There’s a losing culture in the NFL.
Coaches who win and vindicate themselves one year are just as quickly thrown to the gutter the next.
When the 2009 season starts, the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and St. Louis Rams will all have different coaches then the same time last year. Plus we’ll likely need to add the Kansas City Chiefs to that list before the off-season is over. That’s a third of the league.
Three of the four teams in the NFC West will be taking on new coaches from a year ago. One – the St. Louis Rams – are already on their third.
All this was going through my head today while listening to the Jets press conference to introduce Rex Ryan as their new head coach today.
Ryan takes over for Eric Mangini (now the head guy at Cleveland), who got the boot just two years removed from a 10-6 record and a playoff birth. But how long will Ryan have to prove he’s the answer?
The former Ravens defensive guru has just become the Jets 8th coach in the past 20 years. That’s an average stint of less then three seasons per coach. With a 5-year tenure, Herm Edwards (about to be fired from Kansas City) by far has the longest tenure.
So what’s the verdict?
Three years. Maybe four.
Only eight coaches (two less then the amount of new hires) have more then 5 years experience on the job. Of course this also takes into account the retirements of Mike Holmgren in Seattle and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.
Jeff Fisher – 15 years, Super Bowl in Year 6
Andy Reid – 10 years, Super Bowl in Year 6
Bill Belichick – 9 years, Super Bowl in Year 2
John Fox – 7 years, Super Bowl in Year 2
Marvin Lewis – 6 years
Jack Del Rio – 6 years
Lovie Smith – 5 years, Super Bowl in Year 3
Tom Coughlin 5 years, Super Bowl in Year 4
Note the trend? Six of the eight coaches with the longest tenure at their jobs made it to the Super Bowl within their first six years. Not so coincidently, the two who haven’t – Lewis and Del Rio – both are in jeopardy of losing their jobs this season.
But hey, lets give these coaches a chance. The New York media called for Coughlin’s head after his third year, when a hard playoff loss caused some to question whether he was too tough of a coach for the team. Coughlin shut them up a year later with a miracle Super Bowl win.
Six years, like Lewis and Del Rio have gotten seems to be a much more accurate depiction of coaching talent then two or three. It gives the team plenty of time to turn around its roster, and the coach more then enough time to instill their gameplan and develop their own players.
After six years, clearly Marvin Lewis doesn’t get it. The Bengals have had only one playoff birth (and a subsequent playoff loss) under his tenure. And Lewis has not only had just one winning season, but he has caused discord amongst his players as well. Anything short of a miraculous long playoff run, and it’s time to cut the chord.
Playoff births in years three and five have kept Jack Del Rio chugging along. But Del Rio put himself on the line for quarterback David Garrard. With an erratic tenure in Jacksonville and only three winning seasons, they, too, will need to win at least one playoff game to keep him around.
Perhaps Fisher, the longest tenured NFL Coach is the best prototype. He’s been with the team for so long, they were the Houston Oilers when he began. Fisher took over as interim coach in 1994, but with a 1-5 record, the team finished 2-12 and at the bottom of the league.
1995 saw a much bigger improvement, when he rallied the team to a 7-9 turnaround. But by the end of his 5th year the team had finished no better than 8-8 and there were more then a few calls to fire Jeff Fisher.
The Titans kept with it and came within a few yards of a Superbowl win the following year.
Fisher has since had strings of bad years (5-11 in 2004; 4-12 in 2005) but Tennessee has stayed with him and been adequately awarded.
It’s a tough thing to win in the NFL. And certainly there are some coaches who just can’t cut it (Bobby Petrino anyone?). But the like the Titans have learned, the NFL is cyclical. There’s parity. If a coach is good enough for you to hire him, give him the chance to turn things around.
Let’s hope the Jets let Rex Ryan see this one through.