Mueller Files on comings and goings in the NFL...
It’s that time of year in the NFL. Some things are very predictable, others make me shake my head, even after 35 years. Here are a few thoughts on the current landscape of some front office and coaching movements around the league.
FLY EAGLES FLY
Bill Parcells once told me, “if you can just get to a Super Bowl kid, that should sustain you for 10 years”. Obviously, Parcells couldn’t predict what happened during the 2020 season in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. How times have changed! I’m not surprised at what was the biggest dumpster fire in the season of COVID-19. After all, the Eagles are an under-.500 team since their Super Bowl victory three years ago. This year’s version of the Eagles was truly flawed from the start with a shaky roster construction that was first decimated by injury and then, even worse, a total regression, right in front of the nation’s eyes, of their best player, QB Carson Wentz, the cornerstone of the team.
Head coach Doug Pederson was not at fault for unfulfilled draft choices, over paying their veteran players, or significant injuries that left them weapon-less on the perimeter at wide receiver. Pederson was responsible for not being willing to run the ball, rolling out essentially the same game plans week after week, and not finding ways to use the one player with any juice (when he was available) RB Miles Sanders.
My take is Pederson’s inability or unwillingness to use Sanders (a former second-round pick) as the focal point of a run/pass game that could take heat off of Wentz was the biggest problem that owner Jeff Lurie and GM Howie Roseman couldn’t overcome both this year and going forward. Sanders has speed, quickness and elusiveness, rare to find any place else on the Eagles roster. Pederson was unwilling to change and his refusal to take his share of the blame or rectify the team’s issues is what caused his dismissal.
I too found myself every week wondering why Sanders wasn’t getting 20-25 touches every game? He’s the only guy in the huddle with any play making ability. It will be interesting to see how the next coach in Philadelphia will feature Sanders going forward? It’s no wonder I keep hearing Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s name mentioned in this search.
COWBOYS MAKE COWBOY HIRE
I have much respect and fondness for Dan Quinn, the former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He was our defensive line coach in Miami under Nick Saban. He was actually my neighbor in Miami as well. Having said that, I feel like I know him well enough to say that his hire in Dallas as the defensive coordinator might be a win-win for JJ and the Cowboys.
Truth is, I really never saw Quinn as a head coach in the NFL. His personality reminds me of Gus Bradley, another former Pete Carroll assistant, who struggled as a CEO type with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both men made their reputation as being “one of the boys” with fire and fun. Both men run, what I would call, a simple defense that allows players to play fast. What Quinn and Bradley are known for is the exact opposite of what we saw in Dallas this year.
Nothing against Mike Nolan, who I have worked with as well, but Cowboys defenders did way too much thinking and not enough running and hitting to ever get better as a defense. They struggled to communicate on and off the field. Communication is the strong suit of Dan Quinn. This is only the first step though, in my opinion. Yet to be seen is if Cowboy brass will take more responsibility and admit their talent evaluation and roster construction, particularly on defense, left something to be desired.
Their current group of defensive players not only lacks talent, but also doesn’t fit the schemes their coaches wanted to run. That’s a double fatal flaw (it that makes any sense). More change is needed and we all know the definition of insanity. Hopefully Dallas can continue making the rest of the changes that most of us in NFL circles have shaken our heads about for years.
SEAHAWKS SECURE THEIR FUTURE
With long time head coach Pete Carroll signing an extension that keeps him in Seattle through the 2025 season (when he will be 74), the Seahawks chose the route, and rightly so, of continuity over change. They then backed up that same philosophy by signing General Manager John Schneider to an even a longer extension, tying him to the Seahawks until the draft of 2027. That’s seven more drafts, three more than Carroll will probably be around for.
My guess is that Schneider will also have total control of the personnel decisions and managing the roster of the franchise after Carroll retires. It’s another win-win for the team and for Schneider. I don’t believe that Schneider was ever going anywhere despite the rumors of interest from the Detroit Lions that were floated last weekend by media mouthpieces. My guess is a well-placed source by his agent was all it took to fire up the contract talks and to get something done asap to keep him in Seattle.
The key for Seahawks fans now is determining how to fix this year’s team. Schneider and Carroll have to look outside the box and hatch a plan to tweak their evaluating skills and their overall process of building this team. It is truly a team with needs and they have not crafted well recently so some modifications are in order to change results.
I always liked to get input from an independent source or two each year as to what was thought of my roster. Coaches that work with players every day are, in my opinion, not a great source to be a part of this process. They have too many agendas and self-serving interests. This team has had little or no change in the personnel department for years, while the coaching staff has been constantly under the gun to be changed. I do believe some offensive schemes can be expanded from this year’s version, however, their numerous roster needs will have to be addressed. A Tight end, a slot receiver, an upgrade or two upfront are just the start
The Seahawks have 24 soon-to-be free agents and that’s not a bad thing considering they have approximately $17 million cap dollars available which should allow for a slight re-tool. Sticking your head in the sand and saying “we just need to run the ball better” would not fly in most NFL cities (ask the Eagles). More change is needed.