Let's start in Baltimore, where John Harbaugh was hired last winter to take over the Ravens. Harbaugh was a defensive assistant at every level, and while he spent many of his NFL coaching years as a Special Teams coach, his final year was spent as a defensive backs coach in Philadelphia. When Harbaugh was hired he had a decision to make. The Ravens had a dominant defense already led by Rex Ryan.
The Ravens, however, don't run the same scheme employed by DC Jim Johnson in Philly. Harbaugh could have easily cleaned house, brought in some Philadelphia assistants and did things his way. Wisely he understood what he had in Ryan, and more importantly, in the players he had on the Ravens defense. They played hard for Ryan, they responded to him. What mess with that?
Harbaugh kept Ryan and the hired a strong offensive mind(Cam Cameron) to run his offense. Being a Special Teams/Defense specialist Harbaugh was wise to do so, especially with a rookie quarterback coming into the fold. By keeping stability on defense, and bringing in experience to run the offense, Harbaugh could set out to do what a Head Coach needs to do with a losing team, change the culture.
The proof is in the results as the Ravens went 11-5 and will play in Tennessee this weekend and one of the Top 5 defenses in football.
Example #2 comes from the Steel City. After Bill Cowher stepped down, the Steelers made a bold hire when they introduced Mike Tomlin as their Head Coach. There was alot of noise made about the Steelers going outside the 'family', overlooking candidates like Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt. Another concern was the defense Tomlin ran as defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. Playing from a traditional 4-3 front, with the Tampa-2 behind, Tomlin did nearly the exact opposite as the incumbant DC in Pittsburgh, Dick LaBeau.
Tomlin, like Harbaugh, was wise, however, in his analysis of the Steelers. He knew that Cowher had built a team that could win despite rarely spending large amounts of money on free agents because the Steelers ran a system on defense that focused more on a type of athlete, not super stars. To change that system would likely mean a long period of growing pains as personnel on the defensive side of the ball was overhauled to play the system Tomlin was used to.
In the end, Tomlin kept LaBeau and set forth on his quest to be the coach the Steelers needed him to be, a great motivator. Tomlin has the fire and charisma that his predecessor had. A cocky/confidence that makes players want to play for him. To play hard for him becuase he had the self-assuredness to come into a new situation and not immediately try and put his stamp on it. Let the men that had helped Pittsburgh be successful continue to make Pittsburgh successful.
The result? The Steelers are playing this weekend and have the best defense in football.
The Broncos are not unlike Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Neither the Ravens or Steelers were a playoff team before their new coaches toook over, yet the new coaches were smart enough to realize what they had on the defensive side of the ball, left it intact, and got busy working on what needed to be fixed instead of what they felt comfortable doing.
The job of Head Coach is so much more than game planning, or offense, or defense. It is about delegating. It is about motivating. It is about leading 53 men, most who will never have to work a day in their lives, to run into a brick wall 60 times every Sunday. Most importantly, it is about having the confidence to come into a situation, realize that despite change there are things that currently work, and leaving them the hell alone.
It takes someone special to do that. John Harbaugh did it. Mike Tomlin did it. The Denver Broncos offense was one of the best in football last year, without the stability of a running game. Whomevere is lucky enough to take over that offense needs to do it too, and get to work on fixing the attitude, culture and defense of the Denver Broncos.