Monday, March 2, 2009

White Wedding

Flight School - T-Pain & Kanye West

Just like that, we all learn why coaches should be a little less trigger happy when trying to refurbish an already solid foundation in an effort to make a team “theirs.” Jay Cutler is rightfully pissed, and Josh McDaniels is now starting his coaching career in a pretty deep hole for a guy who has never coached a game and may be the most promising new coach in the league. Truth be told, I don’t even hate the move from a practical standpoint. After all, McDaniels has a unique offensive system, and bringing in a proven winner who has shown himself to be very proficient in that system makes sense as opposed to teaching an already irritable Jay Cutler (who misses his QB coach) how to reinvent his wheel.

The problem is that McDaniels failed to consider that he might be giving in to one of the most common flaws in human decision making: He was fearing a loss irrationally more than he was anticipating a gain. That is to say, he saw what he had lost in Cassel because he knew what it was like to have Cassel, but failed to consider that he may be gaining even more in a player like Cutler. In Cassel, McDaniels had a (very) serviceable cog in an efficiently run machine; in Cutler, he may actually be looking at a more athletic Tom Brady. The ability to add an accurate deep ball to the relentless variation that McDaniels showed in New England could actually improve an offensive scheme that not many people thought could be improved.

This refusal to exist outside of established postulates of coaching is becoming frustrating, largely because it’s starting to prevent the quality of the game from accelerating with the level of talent on teams. I’m not going to get all in depth about Troy Smith (FREE TROY SMITH), but we can also talk about Tyler Thigpen (who will be discussed more once I figure out my own feelings on the Cassel trade), or Seneca Wallace (who should have been the starter from the get go last year. Taking a chance on these players involves challenging established philosophies as to how a coach commands a team. Is it a relationship of dialogue, or one of command by indifference, with the coach directing the whole entity of the team by effectively ignoring the comings and goings of the individual players. McDaniels, who turned Wes Welker into a household name and resurrected Randy Moss, seemed as capable as anyone of building a team via marriage rather than servitude.

Instead, McDaniels now has to spend an inordinate amount of time placating his franchise player and convincing fans that he’s not crazy (which is lame, because what made him great for the Pats was that he IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY). This is the great irony of forcing an identity on a team; in an effort to make the unit something that it isn’t, coaches frequently become things they aren’t. Mangini is not a harsh coach, nor is McDaniels an apologist, but both have to become those things, respectively, now.

It’s sad, really, to see the promising crop of young coaches respecting the traditions of men rather than the game itself (I know, we’ve been extra biblical lately, but it fits). I understand that it’s a lot to ask for a new coach to take big risks by NOT drastically changing a team’s composition while altering its philosophy, but if any coach seemed capable of making decisions in a world that didn’t have clear precedents, it seemed to be McDaniels, who bucked so many trends while running the Pats offense.

As for the player himself, I’m hoping that this doesn’t close Cutler’s mind to working with McDaniels. As much as McDaniels can be helped by an arm like Cutler’s, Cutler could become one of the legendary quarterbacks in league history if he combines an arm that has drawn fair comparisons to Elway with an ability to read and react like Brady. It’s the difference between a lot of artillery fire and the Death Star laser; one is nice for show, but the other shows the power of focus.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I adore you, and mostly agree, but man, can you be prolix.