by Sperm Edwards
Say you’re a fictional coach of a fictional team.
The team has players suited for a certain scheme, but haven’t been overly successful doing it. Maybe they beat up the league’s doormats pretty effectively, but the types of offenses they face en route to the Super Bowl just ran right over them.
You are very comfortable using a different scheme; one that has won 4 of the last 5 Superbowls and that you saw your mentor (who had won 3 of them) coach for the past decade-plus.
What do you do? How do you make the transformation?
Do you slowly, over a period of 3 or 4 years, try to acquire 1 person here and there that fits the new scheme better without being a liability in the old one, and then make an attempt to change the base scheme after the team is competitive again in the old scheme? Now consider that (lip service you give the media aside) your team IS in a rebuilding year right now. You are either a Super Bowl contender this year or you are not.Â And you know that you are not this year.
When do you totally introduce a new base defensive scheme to your players? Do you do it when your team is a potential SuperBowl contender – do you mess with a playoff-caliber team that has been cap-strapped into these players? Or do you make the change while they still basically stink, when you’re trying to weed out what players go or stay, before re-signing players and/or acquiring new ones that aren’t suited when you make your ultimate change?
There is one answer if youâ€™re trying to build a Super Bowl winner and not just be slightly mediocre instead of slightly bad during a rebuilding season. No one likes being a fan of a team while it’s rebuilding. Duh. They lose games. They may even lose games to bad teams.Â But finishing 8-8 instead of 6-10 is a short-lived satisfaction. The smart move is to gear-up when youâ€™re going to be down anyway and then make a true run at it when youâ€™ve got the horses.
What Herm did was totally different from this point of view. EVERY coach puts in the schemes they’re comfortable with (the only exception was Gruden for obvious reasons). But Herm did it with very good, veteran defensive players suited to one scheme; one in which theyâ€™ve played for years; veteran players that will not be good or with the team forever (Glenn, Coleman, Jones, Lewis, Phifer, Burton, Green, Lyle, Cox). Look at those players and imagine the insanity of implementing a cover-2 while they were still good & productive in the 3-4.
So he decided that intelligence be damned, even if it means pissing away a legit shot at a Super Bowl, that winning a SuperBowl is only worthwhile if it’s done with his “stamp” on it. Also I believe he did not understand HOW to coach the 3-4; if anything other than the Tampa-2 was implemented, he could not personally aid in coaching the players. The players would realize this because they’re not ALL that friggin dumb. So he implemented the one scheme he could ramble on & spout his knowledge about to them & to the media.
Mangini inherited a team with cap issues, coming off a 4-12 season no less. Ty Law obviously had to be released for cap reasons no matter what scheme was being implemented. Fabini had to be released because his starting days were behind him & couldnâ€™t justify his $3M salary. Mawae’s contract was going to be up in another year anyway; he had a history of being outspoken against prior coaches/coordinators; heâ€™s also 35, on the downside of his career, and you figure a franchise center to be available to you in the draft. After the draft is over, he had nothing more than a guess whether his starting QB would be Chad Pennington, Patrick Ramsey, or a rookie. He needed two new offensive tackles no matter what was done on defense. He had to trade John Abraham away if he was ever going to implement a 3-4 defense in the next 4 years (not that he can be relied upon for 16+ games even in a 4-man front anyway) because Abe simply stinks as an OLB and resisted the move the past year â€“ and that was before he got paid. So he’s got to go, too. He needed a NT, but itâ€™s a need in a 4-3 anyway, so the run-defense will likely still be below-average regardless. The only other player in question is Vilma, who is good, young, and (relatively) cheap. And the new scheme will (to say the least) not maximize his potential as a playmaker. Does one build the entire defense around him? Is he that incredible (a la Urlacher/Ray Lewis) that he “makes” the defense? Some say yes, some say no. Mangini said no. He wants role players, not everyone funneling the ball-carrier to Vilmaâ€™s “territory” & having him roam all over. But that is Vilma’s skill and if that’s not what you want for your defense, then he’s pretty mediocre (and wasted) when he needs to shed 300-lb OGâ€™s. Also, if this one marquis player gets injured, then the whole defense falls apart. He couldnâ€™t simply insert another MLB to take Vilmaâ€™s place without a significant negative impact on the defense (and therefore the whole team).
A team with role players is more injury-proof; the season doesn’t go down the toilet with one injury on defense. Look no further than the Patriots winning with a dominant defense AFTER their superstar CB (among others) went down. Thatâ€™s what he wants for the Jets. Rome would have still dominated Europe without their greatest single warrior. He wants to build Rome here. But Rome was not built in a day, as they say.
Mangini may not be the goods as a HC or even as an assessor of incoming talent. Personally, Iâ€™m not that thrilled with his first draft when you consider the talent that came out in â€™06 & the number of day-one picks they had; he (with Tannenbaum) tried to be a bit too clever, looking for diamonds-in-the-rough when the diamond store was having a giveaway sale. He also seems a bit rigid to his schemes on defense.
I can tolerate it for this year while heâ€™s teaching as much as rebuilding. But if heâ€™s still pissing into the wind a year or two from now then effectively heâ€™s just another Herm with a higher IQ and tough-guy demeanor.
Time will show whether he is a good HC or not, just as it showed with Edwards (some of us saw it earlier than others, but no matter). As a fan of this team, I hope he is.