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  • Coaches Corner

    For about a week, I have been tossing around thoughts in my head concerning the NFL head coaching landscape. I've been thinking about how it has changed, potential head coaching candidates, how the old guard has stepped down and the new guard has taken over, and what will come of things. I could have kept going with the writing but I felt it was long enough and did not want to end up babbling. I was also getting considerably exhausted.

    In honor of The Who playing the Super Bowl halftime show, all of the sections will be labeled with titles of The Who songs.

    Young Man Blues

    There is a shift occurring in the NFL right now and it is not taking place on the field. Instead of changes in players or schemes, rather the change is happening on the sidelines and how the games are managed. Just a few years ago as many as five active head coaches were looking at the possibility of being inducted into the Hall of Fame: Bill Cowher, Mile Holmgren, Tony Dungy, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan. Now, there is only one who remains that is actively coaching that is qualified for a bust in Canton - New England head coach Bill Bellichick. The other head coaches around the league have a long way to go before they could realistically be considered for a spot. The attrition among head coaches is ushering in a change that is taking place in how teams are moving away from proven coaches, who also happen to be older, to hiring young assistants to lead their franchises.

    Hired in 2007 to coach the Oakland Raiders, Lane Kiffin was 31 when he became the youngest head coach ever in the NFL. Raheem Morris and Josh McDaniels were both 32 when they were hired this year to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos, respectively. Eric Mangini was 34 when he was hired by the New York Jets. Hiring youthful coaches is nothing new. When he was hired for his brief stint with the Los Angeles Raiders, Mike Shanahan was 35. After he was fired by Al Davis four games into the 1989 season, Shanahan went on to be an assistant coach for five more years before he was given another chance at head coaching. Just like Shanahan, Lane Kiffin was given one full season and then fired four games into his second season. He is now the current head coach at the University of Tennessee.

    Although there have been success stories when hiring young assistant coaches (Bill Cowher, Don Shula, Jon Gruden, Al Davis, John Madden), the current trend and record of the young coaches is extremely hit or miss. Currently, there are only two young head coaches that are finding success. In his third year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin, who was 34 when he was hired by the Rooney family, has already won a Super Bowl. Josh McDaniels, in his first year with the Broncos, is 7-4 as of now which is good for second in the AFC West. On the flip side, Eric Mangini did have a winning record in his first year with the New York Jets so the jury will be out on McDaniels especially for at least a couple more years.

    Substitute

    There used to be a time when owners and general managers would hire a head coach and give him time to implement his system with personnel of his choosing. Now, however, head coaches usually have less than four years to prove whether or not they will be successful. The average lifespan of an NFL head coach is 3.74 years, which is less than the life expectancy of the common house mouse. Exactly half of the head coaches in the league are either in their first or second year, that number jumps to 21 if head coaches in their third and fourth years are included (22 if Dick Jauron is included).

    Out of those head coaches, several are on the hot seat. First year head coach Raheem Morris of Tampa Bay looks like he will be fired at the end of the year and there are rumors swirling about Eric Mangini's fate, whose also in his first year with the Cleveland Browns. Second year head coach Jim Zorn is more than likely gone from Washington after this season and there is always speculation concerning current third year head coach Wade Phillips' fate. The seat under Houston's Gary Kubiak, whose in his fourth year, keeps getting warmer and it is anybody's guess on what will happen with Tom Cable in Oakland.

    There are five coaches in the league that have been with their respective teams six or seven years and out of those five, three are on the hot seat. Jack Del Rio and John Fox, who have coached the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers respectively for seven years, and Lovie Smith, who has been with the Bears for six years, are all questionable to return next year. Out of those three coaches only Jack Del Rio of Jacksonville has failed to bring his team to the Super Bowl and he is at the disadvantage of playing in the same division as perennial playoff contender Indianapolis Colts.

    Three of the most stable franchises in the NFL also have the three longest tenured coaches. Jeff Fisher of Tennessee, Bill Belichick of New England, and Andy Reid of Philadelphia have a combined 41 years of head coaching experience. Fisher and Reid have been with the same teams for 26 years and Belichick, after a five year layover in Cleveland, has been with New England since 2000. Not only are those three head coaches the longest tenured but they are also three of the most successful head coaches currently in the league. Combined they have been to the playoffs twenty times, have six Super Bowl appearances, and three Super Bowl victories.

