The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
Out of respect, I’d call you Mr. Blank, but you’re so
telegenic, you make it easy for people to want to call you Arthur.
I’d almost like to call you Uncle Arthur—and I have
an Aunt whose last name was Blank, so it’s not much of a stretch—but
I digress. I’m not much of a Falcons fan, but I’m a
fan of you as an owner. See, my favorite teams had owners like Art
Modell and Bud Adams, so I appreciate your desire to build a winner
and moneymaker in Atlanta.
Because you seem like such a nice guy, there’s a part of me
that would like to offer you my condolences for your recent losses
to your organization. But I think you’re better off despite
the embarrassment. Although your team appears in a shambles to Petrino
apologist, Skip Bayless—a complete attention whore of a journalist—who
believes the Falcons will only be worse next year and the team quit
on the coach first. Of course this is despite the fact that four
of the Falcons’ ten losses were by a margin of, at most, seven
points. Not that you should care what mullet-coifed, Bayless has
You actually have a fresh start to make this team great. You’re
a man of vision. Your fans may not think so right now, but I know
you know I’m right. Allow me to remind you how fortunate you
Let’s begin with Michael Vick. Your regime didn’t draft
Vick. It was the Smith family, otherwise known in these parts as
Dumb (Rankin) and Dumber (Taylor), who led an inept organization
with the chance to draft the best back of this generation in LaDainian
Tomlinson and the perfect complement and leader in Drew Brees. Instead,
the Smith family gave them up for a pot-smoking, herpes-carrying,
manchild with a knack for creating great humor at his expense. Need
I remind you of the alias ‘Ron Mexico,’ or that secret
compartment in a water bottle? A water bottle!?
But to your credit, you still did your best to make the best of
the situation. You brought in Warrick Dunn as a positive influence;
you had Steve Young counsel him on the art of quarterbacking; and
you personally took an interest in him. You surrounded him with
a great environment and Vick chose to do interviews where he appeared
stoned out of his gourd.
Even as Vick made incredible plays that temporarily sedated our
growing contempt as fans. Although some of us are still completely
drugged by his highlight reel, the ‘Free Vick’ protest
is nothing but a form of withdrawal pains. They don’t care
about Vick the man; they want him back on the field for selfish
reasons. You on the other hand, truly wanted the best for Vick and
it doesn’t take much to see it. I know that sounds naïve
to some, because of the money you invested in him, but what other
coach pushes his player in a wheel chair on the sideline after sustaining
a serious injury? But that’s the way a leader treats major
investments when it comes to human capital. Instead of working hard
to become a student of the game, he never tried to tap that greatest
asset between his ears. Instead, he used it to dance around trouble:
he lied to you, lied to the feds, and lied to state and local officials.
But as with his athletic ability, his mental elusiveness was exciting,
but not ultimately effective over the long haul. You know Vick never
had to see the walls of a prison if he told the truth.
Still, you’re better off without him and you know it. You
won’t have to deal with the animal rights protesters who would
have hounded your organization when he returned from a one-year
suspension and resumed his role as undisciplined passer who would
have continued to think he did just enough to outsmart everyone;
just enough to win, but not enough to win it all.
Vick’s absence gave you the NFL-equivalent of a mulligan.
You got a chance to see your team’s strengths and weaknesses
in a traditional, pro-style offense. You learned that without Vick,
your Falcons could no longer run the football at will. You saw just
how poor they were at protecting the passer—although Bryon
Leftwich inflated those stats with a wind up longer than a politician
stumping for votes. Defensively, you can’t stop anyone on
the ground or in the air.
But you learned a few good things. Roddy White just might have learned
how to run a route or two and hang onto the football. Linebacker,
Michael Boley, is using his speed and instincts to become a promising
outside stopper. You learned that a drop back passer with leadership
skills and a big arm is nothing without mobility and a quick release.
At the other extreme, you learned that a one-time, big-time prospect
without leadership skills is nothing but a journeyman.
Although your GM ultimately hired the wrong coach, let’s not
forget that Rich McKay gave Tony Dungy a chance in Tampa. All Dungy
did was set the table for Jon Gruden. Petrino, an autocrat who treated
his pro players like fifteen year-olds, schooled you and McKay.
