The new decade begins on two sad notes:
- David Stern died yesterday of complications arising from a brain hemorrhage he suffered several weeks ago. He was 77 years old. While I did not always agree with his actions as NBA Commissioner, he did guide the league from the fringes of the US sports world directly into the center of that space.
- Don Larsen died yesterday. He is most famous for pitching a perfect game in the World Series in 1956 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two other interesting facts about his MLB career are that he had an overall losing record for his career and that he was traded from the Yankees to the royals in exchange for Roger Maris.
Rest in peace David Stern. Rest in peace, Don Larsen.
There will be major management shake-ups with two of the most volatile NFL franchises taking place in the next several weeks. The Cleveland Browns have fired coach, Freddie Kitchens, and GM, John Dorsey. Owner Jimmy Haslam purchased the team in October 2012; he has owned the team for 7 years and 3 months.
- Counting the head coach he inherited with the team in October 2012, the coach who will be hired imminently will be the seventh head coach – – including an interim head coach for 8 games in 2018 – – that he has hired.
- Counting the GM he inherited with the team in October 2012, the GM who will be hired imminently will be the sixth GM that he has hired.
- If Jimmy Haslam planted a vegetable garden, I would not be surprised to learn that his harvest was meager because every other day he would pull the plants out of the ground to see how the roots were developing.
Since 2012, the Cleveland Browns have gone 33-94-1; they have won just under 26% of their games over that 7-year stretch. Is that because of the lack of continuity in team management? Or is that because the person who is making the hiring decisions for team management positions has no clue? Personally, I think the answer is “Yes!”
The other team that will get a front office makeover is here in Washington; the Skins cleaned house firing President of Football Operations, Bruce Allen, who had been in that job since 2010. That would give the appearance of stability when juxtaposed with the situation in Cleveland, but the apparent stability there could be misleading because:
- The new coach just hired in Washington, Ron Rivera, is the fourth head coach.
- The Skins’ record since 2010 is 62-98-1; they have won 38.5% of their games over that 10-year stretch.
The results for the two teams over comparable time periods demonstrates to me that stability is not “the answer” nor is upheaval “the answer”. I believe THE answer is not Allen Iverson; I believe THE answer is competence and neither owner had demonstrated that he has the competence to hire the right people and then to let them do the job(s) they were hired to do.
There is another interesting parallel between these two less-than-fully-successful franchises. According to reports, both Jimmy Haslam and Danny Boy Snyder have injected themselves into the team drafting process to take QBs that their incumbent coaches did not want. Haslam supposedly ordered the drafting of Johnny Manziel; that was not a good decision. Snyder supposedly ordered the drafting of Patrick Ramsey (not a good decision), RG3 (not a good decision but not nearly as bad as the previous decision), and Dwayne Haskins (much too soon to know how that will work out).
The new coach in Washington has been hired – before the new GM or whatever title the person will receive has been selected. Ron Rivera will take over and I think he will be a significant upgrade if he is given the latitude to do whatever he and his coaches believe is necessary to produce a better on-field product. To put it bluntly, Ron Rivera has been to the Super Bowl and Ron Rivera has been named Coach of the Year twice; there is NO ONE in the Skins’ management structure that has a similar curriculum vitae – including, most importantly, Danny Boy Snyder.
Not to throw cold water here, but Danny Boy’s record at hiring “GMs” is neither extensive nor laudatory. His first selection was Vinny Cerrato whose most obvious skill was enabling Danny Boy’s interventions into the “football side of things”. His next selection for that position was Bruce Allen who would not have been in that job if he had not been the son of former Skins’ head coach, George Allen. If Bruce Allen had been Bruce Flabeetz – – son of the legendary Joe Flabeetz – – he would have been lucky to be hired by the Skins as the elevator operator that got Danny Boy from ground level to his owner’s suite.
On a positive note, Ron Rivera’s first move was to hire Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator. Del Rio brings tangible positive coaching credentials to that job. Understand that the Skins have 4 first-round picks among their front 7 on defense. That crew produced a defense that ranked 27th in the NFL this year. There is a lot of potential for improvement there given the ostensible talent level.
Finally, since we are beginning a new decade, I thought it would be appropriate to close today with Brad Dickson’s resolutions for the upcoming year. Good luck with all of that:
“My resolutions: stop exercising, take up vaping, spend less time with family, look into the feasibility of growing pot, pig out regularly, and, get a neck tattoo.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………