Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday January 28, 2008 1:55AM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 6:42PM
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think it's admirable that Rex Ryan has signed a contract to be John Harbaugh's assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. Ryan will put his injured feelings aside -- injured because no one would hire him as a head coach, despite his excellent record as a defensive playcaller and designer -- and go about the business of keeping the Ravens a top-five defense.
2. I think my advice is short and sweet for Jerry Jones, who, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, is pondering trading up to get the first pick in the draft so he can take Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.
Don't even consider making such a foolish trade. That's right. It's foolish. Never, ever, ever, ever pay a ransom for a running back. They're too plentiful and too easy to find down the line, and too easy to make a mistake picking. As the Bears have proven (Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Cedric Benson in the first round between 1995 and 2005), picking backs is a dartboard science.
In the last two years, eight backs drafted after the first round have gained 1,200 yards -- Frank Gore, Tiki Barber, Willie Parker, Rudi Johnson, Brian Westbrook, Chester Taylor, Travis Henry and Clinton Portis. The Giants picked up Ryan Grant off the street, and he just helped win a playoff game for Green Bay against Seattle.
And to think of including restricted free-agent Marion Barber III in the deal ... lunacy. Pure and simple. Barber's a top-10 NFL running back right now (the only reason he might not be in the top five is he hasn't proven he can carry it 20 times a game every week; he's had 339 carries over the past two years). Under no circumstances should he be dealt. If I'm Bill Parcells and can give you the first pick in the draft for Barber and first- and second-round picks, I make that trade this morning.
3. I think I have a few thoughts about Lane Kiffin and the pickle he's in now with the Raiders. No. 1: I sat with him last August, at Raiders camp in Napa, Calif., and the thing I thought would make him different from the other Raider yes-men coaches was that he wasn't a yes man. He already had cut Randal Williams, an Al Davis favorite, and the Raiders seemed to be willing to put some trust in the young man.
He never said this, but I got the distinct impression that if the job lasted one year and Al changed back into the dictator that had sent this franchise careening down a terrible path, then so be it; Kiffin was young enough to collect his money for a year and then move on to a new job. He was smart enough, with enough confidence in his own ability, to know that a bad season and getting fired in Oakland would be nothing but a speed bump in his career.
And that's absolutely right. If Al goes through with this silly plan to whack a bright and determined young coach -- another Mike Shanahan, if you ask me -- it'll be a decision he'll rue when Kiffin wins elsewhere, which I can guarantee he will do.
No. 2: Let me give you some idea why I liked Kiffin so much. Here's how I began the story I did for SI last August:
In a team meeting at Oakland Raiders training camp a couple of weeks ago, coach Lane Kiffin turned the lights down and put a grainy piece of night video on the big screen. The video opened with the camera panning five cars, headlights on, dimly illuminating the team's summer practice field in Napa, Calif., then shifted to two 300-pound men in shorts and T-shirts, doing football drills in the shadows. What, the players in the audience wondered, could this nonsense be?
Kiffin told them the story. Two offensive linemen had been scheduled to arrive in Napa for tryouts earlier in the day, but their flights were delayed, and they didn't get to the hotel 'til late in the evening. Because the Raiders were a body down on the offensive line and wanted the guy they signed to be ready for practice the next morning at 8:30, Kiffin and offensive line coach Tom Cable told the players upon their arrival: Get ready for practice. We're going to work you out.
Now, he meant. As in 11:15 p.m.
Because it takes more than a half-hour for the lights on the field to reach full power -- time Kiffin didn't have -- he arranged for five cars to give the coaches enough light to run the players through their paces. And when it was over, just after 11:30, the Raiders agreed to terms with one of the night owls, center Jesse Boone, who, eight hours later, was back on the practice field with his new team.
"Remember the movie, 'Invincible?' '' said veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. "The scene in there of guys playing on the sandlot at night, with the cars lighting the field ... When coach showed us that, it left an impression.''
That's why Kiffin did it -- to send a message. In fact, that's why he's doing a lot of things. Until now, Kiffin, who looks like he started shaving about two weeks ago, was just the latest strange coaching hire by owner Al Davis, moving from USC's offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll to the NFL as the youngest head coach in modern history. It could be Kiffin's reign will morph into the same kind of debacle that Joe Bugel (4-12), Norv Turner (9-23) and Art Shell II (2-14) oversaw in recent years. But watching the team in camp this summer, it's hard not to think this kid has a chance -- a chance, mind you, nothing more -- to be something special, even in such a difficult-to-navigate job as a 32-year-old first-time head coach under the domineering Davis. There hasn't been this kind of energy around the Raiders since Jon Gruden -- also young, blond, smart, precocious and loud -- left Oakland.
Check out my stats of the week up higher in the column. And tell me if you think Lane Kiffin is the problem here.
4. I think I'm going to withhold judgment on Dan Snyder's, um, shall we say, curious approach to naming a new coach until I see what he does with the head coach. But unless he chooses a head coach who has signed off on the two coordinators signed by Snyder the other day -- Jim Zorn on offense (like him an awful lot) and Greg Blache on defense -- it's not going to be just me who has a field day with Snyder. It'll be everyone who has ever watched this game. Who picks both coordinators, then chooses a total stranger to them to be a head coach?
You hear two names in the Super Bowl who could be candidates a week from now -- New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. I'd be very surprised if McDaniels breaks the promise that he'll stay with New England another year. Very surprised. Spagnuolo's another story; he might think, at 48, this is his time, and he needs to take this opportunity to be a head coach because it may never come again.
But how smart is it to saddle a head coach with two coordinators he's never worked with before? It'd be bad for the coach -- unless he's an extraordinary communicator and egoless man. Now, from the sound of what Snyder said Saturday, when both men were named coordinators, the previous candidates who'd been interviewed for the head coach job had input in Zorn and Blache being named. If the new coach is Jim Fassel, maybe he told Snyder to interview them. But the whole process is just odd.