Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Packers Hire 49ers' Mike McCarthy - The Alarming Pattern of Avoidance of "The Rooney Rule" by some NFL Organizations

The "Rooney Rule" was established to cause NFL organizations to at least interview and in more cases hire minority -- and more specfically black, coaches. After a review of the current pattern of hiring by many NFL teams over the course of the last month, I must sadly report that the Rooney Rule has failed.

What spurred me to write this entry -- as I attempt to hold back the tears that come from the news that The Green Bay Packers have hired San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike McCarthy as their new head coach -- is a wonderful trip I had to Seattle to visit a friend and attend the Seattle Seahawks game against the San Francisco 49ers last November. I really enjoyed the experience,and as a momentary aside, Qwest Field is an excellent place to watch a football game.

There was one thing -- and just one -- that was disturbing to me. The way San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike McCarthy called the plays during that contest.

I said this to my friend there, I've said it before, and now I'm putting it in writing. I can't see how he got his job considering that his game plans are 1) inflexible and 2) illogical. Let me provide some examples:

1) Against the Indianapolis Colts, Mc Carthy devises plays based on the Utah Spread Offense that then-head coach Urban Meyer developed and Alex Smith played in. The trouble is that McCarthy installed running plays and not passing plays for Smith. One play gained 2 yards; the other lost 2 yards, and I was flabergasted -- Smith isn't Michael Vick. It was as if he had installed a gimic rather than actually using plays that could help Smith.

2) Creating rollout pass plays that don't call for the quarterback to roll to a point and set his feet. This is really bothersome to watch. The most successful rollout plays were devised by Bill Walsh, and Al Davis before him; they call for the quarterback to rollout to a spot, then pass the football. The idea is to move the launch point of the pass first, not make the QB run. This is a common error in rollout design, even with run-pass options. It's no wonder Smith's success here is spotty, even though his ability to throw on the run makes up for terrible play design.

3) Not providing his quarterbacks with even a simple audible to take advantage of the most obvious defensive weakness. This was completely evident in the Seattle game, where the Seahawks called defenses stacked against the run on first down, what did the 49ers do? They ran. Seattle cornerbacks were lined up "bump and run" against the Niners Flanker and Split End. What did the 49ers do? Call a pass with "up" patterns to get a quick gain? No. What did they do? They ran.

On second down, the Seahawks defense "loosened" -- the cornerbacks were yards off the receivers, the safeties were back in obvious "two deep" positions, and the defensive line posised to rush the passer. What did the 49ers do? Pass.

It was enough to make me yell at McCarthy through the glass wall of the club section. I know someone got what I was saying -- it wasn't McCarthy.

4) Calling 30 runs against Seattle when they were giving the 49ers the pass. Especially on first down.

5) Calling four-wide receiver plays where there are three receivers on one side, and one pass catcher on the other, and then having the QB throw to the strong side where the three catchers are and ignoring the lone, single-covered receiver on the other side. This has happened way too often.

I could go on and on. McCarthy's early success with the Niners came because he was new to the team, and thus there was no "book" on what he would do with the 49ers offensive personel. Once NFL teams developed an analysis, they quickly bottled his offense during the year.

So all year long I'm stewing about McCarthy as the weak coaching link on the Niners, and what happens? The Green Bay Packers make this guy their coach -- without even seriously considering a black candidate. They talked to two, but selected someone not even as accomplished as Tim Lewis and Maurice Carthon.

What the heck is going on?

You can't tell me that out of over 100 black assistant coaches there aren't 20 that can be considered for head coaching positions. Look, I'm not a coach. But I'll tell you that I could take any NFL team's third string offense and develop schames to consistently beat that organization's first string defense. And I'm itching for some one to challenge me.

Why? Simple. Because -- more so that college and even high school coaches -- NFL coaches think in a consistent "box" of offensive approaches. Only once in every other decade does one person -- like Coach Walsh -- come along and get the chance to install an offensive system that really is a true shift in thinking. But with the Internet, offensive revolutions are starting at the high school and college level and not at the NFL.

Many of the people who know these are not white; they're black. Hue Jackson's a good example. Jackson has been an offensive coordinator at Cal, USC, and with the Washington Redskins. He's learned the most successful and advanced offensive concepts from Steve Spurrier and Steve Marriucci, to name some of them. Yet, he's litterally been banished to the place of receivers coach with the Bengals, forced to work with the tempermental personality of wide receiver Chad Johnson, while Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski calls a set of predictable pass plays devoid of rollouts or sprint out passes, leaving his quarterbacks as sitting ducks when the pass is needed the most.

Meanwhile, the Houston Texans talk to Gary Kubiak, hire Dan Reeves as a consultant, and make a list of coaches that has contained no African American names until recently and if I'm a betting man and on this (and I am) that person will be "the token one."

Why? And why McCarthy? What is the deal? It seems that to some teams having white coaches is more important that winning. Black coaches? Just window dressing for "The Rooney Rule."

Yesterday at MacWorld San Francisco

I had the pleasure of attending my first Steve Jobs keynote speech at MacWorld, San Francisco yesterday. Well, it went like this: two plus hours of standing in line within Moscone Convention Center only to be ushered into an "overflow" crowd room to see his presentation on a couple of large screens.

I must admit to some disappointment. Especially since the dude next to me couldn't seem to keep to his own personal space, causing me to lean away from him and partway into the next seat, which was to my good fortune, empty. After a time, I got up and stood at the back of the room. That was better.

Once at my place at the back of this large room, I was able to comfortably enjoy Jobs' introduction of some hot new Apple products: the Intel-based IMacs, the new GarageBand for Podcasting, and other new devices.

This is not my first MacWorld, but it was my first Keynote speech. I'm going back for the Podcast seminars and lectures, but my advice for the future is this: skip the keynote unless you know you're going to get a front row seat and don't have to wake up at 4 AM to do it.