The 2011 Coaching Carousel

While this weekend is normally reserved for football, I have to let politics briefly creep into today before getting to football because the two directly intersect.

For the first time in my entire lifelong conservative Republican experience, I will be supporting a Democrat in their quest.

Pick yourselves off of the floor. I am still to the right of Attila the Hun.

My friend Tiffiny Fox is running for the 42nd Assembly District in Los Angeles.

Tiffiny and I could not be more different. I am a white, Jewish, conservative Republican who sadly enough is vertically challenged. Tiffiny is a black Democrat who could have been a supermodel at 5 ft 10. She has also worked for defense lawyer Milton Grimes.

Yet if there is one thing that can unite people of all stripes, it is football. Tiffiny and I play on the same team in our coed touch football league. We have won 3 championships together.

This may seem silly, but football matters because it is a team sport. You have to work with people toward a common objective. Many athletes go into politics. Tiffiny is more than a (very) pretty face. She is a great teammate. She is fun to be around, and plays hard. She also plays honestly. We have had conversations that have gone beyond football, and she is an incredibly bright and thoughtful person.

Given that I live in her assembly district, naturally I have Republican friends who will be running in the general election. I am still supporting them. However, this Sunday, January 9th, is more than my birthday. It is the Democratic primary for the 42nd Assembly District in Los Angeles.

So for those of you out there in Los Angeles who are going to vote for a Democrat and would never consider voting Republican, support Tiffiny. I disagree with her on how to make the world a better place, but I heartily endorse her character as a person. She cares about issues, and is willing to do what most people never do…something!

Tiffiny, I hope the support and friendship of a Republican does not doom you. We are forever teammates, and that matters most.!/event.php?eid=179515095404663

Democrats, vote for Tiffiny Fox for the 42nd Assembly District.


Now on to the coaching carousel. With a potential NFL lockout in 2011, some teams are reluctant to change coaches. Maybe I am a softie, but if it is a close call, I prefer to err on keeping the coach and giving him one more year. Also, no coach should ever be fired after a winning season ever. No matter how underachieving a team is, a winning record should automatically bring the coach back.

Last year I only thought 2 coaches had to be fired, Eric Mangini with the Browns and Raheem Morris with the Buccaneers. Then Mangini finished 4-0 and I was left with only Morris. He took a 9-7 team under Jon Gruden (admittedly they finished 0-4 and Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin left) and went 3-13. I thought they were awful. I was wrong. Yes they had a soft schedule, but they still won games and finished 10-6. That is just another reason I like to wait one season too late than pull the trigger on a coach. Remember, these guys are human beings, and I do not like to see people fired capriciously.

As for 2011, let’s look at some teams and what they did.

Minnesota Vikings–Bringing back Leslie Frazier was absolutely the right thing to do. The team went 4-4 with him, and the players like him and played hard for him. The last 3 weeks were complete turmoil with uncertainty about location not seen since Hurricane Katrina (although less extreme). He deserves a shot to develop Joe Webb.

Houston Texans–Bob McNair really did not want to fire Gary Kubiak, and giving him one more year was a good call. McNair is a loyal guy, and while the season has been disappointing, bringing in Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator is perfect. Wade is a loyal company man who will not knife Kubiak to get the head coaching job. Kubiak can focus on the offense. However, if 2011 does not get the team to the playoffs, Kubiak is out and Wade is in. Kubiak deserves one last shot.

Miami Dolphins–Tony Sparano was almost fired but Bill Parcells intervened and persuaded Stephen Ross to give him one more year. I agree with this. Sparano took them from 1-15 to 11-5 in his first season, but consecutive 7-9 seasons have hurt. Yet he is still 25-23 overall, a winning record. Unlike in other locker rooms, players in Miami have blasted Sparano publicly. Yet Ricky Williams and Brandon Marshall are malcontents anyway. The Dolphins went 1-7 at home, yet 6-2 on the road. Miami has a defense, and needs to figure out the quarterback situation. You don’t take a 1-15 team to 11-5 without having some coaching talent. Sparano deserves one more season.

Dallas Cowboys–Jason Garrett went 5-3 down the stretch, and one miracle play by the defending champion Saints kept it from being 6-2. So while Wade Phillips was right to bring him back, another issue lurks below the surface, that being the Rooney Rule.

The Rooney Rule ensures that all coaching vacancies result in at least one interview of a minority candidate. I support this. It does not guarantee an outcome, just an opportunity. Yet what happens if minorities refuse to interview? What happens in a situation where Garrett is the obvious frontrunner? How do we ensure that other interviewees are not just being given token interviews? This is a serious matter, but in the end, Garrett earned the right to stay.

Tennessee Titans–This was the big one. Bud Adams would have been insane to choose basket case quarterback Vince Young over Coach Jeff Fisher, but everybody expected Fisher to lose the power struggle. Adams wanted them both back, and Fisher said no. This was a bold gamble, and it paid off as Vince Young is being shipped out and Fisher is staying. Forget the lack of a ring. Bill Cowher needed 15 years to get his. Fisher has been there 16 years, and his teams fight hard. Fisher would have had another job in 5 minutes, which also would have been a Rooney Rule nightmare since nobody would have edged him out of any job he wanted. Fisher is a very good coach, and Adams will thank his lucky stars he kept him.

The San Francisco 49ers–Ever since Eddie Debartolo was forced to sell the team to his sister and her husband, the 49ers went from one of the strongest ownerships to one of the worst. Yet firing Mike Singletary was the right move. If you can’t win the NFC Worst, quit or be fired (Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona gets a pass since the Cardinals went to the Superbowl 2 years ago, while Steve Spagnuolo took the Rams from 1-15 to 7-9). Yet the 49es now have instant credibility by winning the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes. Everybody wanted him, and they got him.

and Denver Broncos were right to fire their coaches, although Josh McDaniels started out 6-0. His decline will be analyzed like Vanilla Ice, who went from 7 million albums sold to disappearing in about 2 years.

