Wednesday whys: The NFC-Packers connection

Why are the coaches in the NFC Championship game linked to the Green Bay head-coaching search in 2006?

After the Packers dismissed Mike Sherman following the 2005 season, I observed an interesting group of candidates considered for our next head coach. Names on the list included then-defensive coordinator Jim Bates, Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Wade Phillips and a couple of others.

Also on the list was Brad Childress, who was scheduled to interview following a trip to Minnesota to discuss the Vikings’ vacant position. Bob LaMonte, Childress’ agent and spinmeister extraordinaire, did a masterful job creating leverage with the perception that Childress was not only on the Packers’ list but at the top of it. The Vikings then made a preemptive strike, preventing Childress from boarding the plane to Green Bay and signing him to a five-year, $10-million deal (extended in November for double that average).

Sean Payton left a lasting impression from his visit. From the moment he walked in, he filled the room with effusive optimism and creative thoughts. I knew Sean from his time with the Giants when he had an interest in my then-client Matt Hasselbeck and saw it then as well. This guy was going places (that place turned out to be New Orleans).

Payton, like all the coaches hired in that class of 2006, also received a deal averaging about $2 million per year, his being a four-year contract. That deal was replaced by a new five-year contract in September 2008, with some of his 2009 compensation volunteered to attract defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to the Saints.

McCarthy, of course, was named Packers head coach, partly due to his familiarity with Green Bay (having served as quarterbacks coach in 1999) and partly due to his no-nonsense, Pittsburgh-bred toughness that impressed GM Ted Thompson. We did a three-year deal with McCarthy at the time that averaged roughly $1.8M, a deal torn up before it reached the second year. It was replaced with a five-year deal worth more than double that average.

The class of 2006 – which also included Dick Jauron, Rod Marinelli, Scott Linehan and Gary Kubiak – has had mixed results, but it now features the two head coaches in the NFC Championship game and one, McCarthy, from that game two years ago.

Childress, Payton and McCarthy – who all came in with similar contracts, although lengths of five, four and three years, respectively – now enjoy financial security with their new contracts. And one of them – Payton or Childress – will be coaching in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

Why did the Seahawks make a great hire in naming John Schneider as their new general manager?

I admit to unabashed bias here, but the Seahawks have made perhaps the most important move of the offseason in their choice of John Schneider. John is a close friend but is also someone I’ve admired for years because of his modest and unassuming work ethic and high morals. He’ll put everything he has into that franchise, and as Matt Bowen pointed out, will be a great resource for new head coach Pete Carroll.

John, who was the Packers’ director of football operations, not only knows and studies personnel relentlessly, he has been forever interested in all aspects of a franchise. He used to pepper me with questions about the cap and contracts with great curiosity and has a voracious appetite for learning.

The role of a general manager is so much more than picking players. He has to build consensus and communicate freely and effectively with all members of the football operation. John will do that well. Mark my words, John Schneider will be a star in the Northwest.

Why does the Chargers’ playoff loss potentially affect the signing of some of their best players?

There is perhaps no team in the NFL more affected by the lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) than the Chargers, with the most attractive class of “limbo” free agents in the league.

Absent a new CBA, the following players will be property of the Chargers as restricted free agents (RFAs): Darren Sproles, Shawne Merriman, Marcus McNeill, Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson.

The level of tender will be an easy decision on Merriman (a former first-round pick), Jackson and McNeill (second-rounders). Sproles is coming off a franchise tag of $6.621M and can be retained with an RFA tender of 110 percent of last season, or $7.28M, a move that may not bode well for LaDainian Tomlinson, who’s scheduled to receive a $2M roster bonus in March and a $3M salary for 2010. Floyd, an undrafted free agent, would not bring any compensation to the Chargers if he’s given a low tender and signed to an offer sheet the Chargers did not match. He’ll likely receive a second-round tender.

Why did Deuce McAllister retire?

The Saints, after allowing Deuce an emotional return in the playoffs, now need the roster spot. So much for sentimentality.

McAllister will now “retire” unless, of course, a team happens to want him to play in 2010.

Injury and age are no friends to running backs. Weren’t we talking about LT and Brian Westbrook as two of the top backs in the NFL just a year ago? McAllister, who signed an eight-year, $50M extension in 2005, becomes the latest in a graveyard of fat contracts given to aging running backs. Good luck to Deuce, who’s facing some financial issues as well.

And for my pet peeve Why of the Week….

Why do so many commercials during NFL games deal with men’s plumbing?

With recurring commercials for Viagra, Cialas and Flowmax, I end up crossing my legs watching these games. I get the advertisers trying to appeal to the demographic, but geez, that’s a lot of talk about our hydraulics. And, of course, coming out of the commercial breaks, we’re treated to more cheerleader shots. Fitting.

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For a look at the NFL's final four teams in the dance, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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