The Problem With Hiring NFL Head Coaches

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Steve Wilks
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Steve Wilks of the Arizona Cardinals looks on from the sidelines against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The familiar inevitability that rolls around each year with ‘Black Monday’ again didn’t disappoint at the conclusion of the 2018 regular season. With the dust barely having a chance to form let alone settle six NFL coaches were shown the door within 24-hours of the final snaps being taken. The roll-call of the now unemployed – Todd Bowles, Vance Joseph, Steve Wilks, Marvin Lewis, Adam Gase, and Dirk Koetter – was hardly surprising, with all being on the hot seat at various points throughout the season.

The Problem With New NFL Head Coaches

Forgive me though for being anything other than discouraged at the turn of events.
The King is Dead, Long Live The King is an easy motto to abide by for those short on memory but long on hope. The great and the good, the young and the bright will be touted, interviewed and hired over the next few weeks. But, in reality, what will change?

In 2016 there were seven hires across the NFL. How many remain in situ? Just one, Doug Pedersen in Philadelphia. Two, Gase and Koetter lasted three seasons with Ben McAdoo, Chip Kelly, and Mike Mularkey lasting only two seasons. Hue Jackson made it two and a half seasons before being shown the door.

Look at the franchises searching for a new coach. All mired in depressing cycling of failure and most doomed to repeat the mistakes of seasons past for whilst the coach is the figurehead of the franchise, they are also the fall-guy.

How many of those who appoint a new coach over the coming weeks will do so heralding a new regime, of brighter days, yet continue with the front office personnel and structure that has consistently overseen failure time and again? Franchises seemingly in a perpetual state of rebooting with promises of the future without the organizational or philosophical change implemented to effect real change.

The Endless Cycle of Change

What confidence should you take away from the fact that the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are entrusting the decision of their coaching hire to a General Manager and front office who have already been in this position less than three seasons ago? Why is it received wisdom that GMs have the luxury of glossing over their mistakes again and again? And why do owners consent to give them enough rope to do it?

By making this argument you are not advocating that any of the coaches who were fired are the next coming of Paul Brown or Vince Lombardi. The dereliction of duty that some coaches show to their position, the way they appear so out of touch with the direction of travel in the NFL is evidence that they are not.

Yet somehow they were appointed in the first place at the end of what you would assume is an exhaustive selection process. Does this not tell you everything you need to now? Yet here we are again. Back to square one, starting over and they are the ones conducting matters all over again.

The standard of coaching in the NFL quite rightly is subject to scrutiny in the media. But in the interests of objectivity isn’t it time that the same light was shone on those making the most important decision of all?

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