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The Phillies Need to Hire Chuck Noll

The Phillies need the Chuck Noll speech. They aren't likely to get it.

This man once hired a man like Chuck Noll.
This man once hired a man like Chuck Noll.
Jared Wickerham

As you all know, I cheer for the greatest football team in all the land: the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I can tell you right now that the Phillies need to hire Chuck Noll. Actually, someone like him, since Chuck Noll knows squat about baseball.

You all know the story: the Steelers sucked for four decades. Four appalling, awful decades of the worst football you can possibly imagine. Doing things like having Johnny Unitas in camp and then cutting him. That kind of dumb.

Chuck Noll was hired in January in 1969, and the world changed. Unless you are a Steelers fan, you may not know the rest of the story, beginning with one of Noll's first addresses to the team. Here is his quote from the time, as presented in an NFL Films DVD with linebacker Andy Russell recounting Noll's address to the team:

"Look, I've been watching the game films since I took the job. And I can tell you guys that the reason you've been losing is not because of your attitude, or your psyche, or any of that stuff. The problem is that you're just not good enough. You know you can't run fast enough, you can't jump high enough, you're not quick enough. Your techniques are abysmal. I'm probably going to have to get rid of most of you, and we're going to move on."

Of the Steelers in that locker room, five were still on the roster when the Steelers won the first of 4 Super Bowls under Noll.

Earlier this week, the Phillies tendered contracts to five players, all of whom played significant roles in leading the team to a 73 - 89 record, the worst record the team has had in the last 13 seasons. There are reasons why each was retained, and in an individual analysis, the retention of each may make sense. None of them is likely to be a significant help if the Phillies win a World Series again in our lifetimes. Still, it had the feel of organizational inertia.

The Phillies organization has done good things generally over the last decade and a half. They got the "get money" part right, in getting a new stadium. We all expect good things from the new cable deal. The allocation of those resources has been spottier, though. They got lucky with a string of good draft picks that were high in the draft (resulting partly from poor performance in earlier years) and The Core that peaked all at the same time. Their 5 playoff appearances resulted in 1 World Series title, which is about what you should expect, given the odds. They realized that the could spend to force the "window" open longer, but they were also foolish at times.

Unfortunately, they also had their organizational weaknesses camouflaged for the better part of a decade by The Core. Who cared about young talent, when you had MVP-caliber players all over the field? That chicken has come home to roost now that the simultaneously peaking Core is the simultaneously disintegrating Core.

The team right now is demonstrably bad. And it has been for 2 years. It is not obviously going to get better anytime soon, though optimist me sees some green shoots.

This is not the fault of the players. They are trying to earn a living during short careers and they are trying to achieve lifetime financial security, since the market for 50 year old baseball players is thin. They are trying hard, and they want to win. They just aren't very good. At least not enough of them. They all likely understand that Chuck Noll would be talking to them. It would be the Chuck #Dmyass speech.

Unfortunately, Chuck Noll's speech needs to be given to the management of the team, not the 2014 roster.

I wish there was an easy answer to how the Phillies could let Dave Montgomery deal with just the money, and, at the same time, hire a smart, modern GM to deal with player acquisition and development. The unfortunate reality appears to be that Montgomery and evidently his puppet masters, do not think that there is a problem with the way that the talent-getting part of the business is run. We all complain about Amaro, but Amaro is only the problem because someone lets him be the problem.

The management that refuses to change is to blame here, not the players. If only we could boo management and have it understood as such. In my world, we could fire owners. And the Chuck Noll speech would be given to them this spring instead of to the roster.