BRONX, NY – The more things change in the National Football League, the more they stay the same. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, NFL owners used to regularly hire head coaches who had failed miserably elsewhere, so we were all lucky enough to see more than one clumsy performance from such coaching geniuses as Marion “The Swamp Fox” Campbell and Dan Henning. Though the practice kind of fell out of fashion for a while, guys like Norv Turner (three head coaching stints) and Wade Phillips (three and one interim) kept the flame alive for future generations of failures. Well, guess what? This year those seeds have borne a bumper crop of rotten rehashed coaching fruit. Here’s a look.
Ken Whisenhunt. There was quite the feverish bidding war for the one-time head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Hey, let’s not forget that he led them to a Super Bowl. But in the end the Tennessee Titans emerged victorious over the Detroit Lions for the services of a man with a 45-51 career regular season record, who didn’t look like such a great head coach after Kurt Warner chose retirement over 10 more concussions. Still, maybe he’ll play Dr. Frankenstein with the oft-injured Jake Locker and this will all work out. More likely Nashville villagers come looking for both with torches and pitchforks before too long.
Lovie Lee Smith. The Bucs tabbed Lovie (do they get Thurston Howell as well?) almost immediately after jettisoning Jersey Trash Greg Schiano. And as far as coach dumpster diving goes, the Bucs may have found themselves a day old, only-slightly-chewed piece of filet mignon. Lovie has a career 81-63 record and took some fairly mediocre Bears teams to three NFC North titles and one (albeit losing) Super Bowl appearance. Not only that, but for once an owner is giving a black head coach a second chance, which is as rare as an MTM paycheck.
Jim Caldwell. And maybe Lovie truly has broken the recycled coaches color barrier because, as I sit here writing this, the Detroit Lions have hired former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. Although many felt he looked overmatched and confused (like an old man in traffic) during his brief tenure in Indy, he nevertheless compiled a winning record and even took them to a Super Bowl, which they lost to the murderous, cheating, bounty-hunting Saints. So what went wrong in Indy? Oh yeah, when Peyton Manning got injured the Colts went 2-14. So perhaps the Caldwell hire isn’t the smartest move in that Matt Stafford is no Peyton Manning. Moving on…
Mike Munchak. Fired by the aforementioned Tennessee Titans because he refused to fire some of his assistants, Mike Munchak left Nashville with his principles in tact as well as a few shreds of decency (someone there should write a country song about him). He has since got a long lecherous look from the Cleveland Browns, who go through coaches the way my colonoscopy prep fluid went through me last Sunday. Here’s the question that Munchak and every other unemployed person in America has to ask themselves, “Do I want a job bad enough to move to Cleveland?” As it stands, the Browns may be unwilling to pull the trigger on Munchie in hopes of perhaps luring some other future two- or three-time loser to the land of midges.
Meanwhile, there’s still failed former Broncos head coach and current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels floating around out there, and God knows who my Vikings are gonna hire. They’re playing outdoors the next two seasons and Bud Grant is still kicking… I’m just sayin’.
Before I sign off, here’s a guy you want running your two-minute drill. Where was this dude when I was kid and wanted to get home to continue watching Abbott and Costello movies and football every Sunday?
Tune in tomorrow for the latest MTM Podcast (which is actually done and ready to go this time) covering the Cold Stove League, Mets’ Needs and the remaining Free Agents, in a “spirited” exchange between the feisty Suburban Matt/Fake Sandy Alderson and a frustrated Short Matt.