Mike Nolan had some very frank things to say about his defense today. Yikes!
He talked in detail about specific ways the Falcons can improve on defense. OK, fair enough, I'm all ears. I'm entirely open to that discussion. But wait, he took it one step further. He publicly criticized some defensive players. Not just rookies, not Thomas Decoud, who admittedly may deserve it; he criticized two of his best players. Not what you'd expect from a coach who doesn't generally throw himself or his players under the figurative bus.
On the one hand, these are professionals. Nolan undoubtedly criticizes his guys at practice, just like any defensive coordinator. In short, they're used to it, even the veterans. Making any of that public, however, is different. It pushes boundaries. It skirts a line. In my mind, it's not entirely necessary.
He used defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux as an example, despite Babineaux's consistent pressure.
"He typically plays a good game most all the time," Nolan said. "I wish he’d make the play when he’s in the backfield all the time, though. He gets in the backfield as much as anybody I’ve ever been around. But damn, it’s only about half the time that he’s getting them down."
Is it just me, or is Nolan deliberately qualifying his defense's inadequacies? It almost seems like he's speaking to his future employer(s): "Don't blame me, Babs won't sack anyone!"
I do question his tactic. Granted, I'm just a blogger, not a professional football coach. Maybe this works in certain circumstances, but it doesn't always work. In fact, it has the potential to backfire in a big way. Add a loss or two and this is one step from an exchange of fighting words. If, in response, a player were to publicly criticize him, while inappropriate, it wouldn't be at all shocking. It's simply the next logical step.
I'll be honest, I'm glad Nolan is aware. He knows what isn't working. He's concerned about fixing it. I'm just not certain he needs to tell the world about it, especially if he's going to reference specific players. I can't bring to mind a single example of this kind of thing actually working well, though it's not hard to isolate instances where it hasn't worked.