Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coaching Carousel

ROOKIES REPORT!!!! Training camp is here! The long dark interregnum of baseball is nearly over. The Hall of Fame game is in 12 days, other preseason games the weekend after.

'Bout time we looked at the Carousel, huh?

A year ago, fully one third of the league's coaches were all new. After all that upheaval, a much smaller group this year:

TeamNew CoachFormerly
SeattlePete CarrollUSC HC; Patriots HC
BuffaloChan GaileyCowboys HC; Ga Tech HC; misc OC
RedskinsMike Shanahan
Broncos HC; star OC

Our task with these guys is to divide them into three groups, based on whether they will Succeed, Fail, or Muddle Along Respectably. Interestingly, all three of them have winning records as NFL head coaches, which has got to be unusual for classes of rookie coaches. That ought to make it easy to project success for all of them, right?


No. None of them will succeed. Move along, nothing to see here.


Chan Gailey
Buffalo; formerly Cowboys HC, Ga Tech HC, misc OC

First, let's get a handle on exactly how preposterously arrogant this judgment is. Chan Gailey has about 35 years experience as a football coach, college and pro, including experience as a head coach, college and pro. He has a winning record as an NFL head coach. Here's a timeline of his football career:

as playerQuarterback, Univ of Florida3yr letter winner
as coach

1974-75Grad Asst, Univ of Florida
1976-78Secondary, Troy St
1979-80Defensive Asst, Air Force
1981-82Defensive Coord, Air Force
1983-84Head Coach, Troy StDiv II Natl Champship 1984
1985Spec Teams/Def Asst, Broncos
1986-87Spec Teams/Tight Ends, Broncos
1988QBs/WRs, BroncosElway, Vance Johnson (Dan Reeves)
1989-90Offensive Coord/WRs, BroncosElway, Vance Johnson (Dan Reeves)
1991-92Head Coach, Birmingham FireWorld League, 2 playoff appearances
1993Head Coach, Samford Univ
1994-95WRs, Steelers4 division titles, and
1996-97Offensive Coord, Steelers3 conf title games, 1 SB appearance
1998-99Head Coach, Cowboys18-14, 2 playoff appearances. Undef in div in '98
2000-01Offensive Coord, DolphinsTwo 11-5 records (Dave Wannstedt)
2002-07Head Coach, Georgia Tech6 bowl appearances, 44-33 overall
2008Offensive Coord, ChiefsGonzalez & Bowe over 1,000 yds. Fired in 2009 preseason

This is a guy who knows a little bit of football, right? It takes a fair amount of gall for a blogger to sit in judgment on a guy who's won one championship in college, taken another college team to 6 bowl games in 7 years, and made the playoffs 4 times in 4 seasons as a pro head coach

Ok, with that out of the way – the perception of Gailey back when he was the Cowboys coach in 1998-9 was that he was one of those guys, like Norv Turner, who is a quality coordinator but doesn't have quite the leadership charisma to succeed as an NFL head coach. Gailey fielded one good team for the Cowboys, at 10-6, and then one 8-8 team before Jerry Jones pulled the plug. Maybe this perception is unfair: the Cowboys were bad the year before Gailey got there, in Barry Switzer's final season, and they were terrible over the next 3 seasons after Gailey left, under Dave "5-11" Campo. But that perception is out there. Let's say there's some truth to it.

(Gailey also somehow managed go get fired as the Chiefs offensive coordinator last year, 3 games into the preseason. That was weird.)

This year's edition of the Football Outsiders Almanac has an article on the Bills which does a nice job of detailing the challenges they face. Some of it is organizational: they are not in a big revenue market and just don't have a lot of money, for things like free agents and a big scouting dept and high-profile coaches. Some of it is the personnel: the team is weak at QB, weak at WR, shaky on the O-line, and their defensive personnel is best suited to playing the scheme they played last year and are abandoning this year. And some of it is the coaching staff: the offensive coordinator has never been a coordinator before, and the defensive coordinator is also pretty raw.

Put that all together and – well, this team still has to compete in the division with Belichick's Patriots, Rex Ryan's Jets, and the Parcells/Sparano Dolphins. There just aren't that many wins or playoff appearances lying around to be grabbed. The Bills last made the playoffs in 1999, under current Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. They're not going back anytime soon.

Muddle Along

Pete Carroll
Seattle; formerly USC HC, Patriots HC

This may seem like a snap judgment. Carroll was wildly, wildly successful at USC; and he's not entirely a college guy. He has a winning record as an NFL head coach!

