It used to be different. Al Davis was four steps ahead of everyone, and that was just in terms of jersey marketing. Bill Walsh was the most calm, lucid, normal Godfather in the history of NFL coaches. Tony LaRussa completely changed the way we think about bullpens. Roger Craig taught his pitchers (and perhaps too many opponents — like Mike Scott, for instance) the split-fingered fastball. Even Don Nelson’s smallball lineups seemed revolutionary at the time.
The Bay Area was THE most vibrant sports area in the ’80’s because they celebrated the cerebral. Coaches and general managers weren’t just around to rally the masses, film moderately entertaining commercials or give preferential treatment to veterans everyone has been tired of for at least two seasons. They changed the way their sports were played.
Now, we’re just trying to play catchup. OK, that’s not fair. WE’RE not the ones with cash, the ones vetting the coaching and GM’ing candidates, the ones with the chance to take a gamble on the next wave of sports.
The problem is, the owners who DO have the money haven’t had an original thought in years. Maybe sports had gotten too big, to the point where people can’t afford to lay it on the line. Perhaps our owners just aren’t rich enough. But making excuses for owners is about as fun as making excuses for No. 1 NFL draft picks. We just have to come to terms that our local owners are about as cerebral as an episode of Jersey Shore.
The NFL is a passing league. As if this wasn’t already beaten into our skulls, Ben Roethlisberger just threw for over 500 yards yesterday. Even more telling, Roethlisberger throwing for 500 yards barely raised an eyebrow. Forget about Alex Smith for a second. 20 years ago, who would have thought that during the biggest passing explosion in football history, the 49ers would be on the outside looking in?
The San Francisco Giants? Gameriffic, veterantastic. Not an ounce of original thought, unless you think vintage shopping for 1998 All-Stars or keeping Rich Aurilia on the 40-man over John Bowker are good ideas.
The A’s? The idea that Billy Beane was secretly managing the team WOULD have sounded like a good idea … about 10 years ago, when Moneyball was simply a good book about Nick Swisher and Jeremy Brown, not a failed script Brad Pitt hopes will someday give him his “Show Me The Money!” moment.
The Raiders are coached by a guy who should be playing beer league softball, only without the league or the softball.
If the Warriors are lucky, perhaps Don Nelson will name the SE quadrant of his Maui mansion after them.
And while it’s easy to pick on Nellie, it’s tough to blame him for taking the paycheck. Not his fault the Warriors couldn’t think of anybody better to lift their team out of the Mike Montgomery hellhole.
You only have two jobs as an owner (or an ownership group … puke): Pay players, and hire someone who’s smarter than everybody else to run the personnel and coaching duties. All our non-hockey franchises have been failing in this regard for years, and that’s why we’re in a pile of suck. It’s not Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Barry Zito, Corey Maggette, Eric Chavez or Eugenio Velez, it’s the coaches and GM’s in charge who’ve put these guys in situations to lose in schemes that were popular three years ago or never at all. Until one of these franchises has the balls to recognize the genius of a coach or GM no one knows about (genius that actually exists, mind you) and fully commit to it, we’re going to be stuck playing catch-up to the rest of the teams in the rest of the leagues for the rest of our lives. Well, if our lives all end at 2012 like they’re supposed to, anyway.