Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Head Coach Roulette

The 2013 NFL regular season is in the books and the doom of "Pink Slip" Monday (versus Black Monday that happened when the Stock Market collapsed) loomed large in front offices around the Nation's most prominent sports league. A perennial passage of "Head Coach Roulette" transpires upon command come the 17th Monday every NFL Season. The usual suspects predicted by many sports writers and analysts came through associated sports press lines before the West Coast was conscious, on December 30, 2013. Six head coaches were handed their exit package. I'm sure actions didn't surprise any personnel by the owners' sentiments to overhaul direction of some type, and chose the leader (they felt) most suspect of franchises' prime fodder to failure. 

The vacant Head Coach slots (some including entire coaching staff) as of December 30th  2013 in NFL, are Washington Redskins (fired Mike Shanahan, who really should consider retiring), Houston Texans (fired Gary Kubiak, a predicted playoff team that fell off track, leaving disappointed players, front office, and Texans fans dumbfounded with legitimate gripes), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (fired Greg Schiano, a team considered one of the stronger defenses heading in to 2013 Season, displayed depleted results versus expectations), Cleveland Browns (fired Rob Chudzinski, a definite trivia question for the pedestrian football fan... Cleveland continued its backwards direction), Minnesota Vikings (fired Leslie Frazier, I definitely understand Vikings GM and owner on this move, considering prime talent on offense and defense), and last but not least the Detroit Lions (finally fired Jim Schwartz, honestly surprised this didn't happen a couple years ago; once again Detroit chokes and falls a game short of making the playoffs, regardless having one of the most prolific receivers in Calvin Johnson, and a boosted running game with dual backs in Reggie Bush, and Joique Bell; Detroit should be disappointed not making playoffs)  

Some dissolutions between coach and franchise I can understand, even validate. A few, I view as premature, pulling plug before given an opportunity to establish a program. Is there any cure in sight, any savior on the horizon to remove that revolving door in Cleveland? In Tampa Bay? Or are there larger looming inquiries that should be directed at the ownership? The decision makers? There are unanswered ponderings lying in the midst surrounding programs seeming to be going nowhere; systems that appear stale, and stagnant; are there owners with there heads buried in the sand? Are there owners wandering the halls in denial? Is there a group of franchises content with mediocrity?  

Upon skimming the names axed on ‘Pink Slip’ Monday, I was surprised not to see a few I felt should be handed their severance package. The New York Jets seems to be a team doomed to be average, going nowhere under the system of head coach Rex Ryan. Between the head coach, and general manager, some of their personnel decisions in last three years have been questionable. Although New York Jets were a playoff team four years ago, I felt their appearance was a fluke. The Oakland Raiders have hit a serious rough patch, where their performance seems to be moving backwards versus forward. I’m not sure all blame lies in the lap of aspiring head coach, Gary Allen. It’s been little over 2 years since the legendary icon owner Al Davis passed away leaving his franchise in the hands of his son as principal owner, Marc Davis. One of the first actions he took was dismantling a couple leadership positions, in hopes of rebuilding one the NFL’s storied franchises back to greatness. Although Mr. Davis may feel he’s made appropriate moves, he has a few critics (including me) shaking their heads, insecure with decisions of severing ties with long time President Amy Trask, and hiring Reggie McKenzie as General Manager. Hence, I am not sure all finger pointing should be directed (of an obvious toxic professional football program) in head coach Gary Allen’s direction. 

Last but not least, we have Jerry Jones, and the Dallas Cowboys. Are Jerry Jones’ loyalties to certain members of his staff suffocating an opportunity for Dallas to return to playoffs? It would be superfluous mentioning criticism analysts and fans alike have for the second most storied NFL owner and his inability to keep his hands out of the pot relating to team management. Tony Romo had his run. For a decade, he has literally gone above and beyond attempting to bring the Cowboys back to the playoffs. Yes, yes, yes, I hear Romo is a great man, great teammate, and loves the game. He may not be ready to hang up his pads, but I feel Jerry Jones, his GM, and head coach choice need to take a serious step back, and realize the system they have is not the one they’d hope would bring more wins, playoffs. Will Dallas Cowboys leadership be ballsy enough to make an overhaul? Sometimes, one move, one change can make the difference between booking a tee time in January, and booking a flight to compete on a Wintery gridiron in hopes to reach the Super Bowl.

Answers to repetitive failures are complex. Is it as easy as changing the head coach? Is it the choice of head coach you feel can transition from a dominant college program to a competitive professional one? Is it a predictable playbook? Is it lack of an ability to adjust to opposing play plans? Does it lie in an inability to effectively execute qualified personnel in the strengths and abilities in the role handed to them?  Is there a disconnect between the play book and the personnel acquired to successfully run the plan? There is never an obvious reply. All decisions come down to risk based on faith and trust surrounding leadership and their support team.  Some of these decisions may be purely profit driven. I believe most include franchises’ stakeholders, its fans. Fans support greatness. Fans stay loyal. Fans place faith in owner decisions, hoping results will bring “Winning” back.  All stakeholders in the grandest league in America ultimately place blind faith in its power decision makers, the NFL owners, in hopes they will never abandon sincere interests, supporting the “Greatest Show on Turf”.