Best Coaching Move of the Week
When I was visiting with a veteran NFL general manager the other day, I asked what he thought was the best coaching hire, head coach or assistant, so far this month. Easy, he said. "The Rams hiring Josh McDaniels,'' the GM said. "When you look at the job he did with Matt Cassel in New England in 2008, and then how much he got out of Kyle Orton this year, there's no doubt in my mind he'll help Sam Bradford expand his skill set and be a better quarterback.''
The big question is how will McDaniels be able to make Bradford better in a strange labor year like this one. Unless there's a labor deal reached before the end of the league year on March 3, no players can work with a new coach until a new CBA happens. And between now and March 3, no team can have any kind of organized workouts. So if McDaniels and Bradford are to begin the process of retooling the St. Louis offense, it will have to be done unofficially, with Bradford voluntarily in a classroom with McDaniels. That is likely to happen, and soon. But after March 3, they can't even have contact.
McDaniels said he'll tweak the Ram system, not overhaul it completely. The system he learned in New England and adopted in Denver is more of an amalgam of lots of different offensive philosophies, with terminology not wholly different from the West Coast. For instance, the "Y stick'' common pass-route in the West Coast scheme is "Y hook'' in McDaniels' offense.
"I think sometimes the terms 'system' and 'language' and all the flashy terms that are used in football today, sometimes there can be a lot more made of those than there really needs to be,'' McDaniels said upon taking the job last week. "I think we all use words and terms and numbers and those kinds of things to tell them what we want them to do on the field, but ultimately it comes down to giving them an opportunity to do some things that they can be effective doing. There's plenty of things that the St. Louis Rams ran last year that we're certainly going to repeat again and there's plenty of things that we'll probably study this offseason.''
But it bears repeating that with so many new head coaches and coordinators, it's going to be a major story in so many places if there's any job action that erases minicamp or training-camp time for staffs to install new systems and wrinkles on new teams.
Let's not fit Pat Shurmur with a dunce cap
I start to seethe when I hear so many of the fans in Cleveland going crazy about the qualifications of Pat Shurmur to be the new head coach. Specifically, about how it's agent Bob LaMonte's hire, or that the fix was in because club president Mike Holmgren and Shurmur share the same agent, and LaMonte orchestrated the hire. Idiocy.
The Browns did what so many teams have done in the last five years: put a good franchise architect in place (or have a good franchise architect in place), then hire a coach to work with said architect. Let's examine the 27 changes that have been made with a classic GM/coach combination. I do not include teams with ownership having a major hand in personnel (Dallas, Oakland), or without a clearly defined decision-making GM (Minnesota). And let's see what the results have been.
Let's make some judgments, without using the hires in 2010 or 2011 ... too early to make definitive assessments on the newbies. Of the 20 coaches hired into classic coach/GM structures between 2006 and 2009, here's how I'd break them down:
Certain successes (8): Payton (Saints), Tomlin (Steelers), Caldwell (Colts), McCarthy (Packers), Harbaugh (Ravens), Mike Smith (Falcons), Ryan (Jets), Whisenhunt (Cards).
Making it (3): Haley (Chiefs), Morris (Bucs), Spagnuolo (Rams),
Middling (3): Schwartz (Lions), Turner (Chargers), Sparano (Dolphins)
Middling, but arrow pointing down (3): Mangini (Jets), Mangini (Browns), Kubiak (Texans).
Failed, whether it's fair to put it on the coach or not (2): Marinelli (Lions), Mora (Seahawks).
Disgraceful (1): Petrino (Falcons).
The tote board: 12 of the 20 coaches hired into classic structures from 2006 to '09 made the playoffs at least one; that's 60 percent. Nine of the 20 (45 percent) won at least one playoff game. Five of the 20 (25 percent) won a conference championship game or Super Bowl.
Shurmur's a smart, anonymous kid, on the same fame level as Mike Smith when the Falcons hired him. He might have the kind of accurate, smart kid who will make a good West Coast quarterback in Colt McCoy. I don't know how good a GM Tom Heckert will be; we'll see, but he has a good background in the game, the way Thomas Dimitroff had when he left the Patriots to run Atlanta. I know you've heard this before in Cleveland, but give the kid a chance, will you?
Curious Coaching Move of the Week
Baltimore defensive coordinator Greg Mattison migrated from one of the league's premier assistants jobs to downtrodden Michigan to work under new Wolverines coach Brady Hoke. Now, Mattison knows Hoke, and Mattison has a daughter having a baby in Michigan soon. So it makes sense ... sort of. (And I'm not saying that coaching at Michigan is the pits; I'm saying Michigan is down right now, and the move from one of the top five defenses in the NFL annually to a rebuilding college job looks just plain weird.)
Mattison certainly didn't get fired by the Ravens, but this was one of those situations where the message went out to him that it might be a good idea if he took the job. For a couple reasons. One: Mattison looked into returning to the University of Florida after the 2009 Ravens season, and now he was looking into the Michigan job; how much did he really want to coach the Ravens if he kept looking into college jobs at the time he was coaching a top defense in the big leagues?
Two: Baltimore didn't want to lose secondary coach Chuck Pagano and were happy to promote him when Mattison had the wandering eye. (I am told by a source close to the Eagles that Philadelphia would have inquired about Pagano to be their defensive coordinator after they fired Sean McDermott.) At the end of the day, I believe the Ravens are happier to have Pagano as their defensive coordinator than having Mattison run it without Pagano as the secondary coach.
Strangest Coaching Non-Move of the Week
Miami passed up former Vikings coach Brad Childress for the offensive coordinator's job to hire Brian Daboll. St. Louis passed up Childress for the offensive coordinator's job to hire Josh McDaniels, despite the fact that coach Steve Spagnuolo agreed to tinker with the Rams' offense to get McDaniels instead of hiring Childress and keeping the same West Coast scheme. Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur, apparently, has so far passed up Childress though Shurmur, like Spagnuolo, worked with Childress in Philadelphia. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis had dinner with Childress the other night, and could, I suppose, replace offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski with Childress. But taking a coordinator's job in Cincinnati is no attractive coach's idea of a prime gig.
Brett Favre and others have called Childress "Chilly'' affectionately over the years. That could also describe his postseason job search.
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