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Second-guesses: Why not hire Jim Johnson?
There are still several head coaching vacancies and some of them will be filled this week now that talented assistant coaches like the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo and Tennessee's Jim Schwartz are available since their teams were eliminated from the playoffs. But unless the Jets make a dramatic hire I think Spags would qualify this is one team that has messed up its coaching search.
I realize Panthers GM Marty Hurney quit taking my advice when I told him he should draft Joey Harrington over Julius Peppers, a physical phenom who wasn't a bad basketball player at North Carolina. But I will say this. Julius Peppers is no Dwight Freeney. He is no Jared Allen. He is not even close to Pittsburgh's James Harrison. Yes, he had a pretty good season this year after an awful one in 2007. But how does Hurney rationalize giving this guy $17.5 million should the Panthers decide to put the franchise tag on Peppers? The three players I mentioned are always hustling, always giving great effort. I don't care for Allen's recklessness too many personal fouls for me but the guy never quits. He inspires his teammates with his emotional desire and effort. You want your highest-paid player performing like that. To this day, the Chiefs blew it by trading Allen away; heck, he had more sacks than their entire team this past season.
Who is this mystery coach? He has been a NFL head coach for 14 seasons, has been a consistent winner and is considered among the game's great coaches. He gets his teams to the playoffs, but once he gets to the playoffs his teams have won only five times. If you guessed Marty Schottenheimer, you're wrong. The answer is Jeff Fisher. Yes, I cringed a bit when writing this because Fisher would be mad about the comparison even though his sideline approach is as conservative as Schottenheimer's. But Saturday was the second time in Fisher's career that his Titans finished as the AFC's top seed, only to lose in the first round to the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. That season, the Ravens went on to win their only Super Bowl to date. Yes, Fisher ran into some bad luck against the Ravens. Baltimore couldn't stop running back Chris Johnson in the first half, but then a right ankle injury put the explosive Johnson on the bench. Then his other players started turning the ball over can anybody say Earnest Byner? and the playoff game was history. Fisher deserved a better fate than this, considering he won 13 games with Kerry Collins as his quarterback after Vince Young went down. Now, he will be facing pressure next season to give Young another chance and that could mean not paying Collins to keep him around. Still, there is no doubt that Fisher is a top five coach in the NFL. It's just that he's stuck with Schottenheimer at five playoff victories.
After hearing Giants GM Jerry Reese say that Plaxico Burress would be welcomed back to the team next season, my first question was: Why wasn't he welcomed back for the playoffs?