Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Firing Palmer likely bought him one more year, but there are no more excuses left for Thorchak
How quickly the NFL world turns. When Danomite texted me last night with the news that Clay Travis' favorite OC had become the latest to suffer the wrath of Thorchak, I couldn't help but remember our discussions a month ago on MCM Radio. My stance at that point was that Palmer seemed to have righted the ship on offense: the offensive line was emerging as the offense's clear strength, Chris Johnson was running like a man possessed and the stripped down offense was resulting in improved WR play. Jerry Gray was the dead man walking, whose lack of a replacement would be the only reason he had a job in week 15. However, over the past month it's been Palmer's offense that has steadily faltered, while Gray's defense is growing in all the ways we expected this young group to do so after watching the preseason.
I liked a lot of what Palmer wanted to do... in principal. His goal was to move to a Run ‘N Shoot-inspired offense that combined a deadly running game with a down-the-field passing game that focused on mismatches and attacking the seams. He installed way more looks, concepts and adjustments than ‘Dinger ever ran at any stop, regardless of the QB. We all hailed this as an emergence from the dark ages of NFL offense.
However, Palmer clearly let his scheme get too focused on pre and post-snap reads. It created confusion between the QBs and pass catchers, and a clear lack of comfort in the pass catchers' mind. There were so many options on every play that guys weren't confident they were going to be in the right place, which means they're thinking about everything other than making the catch and coming down in-bounds until the very last second.
Maybe this kind of system would be a beautiful aerial ballet in a few years, when guys had either gotten more used to it, or been replaced with WRs and TEs whose primary skill was a high football IQ. But even if that's true, Palmer never understood how to roll his system out slowly and not overwhelm his players.
Throwing your young QBs and WRs into the deep end and seeing if they learn how to swim is not a recipe for success in the NFL; especially when your smartest player is a back-up QB who isn't physically capable of running your style of offense.
And hey, it never helps when players pretty openly challenge your credentials, track record and (tacitly) your personality in the press. Winners can get away with being unpopular. This offense was not winning.
So now it's Dowell Loggains' time. Loggains has been a hot commodity ever since he took over for Craig Johnson as the QB coach. Johnson was unceremoniously moved to RB coach when Kennedy Pola left for USC before he coached a single game. A year later, Johnson was in Minnesota and Loggains was being pursued by the Bears, and probably would have been by Fisher if Munchak hadn't declared his prized assistant off limits.
Loggains won't get a full chance to run his offense this year, but that's the brilliance of the move, on a tactical level, by Thorchak and Reinfeldt: Loggains was the last coordinator or assistant coach left with any real heat on them. By removing Palmer and promoting Loggains, Munchak just made it much easier to convince Bud Adams this staff deserves another season. You could see some turnover at LB coach (though it's looking less likely as Brown and Ayers pile up the sacks), CB/S coach (though an early draft pick or free agent would be a better bet) and WR coach (Dave Ragone has done a serviceable job, but he was hand selected by Palmer), and obviously a replacement will be needed at QB coach. However, we all know Bud doesn't want to let Munchak go after 30+ years of service to the franchise and a likely .500 record after two seasons as a head coach.
Letting Palmer walk and promoting Loggains could be the change we fans and the players needed, but it's certainly the change Munchak needed to get one more year. But don't think for a second Munchak bought himself much more than that. From here on out, wins are the only thing that will save his job. No excuses about the lockout, being handcuffed when he hired the staff, injuries or talent.
Only one message will save Thorchak now: #LWSS.