PD Sunday Sampler
Anyone who takes issue with the tight-lipped way that the Green Bay Packers generally conduct their business should take a look at what transpired in South Beach this past week.
Miami Dolphins’ ownership openly courted hot coaching prospect Jim Harbaugh of Stanford University, going so far as to fly out to the West Coast on Thursday to meet with Harbaugh personally even though he just coached The Cardinal to an Orange Bowl ”championship” Monday night. All of this while the Dolphins still had a head coach under contract in incumbent Tony Sparano. For all their efforts, Miami ended up with a face full of egg when Harbaugh turned them down. With no real ‘plan B’ in place, the Dolphins were left scrambling to appease Sparano, which allowed him to parlay a 1-7 home record in 2010 into a two year contract extension. It’s plenty clear that Bill Parcell’s is no longer involved in Miami. Good work, Dolphins!
For his part Harbaugh was also being pursued by the University of Michigan and the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he ultimately signed a 5 year, $25 million contract. That’s a lot of run for a coach only 4 years removed from coaching in Division 1-AA at the University of San Diego and whose overall record at Stanford was only 8 games over .500, including a 12-1 mark this year. Apparently NFL owners, currently trying to incorporate a rookie salary cap into the new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, have no qualms about ignoring that concept when it comes to rookie coaches. It makes me wonder how much of Harbaugh’s sudden popularity is owed to his quarterback at Stanford, premier pro prospect Andrew Luck who has decided to return for his senior season sans his coach, and to the success his brother John has enjoyed as coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Not to mention an exquisite happenstance of timing. The track record for college coaches going to the pro ranks isn’t particularly good and the odds get worse when you consider that the 49ers front office has recently been a mess. I have to believe that if Harbaugh were more interested in being successful than being paid, he’d have been better served to return to his alma mater at Michigan. At least Michigan’s loss is Wisconsin’s gain.
Meanwhile, in my little hamlet of Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Packers prepared for their upcoming playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles while quietly signing emerging star linebacker Desmond Bishop to an overdue but reasonably valued 4 year, $19 million contract extension. The Bishop signing immediately set off speculation about which of the team’s other linebackers might be departing next season, since the Packers are unlikely to pay either Nick Barnett or A.J. Hawk major money to sit on the bench. Barnett is scheduled to make just over $6 million per/ each of the next two years while Hawk is due a $10 million ‘balloon payment’ next year. Injured Brandon Chillar is also slated to receive over $10 million from the team over the course of the next 3 seasons.
Those numbers make it highly unlikely that all of them will return unless they accept some form of a pay cut. My expectation is that the Packers will first attempt to get the younger, healthier Hawk to go for a more team friendly extension, which might be difficult since he’s had a fine year and is looking at free agency. If the team can come to terms with Hawk, I look for them to either try to renegotiate Barnett lower or release him. If the team can’t find common ground with Hawk, Barnett’s chances to remain become better. I know of many fans who would like the Packers to retain both, especially in light of how injuries have affected the team this season. Unfortunately, I simply don’t see that as a practical scenario. Bishop has established himself as a starter with his performance this season and it’s unreasonable to assume that either Hawk or Barnett would be satisfied playing a part-time role. The odds suggest that at least one of them won’t be around for the next Packers season.
No matter what happens, chances are we won’t hear much about it from the team before the fact. General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy may not be the most dynamic speakers in front of the microphone, but their management style is infinitely preferable to what we witnessed in South Florida this week.
RANDOM SAMPLINGS: If nothing else, the Milwaukee Brewers’ efforts to upgrade their starting pitching seems to have forced the hand of at least one of their division rivals. Following the Brewers’ lead in acquiring Zach Grienke, the Chicago Cubs traded 5 top prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Matt Garza. Judging prospects is always iffy but on the surface the Cubs appear to have given up even more for Garza than the Brewers did for Grienke. And by most accounts, Grienke is still more highly regarded than Garza…………Another signing by the Packers that was overshadowed by the Bishop extension was the two year deal bestowed upon long-snapper Brett Goode. Players in that position are most effective when you never hear their names and by that measure, Goode was well worth the money………..I’ll be the first to admit that there are too many bowl games, especially now with so many after New Year’s Day. But it’s unfair for media-types to characterize them as ‘exhibitions’. That implies that they’re like NFL preseason games where teams don’t care about winning. They’re not exhibitions to the teams or ‘student-athletes’ playing in them. People who gloss them that way are obviously more interested in the ‘story’ than the enjoyment of the actual game for its own sake………..It was my understanding that the idea behind the University of Maryland firing football coach Ralph Friedgen was to raise the profile of the program. That made sense when they were talking with former Texas Tech firebrand Mike Leach but doesn’t hiring UConn’s Randy Edsall defeat the purpose?……….I wonder if Stanford’s Luck would have made the same decision to stay in school without the uncertainty of the NFL CBA negotiations……….The Tennessee Titans made the right call when they decided to cut ties with QB Vince Young in favor of retaining coach Jeff Fisher. Owner Bud Adams said that they’re two different issues and that the coaching staff is still being evaluated but that’s just so it doesn’t appear as if he’s being manipulated by Fisher. On the other hand, Al Davis strikes again in Oakland, firing coach Tom Cable when the 49ers asked for permission to talk with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Apparently Davis would rather keep his O/C than a head coach who finally appeared to have his team on the rise. At least Cable accomplished one noteworthy thing before leaving; Oakland was the first team to go undefeated within their division and still miss the playoffs. Don’t know if that says more about them or the AFC West. Davis was once a great football mind but the game has passed him by and the Raiders will never be competitive as long as he’s calling the shots in Oakland………..The Seattle Seahawks would have had the eighth pick in next year’s NFL draft had they not made the playoffs. Hope they appreciate their playoff experience; they’ve paid well for it. And, by the way, for those using Marshawn Lynch’s run to seal yesterday’s game as evidence that the Packers should have traded for him earlier this year, be advised that was his longest carry since he was a junior at Cal. That speaks volumes about his NFL career; don’t make too much of one play………..Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven realized a long overdue induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this week. Blyleven was joined by second baseman Robby Alomar. It’s funny, the numbers clearly support Alomar’s inclusion but I don’t remember his play as HOF-caliber. Maybe such things are only obvious in retrospect………..Finally, congratulations to Wisconsin senior QB Scott Tolzien. Tolzien will be representing the Badgers in the East/West Shrine college football all-star game.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and GO PACK!!!