Carolina Panthers–You will all say I am crazy, but even at 2-14 I would bring Jon Fox back. The guy took the Panthers to 2 NFC Title Games, winning one and almost winning a Super Bowl. He deserves a chance to turn it around. He most likely will not get it, but the guy needs a quarterback and a leader on defense to replace Julius Peppers.

Cincinnati Bengals–Mike Brown brought back Marvin Lewis, but this situation was unique because it is the only one where the coach threatened to leave and the owner blinked. Tennessee is not analogous because Fisher really wanted to stay, while Lewis wanted out. Mike Brown should fire himself and bring his father Paul Brown back to life. Mike Brown knows that Lewis took a bunch of criminals to the playoffs last year, and he has gotten as much out of the team as humanly possible.

Jacksonville Jaguars–Wayne Weaver did the right thing bringing Jack Del Rio back. Despite losing 3 straight to finish 8-8, Jacksonville was devastated by injuries. Del Rio has gotten the team to 12-4, and you don’t go 12-4 without having some coaching skills. Weaver has a reputation for patience, and it did hurt him to see Tom Coughlin win a Super Bowl with the Giants after Weaver him.

New York Giants–This does not even deserve consideration. Tom Coughlin went 10-6. The Mara family put it best when they said that “some teams make coaching changes regularly. We don’t do that.” The Maras are sane, and Coughlin is back.

Cleveland Browns–The 5-11 record was not the issue. The problem is that the Walrus and the Mangenius have completely different philosophies. Mike Holmgren is a West Coast guy, while Mangini prefers smashmouth. Mangini saw Jake Delhome and Seneca Wallace get injured, and Colt McCoy really showed some promise. Mangini should have been given one more year, but Holmgren is going to do it his way, and that is why he was brought in. His credibility allows for this.

San Diego Chargers–I have been an unmerciful critic of Norvelous Norv Turner. My rule of never firing a guy after a winning season really gets tested here. The team went 9-7, although 7-2 down the stretch. The issue with this team is that they blow up in the playoffs. This year they just missed them entirely. Dean Spanos brought back General Manager AJ Smith and Turner. The Chargers will most likely never win until he goes (and even then maybe never), since Turner is an offensive coordinator, not a head coach. Yet as somebody who roots for the Raiders, the Chargers should keep Turner forever.

Oakland Raiders–This one is breaking my heart. I like Tom Cable. After 7 straight seasons of 5-11 or worse, the Raiders finished 8-8. On the surface, the decision seems absolutely insane. Yet a deeper analysis shows why it is not totally crazy, although I would have kept Cable.

First, Al Davis has not lost his marbles. Physically he is weakened and requires a walker, but mentally he is as sharp as ever. Too many report this to question his lucidity. He is not some guy ranting in his pajamas.

So why fire Cable, who went 6-0 in the division?

The scuttlebutt is that the real reason for the turnaround was Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson. Jackson is a very respected coordinator and known for developing quarterbacks. The offense showed vast improvement this year, although part of that was a healthy Daren McFadden. Cable had his play calling duties taken away and given to Jackson before this season, so play calling improvement does go to Jackson.

So why not keep them both?

Unsubstantiated rumors had Jackson forcing Davis’s hand. Davis loves Jackson.

When the season ended, Jackson was given permission to interview for the head coaching job with the 49ers. Al Davis despises the 49ers, even more than the teams in his own AFC West division. He has always loathed the cross town rival. The thought of Jackson going to the 49ers made Davis ill. So making Jackson the head coach of the Raiders prevents that.

Now Jackson has not officially gotten the job, and if he does not get it, then firing Cable will truly be an insane move (barring a miracle hire of somebody phenomenal).

If Jackson does get it, the players will be fine. They liked Cable and played hard for him, but will rally around Jackson. They like him as well. Jackson fulfills the Rooney Rule without other interviews, but Al Davis has been as good as Rooney himself in that area. He is questioned on many things, but not his civil rights record.

One issue concerns me. Bruce Gradkowski is a better quarterback than Jason Campbell, and in one game Campbell was benched in favor of Gradkowski. That was fine. Yet Jackson let the media know that he made the decision. Why do that to Tom Cable? It seemed like an act of disloyalty.

Al Davis has gambled his whole football life on untested coaches. It worked for a very long time, and even in the past decade with John Gruden. Some would say it worked with Tom Cable. The coaches who failed began with Callahan, who did get the team to a Super Bowl, and Turner, who was a retread and not a rookie.

Nobody has any idea if Jackson is cut out to be a head coach, but the consensus is that Cable will not get another head coaching shot. So if it really was Jackson who turned the team around, making him head coach is not crazy…if he gets the job.

Tom Cable was a loyal company man, and deserved another year. Yet if Jackson is that special, losing him was not an option. Like the rest of the Raider Nation, I will stay tuned.

Time for the 2010-2011 NFL Playoffs to begin.

Let’s get it on!!!!!!


3 Responses to “The 2011 Coaching Carousel”

  1. Micky 2 says:

    God Bless Gabrielle Giffords and family

  2. blacktygrrrr says:

    I slept today until Noon and woke up to a mind-boggling tragedy. This column about football was pre-written last night.

    Like all of you, I am in a state of shock over this and am praying for the AZ families of all the victims.

    eric aka the Tygrrrr Express

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