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Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Latest interim moves have logic

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

John in Aiken, S.C., writes something I've thought for years.

"I've never understood the logic of firing a head coach during the season,'' John writes. "Unless the interim coach is the heir apparent, like Jason Garrett or Leslie Frazier, what makes teams think they would fare any better with a newly promoted coordinator than they did with the established head coach?''

The firings of Jack Del Rio, Todd Haley and Tony Sparano may seem early, but there is some logic. They have given Mel Tucker (Jacksonville), Romeo Crennel (Kansas City) and Todd Bowles (Miami) legitimate looks at how they would fit as head coaches of those franchises. All three are minorities. All three are legitimate candidates.

Some may look at this as a way to circumvent the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates. By making these moves, these teams have complied. But the reality is that similar moves in the past have resulted in minority head-coaching hires. Mike Singletary and Leslie Frazier are just a couple of examples.

Bowles, for example, is a legitimate candidate for not only the Dolphins' job but also others. If Bill Parcells were to get another chance to run a club, Bowles likely would be his choice. Although the Dolphins' closing schedule is tough, Bowles could become their head coach if he wins a couple of games.

A three-game sample might not be much in judging how an interim coach would fare in a permanent position, but it's something.

The NFL has 10 African-American head coaches. The Rooney Rule is working, and that is great for this sport.

From the inbox

Q: Extreme hypothetical here, but there's been a lot of heat on Tony Romo not being able to win the big games or take the Cowboys deep into the playoffs. If the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, is it possible the Cowboys part ways with Romo and possibly pursue a trade to acquire Peyton Manning?

Sean in Buffalo, N.Y.

A:
That won't happen. Jerry Jones has invested too much money and time in Romo. Plus, the Colts plan to keep Manning if he is healthy. His contract is structured so the option bonus is due five days before the start of the trade period, so he can't be traded. The casualty of a failed season could be coach Jason Garrett. Romo has put up great numbers, but Garrett calls the plays. Jones wants to keep Garrett and Romo. But let's say he fires Garrett. It wouldn't surprise me to see Jones try to hire Jeff Fisher as the head coach and Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator.

Q: It's been proven that Cam Newton has provided a solid foundation for the Carolina Panthers to build on. What path do you see them taking in trying to build the team to go to the next level? Improving the receiving corps to open up the passing game? Adding defensive depth?

Jason in Chico, Calif.

A:
Newton has laid a great foundation. I predict significant improvement in the team's record next season based on the way it is playing now. I believe that the first-round pick will be a wide receiver to help the offense. After that, the Panthers will concentrate on defense in the draft and in free agency. If they can get Jon Beason and Thomas Davis back, they should be OK at linebacker. They need a couple of defensive tackles, a starting cornerback and maybe a safety.

Q: Regarding the Bucs, I'm wondering about their coaching situation. Raheem Morris has one year left on his contract. He needs assistants to fix the defense but no one will come for a one-year stint with a lame-duck coach. So what should the Bucs do?

Eric in Paris

A:
The way it's going, I don't know whether Morris will make it to the end of the regular season. The team looks lost. I think the Buccaneers will look for an offensive coach, then try to fix the defense with a veteran coordinator. I'm wondering whether former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman would be in the mix. The next coach in Tampa needs to be a disciplinarian. Because the Bucs have a great, young quarterback (Josh Freeman), it would be nice to have an offensive-minded head coach.

Q: How far into the future can teams trade their draft picks? Would it hypothetically be possible for a team like Miami to trade its next half dozen second-round picks to the Colts for the No. 1 overall pick this year and grab Andrew Luck?

Dave in New York, N.Y.

A:
There is no limit on the number of years out you can trade draft choices now that there is a 10-year CBA. I guess you can say teams might not be able to trade picks 11 years out, but there is no short-term limit. Whoever is going to call the Colts to get Andrew Luck probably would have to start with three years of quality draft choices. Unfortunately for that team, I don't think the Colts would trade him.

Q: Why would any sane GM want to hire Josh McDaniels as a head coach in the NFL? The guy single-handedly burned the Broncos to the ground in his short tenure there. Then he goes to St. Louis as offensive coordinator, and Sam Bradford regresses severely, to the point where now we wonder if he's going to make it in the NFL long term.

Mike in Pittsburgh

A:
You're right about how things haven't gone well for McDaniels, but he is a bright, young coach. I can't see anyone who doesn't know him taking a chance in the near future, but I can see something happening in Kansas City now that Todd Haley is out. McDaniels can reunite with Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel, and would have a quarterback, Matt Cassel, who knows his system. To be honest, it would be a pretty good fit. McDaniels didn't help himself with his play calling in the Seattle game Monday night.

Q: The Browns have trouble throwing the ball; this is a secret to nobody. Seems to me that the best option would be getting the ball to Josh Cribbs and Greg Little in the flat. This would get the ball in their playmakers' hands and force corners to come up and play tighter to the line, thereby opening up the downfield passing game. What am I missing?

Kovacs in Santa Monica, Calif.

A:
What the Browns have to decide is whether Colt McCoy has the arm to get the ball to the receivers consistently. Throwing into the flat on a regular basis would allow cornerbacks to cheat on routes and go for interceptions. Plus, the Browns need more speed at wide receiver. I hate to say it, but it's going to take some time. Be patient.

Kevin Kolb
Kevin Kolb hasn't paid instant dividends for the Cardinals. Is he still their long-term answer at QB?

Q: I don t think Kevin Kolb was worth what the Arizona Cardinals gave up to get him. Should Arizona draft one of these QBs coming out this year?

Tremaine in Fairbanks, Alaska

A:
At the moment, you're right, but give him time. Like all quarterbacks, he never had an offseason with the team to work with the new offense. My evaluation of him was that he was a lot like Matt Schaub, who cost the Texans a similar price. It took Schaub three years to develop into a top starter. Unless you get a great quarterback in a good-quarterback draft, you have to be patient or lucky. Well, the Cards weren't lucky, but I still think they will get good value from Kolb if they continue to develop him.

Q: Why don't more quarterbacks wear tinted visors? Michael Vick's the only one that I know of, but it seems we often hear that a defender was reading the quarterback's eyes after an interception. Wouldn't a tinted visor give quarterbacks a great competitive advantage?

Matt in Harrisburg, Pa.

A:
For a player to wear a visor, a team has to be granted permission from the league. If the team can show medical proof a visor is needed, the player can wear one for as long as it is medically necessary. You're sharp in thinking it gives the quarterback an edge because you can't read his eyes. Visors aren't standard equipment options for teams.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN