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David Aldridge
Sports Reporter

David Aldridge

A nationally recognized sports journalist.

Why Wait, Dan?

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I never understood why football is the only sport where it is considered sacrilege to replace a coach in midseason. In baseball, basketball and hockey, coaches are fired during the season all the time, and those sports seem to be able, somehow, to trudge on. And often, the new coach provides a spark.

Take the Colorado Rockies; I just did their Division Series with the Phillies for TBS. The Rockies were going nowhere in May under their former manager, Clint Hurdle. No one wanted to come out and say it, because the players liked Hurdle. But they weren't listening to him anymore, and their play reflected it. The same core group that had gotten to the World Series just two years ago was listless, 14 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West. Under Tracy, they went 74-42 the rest of the way and won the NL wild card.

The Dallas Mavericks got to the NBA Finals in 2006 after Avery Johnson took over for Don Nelson, who jumped before he was pushed. The New Jersey Devils won the 2000 Stanley Cup after firing Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the regular season, replacing him with Larry Robinson.

Obviously, the Rockies, Mavs and Devils all had the talent to do well in the first place, which is why the coaching changes were made. But the point is, the teams didn't fall apart; they found their footing. So why couldn't that happen in football? Don't give me the terminology argument that I always hear from football guys; every sport has its own terminology, and it always changes from year to year. Baseball teams are always changing their signs for take, steal, hit away; basketball teams put in new plays all the time.

Which brings us to the local professional football team.

It seems clear that Jim Zorn isn't going to be the coach next season; he's being stripped, layer by layer, of all authority, and the head coach of an NFL team has to have absolute power if he's going to command respect in the locker room. So if Dan Snyder has an idea of who he wants to coach the team next year, why not bring that person in now? (If you believe what you read on the web, maybe he's already trying, with Mike Shanahan. But I never believe what I read. ;-) ) Why wouldn't Snyder say, 'I'm only offering you this job today. It will not be offered to you after the season.' Let Shanahan, or whoever, get a head start on next year by getting familiar with the personnel now. Again, everyone calls a stretch play by a different name, but everyone has a stretch play.

And, who knows? Maybe Shanahan, or whoever, would come up with something good. Like getting Todd Yoder on the field to help chip defensive ends, instead of Chris Cooley, on fourth-down runs on the goal line. Or actually putting Cooley on the field on the last drive of the game, instead of having him stand next to the head coach.

By David Aldridge  |  October 21, 2009; 9:55 AM ET  | Category:  Coaching , David Aldridge , Tennessee Titans , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Um, David, perhaps the reason why it isn't done so often in football is because the season is relatively short as compared with hockey, baseball, and professional basketball seasons, when teams have more time to congeal around a new coach or manager.

Posted by: linroy62 | October 21, 2009 12:46 PM

Furthermore David, to add to the previous comment....there is a rule in the NFL called the Rooney Rule where teams have to interview at least one minority candidate. So even if it is predetermined, the team cannot let on and they must go through the process.

Posted by: ejharrisjr40 | October 21, 2009 3:39 PM

Yeah, the Rooney Rule pretty much makes it impossible to hire an outsider as coach during the season, since there's virtually no way to conduct multiple interviews without it leaking before the current coach is fired.

The only time it makes sense is if you have a possible successor in mind that's already on the roster. SF already had Singletary on staff, and he'd been a leading candidate for several jobs before that. The Redskins have no one on staff who fits that profile, as far as I know. Firing Zorn might placate Snyder's temper and make a few fans happy, but it won't accomplish anything on the field.

Posted by: acoberst1 | October 21, 2009 3:54 PM

Oh, I think we can safely say that firing Zorn would make more than a few fans happy.

But seriously, coaching changes are often disruptive even on good teams. Consider the Dallas teams of the early 90's. They won back to back Super Bowls and then the egos got out of hand and Jimmie and Jerry couldn't coexist. The coach left and Barry Switzer took over. That year they didn't make it to the title game, although in his second year they once again won the SB. That's three trophies in four years, but even with a very good bunch of players and a largely intact staff, the change had an effect.

Posted by: kguy1 | October 21, 2009 4:07 PM

Jim Zorn appears to be be a very nice person...probably too nice for the player personalities that he is supposed to coach. But replacing him will not solve the Redskins' primary problem. Only the departure of Dan Snyder will.

Posted by: JohnRice | October 21, 2009 8:23 PM

Ummm, Dave, buddy, it would be pretty interesting if the most annoying tennis commentator of all time was somehow able to fire Jeff Fisher. But I think your poorly chosen title is meant to refer to a gent named Bud Adams who owns the Tennessee Titans.

Posted by: rww123 | October 21, 2009 10:44 PM

Coaching, schmoaching.

At the heart of the mess in DC is an owner who is willing to spend tons of money to win, and watches it go out the door on losers. The Maryland Lottery ads urge us all, "play to win". Snyder "pays to win", and is losing. The reasons have already been hashed out by all the experts, media, former NFL players, coaches, anonymous GM's... so what?
Here is a weird take. Somehow, despite all the turmoil, we still see Snyder talking to Zorn, Zorn talking to the players, Cerrato talking to Zorn. We hear very few negative comments from anyone in the 'Skins org about anyone else in the 'Skins org... there seems to be an 'inside' game to all the recent drama. I don't see the animosity usually associated with such public disarray of a very public sports team. Most of the animosity is from fans and media people. I just don't see it in the 'Skins org, even from a coach who has good reason to hate what is going on.

I have a suspicion that if Danny and Vinny walked into the clubhouse after the Friday practice and simply talked to the team and coaches THEY brought to Washington, and held them accountable, and, most importantly, held themselves accountable, we might just see an upset this weekend. This 'skins team is a team that has responded to adversity and good opponents, in the past. And this team has beaten That team up the road, up I-95, at least once a year, since Gibbs was here.

The Eagles just got stomped in Oakland. I know, west coast flight, non-conference game, all that, but...

What happens if the Redskins beat the Eagles? What does it mean?

We all know what it means if they don't.

Posted by: jheyssel | October 22, 2009 2:04 AM

lets get rid of d. snyder bring in J. cooke or J. gibbs as owners. snyder is clueless and v. cerrato has had his chance since he seems to have d. snyders ear get both out of town.

Posted by: BJ921 | October 22, 2009 1:29 PM

Not positive, but I'm pretty sure that if a team gives a head coach the "interim" tag, the Rooney Rule doesn't apply until that season is over. Then the team has to go through (or pretend to go through, if they've already decided that the interim guy will be their guy for good) the formal interview process, at which time the RR would come into play.

Posted by: EpsteinsMothersDoctor | October 22, 2009 5:05 PM

The Plan:
1. Dan Snyder, study the ways of Jack Kent Cooke. After implementing The Plan remove yourself of all On Field Decisions including Player Personel, The Draft and choosing Coaches.
2. Get Vinnie Cerrato away from the Football Team. Have him do anything that is not associated with the team.
3. Hire Bill Cowher as your General Manager until he is ready to take over as coach and have whoever he wants as GM working for him, not you.
4. When you hire him make only one suggestion. He should have Joe Bugel or some one else that he feels better with, to watch the Big 10 and Big 12 to suggest to him each year 8-10 free agent big strong and somewhat moderately fast linemen to sign the day the draft ends. This man's job would only be able to find the beef where we have a Whole Hogg Defensive line and Offensive line in a couple of years.
5. When in doubt, refer to Rule 1.
6. Then you will have time to polish your Super Bowl Trophies and Rings.

Posted by: dickpulley | October 30, 2009 1:01 PM

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