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Friday, June 12, 2009

To Headcoach or Not to Headcoach

Your team has just gotten another losing season, the head coach has been fired and it is time to pick a successor who will hopefully turn things around. Who do you hire? Do you hire a new head coach who has previously been a head coach with another NFL team, OR do you hire a head coach who does not have any previous experience as an NFL head coach?

The answer from this blog- take the rising assistant head coach. Roll the dice on the new and unproven. Why? Because the goal is championships, and the data shows that NEW head coaches have won many more Super Bowl championships. If your goal is to restore your franchise to respectability, by all means get a retread. They will win you games and give your fans a playoff appearance. But if you are playing to go all the way, get the coordinator who has done some very good things, give him the keys to the car and let him drive.

HC Super Bowl winners w/ no previous NFL HC experience

HC Super Bowl winners w/ previous NFL HC experience

18 out of 26. 69%. 72% if you count them by total titles.

Here is where we editorialize also. In this blogger's not-so-humble opinion, Coughlin does not win a Super Bowl unless he is ordered to CHANGE and start communicating better with his players by John Mara after a contentious implosion in 2006. Strahan, Burress and others all noted the difference that Coughlin had made. He changed(see minute ~6:30). He was available to players. He listened to them. In fact, we cited here that one of the reasons why the Giants pulled it all off is that the players asked Coughlin for more rest (more sane practices) as the season wore on, Coughlin gave it to them, and the Giants became the road warriors, winning 11 straight on the road. In short, Coughlin bonded with his players in a way that he never would have done when with the Jaguars OR the Giants in 2005 and 2006. Asterisk.

Belichick had an absolutely horrible situation with an imploding franchise that packed up in the middle of the night to escape town. Every former head coach who is interviewing for a new chance is going to tell you they have the extenuating circumstances that makes them the candidate to come in and win a title. But the numbers say you are better off with a new face.

Some of you are thinking- but what about the fact that in the last 12 years, 6 out of 9 of those coaches had previous HC experience. That this is the new era of free agency... Perhaps it is true that there is less patience on behalf of owners, who see teams like the Rams go from worst to first. The turnover of free agency makes life in the NFL far more volatile. The Raiders fire Gruden (more attributable to Al Davis literally losing his mind) when they are knocking on the door. Every HC that wins after losing elsewhere has a story of redemption. Maybe it is true that you have to pay attention to the extenuating circumstances more, because franchises may be making more mistakes in letting guys go too early. Steve Spagnuolo, Ken Whisenhunt, Rex Ryan... these are the types of guys who will give you the fresh start, the best shot. Mangini with prev experience as a head coach? No.

So, do you go with the last 9 datapoints? Or the first 25 (23 out of 25, pretty scary, eh?). We'll choose to look at all 34 and say that the new guy gives you the fresh blueprint and supports Rule #11. Of course there are exceptions. If the Giants had a vacancy and John Fox was let go by the Panthers, I would want Fox back here BECAUSE of the work he has done in Carolina. Fox + Reese would be scary good.

Summary: All things being equal, take the new head coach, not the retread. Only take a HC with former HC experience if there are very strong circumstances arguing for why the candidate deserves another opportunity.


Russ Wellen said...

No stats to back this up, but I suspect fans tend to be more excited by the hiring of a first-time head coach. Imagine the sinking feeling when your team hires Norv Turner or Marty Schottenheimer?

Anonymous said...

LOL good point Russ.

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