It's never wise to make rash, emotional decisions. Not in your romantic life, not as a parent, and not in your workplace.
Some of the best advice my father ever gave me was about sending angry e-mails to your boss or your coworkers. Go ahead and type them out, he said, but click "save draft" and then read them over again a day later before you decide to send them. You'll save yourself a lot of misery you can't see down the road right now.
Ravens fans are emotional right now, and judging by a lot of the comments on this blog, a lot of you want Greg Mattison's head. A lot of you. You see the defense getting carved up like a Butterball turkey and after a decade of defensive dominance, this is infuriating. An inept offense, you can deal with. You've been there emotionally. But getting embarrassed on D? It has to be Mattison's fault! And to save the season, he should be on the next bus back to Florida!
Here is why this is total lunacy:
It's almost impossible to evaluate him as a defensive coordinator right now. Firing defensive coordinators eight games into a season is the kind of move that injects instant instability into a franchise. It's the kind of thing that has turned the Redskins into a walking punchline the last several years. When NFL fans are emotional, they always think there is a magical fix for the problems facing their franchise. It's rarely that simple. If you think it's just about the schemes, the blitzes, and the coverages -- and that in an alternate universe Rex Ryan could be back in Baltimore barking into his headset and making everything right again -- you're going to be in for a rude awakening as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed continue to see more gray hairs in their beards.
Stability matters in the NFL. Franchises that hire and fire coaches based on half seasons are the kind that get mired in a cycle of misery. If a head coach can't be trusted to put together a staff he believes in, if he has his authority stripped from him after eight rocky games, suddenly he's not going to trust the general manager and the owner. And the players aren't going to trust him because they know they don't have to listen to him if he doesn't have any real authority.
Steve Bisciotti understands this because he made his fortune understanding how to manage people. In fact, you could make a pretty good case no NFL owner understands how the pyramid power structure of the workplace better than Bisciotti. And that's why it would absolutely floor me to hear that Mattison wasn't going to get a full season to attempt to work through this. Donald Trump, he is not. (He has much better hair, for starters.) There is a chance that Mattison isn't the right guy for the job. I don't think I posses enough football acumen to say one way or another. From a layman's point of view, I do think Ryan was more creative with the way he brought guys from 20 different angles on blitz pressure. The Monday night game against New England two years ago, when the Ravens almost knocked off the undefeated Patriots and Bart Scott went bonkers and threw a flag into the stands, was a work of art on Ryan's part. It was like watching the Visigoths charge the gates of the Roman empire.
But here's the thing people don't bring up when they call for Mattison's head: Who replaces him? Who comes in and revamps the entire defensive scheme in four days of practice?
Not Rex Ryan. He's the Jets coach, so pining for him is no different than pining for James Harrison. Both were here and now both are gone. The team evaluated them and liked someone else better. That's frustrating for some of you, sure. Understandable even. But it's not something that is reversible. Doc Brown isn't pulling up in front of M&T Bank Stadium a Delorean so you can prevent Harbaugh and Bisciotti from meeting at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance/interview.
So what is the alternative? Hire someone and fire them after they can't figure out how to slow down Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger? Unless you can present a viable alternative -- one that isn't Lewis calling the plays -- you're probably going to have to ride this one out if you're in the anti-Mattison camp. Some of the men in that locker room have always played better when they felt like they were being disrespected anyway. Perhaps disrespect will be the Ravens best friend the rest of the way. The Bengals looked young and fast and hungry on Sunday. The least the Ravens could do from here on out is look hungry again.
And sure, maybe it is the schemes. Maybe another defensive coordinator could mask the weaknesses of this defense. Maybe they would blitz better or motivate better. But it's unclear to me how a different coach could convince the defensive backs to stop holding and falling down, or how he could fix Chris McAlister's knee or Samari Rolle's neck so they could still play football at an NFL level. It's unclear what defensive coordinator out there could go all Benjamin Button on the Ravens' front seven and make them age in reverse until they're young and quick again.
This isn't the same team as last year, and it isn't the same personnel, not matter how many times it's written. It might be the same bodies, but that doesn't mean it's the same players. When NFL players get old, it happens overnight.
Now, that doesn't mean the Ravens shouldn't try some different things. Giving Lardarius Webb and even Haruki Nakamura a bit more playing time might be a good start. Even Paul Krueger probably should get a few snaps, just to show fans there isn't a conspiracy to keep him off the field. (Trust me, if he could pass rush, he'd be in there.) But the Ravens' issues, at least right now, go much deeper than blitz patterns and when to play Cover 3 vs. man-to-man.
Don't put all the blame on Mattison just because it seems like he's the only thing that's changed. He's not. At the very least, put his pink slip in the "Save Draft" folder until there is a real plan instead of an angry plan.