Now that Washington's bizarrely conducted coaching search has concluded with perhaps the fastest promotion in the history of the NFL --
As in blank canvases are better canvases, because there are no previous pock marks or mistakes that require covering up. Not only did the four teams looking for a head coach this offseason shy away from candidates with past head coaching experience (Hello,
• Miami hired Dallas assistant
• Baltimore hired Philadelphia assistant
• Washington hired Seattle assistant Jim Zorn, who has never been a head coach, coordinator or play-caller in the NFL, and whose only experience as an offensive coordinator came at Utah State from '92-94.
• Atlanta hired Jacksonville assistant
Juxtapose those additions with the following facts about what many consider the world's most exclusive 32-member club: In the five previous NFL offseasons ('03-07), 31 of the 32 head coaching vacancies were filled by candidates who previously had been either a head coach or a coordinator in the NFL or in a major college program. The lone exception to that was Detroit's hiring of longtime Bucs defensive line coach
True, that five-year sampling includes some lightly experienced and trend-setting hires such as then 31-year-old
What in the name of
But teams were clearly looking for something a bit different this year. I talked to one head coaching candidate within the league who ripped an analogy of this year's hirings straight from the coverage of this year's presidential campaigns.
"To me, the whole run on these head coaches this year is a little like
"I can't help but think that if a guy is that clean, he sells better. If you have no blemishes, you can mold them and spin them to your fans and the media any way you want.
Digging even a little deeper, you can see that each of the four openings this year were unique in their own way. The Dolphins, Falcons, Ravens and Redskins were all looking for something a little different, befitting their own particular circumstances.
Plain and simple, Miami's new football czar,
In Atlanta, where decision by committee rules, the Falcons were seeking someone who first and foremost meshed well with newly hired general manager
In Baltimore, where the Ravens have a strong, successful and well-entrenched general manager in Hall of Famer
And in Washington, well, who knows exactly what they're doing in Washington? Certainly not Redskins owner
To put it another way, none of these four teams were necessarily in the market for a head coach who would walk in the door with a strong, definitive plan of his own, ready to execute his vision for that organization. The teams that hired head coaches this year were largely looking for someone to carry out the organization's plan, and its vision of the future, rather than be the defining face of the franchise.
"I'm not sure any of those teams were looking for a
Sparano, Harbaugh, Smith and Zorn might all end up winning games and proving themselves solid choices. But in their own way, they were all surprising choices based on how NFL teams historically hire head coaches. But in this case, their relative lack of history was on their side.
• Speaking of Belichick, I love how for weeks he evaded questions about the Patriots' perfect season and their place in history by saying that at some point there would be a time to reflect on it all, but that time wasn't now.
And then, in the wake of New England's upset loss in the Super Bowl, he refused to reflect on much of anything in a conference call last Tuesday, saying it was "already time to move on'' and that he wasn't going to "sit here and dwell on anything good or bad.''
Apparently the Monday after the Super Bowl was that long-awaited window for reflection, but we missed it. What a shock.
• For the NFL fan, there's nothing quite like Pro Bowl Sunday. Thank God.
No matter how they dress it up, the NFL's all-star game has all the intensity of a Saturday walk-through practice. All you need to know is that Fox televised it, but didn't even bother to send its top announcing team to Hawaii. I watched some of the game while exercising Sunday, and all I could think of was as long as players like
To his credit, Moss did tell us years ago that he plays when he wants to play. He wanted to play every regular season game and in the playoffs this season, and he did. He didn't want any part in playing in the exhibition-game setting that the Pro Bowl has become, and he didn't.
• This just in: The Patriots didn't go 19-0, and my oft-cited Theory of Unfinished Business fell apart at the very end this year. The Super Bowl blew up my near season-long prediction of perfection for New England, but you still have to be glad that sports can surprise us to the level that the Giants' ascension surprised us. It'd be pretty boring if we really could see everything coming.
• Thinking back on the '07 season -- I'll reflect even if Belichick won't -- I realized that I started my training camp travels last summer with a stop at the Patriots in nearby Foxboro, and a drive to the Giants camp in Albany, N.Y. I should have headed home right then and there, given that I had already visited the two eventual Super Bowl participants. What more was there to see?
As for that stop in Albany, if you would have told me on that Sunday in late July that I was watching the next Super Bowl champions, I would have accused you of ingesting hallucinatory drugs. The day I was in Giants camp there was nothing but non-stop talk of
• My hunch could be wrong, but I don't think Spygate goes much further unless a smoking-gun tape of that Rams Super Bowl walk-through practice is unearthed at some point. If somebody produces that, and can prove it once was property of the Patriots, I'd say a year-long league suspension of Belichick would be in the offing from NFL commissioner
Otherwise, I'm not sure what's going to come of tapes from the
• Love the
• I saw Cowboys head coach
It's not just that Dallas lost in its playoff opener. It's how the Cowboys lost, who they lost to, and how tone deaf Phillips sounded in the final weeks of the regular season and after the playoff defeat. It's two playoff wins or bust for Phillips in '08.
• Nobody in New York's front office has called to ask me, but I actually think it makes sense for the Giants to trade
• Plenty of talking heads on radio have asked me if
But I do contend Manning will never again have the debate about his career framed the same way after this season's playoff success, and that will help him in ways both great and small. He's pretty much done with having to take the roller coaster ride of public opinion that he was on in New York for most of the past four years. But having now proven himself worthy of his No. 1 overall draft status, the bar of expectation is firmly set a bit higher.
As Manning knows all too well, the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league, and it will always be so.