T’is the hiring and firing season in the National Football League, where money is no object, and wins do not count for everything now.
I thought about the landscape in the NFL while listening to the Rex Ryan-Buffalo Bills hiring press conference. It was typical Rex, brash, bold, belligerent, and like the weather in Buffalo, blustery.
It has been an interesting couple of weeks in the NFL. Bad seasons by bad teams leads to bad firings. So it was in Chicago, New York, and Oakland. You win 3-4-5 games, you go a bunch of years without a playoff spot, you get canned. It is business as usual.
But it was business not normal in a couple of places. Buffalo won 9-games this year, and almost ended its 15-year playoff drought, and yet their coach Doug Marrone walked out on the team.
Despite getting to the NFC championship game a bunch of times, and going (43-19), it was the end of the relationship road for Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers.
And now this cloudburst in Denver, where they won 4-straight divisional titles, and even went to the Super Bowl, but they axed John Fox, despite a (38-10) record the last years, and his entire staff.
It is no longer the Vince Lombardi axiom ‘winning isn’t everything-it’s the only thing’. Now it has to be get the trophy or get taken out.
The pressure in the NFL is enormous; the expectations now seem beyond reason; the end result, if you don’t get there you get executed..
It truly is a different era, where the life span on head coaches now seems to be four years or less. Bill Belicheck failed miserably, but finally learned how to win. Pete Carroll failed twice, and surely has stamped himself as a winner. For every Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Mike McCarthy, there is a garbage can full of failures on the street curb. The shelf life of a coach is testament to how tough, and how demanding the position is.
Some burn out, some wear out their welcome, like Jim Harbaugh or Mike Smith or John Fox. Some never lived up to their college records, like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, Barry Switzer.
The longevity of a Tom Coughlin, the dominance of Jimmy Johnson, the extended run of Andy Reid, is something we likely will hardly ever see again.
Paul Brown, Tom Landry, Don Shula, that era, its credibility, is a long time ago.
So this morning here we are with the carousel swinging wildly. This year’s hot coordinators, Todd Bowles, Adam Gase, Jim Tomsula might be a victim three years from today. The big name candidates just a couple of years ago, Perry Fewell, Greg Roman, never got hired, and just a few years later, got fired, when their teams went sour.
The job is so tough, that even the guys-gurus you expected to want back in, because their DNA is coaching, the Bill Cowhers-Jon Grudens of the world, now don’t want back in.
Hiring surely is no certainty, even if the coordinators have had success. Names like Cam Cameron, Rob Chudzinski, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Greg Schiano, Charley Weis, Kevin Gilbride, Dennis Allen, Marc Trestman and Ray Handley are now like oil stains in the street. You see it, you can’t get rid of the mistake.
Just because you coached for Bill Parcells or Bill Belicheck won’t guarantee you’ll be the next Parcells or Belicheck. Only Tony Dungy assistants and coaches from the Bill Walsh-Mike Holmgren trees seem to have worked out.
The ex-Chargers coaches, who had success, felt differently about their jobs, when their time was up. Marty Schottenheimer told me ‘coaching chews you up and spits you out’, and this from a man who left with 200-career victories. Bobby Ross knew it was time to exit, sitting on the Lions plane an hour after a huge road win, not rejoicing about the victory, but worrying about the next game, a potential loss.
Mike McCoy is here in San Diego believing he will make a difference. The Jets hope Todd Bowles,and the 49ers think Jim Tomsula will work out. The 5-teams that have vacancies believe they will hire people, who will make a difference.
The only certainty in the NFL today is ‘hired to be fired’, just ask Jim Harbaugh and John Fox about that.
In the NFL, you never know what you get when you hire a coach. We all know however how it usually ends up.