Friday, January 20, 2017

Trust the Process

Sam Hinkie was right.

And Ben Simmons has not yet played a single minute for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Philadelphia Eagles Fired Their Wide Receivers Coach

I am not an expert in root cause analysis and do not claim to be.  I have heard the term used enough to know that the best way to solve a problem, particularly a persistent, vexing one, is to determine the root cause.  Too frequently, we attack the symptoms and not the cause.  Take healthcare.  Instead of examining people's lifestyles, doctors' prescribe pills.  A lot of healthcare problems can be solved by having people stand more at work, walk more during the day and reduce their fast-food and sugar intake.  My bet is that fewer pills would be needed if people attacked the causes of their problems.

That's my preamble for what the Philadelphia Eagles did last week.  Admittedly, Greg Lewis was a reach for a receivers' coach because he had no experience.  What made the choice more of a reach was that the Eagles' receiving corps was young and inexperienced and lacking a senior mentor to teach them the little things that can differentiate between being successful in the NFL and getting cut.  What the Eagles did was pair a rookie coach with perhaps the worst receiving corps in the NFL. 

The results were predictable.  That's not to say that Don Coryell, the architect behind the famous "Air Coryell" teams with San Diego in the 1970's, could have done much with this bunch.  Greg Lewis didn't have a chance.  This corps either couldn't get open or, if they did, they had trouble catching the ball.  At some point, coaching doesn't matter; talent does.  And that's the root cause of the Eagles' problem.

You could bring in Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin to coach this bunch and it wouldn't matter much.  But you could bring in a real GM and front-office team that more emulates what Jimmy Johnson did with the Cowboys in the early 1990's (finding bargains everywhere) than what Howie Roseman and crew are accomplishing now.  The root cause in the receiving problem?  It's not Greg Lewis.  It's not the head coach.

It's the owner, who seems wed to this GM, and the entire organizational culture.  New England takes Eagles' castoffs Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe and makes them successful starters at defensive backs.  The Eagles?  Well, they seem to misfire in many places.   Greg Lewis did not cause the receivers' problems, not even close. 

But the Eagles showed their fan base, which by the way is not gullible, a firing, as if to say, "we're on it and we're holding people accountable."  The miscue there is that they are holding the wrong person accountable.  Too bad you cannot fire the owner, because until he wakes up and realizes that his front office is undermanned and outgunned, more mistakes will happen and continue to happen.

Fire the receivers coach? 

That's not the root cause.  Not even close.

Mike & Mike to Split Up?

That would be something.

About 15 years ago I had a long commute, and I found a new ESPN radio show on morning drive time.  I had heard of Mike Golic, who was perhaps the most anonymous defensive lineman for Buddy Ryan's great defenses in Philadelphia.  You would have been anonymous too if the other three linemen were named Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons.  I hadn't heard of Mike Greenberg, but he impressed me immediately.  He was part show host, part fan and part sports nerd, but with the right type of ego.  Not the type of "I am in love with myself ego" that some others on ESPN have, but the type that says "I know my stuff and am determined to be fair and get it right."  Together, Greenberg, trained as a journalist, and Golic, a well-informed, homework-doing former athlete, showed promise. 

I went home and told my wife that I had found a wonderful show, and that these two would be stars. 

I was right.

Back then, as they were in formation, the show was chock full of information as ads were fewer and farther between than they are now, as the show seems to have so many adds as to dilute the message and the content.  But that's business, and that's a measure of their success. 

What made and makes them so appealing is that they provide information and not just opinions, and they avoid the rants and outsized personalities that can populate and at times plague sports talk radio in any city.  I like to spend my free time getting informed, relaxed and at times amused.  Hearing a drive-time talk show host call his callers idiots frequently (as one so-called luminary in Philadelphia did for a while) is not appealing.  That behavior is not amusing; it is unkind. 

This article offers up the possibility that Mike Greenberg will become the centerpiece of a newly formatted morning Sports Center show.  He certainly deserves that, as for years I had thought that, like Robin Roberts, his talents would have translated to a morning news show, such as "Today" or "Good Morning America."  Mike Golic's future is unclear.  He is a talent, but he and Greenberg have a unique chemistry that I am not sure that any replacement host can replicate.  Trey Wingo has been stellar at ESPN for years, but if he were to replace Mike Greenberg, the comparisons would be inevitable, and I think he would be, rightly or wrongly, on the losing side of them. 

I hope that ESPN finds a good slot for Mike Golic, Sr., who is knowledgeable and lovable.  Mike Golic, Jr.'s lack of success making an NFL team has turned out to be a boost for his media career and for ESPN.  The latter has unearthed a solid talent in his very formative journalistic years.  Mike Jr. is smart and reasonably polished for a young show host.  I am less certain whether pairing him with his father is a good idea.  They both have so much in common that I am less certain whether the show will offer significantly varying perspectives.  This is a high-class problem; both are good.

I suppose that many good runs have to come to an end.  Some might argue that they have run their course; others might argue that this is the evolution of the sports media business.  The latter has to be more accurate in this case.  Mike & Mike is an excellent show, and I wish both Mikes nothing but the best.  They have enriched their audiences for a long run.