Brian Flores, Joe Judge, and Harry High School
NFL Wild Card - As the coaching carousel turns and NFL organizations decide among Doug Pederson, Bill O'Brien, Brian Daboll, Jim Harbaugh, and pretty much every viable candidate except Eric Bienemy, keep in mind that all NFL head coaches can be categorized into a small handful of archetypes.
The Mike Tomlin/Tom Coughlin type: his gruff exterior conceals a gruff mantle and gruff outer core, but there's probably a warm-and-squishy heart of gold buried down there somewhere.
The Movie Sergeant is a smart default persona for a standard-issue defensive coordinator getting his first head coaching gig: no one will be surprised by his no-nonsense, hard-nosed, drill-instructor approach when he's hired, and no one will remember it after he is fired.
The John Harbaugh/Frank Reich type: an upbeat source of good-natured wisdom, plus a dash of tough love when someone needs a kick in the rump. Two years of the NFL head coaching lifestyle turns most Sitcom Dads into either sleep-deprived paranoiacs or detached, vacant-eyed zombies. Rather like actual dads. (That's right: Walkthrough is going DARK! It has been a long season!)
Bill Belichick and all his acolytes and wannabes fit this type, though Belichick is more like a Designer Machiavelli.
Most Belichick cosplayers take their tactical and leadership cues from a cartoon supervillain like Skeletor rather than from any Hall of Fame coach or Renaissance philosopher. Yet NFL owners are strangely enamored with this personality type because they always think they are hiring a master strategist, not someone who will devote 95% of his mental energy to blaming his team's 56-10 losses on the assistant weight-room sanitizer.
Harry High School
Rah-Rah Sis-Boom-Bah: win one for ol' Coach Pete Carroll or young Coach Nick Sirianni!
Harry High School acts like Sitcom Dad introducing the kids to his first girlfriend after the divorce, or like the cool teacher who lets the seventh graders call him by his first name. Owners generally fire Harry High School at the first sign of trouble, because everyone knows that dad ends up crying over a maxed-out credit card after that first post-separation fling (DARK), while the cool teacher winds up duct taped to his chair while the kids have Bunsen burner-on-a-yardstick jousts.
Sean McVay and his various cronies/clones all present themselves as central-casting MBA candidates: young, fit, well-groomed, white as baking flour and bristling with innovative ideas that sound suspiciously identical to everyone else's innovative ideas.
Mini McVays are enjoying success right now that is sure to yield diminishing returns as owners scour the depths of their offensive coaching staffs in search of anyone with twinkly eyes, a stubblebeard, two seasons as a slot receiver at a midmajor college, and an interview hook that impresses the easily impressed. ("He can name all 50 states and their capitals. The kid's a prodigy!") The Mini McVay vogue will end once team owners stop preferring coaching candidates who look like their favorite nephews. In other words, never.
The Andy Reid/Marty Schottenheimer type: a CEO lets his coordinator handle schemes and game plans while he focuses on structure and culture. Most college-to-NFL transplants market themselves as CEO types, then crash quickly when they learn that the NFL lifestyle is not all about unpaid labor and private jets fully stocked with single-malt scotch and lascivious cocktail waitresses who find entitlement sexy.
Successful Sitcom Dads, Movie Sergeants, and Dime-Store Machiavelllis sometimes transition to CEOs late in life; Executive Material coaches will start striving for CEO roles if any of them are still coaching by age 50.
Factotum T. Yesman
Jason Garrett or David Culley: someone overpromoted or groomed from within the organization to do the boring stuff that the meddlesome owner or his spiritual adviser cannot be bothered with like running practices, designing game plans, or working in the traditional sense. Few organizations are brazen enough to hire an obvious Yesman these days when a Sitcom Dad or Harry High School could perform the same tasks with a little more dignity. (Yes, we're watching you, Mr. Lurie.)
