The Firing Jeff Fisher Debate… Hire Slow and Fire Fast

February 7, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

Getting fired sucks. There is just no way around that. But, getting fired after 16 years on the job? That sting has to feel worse, like when you bang a knee playing football outside in 20-degree weather. That is the kind of sting that stays with a person for a while. That is what Jeff Fisher is likely still experience after he was fired by Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams.

Granted, the timing was terrible. But as the old, tried and true business axiom goes – hire slow and fire fast. Once a team realizes a coach is not the right coach for the team – regardless of the reasons – leadership should act quickly and fire the head coach. The Tennessee Titans acted prudently in their firing of Jeff Fisher, setting the team, and the entire organization, on a much better path for success. Even though it may be difficult to see that right now.

It is unfortunate that the seeming majority of upper echelon coaching candidates were off the market by the time Fisher was let go. But if Fisher wasn’t the right coach for the long term, his firing was unavoidable – no matter what other potential coaching candidates were available.

There are some organizations in sports where owners have far too much influence. In fact, they meddle. Fisher was willing to put up with Titans’ owner Bud Adams and his opinions about personnel. But Fisher erred early in his relationship with Adams by allowing the owner too wield much influence. That early mistake opened the door for the beginning of the end for Fisher, and drafting Vince Young sped up the inevitable.

Vince Young’s bad attitude and ability to receive and miraculously maintain an advocate in Bud Adams prevented Fisher achieving the success he enjoyed early in his head coaching career. But that situation was Fisher’s fault.

Fisher failed because he was unable to oust Young after Young churned through three of his offensive coordinators – including the very well respected Norm Chow. Regardless of how much affection Bud Adams has – or had – for Vince Young, Fisher should have not given into Adams. Adams is not a head football coach, and Fisher should have played the coaching card. It was clear to Fisher early on that Young was not the right quarterback for his style of team. Instead of just standing up for his beliefs and style, he relented to keep his job. It’s hard for a coward to lead a football team.

Without an advocate for a head coach, the team began to take on the persona of its supposed star player, Vince Young. Young’s flighty, unreliable approach to the game infected the rest of the players. The players – it was clear- were given far more power and influence than they should have received. Fisher failed to maintain his hold on authority for his team. They were desperate for a leader able to unite the team, and Fisher could not longer do that. When a leader fails to lead in a business, that leader must be replaced. And Fisher has now rightly been replaced.

Fisher was a good coach at one point. He led a team to within the nose of the football of defeating the vaunted Best Show on Turf in the 2000 Super Bowl. But over time Jeff Fisher allowed his influence and respect to be undermined. He failed to live by his core values, and it is very hard to lead when that is the case. He had to be replaced, though he was once considered one of the game’s best coaches – and probably will be again.

Bud Adams should have fired Jeff Fisher. But in doing so he must also take time and address other issues that are plaguing his organization. The Titans needs a leader who is able to unify the locker room. If the Titans expect to have a fighting chance when they return to the gridiron (whenever that will be), Bud Adams needs to reflect seriously on the management style of his next coach. Hire slow, and fire fast. The timing stinks, but Adams must now take his time and architect a winning organization from the ground up.

But, one thing is clear – Jeff Fisher was not the coach to lead the team anymore. Once that decision is made, it’s best to cut ties. Fisher’s firing was justified.

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The Best One-Loss Season Debate Verdict

January 26, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Babe Ruthless.

It is not very often that you can compare and contrast the radically different sports of horse racing and football, but that is exactly the context of this debate.

Both the 2007 New England Patriots and the horse Zenyatta flirted with immortality before it was cruelly ripped away from them at the zero hour. For the Patriots, they stood on the cusp of becoming the only team in NFL history to cap off a perfect 16-game season with a Super Bowl victory, while Zenyatta entered her final race with the hopes of being the only horse to retire at a perfect 20-0.

Both performed spectacularly. While they may have fallen short of becoming legends, their respective destinations should not overshadow their brilliant journeys.

If we hopped into the way-back machine, and were to assess the 2007 Patriots BEFORE the Super Bowl matchup against the Giants, then compare that to the career of Zenyatta BEFORE the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic, whose performance would history deem as being greater?

On history’s behalf, allow me to answer – Zenyatta.

What ultimately won the day for Zenyatta (and vicariously for Optimist Prime) is the fact that Zenyatta’s career was legendary BEFORE her final race. The fact that she lost to Blame at the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic is an unfortunate close to her legacy, but she had already established herself among the greatest horses ever to run – win OR lose.

Over her career, as Optimist Prime points out, Zenyatta significantly changed the sport of Horse Racing. In a sport where notoriety traditionally comes from success at the fabled Triple Crown races, Zenyatta blazed a new path to horse racing superstardom.

