So…..Brian Daboll. I think it’s safe to say this is not what most of us had in mind. It’s like we went to a magic show, and instead of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the magician pulled out another hat.
I won’t lie, I was pissed off when I first heard about Daboll’s hiring. Another New England guy with a track record of failure away from Belichick? Did we really just make that hire? Is this sandwich too old to eat? Such were my thoughts when I learned of Daboll.
I’m still not wild about the hire, obviously, but my feelings have mellowed a bit. My esteemed colleague Mr. Graverson delivered his usual optimistic perspective (complete with stats) earlier today, so you should go shout him a holler if you haven’t already. AA QB expert Jackie Rubbinson has made the case that Daboll was actually somewhat of a risk-taker last season with Miami. That was good to hear. If he wasn’t scared to attack with Matt Moore, maybe he won’t be scared to do so with Cassel either. For most of the past five years our offense has been like a kid who can’t wait to give the bully his lunch money. If Brian Daboll is able to change that, even if it results in a few more picks, he’ll have a friend in Big Matt.
Still, it is frustrating. The Chiefs had a chance to thrill, and instead they went right back to that New England recycle bin. The “Patriots West” meme used to be kind of a joke. There is no longer anything remotely funny about this. Familiarity is, by far, the most important thing to Pioli and company when adding to the brain-trust. I can’t say I find that to be a very encouraging thought.
Think of it this way: was Brian Daboll the best candidate out there? Like, of all the coaches available, was he the best possible choice? If not, this “familiarity first” policy, like a lot of what the Chiefs do, is counterproductive.
Daboll is similar to Pioli, in a way. I don’t mean personally, of course, since I know little about his personality yet. I’m talking about performance, results and excuses. Both have been at their current level of employment for three years, and by the most objective measures, have achieved below-average results. Pioli’s Chiefs are 21-29; Daboll’s offenses have ranked an average of 28th. On the surface, both of these men have been bad at their jobs. In order to paint a different picture, we need to make excuses for them.
Some of you undoubtedly bristled when you read the word “excuses.” Before you put on your “I’m angry and I have bad grammar” pants, hear me out. Excuses can be valid. In both Pioli and Daboll’s case, the excuse-du-jour is how bad their teams were before their arrival. And it’s true: the Chiefs were awful before Pioli came to town, and the Browns’ offense was bad before Daboll.
Here’s the thing, though, about the “he took over a bad team/unit” excuse: it doesn’t say anything positive about the man in question. All it does is mitigate the negative. If you’re trying to argue that someone is good at their job, it should take a lot more than “things were also bad before he got here.”
In Daboll’s case, all that excuse tells us is that he failed where other men failed. Hardly a ringing endorsement. In Pioli’s case, apologists are still referencing the 2008 team as a reason we don’t have depth in 2012. The word “rebuilding” was used in the comment section of my post last week. It’s Pioli’s fourth year on the job, and people are acting like he hasn’t had enough time to find a backup QB who can throw a spiral, a right tackle who isn’t the worst lineman in the league, or a backup safety who will have more tackles than facepalms. The excuse-train runs off the tracks pretty easily, I guess.
I mean really, how simple is it to come up with semi-plausible excuses? Crazy-simple.* My worst employee recently told me she thinks someone put a curse on her and her girlfriend. This was her way of explaining away her own incompetence. Mark Donovan, if you’re reading this, feel free to put that one in your back pocket. My gift to you. I know you prefer the indignant route, but it’s always good to have options.
*Let’s try a little exercise here. You reference a terrible decision or player from the Chiefs’ past, and I will make up an excuse. I challenge you to come up with a gaffe I can’t cover for. No Herm stuff though. I refuse to do that, even in jest.
Back to Daboll. This move didn’t just generate a “love it or hate it” response. Equally prevalent is the “let’s just wait and see” attitude. I’ve been seeing this a lot lately in the Chiefs webosphere. I don’t want to rag on the mindset, as its proponents are nearly always rational, respectable commenters. And of course, there is truth in this perspective. We don’t know for sure if this was a good move yet; we can’t. But this is what sports-talk is about: opinions, and the reasoning behind them. We don’t know yet, so we go with what we have. If we’re smart, we realize we may be wrong. If we’re dumb, we know for a fact we’re right. Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an opinion before you know all the facts, as long as your mind is flexible enough to change when new facts come along.
Easier said than done? Definitely. But this is how we live our lives. I don’t know for a fact that I would hate the movie One For The Money, because I haven’t seen it. The fact that Katherine Heigl’s smile makes me cringe is enough to tip me off that in this case, this is probably not a movie I would enjoy. Do I have to watch the movie start to finish to figure that out? Do I have to touch a stove every time I turn it on to figure out it’s hot?
Fortunately, Brian Daboll can’t possibly be as bad as Katherine Heigl. In fact, if you look only at his time in Miami, he seems like a guy who has upside. I no longer find myself upset about this hire. Annoyed would be a more accurate word. And even that isn’t necessarily because I think he’ll be bad. Expectations are very low; he could easily meet them. If our offense is even in the top 20, I think we’ll all be satisfied, and our team will probably be pretty good.
I’m just annoyed, like a lot of people, that Scott Pioli doesn’t seem to be able to get past this Patriots imitation. He just keeps adding their castoffs, and scratching his head when it doesn’t work. Meanwhile the two men responsible for New England’s success are still there. And the one person we really need to understand that is the only one who hasn’t yet figured it out.