By NORMAN CHAD
Monday, December 21, 2009; D02
NFL coach of the year? That's easy -- it's the Indianapolis Colts' Jim Caldwell for chasing perfection in his first season. But the reverse coach of the year? That's tougher to determine.
To be a reverse coach of the year, you have to not coach up to your abilities or underachieve with your team or foul something up worse than the Secret Service letting impostors into a White House state dinner. Or, frankly, even if you just irritate me, you can be a candidate. So let's run down the top five to this year's NFL reverse coach of the year:
5. (tie) Charlie Weis, Notre Dame: Technically, he wasn't in the NFL this year, but if you can't win in South Bend -- with its own TV deal and a Hollywood history and the best fight song in all of sport -- well, you deserve some type of reverse recognition.
5. (tie) Mike Tomlin, Steelers: He's one of my favorites but we cannot play favorites here: If you coach the defending Super Bowl champs and you lose to the Raiders, Chiefs and Browns in the same season, you are halfway to Rich Kotite's guest house.
4. Eric Mangini, Browns: Every once in a while, Couch Slouch doesn't like the cut of a guy's jib. This can happen with losing coaches (Sam Wyche and Bruce Coslet come to mind) and winning coaches (Mike Ditka and Bill Belichick).
Some of my Cleveland area readers wanted me to make the Browns my Team of Destiny this season. Hey, if you can't make the playoffs with Brett Favre, you're not going to make them with Derek Anderson. Plus, frankly -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- I just don't like the cut of Eric Mangini's jib.
3. Rex Ryan, Jets: At 3-0, he talked the talk; at 4-5, he wept and wept. After losing to the Jaguars, he became tearful. Now, it's okay for a man to cry -- if his dog is run over by a truck, if his girlfriend runs away with his ex-wife, if Bernie Madoff is in his Rolodex -- but not if he loses a midseason football game.
I mean, one day Rex Ryan is walking around like General Patton at Normandy and the next day he's whimpering like Richard Simmons with a hangnail. Please. Be a man!
2. Bill Belichick, Patriots: Some people like to think he's two parts Knute Rockne, one part Vince Lombardi and one part Bill Walsh; as it turns out, he's Barry Switzer in a hoodie.
I don't care how many Super Bowls he wins, Belichick's fourth-and-two, go-for-what-
you-know coach-i-cide play-call last month against the Colts was the worst non-Switzer blunder since Gilligan set his watch for the wrong time, causing the castaways to miss the Russian sub.
1. Jim Zorn and Sherman Lewis, Redskins: The Redskins are disjointed and dysfunctional, harebrained and cockeyed. (Don't be fooled by the team's solid play over the last month -- a lot of horses don't start running well until they're clearly out of the race.)
Last year, the Redskins hired an offensive coordinator before hiring a head coach; when they couldn't find one, they made the offensive coordinator the head coach. This year, their head coach is head of nothing, and the man running the offense had been out of football for nearly five years.
Zorn, who specializes in offense, no longer runs the offense; he is a figurehead with a headset. Lewis literally went from calling Bingo to calling plays; his favorite play-calls are "G-72," which is a sack, and "B-17," which is a short, incomplete pass.
The coaching malfeasance in Washington simply reflects the team's lead-footed and clumsy leadership. The Redskins once tried to ban fans from walking to FedEx Field (safety issue, they claimed). They've tried to ban fans from bringing signs to games (safety issue again). They require all ticket holders to pay a "parking surcharge," whether you drive to the game or not (revenue issue, I guess). And, of course, speaking of reverse thinking, they hired the offensive coordinator before their head coach, which led to the current "who's-in-charge-around-here?" sideshow, and they just hired a general manager in Week 15.
So who can blame Jim Zorn for being the NFL's reverse coach of the year? Considering he's with an organization perpetually in reverse, he's only following suit.Ask The Slouch
Q. Are you taking sides in the Bobby Knight-John Calipari contretemps? (Tom Leonard; Houston)
A. On this one I side with the late Al McGuire, who once said, "The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets."
Q. Will Tiger Woods retire with more majors or mistresses? (D. Young; Greendale, Wis.)
A. It pretty much depends on how long he plays golf and how long he stays married.
Q. I realize the Oakland Raiders are undermanned, but why are they allowed to have a pigeon on special-team kickoffs? (Jim O'Brien; Racine, Wis.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. If Christmas were a televised sport, would it be over before or after Easter? (Kenny Gang; Mogadore, Ohio)
A. I think we've identified one of the three wise men.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!