Thanks to Zenyatta, no longer is a Kentucky Derby victory a pre-requisite for horse racing greatness.

Think about the greatest horses in racing history – Secretariat, War Admiral, Affirmed, and more. Each was made great by their performance in the Triple Crown. Likewise, consider the horses of modern racing who have reached superstar status – Barbaro, Big Brown, Smarty Jones, and more. Just as with the former group, it is their respective Triple Crown performance that give them notoriety.

Zenyatta was different.

Instead of hoping to catch superstardom at the spectacle of the Kentucky Derby, she was the first horse to win two separate races at the Breeder’s Cup, was the first Mare to ever win the Classic, and no other horse has more consecutive Grade/Group One victories than Zenyatta. She became a celebrity by virtue of her outstanding CAREER, rather than her performance in three individual races.

Not since Man o’ War had a horse so captured the public’s eye without racing in the Triple Crown, and that is only because Man o’ War’s time came BEFORE the Triple Crown.

It is true that the New England Patriots also set many records. As Babe Ruthless mentions, they remain the only team ever to complete an undefeated 16-game regular season. But the NFL is always evolving. As it evolves, the statistical accomplishments of previous eras lose relevance. For the very same reasons that Babe Ruthless mitigates the 1972 Dolphins’ perfect season (because it came over a 14, rather than 16, game season), folks will one day mitigate the records of the New England Patriots as we now move closer to an 18-game season.

What does not lose relevance, though, is the fact that there has already been a perfect champion in the NFL. No matter how great the statistical achievements of the 2007 Patriots (as pointed out by Babe Ruthless), they were attempting to REPEAT history, not make it. Yes, it is true that the 1972 Dolphins played two less games, but they were nonetheless perfect champions.

Unlike the 2007 Patriots, Zenyatta was a pioneer.

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The Best One-Loss Season Debate

January 24, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Babe Ruthless.

In most years – and in most sports – the notion of perfection is lost long before the possibility is truly believed.

Each sport has its own idea of what constitutes perfection. But, no matter the sport, competitors who flirt with perfection draw a lot of attention. As they near that perfect effort, the pressure mounts. By the time the moment arrives – whether it is the tenth frame, the ninth inning, or the final game of the season – the world is watching.

In that moment when perfection is realized, history is instantly made. But how do you measure a failure to make history, especially when it comes in the final seconds of the quest?

Which brings us to our question for the day.

Whose one-loss effort was better, race horse Zenyatta, or the 2007 New England Patriots?

The 2007 New England Patriots tore through the regular season and stood one game away from becoming only the second team in NFL history to complete a perfect season before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

In 2010, race horse Zenyatta entered the Breeder’s Cup Classic with an unblemished 19-0 record. The Breeder’s Cup was to be Zenyatta’s final race, and a victory in that race meant that the horse would retire at a perfect 20-0. But in the stretch, it was the horse Blame that claimed the Cup.

History will define both legacies by the number in their respective “L” columns, but we are going to look past those unfortunate numbers for today and focus on which “W” column is greater.

Babe Ruthless feels that the New England Patriots quest for immortality was the better of the two, while Optimist Prime thinks Zenyatta takes the crown (even if only by a nose).

You see… losers can still be winners!

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… I Want to Live in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, or Mark Sanchez?

In the TV hit game show Million Dollar Money Drop, if those are my four options, I’m putting the whole $1M on Aaron Rodgers.

It’s that simple. If I am running a professional football team with just one game left to win, and those are my four options, Aaron Rodgers is the guy I want under center, and for good reason. In the three seasons since taking over Green Bay’s drivers’ seat after what’s-his-name left, Rodgers has become one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.

In just a quick comparison between Rodgers and the guy he took over for (I think his name was Brett something… Favre, that’s it!) through their first three seasons as starters for the Packers:

  • Rodgers started 47 games, Favre started 47 games
  • Rodgers passed for 12,394 yards, Favre passed for 10,412 yards
  • Rodgers passed for 86 TDs, Favre passed for 70 TDs
  • Rodgers passed for 31 interceptions, Favre passed for 51 interceptions
  • Rodgers led the Pack to a combined record of 27-20, Favre’s record was 26-19

That’s right. Rodgers has already started off his career better than the greatest quarterback statistically to ever play the game. But the fact that he is already off to a better career than Favre at this point is only part of the reason why I would choose Rodgers as the field general leading my team into battle.

The REAL reason why Rodgers is the ONLY man I would want taking snaps for my team is not how he performs in the regular season, but how he performs in the post-season.

In three playoff appearances so far Rodgers has passed for 969 yards (323 yards per game average) with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Oh yeah, he also has two rushing scores to add to that total.

It doesn’t matter who is on the field with him, Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball into the end zone.

