With the recent success of Sean McVay in LA, leading the Rams to the Super Bowl in his second season as a head coach, every team seemed to be wanting the “next Sean McVay” when the NFL head coaching carousel was still spinning. So much to the point that I heard the color guy making a joke about McVay’s barista getting an interview with the Cardinals.
This got me interested in how well head coaches have done in their first head coaching job in the NFL. This will be a follow, up to my article from a few weeks ago regarding the success (or lack thereof) of “recycled” head coaches.
Breaking: The barista who prepares Sean McVay’s daily Starbucks order has been named CEO of the company.— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) January 11, 2019
So there have been more than 400 different men who have been the head coach of an NFL team. Not wanting to pour through that much data, I restricted this to coaches who got there first NFL head coaching job this century (or really close to this century - I included 1999). I also excluded guys who were interim head coaches so they have less than 16 games of total head coach experience in the NFL this century. That left 94 head coaches.
Overall first time head coaches this century have a combined record of 2972 and 3103 which is a 0.478 winning percentage. Of course there are plenty of outliers to this average, so let’s look more deeply at the data and focus on the biggest outliers (for good and bad). The standard deviation of this data set is 0.138, so a coach who has a winning percentage greater than one standard deviation above the average is doing something right, and a coach with a winning percentage one standard below the average (or worse) will soon be fired (unless they are in Cleveland).
Who are the coaches who stunk it up in there first head coaching jobs in this century? Note that Bill Belichick’s first head coaching job, in Cleveland, was not begun this century. One standard deviation below average is 0.351.
|"Bad" Head Coaches||W/L%|
There are some familiar names on that list. Vance Joseph, obviously, but also former Bronco defensive coordinators Mike Nolan and Dennis Allen along with Mike Shanahan’s son, Kyle, who many (me included) wanted us to hire when we hired Joseph. We also see for Faider head coach, Lane Kiffin, on that list. Also note that Josh McDaniels was not bad enough to be on this list.
The “good” head coaches are they men who have gotten their team to perform at one standard deviation (or greater) above average. Those men have a winning percentage of 0.627 or better. The table of them from this century is below. I also included others who are above 0.600
|"Good" Head Coaches||W/L%|
It is interesting to note that both Bruce Arians and Mike McCarthy were recently fired from their first NFL head coaching gigs and that there was talk of the Steelers not renewing Mike Tomlin’s contract. It is also interesting to note that of the 12 teams that made the playoffs this season, six of them have their head coach on that list and if I had extended it just a bit further it would have been 7 (John Harbaugh has a winning percentage of 0.591).
- Sean McVay
- Sean Payton
- Anthony Lynn
- Frank Reich
- Matt Nagy
- Doug Pederson
- John Harbaugh* (0.591)
For those who prefer to see this data plotted graphically, I prepared this, since it is informative to see where the winning percentages line up for all 97
Please don’t try to read the names on the X-axis without magnification.
You need to look no further than those big orange dots to see why many in Bronco Country are leery of hiring another first time head coach. The last two that we hired were not very successful and only lasted two (or so) seasons. Also for those who like to see how the data is spread, I ordered the data on the plot from high to low winning percentage. That is shown below.
After having seen the historical data, what will the Broncos (and Vic Fangio’s) record be next season?
This poll is closed
5-11 or worse
11-5 or better