It’s a great year to not need a football coach.
The coaching carousel appears to be broken. Rex Ryan might have been the best coach available, and he was unemployed because he was deservedly fired. And he’d only be a good hire if you already had an offense but needed your defense to be completely rebuilt. That is the exact opposite situation of the Bills, who decided to hire him. Todd Bowles fits that description too but minus the experience, instead he takes over the disaster that Ryan was fired from. Doug Marrone quit his job in Buffalo to not be hired by the Jets and had to settle for offensive line coach in Jacksonville, hopefully for him just a stop before taking some ACC job next year. You should have just taken the year off Doug. John Fox takes his conservative-to-a-fault game managing to the implosion in Chicago, the Raiders spun the wheel of crappy retread head coaches and landed with Jack Del Rio, and San Francisco booted their best coach since Bill Walsh and replaced him with a guy who can’t speak.
Weak hires and bad fits. Great year to not need a coach. Not just a head coach but a coordinator too. When Todd Grantham is in a position to say no, it’s a really bad job market. That’s greatly illustrated here in Georgia, where there will be two “what the hell they doing” hires made, at the Falcons and at the University of Georgia.
First, UGA. Mike Bobo took the head coaching job at Colorado State, which was a good move for him and for the Rams. To replace Bobo, Mark Richt hired… Brian Schottenheimer. This makes no sense. His offenses were never good, play calling stinks, and he’s has no real track record of developing young players. What’s the appeal? That his dad was Marty? Nepotism runs high in coaching. Schottenheimer’s first five years of employment in the NFL was because his father was the head coach, he then worked for Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher, three coaches who are even better at killing their own offenses than the oppositions’, in part because they hired Schottenheimer.
The only real appeal is that Georgia has a seemingly endless supply of running backs, and Schottenheimer likes runs the ball. But running the ball and being good at running the ball are not the same. Schottenheimer’s teams were good at neither. In five of his nine seasons as an OC, his offenses were at or below the league average in attempts. His 2009 and 2010 Jets were 1st and 2nd in rushing attempts, and 1st and 4th those years in rushing yards. But again, volume does not equate success, they were 11th and 5th in rush DVOA those seasons. Richt also named him QB coach, which is particularly hilarious because Drew Brees got good in San Diego immediately after Schottenheimer left. In New York and St. Louis he failed to develop anyone, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford are essentially the same players they were without Schottenheimer. In fairness only a handful of coaches would get improved play out them, but at the same time “garbage in, garbage out” isn’t a defense for hiring a coach. Virtually all of Schottenheimer’s “success” came with veteran players on offense scoring just enough points, the defenses of the Jets and Rams were the engines of the teams he was on. With underclassmen at nearly every skill position, that won’t be the case in Athens, though the defense should be good.
Mark Richt has a done a really nice job underachieving with the talent he has, this is a great way to continue that. He got a contract extension.
But hey, at least somebody wanted that job. That’s more than you can say about the Falcons. What should have been the most desirable head coaching job available was apparently the one that nobody wants. The Falcons have an established QB, a top WR for him to throw to, just drafted a top LT prospect, play in a winnable division and have a top 10 draft pick. That’s as good as you can ask for when taking over a bad team. And everyone is passed on them.
Rex Ryan didn’t feel like they really wanted him. Todd Bowles preferred to take the Jets job, which should had no appeal. So they are hiring Dan Quinn, mainly because nobody else will hire him. Quinn might turn out to be the best coach that was hired in 2015. The problem isn’t who they hired. It’s how they wound up with him.
And it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Thomas Dimitroff continues to live off his reputation from his first season. His drafts have been otherwise terrible. The Julio Jones trade didn’t hurt the Falcons, it helped them: all the picks they gave up meant less opportunities for Dimitroff to draft a bust. Instead of firing him, Blank waited a week or so and decided he was staying, but with a shifted role. When asked what that role was, he answered by rattling off Dimitroff’s bio and then Scott Pioli’s, even though the question had nothing to do with either Pioli or Dimitroff’s resume. Blank didn’t just duck the question, he answered a completely different one.
Pioli appears to have more power now. Why? Blank praised the job Pioli did this year, while talking about the process to replace the head coach because the season they had was so bad. Pioli’s time in Kansas City was poor and also filled with terrible draft picks. He did a great job in New England, but without Bill Belichick he’s been a poor GM. Tyson Jackson did nothing in KC, and Pioli brought him to Atlanta where he predictably did nothing. Ditto Javier Arenas. Is Jonathan Baldwin next?
So with no clear direction from the owner and no clear direction from the front office, can you fault a coach for not wanting to work there? Can you blame Rex Ryan for not feeling like he was wanted?
That said, credit to the Falcons for not falling under the nonsensical trap of hiring a coach because he’s available after the first round of the playoffs because “that’s what teams do.” Plenty of coaches get hired a year later than they should have because teams are afraid to wait for their team to be eliminated. As if one or two weeks where there is no practice is going to make a difference, especially when the front office remains in place. Assistants were hired, including Brian Schottenheimer’s lousy nepotism counterpart, Kyle Shanahan, so it’s not like the team wasn’t represented at the Senior Bowl. Though considering how slow the Falcons were to do anything this off-season, and that coaches didn’t want to come to Atlanta, that may not have been by design.
As a neutral fan, these moves will be interesting to watch.
What a great year to not need a coach.