Tuesday, November 29, 2005
So Long Mooch
Well, I hadn't gotten around to writing about the firing until today as I was still recovering from my Florida vacation. And it wasn't until today that I realized how many other people are actually reading my silly little blog. I found out because of several e-mails, along with a few phone calls I received of people asking me what I thought about Mooch getting fired. So, I figure I need to post what my take on the situation is.
In all honesty, I'm sad.
I'm sad because Mooch is a good guy, and I hate to see people lose their job. I'm sad because I had bought into the Mooch hype hook, line, and sinker when he came here. I'm sad because this likely means another rebuilding project for our beloved franchise. And I'm sad because it means that the Lions have officially thrown in the towel on this season.
To be sure, Mooch brought this on himself, if I've read the situation correctly - which I believe I have. I don't buy Dre' Bly's argument that Joey Harrington is the reason Mooch got fired. In fact, what Dre' did in my book is equivalent to what TO did. I like Dre, but that was not the time or the place to go ripping on Joey. To me, that showed a complete lack of class on his part. It's OK to show that you liked the coach, but it's never OK to trash a teammate, especially on a national TV show on the NFL network. Dre', it's time to step up to the mike, and apologize for what you said in public. Say it was just that your emotions got the best of you, whatever. But don't trash your teammate.
I also don't buy that Millen should be gone with Mooch. To be sure, Millen has made his share of mistakes, and his record as GM is horrid. I tend to discount most of the first 2 years, due to the mess that the Lions were that he inherited. I've talked about that before, and you can find my discussion of it WAY back in my archives as What Went Wrong, and The Boss Ross Disaster. But when you look at what he's done recently, he's done a good job of bringing in players that the team and Mooch wanted.
And that really is why I don't blame Millen for the Mooch firing. If there was any indication that Mooch didn't want the players that Millen signed or drafted since Mooch came here, it has never surfaced. In every press conference announcing a signing or a draft pick, Mooch stood side by side with Millen, stating the great job that had been done to bring in exactly the players that Mooch wanted. IMHO, it was Mooch himself who exonerated Millen's player acquisitions.
The one subject where the whole Millen / Mooch debate hinges on is the Joey Harrington discussion. It was pretty common knowledge that Mooch didn't like Joey as his starter, yet Millen believes (still?) that Joey can be the franchise QB the team needs. It's common speculation that Mooch was forced to play Joey even though he preferred Mike McMahon, and later Jeff Garcia. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn't support those statements. McMike never was able to show much of anything here, and when he did play, he looked like he didn't belong throwing passes in the NFL. Sure, his athleticism reminded people of Steve Young, but his arm reminded people of Ryan Leaf. As for Garcia, how fast everyone has forgotten that Joey simply outclassed him in preseason and flat out won the job against him. It wasn't even close. Then when the bad things happened in the regular season, people assumed incorrectly that it was all Joey, and that Jeff would make a huge impact when he returned. Then Jeff did return, and he completely underwhelmed everyone. When we saw him making the same dump offs, the same bad throws, the same checkdowns, it was a HUGE sign that the problem was more likely coaching than the player.
And that's what it all comes back to - the coaching. This team has been a comedy of errors all season. Whether it was:
- the incredibly bad O-Line play,
- the receivers being taught how to catch a brick, but obviously not a football,
- the failure to remember to give the ball to your 1000 yard rusher from last year,
- the silly penalties,
- the questionable development of the younger players,
- the refusal to adapt his offense to the skills of the players on his roster,
- or the totally predictable playcalling, every one of those signs point directly back at the coach. Once the facade of the problem being entirely Joey was gone, Mooch's deficiencies in coaching this team were exposed.
But here's where my analysis gets downright weird - I still think Mooch is a good coach. He's just not the right coach for this team. His system will work if the right players are in it. He couldn't have won as many games in SF in the way he did if his system didn't work. But the problem was he had nearly the perfect players for that system in SF. He had his scrambling QB - a 3 year younger Garcia. He had a good O-Line. He had 2 good complimentary backs in Hearst and Barlow. And he had the superstar WR in T.O. who could take a short pass to the house. He also had veterans, and he could trust them, in the way that his accountability by men philosophy works. Here, he tried to cram the players he had into those roles, irregardless if they fit or not, and most of the players are too young to understand what it really takes to be a great NFL player. iRoy is a dang good receiver, but he's not T.O. - not yet at least. Joey is a pocket passer, not a scrambler. KJ is a stud RB, but Pinner and Bryson are serviceable backups, not deserving of equal PT to KJ. And the O-Line - well, it stinks.
BUT... If Mooch were to get the right team to coach - and as scary as it sounds, the Packers may be a good fit - his system could work again. How bad would it be to see him coach GB next year, and lead Favre and Co. back to the playoffs for one last time? That team is scary close to the perfect fit for his O - scrambling QB in Favre, Walker can do a pretty good T.O. impersonation, Green and Davenport are a good 1-2 RB punch, and the O-Line is 1 or 2 players away from being solid again. The thought of Mooch coaching there with those players should be one that causes nightmares for Lions fans.
After all of that, I doubt we'll see too much radically different for the remainder of the season. Olson calling plays should remedy a few of the problems as the playcalling won't be predictable and KJ will get a lot more touches. In a best case scenario, the WR's get their heads on straight and tear it up, and the O-Line figures out how to block someone. If all that happens, the Lions could close out the season strong, and Dick Juaron could pull a Wayne Fontes and find himself Head Coach here next year. But that's a lot of if's. Too many to make any kind of a calculated bet on.
So in summary, yes, Mooch deserved to get canned. He and he alone created the mess of this season in my opinion. But I think he will coach again, and I pray that when he does that we don't have to see him have success before the Lions do.
Unfortunately, that just may happen.