Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Head Coaches, Assistants, and a Note About Lionel Washington

Here is a good metric for good coaches: are their assistants highly coveted. Talented managers surround themselves with talented employees. That was the case with Holmgren. Every year some of his assistants left for greener pastures: Rhodes, Mariucci, Gruden, Ried, Mornhinweg, Jauron. These guys all went on to bigger and better things (with varying levels of success). Two of these coaches have gone on to lead teams into the Super Bowl. This is just the list off the top of my head, I'm sure there were more that I can't remember.

Make one thing clear: Holmgren is not responsible for the success of these guys. I don't think Holmgren taught these coaches how to be good coaches. Rather, I think Holmgren identified these guys as smart, young, hardworking coaches and put them on his staff.

When Sherman took over, teams seemed to stop inquiring about Packer assistants. The only notable coach that I can think of that left for a better job was Sylvester Croom. (Eventually, Childress gave Bevel a promotion that was an act of nepotism and after Sherman was already fired.) There may have a been a few more, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

McCarthy started out strong. After his first season, Boston College poached Jeff Jagodzinski (who was fired by Mike Sherman) to become the head coach. At the time, I thought that was an encouraging sign. Since then there has been little interest in Packer assistants, with Winston Moss being the notable exception.

Now, I realize that winning teams have more coveted assistants simply because they are winning teams. Nobody wants to hire a loser. But that is not the whole story. Sherman had plenty of winning records, but no one would touch his assistants with an eleven foot pole. McCarthy's Packers were a surprise 13-3 in 2007. How many of his assistant were busy doing interviews last winter? I can't think of any (again, not to say there were none but I can't think of any).

Now McCarthy has basically wiped the slate clean. I'm hoping he populates his staff with hungry young go-getters this time. He won't get another opportunity. There will never be a second wave of McCarthy firings. Next time it's his neck on the line.

One concluding and only tangential thought. I---like everyone---was surprised to hear that Lionel Washington got the boot yesterday. I had only heard positive things about him. That said I had only heard positive things about him from the mouths of his players like Mike McKenzie. If he was so well-regarded around the league, why is he basically doing the same job that he was doing back under Ray Rhodes. Has he ever even been interviewed for another job? Since Sherman took over the Packers, the NFL has seen 48 head coaches replaced. Are you telling me that Washington is so talented yet none of those new head coaches could find a place for him on their staff? How likely is that?

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