The Dan Campbell type: a 10,000 B.C. version of the Movie Sergeant, or the dark-mirror version of Harry High School. Cro-Magnons like Campbell fell out of fashion as Mike Ditka's generation aged out and the NFL transitioned away from real-men-don't-wear-helmets-or-drink-water messaging for obvious reasons. Campbell's persona is nearly a winking homage to the old blood 'n' guts coaches, which makes it charming in a way, though it's also a reminder that if NFL owners began following Three Year Letterman on Twitter, they would end up making him a hotter candidate than Bienemy.
If your team is searching for a head coach, you should hope for a combination of the best attributes of all of these coaches: the Sergeant's results-oriented approach, the Dad's openness, the Executive Material's eagerness to embrace modern ideas, the CEO's gift for delegating and empowering subordinates, Harry and Caveman's motivational skills, Machiavelli's willingness to bend a few minor rules, and even Yesman's knack for going with the flow and keeping the owner subdued.
Unfortunately, there's a chance you may end up with a coach that combines the worst of all these archetypes. And if you are a Giants fan, that chance is currently 100%.
Get Ready for 2022 Quarterback Madness
With Brian Flores, Rick Spielman/Mike Zimmer, Vic Fangio, and others getting fired this week, brace yourself for some serious quarterback upheaval over the next two months.
Kirk Cousins may finally lose his status as Overpaid Franchise Quarterback in Perpetuity when new management takes over the Vikings. Tua Tagovailoa may return to his familiar role as dangling trade bait. Broncos general manager George Paton may seek a splashy move to both solve his quarterback problem and put his final stamp of control over the organization.
There are other factors in play. Baker Mayfield and the Browns appear to be giving each other some space right now. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert plans to step down at the end of the draft, and he will want to leave behind a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger as his legacy. Frank Reich and Chris Ballard sounded like walking embodiments of the Gob Bluth "I've made a huge mistake" meme at their season-ending press conferences. Who knows what direction the Giants will lurch in now that they have dragged Joe Judge kicking and screaming from team headquarters? And Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers will fill our offseasons with breathless, wishful rumor-mongering and speculation.
Major quarterback moves have become relatively common in recent years. Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, and Teddy Bridgewater headlined last year's big-name moves. Fellows named Tom Brady and Philip Rivers changed teams the previous year. Trading for a franchise quarterback or big-game hunting for one in free agency is as viable as hoping to get the finicky draft-and-develop recipe precisely correct. No contract is too great these days, no compensation package too unrealistic, no fears about upsetting "team chemistry" adequately founded.
Coach/general manager firings and franchise-level transitions only turn up the burners. Jason Licht, Les Snead, and Howie Roseman have demonstrated that bold quarterback bold moves can fast-track rebuilding programs, upgrade teams that are already contenders, or (most notably) stuff past mistakes down the garbage disposal and freshen up the kitchen.
So while the GM/coach hiring process can become a little perfunctory—Every choice is the perfect choice! Every hotshot new exec gets a ringing endorsement from insiders he shares an agent with/tastemakers who like to sound informed!—things will likely get much more interesting when the new decision-makers start seeking quarterback solutions, or when older heads start calling the newbies up with offers that sound too good to be true.
Notes on Monday's firings, non-firings, and so forth.
Miami Dolphins Fire Brian Flores
Flores deserves a second chance, preferably sooner than later, but he really needs to work on his quarterback messaging/handling. Flores was never comfortable with Tua Tagovailoa as his starter, which was not all that unusual (coaches are saddled with shaky young quarterbacks all the time), but he made it obvious to everyone who watched and listened, which was inexcusable. Rolling through four offensive coordinators in three years was also a bit of a problem.
Early reports suggested that the Dolphins had eyes on Jim Harbaugh. Those reports probably had some merit, because Steven Ross is a Michigan alum who loves splashy moves. (If you believe the I was talking him into staying at Michigan version of events, Walkthrough has a timeshare in a swamp to sell you.) But what happened in Miami sounds similar to what happened among Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and Carson Wentz in Philly this time last year, with the marriage breaking up over arguments about whether or not to finally kick the adult child off the couch.
