Thursday, November 6, 2008

"You didn't do anything at all. Ya gotta do more then that." (just barely)

Is Paul Rudd (Chuck, “Cunu”) teaching Jason Segel (Peter) how to surf or be an NFL head coach in this great scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall? When Peter turns to “Cunu” for surfing lessons, Cunu tells Peter that when trying to stand up on the board you should do the least possible movement. When Peter simply gets up, Cunu tells him “your doing to much, do less.” He constantly tells him to do less until Peter simply doesn’t get up at all to which Cunu replies, “nah there you didn’t do anything at all, you gotta do more then that.” Cunu then says ah screw it you’ll just learn when we get out there. Was that a lesson in surfing or how to be a head coach in the NFL where it seems that in order to be a successful head coach it needs to appear to the average fan that you’re not doing anything?

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is a great example. What exactly does he do? We all know him as the disciplinarian who is always angry and yelling. He lays down the law and gives out the suspensions to Plaxico Burress. But to the average fan he doesn’t do much more then that; and that could be the best key to success. The Giants defense is always attributed to Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnolo. When Eli Manning takes strides in his playing, who gets the credit? That goes to Giants Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride. In fact when Burress was recently benched for the beginning of the Steelers game he was asked if he was fighting with Coughlin, to which Burress responded that during the week he spends his time with the Offensive Coordinator Gilbride and the Giants Wide Receivers coach and that he rarely even sees’s Coughlin during the week. If Coughlin isn’t the genius behind the Giants offense or defense then what exactly is his job with this team? Coughlin is simply the manager so to speak of the team. He lays down the law, makes sure everyone is staying in check and gets very angry on the sideline which seems to make for good TV. So the Giants coach isn’t required to be heading a high powered offense or a crazy good defense, and guess what, they won a super bowl last year and Coughlin is in his 5th season with the team and it looks like he’ll be here for at least another 2, which is pretty good job stability in this days NFL.

The current trend in the NFL is to hire big time coordinators to become head coaches and solve all your issues. The only problem is that a defensive coordinators job is to handle the defense, he game plans the defense, draws up coverages and blitzes, that’s all he does. When a coordinator becomes a head coach in the NFL, he’s now in charge of everything, not just the defense but the offense, special teams, drafting, scouting, and every other function of the team. A head coach simply doesn’t have time to concentrate only on his specialty. Brian Billick was labeled an “offensive genius,” the mastermind behind the 1998 Vikings offense that set a record for point in a season. When he became head coach of the Ravens he was already joining a team with a great defense, his job was to get that offense up to par. Yes he won a super bowl there, but he did that behind one of the greatest defenses of all time, and he had Marvin Lewis leading that defense. His offense simply had a game manager (Trent Dilfer) at quarterback and rode the defense to the Super Bowl. The credit for that great defense went to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who turned that into a head coaching job in Cincinnati. Lewis was able to squeeze one 13-3 season out of that Bengals team, but only after Carson Palmer started playing and Rudi Johnson established himself. Where did Lewis great defense go? Defiantly not to Cincinnati as the Bengals haven’t had good defenses since he got there. Billick’s offensive mind never created a respectable offense whatsoever in Baltimore as the team has always been identified by their defense, this would finally lead to Billick being fired after last season.

An NFL head coach is really nothing without his coordinators. Bill Belichick the “football mastermind.” He has been called one of the best coaches ever in football. But why don’t you look back at what he did in Cleveland, his record there was not good at all. He found success with New England while flanked by Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Both of whom have moved on to take head coaching jobs, Weis at Notre Dame which is now currently experiencing some of the lowest time in Notre Dame football including last years loss to Navy ending a 41 game winning Streak. While Crennel has become the head coach of the Browns and is always mentioned in the worst coaches in the NFL discussion. Meanwhile back in New England the Patriots, who won three Super Bowls with those three men in power, have won zero since Weis and Crennel left. This also asks the question, if Belichick and his coaching staff turned unheard of 6th round draft pick Tom Brady into a superstar, why isn’t Matt Cassel experiencing the same success. Not only does Cassel get the same coaching but he also gets mentored by one of the best quarterbacks ever in Tom Brady. When Brady first came into the league he wasn’t surrounded by the talent that Cassel has today, but Brady played the same way his whole career, while right now the Patriots have Cassel in a very conservative offense. Could it be that Belichick is not some “super coach” but rather Brady was able to throw the ball downfield because it was relatively low risk because the Patriots had filmed everyone’s defensive signals and knew what defense they were playing against? If you know the defense then playing aggressive becomes less of a risk, allowing Brady to be aggressive and therefore become a better quarterback, however now the Patriots are not stealing signs and don’t know the defense that’s coming against them, forcing Cassel to play in a very low risk offense. Maybe Belichick really is that same guy who had an awful tenure with the Browns and is just winning now because of the talent his team already has.

The end of the scene brings us to another awful trend in the NFL. When Cunu tells Peter to screw it, you’ll learn when you get out there. There is a huge rise in coaches with no head coaching experience. Time and time again teams are turning to coordinators who have specialized in either offense or defense exclusively and are now in charge of the entire team. These coaches usually end up either failing or not getting enough time to succeed. Even more mind boggling is even with the absolute incompetency of coaching in the NFL nowadays, Marty Schottenheimer is still available. Schottenheimer available because he was ridiculously fired after a 14-2 season! Schottenheimer had the games best player on his team and simply did the smart thing and gave that man the ball. When the playoffs rolled around he decided to change that style and put the ball into his quarterback’s hands. After the loss he was fired, and since then he’s been overlooked for every NFL job.

The competence of an NFL head coach can almost be measured by how much credit your head coach doesn’t receive and how much your coordinators do. When Eric Mangini took over the Jets in 2006 he took the team to the playoffs. Mangini was given a lot of credit for that, but this team also played a very interesting offense, they didn’t have a premier running back so they ran a lot of different unique plays to try to make up for that and gain back those yards. The credit for this all went to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Since 2006 though Schottenheimer has received no credit for anything, he’s still with the team, but when you hear anything about the Jets all that is ever spoken about is Eric Mangini. However the Jets also have one of the best special teams units in the league, its not just because of Leon Washington that its this good, it was good before he got there. The reason that the special teams are so good is because of Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff. Mangini is never given credit for special teams, but whenever you talk about either the offense or defense all the talk focuses on Mangini. Compare that and the struggling Jets with the other New York team, as the Giants keep winning, Coughlin keeps everything under control, and the offensive and defensive coordinators are the ones getting credit for on field performance.

No comments: