It's 888 Miles to Chicago...
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With the hiring of Mr. Zorn, all the available head coaching jobs in the NFL are now filled.  That is unless Al Davis decides to give Lane Kiffin a wedgie and push him out the door.  The question begs to be asked though, come on, beg me to ask it.  Please?  Fine then, I’ll ask it, who made the right choice?  And will these new guys mean anything to these teams?

A fact of life in the NFL is that there is turnover.  Veterans retire, they move on…and as they leave, in their wake, fresh new faces of draft picks and practice squad players race to fill the void left by the vets.  And every year, some coaches step aside, either by choice or not, and every year the coaching carousel starts turning.

My daughter loves to hear stories at bedtime.  Some times we share stories from my childhood…many of the same stories that have been told here in this blog have been told to my little girl to get her to go to sleep.  Other times she asks for a classic story…Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks are other favorites.  But by far her favorite bed time story is for me to retell the story of “Baloo and Mowgli”.  Which is just daddy-interpreted version of the Jungle Book.

The tale has been told so many times, that the way I tell it is almost identical every time.  After using this story to put her to sleep for several weeks, she started to pick up the story and tell it back to my wife and I.  Pretty soon when it was bedtime, she would say “I want to tell you a story…” and she would then launch into a perfect word for word telling of the story I told her.

“Mowgli grew up in the jungle with the wolves.  But then the wolves got wind that Sher Kahn the tiger wanted to find and hurt Mowgli, they decided that he needed to go to the Man village.”  Much later in the story…”but Mowgli didn’t want to go to the Man Village; he wanted to stay in the jungle with Baloo.”

It is a truly fascinating thing to hear your exact words parroted back to you.  What’s more amazing?  When your daughter decides to get creative…after retelling the story just like her daddy for several nights, last night, she spiced it up…

“Shrek and I were taking a walk…and Shrek wanted me to go to the Man Village, but I didn’t want to goto the man village, I wanted to stay with Shrek.  So then, I was walking with Grover, and he said that I had to goto the man village, but I didn’t want to go to the man village I wanted to stay with Grover.  Then we went to the grocery store and got some orange juice, but I broke it and Grover had to clean it up.  Then I took a walk with Bob the Builder, and he said I needed to go to the Man Village….”

The characters change, but the story remains the same.  Surprisingly, every character wants my daughter to goto the man village…it’s as if she knows one story really well, and keeps going back to it.

The coaching carousel is exactly like this.  The names change, but the story remains the same.  Coaches change jobs, but all the same names are there.  And the next is often extremely predictable based on the team and the coach…you can often see the disaster or revival coming from miles away.  And it seems like it’s always the same names…Shrek, Grover, Baloo, Bob…are replaced with Turner,  Wannstedt, Jauron, and Schottenhimer.  But then this year happened…

A glance over the list of new head coaches doesn’t read like a “who’s who of retread coaches” it reads like a “who?”  Lacking from the list are the normal big name vets, and hot shot assistants.  If you were to compile a list of Coordinators that would become head coaches at the start of this season…none of these would have been on it.  Then again, only 1 of these guys was a coordinator.  That’s the amazing thing, this group lacks quite a bit in experience…

One of the things I’ve constantly griped about is that NFL teams do not take a chance on new head coaches, preferring to go for the “proven vet” even if the proven means he’s a career losing coach.  Does this year mean NFL teams have finally wised up?  They’re willing to take a chance on young, up-and-coming head coaches?  Gambling that on one hand they could have the next Lombardi and worst case they get a poorly coached team on the cheap…instead of overpaying for a bad coaching job.

Not so fast…let’s take a look at each new coach, and the situation….

Atlanta Falcons
Out with the Old: Bobby Petrino (Couldn’t be bothered to finish his 1st season)
In with the New: Mike Smith (Hope the boring name is the only boring thing about the guy)

In college, my friend Scottie and I had an apartment together.  Scottie is the “fun loving party guy” type.  The best way to describe him…when you walked into a bar with Scottie if he didn’t already know someone in the bar…give him 15 minutes and he would.  He was just an outgoing and fun guy to hangout with.

We had a small group of friends from work and school that we would hang out with, and go out to the bar with.  One year, Scottie got this job where he would travel for a couple weeks at a time.  When he was gone, the same small group would go out without him…but it wasn’t the same.  We still had a decent time, but without Scottie there was something missing…the group just didn’t have the special something to bind it together.

This is the team that Smith is inheriting.  Gone is Michael Vick, for all his faults, he was the something special, the Scottie of this group that held it together and made it a fun team to watch.  Without him, there is a team that was built around his unique skills, but missing the player.  Never a good combo.  And while the team made some strides last year, the fact their coach quit on them is going to take some work to recover from.

Nah, looking over the roster and the prospects…this was not an ideal coaching job.  And that’s why Arthur Blank wasn’t able to attract a more high profile coach to the Peach State.  There is a lot of work to do in Atlanta…and while everything I’ve read and heard about Smith is good…I have a feeling this is a bit much for his first Head Coaching job ever.  In 2 years, the Falcons will be looking for another coach…and Blank will massively overpay for a big name.

