(Photos courtesy of New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
George Halas coached the Chicago Bears for 40 years. Tom Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years, Don Shula coached the Miami Dolphins for 26 years and Chuck Noll the Pittsburgh Steelers for 23 years.
All won NFL championships. All are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Halas won six titles with the Bears, Noll won four with the Steelers and Landry won two with the Cowboys, as did Shula with the Dolphins. That’s 14 championships in a combined 118 seasons on the sidelines. That also means they coached more than a century of seasons without any titles.
But patience existed in the NFL back then.
Owners understood that winning championships was a process. Every team can’t win every year. Coaches often arrived with five-year plans – the time it would take to build a team to a point where all the pieces were in place to compete for championships. Landry didn’t manage a winning season until his seventh year in Dallas. The teams with the best players won titles. When a team didn’t win in the Halas and Shula eras, it looked for better players.
Now it looks for a new coach.
Seven NFL teams are replacing coaches this offseason. That pushes the count to 37 head coaching changes since the end of the 2010 season. That’s an average of 7.4 changes per offseason this decade. In the 1980s, the average number of head-coaching changes each offseason was 4.2.
Jim Harbaugh took the San Francisco 49ers to three consecutive NFC title games and a Super Bowl this decade. He was pushed out this offseason. So was Rex Ryan, who took the New York Jets to consecutive AFC title games in 2009-2010. Mike Smith was another to get the boot. He took the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC title game in 2012. John Fox was another. He took the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl in 2013.
Four NFL coaches of the year in the last decade have been fired – Andy Reid by Philadelphia, Marty Schottenheimer by San Diego, Lovie Smith by Chicago and now Mike Smith by the Falcons. Coaches no longer have any laurels to rest on.
The days of the four-decade coaches like Halas are over. Quality coaches are lucky to get a decade. Most are lucky to finish out their original contracts.
The Raiders have had eight head coaches since 2000. A ninth will be on the sideline in 2015. The Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins have had seven head coaches apiece since 2000, and the Bills, Chiefs and Lions have had six apiece. Buffalo will have its seventh in 2015.
Forget the five-year plans. If you want to be a head coach in the NFL, you’d better have a two-year plan.
The dean of NFL coaches is Bill Belichick, who has been on the job since 2000. He owns the blueprint for success — find a franchise quarterback early on and then win, win, win.
After a 5-11 debut season with the New England Patriots in 2000, Belichick stumbled upon Tom Brady as his quarterback in the opening month of his second season. Since then, Belichick has won 12 AFC East titles in the last 14 seasons and reached nine AFC championship games. If the Patriots win Sunday, Belichick will have taken New England to six Super Bowls. Three times he has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Add it all up, and it spells job security.
The NFL has become a win now league. Unless you’re Bill Belichick, you’re just keeping the seat warm for the next guy.
Follow Rick Gosselin on Twitter at @RickGosselinDMN