What makes Isaiah Simmons so exciting - and what qualifies him as a top-10 pick in the year 2020 - is that he's one of the few defensive weapons to come out of college football since Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. Every year NFL offenses create new types of players - the Welker/Edleman slot receivers, the (James) White/McCaffrey satellite backs, whatever Tyreek Hill is - and there's always an "offensive innovator" ready to maximize their potential. Yet, there's been a total void in defensive innovation. That's why guys like Vance Joseph will find it hard to land their next NFL head coaching gig. Newness means hope to owners, but defensive coordinators around the league keep reaching into their old bag of tricks. Isaiah Simmons could change that, if Vance Joseph is willing to let him.
"With the new NFL offenses, you know everything's so lateral, the tight end's such a big part of what they're doing in the passing game... having a guy with his length and speed is always critical."
Joseph went on to highlight how important it will be for Simmons to chase the ball left and right, and said he can "be an eraser when bad plays happen."
"He couldn't do that many jobs with that much success if he wasn't intelligent. And again, when you ask him how he learned the gameplan each week from coach Venables, it was amazing."
Those jobs included playing safety, cornerback, linebacker, blitzing and spying the quarterback, and they were given to him by one of the smartest and most creative defensive coordinators in college football, Brent Venables.
Then, came the cold water. When asked about whether Simmons's versatility is applicable at the NFL level, Joseph gave reporters a dose of reality.
"I think some of it is, some of it's not...These are the best players in the world... He's gonna be a linebacker for us, he's gonna have some special roles versus certain opponents that we play, but I can't guarantee he'll play safety for us or corner for us full time."
Joseph seems moderate by nature. He's the anti-Rex Ryan. He won't make any bold proclamations, and he won't set expectations too high. Isaiah Simmons will need to prove himself before he turns into an NFL Swiss Army Knife.
But he also wants another shot at being an NFL head coach.
As it stands today, only 12 of 32 NFL head coaches specialize in defense: Belichick, McDermott, Flores, Tomlin, Vrabel, Fangio, Judge, Rivera, Zimmer, Patricia, Quinn and Carroll. By my count, 10 of those 12 are safe. Meanwhile, coaches like Kliff Kingsbury, Zac Taylor and Matt LaFleur are getting jobs with little to no track records of success, because, if nothing else, they inject fresh ideas into the league. The way owners see it, you hire from the defensive side of the ball when you want discipline, not design.
Isaiah Simmons can help Vance Joseph change that, if Joseph is willing to let Simmons be Simmons. Imagine what Howard Stern would've been had he not escaped from Pig Vomit's grip at WNBC. Imagine what Pink Floyd would've been without the drugs. Another Beatles knock off for sure. Imagine if Dave Chappelle had lived his formative comedy years in today's politically correct climate. Yuck. Now imagine Isaiah Simmons all of six-foot-four, faster than most NFL wide receivers, with the instincts to play anywhere, confined to the linebacker spot with some special responsibility. That makes my head hurt.
Vance Joseph can introduce the NFL world to the next Reed, Polamalu or Dawkins. Production won't be enough. Not if Joseph wants to set the NFL world on fire. Not if he wants to set Isaiah Simmons free.