Hopefully, by that time, they’ll have found they’re Scottie.

Baltimore Ravens
Out with the Old: Brian Billick (The snake oil salesman has left the building)
In with the New: John Harbaugh (Don’t call him Jim)

My music taste has always been “before my time”.  Motown and Classic Rock have always been my 2 favorite musical genres. Ray Charles,  The Beatles, Stones, Steve Miller, The Who, and Clapton are some of my key musical influences…sound like I play guitar for an up and coming band…”And now, Josh and the Bloggers!!!”  But sadly, I have no musical talent.

One of the side effects of my musical taste is that my parents never really minded listening to “my music” as it largely overlapped with their tastes as well.  Many hours were spent in the garage, working with my dad, while I controlled the musical play list.  One particular time, in the middle of some Clapton, my dad started singing along…

“Waay down south…”

“Um…Dad…the lyrics are ‘Lay down Sally’…”

“No they aren’t”

“Yeah, look…the name of the song is “Lay Down Sally”, which would mean the chorus is not Way down South”

“Well, I’ll be damned…that means my WHOLE generation sang it wrong.”

This is one of those times where you have 2 options…accept your father’s explanation, or say “your full of it”.  This is one of the few times that I just said “Okay, guess they did” but in my mind I took option 2.

Why do I bring this all up?  The same thought went through my head every time I watched Billick in an interview or press conference.  He was always slinging something that was a little ripe, but since it wasn’t the Bears, I simply shrugged my shoulders, and let it drop.

This is a team that needed change.  The defense, tired of the bull that Billick and the offense were shoveling, started calling them both out this season.  And while this D is getting up in years, there is still a lot of talent and pride on this unit.  With a new Head Coach, and a new approach on offense, this could be a quick turn around.  This is my pick for a quick turn around…assuming they get a little more talent on the offense in the off-season…the Ravens could slide into a Wild Card spot.  The big question is whether Harbaugh will have staying power…only time will tell on that.

Miami Dolphins
Out with the Old: Cam Cameron (1 season, 1 win, 1 head coaching job gone)
In with the New: Tony Sparano (Let the Mob jokes begin…oh…they already have?)

The house I grew up in had a laundry chute.  It seemed like a great idea when we first got the house.  My mom was all excited, because it would mean we could throw our laundry down the chute and save her having to gather and carry it all down the stairs.  It seemed like the perfect solution to a common problem.

What they don’t tell you about laundry chutes is that really they are an “Okay throw down the Lego car” chute.  Not long after we moved in, the laundry chute’s main use was by my siblings and I to throw things down.

“Hey Jake, catch this tennis ball!” 

“Jessie, move out of the way, I’m going to see if He-Man can survive the fall”

“Move to you right Ben…okay, when I drop the jelly bean see if you can catch it in your mouth!”

Yeah, the laundry cute did get used for its real purpose…but it wasn’t the great idea that it was originally assumed to be. 

It seems like a good idea to hire a legend like Parcells to run the team.  And it seems like a great idea to let him pick one of his former underlings as a head coach.  Don’t mind the fact that Parcells has never run a team from the GM post…or that the only time Sparano has been a head coach was at the University of New Haven…a huge football power.  So what you have is a team with zero talent…a legendary coach as a GM…and a yes man as the coach…

And that’s what scares me most about this situation…a coach and a GM need to be on the same page, but they need to have separate voices.  A coach needs to be able to tell the GM, “Man, you’re full of it, Bledsoe doesn’t have anything left, don’t sign him.”  If he can’t have that voice, then there will be no checks and balances in the relationship, and that’s a very bad thing.

Parcells will walk away from this after 3 years.  He will be given a wide berth by ownership, but will fail to really turn this team around.  Don’t be surprised if he’s on the sideline sometime during those 3 years.

Washington Redskins
Out with the Old: Joe Gibbs (Back to the Nascar track, where there is no Snyder)
In with the New: Jim Zorn (The phrase “Snyder Roadkill” comes to mind)

Every parent has been through this…

You’re tired.  Either your toddler came into bed and was kicking you all night.  Or you decided to tie one on because, hey, why not.  Or you had to work late.  Or the water heat exploded in the middle of the night.  Or TBS was having a Steve Guttenberg Marathon and you had to stay up.

Whatever the reason, you’re beat.  There is no fight left in you.  And yet, your child is full of energy.  Every 5 minutes the requests fly in…

“Daddy, chase me, chase me!”

“Daddy, make Ernie talk to me.”

“Daddy, you be an Elephant and march with me.”

“I have an idea Daddy, let’s watch Jungle Book!”

When weighed against the 1st 3 choices, popping a movie in seems like a great idea…doesn’t require any movement on your part…and you know that your child will be absorbed for the next hour or so allowing you to rest, or drink a lot of coffee.  You relax on the couch as your child watches the movie…slowly slipping into a more coma-like state.

But your child starts to realize that you’re vulnerable…and the requests that to roll in again…

“Daddy, can I have orange juice?”

“Daddy, can I have ice cream?”

“Daddy, can I have a convertible?”

