the league. More power to him since the NFL doesn't have the testing equipment to smoke him out and find out what he's on. Plus, apparently everyone in the media has made a conscious decision that they don't care that NFL players are on roids. But god forbid if some minor league pitcher uses some flaxseed oil.

Minnesota over Philly (4:30pm FOX) -- I have no idea why I'm picking this one, but I don't trust Philly for some reason. I watched them play like absolute dogs against the Bengals, and I can't seem to buy into them for some reason. Too many guys with a history of coming up small on that roster. Plus, I can't pick all road teams! Put the Vikes in the dome in front of a rabid crowd, and I think they'll get it done.

1) Last but not least, we have the Bengals! With all of the changes going on in the NFL, one team has made a decision that they are satisfied with how their season went and have made a decision to stand pat! That incredible 3 game winning streak over Cleveland, KC, and a lifeless Washington team to finish 4-11-1 on the year has convinced Mike Brown that the Bengals are on the right path back to glory and that no changes are necessary. NONE. Not a GM, not a new head coach, not a new offensive coordinator, not a new direction for the team. Nothing like telling your fans that you are thrilled with the "progress" of going from 7-9 to 4-11-1, and that you want to bring back the same crew the next year. Season ticketholders, I bet you are fired up to renew those seats at $100 a pop!! And you gotta love that Mike Brown refuses all interviews with the media. He might as well just drive around downtown with his middle finger out.

I swear, being the Bengals head coach is the greatest job in the world. No accountabilty, no standards, and you can pretty much coach as long as you want if you show even the slightest bit of progress from beginning to end. If you don't have a good year, the owner will have your back and throw out a million excuses for you because deep down the owner knows that he is the problem with the franchise. If Marvin Lewis was coaching for any other franchise in the league, he would have been long gone. But the Bengals have not only guaranteed that he is coming back next year, they have given no indication that he is any jeopardy of losing his job at all even if the team stinks again next year.

In the AFC North alone, you have two of the best run franchises in the league (Steelers and Ravens), and now you have a Browns franchise that is saying that they will spend any amount of money on a GM and coach to turn the ship around. Then you have the Bengals who are standing pat with lifetime .484 winning percentage Marvin Lewis and no GM.

Good times!

1 comment:

Sean said...

Doug, do you realize that this post if taken to Microsoft Word it is 7 pages long and 3500 words. I wonder what the record is.