Volume 2, Number 2 -- February, 1997
God bless those New York Jets. They just can't seem to get anything right, can they? After capping decades of misery and despair with two of the ugliest 1-15 seasons in memory, they finally hired a coach that can take them to the promised land, Bill Belichick... and Bill Parcells. Now, don't get me wrong. I know Rich Kotite was a fine coach and leaves some mighty big shoes to fill, but will it really take two coaches to replace him?
Here's the deal: after two years of the Rich Kotite regime, the Jets were in desperate need of a respectable coach. Bill Parcells seemed the perfect man for the job, seeing as how he and Patriots owner Bob Kraft got along about as well as the Goldmans and the Simpsons. Unfortunately, Kraft was unwilling to release Parcells from his contract for 1997 without obscene compensation from the Jets, namely Keyshawn Johnson or the 1997 #1 pick.
The Jets' solution: Hire Bill Belichick who, ultimate company man that he is, has agreed to keep the job warm for a year until Parcells can officially take over the reigns. I say officially because, in a blatant move to circumnavigate Parcells contract, hired Parcells as a "Special Consultant" to "Coach" Belichick. Translation: You should be able to see the wires coming off Belichick all the way from the Goodyear Blimp.
Still and all, you've gotta give the Jets a B+ for at least improving the coaching position. Particularly in light of their previous coaching move, dumping new Patriots coach Pete Carroll (isn't the irony of it just delicious) for perennial 1-15 Kotite.
That being said, let's take a look at how the other 10 (yes, I said TEN!) teams that changed coaches this year did for replacements.
San Francisco - Steve Mariucci (IN), George Seifert (OUT)
This was a move the 49ers were forced into. They would have preferred to have Seifert stick around for a year to help groom Mariucci, who would have been the new Offensive Coordinator. But when Mariucci balked at accepting anything less than a full Head Coaching position the heat was turned up under Seifert. The Niner's brass insists Seifert's resignation was unsolicited and came as a total surprise, but one has to wonder how welcome Seifert was made to feel in Ninerland. After all, it's not idle speculation that if Seifert had been offered a two-year deal he would still be the coach of the Niners and we would not be discussing this.
GRADE = C
Oakland - Joe Bugel (IN), Mike White (OUT)
In 1995 Mike White was elevated to the position of Head Coach amid much fanfare and heightened expectations. White was supposed to be the man who would drag Al Davis' talented but outdated offense into the '90's and lead the Raiders back to greatness. Two years and a 15-17 record later he gives way to Joe Bugel amid a bit less fanfare somewhat lower expectations. On the surface, this move looks like a step backward for the Raider organization. A return to the once vaunted but currently much-maligned "vertical passing game". Those who would wish to see Davis "get with the times" will shake their heads and smugly mutter something about the West Coast Offense. But consider this, twice now Al Davis has tried to implement the short passing game and twice it has proven disastrous. For whatever reason, right or wrong, Al Davis and the West Coast Offense are incompatible. Round peg, square hole, etc. If you can't win with what you know, how are you gonna win with what you don't know? For this reason, the best direction for the Raiders to take might well be backward.
GRADE = B+
Atlanta - Dan Reeves (IN), June Jones (OUT)
The Atlanta Falcons, showing all the inspiration of cinder block, went out and replaced one re-tread with another. Dan Reeves was a fine coach... in the late 80's. Since then he has struggled to put together winning teams even when given talent. His release by the Bronco's came probably two years too late and his entire stint with the Giants was ill-fated at best. With so many young, creative, innovative minds available to them, their selection of Reeves as head man proves why they have been where they are in the NFC West for so many years. The only positive thing that can be said about Reeves at this point is that he is not Rich Kotite.
GRADE = D-
Cincinnati - Bruce Coslet (IN), Dave Shula (OUT)
Coslet actually took the reigns in Cincinnati late in the year and showed an immediate improvement. The Bengals are far from talent poor and seemed to respond so well to Coslet that there is much to be optimistic about in Cincinnati next season.
GRADE = B
Detroit - Bobby Ross (IN), Wayne Fontes (OUT)
Wayne Fontes finally wore out his welcome in Detroit, and none too soon. Apparently, the right people finally started to ask themselves how a team with the likes of Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, and Bret Perriman could rank among the worst in the NFL in offense. They then asked themselves who might be responsible and the next thing you know Fontes was updating his resume. Bobby Ross was the steal of the offseason. Just two years after taking an overachieving Chargers team to the Superbowl he found himself at odds with GM Bobby Beathard and looking for a new job. Ross is an excellent coach and will have more weapons to work with in Detroit than he ever had in San Diego.
GRADE = A
New England - Pete Carrol (IN), Bill Parcells (OUT)
Credit the Patriots with making the worst of a bad situation. Bob Kraft may not be the most wonderful human being in the world, but it is his team and if there is a personality clash between the owner and the coach, the owner always wins. Carrol is good coach and motivator who should make the Jets regret ever having heard the name Rich Kotite.
GRADE = B-
New Orleans - Mike Ditka (IN), Jim Mora (OUT)
You gotta like this move if only for the fact that it gets Mike Ditka out of the broadcast booth and back on the sideline where he belongs. It's a pity he doesn't go to one of the more talented teams on this list, but give ol' Iron Mike time and he'll have the Saints beating on the door to the NFC West penthouse.
GRADE = B+
New York Giants - Jim Fassel (IN), Dan Reeves (OUT)
Anything was better than Reeves.
GRADE = C
St. Louis - Dick Vermeil (IN), Rich Brooks (OUT)
DICK VERMEIL? Did I hear that correctly? The most vivid memory I have of Vermeil is of him scowling horribly on the sideline during Superbowl XV as the Oakland Raiders pounded the well-disciplined dung out of his Eagles. Most of the players Vermeil will inherit had not even seen puberty the last time he coached at any level. The biggest question to be answered next season does not concern his X's and O's, but how well his act will go over with today's athletes.
GRADE = C-
San Diego - Kevin Gilbride (IN), Bobby Ross (OUT)
The Chargers filled a big coaching hole with a very promising candidate. Gilbride may be best known for being on the receiving end of a Buddy Ryan punch, but the fact is that he is a fine coach who inherits a quality group of players. Whether or not he can match his predecessor's success remains to be seen, but at the very least the Chargers should remain competitive through the transition.
GRADE = B+
Well, that's that. Hope you enjoyed your Superbowl.
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