How Hard Does Your New Coach Grind? An Investigation
9:05 AM EST on February 9, 2022
NFL hiring season is finally, mercifully over, and I have been waiting weeks to bring an important trend to your attention. Team Twitter accounts have always tried way too hard in general, but I noticed they were all doing the same thing when it came to introducing their hires this season: guys-getting-out-their-cars videos. Or, as the teams promote them, the first-day-on-the-job video.
Know what I'm taking about, Dan?
Dan knows what I'm talking about.
These mostly boring videos are meant to hype up the fanbase, since until free agency and the draft there's not much moribund franchises can do to try to convince season ticket–holders to re-up. But I don't think the teams realize the true impact of their work. As the old adage goes, you can learn a lot about a guy from the way he exits a rental car. In a matter of seconds, I can tell if your head coach is a grinder or not. His outfit, his bag, his vehicle, the time of day, the weather, all these tiny details paint a picture that tells me whether your team has hired a Football Guy or not.
My measuring stick for this is of course, Lions head coach Dan Campbell, as pictured above in his first day on the job last January. I can instantly tell he is a grinder because it's cold as hell and it appears to be early in the morning, he's driving a boxy tough-looking car, he's carrying a binder full of his Football Guy plans, he's wearing a fat tie and ill-fitting jacket (a true grinder doesn't have the time nor the inclination to look good), and his fist pump/"woo-woo!" show that he's overly caffeinated and ready to attack the day.
Using Campbell as the standard, let's see how the new hires this season—GMs included—stack up.
Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah
The Vikings did not capture the car here, which is crucial to completing a full evaluation, but Adofo-Mensah is clearly arriving before sunrise, and his winter jacket tells me it was freezing in Minnesota that day (as does the fact that it's Minnesota). Though he walks in wearing a nice tie, he quickly changes into more practical team-branded apparel in order to maximize his grind. The backpack and suitcase tells me he has no plan to leave the Vikings facility in the near future. A real sleeps-in-the-office type.
7/10 kneecaps bitten
Giants HC Brian Daboll
God, I hate this truck. A true Football Guy is all about efficiency and practicality, and would never drive a Giants Blue rental truck to his first day of work. Daboll does get grinder points for the ill-fitting suit and big ole tie, but the sunlight here indicates it's well past early morning morning, and the Giants tweeted it out at 9:36 a.m., an hour when Campbell would be on his ninth coffee and already have buried all 17 tapes of last year's games. Something about the parking job here is bothering me, though he appears to be inside the lines. I think this is just a dumb diagonal parking spot that is weirdly oriented to the entrance, which is not Daboll's fault but something that a grinder would take notes on and demand someone address. Daboll's painfully slow stride and overall lack of any energy tells me he is not in a hurry, and a football guy is always in a hurry. His handshake looks firm.
5/10 kneecaps bitten
Giants GM Joe Schoen
Now this is what we want to see. Schoen is here before the sun (notice the Giants tweeted this at 7 a.m., a full 2.5 hours before his head coach deigned to grace the building with his presence), driving a matte black Jeep, the exact type of car that would be driven by an executive Football Guy who doesn't want to be noticed but just wants to put his head down and work. He's packed a decently large bag, so might be staying awhile, and is walking with purpose to get inside and get to saving the New York Football Giants. It doesn't look too cold, unless he's so much of a grinder that he has no use for a jacket. Inconclusive but promising.
7/10 kneecaps bitten
Bears GM Ryan Poles
Wow, so much to unpack here. Of all the new hires, Poles arrived the earliest to his first day of work. It's pitch black! That is hardcore. Also, I live here and I can attest that this day was DAMN cold. I believe it was negative degrees at that time of the morning. Look at all that steam! The back-in parking job is the work of a true grinder who would rather put in the work now to make his life easier later. Poles is clearly a Football Guy because he arrives in his Bears athleisure but also carries in his suit, ready to pull double duty. I realize that the Bears social media team has obviously scripted the "Let's go to work" line but I appreciate the optimism nonetheless.
