8:56 AM CST, January 3, 2013
Phil Emery put a couple special teams coaches on his list of coaching candidates, and that’s only the two that we know about. The Bears general manager might have more names on his LinkedIn account, and it can’t be just to comply with the Rooney Rule.
So, what gives?
Special teams coaches, it seems, are the hot coordinator du jour in some parts of the league. It might be a fad. It might be a trend. It might be the future. Who knows? But it’s a thing right now.
The Bears hired a special teams coach three decades ago, and Mike Ditka worked out. Same goes for Bill Cowher eventually. John Harbaugh hasn’t won it all in Baltimore, but he goes to the playoffs every year and gives his team a chance every year, and that’s what Emery wants: every year.
Emery interviewed Keith Armstrong, who oversees special teams in Atlanta and used to do it for the Bears under Dave Wannstedt. AaaPPP! That’s apparently not being held against Armstrong.
Emery plans to interview Joe DeCamilis, the Dallas Cowboys special teams coach who has a lot of free time now.
The biggest reason that special teams coaches are attracting attention is because they coach nothing and have to draw from everything. No teams spends a draft choice on a special teams player. Teams draft players who fill offensive or defensive spots, or at least project to. Players get special teams duty to make a roster.
So, special teams coaches have to know every part of the roster and every part of every player’s game. And then have a backup plan when guys on the suicide squads get hurt or someone on the starting 22 goes down. This effectively forces a special teams coach to work as a shadow CEO head coach, and there’s talk in some parts of the NFL about returning to the coach-as-CEO era.
Emery said he planned to interview all manner of coach from all manner of league --- offensive, defensive, NFL, college, Pop Warner. You get the idea. Emery’s list is loaded with offensive coordinators, and understandably so, what with the way the NFL has rigged the game.
For everyone except the Bears, of course. Emery added more toys to Jay Cutler’s playroom, and Cutler played the offense nearly into the NFL’s toilet. He had help --- I believe Kellen Davis just dropped another pass --- but the so-called franchise quarterback was doing little for the franchise.
Cutler can’t get the Bears into the playoffs. But Cutler needs playoff experience more than any other player on the Bears roster. But Cutler can’t get the Bears into the playoffs …
You get the idea. An offensive mind who isn’t necessarily Cutler’s hand-chosen wrangler is one way to break that vexing cycle. That seems to be the way Emery is headed. Works for me. Once he rid himself of Ted Phillips’ boneheaded idea to force Lovie Smith on him, Emery displayed the gravitas to believe he will get it right, whoever he gets.
So, the fact that he asked to interview at least two special teams coaches provides more evidence that Emery gets it. He’s aware of a growing trend in the NFL and he’s at least exploring it even if he appears to be leaning another way. He’s finding out what the big deal is, and who knows, maybe he’ll recognize the next Bill Cowher.
But what about the first Dave Toub?
The Bears have a special teams coach, too, and he’s regarded as one of the best, if not THE best. Just ask Green Bay about that play-acting punt trick. If you’re looking for creativity in the offense and consistently high performances, don’t you at least ask Toub to explain how he’d apply his brilliance on special teams to the Bears’ dogbreath offense?
I don’t know for sure that Emery didn’t do exactly that. But as far as what’s public, nope.
Toub used to be one of the first assistant coaches to get a call. A year ago, he interviewed in Miami before the Dolphins settled on former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, marking another Bears loss to the Packers.
This season, however, pffft. Maybe Toub’s phone isn’t quiet. Maybe we just don’t know about it. Good for him. Good luck. But I haven’t heard his name come up with other teams looking for head coaches, not even in Philadelphia, where he was drafted and later coached special teams and defensive line before coming to the Bears.
Looks like Devin Hester ran backwards with Toub’s head-coaching chances. When you think about it, Hester also was a big part of killing Smith’s career here. Heads up, Darryl Drake.
But back to Toub. Last season, his Bears special teams ranked first, according to Football Outsiders’ math. This season, the Bears fell to eighth. Wrong season to do that if you’re Toub’s agent.
But here’s the thing: Toub’s unit still ranked higher than DeCamillis’ bunch in Dallas (10th) and Armstrong’s group in Atlanta (19th). It must kill Toub that coaches of worse units go to the front of the line.
Emery’s first criterion in looking for a new head coach is excellence in his role. Emery ought to look down the hall at the best there is.
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