I must apologize to Miami Dolphins assistant coach Eric Studesville.
The “Rooney Rule” just isn’t a meaningful way to help black coaches like him. It’s an empty promise that things will change and that upper-level NFL management, including owners, presidents and general managers, will actually do something about talent development.
I’ve known Studesville (above) for more than a dozen years, dating to when he was a running backs coach in Buffalo and tutoring the likes of Willis McGahee, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. He’s a likeable man, engaging and energetic. When he talks about his craft and the men he coaches, he is passionate and smart. Players who have worked with him trust him and play hard for him.
The fact he has been a coach in the NFL for 23 consecutive years, including a four-game stint as an interim head coach in Denver in 2010, indicates that he brings something to the table in terms of quality.
Studesville is also a bit stubborn and prideful.
On the many occasions I told him he needed to make the progression to quarterback coach or offensive coordinator so he could get on the head coaching track, he looked at me and said: “Why? Why can’t people see my ability as a running backs coach?”
I’d smile and say: “Dude, it doesn’t work that way. You have to call plays, design the game plan and show you can work with the quarterbacks.”
Then, Joe Judge happened, and my argument evaporated.
Judge, who gave his dramatic, tough-guy monologue on Thursday as the new head coach of the New York Giants, rose to that post by age 38 after only eight seasons in the NFL. With the exception of this season, all of them were spent coaching special teams for Bill Belichick in New England. This year, Judge added wide receiver to his responsibilities.
Now, there’s no question that the Patriots special teams play was excellent this year. The Patriots blocked four punts and returned them for scores, helping cover for an offense that proved to be substandard. At the same time, the results at wide receiver were terrible. The Patriots failed to develop anybody to help quarterback Tom Brady and No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman.
N’Keal Harry, who was a first-round pick this year and was an excellent player in college, did nothing. Josh Gordon was cut. Demaryius Thomas was let go, too. Antonio Brown lasted one game. Jacoby Meyers was just a guy.
Some of that is on Judge, such as the lack of development by Harry. Some isn’t, such as Gordon’s failure to live up to his glorious talent and Brown inglorious exit from the league.
Still, when it’s all said and done, you look at Judge’s resume and say, “OK, this is interesting, I’d like to see more of him.” Two years ago, people around the NFL were talking about how Judge had a bright future. That’s great, but to look at him and say, “OK, let’s make him a head coach right now” is a leap of faith.
Hopefully, Judge is great. I don’t wish him any ill-will.
That said, no one really knows how Judge is going to do? Just like no one knows if Studesville, or Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, or Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will ever be good head coaches?
There’s a lot that goes into being a head coach, including the most basic issue about whether you have a decent quarterback.
But, Judge getting the first chance out of those four is a slap in the face to the other guys and a ridiculous undercutting of the advice they have been given. Judge leapfrogging the field when men like Studesville can’t even get into the development process is shameful.
For the past five years, people around the NFL have talked about getting more black coaches “in the pipeline” by being quarterback coaches, offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators. I’ve even bought into it with my silly advice to Studesville.
Then a guy like Judge comes along and destroys the notion of a pipeline. Why? I’m sure Judge was terrific in the interview process. Just like his speech on Thursday, I’m sure it sounded good. But you can’t help but think that some of it is also because Judge looks the part of the leaders this country has projected for years. You know, men like Patton or Schwarzkopf or Lombardi or Shula.
A lot of white dudes.
I know that a lot of people out there are screaming, “Stop talking about race and just hire the best guy for the job.” Those people aren’t necessarily wrong. It would be nice if we lived in a world where the NFL didn’t need a Rooney Rule, which requires that teams interview at least one minority candidate for the head coach or general manager jobs.
But, it does. In a game where black men are the majority of players and a growing number of them are quarterbacks (10 of the 32 starters at the beginning of the season were black and that doesn’t count some fine work by Teddy Bridgewater when Drew Brees was hurt), the head coach position still lags.
Currently, there are only three black head coaches: Mike Tomlin, Brian Flores and Anthony Lynn.
That’s not because black coaches are incapable. There are plenty of black assistant coaches. In fact, there are 62 black assistant coaches currently working as running back, wide receiver or some derivation of secondary coach (defensive backs, cornerbacks and/or safeties).
That’s out of 93 total assistant coaches at those spots.
In other words, black coaches are good enough to occupy two-thirds of those position-coach jobs (which is, of course, stereotyping of black coaches). Yet, when it comes to head coach, less than 10 percent of those qualified to get a chance are black.
Again, teams should hire the best guys. I’m just not sure anymore what “best guy” means. This is a league where Dave Wannstedt was allowed to be a coach for 11 years of stunning underachievement. Jason Garrett was given 10 by Dallas.
Rich Kotitle, Jim Tomsula, Wayne Fontes, Charlie Winner, Chip Kelly, Joe Philbin, Tom Cable, Dave Campo, Ray Handley, Ben McAdoo, Steve Spurrier, Freddie Kitchens, Dick Jauron and Lindy Infante are among a parade of white men, who were either in over their heads from the start or, worse, complete morons who fooled some owner into hiring them.
Meanwhile, the likes of Studesville sit around, grinding away at their jobs, not getting developed, going unnoticed and being told by people like me that they “just need to get into the pipeline.”
Sorry Eric, my advice was empty.
