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Coaches, GMs, and Reporters

The (Nashville) Tennessean's Paul Kuharsky wrote a short piece about the Coach-GM relationship, specifically with regard to the Titans. He observes

Sure, Coach Jeff Fisher and GM Floyd Reese -- both in the last year of their contracts, both knowing their jobs probably hang on the Titans’ ability to show improvement this season –- have their disagreements. Show me a traditional coach-GM structured organization where the two powers don’t regularly butt heads. It’s designed for them to check each other.

While in the search for something to write about, reporters usually like to make a big deal over Coach-GM disagreements, Kuharsky displayed a good grasp of how the setup should work. Of course, there is an "optimal" amount of disagreement -- too much and the relationship explodes; too little and you might as well make one the assistant of the other.

The piece continues in a way that adds a nice insight about signaling in view of the upcoming contract expirations.

On Wednesday, as I was still working on a piece about what makes a quarterback a good fit for offensive coordinator Norm Chow, I chatted with Reese before practice. I asked him about how he felt Kerry Collins fit as a Chow guy.

"(Collins) has obviously come in and picked it up quickly and I think they obviously favor him," Reese said, referring to the coaching staff and not indicating who he favored. "He ended up starting last week, so that’s a pretty good indication."

I don’t want to read too much into that answer. But it’s hard to hear it or read it without sensing Reese doesn’t mind the idea being out there that -– success or failure -– Collins should fall in the Fisher column when evaluation time arrives.

If doing what Kuharsky suggests, then Floyd Reese picked a good time to send this signal. Kerry Collins' QB rating against the Chargers on Sunday was 1.3 (that's not a typo!). On the downside for Reese, I doubt either he or Fisher will survive unless something picks up for the Titans.

It's a bit unusual for the Tennessean writers to take a stab at Fisher. My observations (which may be off) over the years have been that writers in mid and small markets with little media competition or with little specialization between "beat writer" versus "commentator" tend to really suck up to coaches. (Most national TV announcers fit this profile also, including the likes of John Madden). They may take swipes at the GM or the owner, but they rarely really sting the coaches, especially one with any kind of tenure. National writers or commentators in much bigger markets are not so hesistant. For example, last week Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman in his weekly grades was flabbergasted at Collins' start and sarcastic about his performance

It's not a quarterback controversy, it's a stunner. Kerry Collins, who flunked out of Oakland, and that's not easy to do, was a surprise starter (well, it was a surprise for me ... I'll probably get a lot of e-mails from people who said they knew about it all along), and he responded with a 41.9 rating against the Jets.

The Titans-Jets game announcers went to lengths in defending the Collins move as did some of the Tennessean writers.

The desire of the smaller market writers and national TV guys to be "on the inside" with coaches reminds me of the chummy relationship between the main Bloomington, Indiana writer covering the Hoosier basketball and Bob Knight as related in Feinstein's Season on the Brink. After the Bob Knight chair-throwing incident, a reader criticized his column saying, "it read like a legal brief prepared on behalf of the defendant." The writer, to his credit in terms of honesty, responded, "Probably he was right." Whether national writers really differ from TV announcers or from local writers could be put to a test with a sizable amount of tape watching and "content analysis." I'll leave that someone else.