The network of coaches and executives in the NFL is a topic that will never cease to amaze me. Craig has talked about it often, but the way coaches and executives perpetually find jobs based on who they worked with in the past is something around which I will never be able to wrap my hands.
It’s a Good ol’ Boy network of epic proportions. There are coaching trees and executive teams, all of whom feel they can be the next (or improved) version of those who came before them. They all have their guys. They all draft their guys. And when a new regime takes over, they inherit their guys while looking to find places for their guys. It’s a vortex of glad-handing bullshit that fails more often than it works, yet every year, teams partake in the same activities hoping to unearth the next great executive or coach.
In Cleveland, Sashi Brown is out. John Dorsey is in. Dorsey’s first hire? A man by the name of Alonzo Highsmith who comes to Cleveland in high regard (read: “a football guy”) from the Green Bay Packers. Dorsey is coming from Kansas City, but he cut his teeth as the director of college scouting for…you guessed it—the Green Bay Packers. Highsmith, as you may have read, has a claim to fame for his time in Green Bay as he was personally linked to the team drafting Donald Driver in 1999. Eleven years later, he was also linked to Sam Shields, who the Packers signed in 2010.
Now, with the Packers having promoted Brian Gutekunst to GM, fellow executive Eliot Wolf (son of longtime GM Ron Wolf) is now interviewing with the Browns as well, with the 35-year-old potentially joining Dorsey and Highsmith to form a Voltron of executives who were passed over, potentially taking their collective talents to Cleveland.
Where does this all leave Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry? Who knows? But what is known is that Berry, just two years ago, was brought in as the next great football mind, a future general manager. What is also known is Berry was never a part of that group of up-and-coming executives in Green Bay who are suddenly parachuting into Berea with their eyes on a boat load of draft capital.
But if Wolf doesn’t come to Cleveland, it will be because he’s also on the radar of the Oakland Raiders. Why? Well, their GM, Reggie McKenzie, spent eight years in…you guessed it—Green Bay.
On the flip side of the coin is Mike Pettine. While names like Pat Shurmer (who has made Case Keenum a playoff quarterback) and Dowell Loggains (reuniting with Adam Gase) start to bubble up in the world of potential coaching moves, it’s Pettine who is getting the crack on the defensive side of the ball, being hired by…you guessed it—the Green Bay Packers. The former coach of the Cleveland Browns (who had the team in the playoff hunt during the middle of the 2014 season) is going to once again be tasked with improving what was one of the league’s worst defenses a season ago.
Will he fill out his staff with friends? When he came to Cleveland, his DC was his linebackers coach in Buffalo, Jim O’Neil. O’Neil is a free agent after being canned by the San Francsico 49ers after the 2016 season. Kyle Shanahan wasn’t playing any games. It also helped that he had friends from his days in Houston by the name of Jeff Zgonina, tasked with coaching the defensive line, and Robert Saleh who, at the time was assistant linebackers coach.
Will any of this work? Will the Browns finally get things right? Will Pettine turn things around? Will the Niners defense be any better? Once again: who knows? But what we do know is that if you want to be promoted in the NFL, you likely need a friend who was promoted ahead of you who can convince their new owner to also roll the dice on you.
This Week in #ActualSportswriting:
- “For Kraft, Brady, and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end?” by Seth Wickersham (ESPN)
- “In New Orleans, Alvin Kamara Can Feel The Vibe” by Ben Baskin (Sports Illustrated)
- “Jaylen Brown: ‘Sport is a mechanism of control in America‘” by Donald McRae (The Guardian)1
- “Letter to My Younger Self” by Quentin Richardson (The Players’ Tribune)
This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:
- “The Photographer” by Justin Heckert (Pacific Standard)2
- “A Dying Town” by Sarah Brown and Karin Fischer (The Chronicle of Higher Education)3
- “A Preview of the U.S. Without Pensions” by Peter Whoriskey (Washington Post)4
- “In 2018, I want to find music without algorithms” by Kaitlyn Tiffany (THE VERGE)
This Week in Bleacher Report:
This one was fun to write. I’ve been doing a ton of personal development reading as of late, and one of the quotes that has stuck with me the most comes from Terry Crews (yes—this Terry Crews). I’m paraphrasing, but one thing he said is “creativity renders the competition obsolete.” His point: There are always uncontrollable forces that help steer success, but creativity is a controllable differentiator. Hard work is great and all, but in a space where everyone is working hard—they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t—creativity is the variable. Thus, when I’m assigned a story on Isaiah Thomas, on deadline, the very day the rest of the NBA world is covering his return, I had to take a different path if I was going to produce anything that added value. In turn, I didn’t make the story about his return at all—the focus, instead, was what led to the return. It didn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it was the only story of its type. If you didn’t get a chance to read it last week, please do this week. I hope you enjoy it—almost as much as you enjoy your Wednesday.
- Jaylen Brown is very, very impressive. [↩]
- This profile is terrific. [↩]
- “Educational disparities and economic malaise and lack of opportunity are making people like those in the Bootheel sick. And maybe even killing them.” [↩]
- This one hits home. I don’t think we’re prepared for what’s to come here. [↩]