You're Greg Knapp and you're looking at the Wall, once more. And once again, time is running out for you to break through it. You've been running into the Wall since you left Seal Beach for Sacramento State back in 82. Some might argue that Sac State WAS your first Wall as few players have successfully parlayed a career at Sac State into an NFL career. It's been done but not as much as say any Division 1 school in America. Still, after graduating, it didn't stop you from trying. Between 1986 and 1994, you went to training camps with the Chiefs, Raiders and the 49ers but you never got your shot at the big time.
The one area where the Wall has not been a problem has been in the area of friendships and opportunities. While chasing the dream of being an NFL QB, you managed to move through the coaching ranks of your old alma mater, Sac State. And when you gave up on your dream of being an NFL QB, in 1994, you began the pursuit of being a head coach. Fortunately, you were able to get a job with the 49ers, first as quality control coordinator and then as quarterback coach. And this is where your skills at making friends began to shine. As the QB coach of the 49ers you had both Steve Young and Jeff Garcia and you've received a lot of credit from both players for your tremendous help in resurrecting their careers. In fact, it was that work that got you your first job as an Offensive Coordinator. In 2001, Steve Mariucci was looking at the prospect of losing both Marty Mornhinweg and you. Mariucci did not like the prospects of losing both his OC and his QB coach, whom he considered critical to the development of Garcia, who was considered a gamble by some at that time. You got a raise and a new title and Mariucci got to ensure that your work with Garcia would continue. Of course, with Mariucci in charge, many would argue that the title was in name only. That suspicion would seem confirmed after Mariucci lost his coaching job in a battle with the GM. Despite having a 10-6 record, he was fired in 2003 and Dennis Erickson, hailed as an offensive innovator, was brought in.
Of course, it took Erickson one 7-9 season with you at the helm to decide it wasn't a good fit. His subsequent 2-14 season, after firing you, probably dissuaded others of your culpability in the matter. It was a moot point anyway. Friendship is everything or it's nothing. You had parlayed your time with the Defensive Coordinator (Jim Mora) into a new job with the Atlanta Falcon, you as their OC. Of course, Mora had to be impressed with your work as the QB coach and since he was getting Michael Vick, it seems reasonable for him to want someone who had skills working with QBs. One would suspect that, as a hire, that would make more sense unless there was something else that impressed him during the Erickson year. There's no doubt who was running the offense during Mariucci's time.
As things went in Atlanta, having Michael Vick as a QB can cover a multitude of sins with the exception of dogfighting. In 2003, Dan Reeves didn't have Michael Vick due to a broken leg and lost his job. Wade Phillips had him for the last four games and won 3. You had him for a full season and went 11-5. However, more telling than anything may have been the third game of the season in which the juggernaut that was the Vick-led Falcons encounter a winless Arizona Cardinal team and won 6-3. That type of anomaly, a lack of offensive scoring, is a theme that would creep up again and again in your coaching pattern. Indeed,in 2006 the points per game average of 18.2 (with Michael Vick rushing for over 1000 yards) was lower than the 2003 Atlanta team (18.7 ppg) in which Vick missed most of the season with a broken leg. That may have been noticed by Bobby Petrino, who replaced Mora that year. For whatever reason, your services were no longer required.
Next stop, Oakland in 2007. A young coach (sound familiar?) and the decision is that some veteran experience was needed on the team. Of course, what Al was probably really hoping for was some QB magic work for the new quarterback JaMarcus Russell. After getting props from Garcia and Young for saving their careers, one can understand the notion that you're the QB whisperer. However, the team neglected a seance first to raise Russell from the dead so, in all fairness, you never had a chance. The problem in Oakland was that you never got your chance. You didn't get the chance to call plays while Kiffin was there. You didn't get a chance to work with a living QB. And when Kiffin was fired, you didn't get a chance to be head coach. Tom Cable, the line coach from your Falcon days, was given that honor. Insult to injury came in the form of a demotion 4 games into the season where you were stripped of play calling duties. Of course, you protested but what could you say. 77 yards of offense in an entire game is difficult to defend, even for you. Not to mention the fact that it came at the hands of your old team. Talk about no insider advantage!!!!!! In addition, there was a lot of frustration with the lack of running from the newest star for the Raiders Darren McFadden. Even if people could accept Russell's failure, 77 yards of offense with McFadden seemed ridiculous. Well, it did, until you returned in 2012, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Of course, you were history after the 2008 season. Once again, Jim Mora came to the rescue. After getting a job with Seattle in 2009, he threw you the OC bone again. A pathetic 17.9 ppg and a 5-11 doomed both of you to a single season. You had gone from 2 3 year stints as OC to 1 1/2 years and 1 year. The consensus seemed to be that you're a great QB coach and not so good offensive coordinator. So you went with your strong suit, QB coach, to the Houston Texans and Matt Schaub. Can't hurt the QB Whisperer rep, right? Meanwhile, you dreamed of being back in the big leagues again. Drooling over Arian Foster, you began perfecting your running game.
Fast forward to 2012. Once again, you get a call from a friend, Dennis Allen, who has been named head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Allen has been given the opportunity to choose his staff and he wants you. He's got a young prospect in Terrell Pryor and he's got a vet QB in Carson Palmer. He wants the Zone Blocking Scheme (which you consider your forte) and the Raiders have finally gotten McFadden going after two years of futile efforts. Once again, you're back in the saddle and with all of the rookies in coaching and management, you make sure they know that you know what you're talking about. You lay out your vision of a strong running game setting the stage for the passing game. You bring in one of the guys (Frank Pollack) to help you get the line together. You stress the need for patience, mindful of how impatient Cable was after you assumed play calling responsibilities. You find out that you can tell them anything as long as you sound like a coach doing it. Red zone problems. "It's been my experience that it takes a season to develop a good red zone offense". What about the poor ZBS? "It's been my experience that it takes a while for the players to learn the scheme and the necessary footwork". After the latest debacle, when questioned as the interim head coach about the lack of running plays in the fourth quarter, down 3 points and with the RBs averaging 5 yards per carry, you had the best answer of all."I think the way it played out is the way it played out. I thought we kept a pretty good balance for three quarters, and then we got hot a little bit throwing the ball." Interesting to note that in 2 of those balanced quarters (the first half), the Raiders scored 3 points despite getting 2 turnovers.
You're Greg Knapp and you're looking at the Wall, once more. Time is running out for you. Just like when you tried to parlay a good career at Sac State into a starting position in the NFL. Just like you tried to parlay your special understanding of quarterbacks, garnered from years of actual experience, into an NFL Offensive Coordinator position. Just like you've tried to parlay the unsuspecting friends into future job guarantees based upon friendship, not knowledge. However, when one considers the careers of the players on the team. The ones that are bound to the play calling, to your egotistical drive to break through the
Wall and prove the naysayers wrong. The ones you have placed in a position to fail because being right is more important than being good or being honest about one's skill set. These are the ones who will truly rejoice when the Wall changes to a door.