    From 2006 to 2008, most of the elder statesmen of the league either retired or were fired. Since then, several teams with new head coaches are still trying to find the perfect replacement for their departed franchise figureheads. Combined Mike Shanahan (Denver), Mike Holmgren (Seattle), Bill Cowher (Pittsburgh), Tony Dungy (Indianapolis), Herm Edwards (Kansas City/New York Jets), and Marty Schottenheimer (San Diego) have 89 seasons of NFL head coaching experience under their belt, 54 of them with the same team. Along with numerous division titles, conference championships, and playoff appearances, those aforementioned coaches possess five Lombardi Trophies out of eight appearances.

    Who Are You

    Next year there could be up to eight coaching vacancies and as this season winds down talk is beginning to heat up about potential coaching replacements. Every year since his retirement, Bill Cowher has had his name tossed around for head coaching openings. The same goes for Pete Carroll, Kirk Ferentz, and Jason Garrett. Now, however, there will be a host of talented, qualified candidates that will be looking for work come January. The Buffalo Bills have already approached Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher for their current head coaching position. Both turned down the offer. Recently, Bills ownership sat down for seven hours with former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan to discuss what he could bring to the table. There have also been rumors regarding current Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis and where he might end up. Some point to Kansas City where they have an offensive coordinator opening and where he could reunite with former Patriots personnel director Scott Pioli.

    Other qualified coaches that will be looking for work include former Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, former Super Bowl winner Brian Billick, long time defensive coordinator Jim Bates, and former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. All of these names along with the usual suspects of former St. Louis Rams head coaches Jim Haslett and Mike Martz, former N.Y. Giants head coach Jim Fassel, and long time successful head coach Marty Schottenheimer who usually see their names pop up on a coaching candidate list.

    Outside of that who's who of former NFL head coaching personnel the options narrow considerably. Leslie Frazier, the Minnesota Vikings current defensive coordinator, seems to be the hottest commodity going as far as coordinators. Former Buffalo Bills head coach and current New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has had his name mentioned as a potential head coaching candidate. Another defensive coordinator who could be called for an interview is Cincinnati's Mike Zimmer. Finally, Dolphins secondary/assistant head coach Todd Bowles is getting his name mentioned more. Any team that runs a 3-4 defense may want to look at former University of Virginia head coach Al Groh, who could serve as a positions coach or as defensive coordinator.

    The problem that some of these franchises will soon run into is that most of the fresh, young faces have already been head coaches before and have failed. If a team does not want to take a chance on one of the four coordinators who will be looking to try their hand at being a head coach, then they will have to take a re-tread head coach.

    Let's See Action

    There is a question that has dominated leadership studies for quite some time: are great leaders born or made? This question is mostly asked in reference to military personnel but a football staff shares many of the same characteristics as a military staff just as there are many similarities between the gridiron and the battlefield. When retired general Colin Powell was asked what makes a great leader he responded that great leaders get the most out of people, convey a sense of purpose in a selfless manner, and learn from trial and error. He continued by stating that effective leaders never show fear or anger and have to have a sense of optimism. They also can not worry about what happened in the past. Those qualities are also what makes a good football coach.

    Some of the best coaches in the NFL do just that. One would never see former NFL head coach Tony Dungy shouting at the ref or jumping up and down waving his finger over a bad call. Current head coaches Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, and Jim Caldwell do not do those things either. Jeff Fisher can be animated on the sidelines but he is also a leader. Would the Titans have won five straight after starting 0-6 if he wasn't one or would they have quit on him? He knows to concentrate on one game at a time and not look overlook the game they have coming up that week.

