Ready or Not

National Football Post

Mr. Reid:

I understand your decision to fire Juan Castillo. It’s all about appearances. And we all have a boss.

It was no small challenge finding a defensive coordinator to replace the late Jim Johnson. That guy might have been the most underrated coach in the league. Men like Johnson and Dick LeBeau turned the blitz game into an art form. And Brian Dawkins was every bit the disruptive force that Troy Polamalu was, just not as colorful or marketable. The loss of Johnson and Dawkins made your job much more difficult than it’s ever been.

I think your handling of the Michael Vick saga has been great. Not too long ago, the consensus was that Kevin Kolb was ten times the quarterback Donovan McNabb was. You never actually suggested that, but after you traded him what else could we think? But then Vick turned out to better than both of them.

Easy decision.

Nick Foles? Not so easy.

All things considered, I think you’ve done a great job. You don’t last 14 years without being good at what you do. Of course you’ll be judged by the Super Bowl standard and not your five trips to the conference title game.

An owner’s purse strings make a team championship ready—the ’94 Forty Niners, 2009 Yankees, and 2011 -12 Miami Heat come to mind. A good coach finds a way to get his team to the playoffs more often than he does not.

Your best chance at a ring was in 2002. But Gruden beat you to it. By the way, why are so many folks in love with that guy? Every time there’s an opening his name is the first one to appear. He was good, but not as good as you. Not in my opinion, at least. Your temperament is better, which is why, even in tough years, you’ve never “lost” a team. All that yelling and screaming and maniacal behavior gets old. After a while, players just tune out noise.

I’m not sure what your immediate future holds. At season’s end there’s a good chance you could be fired. But that won’t be the end of your career. I’m sure, with Joe Banner taking over in Cleveland there’ll be some talk of you coaching there next season. Should you take some time off, or decide to retire altogether, that would be understandable. My heart breaks for you on the loss of your son. No one should have to endure that.

But the real reason I’m writing you is to ask that you endorse Todd Bowles. You’re in the rare position of being able to groom your successor and I think Bowles would be a great choice.

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US PresswireTodd Bowles' experience and demeanor make him a great coach.

On the topic of coaching, Bill Parcells has always been my go-to-guy. He was a very successful coach, with two Super Bowl Championships with the Giants and a third appearance in New England.

Though the Jets didn’t make it to the Show, Parcells took over a woeful franchise and in one year led them to the '98 AFC Championship Game, where they fell to the Broncos. I still think that was his most commendable work.

Parcells is my go-to-guy because of what he said in response to a question about Sean Payton taking the Saints job in 2006. The interviewer asked him if Payton was ready. Parcells replied: “You hope a guy is ready. But how do you really know?”

That’s so true. Besides a N.A.S.A. operation, or the perfect cheesecake recipe, few other things in life may be defined as an exact science. Coaching is not one of them.

People like to talk about qualifications and such. There’s some merit to that, I suppose. But take a guy like Cam Cameron. He’s a fine coach. After being the offensive coordinator for the Redskins, he built a pretty good offense in San Diego. After that he was deemed “qualified” to coach the Dolphins. But after a one-win season, punctuated by lethargy and half empty stadiums, he was fired.

Jack Del Rio was the “chosen” guy—the one who is made sure to possess all the necessary credentials. He went from strength coach in New Orleans in 1997, to head coach in Jacksonville in 2003. He was promoted along the way—from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator. But Del Rio's rise was pretty fast, even for someone with the requisite documentation. I suppose those credentials led to a nine year stay in Jacksonville, despite just two playoff appearances.

But about Todd Bowles. In addition to the eight seasons as a safety for the Redskins and Forty Niners, Bowles has spent the last twenty years as a coach on both the collegiate and professional level. He’s also a Jersey guy, and went to Temple University.

You know what he did in Miami. He was the interim coach the final three games last year. He won two of them. The players responded to him. Cornerback Vontae Davis offered a valuable endorsement, saying Bowles could “relate to him.”

That “relating” thing is a tricky one. Art Shell got a second stint in Oakland because it was believed he could also “relate” to the players. But the Raiders of 2006 didn’t really know a whole lot about the Raiders of 1976, nor did they care.

I think Bowles will do fine this year. The Eagles defense has mystified a lot of folks, though. It seems that having both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at corner, they could run a blitz every time the offense has regular personnel.

But only a guy like Bowles, because of his experience in the secondary, knows exactly how much stress you can put on your corners. Plans that look good on the grease board don’t always materialize in real life. But that’s another one for the inexact science file.

Even if the team struggles the rest of the year, I think you should still endorse Bowles. There’s no doubt you have Jeff Lurie’s ear. And I only mention this because I know it’ll come up, but just speaking to Bowles will satisfy that pesky Rooney Rule, whereby a team has to interview at least one minority candidate.

But this rule, or anything race-related, has become toxic in the age of Obama. You and I know that the rule isn’t a mandate to hire a so-called "minority" or to give him tenure. It’s an interview, a casual conversation.

But there’s a very specific portion of the population that’s uncomfortable with the topic of race. It’s been my experience that those who are most offended by the Rooney Rule are those who have no friends, acquaintances, or family members who aren’t white, and the idea of being asked to have a casual conversation with a so-called "minority" seems to really piss ‘em off to the point of hysterics. Weird, huh?

I know you just gave Bowles the defensive coordinator position. But everyone knows you wanted to do it last year, except the Dolphins wouldn’t allow you to hire him. That means you already think pretty highly of him. I think you should do for Bowles what you did for John Harbaugh.

Harbaugh had never been a head coach on any level, but had designs on becoming one. Without a timely promotion, he had no chance.

So you promoted him. In so doing, you had to fire a pretty good secondary coach. Sometimes there are casualties, even with good deeds.

If not for you, Harbaugh might have spent the rest of his life as a special teams coach. But after just one year coaching the secondary he got the job in Baltimore. That seems to have worked out pretty well.

Somewhere along the way I’m sure someone asked you if Harbaugh was “ready.” I don’t know what you said, but we both know the answer to the question.

Anyway, thanks for listening and I wish you the best of luck the rest of the season.

Follow Alan Grant on twitter@ AlanGrant_NFL

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