Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jan 2012

In N.F.L., Front Offices Coming, Going, and Staying Put

I package thoughts on the Lurie press conference, Norv Turner thoughts, and a roundup of other news in a burrito of strange observational something-or-another.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 05 Jan 2012

37 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2012, 5:38pm by Displaced Bolthead


by Ferguson1015 :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 10:53am

"As for experience, Turner has the lowest winning percentage of any coach in N.F.L. history with more than 200 games"

And yet he also is the coach with the highest win percentage in Charger's history. Besides if you look at the places that he left behind, it isn't like Washington and Oakland turned into powerhouses when he left.

That's not to say that I think he is the best coach for the Chargers, just that you have to look at all the facts when evaluating someone's impact.

by Ferguson1015 :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 10:54am

He also inherited a pretty good team, but that is more on AJ Smith than it is on the previous coaching regime.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:02am

He also wasn't the chowderhead who hired Ted Cottrell to coach the defense, which wasted the best period of talent.

by Ferguson1015 :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:06am

ugh, yeah he certainly wasn't. It's a testament to how poorly Cottrell was doing that the moment the fired him the defense improved dramatically (although much of that credit should go to Rivera as well).

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:24am

The same thing happened in Minnesota; the moment Tomlin arrived to replace Cottrell, players suddenly knew their assignments, and could get lined up correctly before the snap.

Firing Marty Schottenheimer, he of the nearly .600 winning percentage, over a sample size of 300-plus games, and multiple franchises, in a dispute as to who would coach the defense, and then hiring Ted Cottrell to coach the defense, before hiring a head coach, for a roster stocked with talent, is the single dumbest management move I've ever witnessed, since I was old enough to understand what the term "general manager" meant. Dumber than anything done by Matt Millen. Dumber than anything done by a Bidwell. Dumber than anything done by an Al Davis in late stage dementia, or Jerry Jones is the throes of delusions of grandeur. Dumb. Really dumb. Really, really, dumb. Really. Dumb. Really.

This isn't to say that Smith isn't better than those examples of management overall, but only to note that there has to be some base level of competence in order to make a move of such singular stupidity. Your dog of average intelligence just chews up the back seat of your car when you leave him unattended for a half hour when you go shopping. It takes a smart dog to figure out how to release the parking brake, and send the Lexus rolling through the barrier of the 7th floor of the parking garage.

by speedegg :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 2:55pm

Wow, I thought I was the only one bitter over the Schotty-Norvalicious move by Smith. I'll give credit to Smith for building the house, but also for tearing it down...or releasing the parking break. I think firing Manusky was a mistake, but given Smith's mistakes over the past few years, why stop now?

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:12pm

Oh, I had my time in Cottrellian Hell, with defensive players running around prior to the snap like they were being filmed for a title sequence to "The Benny Hill Show". The moment I heard of Smith hiring Cottrell in the wake of firing Schottenheimer, I had a rush of empathy for Chargers fans like the last passenger on the Titanic, who got in a lifeboat, had for the poor bastards left with orchestra.

by Ferguson1015 :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 4:04pm

Considering the fact that even the players were saying that Manusky wasn't very good, I think it was a pretty good move. Not to mention the fact that the defense fell from 7th in DVOA to 29th.

by speedegg :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:12pm

That's funny since Manusky was their linebacker coach before taking the D-coordinator job at SF. He did okay overall, considered the Nolan-Singletary era.

Granted, just because you're a step below DC, doesn't make you qualified for DC. However, it could be he wasn't as experienced as a Wade Phillips or Ron Rivera. So by lack of experience, he didn't have all the answers for injuries or assignment/skill problems. Chargers needed answers, don't want to wait, and off he goes.

Real question is, who do they get in the interim? Norv and Smith are done unless they reach the Superbowl. What up-and-coming coach would take a 1 year stint in San Diego? Would Steve Spagnuolo forgo the Eagles and choose the Chargers?

