Just say "No" to the establishment. This is the year for the newbie coaches in the NFL. Of the coaching vacancies that have been filled to this point, just one has gone to an experienced NFL head coach (Herman Edwards in Kansas City). Retreads like Mike Martz, Mike Sherman, Jim Haslett, Dick Jauron, and Mike Tice have been talked about, and I believe all four of these gentlemen have been given interviews, but none of them can secure jobs. There could be a few reasons for this.
--> They take their experience too seriously. The former head coaches may think that the fact that they are experienced head coaches (and in the case of Martz, Sherman, and Haslett, they've also won playoff games) will carry more weight than it does. While there are still openings in the league, it's not expected that a former head coach will get a sniff of any job, except perhaps the Buffalo job.
--> Salary demands are too high. Teams may be deciding that a coach like Martz or Sherman, guys who have won a lot of games in recent years, may have too many potential flaws or weaknesses to be worth salaries in the $3-5 million range, which is likely the kind of money they'd be asking for.
--> The younger assistant coaches are better prepared for interviews. It's all about the interviews these days, and there are head coaches in the league (Andy Reid in Philly comes to mind immediately) who have worked hard preparing their assistant coaches for potential head coaching interviews. Reid worked a ton with Brad Childress, who eventually got the head job in Minnesota, to make sure Childress knew how to impress management in an interview situation. And it was Reid's interview preparation that got him the job in Philadelphia to begin with.
--> There's less risk hiring a new coach. That sounds crazy, doesn't it? But I'm not just talking about risk in terms of how the coach will perform. Front office guys may be wary of hiring ex-head coaches like Martz (ego) or Sherman (former GM/coach) because of the idea that there may eventually be a power struggle at the top. And if there's a power struggle, the coach will win it nine times out of ten (exception: Jimmy Johnson in Dallas). The fans want the well-known names, but teams are usually better off hiring inexperienced coaches and hoping to hit the lottery with their pick.
There aren't a lot of openings left. New Orleans is reportedly set to hire Sean Payton, a Dallas offensive assistant. Houston has to wait until the Broncos are done to announce offensive coordinator and Houston native Gary Kubiak as their new coach. St. Louis is apparently down to three candidates, with offensive coordinators Scott Linehan (Miami) and Cam Cameron (San Diego) set to interview along with Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. That would leave Buffalo, Detroit, and Oakland with vacancies, and none of those teams appear likely to hire a former NFL head coach for their position (Buffalo might be the lone exception).
It's an interesting situation. There was a time where ex-head coaches like Martz and Sherman (especially these two because of their solid win/loss records) would be cinches for open jobs. Now, both men are struggling even getting the chance to interview for openings.
Strange dream. I was calling a UMD game that was very poorly-officiated. I kept complaining about the officials, and at some point, I felt someone slapping me in the head. I turned around and saw Greg Shepherd (WCHA supervisor of officials). I remember asking him where on Earth he got these God-awful officials from, and he answered "The Sun Belt Conference". That's all I can remember.
Bates out in Green Bay. Certainly, any Packer fan with a brain would have wanted Jim Bates to return as the Pack's defensive coordinator. However, it's not the end of the world. More than anything else, the defense needs an infusion of talent right now. Bates coached them very well in 2005, but their turnover numbers were pathetic, and the pass rush was nonexistent most of the time. The only way the Packers will improve is if GM Ted Thompson brings in the right players. Not only that, but as long as Brett Favre returns, is there any chance at all that the offense will be as bad as they were in 2005? So the defense might not get much better as the guys learn a new system, but the offense is bound to be vastly improved. Couple that with better luck and more consistency, and the Packers are already on the way to starting another run of 8-8 or better seasons.
No fine? Listen, I understand why Joey Porter snapped. Even though his team won the game, he was steamed about the bad call on the Polamalu "interception". He's frustrated, and it sure looked like the referee was trying to figure out a way to keep Indianapolis in the game until the bitter end. But you can't let a guy question the integrity and motives of your game officials. Seriously, NFL. I hope the reports this morning that Porter won't be fined are wrong. Just because the call was incorrect doesn't mean the players should be given the priviledge of calling the officials' integrity into question without a fine of some sort. I don't think anyone is asking that Porter be suspended for the AFC Championship Game. But rewarding his ridiculously out-of-line commentary like this sends a bad message: If you are right in what you are complaining about, you can say whatever you want without punishment. We will only punish those players who rip the officials when the officials make the correct call(s).
Steve Smith just caught another pass. Has an allegedly great defense ever been totally and thoroughly abused by one freaking guy in a playoff game the way the Bears were by Steve Smith on Sunday? Smith almost outgained the Bears by himself, and he was again the key player in Carolina's victory. For all the talk about how teams need to defend Steve Smith (we have to stop him and let someone else beat us), the answer seems to be the opposite in my view. You need to single-cover Smith and blanket everyone else while pressuring Jake Delhomme into bad throws. Don't waste multiple defenders on Smith when they can't cover him anyway. Let him get off for his 15 catches, but make Delhomme pay for every throw and make the other Panther players into non-factors. But that's just an idea that popped into my head. It sounds too crazy to 1) work, and 2) be attempted by any normal NFL coach.
Bucky at it again tonight. Big game for the Wisconsin men's basketball team. The 14-2 Badgers, who are 4-0 in the Big Ten, head to Columbus to take on THE Ohio State University. tOSU started hot, but is only 2-2 in Big Ten play. However, they've been practically unbeatable at home this season, and the Badgers have yet to beat a quality opponent on the road (sorry, Minnesota, but you don't count right now). It's really early to look at such things, but the overall numbers seem to indicate that Wisconsin has at least a puncher's chance of being a #1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament, but that will only happen if they can keep playing well. 7-1 or 8-0 in Big Ten games at home, coupled with a solid 5-3 road run in conference games (they're 3-0 at home and 1-0 on the road right now) would give them no worse than a 12-4 conference record, which would make them 22-6 overall heading into the Big Ten Tournament. So even with their strength of schedule and other numbers looking good, Wisconsin will probably need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get that #1 seed.