Mandel’s Musings: NFL Coaching Carousel in Full Swing Now

Published on: 30th December, 2013


rex ryan
Ryan has that look in his eye as if he knows something  | read this item

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New York — The NFL season is over, and now the real season begins. The playoffs? Nah…We’re talking about the coaching season. That time of year when Black Monday has a meaning that has nothing to do with great sales at retail.

Today, several head coaches, and their staffs of assistants will be given the pink slip and will begin emptying their lockers and offices. It’s a right of passage in today’s NFL. Owners want a better return on their investments than a 3-13 record.

Sometimes, a 10-6 record, accomplished by the 2012 Chicago Bears and Lovie Smith, can lead a head coach right into the depths of Black Monday. Lovie got the boot, and if you think it’s difficult firing a man named Lovie, then you don’t know anything about the Bears general manager, Phil Emery, the newly-hired GM who did the deed.

There was also the well-known relationship that Marty Schottenheimer, the head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2006, had with his GM at the time, a genius named A.J. Smith. A.J. didn’t like Marty very much. It was personal. They just didn’t get along. That year, Marty won 14 games. That’s a season record of 14-2 for those who are a little weak at math.

A.J. must not have appreciated 14-2 the way most of us would appreciate 14-2. Heck, Tom Coughlin finished this season 7-9 but very few are calling for his head on Black Monday. So, what did A.J. the genius do? He fired Marty after the Chargers didn’t go ahead and win the Super Bowl that year.

Jets' head coach has been given a chance to finish his contract

Jets’ head coach has been given a chance to finish his contract

Sometimes, general managers are given more power than they deserve. A.J. the genius was himself, fired along with his head coach, Norv Turner in 2012 after the Chargers had missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. He’s now working with the Washington Redskins, who just finished their worst season in a generation, going 3-13. Maybe, this A.J. Smith is cursed or something?

The Jets also hired a new general manager prior to this current season, replacing Mike Tannenbaum, who used to be a numbers crunching salary capologist when Bill Parcells ran the Jets. Tannenbaum was a nice guy who didn’t know how to evaluate football personnel, a small problem when it comes to restocking an NFL roster during the annual college draft.

The Jets brought in a new GM to replace Tannenbaum who, by all accounts, is a nice man by the name of John Idzik. Ivy League-educated, soft-spoken, raised in a football home with a father who made coaching his vocation. Idzik has been around the game his entire life, most recently as an assistant g.m. with Seattle, the team now favored to represent the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl which is ironically, being played on Idzik’s home field, MetLife Stadium.

Like the Bears’ Phil Emery, Idzik had every right to take the Jets job under the proviso that he would have the power to bring in his own choice for head coach. Someone he felt more comfortable with, stylistically and football-wise.

Emery fired Lovie Smith after Bears went 10-6

Emery fired Lovie Smith after Bears went 10-6

Frankly, nobody saw Rex Ryan, a jolly old blowhard of buffoonery as an Idzik “type.” In reality, nobody saw Ryan as anyone’s type, other than former Jet’s GM, Tannenbaum, who had little decision-making in the initial hiring of Ryan. Let’s face it, it was Jets owner, Woody Johnson who got charmed by the “Rexster.”

Idzik observers expected him to take full advantage of Black Monday to tell Rex Ryan, thanks for everything and don’t let the door hit you on the rump on your way out. But, perhaps with a little prodding from Johnson, the team owner, and by watching how the Jets players, most of the key ones on the very young side, responded with improving performances as the season rolled along, Idzik didn’t let his ego get in the way of making a good football decision.

So, Ryan has had the noose taken away from his neck and will once again coach the Jets next season. Yes, he does have one year left on his contract but it’s highly doubtful that Johnson won’t give him an extension so that he won’t be put in the position of a lame duck, letting players know they can take advantage of a coach who will be out the door in a year. No, he’ll get another year or two. Coming off this shocking 8-8 season, he will also get the bar raised significantly for expectations next season. With success comes more pressure to succeed.

It was an excellent move by the Jets to keep Ryan. There was frankly, nobody else, from the college or pro ranks, who stood out as a replacement. He took a team of 14 new starters, including a second round rookie QB and a rookie cornerback every opposing team targeted, and he finished with about five wins more than most people projected. On paper, this was a terrible team in every respect, and Ryan made them respectable.

Those who were Ryan nay-sayers spent too much time looking at his lack of offensive genius, citing how the game has changed over to one of scoring points as opposed to preventing them. The thinking is, head coaches should be offensive geniuses who can develop their own Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. These nay-sayers seem to have forgotten whether Bill Parcells called offensive plays, or Lombardi called plays, or if currently, in the go-go NFL of 2013, Pete Carroll calls plays. Wait, that guy in Boston, Belichick. How about him? Does he run Tom Brady’s offense, too?

The fact is, that’s why you hire a great offensive coordinator. Remember, Parcells, now in the Hall of Fame, chose the great Scott Brunner over Phil Simms in the early 80s. Not exactly a Hall of Fame evaluation. And, in a league driven by the need to put pressure on defenses at all times, it certainly helps to have a defensive genius overseeing what the offensive coordinator is trying to accomplish. It sure makes those coaches meetings pretty stimulating, I bet. “If you do this, I would do that.” Kind of like a chess match between smart offensive and defensive coaches.

When Woody Johnson decided to announce to his triumphant players after their big win yesterday in Miami that Ryan was coming back next year, the response from the players was described as “greater than winning a Super Bowl” by one insider who was in the room.

In football, no one ever said you have to love your coach. But, in Rex Ryan, the Jets seem to have one of those hybrid personalities who can lay down the law while making his players see how much he cares about them and about winning.

Smith fired Schottenheimer after a 14-1 season at San Diego

Smith fired Schottenheimer after a 14-1 season at San Diego

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