Coaching is Everything...
OK, maybe not everything, but I believe that coaching is the most under-rated part of success in the NFL. To have success, you must get some luck, draft and select free-agents well, etc but all of those things can be destroyed by poor coaching. On the other hand, glaring weaknesses in those areas can be covered up with good coaching. With the prospect of yet another disappointing and underachieving season already before us, I want to take this opportunity to present my manifesto on NFL coaching and how this regime is performing.
In my mind, there are 3 main jobs of an NFL coach:
- motivation – I know what you’re thinking, "these guys are professionals, they’re getting paid, they shouldn’t need someone to motivate them." True perhaps, and there have certainly been examples of players and teams that need no external motivation. Unfortunately getting paid to do something is not a guarantee of hard work. Ever work with anyone who just didn’t try even though they were totally capable of doing better? Sure you have – most offices are full of them. Most people need external motivation. It is the job of a leader to know his/her team and know what buttons to push. Fear is a great motivator for some, pride for others – a coach needs to know what buttons to push. Parcells may have been the best at this. Some players he berated, some he insulted, some he coddled (ok maybe not coddled, but you get the point) and most players responded.
- Disclipline – players must be held accountable for performance. It must be a meritocracy. If a player thinks "I bust my ass and that guy sucks out loud every week, yet he’s still starting," it is much harder to convince that player to continue to give effort.
- Creating a system – Xs and Os. It must be a system that players believe in and see will work. It must place players in the position to succeed. Everybody wants to look good, and if you put a player in a position to look good they will be happy. Constantly put players in a position to fail and they get embarrassed, pissed and de-motivated. If your system is good, you can get by with less talented players that fill a particular role. The gold standard for this to me is the Philly defense. Jim Johnson has created a unit that is almost always good, intimidating and disruptive. It seems they’re always able to get lesser-known players and make them shine. Are they good at drafting those players? Of course that’s a factor. But, they know who they are and what skills they need. They don’t often sign a cover-2 corner and ask him to play exclusive man-to man (for example). You usually don’t see some overmatched LB running down the field trying to cover a WR.
Now, let’s look at our coaching and see how they’ve done:
There is no doubt that Payton can construct a passing game. We’ve been successful at getting WRs that fit that system and they have done very well. Colston, Moore, Patten, Copper – none of these guys was highly regarded but have all had success in his system. He is innovative and aggressive in the passing game. Even the O-line is good in the passing game.
Now, the running game…not so much. One of the issues is Payton’s seeming lack of commitment to it. Running seems to disappear completely at times, almost like they’re on the backside of his sheet and he forgets it is double sided. But there is issue that stands out when I watch us run – the O-line. They quite frankly stink at run blocking. Jammal Brown may be ill-suited for LT, Stinchcomb is mediocre at best and Lehr gets shoved around way too much. Oh, holes do appear sometimes, but not consistently. All too often a Saints running play is an excuse for the opposing team to have a party in the backfield. With all the Reggie vs Deuce debate, it is rarely mentioned that one of the reasons Deuce looks better sometimes is that he can fall forward for a yard or two even after getting hit in the backfield.
I’d like to see Stinchcomb on the bench and either Brown at RT or Strief. Maybe a new center should be a off-season priority. Or maybe the problem is coaching. This unit has been underperforming for the last 2 seasons.
Where do I start? The optimism of the defense-fueled game 1 victory over the Bucs seems so long ago. So very long…
Gibbs is probably a very nice guy, but he’s lost this defense. Players are continually out of position. They seem lost and play with no fire. We apparently do the same thing over and over and teams continue to pick on it. How many times do we need to see Jason David playing man-to-man to know it isn’t working. Some would say that players are the problem. Some of our players aren’t that good – I’ll grant you that. But we’ve got 3 1st round picks on the DL (if you include Grant) and we can’t get a sack? Screw sacks, we can even force QBs to move in the pocket. Will Smith, who was in the pro-bowl a couple of years ago has completely disappeared. Yes our DBs are not good, but we can’t stop anybody? Look at the Patriots DBs. Are theirs any more talented than ours? Look at the Falcons defensive starters and compare them to ours. Who has better individual players? Who has the better defense? This defense needs a new leader and quick.
What to do next? Gibbs should be gone yesterday. Doug Marrone is our OC/OL coach. something needs to happen there, either he is gone or we hire someone to focus exclusively on the OL. Lastly, I think Payton should consider someone to call plays or help him do it. I think he gets blinders on sometimes and a fresh perspective would help.
Payton just signed an extension so he’s here for the foreseeable future. I like Payton, but I need to know that he is as ruthless with underperforming coaches as he is with underperforming punters.