Why Do Coaches Get A Second Shot?

Why do coaches but not players in the NFL get second chance after second chance even after a major screw up?

Fans joke that the NFL stands for "Not For Long" and football is up there with boxing as one of the most brutal (and beloved) sports in America.  With the average of NFL career's averaging only 3 years, short even by professional athlete standards, the vast majority of players are spit out of the gauntlet before they hit 25.  

Furthermore, the NFL has shifted to specialization; gone are the days of the two-way player and at this point even players who play the same position are categorized into drastically different roles; the NFL enjoys an incredible amount diversity of scheme and play, from scrambling quarterbacks to pocket passers, shifty scatbacks to powerful downhill runners, vertical speedsters to sure handed slot receivers to physical press corners and ballhawking zone defenders, the NFL is all about matchups and that has resulted in the myriad of play styles we see today.  

However all this diversity hampers players from playing longer; while the NHL, MLB and NBA all regularly feature blockbuster trades and moves of star players, the NFL is largely quiet when it comes to the trade deadline and free agency.  There are more horror stories of star players changing homes (Albert Haynesworth) than success stories (Charles Woodson) and the best teams typically keep their wallets shut when a star player hits free agency. 

However one group in the NFL has always bucked the trend and seems to get second chance after second chance even after abysmal performances.  They hang around in the NFL due to their connections and bounce around from team to team, often times with only a season at one stop.  Who are these people?  NFL coaches.  

Take for example the Packers hiring Ron Zook after the disastrous tenure of Shawn Slocum.  Zook has had a largely unsuccessful career as a football coach up to this point; Zook has a 57-65 record as a coach and more importantly compiled a 34-51 record as the head coach at the University of Illinois.  Zook’s bowl record is perhaps even worse, going 1-3 and winning the SEC Eastern Division once in 2003.  Keep in mind while Slocum was ultimately responsible for the special teams cock up against the Seahawks, Zook also bears some responsibility as he was hired to give Slocum more help when he was obviously overwhelmed.

Now Mike McCarthy can hardly be accused of being the first coach to display cronyism, but he does seem to have control over personnel in the coaching staff and Zook is no exception with McCarthy as the offensive coordinator and Zook as the defensive coordinator during their tenures with the Saints from 2000-2001.

Is it because NFL coaches are a rare breed like star quarterbacks?  I would argue with the continuing shift towards college spread philosophies more and more college head coaches are making successful transitions to the NFL; Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly have been some of the most successful head coaches in the NFL in the last couple years and every one of them had great success in the college game first.  To me it looks like there is a bevy of talented coaches from the college ranks waiting to get into the NFL.  Is it because NFL teams are afraid of change and the unknown?  Again, the NFL highly values innovation and teams are doing everything they can, from virtual reality to real-time strategic planning to new personnel packages to get any edge they can. 

Arguably asking Bryan Bulaga to move from offensive tackle to a inside linebacker who be idiotic and likely spell the end of his career, but what about coaching makes it logical that a guy who coached offensive linemen would make a viable defensive coordinator? Is it possible that coaching is really that easy that going from offense to defense is no problem?  If so, why do coaches get more and more chances if someone else could easily do their job? 

Why is it that players are lucky to get a second shot while coaches are unlucky to not get their fifth shot?  



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Comments (3)

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Portland Mark's picture

July 13, 2015 at 07:40 pm

I guess they get second chances because their success is influenced by the talent they have on the team. Pete Carroll was mediocre with the Jets and Pats but got a second chance. Cheater Bill didn't do much in Cleveland but look what he has done in NE. With NE he had Bledsoe then Brady. Carroll didn't seem to be doing much in Seattle until Wilson showed up. Hopefully the personal upgrades will lead to GB going from worst to first in special teams play.

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Evan's picture

July 13, 2015 at 07:46 pm

Moral of the story - a coach is only as good as his QB.

Not really. But kinda?

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John Galt III's picture

July 13, 2015 at 07:49 pm

My son was an All-State high school player at a private school in Pennsylvania and lettered 4 years at a D-1 university program. His H.S. coach was a great recruiter but mediocre coach. His successor is great recruiter and a great coach.

My point is that a great coach may be over his head as a recruiter and that is everything in college football. So, Zook as an example maybe an ok coach but a mediocre recruiter.

The Eagle's hiring of Oregon's Chip Kelly is an exception and is to be commended.

Another example was the Brown's hiring the son of famous HS head coach Mike Pettine Jr. His father won (4) mythical National Championships @ CB West In Pennsylvania. The old man was a genius coach and the kid learned well.

The great high school programs today play all over the country. My son's school from Philadelphia has opened in Illinois, Texas, Florida and this year Louisiana. I would hire his team's coach as a head coach in the NFL in 5 seconds.

So, bottom line, look to the colleges and high schools for innovation and coaching and not the (5) time retreads.

See if you don't agree:


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