A few days later, at his introductory press conference, I asked Poles what time it was when he arrived and why it was important to him to make that impression.
"6:00 a.m. It's more than first impression. It's a routine. I think if you asked a lot of people about me I'm curious and I'm observant, and what I do know from those that I've worked for is your time is limited, and if you can capture a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours at night when things are quiet, you can really maximize how much you do, and that's important to me because in the NFL things pop up all the time, so you're going to get pulled in different directions. So I just know I can guarantee for the most part that those parts of the day I can get things done."
IT'S ROUTINE TO ARRIVE IN THE DARK WHEN IT'S ZERO DEGREES OUT. THERE ARE MEN TO LEAD!
10/10 kneecaps bitten
Bears HC Matt Eberflus
Eberflus must not have seen the video of Poles getting out of his car, because if he had, he definitely would have shown up a couple hours earlier to beat his GM's arrival time and win the coveted first one in the building title. This is a sure sign he is not a grinder, because a true grinder would have eaten that tape immediately. The sun is already rising here, and he's walking so slow I'm actually wondering if it was edited in slow motion. No sense of direction or purpose. Personally I like the peacoat, but I'm not sure a real Football Guy would own a nice jacket like that. The back-in park job is good, the car is boxy enough, but Eberflus doesn't seem as confident in his "let's go to work" line as Poles was.
5/10 kneecaps bitten
Broncos HC Nathaniel Hackett
12:27 p.m. local time?!?! With the sun overhead?!! It looks too warm for football. I don't know of any grinder who would break routine like this. Hackett did not even drive himself to the Broncos facility, which is either a true grinder move because he was busy recruiting Aaron Rodgers during the ride from the airport, or it shows he's too pampered to be a Football Guy. I like the goofy "hang loose" gesture, but it's giving all the wrong vibes here. A laid back culture?! In the NFL?! No, no, no. This guy does not care enough about winning.
2/10 kneecaps bitten
Texans HC Lovie Smith
This is certainly Football Guy facial hair, but Smith's 9 a.m. arrival and the way he carries his backpack by the top handle are not the moves of a grinder. Football guys love backpacks for their functionality. They would never carry them around like a faux fancy briefcase. Smith's bag-handling is evidence that he knows the backpack would muss up his suit, which proves he is too image-conscious to be a grinder.
4/10 kneecaps bitten
Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel
Now this is cute. But I don't how to interpret this. Is McDaniel bringing his baby daughter to work because he works so many hours that he know she will never see her unless it's at his office? Or, is McDaniel a good family man with a proper work/life balance, a concept that a Football Guy has certainly never heard of? Is he arriving at dusk because he wants to get a head start on his first day? Is this video really day zero? McDaniel's suit is much too trendy and well-tailored for an oblivious Football Guy, so I'm going to have err on the side of not a grinder.
3/10 kneecaps bitten
Jaguars HC Doug Pederson
Everything about this plane exit tells me that Pederson has been here and done it before. He's not wearing a tie and his shirt is open at the neck, his backpack is wide open, and he knows just when to duck to avoid hitting his head while deplaning. It all feels a little too choreographed, and without the cover of his signature visor, his hair blowing in the wind in slow-motion looks way too good to be a grinder.
2/10 kneecaps bitten
Raiders HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler
Curiously, there's no entrance video for either of these guys. Is it because it's Las Vegas and no one sleeps and the social media team couldn't coordinate an arrival time at any respectable hour? Burning the candle at both ends is the mark of a grinder.
The matching ties and Raiders pins are a little too cute, though collecting jerseys is a definite Football Guy thing.
6/10 kneecaps bitten
Saints HC Dennis Allen
Allen also didn't get an arrival video after being promoted from defensive coordinator. The absence of a video is a sure sign of a grinder in this case. If you never left the building, how can you arrive?
8/10 kneecaps bitten