I gotta say, I don't entirely believe in Carroll. For one thing, he seems to have gotten out of USC just a few steps ahead of the NCAA enforcement cops. For another, he doesn't have Norm Chow around this team to install the offense.

And just how good was Carroll as an NFL head coach, the first time around? He took over a Super Bowl squad from Bill Parcells, and over the next three seasons won 10 games, 9 games, and 8 games. Then the job went to Belichick and two years later the Pats were winning Super Bowls. A surprising number of key players for the SB-winning teams were already in place in '96, including:

Terry Glenn
Willie McGinest
Ted Johnson
Ty Law
Lawyer Milloy

Carroll had those guys plus Pro Bowlers Curtis Martin & Ben Coates, and still declined in wins each season. If Carroll is so good, shouldn't he have gotten more out of those teams?

I dunno, I've just never believed in Carroll. On the other hand, the Seahawks do have Alex Gibbs coaching the O-line, and Sherman Smith coaching the running backs. It's likely they will be able to run the ball, eventually. Also, secondary coach Jerry Gray knows his business. The competition in the AFC West is not as formidable as some, although Whisenhunt has done good things in Arizona and Singletary's team might turn the corner in San Francisco.

They'll muddle along.

Mike Shanahan
Redskins; formerly Broncos HC, star OC

What the hell?

Shanahan won 4 division titles in Denver, with 7 total playoff appearances, and he won 2 Super Bowls. Won 2 Super Bowls! He had 2 losing seasons out of 14 in Denver, both of them coming when he turned over to the next QB (Brian Griese from Elway, Jay Cutler from Plummer). His winning pctg in Denver was over .600. This guy can coach. His stint coaching the Raiders offers no evidence to the contrary. He took a bad Raiders team to 7-9 and then was fired 4 games into the next season.

The Redskins also have an actual professional GM now, in Bruce Allen. Allen won the George Young Executive of the Year award in 2002, while with the Raiders. He navigated the Bucs out of salary cap hell while putting 3 winning teams on the field in 4 seasons, 2005-8. So far the Redskins have acted responsibly, making reasonable picks in this year's draft and not throwing huge money at free agents. They've actually had a brilliant offseason, reworking their QB situation and O-line while not trading away any future picks.

So what's the problem?

It's not easy to see how The Danny will screw it up, but it's almost impossible to believe he won't.

It's easy to forget how good Joe Gibbs was, and why he is in the Hall of Fame. Here's a nugget for you: before he returned to bail out The Danny, Gibbs' career playoff winning pctg was .761. That put Gibbs just behind guys like Vince Lombardi (.900!) and Weeb Ewbank (.800!) – and ahead of everybody else. Joe Gibbs was not able to win under Dan Snyder. Joe Gibbs! In 4 Snyder seasons Gibbs went 30-34 with 2 playoff appearances. His pre-Snyder winning pctg was .674.

Yeah but, you say, Gibbs was saddled with the football albatross, Vinny Cerrato. Shanahan is working with a pro, Bruce Allen. Ok. But Bruce Allen is mostly known for his skill working the cap, and for his ability to work closely with a strong head coach; not as a personnel genius. Who's the guy in the organization who is going to draft well? Shanahan is a really great coach. But his weakness is personnel, as was demonstrated rather clearly when he took sole control the last few years in Denver.

Now, the Redskins can do pretty well just by being well-coached and not screwing up in the draft and free agency. They can climb to respectability, to being competitive, just on that basis alone. But I don't see how they're going to break thru – esp in the NFC East! The Giants, the Cowboys, Andy Reid's Eagles! – without someone drafting brilliantly and building a great defense. Who in this group is going to do that?

I hate to disrespect Shanahan, but it seems to me like the next 3 years in Washington are going to be more like Shanahan's last 3 years in Denver, than his first 3 years in Denver. And what happens after 3 years of solid but unspectacular performance? Whose trigger finger is going to start getting itchy?

Yeah, that's right. The Skins are already struggling under the weight of the Albert Haynesworth contract. I give him two seasons before he makes a similarly splashy yet ill-judged move.

So there you go! Another little glimpse into the future from the Oblong Spheroid. Tune in next year, when we foretell the futures of the new coaching staffs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars, among others.


Post a Comment

About This Blog

Twitter: oblong_spheroid

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP