Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jul 2014

RSPWP-Sigmund Bloom: The Star or The Coach?

You’re the general manager of an underachieving team that has gone 10-6, 9-7, and 8-8 the past three seasons. Three years ago, the squad earned a wild card berth, beat two playoff teams on the road, and lost a squeaker in the conference championship game. The past two years, the team failed to qualify for the postseason. The defense has embraced the coach, who has gotten the unit to trust him and his scheme. The problem is the offense, which has regressed over the past two seasons. Now the coach and the star receiver are feuding and you have to chose between the two. See what Sigmund Bloom decides at the RSP blog.

Posted by: Matt Waldman on 07 Jul 2014

14 comments, Last at 08 Jul 2014, 1:42pm by mehllageman56


by PaddyPat :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:32am

The counter argument, of course, is in Hamlet:

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Yes, fire the coach, try to woo a good mind on the opposite side of the ball, and find your strong unit crumbling and your weak unit not sufficiently improving so that you stay 8-8 or 7-9 and then discover, with time, that your new coach's flaws are worse than his predecessor's. This decision is not simple.

by tuluse :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:47am

If you have complaints coming from both sides of the ball that's a bad signal about the head coach.

On the other hand, replacing the coach sends a signal to the discontent players that they run the show and it's going to lead to more problems in the future.

I'd trade the receiver, since his value should be high. I'd also give the head coach an ultimatum for the coming season. Either make the playoffs, or get close and don't have any public complaining from the players.

by meblackstone :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 10:04am

What's with the Jeff Fisher pic and caption at the top?

"The head coach earned his stripes overhauling defenses into league leaders for three organizations during a 15-year NFL career as a coordinator before your predecessor (during his final season as GM) hired the coach four years ago."

Based on this, it's not Jeff Fisher it's talking about.

And for me, there is insufficient information to make a decision.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 11:35am

Despite the picture of Fisher, this scenario screams J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.

by tuluse :: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:26am

I was thinking of the Herm Jets myself.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 1:42pm

The Herm Jets situation would be:

your franchise quarterback was rushed back from elbow surgery too early and may never be the same, the head coach has driven your Hall of Fame running back into the ground, and the head coach had dinner with the management of the team you play in game 1, and told them he'd like to coach there. Do you fire him immediately, or wait out the year to try to steal a draft pick from the team foolish enough to bring Herm in as their new head coach?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 10:41am

It sure sounds a lot like Rex Ryan, except for Mighty Mite. I suppose you could give the coach one more chance if you're not convinced he's the problem and franchise your WR, but I would stick with the WR as well. Can things go worse? Sure they can! But the name of the game is winning the Bowl, not making .500 a yearly occurrence.

Like Bloom, one of the things I hate most is the coach creating a rift with management. That's not a winning recipe in my mind. The fact that he alienates half the players on the team, the offensive players, make this a no-brainer for me: the sooner the coach is gone, the faster you can start about the business of becoming a real team.

As far as character, the malcontent players are identified as two. One seems to me to have been very adult and contained in public in the face of incompetence for years now, the other (the MLB) probably supports the coach. I don't feel like anyone's going to feel like they run the show if you fire the coach. If we were to follow this logic, the worse a coach is and the more malcontents there are, the less you can fire him.

Who, me?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 2:01pm

Rex Ryan was my thinking too ... or actually more like Buddy!

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 2:50pm

Yup, Buddy would work, too. But did he have his Mighty Mite? I can't recall. And his QB was Randall Cunningham, hardly a journeyman.

Who, me?

by Travis :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 3:33pm

Mighty Mite (5' 9", 190; huge playoff game) sounds a lot like Steve Smith, who played with journeyman QB Jake Delhomme.

by theslothook :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 3:32pm

If you believe the coach really does improve a side of the ball above and beyond what a typical coach might, then I think you ought to keep the coach.

We've seen Moss do it with BB and Moss was shipped. We've seen it with TO and To was shipped. To me, a malcontent receiver is always a malcontent receiver and changes in scenery rarely affect that.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/07/2014 - 4:31pm

I personally think unless it is a QB, the coach should always stay over the player. Now, there are other dynamics like if there are many offensive players who side with the mighty mite, but a coach, especially one in this example that has exhibited the ability to keep the defense very competitive in his whole tenure, is more valuable than a receiver.

Now, this receiver seems like he's historically dominant from teh slot (280 yard playoff game?) and it starts to stretch the bounds of reality, but I still think you keep the coach.

I also wouldn't want to give the impression to other players that their views are more important than management's (and I consider the coaching staff, especially the coordinaters/head coaches to be management) and give license to players to try this again in the future.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:36am

I think the malcontent aspect of the WR is overblown. I'd be disappointed in a player who wasn't unhappy about an offense being mismanaged -which it clearly is, right?- and his only public statement was pretty mild.

Who, me?

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 1:48pm

I think this scenario combines issues from the current Jets, possibly Tennessee teams when Fisher was there, Carolina with Steve Smith, with a couple of others thrown in. I could see a comparison between Mighty Mite's actions and Santonio Holmes grumblings, but not the production. I also think Rex Ryan doesn't backstab players the way the coach in this scenario does. In 2011, Holmes started griping to the media about the offensive line, driving a wedge between the wide receivers and the rest of the offense. Ryan took Holmes and Brandon Moore into his office to stop the war in the papers, but he definitely did not campaign to get Holmes off the team.

What I would do in this situation is first carefully consider whether the coach could be trusted. It seems like he is undermining not just the offense with his philosophy, but the management of the team. If I judged this to be correct, Sigmund Bloom's plan is the way to go.

If I investigate and find out the coach is not behind the rumors that Mighty Mite is available for trade, I talk to the coach first to find out how flexible he is to keeping the offense opened up. If he can be on the same page as management, then we keep him. But he has to quell the fires he helped start, by talking down both star players.