Where Smart Picks Go to Die
During last week’s show (found here) we briefly discussed our views on the NFL coaching carousel. Recycling was the best word we could come up with to describe the way no ex-NFL head coach stays ex for very long.
And for good reason (or so it seemed). 10 of the last 15 Super Bowls have been won by a coach who was at least at his second job. Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville then N.Y.), Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay, then Indy), Bill Belichick (Cleveland, then New England), and Jon Gruden (Oakland, then Tampa Bay) are all examples of this philosophy.
But for every Tony Dungy or Bill Belichick, there 5 Norv Turners. A head coach at Washington, Oakland, and San Diego his career record is 118–126-1. Norv has never been able to turn the corner. As recently as the last 3 years in San Diego, Norv has had mild success during the regular season with some pretty amazing players, but his team has gotten worse every year; leading to his eventual firing this year.
Mike Mularkey might be the best example of this trend. In 2004 he was hired to be the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. In his two years he finished 14-18 and was not fired but resigned citing disagreement in the direction the organization was headed. In 2012, the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to ignore Mularkey’s head coaching past and focus on the tremendous offensive coordinator work he had been doing in Atlanta. The Jaguars proceeded to go 2-14 and fired Mularkey in the same year.
Has the NFL finally gotten tired of this scheme? It appears that answer is yes.
8 NFL head coaching jobs needed to (some still need to be) filled at the conclusion of the regular season. Norv Turner was one of those coaches who was fired, so at the show we assumed he would be the first one hired back by one of these teams.
However, the only coach who has been hired with previous NFL head coaching experience is Andy Reid. I give Andy Reid a pass because he’s not a “middle-of-the-road” NFL coach. Reid had tremendous success in Philly during his 14 years with the team. Reid won 120 games, 6 division titles, and had a .609 winning percentage. I don’t blame anyone for snatching him up as quickly as possible.
Every other job has been filled by a coach with no NFL head coaching experience. GMs appear to be taking more chances with their coaching hires in the last couple of years. This could be directly related with the recent success of coaches like Mike Tomlin (2 Super Bowls), Mike McCarthy (1 Super Bowl), and Sean Payton (1 Super Bowl).
As of this posting 3 jobs have still not been filled (Arizona, Jacksonville, and Philly). My interest in this article though is on the coaches who have been hired to fill the other 4 positions and their football backgrounds.
The Buffalo Bills hired Doug Marrone to lead their team in 2013. Marrone has more of a college career than a NFL career at this point. From 1996-2001 he was either an OL coach or a TE coach for Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Tennessee. He was the Jet’s OL coach from 2002-2005, and the Saints OC from 2006-2008 before taking the Syracuse head coaching job in 2009. While at Syracuse, Marrone took the fledgling program to 2 bowl games and was above .500 in 2 of his 4 seasons. Not numbers that blow you away, but a more impressive feat when you consider where he was coaching. His college resume convinced Buffalo that he could transform their lousy team into a contender.
The Cleveland Browns hired Rod Chudzinski. That’s not a miss-spelling either. If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t know who this guy was until the Browns hired him. Chudzinski has more of an NFL background than Marrone, but has never been a head coach. Chudzinski started his NFL coaching career as a TE coach in Cleveland. He came back to Cleveland in 2007 as a OC before moving on to the San Diego Chargers. His last stop was as OC in Carolina with Cam Newton. Cleveland is hoping Chudzinski can bring in the big play offense to a team that has struggled to be dynamic on that side of the ball for years.
Speaking of offense, San Diego went for an offensive minded coach when they hired Mike McCoy. McCoy has coached exclusively in the NFL and has focused on the QB position. He held several positions in Carolina from 200-2008, ranging from Offensive Assistant to Passing Game Coordinator (whatever that is). In 2009, McCoy moved to Denver to be the Offensive Coordinator and QBs coach. From 2010-2013, McCoy has been Denver’s offensive coordinator. The Chargers are praying that McCoy can finally kick-start a once explosive offense that has become stagnant. If he can get Phillip Rivers clicking, the Chargers could be a force to reckon with.
Finally, my favorite “thinking outside the box” hire. The Chicago Bears hired…Marc Trestman. If that name sounds familiar, you’re probably Canadian. If you are Canadian, I’m sorry you have no hockey to distract you from where you live and that you have had to resort to reading this blog to block out the blinding cold and the fact that you’re at least a quarter French.
But if you’re not too sure who this guy is, it’s because (as you may have already guessed by my tangent) he has coached in the CFL since 2008. Before that you ask? He was the OC at North Carolina State University. Trestman hasn’t been in the NFL since 2004 when he spent 1 year with the Miami Dolphins.
Even given the time he’s been out of the league, I have to applaud the Bears for taking a chance and trying to get a guy that their team desperately needs. The Bears have been the symbol of underachievement for the past few years. Their defense has been rock solid (even though it’s getting older) and still forces a ton of turnovers. Their offense has big-time weapons with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Brandon Marshall. But even with all of that talent, the offense has done little more than sputter through the last 3 seasons.
Thant’s why the Bears are bringing in Marc Trestman. Trestman is one of the more trusted QB developers in the game. College QBs call Trestman before the draft to prepare them for the combine. His Montreal Alouettes team was known as an innovative and explosive offense, led by their 2 time MVP QB Anthony Calvillo. If Trestman can get Jay Cutler to buy in, the Bears are legitimate contenders.
All that’s left now is to wait and see. Will the risks these teams took in hiring coaches without NFL head coaching experience pay off? We don’t know. But I sure hope so.
No one wants to see Norv back.