    Good leaders are not just on the field, they are also in the front office. General managers and owners need to make the right decision on who to hire when choosing a head coach. Jim Mora Jr. was never able to win over the Atlanta players when he took over the team in 2004 yet he was made the coach-in-waiting in Seattle. He has started off 3-6 in his first year with the Seahawks and there does not seem to be any sense of purpose or direction when they play. Wade Phillips is known for his ability to coach a defense, however, his tenure in Dallas has been marked by sloppy football. Mental mistakes and penalties have drastically hurt the Cowboys ability to make the playoffs or get past the first round when they do. Raheem Morris had never been a coordinator before he was promoted to head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before the season started he fired his offensive coordinator and just last week he fired his defensive coordinator. Although a good leader knows when to move or fire certain ineffective staff members, the moves made by Morris show a leader acting out of desperation.

    There may not be an answer as to whether or not leaders are made or born but it is evident that it takes a certain amount of charisma, intelligence, character, and discipline to become a successful head coach in the NFL. Some men have it, other don't, but all too often the front office personnel have trouble finding the type of coach they need that would lead their men to victory on the field. Even if they do manage to hire the right coach, some may not give him the right amount of time to properly insert his personnel into his scheme to see if it would be successful. As has been pointed out, some of the recently retired great coaches were with their organization for at least five years and were proven to be successful and the current successful coaches have been with their teams for at least ten years.

    I Can't Explain
    with help from RavenofProphechy

    Below are the rankings from best to worst of the current NFL head coaches (Dick Jauron not included). This was a lot trickier than first thought:

    1. Bill Belichick – The obvious choice for number one.

    2. Mike Tomlin – Two division titles and a Super Bowl win all before the age of 37.

    3. Tom Coughlin – Repeated playoff success with the Jaguars and now the Giants, with whom he has won a Super Bowl.

    4. Andy Reid - 5 division titles, 5 NFC Championship game appearances, and one Super bowl appearance

    5. Sean Payton – Went to the NFC championship game in his first year and is quite possibly the best offensive mind in the NFL.

    6. Jeff Fisher - 6 playoff appearances, 3 division titles, 2 trips to the AFC Championship game, 1 Super Bowl appearance, and a partridge in a pear tree.

    7. Ken Whisenhunt – Took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in just his second year and has them primed to go back to the playoffs this year.

    8. Jim Caldwell – People criticized the hire but there are few doubters left now that the Colts are 11-0.

    9. John Fox – 3 playoff appearances, two division titles, and one Super Bowl loss, however, he has been on the hot seat the past three years.

    10. John Harbaugh – Went to the AFC Championship game in his first year.

    11. Jack Del Rio – So far, he has the Jaguars back in playoff contention but needs to do better in the playoffs.

    12. Josh McDaniels – No one thought he would be doing this well with the lack of talent on the Broncos roster.

    13. Mike Smith – Took an Atlanta team to the playoffs last year which no one expected. He will have to rebound after an eccentric sophomore campaign.

    14. Mike Singletary – Has the 49ers playing with purpose, discipline, and pride and that's showing on the field.

    15. Norv Turner – People love to hate him as a head coach but he has brought the Chargers to the playoffs in both of his seasons as head coach and has them peaking at the right time this year.

    16. Brad Childress – Has improved the Vikings each year as head coach but his epically poor clock management and play-calling haunts him in close games.

    17. Wade Phillips – Outperformed critics so far but will need to make the playoffs and advance past the first round.

    18. Tony Sparano – Has used the Wildcat effectively since becoming a head coach and turned Miami back into a competitor.

    19. Gary Kubiak – Great offensive minded head coach but has hovered around mediocrity since his time in Houston started.

    20. Mike McCarthy – Has talented skill positions but needs to build up his offensive line and I question his and Ted Thompson's decision to switch to the 3-4.

    21. Lovie Smith – Went to the Super Bowl just a few years ago but his defense and tenure with the Bears is fading fast.

    22. Rex Ryan – Has instilled purpose, attitude, and aggressiveness into the N.Y. Jets.

    23. Marvin Lewis – The Mike Zimmer hire has worked wonders and, so far, has turned around a franchise.

    24. Jim Schwartz – It will take a while to change the attitude in Detroit but the wheels are in motion.

    25. Jim Zorn – Not much to do when you are handcuffed by poor personnel decisions made by the front office.

    26. Jim Mora Jr – Questionable hire looks even more questionable now that they will end up with a losing record in his first year.

