Sunday, February 8, 2009

NFL Coaching Carousel Round-up Part 1

Now that Todd Haley has been hired to coach the Chiefs all NFL head coaching vacancies have been filled. In total ten new coaches were hired, eleven if you count Tom Cable and Mike Singletary who had their interim titles removed. That’s the most coaching changes in one season since at least 1996. There were also notable OC and DC hires as well as front office shifts.

Along with Singletary and Cable, Jim Haslett was the other interim coach this season. After Haslett won his first two games he Rams offered him an automatic extension pending another four victories. The league negated the contract, citing the Rooney rule. It became a moot point as the Rams lost their next ten games, coming within a touchdown only twice. The Rams’ new GM Bil Devaney hired his close friend Steve Spagnuolo on Januray 17 at four years/ $12 million. Spags was set for a HC job after last year’s Super Bowl showcase, but outdid himself guiding this year’s defense from 7th overall to 5th after losing arguably its two best players in Strahan and Osi.

Haslett interviewed for the Green Bay DC job that eventually went to Dom Capers and is now being floated as the Panthers’ DC. Scott Linehan, the Rams’ midseason fire, spurned the 49ers and instead took the Lions’ OC job. Whomever San Fran does hire (Dan Reeves!?) will be their 7th OC in 7 seasons.

The Giants quickly replaced Spags with their Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan. He shares Spagnuolo’s philosophy and Coughlin valued his commitment to an attacking style.

Spagnuolo beat out, among others, Jason Garret for the job. Garret, who last year was such a hot commodity that Jerry Jones had to give him the richest coordinator contract in history, whiffed on all three of his HC interviews this year (Denver, Detroit).

The postseason news that came out of Dallas likely didn’t help:
According to five sources, several offensive players lost respect for Garrett for his failure to corral quarterback Tony Romo in practice. Romo, sources said, often forced throws in practice and often did not treat practice work consistently.
The Cowboys are still trying to hire a DC, after Jerry Jones fired Brian Stewart.
It's further proof that head coach Wade Phillips has very little say at Valley Ranch. Stewart was Phillips' hand-picked defensive coordinator and the two have been close friends since working together in San Diego.

Phillips was ordered by Jones to take over defensive play-calling duties before the Tampa Bay game midway through the 2008 season. Phillips didn't acknowledge that the change had been made until the defense was playing well later in the season.

In his end-of-the-season news conference, Phillips said that Stewart would be back as defensive coordinator. Of course, that's not what happened. Phillips once lost a job in Buffalo because he refused to fire one of his assistants. He wasn't going to let that happen again.
They too brought in Dan Reeves - to inertview for an advising job - but the deal fell apart.

Those Denver and Detroit jobs that Garrett missed out on eventually went to Pats OC Josh McDaniels and Titans DC Jim Schwartz respectively. It’s notable that Martin Mayhew, the man now making the management decisions in Detroit, the man who hired Schwartz, was Matt Millen’s second in command. Steve Mariucci defended the connection, saying “Martin is his own man,” but the endless string of coaching failures during the Fords' ownership is remarkable – it is stunning how often the phrase “never coached again at any level” comes up in that list.

The Shanahan firing was surprising though not unreasonable. No matter the case for or against it, it’s agreed that Shanahan was a bad GM. To wit: hiring three DCs in the past three years, his inability to adequately evaluate defensive talent, and bad contracts (e.g. Daniel Graham for $30 million). On the one hand Shanahan had winning records with three different quarterbacks (he was just under .500 with Cutler) and his system could make a 1,000 yard rusher out of anyone. On the other hand he’d won one playoff game without Elway and closed this season with three straight losses, handing the division to the Chargers. The defense gave up 30, 30, and 52, in those games; it was in the bottom five in points allowed each of the past two years. McDaniels hired the Niner’s mid-season fire Mike Nolan as the Bronco’s fourth DC in four years.

Jon Gruden’s firing was similarly unexpected. Gruden himself was said to be "blindsided." The Glazers explained Gruden’s relatively late removal by emphasizing the prudence of deliberateness. Much like the Broncos the Bucs had a late season collapse that knocked them out of the playoffs, and much like Shanahan Gruden’s post-Super Bowl resume is unimpressive. Unlike Shanahan Gruden has had a consistently good defense and has had even less offensive success. Beyond the numbers, Gruden also was unpopular with his players – Michael Clayton said players felt like they were playing for themselves. Mike Lombardi, his former Raiders GM put it like this:
I once referred to Gruden as the Larry Brown of the NFL. I meant that as a compliment because I love Brown, but when Brown, the well-traveled NBA coach, has control of the personnel on a team, he makes horrible decisions and hates the players he coaches. He wants new, but after new is over, he wants more new. Does that sound familiar?

From Brad Johnson to Chris Simms to Brian Griese to Luke McCown to Jeff Garcia, there was never stability at quarterback, the one position that is vital to a franchise. In addition, this is the one position that Gruden can coach as well as anyone in the league. Yet his refusal to fall in love (I called him the Warren Beatty of quarterbacks coaches a while back in a column) with a quarterback was his downfall in Tampa Bay.

We have all read the reaction of the players on the record — some positive, some negative — but the one consistent theme when you’re talking about Gruden is that he loves football, but loves NO players. The negativity and the inconsistent message to the players never seemed to go over well. Gruden is the type of coach that needs to have consistent turnover in his roster. He needs new players every year and might be best suited for college football since graduation and the NFL draft promote the change he craves.
At 32 Raheem Morris becomes the youngest active NFL head coach and the second youngest all time (Lane Kiffin). He was promoted from DB coach. He hired Jeff Jagodzinski as his OC. Jagodzinski should be revlieved after himself being unexpectedly fired as a penalty for interviewing for the Jets job. The Bucs also promoted the similarly young Mark Dominik to GM, replacing Bruce Allen who had been fired in tandem with Gruden.

-Agent Easy

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the roundup. the particular insight on gruden was something i had never noticed but i see it now. i did feel that he didn't trust jeff garcia enough.

    i have a jason garrett rookie QB card