Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Romo, Quinn, and Russell: The Problems or the Symptoms?

Normally, I would avoid the sports talk, but living near Dallas, it seems all I hear is talk of Cowboys football and their problems. It seems that the media has gotten tired of talking about coach Wade Phillips and focused on quarterback Tony Romo, laying blame on him for all the Cowboy ills leaving some to start apologizing to Jessica Simpson for the attacks on her role in his previous failures.

Unfortunately, for Romo, he suffers from a failure of coaching just as some of the other quarterbacks being attacked by the media today. John Lopez writes on that Romo, Brady Quinn, and Jamarcus Russell are the three worst and most disappointing quarterbacks in the NFL. Yet, I have to wonder how much of the problem is the quarterback and how much is the coaching.

For Tony Romo and the Cowboys, their story has continued its downhill flight with the addition of Wade Phillips as head coach to replace Bill Parcells. Wade has a winning percentage of .596, but that is deceiving. Every team Phillips has taken over has gone from one record to a worse record over short periods of time. His two longest stints as a head coach illustrate the point as he took over the Buffalo Bills in 1998 with a record of 10-6 to take them to a record of 8-8 in 2000. The Cowboys seem to be following that path as they went from 13-3 in Wade's first year to 9-7 last year with a 2-2 record so far this year, and a career 0-4 mark in the playoffs.

Teams keep turning to Wade because of his defensive coaching skills, but that has not translated to head coaching success. In the case of the Cowboys, he has essentially isolated himself to defensive coordinator in a two head coaching system where he gets the official title. In this case, Jason Garrett has had full control of the offense which should turn out well for Phillips given that Garrett has been highly hyped in the Cowboy organization as an offensive guru. However, one has to wonder how much of a guru Garrett is given the predictability of the offense last season and the play calling this season in the red zone.

Either way, it appears clear that neither Phillips or Garrett is doing Romo any favors. Calling two fades in a row in the red zone when your team is running up and down the field on the Giants makes little sense compared to more rushes or better yet, play action passes to say a tight end (don't they have an all pro tight end?) when the linebackers jump up to attack the run. Following that up with the last two plays going right at Champ Bailey, an all pro lock down cornerback that may be one of the best one or two in the league to end the game against Denver makes even less sense. Yes, quarterbacks can audible or change the read, but coordinators call plays with specific first options in mind, and those options make little sense in helping Romo.

There is a similar case in Cleveland, where Eric Mangini is a young, unproven commodity who failed to maximize potential in New York with the Jets after a bright first season, leaving the Jets with a 4-12 record in his second season and a 1-4 season ending collapse in 2008. While we really can't blame him for Brady Quinn's development over the last year or more, he hasn't done his quarterback any favors this season. However, truth be told, Quinn was probably a reach quarterback in an attempt to find a local star to create the kind of following that Lebron James has as a local hero.

As for Russell, the answer is probably Al Davis. Given the turmoil and coaching changes, it is no surprise to me that he has even regressed after Lane Kiffin's first year. It seems as though even good moves get short circuited. Jeff Garcia was a perfect back up for Russell to teach the youngster how to prepare mentally and physically how to be an NFL quarterback, as well as to light a fire under the young quarterback because of the threat of losing his job to the veteran if he should not improve his efforts. Yet, they cut Garcia in a cost saving measure, with a rumor of bringing him back again given Russell's problems. Then again, given the rest of the Raider problems, they probably start with a senile Al Davis more than a young quarterback.

It is easy to pick on coaches considering it is often more expensive to fire or replace players, but in some cases, owners need to make smarter coaching decisions and general manager decisions before they can expect to get the right players much less to get them playing well. Mike Singletary is but one of many examples of the difference a coach can make, and it is obvious that Tom Cable is not the coach to turn the Raiders around. Then again, he may be the last person insane enough to take the job.

I guess it gets to be an old story of beating up on the same coach over and over, but beating up on a young quarterback with potential and put in a difficult position of being coached by a bad coach doesn't help them or their teams.

No comments: