Few people leave an NFL team on their own terms.
Tom Landry is one of the ten greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. Many would argue calling him merely a top ten all-time head coach is selling him short. He won multiple championships. He was an innovator. He built the Cowboys into the iconic franchise we now call “America’s Team.”
Landry was unceremoniously fired by Jerry Jones in 1989.
People like Landry are the lucky ones. While his termination left him angry at the time, NFL fans only think of the winning Landry did when they hear his name.
Even if you have success, eventually you probably will wear out your welcome, see the game pass you by, lose a power struggle, or have some other set of forces converge to send you packing.
Few coaches or executives reach those heights. Most of them are fired before ever achieving such success. Their careers are either up and down with some winning but not enough, or they simply fail to launch a rebuild.
At the end of their respective tenures, there typically at least one “Come to Jesus” moment, a loss so bad that it becomes obvious the team cannot continue on its current course.
There is nothing more painful for an owner or a fanbase than starting over. Nobody ever wants to admit that their team made the wrong hire and has wasted years on the wrong general manager and/or coach.
Owners and fans go to great lengths to avoid this admission. When the team isn’t having success, you will hear things like, “This isn’t only about wins and losses,” “The team is moving in the right direction,” and, “There’s a lot of young talent that is going to improve over the next few years.”
I’m not judging you if you’ve said these things in the past. You want to believe in your team. Heck, you could probably find instances where I have said things like this.
But then the “Come to Jesus” moment arrives, and there is little doubt left that the team is not heading in the right direction and clearly needs changes.
I couldn’t help but think we hit that moment today as I watched Buffalo’s 41-10 demolition of the Jets today.
I think I would be wasting my time if I recapped the game by writing a deep detailed breakdown of the technical things that went wrong on individual plays. It would be missing the forest from the trees.
The Jets totally embarrassed themselves in this game. It was a rout from the start. The Bills are very bad football team, and they led this game 31-0 in the second quarter. Heck, the Bills aren’t just a bad team. They were starting a terrible quarterback who they literally just signed off the street and annihilated the Jets.
When a team loses, a frequent debate follows. Is the coaching the problem? Are the players just not good enough?
A game like this provides us with clarity. The answer is obviously both. You can’t possibly play like this unless both your talent and your coaching are awful.
I’m not going to talk much about Todd Bowles. It isn’t because I wish to defend Bowles. It is because the issues with this team’s coaching are so obvious that it feels like a waste of digital ink to spell them out. We all know Bowles is a goner at some point between tomorrow and the day after the season. The only question is when it will happen.
For whatever reason, there seems to be less clarity on the status of general manager Mike Maccagnan. This game started off with their highest paid player getting toasted in coverage by a practice squad guy. Throughout the game, we watched the team he assembled fail time after team, as it has for most of his tenure. The offensive line was an autobahn to the backfield. The secondary was shredded by the aforementioned poor quarterback.
Most importantly, we watched Josh McCown go out there and have no chance. This game was not McCown’s fault at all. I think you’re crazy if you say it is. What the Jets did today was remove emotion from the equation. Nobody is going to wear rose colored glasses for McCown the way they might trying to talk themselves into believing in Sam Darnold.
The collection of players on offense made it impossible for McCown to succeed and makes the relative success Darnold has had at various points of the season look almost miraculous.
Should the guy responsible for assembling that supporting cast be the guy choosing the players around Darnold past this season?
My hope is a game like this truly will be a “Come to Jesus” moment for ownership. I want them to see how many structural problems there are within this franchise. This team will likely require wholesale changes to have success going forward.
My fear is the franchise will hold only the head coach responsible for these franchise-wide structural problems that exist. And in the process, the team will risk wasting prime years of its young quarterback by not surrounding him with adequate support.