For all the talk of how short the average millennial’s attention span is thanks to the iPhone, there appears to be one group with an even lower threshold of patience: National Football League team executives.
If it seems like the revolving door of NFL head coaching jobs has been turning especially fast lately, it’s because it has. For the second offseason in a row, while the eyes of the public were busy watching the theatrics of playoff football, nearly a quarter of the league’s teams were busy replacing their head honcho.
As alarming as back-to-back years of seven head coaching changes around the league might sound, the real issue here is the frequency with which some teams’ executives are hiring and firing coaches. For some teams, it’s almost a biannual occurrence.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, 11 of which have changed their head coach at least twice in the last four seasons. With the firing of Mike Pettine this offseason, the Cleveland Browns officially etched their name in the pantheon of franchise ineptitude — replacement Hue Jackson the ninth head coach they’ve hired since 2000. Having coached two full seasons, Pettine was actually one of the lucky ones— Jim Tomsula and Ken Whisenhunt were canned before the halfway point of their second year with the San Francisco Forty-Niners and the Tennessee Titans, respectively.
One would think that for an NFL head coach to be sacked just two seasons in, his team would have to resemble something out of the movie The Comebacks — in which case no member of his staff should be spared. Yet somehow the Buccaneers found a way to justify firing Lovie Smith after just two seasons — a man who coached the Chicago Bears to the 2009 Super Bowl — in favor of his offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Three years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles fired Andy Reid, and now they’re naming his offensive coordinator at Kansas City their new head coach. Even the New York Giants fired two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin, only to replace him with his assistant, Ben McAdoo. Think of it like ending an ugly relationship after only a couple months, only to immediately start dating your ex’s cousin.
These changes are thoughtless, unprofessional and just downright incompetent on the part of NFL ownership. Of the eleven teams with two or more head coaching changes in the last four seasons, their combined record is 199-257. Not only does constantly changing out your head coach reveal an executive’s incompetence in hiring a good candidate — it is also proven to increase your losing record.
One can’t help but wonder if it’s a product of the business and statistics era of sports we’re stuck in. Just this past week, in typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns hired Paul DePodesta — the guy Jonah Hill plays in Moneyball — to help fix their roster. No matter that DePodesta doesn’t have any experience outside of baseball — meet your new football guru, Browns fans. Maybe he knows how to hire a head football coach.
It seems that ever since stats-crazed general manager Billy Beane introduced the idea of looking at players and coaches as numbers instead of humans, front office jobs traditionally given to former players have instead gone to Wharton grads who have never laced up their own pair of cleats. Throughout the course of getting their MBAs, these NFL team executives never learned that success takes time—for example, Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry took six full seasons to post a winning record. Landry then went on to lead the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs for 18 of the next 20 seasons and delivered two Super Bowl titles in the process. Had Landry been born a couple decades later in today’s NFL climate, he likely never would have made it to the bye week of season two.
Whether it’s because business school never taught them about how a football team really functions, or they’re just incompetent leaders, NFL executives are destroying the head coaching profession in the NFL. Coaches can’t build long-term rosters, because after two losing seasons suddenly they’re on the hot seat. In a climate where the pressure to win immediately is mounting, the impact of locker room continuity on team performance is being greatly undervalued by a team’s front office.
So if you’re a fan of one of the eleven teams that’s switched head coaches two or more times in the last four years, congratulations. You don’t have a head coach problem after all. If only you had a way to fire the owner.
Jimmy McLaughlin is a sophomore in the College. Upon Further Review appears every other Friday.
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