This season Rodgers has had to find ways to win without his Pro Bowl running back, Ryan Grant, and his favorite target, Tight End Jermichael Finley. Still, he managed to win games. Now he is leading the Packers into the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback still playing.

Aaron Rodgers has already outgunned Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, two of the so-called top quarterbacks in the NFC. With those two out of the picture, and Tom Brady having fallen to the New York Jets, there is no quarterback left standing that can match Rodgers’ performance on the field.

Rodgers may not have the resume of Ben Roethlisberger, or the supporting cast of superstars like Mark Sanchez has in LaDanian Tomlinson and S’Antonio Holmes, but if I need one guy to win one game for me, Aaron Rodgers is that guy!

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… Sanchez Makes NFL Mark

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Bleacher Fan.

When considering a quarterback to build an NFL franchise around a lot of names come to mind. Names like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, for example. But today I propose a more subtle and often underrated candidate – Mark Sanchez.

While Sanchez may not seem like the obvious choice, he is no doubt one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He has quietly turned around a less than stellar New York Jets franchise and has shown flashes of brilliance along the way. He has handled the pressures of playing in the New York market under constant media scrutiny with relative ease. Sanchez rises to the occasion in big game situations, and in all likelihood still hasn’t peaked in terms of his maximum ability. What more could a franchise ask for?

People often forget that Mark Sanchez is young. He is currently wrapping up his sophomore season as a professional but has already accomplished some incredible things. In 2007 – two years before Sanchez’s arrival – the Jets were a 4-12 team. They had virtually nowhere to go but up. The next season the team thought it had lucked into an answer for its quarterback issues in landing Brett Favre, but Favre’s brief tenure in the Big Apple was a band-aid for the Jets problems at best. Under Favre the Jets improved to a 9-7 record, but any progress the team experienced was offset by the transition to a new head coach, and then rookie quarterback in Sanchez in 2009.

Sanchez certainly had big shoes to fill in coming in after #4, but he did so in incredible fashion. In his first year as a pro Mark Sanchez led the Jets to another regular season 9-7 record, and then a deep playoff run that took them within one game of the Super Bowl – and that was as a rookie.

This season Sanchez is right back at it again, and he has dispatched both the Colts and the Patriots in the process. It speaks volumes of his composure and talent that Sanchez can not only hang with, but beat the biggest names in the NFL today – a feat he is not supposed to be able to pull off. He has again taken the Jets to within one win of the Super Bowl, and all that stands in his way is the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has only thrown one interception in the playoffs this season and is getting hot at the right time, as evidenced by his three touchdown performance against the Patriots. That is quite an impressive season for a second year guy, especially considering most players struggle in the midst of the dreaded “sophomore slump.”

Sanchez is still making huge stride, too. He was perfect through the first five games of this season throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. While he began to struggle with turnovers during the second half of the season, critics ignored the fact that he continued to win games. From his rookie to his second season he created statistical gains across the board. During the regular season this year Sanchez passed for his first 3,000 yard season and saw his total passing touchdowns outnumber his interceptions. Those are all the hallmarks of progress, and that is something you want to see in a franchise quarterback.

Another great thing about Sanchez is that he is eager to be molded into a better player. Last season when he was criticized for a reckless and awkward sliding ability that was bound to get him hurt, he responded immediately. Instead of getting defensive and making excuses he addressed the issue head on… or rather feet first, the next time. Sanchez worked with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to learn how to slide in a safer, more effective manner. You don’t see that type of humbleness and eagerness in many franchise quarterbacks.

The guy is a great quarterback, and as long as he continues to improve he should see a ring very soon. He’s got the skills and growth a coach wants to see, but most importantly he has the intangibles that make a winner on the biggest stage possible. In a real life fantasy draft, any coach would be lucky to take him first and build a winning program around him.

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The NFL What to Watch For in 2010 Debate… Guessing Game

September 13, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The 2010 NFL season is officially underway, and today we are debating about which NFL storyline will be the most important to follow this year.

So, let me send this message loud and clear to the entire NFL organization: I don’t want to hear about contracts, collective bargaining, a player lockout, health care concerns, or any of that other garbage! I don’t want to hear players whining, and I don’t want to hear owners whining.

The NFL is in the business of entertainment, and I want to be entertained!

That is why the story to watch in the NFL for the 2010 season is the very reason that you watch the NFL EVERY season. It is the reason that the NFL reigns supreme as the sport of choice among spectators in America (despite the impending possibility of a lockout), and it is the reason that 2010 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons that the NFL has ever seen..

Parity.

True, the term “parity” will likely not come up as a story line at all this season, but it will be the cause for almost all of them.

