Thursday, February 01, 2007

Still No Smoke

After diligently interviewing eight candidates over the last eight days for the vacant head coaching position, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced that no decision will be made or announced publicly until after the Super Bowl. That gives Dallas time to perhaps interview one or more coaches currently getting their teams ready for the big game –– Chicago's defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and Indy QB coach Jim Caldwell. But right now it looks like the front-runner remains 49er offensive coordinator Norv Turner, with Chargers' defensive coordinator Wade Phillips a close second. According to Grizz over at, one major Norv Turner sticking point is his insistence on having something close to total control over coaching and personnel matters. I doubt Jerry will play that, not after four years of relinquishing power to control freak Bill Parcells.

If we do choose Turner, that would give Jason Garrett a few years to learn the ropes while he mans the OC post. I would select Mike Singletary as the D coordinator, which would give us two well-respected young minds to groom for the head slot when Turner rides off into the sunset in three or four years, hopefully with a couple Lombardi trophies in tow.
Garrett, a former backup QB for Dallas during the '90s, is only 40 years old, while Singletary––a Hall of Famer, two-time NFL defensive player of the year ('85 & '88), and 8-time Pro Bowler––is 48. Both are presently too green and untested to run an entire team, so the Turner pick would give them time to grow into their new positions.

Here's how one Dallas beat writer ranks each candidates' chances:

The candidates: Positives; Negatives
1. Norv Turner:
Excellent offensive coach; Has a bad overall record
2. Wade Phillips: Strong defensive coach; Lacks a strong presence
3. Mike Singletary: Players would respect him; Uncertainty if he could do it
4. Jason Garrett: Bright offensive mind; Never been a coordinator
5. Gary Gibbs: A good defensive coach; Players might not respect him
6. Todd Bowles: Players like him; Never been a coordinator or head coach
7. Tony Sparano: Has called plays before; Considered an offensive line coach
8. Todd Haley: Knows the offense; Bill Parcells wannabe

Personally I think the 3-4/4-3 conundrum is overrated. Plus, it's much easier to change from a 3-4 base defense, which we played most of the last two years, than to scrap the 4-3 and then try to fit your personnel into a 3-4 look. If we pick Phillips, then we'll go with the 3-4, which San Diego ran so effectively last year. Singletary is also familiar with the 3-4, which the 49ers ran last year. And Ron Turner's Bears run a traditional 4-3. But if we did revert to the 4-3, we could move our best/only pass rusher, DeMarcus Ware, back to DE, joining Greg Ellis if he comes back from injury; we also have Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman. As far as DT, Jason Ferguson would move from NT to play one, while I think we pick the best DT in this year's draft for the other. Then our starting LBs in a 4-3 would be Bradie James in the middle, with Bobby Carpenter and Akin Ayodele outside. The secondary is pretty much unaffected by what the front seven does, but it looks like the team is set to move starting CB Anthony Henry to the safety spot opposite Roy Williams. The LB depth is a little thin, but that can be rectified in free agency and/or the draft.

That said, there's really no urgent hurry to name a coach. The Senior Bowl is over, and there's still a month or so before the start of free agency. Jerry's doing the right thing: taking his time to make sure he gets it right. According to Jones, "The work we're doing, the time that I'm spending with these candidates is as it should be. We got a good football team and I've got to get this right. We've got to make a good decision when we select the next coach." Couldn't agree more.
I'm still going with the Bears to upset the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl XLI. The Bears are a much more physical team and that will show up in the running game. I see the Bears mustering a decent pass rush without having to resort to heavy blitzing, freeing Brian Urlacher & Co. to drop back into effective middle zones and forcing Peyton Manning to take chances over the top. Don't forget special teams, where except for a very slight edge (if any) in kicking, Adam Vinatieri over Robbie Gould (an amazing 32-36 in FGs this year), the Bears have a chance to make one or two game-breaking plays. Also, the Colts defense has played way over its collective head in this year's playoffs; I may be wrong, but even with SS Bob Sanders in the lineup, their very average D is not gonna hold a fourth straight team from rushing for over 100 yards. Don't see that happening. The wild card in this case is the Bears' underrated running attack.

Thomas Jones continues to run like an angry man on Sunday, while Cedric Benson slashes & slices his way to the surprise MVP award; people forget what a terrific back Benson was in college at Texas. I see a very good game developing after a slow start, with the Bears pulling away late third, early fourth quarter and denying Manning a career-defining championship, at least for another year. 27-16 Bears. Keep an eye on Bears' rookie DE Mark Anderson, #97; he's got a non-stop motor that reminds me a lot of former Niners/Cowboys' great Charles Haley.


NFL writers have another chance this weekend to do the right thing and elect one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the sport, and without doubt one of its all-time gamers, Michael "Playmaker" Irvin, to the Hall of Fame. Off the field problems should have nothing to do with it (indeed writers are instructed NOT to consider any factors that are not related to a candidate's playing career), nor should his over-the-top personality or annoying turn as an ESPN talking head. Just check the numbers.

Irvin's 750 career receptions rank 10th all-time in NFL history; his 11,904 yards rank 9th. His career 47 100-yard receiving games is good for 3rd all-time, including an NFL record 11 straight. His 87 playoff receptions rank 2nd all-time, behind some guy named Jerry Rice. Amazingly, he was hampered by injuries his first two years, 1988/89, and was forced by a severe neck injury to retire early in 1999 at age 33. In between, despite playing in an offense that was anything but pass-happy, he amassed some eye-opening numbers as the prototype big receiver with breakaway speed.

In many important respects, Irvin was the heart and soul of three Super Bowl winning teams. The other two Triplets, QB Troy Aikman and RB Emmitt Smith, were laid-back, lead by example types; it was Irvin who got in players' faces when they needed a kick in the ass. And Irvin himself played with a fire and an intensity that was almost life & death in its urgency.

The 2007 candidates do not make up one of the stronger classes in recent memory, with no stone-cold-lock QBs getting in the way of players like Irvin and Thurman Thomas. Look at the big games Irvin played, and how he always rose to the challenge. That has to count for something.


Gledwood said...

OK seeing as you're writing about sport can I ask you something? Do you know anything about David Beckham? Surely he is not known in America? (Though he is well famous ove here.) He is meant to be earning some sort of $250 million sum from an LA soccer team.

Drop by my blog if you like. It's very different. I'm at
Take it easy.

WardensWorld said...

gledwood, thanx for stopping by. Beckham is under the radar in terms of mainstream sports fans here in the US. All we know is he hooked up with the hottest spice girl.