Total control over football operations.
That’s what the Chiefs gave Andy Reid when they hired him as head coach.
And that’s the reason, along with a few others, that I’m a little skeptical about whether Reid’s reinvention in Kansas City will work out.
You can understand why the Chiefs went so hard after Reid.
In 14 years with the Eagles, he won 58.5 percent of his games in the regular season and six division titles. He went to the playoffs nine times in 11 years after his first 5-11 season in 1999. Under Reid, the Eagles went to Super Bowl XXXIX, which they lost to the Patriots, and appeared in four other NFC Championship games.
In terms of big-name appeal, Reid is right behind former Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. And the Chiefs, after the 23-41 four-year tenure of former Patriots personnel director Scott Pioli (including an abysmal 2-14 in 2012) had to do something big to win back the fans.
Some hotshot coordinator was probably not going to boost ticket sales all that much. With Reid, the Chiefs have immediate credibility. His track record speaks for itself.
But the past doesn’t count for much in the NFL, especially the distant past.
In the recent past, it appears that the more influence Reid had, the worse things got for him.
“I don’t think there’s a short answer to what went wrong,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said after dismissing Reid. “But when you’ve had as much success as we have, and been so close to the Super Bowl, at some stage you think maybe the next move is the one that puts you over the top, even if that move is not consistent with previous moves you have made.
“We have done things over the last couple of seasons that are not as consistent, that are more scattered. You start to reach. You think one coach or one player puts you over the top and you don’t consider what effect it has on the locker room and the team, and it turns out not to be the best move.”
It doesn’t sound as though those moves were coming from former team president Joe Banner, who was marginalized prior to joining the Browns’ new ownership group. Or from general manager Howie Roseman, who is one of the business-based GMs that have risen in power. Sure sounds like Lurie was talking about Reid trying desperately to get over the top. And swinging and missing.
There’s no question that Reid’s most important decisions in Philadelphia were among his earliest.
He put together a terrific coaching staff, headed by defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, whose attacking scheme was the key to the Eagles’ early dominance. After Johnson’s death in 2009, Reid had trouble finding the same level of success, making mistakes with coaching and playing personnel.
There was the decision to move on from Donovan McNabb, and the failure of Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. Safety Brian Dawkins left a leadership void when he went to Denver. No one will ever forget the “Dream Team” free agency rush of 2011 along with the terrible draft that same year (2010 wasn’t much better).
“I want to take a much higher road than that and just say that I’ve had to really go through exactly everyone’s talent evaluations and realized that we needed a real streamlining of the process,” Lurie said. “I think the 2012 draft, it’s promising. We’ll know in three years how that is.
“I want everyone to understand: Howie is accountable, responsible, and that’s the way it is. But I’m looking at the 2012 draft and offseason as the beginning of when he was given enough responsibility to put his mark on the team in a very dramatic way.”
In other words, the evaluations of Reid, who held personnel control, lagged far behind those of Roseman. And since he doesn’t have a quarterback with the Chiefs, Reid is going to have to figure out a way to avoid the mistakes he has made since trading McNabb.
Reid could help himself immensely in the personnel department if he can land Packers director of football operations John Dorsey. He’s a tremendous talent evaluator, especially in the college ranks.
There is also the matter of coaches who were with one team for a long time going elsewhere, and failing more often than not.
Seven retread coaches have won Super Bowls with other teams after not doing so in their first stop: Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Gruden, Mike Shanahan, and Tom Coughlin.
But none were close to Reid’s 14-year tenure. Coughlin was closest at eight years with the Jaguars before winning two championships with the Giants.
Reid will be hoping to match the men who took two different teams to Super Bowls: Shula, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Vermeil, and Mike Holmgren.
And he hopes to avoid the complete failure-at-the-next-stop group: Mike Ditka, Marty Schottenheimer, Tom Flores, George Seifert, Jim Mora, and Dennis Green.
