"It was the way he treated players. I think that was something that was missed. We tend to jump right to the coaching part, the offensive part, and the passing game. But his number one thing was his handling of the team. He was a master of it. As an assistant, he treated you as an equal. Players were always the most important thing to him. I think he had more respect for his players and coaches than anyone I've ever known."
--John Madden, to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, on Don Coryell, who died Thursday after a lengthy illness.
Great point by Madden in Farmer's excellent deadline obit, about how Coryell treated people. That's lost so much today, but so many of the good coaches are men other coaches want to work for and players want to play for.
"There's no third chances and we know that. If it isn't fulfilled the way we expect it to be, then it will be the end.''
--Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie, last August, when the Eagles signed the troubled Michael Vick to a non-guaranteed two-year contract.
So now what does Philly do? There's little doubt in my mind that, in the wake of the shooting of Vick's former co-defendant at his birthday party last week in Virginia, the Eagles will consider cutting ties with Vick. I doubt they will, in part because of NFL reality -- it exposes the Eagles to a very thin quarterback situation three weeks before training camp. The only other quarterback aside from starter Kevin Kolb on the roster is Mike Kafka, the rookie from Northwestern, and the Eagles will surely second-guess themselves now for not being more involved in the Marc Bulger derby before he signed with the Ravens.
One of the mitigating factors here will be the involvement of Andy Reid, obviously, and Reid has been in the Middle East on the USO's coaches tour of Germany and Afghanistan for the past few days. He is scheduled to return home today. Vick and Reid have spoken by phone already. My biggest question for Vick would be a simple one: Why, after you were warned to not have contact with Quanis Phillips, was he allowed entry to your birthday party, and how can you say you've changed your life totally when Quanis Phillips thinks he can saunter into your birthday bash in the first place?
With the death of Don Coryell, the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will be on the spot in the coming months to give one more long look at his candidacy. Coryell was one of the 15 modern-era finalists for Hall induction last February, but he didn't make the first cut when the voters (including me) voted to reduce the list from 15 to 10. I felt that day, and still feel, that Coryell's candidacy was scuttled by his coaching record with St. Louis and San Diego, which follows:
That's not the record of a Hall of Fame coach -- if all you're looking at is wins and losses and playoff résumé. Marty Schottenheimer (205 wins), Dan Reeves (201) and Chuck Knox (193) all have at least 79 more victories than Coryell, and they can't get a sniff. But there are mitigating football-architecture factors with Coryell. SI's Jim Trotter did a very good job of enumerating them during his presentation of Coryell's case.
When I spoke with Dan Fouts the week of the vote, the one thing that stood out in the stories he told about playing for Coryell is what a thinker he was. When the Raiders began playing bump-coverage with corners at the line of scrimmage one year, Coryell said fine -- we'll just make the tight end a weapon too. They can't bump everyone. He moved the tight end everywhere on the field. When the tight end got covered, he started advancing the concept of a hot receiver for the first time. He'd tell his quarterback, Fouts, that when his wides and tight ends were covered and the pressure bore in on him, look for the back veering away from his block at the lack second. "Don had an answer for whatever the defense threw at us,'' Fouts said. "And pretty soon, you started seeing other teams feature the tight end a lot more, and you'd see other teams use backs at hot receivers instead of the quarterback just throwing the ball away. Don hated giving in to the defense and we rarely did."
You'd think maybe Coryell's playbook was encyclopedic. It wasn't. " 'Simple' was a big word with Don,'' Fouts said. "He liked to simplify and clarify.'' If his first-half plays were killing the opposition, he'd say, "Flip it in the second half.'' In other words, run the same plays in the second half -- just run to the other side of the field, in opposite formations. How hard was that to learn? Not very.
Once, Coryell and Fouts were trying to figure out the smartest primary target for a pass play called 844 Ricky, with Charlie Joiner running a post, Kellen Winslow a shallow cross, John Jefferson a deep cross and Lionel James a short route in the flat out of the backfield. They debated the quality of the defenders likely to cover each man. Finally, Coryell said, "Screw all that. Make it simple. Just take the snap and throw it to JJ.''
Part of the job we have as selectors is to see through the numbers and look for the people who really made a difference in the game. It's easy to induct Bill Walsh and Paul Brown, men who innovated and won titles. Coryell is one of the men in the deep cracks. He won some, but not enough. And he innovated quite a lot. He's a candidate we should consider strongly, again, this year.
"I realize Don didn't win a Super Bowl,'' Fouts told me that night. "Super Bowls are important, obviously. But I ask you this: Is it more important in football history to win one Super Bowl, or to influence the way the game is played for decades to come as much as any man?''
I tweeted this in June while at the World Cup, but I found it a rather interesting do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do factoid: In a country where the president, Jacob Zuma, has 20 children, is a polygamist and has admitted having sex out of his marriages (one of which has resulted in a love child with the daughter of a good friend), there were free condoms distributed in the men's rooms at Soccer City, the 90,000-seat stadium in Johannesburg where the World Cup kicked off June 11.
I've traveled to the Far East, the Middle East and quite a bit in Europe, but this trip to Africa was my first. And one thing I give the folks in South Africa credit for is their consistent friendliness. Example: My wife and I walked into a liquor shop to get a bottle of wine and some beer for an SI dinner hosted by the inimitable Grant Wahl one night at the house he was renting for the month. I noticed a Peroni beer glass in the front window of the place.
"Great glass,'' I said to the proprietor. "Are they for sale?''
"No,'' the man said. "But can you wait for a moment?''
The man went to the back of the store and was gone for two minutes. When he came back, he had a 12-inch-square cardboard box with him, and handed it to me. I looked inside. Four Peroni glasses.
"Fantastic!'' I said. "I really appreciate it. How much are they?''
He waved his hands. "No, no, no,'' he said. "Free for you. You wanted them, and I want you to have them!''
Drivers, hoteliers, wait staff, total strangers at the venues ... just terrific people trying to show off their country to the world. There was someone in my press seat five rows from the top of the stadium for Brazil-Ivory Coast June 20, and an usher took my ticket, talked to several of his peers, pointed to the occupied seat, and took me to an empty seat a few rows closer and said, "Will this be satisfactory?''
"Calm down thomas jefferson. it's just hot dogs.''
--@obit_rice, Chris Delgado of El Paso, on Sunday, after I'd gone on a rant about the idiotic and wasteful Nathan's hot-dog-eating contest that mars Independence Day in America every year -- and that ESPN glorifies by making TV stars of the doofuses whose great talent is shoving meat tubes and watery buns down their throats for 10 minutes. Oh, your mothers must be so proud, competitive eaters.
I had the audacity to mention that 4.8 million American households have to visit food pantries regularly to feed their families, and 11 million children regularly go to bed hungry. And we put this gluttony-celebrating crap on TV. ESPN should be ashamed.