Sporting the visage of a coach with short man syndrome, his players
rebelled against him and he remained defiant because in hindsight,
he was looking for the backdoor all along. Petrino is stuck at Arkansas
and he better dominate for a few years. Otherwise, no big-time program
will touch him after the negative press.
Still, the point was Petrino sucked. He released Allen Rossum in
the preseason, one of the better kick return specialists in the
NFL, for Adam Jennings. The reason? Rossum wasn’t as good
of a nickel back? Nickel back? Are you kidding me? The Falcons don’t
face the Seahawks, Colts, Rams, and Patriots twice a year. Without
Vick, didn’t Petrino think he might need to rely on good staring
field position more than ever? Rossum isn’t setting the world
on fire with the Steelers, but only eight other players have more
returns of 20+ yards on punts (and only five others had more opportunities).
Despite being on a new team with a different approach, he’s
still outperforming Jennings. Cutting Grady Jackson may have been
more publicized, but Allen Rossum was the earliest sign that Petrino
lacked NFL smarts as a head coach.
Your (fortunately) former coach’s decision making only went
downhill from there. Inserting the slow-footed Leftwich in the 4th
QTR of a tight game, despite having less than a week with your team,
and facing a Titans defensive front, which knew Leftwich’s
cadence so well that Albert Haynesworth pulled a Mean Joe Greene-like,
leap over the line to foil the play. This never would have happened
against another QB, but Leftwich was ill prepared, and Haynesworth
knew it. Meanwhile, the best signal caller on the team was a player
Petrino coached at Louisville.
Petrino isn’t a true leader. Leaders face challenges head-on,
they don’t run from them. ESPN’s anchor crew was crazy
to say Petrino knows how to deal with chaos. If he were so good
at dealing with chaos, the Falcons would have been a better team.
If he wants to call pigs rather than coach at the highest level,
be glad you let him go. I’m sure Robert Kraft and his collection
of Lombardi Trophies is ecstatic Pete Carroll ran off to USC where
he could play big man on campus.
You have some excellent choices available. Some might need convincing,
the others could be something special. Regardless, if you give them
the opportunity and stay out of their way, your choice will build
a team that fills the stands and contends for a title. Consider
these suggestions a late Chanukah present from me to you. If you
don’t want to look at it this way, at least consider this
a belated, “all we want for Chanukah list” from your
customers. You and Bernie Marcus built a team that responded to
customers, I’m taking the opportunity to share your customers’
perspective. First and foremost, go back to a coach with a defensive
background. You got the wrong one in Jim Mora, Jr. Offense may fill
seats, but defense wins championships, gets you Monday Night and
Sunday Night appearances for the next 2-3 years, real sponsorship
opportunities, and sold out games for the long haul. If you have
to go offense, get a guy who played and/or coached the offensive
line because they understood the value of defense and made sure
they didn’t neglect that side of the ball:
Still, I’m more in favor of a defensive guy. The list
may not be as prestigious, but there’s a lot of quality:
- Vince Lombardi—you know, the guy they named that
- John Madden—the anti-Lombardi in personality, but
his teams were eerily similar to Marty Ball on both sides of
the line of scrimmage.
- Chuck Noll—Cleveland Browns offensive lineman had
a pretty good defense, don’t you think?
Do you see my point? I hope so. Here are the coaches I think
you should consider. Some are obvious, but all will get you the
results you seek:
- Tom Landry—Prior to epitomizing the Cowboy’s
mystique, he was the defensive coordinator for the Giants when
Lombardi was the OC.
- Bud Grant—He led the Eagles in sacks for a season
as a defensive end before switching to WR and compiling the
second highest yardage total in the NFL the next. The Vikings
had a great defense under him.
- Bill Parcells—He was a linebacker who became a
defensive coordinator for the Giants. He never had a big-name
QB or franchise RB, but LT was enough of an LB to sell out the
Meadowlands and bring home a couple of Lombardi Trophies.
- Bill Belicheck—the figurative son of Parcells
- Tony Dungy—Does Tampa Two sound familiar?
- Jeff Fisher—He’s got the most tenure of any
coach in the NFL and his teams play a respectable brand of football
in a small market that has few attendance problems. Fisher learned
under Buddy Ryan and prior to that, played in the same defensive
backfield as Ronnie Lott. Did you watch his team make Shawn
Merriman whine? The Titans may have lost that game, but they
are still a team no one takes lightly.
