Posted on: January 17, 2011 12:34 pm

A fired assistant coach is not always a scapegoat

This past summer I had planned on writing a blog about the Milt Thompson firing.  Lethargy got the best of me, but the recent firing of Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott has rekindled that flame.  In both situations there was a strong sentiment that these firings were wrong.  In the case of Milt Thompson the fans and 610 WIP radio personalities seemed to be in unanimous agreement that Thompson was being used as a "scapegoat."  The feelings I have heard expressed concerning the firing of McDermott are more mixed, but the bulk of the opposition sites the same "scapegoat" argument.  A scapegoat is defined as someone who is punished for the errors of others.  My goal is to convince those touting this scapegoat argument that at the very least, they must admit that these assistant coach's statuses of "scapegoat" is unknown.

If there is a scapegoat, there must exist the person or people who truly committed the error(s).  The Phillies faithful who were appalled at Thompson's firing were unified in their belief that the blame should be laid on the players.  Seems reasonable right?  If the Phillies batters aren't hitting well then it's the players fault since they swing the bats.  As with any real life situation, sometimes the truth lies just a millimeter beneath the surface, safely out of view from 99% of the public.  What is this hidden truth?  The hidden truth is the interaction between the hitting coach and the players and how it correlates to success or failure in the games.  In the case, it is quite reasonable for the general public not to understand this player/coach relationship.  Now, realizing their ignorance, they must admit at the very least it is not possible for us, the fans, "the public" to truly know if Milt Thompson was the scapegoat or the real culprit.  A secondary argument will follow.  The argument goes that the years of the Phillies great hitting success were during the time Milt Thompson was the hitting coach.  But, I could make the same argument for the players.  This again forces us to conclude that Milt Thompson's scapegoat status is unknown.  Ultimately any argument which puts 100% of blame for a team's performance on players implicitly gives 0% of the blame to the coaches.  If this was true then it would seem reasonable to just get rid of coaches since they are eating up millions of dollars of salary and serving absolutely no purpose.  You "scapegaoters" aren't suggesting that are you??

The recent scapegoat argument used by fans opposed to the firing of Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott again names the players as the actual offenders.  This version of the argument has another layer, naming Andy Reid as the ultimate malefactor for bringing in this crop of defensive duds.  In this case, blaming the players is somewhat more plausible.  The Eagles defensive players are young and unproven.  There really doesn't exist a single superstar on the defensive side of the ball, save possibly Trent Cole.  But, just like the Milt Thompson situation, the accuracy of this argument at best rests on ignorance.  We the public are not privy to the decision making process the Eagles use in bringing in defensive players.  Although Andy Reid is the GM it is reasonable to suggest Reid is bringing in the defensive players that his defensive coordinator chooses.  Almost the entire draft were defensive players this past year, McDermott was certainly in "the war room."  In his second full year as coordinator this defense has gone through a lot of changes and these were supposed to be Sean McDermott's guys.  He described Ernie Sims as a "shark" when they brought him on board.  Maybe those who purport McDermott's scapegoat status are right and Reid never took his council on player decisions, brought in a crop of terrible players dooming McDermott to failure.  But, we have to admit that it is quite possible, even probable that McDermott himself was largely responsible for the group of players he had to work with this past season.  If McDermott wasn't responsible, then replacing him with someone who is strong enough to exert their influence on defensive personnel decisions is still a reasonable move, not simply one to deflect criticism.  Either way, painting McDermott as a scapegoat appears to be at best a guess.

All I want to do with this article is cast doubt on the idea that these assistant coaches were fired to serve as scapegoats to protect someone else.  It is possible, but please now admit that you cannot actually know with certainty.  Touting something as fact when it is known to be in doubt makes you sound like a foolish blow-hard.  Logic, that dark art understood by so few and properly wielded by even fewer, can serve you well my fellow Philadelphia sports fans.  It is the magic tool that allows us to both dislike Andy Reid or Donovan Mcnabb or Mike Vick or David Akers or Andre Igoudala or Raul Ibanez or Jayson Werth or Allen Iverson or etc., etc., ad infinitum and not have it cloud other opinions that are unrelated. 
Now if Andy would just call some damn running plays!!!??!!
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