By Lenn Robbins
Giants and Jets fans visited opposite ends of the emotional spectrum Sunday. The Giants saw their playoff hope die the second Philadelphia Eagles coach-to-win Doug Pederson subbed out Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld, who had been in the NFL’s Witness Protection program.
The Giants come away from the 2020 pandemic season with motivation for 2021 – control your own fate. Big Blue showed progress this season and coach Joe Judge’s debut gives fans reason to believe he’s the right man for a tough job.
That doesn’t help salve the raw wound into which Pederson tossed salt and rubbing alcohol. His contention that he was coaching to win must be deeply disconcerting to Eagles fans. Sudfeld had never attempted a pass in the NFL and Eagles sure needed more game film on Jalen Hurts to determine if he is their future.
All the Giants needed was for Pederson to actually coach smart. He didn’t.
All the Jets needed was for Adam Gase to be fired and that happened a few hours after Gang Green ended a 2-14 season with a 28-14 loss to the Patriots. Finally, the Jets and Pats have something in common – neither are going to the playoffs.
Firing Gase was the easy part. Now comes the hard part – finding the right man to change the culture in the Florham Park, aka, the Green Mile of Dysfunction and win on game day.
Here’s where it gets tricky because there are too many voices screaming opinions on sports talk radio and outdoor bar stools. GM Joe Douglas needs tune out the noise and focus on one mantra – find the right guy by not falling victim to these coaching search pitfalls:
- Hire a Quarterback Whisperer – Not even sure what that means anymore but Gase’s tenure should prevent any GM from being married to that concept.
- Hire a Bill Belichick Disciple – Bill O’Brien and Matt Patricia were fired this season, joining the list of Belichick disciples that didn’t make in the NFL – Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Jim Schwartz and Josh McDaniel.
- Hire the Hot College Whiz Kid – Where do we start. Saban, arguably the best college coach in history, is a good place. The list of terrific college coaches that weren’t able to transfer their success to the NFL is staggering: Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, Chip Kelly, Greg Schiano, nuf’ said.
Douglas needs to avoid these pitfalls and many others. He has a great job to offer, with multiple first-round and other draft choices over the next few seasons and a platform known as the metropolitan media machine.
Some have questioned if the latter remains an advantage. Certainly, because of social media, players can thrive in other markets. Patrick Mahomes is pitching ketchup and insurance. Baker Mayfield is on TV more than Ryan Seacrest.
But athletes feel more empowered to speak on issues other than football and there is no better opportunity to implement change than here. Imagine the impact a Malcolm Jenkins or Kyle Korver could have speaking from the New York podium.
We’ve gone on record as saying that Douglas has gotten off to a solid start. He’s part of the culture change that can now get out of first gear with Gase gone. He needs to focus on who can change the temperature in Florham Park from mostly cloudy to mostly sunny – these Jets will work and not make every gripe public; they will look like a cohesive team on Sundays.
For my money, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Salah would be high on the list. According to published reports, Saleh is a highly intelligent coach who listens to his players and factors that into his decisions.
“He’s able to rally men,” future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman said of Saleh in December. “He’s a leader of men, and that goes a long way.”
It sure does. Salah is hotly coveted by the Detroit Lions. His heart might be in the Midwest and if that’s the case we wish him Godspeed. There are other excellent candidates out there. Douglas can find him if he tunes out the noise. We wish him Godspeed, too.