In your weaken state, you stop treating the requests as questions, and they become instructions…it’s not until your wife walks in and sees you asleep on the couch, with your child watching Lethal Weapon, while having a bowl of Ice Cream, a beer, and there’s a new puppy curled up on the floor…that you realized you’ve made a terrible mistake.

Daniel Snyder is that child that smells fear…he seeks out coaches that he can easily bend to his will.  Gibbs wasn’t that way, and the Skins had some success.  But refusing all the requests wore him out…and Snyder wanted someone new…and he interviewed everyone under sun…and finally settled on a guy who has never been more than a QB coach…this could get ugly.

Replacing a legend is not a good setup.  And with a lack of consistency for this team…changing Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator…means this team is ready for a large step back.  They played great down the stretch, but that’s a lot to overcome, and they were playing on a lot of emotion.  This team fails to make the playoffs, but Zorn gets a free pass on this season.  When they fail to make the playoffs the next season, he’ll be out on his rear…and the next Snyder victim…er…coach will be dragged in.

That covers the Head Coaching changes…but there are a few Coordinators that need to be looked at as well…

San Francisco 49ers
New Offensive Coordinator: Mike Martz

Niners fans, Martz coming to town is not a good thing.  His system takes awhile to learn, it needs an accurate QB, and it’s no secret that Martz would really like to be a head coach.  This also happens to be the 4th OC in the last 4 seasons for this team…and if you haven’t noticed the personnel on the Niners doesn’t really match Martz’s offense.  Nolan is gone after the year, and Martz tries to get the job.

St. Louis Rams
New Offensive Coordinator: Al Saunders

This is a hire that makes a lot of sense.  Saunders favors a system that is much like Martz’s, and this offense is still full of players that ran that offense to great success.  The interesting part of this is that what this means about Linehan, a former OC himself.  Is he abandoning his philosophy?  Did he make this hire?  The Rams Offense improves greatly, and Linehan keeps his job.

Baltimore Ravens
New Offensive Coordinator: Cam Cameron

Ah, finally Cam gets back to doing what he does best…coaching an offense.  Too bad the Ravens have no QB for him….but Cam is a great offensive mind, and this is a great fit.  The Ravens offense should be much improved over last year, and Cam might just make a name for himself again.

Jacksonville Jaguars
New Defensive Coordinator: Greg Williams

One of the best defenses in the league loses its coach to the Falcons…and they go out and get one of the best Defensive minds in the game.  It’s just not fair sometimes.  This is a great hire by the Jags, and Williams should be a great fit with this unit.  There might be a little hiccup early on in the season as they change up the philosophy a bit, but this should pay huge dividends by the end of the season.  Will Williams ever get another shot at a HC job?  If the Jags go deep into the playoffs, he’ll get a few more sniffs.

Washington Redskins
New Defensive Coordinator: Greg Blache

Wow…talk about a step back…this is a giant leap back.  Couple this with the Zorn hiring, and this Skins team is in trouble.  Blache is not a good DC…when he coached the Bears D, it was one of the most frustrating defenses I’ve ever watched.  He is a bland coach, and he’s not a guy I would want coaching my team ever again.  To go from one of the best defensive minds, to Blache…well, when I was traveling this year, we rented a 2007 Nissan Altima, great car.  Loved driving that thing, but when we returned home, I still had to drive our 1996 Mercury Mystique…there is no comparison, trust me on this.  The Skins D takes a huge step back, and Blache is looking for a new job soon.

New York Giants
Keep Defensive Coordinator: Steve Spagnuolo

Huge new in NYC that Mr. Spagnuolo is staying in New York for another season.  It would have been a huge blow to this team to lose him.  The road back to the Super Bowl is hard enough without losing a key coach and the continuity that he brings.  If he had left, the Giants D would be behind the 8 ball; instead, it’s ahead of the game.  This defense is only going to get better…and Spagnuolo is only going to get more job offers, unless Coughlin retires and gives him the Giants job…he will be headed out of town some time soon.

Let’s close with this…

This week has seen some terrible weather here in the Northeast.  Tuesday night is snowed, and then all day Wednesday it rained…good freezing rain…between the snow and the rain, the roads were ugly.  In the middle of the day on Wednesday, our house lost power…after 4 hours it came back on, only to have the water not work.  Needless to say, my wife wasn’t able to nor did she feel like cooking dinner.  Enter the magic of takeout.

When I was heading to the car to go pick up the food, my daughter insisted on going.  So I threw on her coat and boots, and took her out to the car.  After getting her settled into her car seat, she said…

“Daddy, I want my sunglasses.”

After I shot a strange look, I handed over her sunglasses, and pulled the car out of the driveway.  As the car eased into the dark, icy driveway, a little voice in the back said…

“It’s REALLY dark outside Daddy.”

There was only one way to reply…

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

If my daughter had said “Hit it!”  Well, that might have been the proudest moment of my life…but instead she said…

“But why is it dark?”

“Try taking off the sunglasses.”

“Oh, that’s better…Daddy, does Shrek wear sunglasses?”

Guess she’s not quite up to Blues Brothers level…she’ll get there…she’s got time….

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