NFL team owners should know by the second year if a head coach needs to be fired or whether they deserve a few more seasons to improve the franchise. The most glaring indicator of when to let go of the coach is when the coach takes a losing team and goes to the playoffs in his first year but then has a losing record in his second season. This displays that the new head coach is inconsistent and any owner who sticks with such a coach is focusing too much on one abrupt winning season.
Tony Sparano took over the 1-15 Miami Dolphins in 2008 and in his first year won 11 games and took the Dolphins to the playoffs. However, the following season he missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record and should have been relieved of his duties there and then. Instead, because the Dolphins focused on Sparano’s first season’s winning display, the Dolphins retained Sparano for another 2 years. He did not have another winning season.
Similarly, the New York Jets hired Eric Mangini in 2006 after the team had gone 4-12 the previous season. In his first year Mangini took the Jets to the playoffs with a 10-6 record but missed the playoffs the following two seasons. Although Mangini was let go after his third season, the Jets should have taken action after his second year collapse with a 4-12 record.
The reason? Any team that goes from a losing season to a winning season and then back to a losing season isn’t built for the long run. Having a sudden winning season but failing to follow up the following year proves that the first year was a fluke.
A good head coach builds a foundation for a team over a few seasons to put the right staff and players in place to win. Only if an incoming head coach sustains a winning record in his second year will it validate the first year success. If not, it disproves that the coach actually implemented any improvements at all.
In contrast, an incoming head coach that incrementally improves his winning record, albeit even without making the playoffs, in his first two seasons illustrates that there is improvements taking place.
Jim Schwartz debuted his Detroit Lions coaching career with a 2-14 record but improved to 6-10 the following season. While he did not have a winning record initially, he did demonstrate that he was moving the team in the right direction. Now in his third year, Schwartz has made the Lions a 10 win team making in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
Some NFL owners may be reluctant to release their new coach after only two seasons but if it is apparent that the coach is not a good fit then a change needs to be made. If not, then the blame of the faltering team should fall on the owner. And there should be no surprise if the coach fails to improve the team in the following seasons.
Photo credit: Chris J. Nelson
I don't know. Sometimes it feels like my writing & thoughts are way off. Who knows if it'll help anyone or if it means anything.
Written by Nassau Jones