Thursday, January 7, 2010

The (Burger) Kings of the NFL

Mike Shanahan has been hired to bring a Lombardi trophy back to the Washington Redskins. Mike Holmgren was hired to do the same in Cleveland. Both guy have a big name, Super Bowl victories and adoring media heaping praise and expectations upon them. Holmgren was given the title equivalent to “Grand Poobah” with the power to hire (and fire) a GM and head coach, and ultimately control all player personnel decisions, much like the roll Bill Parcells has in Miami. Shanahan has been given the title of “Executive Vice President” in addition to head coach, meaning he as the final authority on all personnel decisions (cue the Office Space quote: “So what is it that you would say you do here, GM Bruce Allen?”). But there is no reason to expect great success from either guy, and not because of the situations they are entering. Both men are extremely overrated, and have failed when given the power they so craved. Both the Redskins and Browns franchises paid dearly for the big name and expect results that they likely will not see.
Shanahan was known as “Coach Teflon” in Denver because no matter how many mistakes he made, he was always able to lean on those back-to-back Super Bowl titles with John Elway and Terrell Davis. A hefty majority of his success can be tied to the three year stretch from 1996-98, when he went 39-9 (.813 winning percentage) during the regular season and 7-1 in the post season. Then John Elway retired, Davis got hurt, and starting in 2002 he made a power play to get final say in all personnel matters.
Outside of that 3 year run, his record is 107-89 (.546), which is still above Ray Rhodes or Romeo Crennel, but he was 1-4 in the playoffs during those 11+ seasons. The biggest anchor to his coaching success? His GM skills. He was so arrogant and stubborn he thought he could win with Jake Plummer and Brian Griese, and believed he would be able to harness Maurice Clarett - drafting him about 8 rounds too early, and there are only 7 rounds in the draft. He also signed multiple defensive linemen from the Cleveland Browns - linemen who had failed on a horrendous team - and somehow believed they would not be lazy and slow in the thin air in Denver. Among his other notable draft failures were Jarvis Moss and Ashlie Lelie.
Again, my point is not that he’s a bad coach. It’s that he’s a bad personnel guy. And yet Daniel Snyder and the Redskins were all too eager to whip out his wallet and give Shanahan full control over the football operations. It’s as confusing to me as why he always has that orange tinge to his skin - does he own a tanning bed like Pauly D from the Jersey Shore? It’s not that sunny in Denver.
As for the Big Show Mike Holmgren, he was given hired as the football guru in Cleveland to turn around the franchise that has 2 winning seasons since being reincarnated in 1999. They have blown the #1 pick in the draft twice on Tim Couch & Courtney Brown (later signed by Mike Shanahan to fix Denver’s defense). So now they have their football guy - a guy with a Super Bowl ring and 3 Super Bowl appearances - to get things corrected and bring the franchise back to its hey-day when they would get knocked out of the playoffs by John Elway or a crushing fumble every year. But is Holmgren really the right guy to make personnel decisions? Like Shanahan, Holmgren is a great coach, but he does not have aa strong track record with power/personnel.
He had tremendous success in Green Bay as the head coach, utilizing the players that legendary GM Ron Wolf would provide him with - Brett Favre (also Mark Brunnell, Ty Detmer, Matt Hassel beck & Aaron Brooks - all of whom were NFL starters for multiple years), LeRoy Butler, Santana Dotson, Reggie White, Desmond Howard, Keith Jackson, Andre Rison, & the best o-line in the NFL, etc. He then moved on to Seattle (costing the Packers the ‘97 Super Bowl to Shanahan’s Broncos by shortchanging his preparation as he prepared for the move to the Pacific Northwest. Yes, I‘m still bitter) where he was given the ultimate power over everything football.
Holmgren was the coach and GM with the Seahawks from 1999 until 2002, when he was fired from the GM position, but retained as the coach. Interestingly enough, the lone Super Bowl appearance with the Seahawks came in 2005, 3 years after Holmgren lost his personnel power. Coincidence? During his 4 year run as King of Seattle he had 6 first round picks, with only Shaun Alexander and Steve Hutchinson being impact players. His big risks and misses included Koren Robinson, Jerramy Stevens and Chris McIntosh. After he lost his GM title, the team drafted Marcus Trufant, Ken Hamlin, Michael Boulware and Lofa Tatupu, all key players on that Super Bowl team.
So in the end, Cleveland and Washington need to temper their expectations a little and know that they paid for big name great coaches. Unfortunately for Cleveland, only one of them is coaching. And both of them have their hands in the personnel cookie jar, which hasn’t worked out very well in the past.
Given the news about Warren Beatty’s bedroom “success rate” together with Tiger’s tales and the legendary Wilt number - no, not the 100 point game, this is a pretty funny take on the Biggest Studs out there. Here’s the best excerpt: “There should be an adjusted OPS+ type formula. Degree of difficulty is huge. Being an absolute dictator (Castro), having women paid to have sex with you (Ron Jeremy) or being in a rock band whose apex came at the height of the hard drugs era and before AIDS (Gene Simmons) is like being a left-handed pull hitter in Yankee Stadium.”
I still like Alabama tonight to win the national championship and cover the spread. It’s a great storyline to have Colt McCoy (and his talented girlfriend) go out a champion after his incredible college career. Yet Texas does not have the offensive line to give Colt the time he needs. Colt said it himself, already telling his offensive line the game is on them and if they give him time, they will win. I also think the Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy is still underrated and will play smart enough to bring home the title. Expect him to then get drafted a little higher than he should - remember Brodie Croyle? - and end up as a career back up in the NFL.

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