Monday, December 20, 2010

More toadying by the sports media…

Before I go on to yesterday’s Giants debacle, a word on the Redskins’ and Shanahan’s latest game…..Sally Jenkins appears to be laboring under the misconception that yesterday’s performance by Rex Grossman validated Shanahan’s decision to bench McNabb. A good sports reporter/columnist/analyst should have known that one game does not mean jack squat. A couple of weeks ago, when Favre got injured on the Vikings’ very first offensive play, Tavaris Jackson came in and led the team to 38 points and an emphatic win over the Bills. 38 points was more than the Vikings had scores in their previous three games. This didn’t mean Jackson is better than Favre (even at this age) --- rather, if you follow the NFL, you’d know that QBs often have good outings against defenses who haven’t game-planned for them (or defenses who don’t have enough data… on the QB’s tendencies, esp within an offensive scheme). Let’s see how Grossman does in the NFC East after a D has had a week to prepare for him and esp after the Ds have had a few game films on him in Shanahan’s scheme. This is Grossman’s eighth year in the NFL and he has thrown for 37 TDs and 38 interceptions; even in his best year (the Bears superbowl season of ’06) he threw for 23 TDs and 20 INTs….he’s never even bettered a QB rating of 80 for any season… Grossman may turn out to be a decent QB yet, I suppose, but this one game against a mediocre Cowboys defense that was unprepared for him does not constitute evidence or validation of anything.

To me, the only things that were validated to me were that
(i) There is a powerful new bully in Washington and Sally Jenkins wasn’t gonna pass up an opportunity to kiss his ass and
(ii) This year’s Redskins amply demonstrate that Andy Reid is, as I always believed, a far superior football coach and thinker than Shanahan.

And now to another coaching bully, Tom Coughlin. I thought that there were so many layers to the Giants debacle yesterday but apparently it is entirely the punter’s fault. Who knew?

Stupidly, I thought
(i) That not anticipating an onside kick with the other team down 14 with like 7 mins to go was a colossal coaching blunder. The only downside to putting your hands team on the field at that time is that you start with modest field position. Besides, Andy Reid is looking at a team that has already put up 31 points on him and he figures he may need not two but three scores to be in the game, so he is almost definitely going to kick it onside....but what do I know? Peter King goes to great lengths in his MMQB column today, to make the case that it wasn’t Coughlin and his staff’s fault but rather the fault of the guys on the return team…. Poorly prepared players…hmmm… I’d think that’s poor coaching……. but what do I know?
(ii) I thought that not being able to generate a much needed first down in two consecutive series on offense within the last five minutes may have equally contributed to the Giants’ loss but then again the offense is led by the great hall-of-famer Eli Manning, so they can certainly not be at any fault, can they?
(iii) I thought that not having your team prepared to defend the punt (regardless of what the punter was asked to do) --- indeed, having a team ill-prepared to respond to crisis --- may be poor coaching….but what do I know?

After all, Coughlin courageously claimed to take full responsibility for the last play before he proceeded to throw his punter under the bus on national TV, so he must be a stand-up guy and a great coach. He did yell at the punter on national TV and ignored all the other players who were supposed to defend the play, so he must be a stand-up guy and a great coach. The players (offense and defense) didn't know how to do their jobs when it really counted, but he must be a stand-up guy and a great coach.

It is the credo of mediocre coaching bullies, and it is given credibility by toadying sports ‘journalists’ all the time….”Why take responsibility when you can make a convenient scapegoat?”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Shanahan's genius

Hopefully it is becoming more apparent to people that Mike Shanahan’s ‘genius’ is largely the creation of the incompetent and cheerleading sports media. Shanahan is, and always has been, a mediocre coach and a supreme asshole. He had a 3 to 4 year dream run in Denver that was almost completely attributable to the fact that he had John Elway and Terrell Davis. They won more than 75% of their games and won 2 Superbowl titles in that span. But if you look at the record you’ll see that Dan Reeves had a 4-5 year run (’84-’84, ’89) in Denver in which they also won over 70% of their games. Without a hall-of-fame caliber running back, I should add. I don’t see anyone calling Reeves a genius. Oh yeah, they lost 3 superbowls during Reeves’ tenure --- to legitimately great teams --- Parcells’ Giants, Gibbs’ Redskins and a 49er team that could arguably have been the best ever in the NFL. Shanahan’s Superbowl successes came against a Packer squad that just wasn’t mentally prepared to be repeat champs, and a clearly overachieving Falcon team that had no business being in the Superbowl in the first place. Ironically, that Falcon squad owed much of its overachieving success to its coach, Dan Reeves, who got them to the freaking Superbowl with those legends Jamaal Anderson at RB and Crystal Chandelier…errr… Chris Chandler at QB.

Anyway, more importantly, in the decade after Elway retired (and Davis was soon done in by injury) Shanahan managed to win about 57% of his games and recorded one playoff win. Ten years. 57%. One playoff win. Oh, did I mention that he had pretty much carte blanche over personnel decisions as well? Must be genius.

Funny too, how Washington’s struggles this year are now supposedly due McNabb’s inadequacies, huh? Quick… a Redskin WR or their starting RB. I’m not trying to say that McNabb is great ---he is clearly in decline--- but funny how the offensive geniuses of the Shanahans [Mike and (his nepotistic hire) offensive coordinator son Kyle] can’t fix things. I guess geniuses cannot win without hall-of-fame talent at all important skill positions.

You know what great coaches do? They repeatedly find ways to win important games with underdog rosters. Does that describe Shanahan? I don’t think so.

Finally, I also hold Shanahan primarily responsible for the whole Haynesworth fiasco. See, I have some sympathy for Haynesworth --- he is a problematic dumbass, but to his credit he has never presented himself as anything but a problematic dumbass. When Shanahan took over, he decided he would impose his despotic style and whip every one into submission from day one. Haynesworth, who had already been paid over $40 mill in guaranteed money, didn’t quite appreciate being pissed on. So he basically told him to fuck off. To be perfectly honest, in Haynesworth’s place, I would most likely have done the same thing. Great players often come with great egos. If I were signed to a $100 mil contract with over $40 mil in guaranteed money, I’d expect the incoming coach to treat me as an important part of the franchise too. Even a disciplinarian like Parcells used to have separate rules for players like LT --- Great coaches find a way to deal with, and bring the best out of, troublesome talent while despotic egomaniacs want everyone to kiss their ass in their prescribed manner.

Apropos of nothing, no self-respecting defensive lineman should show any respect or loyalty to Shanahan anyway. Shanahan made a career of perfecting the art of chop blocking without getting flagged. Shanahan’s O-lines always played dirty. It is one thing to push the envelope in game strategy but entirely another when the innovations are aimed at ending, or threatening to end, the careers of D-linemen. Dirty blocking is one of the primary reasons Shanahan could get a thousand yards out of any old RB. His early success as a coach and his premature elevation to genius status protected him from much of the calls and criticism that was due to him for the way his O-lines played.

All this is not to say that Shanahan won’t manage to have some winning seasons in Washington (the NFL is composed of two kinds of franchises: bad ones that never really win anything and good ones that go through cycles of prosperity and poverty; Washington belongs to the latter and they are wayyyyy overdue). But it won’t mean much if he does. As Norv Turner demonstrates week in and week out, year after year, teams in the NFL can find ways to win despite their head coaches. And at the first signs of Washington’s success, Mike will get his genius label back, Kyle will land a multi-million dollar head coaching job……and po-too-weet, and so it goes….