Dolphins coach Flores already dealing with lots of 2020 changes
For almost every NFL team not named the 49ers and the Chiefs, the draft evaluation process is now well underway, and most all teams are represented now in Mobile, Alabama for this weekend’s Senior Bowl. That includes, the Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and his staff (some of them brand new), who are taking it all in.
And on Monday night, Flores met with the Dolphins assembled media and beat writers about the changes that have already taken place within his coaching staff and how it will shape this offseason.
First, Flores took the drastic action of firing first-year offensive coordinator, Chad O’Shea, whom he had brought with him from the Patriots this past season. Part of that decision was based on Miami’s poor play offensively, but a bigger part is the person that Flores could bring in to run his offense.
That’s former Cowboys and bills head coach and longtime NFL offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey.
As we wrote when these moves were made earlier this month, Gailey has a long-standing relationship with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Gailey was his head coach in Buffalo and also his offensive coordinator with the Jets, photo above,. It also further signals the Fitzpatrick apparently will be heavily involved in the 2020 offensive plans.
Speaking to the media and with the quotes being relayed via Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, Flores emphasized that Gailey’s in-game adjustments and his ability to teach is what appealed to hiring him,
“He does a really good job of adjustments in-game,” Flores said. “If you’re playing cover one, he’s got cover-one beaters, if you’re playing zone, he’s got zone-beaters. If you’re diamond front he’s got his diamond runs. He’s a good coach that way. I think he’s seen a lot of football.”
“I know he’s a great teacher,” Flores said. “Just in my conversations with several players and coaches that have spent time with him, and that’s obviously very important. The first thing I should have said is that.”
Flores also is dealing with having lost defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, whom he allowed to take the same job with the New York Giants. Instead of going outside for his replacement hire, Flores instead promoted from in-house with defensive backs coach Josh Boyer getting the promotion and much more responsibility.
As for Boyer, Flores said Monday night from Mobile,
“He and I see things through the same lenses,” Flores said. “A lot of ways. He coached corners and I coached safeties and we spent a lot of time together. Defensive philosophies and fundamentals and techniques, the things we teach. We’re very much on the same page.”
Defense is obviously Flores’ specialty and Boyer is following his same path from when they were with the Pats. This, as Flores ascended from DB coach to defensive coordinator two seasons ago before getting the Dolphins job.
Miami will obviously have to remake their roster with numerous premium draft picks they acquired for this year and next year, plus, significant money under the salary cap for free agents.
And, all of that evaluation, including with Senior prospects practicing and playing this weekend, is now underway.
’85 Dolphins were part of dubious AFC playoff history
The Tennessee Titans are looking to make NFL playoff history and join four other teams as the only ones to ever win three straight road games and make a Super Bowl. That’s when they take on the Chiefs Sunday afternoon in Kansas City.
And, longtime Dolphins fans will remember that they were on the wrong end of one of those teams who pulled it off for the first time in NFL playoff history 34 years ago.
That’s when a Raymond Berry coached New England Patriots team behind Tony Eason at quarterback and an opportunistic defense stunned the seemingly invincible passing attack of second-year quarterback Dan Marino and Don Shula’s Dolphins in a shocking 31 – 14 upset at the Orange Bowl.
To set the scene, New England had already upset the New York Jets at the Meadowlands in the AFC Wildcard game and then, gone out to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and defeated the Raiders, who were the number one in AFC seed, 27 – 20.
The Dolphins, who were the AFC Champs the previous year behind Marino’s record-setting passing season of 1984, had struggled just to make the Championship Game a year later.
That’s because the Cleveland Browns actually led Miami the previous week 21 – 3 in the third quarter before Marino and the offense kicked it into gear for 21 unanswered points and a comeback 24 – 21 win.
However, on this day, they made simply too many mistakes and New England made them pay, including grinding the clock with over 40 minutes of possession to shorten the game.
Patriots ran for over 250 yards on the withering Dolphins defense and Miami had six turnovers in all including two critical Marino interceptions in the defeat.
New England surprisingly led 17 – 7 at the half, when Miami’s rookie kick returner and former Gator Lorenzo Hampton fumbled, while being tackled. A few plays later New England scored on a 4th and goal touchdown pass from Eason to Robert Weathers with a stunned Orange Bowl looking at a scoreboard that read 24 – 7, Pats.
Marino led the Dolphins down the field and looked like he was going to get them quickly in the end zone and right back in the game. However, he threw a critical bad pass that was picked off by Fred Marion at the New England goal line to keep the Dolphins off the board.
New England worked another four minutes off the clock before missing a few goal, but most of the damage had been done with most of the third period was erased with the Dolphins down by 17.
The Patriots Mosi Tatupu iced the game with a 1 yard touchdown midway through the final period and New England was on its way to a Super Bowl matchup with the Chicago Bears.
As you probably know by now, the ’85 Bears with their devastating “46 Defense,” Hall of Famer Walter Payton and brash quarterback Jim McMahon destroyed New England in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
Still, 1985 version the Patriots will always be remembered as a team that was able to pull off three straight wins away from home, including the shocker that ended Miami’s bid to capture the World Championship.
If you are wondering, the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Green Bay Packers have also all since done this “road trifecta” in the NFL Playoffs. However, in all three of their cases, they finished what the Patriots could not, by also winning the Super Bowl.
The most recent was the Packers and their 2011 postseason run that saw them defeat the Steelers to win the title.
So, on Sunday, it’s former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry and the Tennessee defense’s turn to try to match what four others have done before them.
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