Alternate Final Fours: Philly’s Major Coaches.

1/2 The Coaches, 3/4 Their Total Weight.

Well, Peyton is going to talk to the Titans.  At least that gives some validity to my Peyton hypothesis.  I don’t feel like a complete idiot.  Although, with Randy Moss in SF, someone has to throw him the ball.  Now, if the Niners signed Randy Moss, a couple of years removed from his peak production and Peyton Manning (36 years old, missed a full season, neck issues) wouldn’t that be the ultimate Redskins move?  But, the Redskins go for the young guy this time around and still get ripped.  That’s what a terrible reputation gets you.  Enough about football, it’s time for an Alternate Final Four.  I think we did Pork, and Uses of Cheese last year.  Those posts caused me to gain 10 pounds, so this year we’re starting with something a little less gordo (although, in some ways, not really).  The 4 Philly head coaches.  What do we really have here?

The Seeds:  

#1 Charlie Manuel

  1. 7 Years Experience
  2. 646-488 (.570 winning percentage)
  3. 1 World Series Title
  4. 5 Playoff Appearances
  5. Biggest Strength:  Player relations
  6. Biggest Weakness:  Adaptability

2. Peter Laviolette 

  1. 3rd Season with Flyers
  2. 114-69-24
  3. 1 Stanley Cup Finals Appearance
  4. Biggest Strength:  His system/calling magical time outs
  5. Biggest Weakness: Goalie carousel in the post-season

3.  Andy Reid

  1. 13 Years Experience
  2. 126-81-1 (.609)
  3. 1 Super Bowl Appearance
  4. 7 Division Titles
  5. Biggest Strength:  Stability/Coaching QBs
  6. Biggest Weakness:  Clock Management/Appetite

4. Doug Collins

  1. 2nd Season with Sixers
  2. 66-58
  3. 1 Playoff Appearance
  4. Biggest Strength:  Maximizing Talent
  5. Biggest Weakness:  Close and Late Situations

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Seed Summary:

The seeding was based on success, longevity, most recent results, perception in the fan base, talent level worked with, media interaction, and gut feeling.  The hardest decision was Andy Reid.  He definitely was not #1, and he definitely was not #4.  He has an advantage over Laviolette in most categories because he’s been allowed to apply his trade for 13 years.  All the recent indicators, however, are poor.  Reid and Lavy were facing off in the 1st round regardless, so I didn’t agonize over the decision too much.  Doug Collins has done a great job with the Sixers, but he’s coached only 1.5 years here and bottom line is, the Sixers are still just a “nice” team on their best day.

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The Semi-Finals:

#1 Charlie Manuel vs. #4 Doug Collins

If this were a game in the NCAA Tournament it might end up being one where the underdog keeps it close early, is hitting all their 3s, but then eventually loses by double-digits.  In some ways, this is the ultimate test of how much impact you think a coach has.  Could any manager have won the World Series with that Phillies team?  Could another manager have won multiple World Series rings over the past 5 years?  And, what about the Sixers?  Is there any other coach who could take a team with no All-Star talent (sorry, AI #2) to the top of the division?  The way I see it, Collins gets all the credit in the world for the job he’s done with the Sixers, but no coach can be ultimately successful without the talent so you can’t hold Charlie’s good teams against him.

Manuel is like the coach at a top program where he gets all the recruits he wants.  In some ways it makes it difficult to judge his merits.  Is Brad Stevens a better coach than say, Rick Pitino?  Maybe he is, but in terms of measuring Collins against Manuel, Collins doesn’t have the lengthy track-record of building overachievers that would be necessary to pull off this upset.  I remember that Charlie was mostly ridiculed in his early years here, and I don’t think he’s an all-time great manager, but the two things you can’t ignore are:  One, the Phillies haven’t suffered a letdown season since ’08.  There have been letdown post-seasons, but they’ve always been back.  And, secondly, Charlie hasn’t gotten stale to the players.  They still love the guy, and that might be the most important trait you can have in today’s game where every guy on the roster is a millionaire.

