In recent years, sports columns by the Denver Post's Woody Paige read as if he simply spewed out the first thing that came to mind as opposed to actually thinking about a subject before writing about it -- a technique he burnished during his several years as a fulltimer at ESPN. (For more about that period, read the 2005 Message column "King Woody.") It was something of a shock, then, to peruse "First Hire Could Be Misfire," a piece that not only featured a strong point of view about newly chosen Broncos defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (pictured), but backed up that opinion with a devastating raft of facts.
Here's Paige's lead:
It must be downright discouraging and demoralizing for somebody who has served as a defensive coordinator, then head coach, for 14 1/2 seasons -- with five different teams -- yet reached the playoffs only TWO of those years, won more than 10 games just once, had a losing record in eight seasons (and only four or five victories four times), was fired several times and, in the biggest game all his teams played, saw the defense reduced to ashes (44 points).
It gets better. Paige goes on to point out that during Nolan's separate stints as defensive coordinator with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, neither team made the playoffs, and as the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2005 until just shy of last season's midpoint, he "won fewer than half his games, and did not make the playoffs, before being fired..." Moreover, "Nolan's defenses ranked in points allowed, Nos. 30, 32, 20 and 23. They permitted 30 points or more 18 times."
As Paige notes, Nolan's defense of choice is the 3-4 -- a scheme the Broncos have resisted incorporating because their current personnel don't fit its mold. In my view, rejecting such a move for that reason is ridiculous. It's not as if the Broncos have so many tremendous players on the defensive side of the ball that they can't afford major shuffling. But I share Paige's doubts that Nolan can make this switch on the fly, as opposed to the team suffering through a several year transitional phase during which the D might be as bad as the present version, if not worse.
Woody being Woody, his closing sentence -- "And Mike Nolan has to prove why Broncophiles should not be down-wrong discouraged and demoralized" -- makes little sense. I can't tell for certain if the "down-wrong" mention represents an editing error or some bizarre mind-fart on Paige's part. But overall, his arguments about Nolan are cogent and on-point. Did I just see Babe sprout wings?
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