MYTH: When a new coach comes to town, sometimes it takes a little while before things begin to look up.....No, no it does not.
Starting in 2004, lets review the last several years of coaching change in the NFL.
2004: 7 coaching changes occurred; within 2 yrs Coughlin, Gibbs, Lovie Smith, and Jim Mora had taken their teams to the playoffs; one (Mora) to the AFC Championship in his first year..... 4/7 were a success.
2005: 3 coaching changes occurred; all three coaches are now fired
2006: 10 coaching changes occurred; 3 coaches had their team in the playoffs within 2yrs and a 4th reached the playoffs in his 3rd yr; two (Mangini & Payton) reached the playoffs in their first year, two (Payton & McCarthy) reached the NFC Championship within 2yrs.....Childress reached the playoffs only last year...... 4/10 were a success
2007: 7 coaching changes occurred; within 2 yrs Tomlin, Whisenhunt, N.Turner, and W. Phillips have all reached the playoffs, two were in last years SB, one (Norv) went to the AFC Championship his first yr.... 4/7 were a success
2008: 4 coaching changes occurred: within the first year Smith, Sparano, & Harbaugh all reached the playoffs, one reached the AFC Championship.... 3/4 were a success
In 2009, 11 coaching changes have occurred.....surprised?? If I was looking at the numbers above, I would be quick to pull the trigger on a new coach as well. 15 of 31 went to the playoffs within 2 yrs Of course, in years where 10 coaches are hired, you have to expect a thinning of talent. I think this year's crop of coaches is extremely talented,
If you look closely at each year, other than 2005, a new coach has taken his team to the conference championship game in his first year. That is quite a stat,
Since 2004, in four of five years in the NFL, a brand new head coach led one of the four best teams.
Now a lot of factors lead to such a finish and certainly the HC does not deserve all the credit. Sometimes it can even happen despite the HC. This year, many reporters and pundits are calling last year an aberration. They say, "Don't expect that again!"
Every year since 2003 at least one team and many times more than one, go from worst to first. From '03-'07, the last place team won the NFC South division.....five years of worst to first in one division??
In the MSM, I only hear Indy and Seattle as potential division winners who have new coaches (safe bet, whudda thunk it?). Is it fair to assume that reporters and pundits are well-informed about all things football? Apparently not? In fact, I would argue that most of their time is spent creating story lines and avoiding real evaluation. Lets face it- real evaluation involves being a "true" student of the game and these guys make too much money to be students of anything. It also means your analysis will be critiqued and your success can be quantified. Under these circumstances, why stick your neck out from the crowd?
While considering the success rate above, what team has the best chance of success this year?
McD (Den)- It appears McD handled all coach hires. He seems to have hired with a focus on talent, length of experience, and experience in the AFC West, He has demonstrated a hands on approach that steers both sides of the football team. He inherits one of the best OLs in football, bought an experienced secondary, and has added leadership to his team. If the team has bought into his leadership, then the MSM story lines are only just that.
Haley (KC)- His organizational skills are suspect. If you want to succeed against the odds on day 1, you have to know what you're getting into. When you fire the OC, Chan Gailey, you should have a backup plan.....you can't just make yourself the QB coach, OC, and HC. Just getting into the situation strikes me as naive. I'm not sure how much he is ready to coach both sides of the football.
Cable (Oak)- Hanson's jaw, Al Davis, Heyward-Bey, Jamarcus Russell.......do we need to say more.
Schwartz (Det)- This is a completely new team. I wonder who has more personnel turnover Denver or Detroit? I can't say I know too much about what is going on here, but their personnel moves seem sound. I am overly optimistic primarily because this team has nowhere to go but up.
Spagnuolo (STL)- I love Spags.....in fact I think he was a critical piece to the NYG team. While it is not clear what type of team he inherited, he did not make many changes to the roster. Devaney and him have made tweaks, but it appears they are satisfied to progress slowly. I read on the STL website that bystanders were surprised when S.Jackson went down from his first hit in practice. They thought he would get upset.....a RB upset about a tackle?? Apparently TC was very light in STL the last couple years. This sounds like primadonna stuff though. Thank goodness then because Jackson did not get upset.....whew, good! I think Spags has more changes to the roster to make before the team culture changes though.
Morris (TB)- It doesn't make sense to fire Gruden and select a lower coach that grew up under Gruden. It appears the NFL "copycat" rule went a little too far. Morris is not Tomlin and TB is definitely not Pitt. I think Gruden was holding together a poor team.....It will be tough to beat 9-7 from last year.
Ryan (NYJ)- Ryan gets his players to play for him....Mangini gets his players to play through other methods. I think the new coaching atmosphere and additions on O and D could make this team tough to beat.
Singletary (SF)- This team just shows toughness on the gridiron. I can't help but believe the team is buying into Singletary's leadership. His QB and ILB (Willis) both seem extensions of his personality. The expectations are very low and I see a potential surprise.
Mora (Sea)- He is a proven winner, but the team is essentially the same as last year. The blame fell on the injury to Hasselbeck, but I think more issues exist. Expectation are high for a rebound.
Mangini (Cle)- He takes over a team who last year appeared to visibly struggle from lack of focus, unity, and belief. I can't think of a better coach to follow Romeo Crennel. Furthermore, this team won 10 games two years ago. They have talent....can Mangini get these guys to play? He has been successful in his first year with less talent (NYJ '06).
Caldwell (Ind)- A lot of coaching turmoil in the offseason. I think losing Meeks from the DC position will have more of an effect than people realize. This is not the same team it was in 2006. A lot of pressure on Caldwell, he is filling big shoes.
In my opinion, the key for the above teams to shock the NFL will be low expectations, some inherited talent, a dynamic leader that brings something missing to the team, and players buying into the coach's leadership. I think McD, Schwartz, Ryan, Singletary and Mangini demonstrate this potential. They are capable of taking their team far in the first year.
Schwartz and Ryan's team will improve and could go very far.....its just so difficult to assess a team with a rookie QB. While last year showed promise for rookie signal callers, history doesn't give rookie QBs the same love as rookie HCs. I see potential, but am somewhat skeptical. The beauty of having a rookie under center is the expectations and pressure from the outside immediately go down. This is an important factor to beating conventional wisdom about your potential. The big requirement is that the QB can handle pressure. In that case, I like the NYJ's to finish better than Detroit.
Denver, SF, and Cleveland are my big surprises for this year. This may mean the playoffs, but it may mean only 8-8. No less than .500 win pct though.
Of course, it will be Denver in the AFC Championship game to continue the first year HC trend stated above. For me, the big questions are not about Denver's D and Clevland's QB. I wonder how much TENN, NYG, NE, BAL, and ARI will miss their old coordinators. The teams losing highly successful coordinators are the teams with question marks......but, these teams offer very few story lines....those are all in Denver.
What do you think of the rookie HCs?
I honestly started to get dizzy reviewing NFL seasons (they comprise two years), so let me know if I made a mistake on the coach stats.