    27. Steve Spagnuolo – It will take a while to turn around the offense but he has the defense playing well.

    28. Todd Haley – Fiery, fiesty individual has been the antithesis to how good leaders are made.

    29. Raheem Morris – Slowly building the Bucs but has stumbled out of the gate and made several questionable moves.

    30. Tom Cable – Puppet head coach to dictator Al Davis.

    31. Eric Mangini – Gruff, loud, demeaning, and egotistical. His style of management is not made for the NFL now and it shows with how Cleveland has given up on him.
    Last edited by diabsoule; 11-30-2009, 02:27 PM.

    Beastly sig by BoneKrusher

    Super Bowl XLIV Champions
    WHO DAT!

  • #2
    I <3 Sean Payton. He's matured so much as a coach since 2006.
    The whole world loves neophyte athletic tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami with the 95th pick. "Best pick in the draft,'' one AFC coach told me. "Give him time, and in that offense, he'll be better than [Jeremy] Shockey by the start of next year.''

    “We know that no matter the adversity, be it the lockout, be it the suspension or be it a hurricane, our men will pull together and defend the honor of this city. We’ve shown we’ve been able to do that.” - Jabari Greer

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    • #3
      The article is good, the rankings though, laughable.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by BlindSite View Post
        the rankings though, laughable.
        Agreed. tenchar

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        • #5
          Lovie Smith should be 52

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          • #6
            Originally posted by BlindSite View Post
            The article is good, the rankings though, laughable.
            Thanks for the feedback on the article. I did my best, along with RoP, in coming up with coaches rankings but, as I pointed out, it was a lot tricker and more difficult than I thought. I doubt I could have assembled the coaches in a numerical order which would have made everyone happy.

            Beastly sig by BoneKrusher

            Super Bowl XLIV Champions
            WHO DAT!

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            • #7
              what are you basing the rankings on?

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              • #8
                I don't see how Morris, despite how the Bucs have been, can be worse than Mangini.
                Originally posted by SNIPER26
                fwiw, i amz deunks ofs myt ass. ilo vez drinmoinz befotre i post. wha t a hreat ideas.z.

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                • #9
                  Really good article. I don't care for the rankings so much. I see a lot of coaches that I wouldn't agree with there spot.

                  How is Eric Mangini not the worst coach in the NFL right now?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by njx9
                    it's fairly dishonest to claim that reid, fisher and belichick are paragons of stability and success based on three super bowl victories by ONE of them.

                    why are we giving jeff fisher and andy reid any credit whatsoever for failing utterly to win the only game that matters? and especially fisher, having only even gotten there ONCE.
                    Jeff Fisher, I admit, is the weakest of the longest tenured coaches. His career winning percentage of .557 in fifteen years with the same team and having only taken his team to the playoffs six times is dwarfed when compared to a coach who was with his team for the same amount of time. Bill Cowher, in fifteen years with the Steelers, took them to the playoffs ten times, went to the Super Bowl twice, and owns one Lombardi Trophy. At least Andy Reid has been to five NFC Championship Games and has won one. In fifteen years, Jeff Fisher only has one AFC title.

                    I do not think it's fairly dishonest to say that those three coaches are paragons of stability especially when looking at how long they have been with their respective franchises. Success? Possibly, especially when considering Jeff Fisher's record, but I do not Andy Reid or Bill Belichick are unsuccessful. Sure, Reid did lose the Super Bowl the only time he made it but at least he made it. He's only one of eight head coaches currently in the NFL right now that have at least been to the Super Bowl. I personally can not blame Reid for losing it, especially when he had to coach against the best coach this decade in Bill Belichick.

                    I will be reconfiguring my coaching rankings. I put them together when I was very tired so now that I'm wide awake my train of thought will be more lucid.
                    Last edited by diabsoule; 11-30-2009, 01:36 PM.

                    Beastly sig by BoneKrusher

                    Super Bowl XLIV Champions
                    WHO DAT!

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                    • #11
                      this is one hell of a thread.


                      one thing i would be interested in knowing: how has stability at the coordinator positions effected the success of teams?


                      the steelers have had LeBeau and Capers for the longest, and Im very confident that those great coordinators played a serious role in their ability to find continuous success.