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:04pm

I don't think the Eagles situation is any better than the Chargers. Jackson seems good as gone as the team doesn't seem to want to resign him. Why else would he apologize to the fans? I really like Maclin, but he's hamstring injury prone. McCoy is a Westbrook clone, even down to the injury issues. Mike Vick is one hangnail away from the IR every season. (OK. Hyperbole. But you get the idea.) And while Young is an amazing talent for a backup, you never know if he'll have a breakdown at halftime. While the front and back 4 of the Eagles are the envy of the league, the LBs are the Twinkie cream filling. And let's not forget much of this defense needed to win this year or next. They're not youngins.

I think the Eagles, had they made the playoffs, could have been this year's Packers. I would have put them right behind the Pack and Saints to be the NFC Super Bowl rep had they made it, and would not have been surprised had they gone to the SB. But they got urgent too little too late.

by Independent George :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:21pm

Your dog of average intelligence just chews up the back seat of your car when you leave him unattended for a half hour when you go shopping. It takes a smart dog to figure out how to release the parking brake, and send the Lexus rolling through the barrier of the 7th floor of the parking garage.

This makes me laugh because it's so true. I frequent a couple dog discussion boards, and it's always amusing when a newbie starts talking about getting a 'smart' dog because they think it would make them easier to train & take care of. The smart dogs are the ones who get bored because you're not intellectually stimulating enough for them, and figure out how to get past the baby gates, open the fridge/trash cans, and climb up shelves to get to things supposedly out of reach.

The are few things as humiliating as being outsmarted by a dog.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:43pm

I've got a dog that figures out ways to get out of our very large, walled-in, back yard. Manipulates gates. Figures out how to use objects to climb over the wall. That sort of thing. He doesn't run off, though. No, he just plants himself by the driveway, and waits for me to come home, with, I swear, a smirk on his face.


by Independent George :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 4:45pm

It's bad enough when you're defeated by a dog, but it's just uncalled for when they're smug about it.

I still remember the day I came home, and found perfectly-formed paw prints on the top of my counter. I swear she left the prints there on purpose just to mess with my head.

by tuluse :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 5:07pm

This thread has really made my day.

The question is, who is the better defensive coordinator, Ted Cottrell or Will Allen's dog?

by Dull Science (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:16pm

I say Will Allen's dog. Any dog that can Houdini his way out of lock/trap/fence deserve a shot.

by Independent George :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:49pm

Well, if he's a herding breed, I'd also guess he'd have a lot to teach us on closing at the correct angles and keeping containment.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:34pm

Retriever. More of special teams type. A monster at onsides kick recoveries and punt coverage. However, when he plays with the kids, he forces fumbles like Ronnie Lott on meth, so maybe defense is his calling. .

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:22pm

I just quietly remind my dog who surgically removed who's testicles.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 12:11pm

I grew up in a house with a dog and a cat. One morning many moons ago, I was home sick from school on my sisters birthday. Mom had made a cake and placed it on the counter to cool.

Our cat was getting older and couldn't jump as high as she once did. I swear, though, I watched as the cat jumped onto the dogs back, then jumped from there to the kitchen counter where she promptly knocked the cake on to the floor where the two of them shared it.

And I was the one who got in trouble for it!

by boltsfromtheblue :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 5:34pm

Although Smith is responsible for hiring Cottrell, it was Dean Spanos who fired Marty Schottenheimer, so they sort of have to split the blame on this blunder.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 10:13pm

So why wasn't Schotty fired when he first hired his son as QB coach years before?

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 11:56pm

Who knows what the exact dynamic between those three was, but at some point, Smith had to have a conversation with Spanos. I can hear it now....

Spanos: Why do you want to fire Marty, A.J.?
Smith: Because of who he wants to hire to coach the defense, Dean.
Spanos: Well, gosh, A.J., I guess you are the general manager, so if you say so, fine, but who do you think should coach the defense?
Smith: Golly, Dean, I think we should hire that fella who just got fired last year in Minnesota, Ted Cottrell.
Spanos: Gee whiz, A.J., I don't remember them being very good on defense up there, is my memory wrong?
Smith: Well, no, Dean your memory is correct on that.
Spanos: Gosh, A.J., why do you want to hire him, then?
Smith: Well, every time I watched the defense coached by Ted up there, it looked like 11 seven year olds with blindfolds on, milling around like they were trying to find a pinata!
Spanos: Is that something you normally like to see a defense do, A.J.; something that the nasty fellow Belichik pioneered?
Smith: Not exactly, Dean, but it reminded me of my birthday parties as a little boy, and made me smile, and since we're in the entertainment business, making people smile is a good thing, right?
Spanos:Hard to argue with that logic, A.J.; I'll send the Gulfstream to pick Ted up! Good work!

