I have for a long time marveled at how professional football parallels politics. This is not necessarily a good thing for either sport.
I wrote a few weeks ago that I thought Rex Ryan was a great fit as coach of the Buffalo Bills. I know it is only six weeks into the season and they are still in the playoff hunt (along with about five other American Football Conference teams), but this win-one-lose-one-win-one-lose-one scenario does not feel good. And some things about the team, I believe, may demonstrate the downside of politics in football.
Last season the Bills had their first winning record in a while, but head coach Doug Marrone overplayed his hand with the new ownership and poof, he was gone. The Pegulas’ big wallet brought Rex Ryan to Buffalo.
One of the major factors that led to a winning record in 2014 was the Bills’ defense. Lead by coordinator Jim Schwartz, formerly head coach in Detroit, the Bills defense ranked 4th best in total yards allowed in the league. They led the league in sacks with 54.
But when Ryan came to town he was not satisfied with the having the fourth ranked defense, no sirree. We were going to be number one. So Schwartz, who did some great things for the team, was out and in came Dennis Thurman. Thurman, by coincidence of course, was Ryan’s defensive coordinator with the New York Jets. In politics Thurman’s appointment would be called patronage. Ryan’s coaching hires extended to several other members of his Jets’ staff who followed him to Buffalo. More patronage.
Of course, like in real politics, if the patronage appointees are capable of performing well, most people are prepared to ignore how they got their jobs. But when the performance doesn’t go so well …
The News has reported that some of the Bills’ players on defense, particularly those on the defensive line with the quarter billion dollars in contracts, are not happy with the schemes that Thurman has designed. The defense so far this year is ranked 16th for yardage given up, and 16th in the number of sacks achieved. It should be interesting to see how Ryan handles this.
Political appointments in the NFL coaching ranks are pretty common. A head coach gets fired at one team, winds up the coordinator somewhere else, hoping to be the head coach with another team. Wade Phillips is a great defensive coordinator, but look at all the head coach and coordinator positions he has been through over the past thirty-five years.
There are others: Josh McDaniels, former head coach in Denver, became offensive coordinator in New England; Doug Marrone joined the Jacksonville staff; Todd Haley was fired as head coach in Kansas City and later became offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh; Norv Turner has had multiple stints as head coach and coordinator. There are many more examples, too numerous to mention.
There is another feature of politics that carries over to football – nepotism. Our own, beloved Rex Ryan got his start working on a coaching staff when his father, Buddy, led the Arizona Cardinals. There has been Mike Shula, Brian Schottenheimer, Kyle Shanahan and others. It’s always great to have some inside contact to land a nice job.
And then there is the style of NFL coaches and how they parallel political candidates. CBS football analyst Boomer Esiason has pointed out similarities between Ryan and Donald Trump. A baseball legend, Dizzy Dean, used to say “it’s not bragging if you can do it.” Ryan and Trump seem to be bragging.
You can match up some prominent politicos with football head coaches with similar styles and personalities such as:
Jeb Bush Marv Levy
Ben Carson Joe Philbin (recently of Miami)
Chris Christie Jim Harbaugh (U. of Michigan; formerly San Francisco)
Vladimir Putin Bill Belichick (New England)
So the next time you watch a debate or a football game or read a commentary on politics or football, come up with your own parallels. It will make the game more fun, and it’s cheaper than playing fantasy football.
Our friends across the Niagara River just completed their elections for a new parliament. The campaign lasted 11 weeks! It takes longer than 11 weeks to count up the SuperPACs’ money in the United States.
Canada’s Liberal Party came out with a majority of the members of the new Parliament and will form the new government. The Liberals are headed by Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I guess that Canada being a part of Great Britain’s dominion and all, they must like the idea of legacies and dynasties, like the royalty that has ruled England for centuries. Thank God that our founding fathers threw off the yoke of dynasty, otherwise we would have had lots of presidents named Harrison, Adams, Roosevelt, Bush.
Watching the returns from the Canadian election for a few minutes, during commercial breaks in the Blue Jays’ playoff game, it is interesting to see how quickly and methodically the results are posted and the implications are sized up, unlike in the United States. Watching the number of Parliament members of the various parties tallied up is almost watching a telethon totaling their contributions.
The Canadian election also points out that Ted Cruz was probably wise giving up his Canadian citizenship to run for president. With the Conservatives now out of favor in Canada Cruz’s chances north of the border would have probably not been very good. Most folks in Western New York get along fine with our Canadian neighbors, so if the Republican Party nominates Cruz for president next summer it will be like saying thank you to Canada for sending him our way.