Remember in elementary school when you also received grades for behavior and how you spent your free time? Well, now that the NFL lockout is in effect, we will all be able to grade each team on how they use their free time. And if the free time is used wisely, teams can actually benefit from this break in the action.
On the surface, this lockout appears to be a bad turn of events for all of the new head coaches as they try to install their systems on and off the field. When a new coach is hired, the first 100 days are essential to laying the foundation of the new program. But without the benefit of those hundred days, or even 10 days, does this mean the new staffs are doomed to fail in their first year?
By reverting the thinking back to the grade school approach, this could be the best thing that has ever happened to their administrations.
There is always a sense of urgency to get a new program started, to indoctrinate the players to a new way of doing things, as well as to break old habits and install new direction. Because of this sense of urgency, there are always a few details left undone. Oftentimes, a second-year coach feels that with a little more time, the first year could have been more successful.
So, what can a new coach do without players besides prepare for the draft? He can spend a good portion of his day on research and development, analyzing every facet of the new and old programs to find different ways to improve. Having more time to evaluate the inherited players can allow the new coaches to avoid making assumptions or quick evaluations, which can lead to letting good players slip away.
When I was in the league, I learned from 49ers great Bill Walsh to pay close attention to teams with new staffs. Walsh felt that good players would pay the burden for past losing as the new administration would tend to bring in its own players -- players who closely identify with their beliefs and are familiar with their schemes. Wanting to bring in players who have prior relationships with the new coaches at times will put good players on the street. That said, if a competing team pays close attention to a new situation, they can improve their own team.
Mike Munchak, the new coach of the Titans, is like many of the new coaches facing uncertainty at the quarterback position. Munchak is a first-time head coach, but he knows the Titans' players well, so he has an understanding of their talent levels. However, with this free time, Munchak can spend more time evaluating the entire draft, not just the top 100 players. Also, he can spend time understanding how he is going to implement his new systems, with a contingency plan for how long the lockout might last.
Making the right decision at quarterback will play a large part in defining Munchak's tenure. He can use this free time to seriously evaluate the free-agent quarterback class, as well as every quarterback in the draft. Using this extended time devoted to finding the next quarterback of the Titans should be the top priority, and if Munchak does a good job in the evaluation process, he will solve the issue at the most critical position.
You'd think every new coach with a quarterback conundrum would evaluate all the quarterbacks, and you're right -- but he also doesn't have the time to do a complete evaluation and often has to rely on scouts or his assistant coaches. And being brand new, the coach doesn't have the time to evaluate the evaluator, either. Often it takes time to find out who are the best evaluators in an organization -- and it might not be the person in charge or the one with the loudest voice. Knowing who to listen to is important, and often it takes time.
And now, with the lockout, time is suddenly on the side of every new head coach. This just might be their blessing -- not their curse -- if they use their time wisely.
Dr. Albo: 'A man's man'
My life has been blessed by being surrounded by some incredibly talented people who have taught me much about football, and life.
On Sunday I said goodbye to one of the finest men I have ever had the privilege to know, as Dr. Robert Albo, the team physician of the Raiders who died on Feb. 21, was honored with a celebration of his life.
Dr. Albo was a man's man, a world renowned magician, a decorated surgeon, a published author, and an incredible family man. He was always smiling, always ready and willing to help. He had an instinct to know when you needed a pat on the back or words of encouragement. My time with him was special, but perhaps my finest moment was when he would take me to see Coach Walsh, as he struggled later in his life. Dr. Albo and Coach Walsh shared stories, shared their wisdom and both taught me to embrace every day with passion -- no matter the circumstances.
No man embraced life like Dr. Albo. He was always working on a book, a magic project, or learning a new procedure in medicine. He loved life to the fullest. He embraced every new endeavor by trying to do his best. And his best was remarkable.
Many people are missed when they go, but few leave an impact on your life that even when they aren't around, you can still hear their voice, their words and their wisdom. Dr. Albo will be missed, but I know his impact on my life will never leave me.
Wichard: 'A true gentleman'
The NFL world will say goodbye today to power agent Gary Wichard, who passed away last week. Gary was a true gentleman, whether talking about his clients in a contract negotiation or discussing world events. He had a great eye for talent, thus making his client list (Dwight Freeney, Jason Taylor and Terrell Suggs, among them) impressive. I loved dealing with Gary, loved his style and loved talking about his college, C.W. Post, which happened to be my alma mater's (Hofstra) arch rival. My deepest sympathy is extended to Gary's family. He was a wonderful man.