Learning a 34-year-old man has been fired from his job is almost never a reason to celebrate. But there are times, such as Tuesday, when the news causes me to do little more than shrug my shoulders.
During the year he spent as Seahawks offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates did not care what fans thought, one way or the other. Despite his high-profile gig – calling plays and assembling game plans for the most popular pro sports team in America’s 13th largest market – Bates insulated himself in a window-less office, rarely consenting to interviews.
Now that he’s become the earliest casualty of Pete Carroll’s Year Two plan, I can only presume Bates still doesn’t care what fans think, one way or the other.
Bates’ staunch detachment from the public isn’t the reason he got canned Tuesday. The reason he got canned, as Carroll likely will point out when the head coach meets with the media today, is because his offense never developed an identity.
The 2010 Seahawks were as uncomfortable running the ball as they were passing it, as uncomfortable on first-and-10 as they were on third-and-1. There was one play call consistently executed with confidence after the ball was snapped: the punt, as seen eight times during the team’s first eight possessions Sunday in Chicago.
And while it wasn’t Bates’ responsibility to explain how injuries created matchup problems that limited the offense’s options, some sort of communication on his part might have given Carroll reason to ponder the surprisingly abrupt firing.
“I think these guys understand where we are going, and what we are trying to get done,” Carroll said after the playoff-elimination defeat to the Bears. “That’s important for us to move forward with that. I mentioned that we need to take this with us.”
What Carroll didn’t mention in the locker room is that he wasn’t taking Jeremy Bates along for the move forward.
It’s reasonable to wonder how much the offense’s lethargic first-half performance at Chicago weighed in his decision to cut Bates. If the Seahawks’ offense shows up early, puts the Bears on their heels and somehow ekes out an upset against a good but hardly unbeatable opponent, is it even conceivable Carroll replaces his most influential assistant during the offseason?
But the offense showed up only after the Bears’ interest seemed to wane after a shutout was averted, and Seattle’s 24-point “explosion” apparently commanded more attention from oddsmakers handicapping the NFC Championship – the Packers were installed as three-point favorites over their ancient archrivals – than it did from Carroll.
Which brings us to the search for the Hawks’ fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons. The curious timing of Bates’ release, confirmed 48 hours after the Seahawks took the opening kickoff of a game that found them four quarters removed from a conference title showdown at Qwest Field, suggested a furious pursuit of Josh McDaniels.
Despite people skills as raw as Bates’, the recently fired Broncos head coach is regarded as an offensive mastermind. But St. Louis was lined up first, and whatever the Rams can’t provide with an outrageous salary to a prospective offensive coordinator, they can provide with quarterback Sam Bradford, a young superstar in the making.
Once McDaniels was removed from the board Tuesday, attention turned toward the Vikings’ Darrell Bevell. There’s a lot worthy of intrigue here, beginning with the notion he’s a 180-degree departure from the guy who just got pink-slipped. Bevell is personable, given to stepping out of his office once in a while without being blinded by the light.
Bevell was allowed a sort of semi-autonomy while calling plays for the Vikings – former head coach Brad Childress exercised the last word – and the ex-Wisconsin quarterback, who worked five seasons with the Packers, has long enjoyed a close rapport with Brett Favre.
One question lingers about Bevell: Why would Minnesota head coach Les Frazier grant him the freedom to seek another job, while the Vikings interview Atlanta quarterback coach Bill Musgrave as their next offensive coordinator?
My suspicion is that Frazier, preparing for his first full year, wants to distance himself from the Childress regime, with new faces, and no Favre, representing a new era in Minnesota.
Bevell’s availability is the Seahawks’ gain.
As for Jeremy Bates, he soon will apply for his sixth job in 10 years.
If there’s a smile that wins over potential bosses during the interview process, he might want to learn how to keep it.
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