McMullen on the Eagles: The ‘Technique’ of Managing Players
PHILADELPHIA - Point at No. 11 and move on.
That's how most coaches would have handled Byron Maxwell's less-than-impressive Eagles debut.
Chip Kelly and Billy Davis, however, have harped on the $63 million-dollar man's flawed technique with Davis going so far to describe it as "terrible" at one point on Thursday after practice.
Coaching is certainly about teaching but at the professional level managing personalities might be an even more important part of the job description.
Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was a master at handling the egos of superstars. There is a famous story about Johnson cutting a special teamer he caught sleeping in a meeting and when asked what he would have done if Troy Aikman was caught catching a few winks, the current FOX broadcaster said, "That's easy. I'd have gone over and said,'Troy, wake up.'"
(Listen to John McMullen discuss Byron Maxwell and more from Thursday's practice)
Johnson's philosophy was simple -- treat players fairly but not necessarily the same, a nod toward massaging the fragile psyches of certain key contributors. He often talks about the tough love he could dish out to Michael Irvin, while fellow Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Charles Haley needed the kid-glove treatment.
Getting the most out of your talent is a science with no empirical testing. Some have a knack for it and others are overwhelmed with the 53 different personalities littered in their locker rooms.
The Eagles coaching staff clearly feels that Maxwell has some thick skin and took aim at his work habits in order to get the most out of him moving forward. Only time will tell whether firebombing the ex-Seattle corner's technique against the All-World Julio Jones on Monday will work.
Kelly set the tone earlier in the week.
“Just inconsistencies in techniques,” Kelly said Tuesday when discussing Maxwell's issues. “I think Byron will be the first one to tell you that. When he was locked up in technique, he did a really good job. And when he got beat, you can look at where he was from a technical standpoint, and that’s where he got beat.”
Davis was even harsher by Thursday.
"He did not have a good game," the defensive coordinator said. "He's got to play better."
On Jones' 22-yard touchdown grab down the right sideline, Maxwell actually jammed pretty well and stuck with Jones until late in the route when the 6-foot-3 wideout's awe-inspiring triangle measurements (size, speed and strength) won out.
“There was a call change and a formation change,” Davis said of the Jones touchdown. “Either way, Max had him all the way to the end. Max actually had a great start to that. At the end, his technique at the top end was bad.”
The egregious miscue came in the fourth quarter on what proved to be the Falcons' game-winning drive. On the first play of the series, Jones school Maxwell at the line of scrimmage and 44 yards later, Atlanta was gearing up for Matt Bryant to win it.
“We were simply in a cover-three,” Davis said. “It was first down and they came out and took a shot. Max had terrible technique at the line in his jam. It’s not one Max usually does.”
Perhaps the Eagles believe the new tax bracket has affected Maxwell's preparation or maybe the team feles Maxwell is the type pf player who needs a kick in the butt rather than a pat on the back.
One thing we do know, however, is no one is looking at what could be a flawed, single-high-safety-heavy scheme that leaves cornerbacks on an island against superstars like Jones.
“It has nothing to do with the scheme," veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins argued. "It never matters what kind of scheme, what kind of calls you have. It’s all about guys going out and getting it done. At the end of the day, we all have a job to do. We have to go out and do our job. It’s not about scheme. It’s about players making plays.”
Whatever the answer, it was interesting to see Davis' technique in handling something that could blow up badly if Maxwell continues to struggle -- first tear it down and then start rebuilding.
“I’ve got nothing but confidence in Max,” Davis claimed. “He’s been a great football player in this league. He will continue to be one for us. He did not have a good game. He’s got to play better. He can play better. He will play better. He knows that. We know that. And I have nothing but confidence in him. I really do."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JFMcMullen.