- Jack Del Rio—His teams have underachieved, but
he had the guts to part ways with Byron Leftwich and go with
what turned out to be the better QB. You have to give him credit
for a gutsy decision.
- Dick Jauron—Buffalo is in the playoff hunt with
a very young team and a rookie QB. True he’s in a weak
division—New England aside—but the NFC West might
be worse. Jauron was a DB and defensive coach.
Bill Cowher—He’s your
high-ticket item. He’s a former linebacker and defensive coach
for the Browns who was a class act for the Steelers. He led Pittsburgh
to two Super Bowls and was a perennial contender. He’s won
with grind it out running game, a high-flying aerial attack, and
the 90s precursor to Michael Vick. The one constant has been defense.
Cowher doesn’t need a big market team. The Steelers are a
historic franchise, but they are small potatoes compared to the
Giants or Dallas. NC State isn’t nearly as far from Atlanta
as Pittsburgh, so he can see his daughter with little trouble. He’s
still a young coach and he knows how a class organization operates
from year to year. Everyone likes to think that Atlanta fans want
high-flying antics. Atlanta fans want a winner. Maybe you weren’t
paying attention, but Jamal Anderson running over New England Patriot
defenders in Foxboro wasn’t that long ago. Whether Cowher
wants Jake Long, Glen Dorsey, or Darren McFadden, as his headlining
draft pick, rest assured, you are in good hands. The real question
is whether you can sell Cowher on taking the job.
Marty Schottenheimer—The Browns
of the 80s, the Chiefs of the 90s, and the Chargers of this decade
could run the ball and play defense, thanks to Marty Ball. The former
linebacker and defensive coach is an old-time SEC ball coach. He’ll
fit right in with Deep South football. No, he’s never won
the big one, but he’ll make a contender out of crap quicker
than most coaches. Give him a cooperative GM and one or two plays
to go his way in a conference title game, and you’ll get to
a Super Bowl. After A.J. Smith and Alex Spanos ran his QB—and
eventually Marty himself—out of town, he’ll be leery,
but he’ll like the makings of this team: Brooking, Boley,
Hall, and Anderson are a solid defensive core with potential. He’s
not a sexy pick, because his offenses are prehistoric, but look
at the Chargers and Norv Turner coaching circles around himself
until he realized it wasn’t broken. Good leaders know how
to put the ego away, prove to us you know this and hire Schottenheimer.
Mike Singletary—Rumor has it
that you wanted the former Bears great and Niners current defensive
coordinator, but McKay wanted Petrino. All I know is that Ray Lewis
swore by him in Baltimore and the Niners seem to feel he’s
the glue that’s holding this team together during this tough
season. The San Fran passing defense is ranked 16th and the run
defense near the bottom—but they only allow 3.8 yards per
carry. The problem is their offense is so bad the defense is on
the field too often for playing from behind. Singletary ’s
the perfect bridge between the old school player and new generation.
He would also be the minority hire for a town that has an image
as a Mecca for minorities in business. You’re PR savvy and
though his skin color has nothing to do with him being a good or
bad coach, the fact you’re breaking new ground in Atlanta
in this respect only helps a bit, too. The players won’t view
Singletary as a retread and grew up with his on-field exploits,
so they’ll work their butt off for him. He’s the smartest
pick of the group, although unproven as a coach.
Jim Schwartz—The Titans defensive
coach has built a pretty strong unit that has rocketed up to 6th
in yardage allowed overall despite the loss of Pac Man Jones. Forget
the “what is Albert Haynes-worth,” comments for a moment.
This team has gone from one of the worst to a respectable unit in
short order. Schwartz has been operating with basically nothing
while the Titans were cap strapped for the last 3-4 seasons. He’s
probably a few years away from getting serious consideration, but
you might as well interview him. You might be surprised what he
has to offer.
Bob Sanders—The Packers defensive
coordinator has a top 10 defensive in almost every category and
top give in most passing-oriented defensive categories—err,
maybe that has to do with secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer, who
you’d likely get if you hire his older brother—never
Good luck with your decision and thanks for your time and consideration.