Reid’s recent history, and that of his predecessors who tried to reinvent themselves elsewhere, show that this move by the Chiefs is filled with risk. But they feel they didn’t have much choice. They might be right.
Jets are taking wrong approach with Ryan
Even when the Jets do something right, they manage to do something wrong. Not that it’s surprising, since owner Woody Johnson doesn’t exactly come off as a cutting-edge thinker.
After two straight seasons without any playoffs and little hope for next season, the Jets made the right move in firing general manager Mike Tannenbaum. The Needham native did a lot of good work there, but somebody had to go. It was just Tannenbaum’s time.
Johnson also made the right move in keeping Rex Ryan. He’s not perfect, but he’s a darn good coach if he can get the right offensive coordinator and find a way out of his quarterback mess.
But Johnson is about to screw things up even worse. According to league sources, the new general manager will be told that Ryan stays for 2013, but that 2014 is up in the air.
Basically, this is what the Bears did when Phil Emery was hired. Lovie Smith was out after a year.
But the Jets are a drastically different situation than the Bears, who were talented enough to go to the playoffs if things fell right on the offensive line and with Brian Urlacher’s health. One more go-round was the right approach.
The Jets need a complete overhaul. They have no quarterback and their cap is a complete mess, with more than $80 million tied up in just eight players who are virtually uncuttable: David Harris, Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, and Sione Pouha. For comparison sake, the Patriots’ top 18 players make that much. And that includes Tom Brady’s $21.8 million cap number.
It will take at least two years for the Jets to get out of their mess. Either Ryan is the guy to see you through that — and should have a contract that runs through 2015 — or the Jets should just fire him now and make a complete break.
Doing something in between will only prolong the misery.
Bears GM shares ideas on evaluation process
Bears general manager Phil Emery gave excellent, rare insight into a talent evaluator’s thought process as he looked at different parts of his team, especially a problem area like Chicago’s offensive line.
Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times banged out a 2,234-word transcript (just on the offensive line), and here are some of Emery’s most interesting remarks.
■ “As a general manager, I have to look at these things, I’ve got to remove myself from it a little bit. I’ve got to take the emotion out of it . . . The toughest evaluation that you have, as a general manager and as a scout, is of your own team, because there are emotions involved. I thought of all the available tools. How can we look at this in an objective way?”
■ “Yes, we’re going to pay attention to the coach’s grades. Yes we’re going to pay attention to our internal scouting grades. But let’s look at this another way. I went to STATS Inc., went through all the numbers. Went to Pro Football Focus, did all the numbers. I’m familiar with STATS Inc. We’re one of their contracted teams. Spent quite a bit of time with their people, not only their programmers but went to their offices, watched how they grade tape, how they triple check all their facts. So I trust all their data, that’s it’s unbiased, that it doesn’t have my hands in it, that it doesn’t have our coach’s or scout’s hands in it, or anybody else in the league. They are simply reporting fact.”
■ “It’s very difficult for teams to give up on an offensive lineman if they’ve got one. And really in this past market, franchise left tackles that were in the market didn’t exist. So I looked at the ones that were out there . . . Where did [Bears signee] Jonathan Scott rate? He was the second best. Zero sacks. Sean Locklear from the Giants, who ended the season on IR, ended up the best in that respect for those stats. He was one; Jonathan was two. So do I feel like Jon added to our team? Yes I do. That was the UFA market.”
McDaniels in position of strength right here
Here’s what we know about the future of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He has said he’s focused on this season.
“To talk about any other opportunities at this point is, to me, irrelevant, because I’m totally focused on this season and what this season holds,” he said.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, likely from agent Jimmy Sexton (as good a smokescreen layer as there is), that McDaniels was telling teams, “Thanks but no thanks,” to interviews. I believe that could change, depending on when the Patriots’ run ends, and in the unlikely event that any jobs are still open. Smart move by McDaniels. If he looked eager to jump ship now, after less than a full season, he’d look like an opportunist.