by Richard :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 1:08am

Supposedly Schottenheimer told Spanos he wanted to hire his brother. Spanos said no. Schottenheimer booked him a ticket to come interview anyway. Spanos fired him.

by 40 oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 1:47am

Um, yeah dude, but why would Spanos care? He's not Jerry Jones or Paul Brown, so why would he care what coach is hired?

by speedegg :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 1:48pm

Yeah, I thought reports were Schotty told Smith he wants to hire his brother as secondary coach (he was secondary coach with the Packers). Smith tells Spanos, Spanos tells Schotty don't do that. Schotty politely reminds Spanos that it's in his contract to choose his own coaching staff. Spanos then fires him without cause and pays him the last year salary.

Seems funny that all of sudden hiring his brother to the staff when his son was already on his staff was a big issue. Seems funnier when Spanos' 2 kids are working in the front office.

by Dull Science (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 2:28pm

That my friend sounds like the very definition of "at-will employee" or the "golden rule". Schottenhemier was employed at the will of Spanos. Once Spanos decided Schotty wasn't worth the trouble, he was no longer an employee. It's gutless that they made up a story instead of just coming clean.

Though Spanos also likes the "golden rule". Since Spanos has the gold, he makes rules. He also changes the rules whenever he wants, can fire whoever he wants, whenever he wants. So I guess that means another season of mediocrity.

by tuluse :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 5:11pm

That's nothing like an at-will employee. He was under contract, which is why he got paid his last year. If he was at-will he wouldn't have gotten paid.

by 40 oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 5:34pm

Even at-will employees sign a contract and can be terminated for good cause, bad cause, or no cause. Think it also depends on the state laws and company guidelines. The remaining years on their contract could be considered as severance and severance is taken with the agreement not to bad-mouth the organization. Kiffin was terminated with cause from the Raiders, didn't get the remainder of his contract, and had a little war of words. Depends if the Club wanted to go through the hassle.

And after a thought like that, I need a drink.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Fri, 01/06/2012 - 5:38pm

After a thought like that I need two

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 10:55am

Burial mound line was humorous. Thanks for the chuckle

by bernie (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:10pm

I don't understand the mad rush to sign jeff Fisher. The guy has been a monument to mediocrity his entire coaching career. He had, what, 6 winning seasons in 16 years as a head coach, 5 8&8's and 5 losing seasons. Not exactly lighting the world on fire. I don't think he's a bad coach, but I certainly wouldn't be excited to see him show up to coach my team. If you look at his career, it's not that different from Jim Mora Sr. , and nobody is clamoring to bring him out of retirement.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:15pm

I understand the sentiment, but keep in mind he achieved that record while coaching a team owned by one of the biggest doofuses among the country club of NFL owners, which really is a club with some large doofuses. A really stupid owner is quite a handicap.

by Ferguson1015 :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 4:07pm

You know I have felt the same way throughout all the talks of who the best coach to hire should be.

by TomC :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 4:46pm

At least Fisher knows how to use proper swear words and wouldn't be caught dead saying "diddley-poo" in a presser.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 10:48pm

I agree. The rush to sign Fisher is similar to how George Karl keeps finding a job in the NBA. Just like the NBA, there really are only so many good NFL coaches. Doesn't matter if he's not better than good, which is what you really need unless you, like Brian Billick, had really superior talent (that defense really was special). I'm sure Fisher can compile a similar record to his Tennessee teams wherever he lands. I just don't care.

by Duke :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:35pm

The article mentions Luis Castillo as the Eagles' Defensive Coordinator instead of Juan Castillo.

by Harris :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 7:12pm

If you've seen the Eagles play defense this year, you know that's not a bad idea.