5 NFL Teams That Should Learn from Jim Harbaugh, Make Bold Lineup Changes
Perched atop the NFC West in first place with a scary defense, a hot quarterback and a bevy of solid offensive tools, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh did the unthinkable.
He fired his starting quarterback—the guy who went 19-5-1 under Harbaugh and completed 25 of 27 passes for four touchdowns and zero interceptions his last two games of the year.
Harbaugh can call it what he wants, he can sugarcoat it, espouse mixed messages, try to soothe the sensitive, insecure Alex Smith.
But let's be clear: Alex Smith just got fired.
Whether you agree or disagree with Harbaugh's decision the truth is that several NFL coaches and their teams would greatly benefit from a gutsy call or two, from a brash firing, a la Donald Trump.
Here's a fab five of teams that could use a dose of daring,
The New York Jets
In one sense, Rex Ryan has made a bold decision each week for the last couple of months—by sticking with his embattled starting quarterback Mark Sanchez despite voluminous evidence supporting his ouster.
On Thanksgiving Day the struggling Sanchez was the biggest turkey on the field, running into his own lineman barely a second after taking a snap and missing receivers left and right.
But Ryan's refusal to bench Sanchez over the last six to eight weeks, his insistence that Sanchez gives the Jets "the best chance to win" is exactly what would make a reversal at this point a bold decision.
And boy would the Jets benefit from a bold decision at this point in the season.
Ryan and the Jets should follow Harbaugh's lead and insert Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback. The team cannot do much worse.
The NFL did not suspend Ndamukong Suh for his kick to the groin of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving Day.
But Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz could give Suh and his team a kick in the head by sitting Suh for Sunday's matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.
Fans have grown impatient with the bumbling Schwartz, the temperamental Suh and the Lions' undisciplined approach to the game.
Benching Suh would send a message to the entire team that no one's job is safe, that no contract, no starting job, no ego, no bank account is safe.
Schwartz could send a ripple effect through the locker room, but it's unlikely he would take such a risk.
The bold move Eagles fans are waiting for should have happened two weeks ago when Philly got run by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III on the road.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie should have fired head coach Andy Reid that Monday, following the embarrassing 31-6 defeat. He could have fired him a week ago.
He still can. Now.
The Eagles are not going anywhere this season. But why not get a jump on rebuilding the "new look Eagles" without worrying about offending the guy who ran the club for the last 14 years.
Reid deserves every bit of consideration and respect for the admirable job he's done in Philly—nine winning seasons in his first 12 years with three NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance.
But his ship has sailed in Philly and so should he. Now.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has a chance to save the Cowboys' season by running the table.
Doing so will require a shock to the Cowboys system. The kind of shock that only comes from benching your star quarterback.
I know Romo passed for over 400 yards last week, and that he tossed three more touchdowns and that he steps up in the pocket, evading the rush as good as any quarterback in the game.
But ultimately, Romo did not get it done against a mediocre defense on the national stage.
Ultimately, he does not make the players around him better. Ultimately, Romo has not been challenged in Dallas and that's exactly what must happen to make him elevate his play.
Bench Romo against the Eagles—hell, they could win that game without a quarterback behind center—and an angry Romo will come back and win out.
New York Giants
When offensive tackle David Diehl went down against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, the retooled Giants offensive line came alive, blocking better for Eli Manning and opening holes for backup running back Andre Brown.
When Diehl (playing right tackle) left the Bucs game with a knee injury, Sean Locklear, who had been starting at left tackle in place of Will Beatty, moved over to right tackle and Beatty came in to anchor the left side.
The O-line improved so much that many suggested that head coach Tom Coughlin keep the veteran Diehl on the sideline.
Brown had a breakout game that week and for a few weeks Manning had better protection. When Diehl returned after missing three games, Manning' s protection suffered again, leading to the Giants' worst play of the season, a two-game losing streak and concerns over another midseason slump.
Coach Coughlin has long been criticized for being "too loyal" to veterans and the Diehl case smacks of that. Coughlin needs to sit Diehl for the rest of the season, or bring him in on rushing downs, for the Giants offensive line to maximize its potential.