Monday, November 9, 2009

Wade and Norv: Are Their Teams for Real?

After the 2006 season, legendary coaches in Dallas and San Diego lost their jobs. For Bill Parcells in Dallas, it was his own decision; he no longer wanted to be a head coach. Marty Schottenheimer on the other hand was fired because of a "one-and-done" in the playoffs after managing a 14-2 record with a first year starter at QB.

For some still unknown reason the Cowboys decided hire Wade Phillips and Chargers decided to hire Norv Turner.

For San Diego, the Chargers replaced a head coach known for getting his teams to the playoffs (although he was also known for losing in the playoffs), with a head coach who had nine seasons under his belt but only one playoff appearance (and only two winning seasons).

In Wade Phillips, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys hired the head coach known for taking over the "on-the-verge" Denver Broncos in 1993 and setting them back two years. As the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Phillips made the notorious call to bench Doug Flutie in favor of Rob Johnson heading into the 1999 playoffs. That decision lead to the Bills being unable to hold on to a lead against the Titans, and the Bills franchise has yet to get back to the playoffs.

Despite both San Diego and Dallas looking as if they gave up mansions for cardboard cut outs of mansions, the 2007 season was not that bad for either franchise. Dallas finished the season 13-3 and earned themselves the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs, a position they would use to host and lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion NY Giants. After a 1-3 start, San Diego finished 11-5 and made it all the way to the AFC championship game, before losing to the (then) undefeated Patriots.

After what some teams would consider a successful 2007 season, both the Chargers and Cowboys fan communities still called for the respective heads of their coaches. Their cries were left unanswered.

In San Diego, most people probably wished that Norv was not only fired but exiled after a 4-8 start to the 2008 season. Miraculously, the team would get it together to win their final four games of the regular season, including a season ending showdown with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos collapse meant San Diego would host a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs, despite having an 8-8 record.

Of course the 8-8 Chargers would go on to defeat the 12-4 Colts in overtime, before getting squashed by Pittsburghs run defense in the divisional round. For the second year in a row, in spite of being heavy AFC favorites heading into the season, the Chargers regular season woes would get in the way of playoff success. Still, the Chargers decided to keep Norv.

Dallas were even less successful in 2008. Though they entered the 2008 regular season as heavy favorites to not only win the NFC, but also to have a shot at winning the Super Bowl, the Cowboys would finish their season 9-7 and miss the playoffs. Somehow, despite an embarrassing 44-6 loss in a "winner goes to the playoffs" game with the Eagles, the Cowboys decided to stick with Phillips for 2009.

Now here we are in 2009. The Chargers are 5-3 and the Cowboys are 6-2. Both teams look as though they're ready to make another playoff run. Unfortunately for the Chargers, they'll once again likely have to play three games just to get to the Super Bowl; thanks in large part to another beatdown at the hands of the Steelers.

As for Dallas, they control their own playoff seeding. At 6-2, the Cowboys get a shot at New Orleans and can take control on the NFC with a win in that game.

Still, most people would be reserved to pick Dallas to get to the Super Bowl with Wade Phillips as head coach. There is nothing on his resume that would suggest he'll be able to do what it takes to beat the Vikings, Saints, or even the Cardinals when it matters most.

Norv on the other hand has once again crippled his teams Super Bowl aspirations by putting the team in an early season ditch. At 5-3, there's likely no chance the team catches the 8-0 Indianapolis Colts, and a head to head loss put the Chargers behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in seeding. Not to mention that the Chargers are still two games behind the Denver Broncos for the AFC West lead. As of now it looks as though if the Chargers have any real hope to make it the Super Bowl they're going to have to go through New England, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh consecutively. A task that even the greatest teams in NFL history probably couldn't pull off in 2009.

There's no doubt in my mind that both the Chargers and Cowboys are "for real." Both teams have been immensely talented since the middle of the decade. In fact, I'm one of the people who honestly believe that from 2007 to 2008 these were the two most talented teams in the NFL.

But there's a reason that the Giants, and Steelers won those three Super Bowls instead of the Cowboys and Chargers; because of their superior head coaching ability. Superior head coaching ability that quieted egos and players who would do nothing but complain (you know who I'm referring to there). The Cowboys and Chargers combined to win zero Super Bowls from 2007 to 2008 because Norv Turner and Wade Phillips couldn't keep a camp of fat kids focused in a Burger King, let alone keep the attention a team of twenty-somethings with a ton of wealth.

In 2009 it'd be hard to say that the Cowboys and Chargers are still the most talented teams in the league. That's what happens though; teams get older and players skill sets erode. LaDanian Tomlinson is no longer a serviceable back in the league and the Chargers running offense and running defense can't be considered in the top half of the league. Dallas still have to worry about their pass defense and running offense. Marion Barber is better served as a "closer," and Felix Jones is rapidly becoming the Bob Sanders of offensive football (and not in the good way). Still, both teams could beat any team in the league.

So it looks as though Phillips and Turner are doing what they have to do to keep their jobs; and in turn both are doing what they have to do to keep their franchises "window of opportunity" rapidly closing.

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