                      Ditto for Philly and Jim Johnson.

                      The Giants only had great success with Coughlin when we had Spagnuolo as DC.

                      So how much does having great coordinators play a role in having a successful team? And how important is stability in the coordinator positions vs constantly changing schemes?

                      Id be interested in knowing that.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by bigbluedefense View Post
                        this is one hell of a thread.


                        one thing i would be interested in knowing: how has stability at the coordinator positions effected the success of teams?


                        the steelers have had LeBeau and Capers for the longest, and Im very confident that those great coordinators played a serious role in their ability to find continuous success.

                        Ditto for Philly and Jim Johnson.

                        The Giants only had great success with Coughlin when we had Spagnuolo as DC.

                        So how much does having great coordinators play a role in having a successful team? And how important is stability in the coordinator positions vs constantly changing schemes?

                        Id be interested in knowing that.
                        That will be coming in part 2. While doing the writing for the Coaches Corner I had began thinking of coordinators and how they are responsible for a good bit of a team's success.

                        Beastly sig by BoneKrusher

                        Super Bowl XLIV Champions
                        WHO DAT!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bigbluedefense View Post
                          this is one hell of a thread.


                          one thing i would be interested in knowing: how has stability at the coordinator positions effected the success of teams?


                          the steelers have had LeBeau and Capers for the longest, and Im very confident that those great coordinators played a serious role in their ability to find continuous success.

                          Ditto for Philly and Jim Johnson.

                          The Giants only had great success with Coughlin when we had Spagnuolo as DC.

                          So how much does having great coordinators play a role in having a successful team? And how important is stability in the coordinator positions vs constantly changing schemes?

                          Id be interested in knowing that.
                          I really agree with the coordinator business. I posted this in the Ravens team forum, in response to Hines claiming the Steelers were one of the more talented teams in the NFL.

                          Originally posted by A Perfect Score View Post
                          I dont know about the most talented teams in the league sort of deal. Ive always been a firm believer that scheme plays a big role in your success. Im not saying you dont have talent on your team, you certainly do, but I think the elite talent on your team is the coaching staff. You consistently get great coaching and that allows for some players who I dont consider extremely talented players (a la your OLB's, although I do love Woodley) to put up better numbers then they would in other situations.

                          You are right though, it has been inconsistency that has screwed you this year.
                          I think having effective coordinators has a huge effect. Just look at the Ravens this year. It wasnt the loss of guys like Bart Scott that hurt so much...it was losing Rex Ryan and replacing him with the much more tame Greg Mattison that has practically eliminated our pass rush and seriously hindered our coverage abilities.
                          Originally posted by Mr. Goosemahn
                          The APS is strong in this one.
                          Originally posted by killxswitch
                          Tears for Fears is better than whatever it is you happen to be thinking about right now.

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                          • #14
                            Hm I love your thoughts, but those rankings seem pretty off. Definitely a tricky task to take on though considering how mercurial opinions of coaches can be.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by A Perfect Score View Post
                              I think having effective coordinators has a huge effect. Just look at the Ravens this year. It wasnt the loss of guys like Bart Scott that hurt so much...it was losing Rex Ryan and replacing him with the much more tame Greg Mattison that has practically eliminated our pass rush and seriously hindered our coverage abilities.
                              The same can be said about the Giants on defense and the Steelers on offense, to just name a few. It is evident now that Steve Spagnuolo clearly affected the Giants success on the field. His defensive schemes with numerous line stunts and twists confused the offensive line and allowed for a more effective pass rush.
                              The Steelers were more balanced when Ken Whisenhunt was their offensive coordinator. He had a few gadget plays but stuck to the roots of Steelers football: smashmouth football. Bruce Arians scheme is based on five step drops and plays that take a while to develop. In essence it seems, he has installed a workable version of the spread offense. With Roethlisberger holding onto the ball longer than he should this just increases his chances of getting sacked.

                              Beastly sig by BoneKrusher

                              Super Bowl XLIV Champions
                              WHO DAT!

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