For the first time since last August, I am in the process of composing a daily rant on a Friday – – and it’s not a Football Friday. There will be one more of that genre produced next week; but as far as I am concerned, there is no football this weekend. However, there are a couple of football-related things out there…
I believe that too much has been made about the fact that 8 NFL coaches lost their jobs this year and 5 of them were Black. While I have no doubt at all that racism is alive and well in America in 2019, I think we need to tread lightly if we want to use that label in this case. If one wants to use the jarring numbers here – 5 out of 8 fired coaches are Black and there were only 7 Black head coaches to begin with – you need to peel away that layer of the issue and look just one layer below:
- In the 2018 NFL regular season, those 5 coaches who were fired produced a combined record of 21-50-1. [Note: Hue Jackson was fired after 8 games, so these totals reflect 4.5 season records.]
- If you look at the total record of these 5 coaches in their tenure with the teams that just fired them, the combined record is 172-242-3.
- That overall combined record is the equivalent of a team going about 7-9 over the course of 26 seasons.
I am virtually certain that none of these numbers entered into the thinking that led to the firing decisions during and after the 2019 season. I am equally certain that the idea of “getting rid of the incumbent simply because he is Black” did not enter into the thinking that led to the firing decisions during and after the 2019 season. So, I want to look at these 5 deposed head coaches and their records. In alphabetical order:
- Todd Bowles (Jets): On several occasions here, I have said that I do not believe he should have been fired; the roster was not built to win in 2019; even when the team was eliminated from the playoffs, the team played hard on the field. Nevertheless, the Jets were 4-12 this year; they will draft third this April; Bowles’ overall record with Jets was 24-40-0.
- Hue Jackson (Browns): For the last 5 years or so, the entirety of the Browns’ franchise has been located in Dysfunction Junction. Jackson was no more responsible for that than the handful of head coaches preceding him were responsible. Nevertheless, the Browns were 2-5-1 when he was fired in mid-season and his overall record with the Browns was an astonishingly bad 3-36-1.
- Vance Joseph (Broncos): He was dealt a bad hand; he did not have even an average QB on the roster during his two-year time at the helm. I guess he deserves some “blame” for not elevating one of his QBs to the level of “average”, but I think more of the “blame” belongs on John Elway’s report card for that messy situation. In 2 seasons with the Broncos, Joseph was 11-21-0.
- Marvin Lewis (Bengals): He had overseen the Bengals since 2003. He took over an organization in disarray and put in on track to make the playoffs 7 times in his tenure there. The last 3 seasons have not been successful; but overall, he had a combined record in Cincy of 131-122-3. I find it difficult to understand any racial overtone in this firing decision given that he was in the job for 16 years; if race were the dominant issue there, I think it might have kicked in 10 years ago after the Bengals went through another 3-year period with a lack of success.
- Steve Wilks (Cardinals): The Cards had the worst record in the NFL this year at 3-13. They were as bad as that record indicates. Nevertheless, he got only one year on the job to show what he can – – or cannot – – do as an NFL head coach; it is difficult to understand how he could have been so impressive in the interview process just a year ago to get the job and then to be deemed incapable of doing the job only a year later. The hiring decision here and the firing decision here remain as mysterious to me as the whereabouts of Judge Crater.
Looking at these cases as dispassionately as I can, I think the firings of Hue Jackson and Marvin Lewis were justified. I think Vance Joseph is taking the fall for some bad roster decisions made by John Elway. I think Steve Wilks lost his job prematurely. I think Todd Bowles was fired because the NYC tabloids had been using him for a punching bag over the past 18-24 months. If someone wants to put a racial overlay on all of that, be my guest; I think the racial component of these decisions is not a big deal.
Recall a few years ago the strange – and distasteful – saga of Jonathan Martin being bullied by his teammates with the Miami Dolphins. If you need to refresh your memory about this sordid mess, here is a link to a report from 2014 about the investigative findings commissioned by the NFL on the matter.
I bring this up today because the sordid mess from 2013/14 may have taken a turn for the worse. Jonathan Martin – one of the victims 5 years ago – is going to stand trial for “making criminal threats” based on a posting to his Instagram account in February 2018. I know nothing about Instagram so if I use an improper term here, I apologize in advance. According to reports, Martin posted a picture on his account of a shotgun with ammunition. The posted picture had a caption that said:
“When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.”
If that is insufficiently creepy for you, the posted picture was tagged to (I presume this means addressed to):
- Richie Incognito – one of the bullies cited in the investigative report
- Mike Pouncey – one of the bullies cited in the investigative report
- Miami Dolphins – the team where the bullying took place
- Harvard-Westlake – Jonathan Martin’s high school in Southern California.
That Instagram posting happened proximal to the Parkland school shooting in Florida. Here is a link to a report from the NY Daily News from about a week ago. What was a sorry-assed situation 5 years ago seems to have gotten seriously worse that it was.
Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently:
“United Van Lines says New Jersey ranked first in terms of residents leaving the state — 66.8 percent — compared to those moving there in 2018.
“Coincidence? That’s where the Giants and the Jets play.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………