As for the coach-in-waiting stuff behind Bill Belichick? There’s nothing definitive out there, but from what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t buy it. The indication that I’ve gotten is that Belichick signed a lucrative contract extension at some point in 2011. And Jonathan Kraft has said several times that he expects Belichick to be here for a “number of years to come.”
Of course, only four people know for sure: Jonathan Kraft, Belichick, Robert Kraft, and a lawyer friend of Belichick’s who did the contract. So why would McDaniels come back here? Why wouldn’t he? Whom would you rather rebuild your résumé with, Tom Brady or some mediocre quarterback?
McDaniels can’t lose being back with the Patriots. If Belichick suddenly decides one day that he’s done, McDaniels is in the perfect spot. Otherwise, McDaniels can wait for the ideal job knowing nothing can detract from his résumé while calling the plays for Brady.
1. As the NFL hiring process rolls on, teams should keep two names in mind: Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman and Dolphins assistant GM Brian Gaine. Trestman was a longtime NFL quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator who went to the CFL to finally get his head coaching shot. All he’s done in five years is go 59-31, and win four division titles and two Grey Cups. Gaine, a former University of Maine tight end, has been Jeff Ireland’s right-hand man in turning around the Dolphins to the point that they are loaded with cap space and draft picks.
2. The Packers were my preseason Super Bowl pick over the Patriots. Would really, really like to pick Green Bay to emerge from the NFC and perhaps win it all, but that offensive line is just not going to let it happen. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, and right tackle Don Barclay will not be good enough against any team beyond the Vikings.
3. The New York Daily News coverage of Rex Ryan’s tattoo was, yes, ridiculous. But the Jets asked for it when they didn’t address the media immediately following the dismissal of general manager Mike Tannenbaum. In the wake of bad news, questions have to be asked. And they will, one way or the other. Easier to get it over with.
4. The NFL rumor mill has former Buccaneers defensive guru Monte Kiffin landing on Andy Reid’s staff with the Chiefs. He’ll be very thankful that Kelly and his offense, which ran circles around Kiffin’s USC defense, didn’t land with the Chargers.
5. Rest in peace, longtime Patriots equipment manager Donnie Brocher. Talk to anyone around the team, and Brocher was known as one of the very best to roam the hallways. Loyal, hard-working, personable, respected . . . just an all-around great guy. Donnie will be sorely missed.
View from the outside
Sharon native Aaron Schatz ranks the teams’ strength of schedule at FootballOutsiders.com according to the site’s own complicated ratings, which compare each play against the league average according to many different variables. The playoff teams: 49ers (third), Seahawks (fourth), Vikings (fifth), Packers (ninth), Redskins (15th), Ravens (16th), Patriots (21st), Texans (26th), Falcons (27th), Bengals (29th), Broncos (31st), and Colts (32d). From Schatz: “Obviously, one of the things you see here is the weakness of the AFC compared to the NFC this year. This order helps explain why the Colts do so badly in our ratings. We had the Colts this year ranked 25th. They had the worst rating of any team since 1991 that won at least 10 games. (Pretty amazing, they weren’t just the worst 11-5 team, but would have been the worst 10-6 team if they had lost the final week.) The Broncos’ easy schedule is less of a big deal because while they played a lot of bad teams, they stomped on them, whereas the Colts and Falcons tended to beat bad teams by small margins.”
Here are the rules regarding when contracted NFL assistants can interview for head coaching jobs (teams can’t block those interviews, but can influence where/when they take place). Assistants on teams whose seasons have ended can interview at any time. Assistants on teams with byes can be interviewed through the conclusion of the wild-card games Sunday. Assistants on teams that won wild-card games can interview through Jan. 13. Assistant coaches on teams that are in the Super Bowl, who have previously interviewed for a team’s head coaching position, can have a second interview through the Sunday before the Super Bowl (Jan. 27).