Does Every New NFL Head Coach Need "Their Guy" At Quarterback?
With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the win-less Detroit Lions select to trade the rights to University of Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Denver Broncos for franchise quarterback Jay Culter.
Shenanigans. Did someone call shenanigans?
After the Broncos blew a three-game lead over the San Diego Chargers with three games to go, Denver owner Pat Bowlen fired his long-time friend, his Hall-of-Fame head coach and his hard-working general manager, Mike Shanahan.
During his 15-year tenure in the Mile High City, Shanahan made seven playoff appearances, winning two back-to-back Super Bowls behind John Elways' arm and Terrell Davis' legs and finishing with just two losing seasons.
With the 11th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos drafted Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler: Mike Shanahans' guy—A poor man's Elway who throws hard and accurate.
Bowlen soon replaced Shanahan, with former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as head coach for the AFC West's past-perennial playoff contenders.
During his four years as Pats quarterbacks coach, McDaniels worked with three-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super MVP, and Hall-of-Fame lock, the newlywed Pats starting quarterback Tom Brady. Last season's pro-bowl-like breakout stats from the now Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassell that saw the Pats finish six games above .500 and still miss the playoffs, partly a credit to McDaniels offensive play-calls and individual work with Cassell and Brady.
As one of the youngest coaches in the NFL, first-year head coach McDaniels must bring the Broncos back to the playoffs after three straight seasons to second-place finishes, last losing in 2005 AFC Championship to eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
But just like every other NFL head coach or general manager, McDaniels needs his guy at the helm over center, running his offensive grandiose schemes, and winning his team Super Bowl rings.
Jay Cutler is not McDaniels' guy.
Prematurely labeled a franchise QB, Cutler has started every Broncos game for the past seasons, competing passes over 60 percent, tossing 45 touchdowns to 32 interceptions, winning percentage below .500, and failing to make to playoffs both years. Even when he replaced Jake Plummer for final five games of his rookie campaign, Cutler still showed he losing ability with half as many INT than TD and a 2-3 record.
Clearly, McDaniels favors Matt Cassell.
Cassell started zero games at USC, spending four years on the bench as a backup QB first to Heisman Trophy winner and current Cincinnati Bengals starting QB Carson Palmer, and then NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals current backup QB Matt Leinart.
Those years were not well wasted.
When Brady suffered season-ending injury in week one against the Chiefs, Cassel not only led his team to a 17-10 victory that day, but also won 10 more games, competed 315 more passes for 20 more touchdowns, over 3,500 more yards and only 11 touchdowns.
Technically, Cassell has not started a full season in the NFL since entering the league as a seventh-rounder in 2005, and Cutler has started two of his first three seasons in Denver. Neither one has led an NFL team to the playoffs—neither has Matt Stafford.
Former Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, one of the masterminds behind the Pats three Super Bowl championships and an undefeated regular season, was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as their new general manager.
Pioli, son-in-law of Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Parcels, first fired Chiefs coach Herm Edwards who's last two season in Kansas City ended an abysmal 6-26.
Pioli then hired Todd Haley to be—his guy—the new Chiefs head coach, orchestrated a trade with his former team, and shipped a Chiefs second-round No. 34 2009 NFL Draft pick to the Pats for linebacker Mike Vrabel and QB Cassell.
Now, the former 2008 NFC Champions offensive coordinator Haley had—his guy.
Rumors surfaced that Bowlen and McDaniels were actively entertaining trades for Cutler. Although both deny the rumors, Cutler has still demanded a trade.
McDaniels and Cutler remain unable to mend their differences after the ever-eager boy-wonder coach entertained trades for his star quarterback. Cutler now wants out of Denver, going so far as to hold out of a mandatory workout on Monday.
Will the Pro Bowl QB don a new No. 6 jersey next season? Will McDaniels and Haley have—their guys—at QB by the start of the 2009 season?