Minnesota Vikings Fire Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer
Imagine trying to live your life and handle your finances exactly the traditional "right" way. You attend college, get a decent job, purchase a car, climb the corporate ladder a notch, take on a mortgage, marry, start a family, begin saving for retirement/vacation/kids' college, and so forth.
What you discover pretty quickly—yes, Walkthrough is getting a little existential and dark again, but that's inevitable when discussing the Vikings—is that the system is stacked against that sort of traditionalist "American Dream" lifestyle, and that if you manage to pull it off financially, it will probably come at a steep cost in leisure time, peace of mind, and (potentially) happiness. Each individual choice has plenty of merits—an education is important, home ownership is good, family life can be incredibly fulfilling—but striving to check all the boxes can leave a person deep in debt and too exhausted/stressed to enjoy life's most basic pleasures.
That's what happened to the Vikings during the Spielman/Zimmer era. The Vikings had a four-bedroom suburban home, a white-collar office job, 2.5 kids, and a late-model sedan in the driveway, and they spent every year trying to maintain it, not advance toward the Super Bowl. It was a comfortable rut. No organization needed more of a fresh start, and perhaps no organization has the potential to look more different on the field next season.
Chicago Bears Fire Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace
Early Bears coaching interview requests include Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, and Dan Quinn. No surprises there, and no awful Bill O'Brien-level selections. The franchise's biggest need isn't a coach but a general manager who will not keep throwing good money and draft picks after bad.
Denver Broncos Fire Vic Fangio
Their early interview list is loaded with young offensive coaches such as Kellen Moore, Kevin O'Connell, and 37-year-old Matt LaFleur assistant Luke Getsy. It looks like the Broncos are taking the "do the opposite" approach after three years under a defensive coach who looked more like one of Walkthrough's uncles than one of our nephews. The "do the opposite" mentality is easy to criticize, but the Broncos really need a head coach with mid-21st century offensive ideas.
Carolina Panthers Retain Matt Rhule
David Tepper is a new owner committed to making new-owner mistakes. Which, as the next capsule suggests, look a lot like old-family, legacy-owner mistakes.
New York Giants Eventually Fire Joe Judge, Dave Gettleman Retires
Nothing about the 48 hours in East Rutherford leading up to Judge's dismissal made sense: the conflicting reports of Monday meetings with Judge at various times, reports that Judge planned to stay and expected to have an active hand in choosing the next general manager (!), the speculation that John Mara planned to hire a general manager and then let him decide Judge's fate, and so on. It's as if Judge opened a door to a parallel dimension with those third-and-long quarterback sneaks on Sunday, but instead of (spoilers) Andrew Garfield and Tobey McGuire coming through, we just got drippier versions of Mara. Mara must have realized that saddling general manager candidates with the tasks of either working with or firing Judge was a great way to send the best of those candidates running to Minnesota or Chicago.
Anyway, what's done is done, and good riddance to bad coaching and, sadly, awesome and easy-to-write content. The Giants now have the chance to put the past behind them and start fresh. Two things they absolutely loathe.
Houston Texans Still Evaluating David Culley
"Hello, Brian? It's your old pal Action Jackson. You know: The Jackinator? Eastbound and Down? Bishop Sycamore? It's EASTERBY, Brian. Anyway, Nick and I would love you to come interview in Houston. We're going to make everything just like Foxborough down here. No one has ever tried it before. And you're the missing puzzle piece!
"What's that? You want autonomy? You will only answer to Nick. And me. And Cal, through me. And Nick kinda answers to me too. But you will have complete control of, like, when to call timeouts and stuff.
"What's that? The quarterback situation? Wait until you see Davis Mills. You're sure to find plenty of things wrong with him. We also have Tyrod Taylor, and he's ready to be your Jacoby Brissett.
"What's that? You are saying I skipped over someone? I'm working on that. We'll probably trade him for Tuauuuuhhh ... I mean, Three-a! Two-a or three-a firsta-round picks! Imma talking lika Mario froma the video game! It's part of my new faith-based comedy routine! Bet you missed hearing me joke around Patriots HQ, right? Right? Hello?"
"Heh. Guess we got disconnected. Oh well, another year of David Culley it is."