By Bill Campbell
Since this is Super Bowl week, it would seem appropriate to write about the National Football League and the men who coach its teams.
There has been much activity within the ranks of late. Seven NFL teams have hired new coaches this year and more changes may be coming before the start of the ‘12 season. Almost 25 of the league teams have changed coaching faces, and a few names were downright surprising.
The most recent was that of Greg Schiano who left Rutgers University, where he was earning $2.5 million a year, for Tampa Bay. While Schiano has done a good coaching job at Rutgers, both with recruiting and building a better than 500 won-loss record, the overall program has been drowning in red ink. The governor of New Jersey has been talking about the state university program and predicting massive changes. Additionally, the conference in which Rutgers plays has been the subject of change recently, raising the possibility of Rutgers losing its status as an automatic qualifier in the BCS. It could be that, even though he had said he had he had no intention of going to the pros, Schiano figured that this might be a good time to make a move. One also has to wonder how many of the kids who Schiano successfully recruited will stand by their initial oral commitments after they discover that their coach has gone. But we digress. That is not an NFL problem and Schiano, like anyone else, is entitled to better his personal situation.
Seven NFL teams have hired new head coaches since the regular season ended and, except for Jeff Fischer who spent almost a generation at Tennessee, none of the new hires is exactly a household name. Romeo Crennel, who was on the staff in Kansas City, becomes the new head coach in Cleveland. The others – Dennis Allen in Oakland, Mike Mullarky in Jacksonville, Joe Philbin in Miami and Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis – are hardly well-known east of the Mississippi.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are owned by the Glazer family which believed it had hired Chip Kelley from Oregon a few days earlier. Kelley accepted the job but then had some second thoughts and announced he was returning to Oregon. That led to another round of interviews and the hiring of Schiano. The Pagano hiring at Indianapolis is interesting too. The Colts’ record of 2-14 this past season without Peyton Manning is enough to get anyone fired. But rumor had it that Chuck Pagano, who wound up with the Indianapolis job, was in Andy Reid’s thoughts for defensive coordinator with the Eagles last year. Instead, Pagano was promoted in Baltimore. Ryan Grigson, the Eagles’ personnel guy just hired as the new general manager at Indianapolis, has now made Pagano an important pick there.
So the rumor wheels keep going round and round, with some scene involving the Eagles, rumors which Andy Reid finally straightened out at his recent press conference. At least as far as coordinators are concerned, the Eagles have made one addition in the secondary – Todd Bowles. But Reid will be back for his fourteenth season while other names like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and others, will keep circulating after the Super Bowl.
The college football scene has been almost as active. No sooner had the Schiano story broken at Rutgers but the name of Temple Coach Steve Addazio popped up as a possible successor – which has been subsequently denied by both schools. Names are popping up everywhere on the recruiting scene since Wednesday became the first day that high school players could sign letters of intent and that brought more pressure to the boiling point. They can sign after Wednesday too. St. Joe’s prep quarterback, Skyler Mornhinweg, had made an oral commitment to Penn State but wound up going to Florida. The same situation pertains to Quanzell Lambert, a star linebacker at Timber Creek, who’s reported reconsidering his oral agreement to Rutgers now that Schiano is leaving – which opened the door for Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma and several others. Just to make things interesting, veteran coach Andy Talley isn’t leaving Villanova but he has made three changes on his coaching staff. It is, indeed, a busy time among the pros and college football.
Drexel basketball coach, Bruiser Flint, made a little news this week proclaiming his belief that his Dragons might be the best college team in the city. That the Dragons can beat anybody in the area and that Drexel is serious and is being short-changed in the media. Drexel often has been referred to as the “sixth member of the Big Five” much to Flint’s annoyance. He feels his team can beat any team in town. He does have three starting guards who average over 6’4”, a 6’9” guy who plays inside and who can be replaced by a player who’s 6’8’. He also has a 6’5” power forward in Sammy Givens with veteran experience. And Drexel plays defense. It has specialized this season in holding opposing teams to under sixty points. Bruiser thinks the conference in which Drexel plays – the CAA – is as good as the Atlantic Ten. He resents the fact that the other city teams won’t play the Dragons as often as they play each other and will rarely venture on to Drexel’s home court. They played St. Joe’s in late November at the Hagen Arena on the Hawks’ campus and St. Joe’s won easily. St. Joe’s is Flint’s alma mater. He says that he “respects all the Philly schools, they have great coaches and good players – but Drexel can beat them.” He thinks that Villanova’s Malik Wayns is “the best player in the city,” that Drexel point guard, Franz Massenat, is “a first team all city performer” and that Damion Lee is “the best freshman in town.” Temple, in Flint’s opinion, is “the best team in town right now” but the others don’t scare him. He’ll take his chances with any of them. Drexel at this writing has won nine straight and is 17-5. Although hardly with anyone noticing, LaSalle is 16-6 after beating Duquesne, shooting 52% against the Dukes.
A word about Elena DelleDonne is in order. She might be the best female basketball player in the country. After scoring 41 points with 15 rebounds against Hofstra over the weekend, she followed with a 23 point performance two days later against James Madison. She plays for Delaware, which has an 18-1 record, 9-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association. It was a big victory for Delaware which had lost its last nine games against James Madison including last year’s championship game. That all happened before Delaware basketball welcomed DelleDonne.