Last season the New Orleans Saints became the poster team for parity. Coming off of a 2008 season where the team finished dead last in the NFC South, only to turn around and win the Super Bowl one season later, demonstrates parity well.

Here is another interesting fact. In the last ten years, 14 different teams have played in the Super Bowl. Going back further, over the last 15 seasons, 19 different teams have played in the Super Bowl. That means that 60 percent of the teams in the league today have won at least one conference championship since 1995.

Admittedly, this is not a newly discovered phenomenon. Fans have known for many years now that the NFL is the one league where overnight success can be obtained. And if week one of the 2010 season is any indication, the excitement shows no indication of ending any time soon.

Here we are, only one week into the NFL season, and the league has already been tossed upside down:

  • The Indianapolis Colts sit in last place as the lone winless team in the AFC South.
  • The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins both won impressive victories over the teams that were SUPPOSED to be division champions.
  • The supposed offensive juggernaut Cincinnati Bengals were EMBARRASSED by a New England Patriots team that entered the season with some of the lowest expectations in years.
  • The St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions both appear to be improved teams s both fell just one possession shy of starting the season off at 1-0.
  • Last, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are undefeated.
  •  

The aforementioned storylines make up only a fraction of the intrigue and excitement that surrounds the NFL every season. From week to week fans NEVER know what to expect, and that is why people flock – by the millions – to NFL games, nationwide.

Who would have thought that the Redskins, Bears, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Texans, and Jaguars would be sitting undefeated, while the Colts, Bengals, Eagles, 49ers, Cowboys, Falcons, and Vikings sat winless?

And before you start yelling, “The season is only one week old” and, “Teams like the Buccaneers should not get TOO excited”… consider that out of the 16 teams in 2009 that won in week one, TEN ended up reaching the playoffs. By default, only two of the week one losers (out of 16 total teams) started off the season at 0-1 and still went on to reach the playoffs (the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals).

Obviously, the playoffs are not decided by week one performance alone, but it most certainly helps to set the tone for what may be coming over the course of the season.

Adding to that element of parity is the fact that week 17 matchups this season are all intra-division games. With division matchups scheduled to close out the season, every single game played becomes a meaningful one, and the playoff races will run all the way down to the wire.

Surprises await around every corner in 2010.

You don’t know what to watch for, which makes the entire season worth watching. This season, more than any other, will be impossible to predict and sensational to watch. There will be teams that show amazing improvement, matched only by the shocking disappointment of other teams. Thanks to parity, each NFL season is a mystery. And each one is worth watching.

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The Most Interesting 2010 NFL Matchup Debate… Rematch Grows To Rivarly

September 6, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The most exciting game of the 2009 season was not the Super Bowl. It was the NFC Championship. It was a classic battle that ended in a dramatic overtime victory for the New Orleans Saints. At the center of this game was a quarterback showdown which could serve as the symbolic passing of the torch from the old to the new breed of gunslingers.

During the game Brett Favre was 28 for 46 with 310 passing yards, but it was his two interceptions – including a late-game bad decision which essentially cost the Vikings the game – that defined his game. Meanwhile, the Saints’ Drew Brees – who completed only 17 passes for less than 200 yards – managed to hook up for three touchdowns and no picks in a performance that propelled his team into the Super Bowl.

It was a thrilling game that helped bring an outstanding close to the 2009 football season.

So, what better way to kick off the next season than with a rematch?

If that one interception thrown by Favre at the end of the game really was the only reason that Minnesota lost, then they now have a chance to prove it, and stake a claim as the team to beat in the NFC (perhaps even the NFL).

After a not-very-surprising “holdout,” Favre has decided to return once more and play football (news that I’m sure the Medicare people were disappointed to find out). And with a supporting cast that is formidable even without Sidney Rice, Favre and the Vikings should once again be in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.

The Saints are fresh off of a whirlwind tour as reigning Super Bowl champions, where the players and coaches enjoyed all the fruits of victory. Brees is on the Madden ’11 cover, the team has visited the White House, and the city of New Orleans has held a six month party in the team’s honor.<br.

But the time for fun and games is over.

Winning one NFL championship is difficult enough. Winning consecutive championships is nearly impossible, and the schedulers have seen fit to make sure that the Saints are no exception.

The final piece to the puzzle, which pushes this game from being one of intrigue to being the game to watch for the entire season, is simple – it is the season kickoff.

Let’s face it, this has been a very slow summer for sports. The World Cup ended two months ago, LeBron has announced where his talents will be, and unless you are lucky enough to live in a city such as New York, Tampa Bay, or Atlanta, you probably lost interest in baseball somewhere back in late July.

We have been patient long enough, and it is time we all got a taste of the good stuff once more.

America’s favorite sport is about to get underway, and it launches its 2010 campaign with a superstar repeat of the best matchup from last season.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!

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