The final factor in DC’s elimination was the performance of the Sixers in several close games this season.  They’ve been great at blowing out the bad teams, but they’ve also given away a handful of winnable games with questionable strategy at the end.  Part of that is not having a true go-to guy, but coach Collins has to own some of that as well.  In the end, pretty easy victory for Chuckles.

#2 Peter Laviolette vs. #3 Andy Reid

Andy Reid is like an aging boxer at this point.  We just don’t know if he’s fully crossed into the embarrassing, can’t defend himself stage.  You have to measure that against the fact that he’s without a doubt the best coach in Eagles history.  Granted, there’s little competition.  Laviolette on the other hand should still be building his legacy, but when you are coaching the Flyers, your tenure can come to an end at any moment.  This is the ultimate test of body of work vs. current perception.

I think Laviolette benefits a lot from people not knowing hockey as well as they do other sports.  In some ways, all hockey coaches benefit from this.  You hear a hockey analyst talk about Lavy’s system (it won a cup in Carolina) and that’s all you need to hear.  Details not important.  Laviolette paid immediate dividends with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, but since then the team has been a bit up and down.  This isn’t all on the coach, seeing as how there has been a massive roster overhaul.  Laviolette gets credit for keeping the team in the playoff picture with so many new and young faces.

Andy Reid’s biggest asset in my opinion, is that I think football coaches make a real difference.  That’s not to say the others don’t impact the outcome of games, but I know that football coaches play a huge role and all you have to do to prove that is look at all the bad ones.  Reid should also get credit for the stability he’s brought to the job, and for saving Eagles fans the shame of seeing a revolving door of 4-12 coaches parade through town.  Also, he could have drafted Akili Smith, so don’t forget that.  Reid has become tired, though, people are to the point where they are almost disgusted by the sight of him.  Fatigue is the popular word.  But, that word does not exist among the players, who still seem to support him almost unconditionally.

The final factor here may be how much you think the front offices of these teams impact the coach’s ability to do his job?  Do you blame Banner/Roseman?  And, what about Homer?  I’m pretty sure Lavy didn’t say, set me up with a suspect defense and a head-case goalie.

In the end, I actually place a large percentage of the blame on the Eagles front office, and that combined with Reid’s massive lead in all the longevity categories is going to secure him the mild upset.  This isn’t an Andy Reid endorsement, but just judging him as coach against Laviolette, Peter hasn’t done enough here.  The playoffs last season were a nightmare and he hasn’t had the chance to rectify that at this point.  A long playoff run could change my mind, but we aren’t there yet.

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The Final:  #1 Charlie Manuel vs. #3 Andy Reid

Reid is really against the wall here, because everything he does well, Charlie seems to have him beat by a nose.  Reid has 5 NFC Championship game appearances, but Charlie has the ring.  Reid’s winning percentage is the best in Eagles’ history.  Ditto Charlie for the Phils.  Both these guys have the support of the players.  Where could Andy Reid possibly have an edge?

The only advantage Reid could possibly have is in degree of difficulty.  How hard is the job?  I’d always lean football in that case, and so what does it mean that Reid has been able to hold the office for 13 years?  That was enough to get him into the finals, but that’s as far as it’s going to take him.

Manuel’s biggest hurdle is that he doesn’t seem to get the most out of his players.  He’s been good with great teams, but the Phillies haven’t overachieved.  He also is having some trouble adapting to the changing face of his roster.  That said, I think he’s gotten a little better over time.  He got himself very close to getting fired, but he survived that and has come back to enjoy unprecedented success.  He’s the only guy who’s won, and in the end, we could have used that criteria and saved 1,000 words.

I think the biggest takeaway from this exercise is, Philly sports teams don’t win a lot of titles and the city hasn’t been blessed with that many great coaches.  Considering we’re talking best ever in 2 of the 4 sports and these are the results?  But, you win 1 Championship in 29 years, or whatever it’s been and this is the kind of breakdown you get–a player’s manager who maybe shoulda been better is wearing the coaching crown.  Congrats, Charlie.

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