As both first-year head coaches, McDaniels and Haley hope to follow the 2008 model where first-year head coaches teamed with rookie QBs, and finished the season playing playoff football in late January.
In 2008, the Baltimore Ravens first-year coach, John Harbaugh, behind his guy—rookie QB Joe Flacco— and a tenacious defensive led by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, won two road playoff games over the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers for the third time in one year.
Thirteen games into the 2007 season, rookie Head Coach Bobby Petrino quit on the Falcons, forcing the Atlanta to search for a new guy.
In his first year as Falcons head coach in 2008, former Ravens linebackers coach for their 2000 Super Bowl run, Mike Smith finished the season 11-5 and a Wild Card playoff birth, losing in the the first to the eventual NFC Champions Arizona Cardinals, and earning him NFL Coach of the Year.
When former Falcons franchise QB Michael Vick plead guilty to dog-fighting charges and the NFL suspended him indefinitely, owner Arthur Blank and new coach Smith realized QB Joey Harrington wasn't going to be—the guy— in Hot'Lanta.
With the third pick of the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Boston College QB Matt Ryan.
'Matty Ice' Ryan finished his rookie campaign with almost 3,500 passing yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the Falcons a Wild Card playoffs for the first time in four years and earning him NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
Smith and Ryan became the first rookie Head Coach and rookie QB to coach and compete in a playoff game in more than 60 years, until Harbaugh and Flacco accomplished the same feat in Baltimore.
Parody exists in the NFL. Each year teams who weren't expected to complete, surprise teams like the Ravens and Falcons have historic seasons, and succeed in the playoffs. First-year NFL coaches with rookie QBs running their offense and running it well, rarely have the success both Smith and Harbaugh experience last season.
First-year Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who spent his last eight season as Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator, hopes he can turn around a Lions team who went win-less in 2008.
The Lions hold two first-round draft picks—No. 1 and No. 20.
Is Matt Stafford, Schwartz' guy and will he take him at No. 1? Or is USC QB Mark Sanchez—his guy at No.20?
Some advice to Josh McDaniels, Todd Haley, and Jim Schwartz: Don't depend on one position player, even if it is your QB, to win you games and championships for you to remain employed—coach them.
Just because you don't think you have—your guy—or you think you can get—your guy— in a draft or trade, take a long look around at the league:
The Miami Dolphins improved from a 1-15 to an 11-5 record in one year behind two-time Comeback player of the year QB Chad Pennington—not former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini's guy.
The Jets lost their final game of the season to the Dolphins and failed to make the playoffs.
So are the Lions in talks with the Broncos and Chiefs in a three-player deal that sends Cutler to Detroit, Cassell to the Broncos, and the No.1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft—possibly Stafford—heading to Kansas City?
Who knows if Cutler is the guy for Schwartz in Detroit, or If Cassell is the guy for McDaniels' in Denver?
As we all know, the Lions and Chiefs both have been trying to make "the leap" for a number of years now without a talented QB.
But the Broncos, who have made the playoffs consistently for years, already have an established QB in Cutler so why would they want to even consider trading him.
Still, this is one trade that makes sense if Cutler, McDaniels, and Brocnos management can't reach a comprise. A trade seems immient soon, if not to the Lions then to a number of other NFL teams.
The Lions have the coveted No. 1 pick, but the Chiefs have the No. 3 in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Broncos don't want to deal with an unhappy superstar at one of the most important positions, this year or in future years. With Cutler now demanding a trade out of Denver, one will happen soon.
And we haven't seen one Culter trade that makes more sense than this three-team deal..
Only the Chiefs would be upset since they would need Stafford to pan out and Cassel to bust; but the Lions and Broncos would have no gripes about the deal. Both the Chiefs and Broncos have average backup quarterbacks in Thigpen and Chris Simms respectively. The Lions have Dante Culpeper.
Even if Cutler doesn't fully embrace this potential trade to the Lions, the Broncos would love to stick it to him and ship him off the one of the worst franchises in sports history.
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