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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cap Not Catastrophic

Due to creative maneuvering, the Panthers aren't above the cap; no player has been restructured or cut, but they sit suddenly with some cap room. Per this story in the Rock Hill Herald, the team has plenty of room. Summary: We get credit against Julius Peppers, who didn't earn a $1.5 million Pro Bowl incentive; the team got creative with the re-signed contracts of Na'il Diggs and Jason Carter, saving $6.7 million. A move on Steve Smith's contract, per the team an expected move, finishes the job and gives them another $4.8 million.

This means the team has some room to work - they can, if they want, franchise Jordan Gross (which would cost $7.55 million) and have Peppers play under his final-year cap hit of $14 million. Let's hope they don't, however - doing so only leaves them in worse shape for 2009 while adding little benefit now.

It gives them room to be creative for the future - extending Thomas Davis, perhaps; cutting a dead-wood player if they're so inclined; signing a few really talented players, or a bunch of decent ones.

A Word on Assistant Coach Hires
I'm getting more and more disenfranchised with coaching moves. The initial Parcells re-hire, which almost happened in 2002 and happened in 03, a lot of coaches started taking less advance time on contracts - it became renew, year to year, around this time.

And while it doesn't necessarily bother me that sitting coaches, like Al Saunders or Gregg Williams, have been replaced without word on a staff where there's no head coach, it's that they were replaced before there's a head coach.

The good ol' boy network, largely dealt from networking and familiarity, has always ruled the NFL. It's why they have the Minority Hire rule. But owners snapping up free assistants, replacing sitting coaches without prior notice of being fired?

More than that, owners picking up assistant coaches to be coordinators, without the approval of a head coach? Without a head coach on staff? It's not like they're picking up former head coaches, just guys who are out there. Just guys who are available, and forcing them on new hires. You either take the team AND the coordinators you're being offered, or else.

It used to be, getting a staff together with a plan, and knowing you had connections to do it, helped get you the job. Now you have to know you can have a good relationship with an assistant and his staff, which he's already gotten the OK to make hires on, and pick amongst the guys left to make relationships with, and his schemes or else you're doomed. NFL HC jobs don't come along every year for guys who don't have jobs. Look at a lot of talented guys, who failed once, or even just got fired too soon, and they don't get looks because they're 'damaged'. You can't damage yourself with those decisions, especially when they're not yours to make.

I guess the moves with Washington mean that Spagnuolo is the new head coach. Which is fine, he's OK, maybe not the most deserving, but he's there. He did a good job this year. It would be analogous to what Parcells did in Miami, where he hired a QBs coach, a line coach, a defensive coordinator, an assistant head coach/defense (why is this position becoming prevalent, other than to snap up assistants?), and the rest of the defensive staff within a day or before the head coaching hire.

But, like many seedy things, this is on Jerry Jones, who gambled (and apparently won, though it'll be his demise in various ways) on getting Jason Garrett, a young QBs coach who was on an awful Miami team, in as the coordinator before a head coach was hired. Jones didn't even end up getting his original hire, Norv Turner, because Turner wanted to pick his own assistants.

It undermined Tony Sparano, who was the playcaller in 06, and who took the best assistants available with him to Miami, negotiated while he was still a Cowboy. It undermined the expected head coach hire in Dallas, and while that worked out, 2nd choice Wade Phillips's immediate exit from the playoffs meant rumors that they'd fire him and place Garrett. Garrett's salary is now the same as Phillips', and the team will ultimately be divided. Now, they have the two coaches, most of their assistants (responsible for the continuity) are on another team, Jones is poised to make awful moves in personnel, and the whole thing's going to tumble around him.

But, now owners can hire assistants to undermine head coaches. Great job, Jerry! Don't forget to mortgage your future on a young RB because he's from where you're from.
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