There are any number of reasons why a person would want to be a head coach or general manager in the NFL. It's the fulfillment of a dream, the highest level where you can ply your trade as a football practitioner. Also, team facilities often have soft serve ice cream machines. Sure, the hours are long, but the money's not too bad and there's ice cream.
On the other hand, there are some pretty compelling arguments against it. The pressure to win can be unbearable. There are press conferences. And you never know when some hotshot trainer with radical ideas about nutrition might nix Waffle Cone Wednesday.
But all of those obstacles can be negotiated for the chance of a lifetime. Unless the only teams offering the opportunity are in Cleveland ... or Miami ... or Washington.
The NFL prides itself on parity. Every owner gets a pile of money and a basic set of team-building guidelines so simple even some blogger in a West Virginia basement understands them. Yet teams are still finding ways to screw it up. This year's round of firings aren't just for teams mired in a three-year run of stagnation. No, this year some of the vacancies available to the young go-getters out there (NOTE: You must be at least 45 to be considered a "young go-getter" among NFL coaches) are the product of billion dollar enterprises in an advanced state of decay.
The Browns have gone from delightfully dysfunctional to failed state. At any moment, I expect "insider" reports of Michael Lombardi holding the cafeteria hostage with a homemade shiv, demanding someone, anyone, from the Patriots be granted head coaching duties.
Cleveland's coaching search took a turn for the bizarre when a St. Louis sports talk radio personality, er "insider," made this comment:
OU Head Coach and Ohio native Bob Stoops may have the inside track on the Cleveland Browns opening.— Tony Softli (@SoftliSTL) January 3, 2014
There was another glimmer of hope when another famous Ohioan's name bubbled up into the mix, also reported by a local talk radio station.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel will interview for #Browns head coach job within next few days, per Joe Dunn of Akron's Fox Sports 1350— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) January 3, 2014
NOPE. Half an hour later, we learned that wasn't true either.
The biggest highlight of the Browns' coaching involved one of Lombardi's own, Josh McDaniels, a red-blooded son of the Patriot Way. He interviewed over the weekend, considered the favorite by insiders like Schefter et al. By Tuesday, McDaniels took himself out of the mix.
That's okay, Cleveland didn't want him anyway. After letting the news cycle set the narrative, the Browns started working the phone, letting the world know that McDaniels pulled out when they told him that he wasn't the frontrunner for the gig. Nobody was fooled. The Browns used the sour grapes play last year with Chip Kelly.
Next man up: Ken Whisenhunt.
Cleveland had said it would not reheat its HC candidates from last year but it is making exception for in-demand Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2014
Think about this if you're the Whiz -- who knows a thing or two about poorly run teams having once worked for the Bidwills -- would you rather take the job in Detroit or Tennessee, if offered, stick with the Chargers another year or take this job, working for a team that fired its head coach of one year after he failed to produce a winning record with Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell at quarterback?
Ego and desperation make for a deadly mix. Possible white collar criminal Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns less than two years ago, and promptly turned the team over to Lombardi and Buster Bluth lookalike Joe Banner. And here they are.
Josh McDaniels turned you down, Browns. Let that sink in for a minute.
In Miami, owner Stephen Ross took a break from lobbying the state of Florida to move some of its bath salt abuse education budget into stadium funding to release a statement ...
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross releases a statement saying GM will report directly to him. Will control roster. Carl Peterson advising him ...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 10, 2014
He was kind enough to include a job description in that statement issued via ... TwitLonger (because an NFL team obviously needs something a step up from Sulia).
The new General Manager will have autonomous responsibility for the 53 man roster and selecting players during the draft and will report to me. First and foremost, this person must have a passion for the game and demonstrated player evaluation expertise. They will need to be a person who is a collaborative team player that puts the organization first. Regardless of reporting structure, the relationship between the General Manager and Coach Philbin must be one of trust, respect, and collaboration, and this will be an area we will look closely at during the process. This individual also must be a person with integrity who is open-minded and creative.
Hmm, it doesn't say anything about a familiarity with Office 98, interpersonal skills or the ability to clean up Jeff Ireland's mess.
Ross' cry for help was issued as a response to the Fritz Pollard Alliance's -- the organization that promotes minority candidates for NFL jobs -- suggestion that interested job seekers steer clear of the Dolphins gig because the GM would lack any real authority.
Ireland notched a poor record as GM, spending big on scattershot efforts to build a team still incapable of challenging New England for the AFC East. But the long history of internal squabbles weren't entirely his fault.
The new GM comes into an organization where head coach Joe Philbin and VP Dawn Aponte are currently calling most of the shots, victors in the power struggle with the last GM. They're in the midst of searching for a new offensive coordinator, with no input from the GM. Nature abhors a vacuum; Philbin and Aponte are filling the GM void now.
So despite Ross' public assurances, whatever GM takes that job immediately steps into a power struggle. When coaches and GMs and bean counters are at odds, teams don't get anywhere. The GM is essentially asking to get fired within a relatively short window.
The best option for Ross at this point would be a complete housecleaning. His team isn't without talent, but it's seriously lacking in leadership and vision. He needs to take care of the organizational infighting before it just becomes a way of life.
Dan Snyder found his man, the sixth right man for the job since 2001. Jay Gruden takes over one of the most outwardly dysfunctional organizations in the NFL right now. At least he has a quarterback to work with, a quarterback who welcomed him with an inspirational Facebook post, of course.
My question: How much did they have to pay the guy to take the job?
The Gruden hire is fine. He's been a head coaching candidate before because of his work in Cincinnati (and not his name, the NFL never values name over ability). It probably would have been better for Washington to find a coach more supportive of offensive balance and more in tune with the changing nature of the game, considering RGIII's skill set. However, based on the way NFL hiring works, this wasn't a bad get for the team.
Gruden will inherit his assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. That could be a problem. Haslett's defense has done nothing but underperform, exacerbating the situation this year with Mike Shanahan, the owner and the QB by his significant contribution to the team's struggles.
That Haslett remains after the disastrous end for Shanahan makes you wonder about his relationship with Snyder and the front office and his role in the squabbling.
And then there's Snyder himself. Can Bruce Allen and the other advisors keep the owner from interfering with Gruden and the product on the field? He's trying, according to that revealing profile in the Washington Post from last Sunday, but he just can't help himself.
With the team's cap situation stabilized and only one more year without a first-round pick, Gruden should get the tools to beef up the woeful roster there. If he can navigate the interoffice politics, he's got a chance to succeed. If not, well, at least he'll get a bag of apples and all the vanilla ice cream he can eat.