The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Off With His Head!

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Midseason coaching changes may be necessary, but in the long run, ultimately it's a Band-Aid for a bullet wound. I can see Jim Zorn now flailing around saying "What flesh wound???"

Watching the Redskins fall to 2-4 on Sunday, it became clear that something needed to be done. Like many, I expected Zorn to be fired by the time I got to work Monday morning, but the Redskins PR team surprised us all. If you didn't hear, Zorn will remain at the helm while someone else calls the shots on offense. On the surface it seems like an ill-fated decision, but perhaps it's a better move than we think, considering no interim NFL coach since 1970 has been hired midseason and gone on to make it to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.

Still, sometimes the gods demand a sacrifice and a public execution, whether the official comes from a sports team, Fortune 500 corporation or government. It's a quick, clean way to point the finger at one individual and get a fresh start. The winds change quickly. One day its "Brownie, yer doin' a helluva a job." And the next week Brownie is standing at an intersection flipping one of those giant cardboard arrows. Head coaches get far too much credit for their team's success and often far too much blame for their failures. "Paging J. Campbell... Mr. J. Campbell. Mr. Cooley would like to meet you in the endzone."

But sometimes change is necessary and the head coach certainly (err...usually?) makes key decisions on personnel, coordinators and overall strategy. Football is a business and fans are its customer. If a new head coach is going to provide a firm hand as the team struggles through the remaining season, than the move is justified. But NFL owners need to keep in mind that a new coach is no panacea for an anemic squad. You won't really know the value of your move until the end of the season and unfortunately, many interim coaches don't make it to the next training camp.

The exception is Marv Levy who was hired as a midseason replacement by the Buffalo Bills in 1986. That year, the Bills ended up finishing a meager 4-12 record, with five of those losses occurring during Levy's interim. Reason enough to shop for a new head coach during the offseason but the Bills stuck with Levy and it's a good thing they did. Over the next seven seasons, Levy would take the Bills to four Super Bowls.

Although midseason coaching changes very rarely result in a championship, they can lead to greener pastures later on. Change isn't immediate and judgment of an interim coach should never be based solely on the second half record of the team.

You've got reason to hope, but place that hope in the future.

By Jason Maloni  |  October 21, 2009; 10:40 AM ET  | Category:  Coaching , Tennessee Titans , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Coaching Schmoaching. Not the problem with the Redskins.

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, talk shows, stupid fans, former NFL players, coaches, anonymous GM's... so what?

Here is a weird take.

Somehow, despite all the turmoil, we still see Snyder talking with Zorn, Zorn talking with the players, Cerrato talking with Zorn and very few really 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. These folks are bonded to one another in a way most people do not see. I say that because I don't see the verbal animosity usually associated with the public disarray of a nationally recognized sports team. All of the animosity is from fans and media people.

I just don't see the bitterness one often sees in similar scenarios in the 'Skins org, especially from a coach who has good reason to hate what is going on, what was done to him.

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 seems to respond to adversity and good opponents. 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 2:16 AM

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