Dan Marino once said "Sure, the home field is an advantage - but so is having a lot of talent." Indeed, usually, if a team is very talented at several positions, they have a good chance to win against a team with not as much talent at not as many positions. That's the idea anyway. As always, there are exceptions to the rule. A team with not as much talent that is well manipulated by a coaches game plan can beat a more talented squad. Sometimes, the underdogs just get lucky. Stuff happens. It's a part of life. Ultimately however, talented teams win games. But what happens when a team with a lot of talent doesn't use it? This is what I like to call pulling a Fisher.
For all of the good things that Jeff Fisher did for this franchise, I will always remember him for one thing: his unwillingness to change and how it ultimately cost him his job. "Smart but stubborn" seems like the perfect way to sum up Jeff Fisher and his mannerisms over these past few years. We all know that he's got a system that he loves to run and that he's got a way that he likes to implement it. When he had the personnel to do this way back in the late 90's and early 00's, he looked like a genius because it worked. His veteran loyalty was justified and his teams won games. As time wore on, the game changed, but Fisher didn't and by the time he was removed from office this year he looked absolutely exhausted. He was stuck in a system that wasn't going to work. Classic square-peg-round-hole stuff.
So now, what happens when you insert a long time Fish-protege into the lead role? A cultural revolution, that's what.
All poor-taste Communism jokes aside, Mike Munchak's insistence on putting the best players on the field, regardless of their age or contract status, is a breath of fresh air that we haven't had in these parts for a long time. I'll admit, I was wary at first. I thought for sure that Munchak would be Fisher-lite. All the tendencies of the 'Stache without all of the nostalgia or facial hair. No fun at all. Well, knock on wood, I might be wrong about this one. His know-how (see; common sense) are off the charts. I like to imagine a hypothetical modern-day conversation between Fisher and Munchak going something like this:
"Hey so look, you've got this guy, you may have heard of him, Jared Cook. Some kinda tight end or something. How long you wanna let him rot on the bench this year before you throw him in there for a pity-start?"
"Actually Jeff, I think I might just start this guy. He seems to have a lot of talent, he's up to speed on the playbook, and he's paid his dues on the bench. I'm giving him a shot."
"Wait what? I mean, Daniel Graham is at least five years older than Cook. At least. He's practically dripping with things like intangibles and heart and veteran presence. Mike, I'm asking you to reconsider. Think of the intangibles!"
"Nope, I'm sticking with my decision."
"Alright fine. But I can count on you to start my boy Justin Gage, right? He's got some pictures of me doing some things I'm not proud of on my trip to Cabo back in 09."
"Well this is awkward. You know Jeff, I'm not sure he's going to make the roster. He's just not consistent enough and even when he gets lucky and makes a big play, I'm not so sure it's worth it."
"What's your problem man? You can't just sit a guy who's been in the league that long. That's a sign of disrespect! Everyone knows that's just not the classy thing to do, this is a man's life you're dealing with here! You know what? Forget it. This conversation is over, have a nice life Mike."
You guys, I've decided that because Jeff Fisher was either unwilling or unable to get the team's best talent on the field in the waning years of his tenure here, his firing was the best thing that has happened to this team since its' decision to not pursue a mammoth Albert Haynesworth contract at the end of 2008. Get this: Akeem Ayers is a rookie and will be starting at linebacker this year. From day one. No strings attached. How cool is that?!? Instead of being frustrated with a journeyman veteran, we can be frustrated with someone whose mistakes can be blamed on inexperience. Plus, when he succeeds, we can revel in the moment even more! Brilliant!
Among other things, I've also noticed that Mike Munchak's defense will be comprised mostly of guys who are above league average in terms of size. No more "scrappy" (small, white, and terrible) and undersized linebackers. It might spell doom for Rennie Curran, but it opens the door for guys like Jurrell Casey to make an impact much quicker. There's just so much here that hasn't been in years past. Where it takes us, I'm not sure yet, but it's nice to no longer feel like I'm watching this team bang its' head against a wall.