By HCR Staff | Dec. 31, 2019
Monday brought more NFL head coach terminations; it’s a tough time of the year in the business, but every coach who signs up for these jobs knows the risks.
Right now, the Carolina Panthers, the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns need head coaches. The Dallas Cowboys could soon follow.
As we’ve seen from the recent spate of terminations over the last few years, identifying a person who would make for a good head coach is very, very difficult. There’s a myriad of reasons why, but one primary reason is that it’s hard to project how a person is going to respond when they’re under head coaching pressure.
The pressure of being a head coach is vastly different than the pressure of being a coordinator or a position coach. They are completely different jobs, and it almost doesn’t even matter how much experience one has as an assistant. Experience matters–a lot.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that leadership skills are different than assistant skills. In our view, that’s a line that every hiring owner should memorize and repeat over and over as they go through the process.
Leadership skills are different than assistant skills.
If we were doing some hiring, here’s who is on our list…in no particular order, not even alphabetical:
Matt Rhule. He’s led at two different places–Temple and Baylor–and rejuvenated both under tough circumstances, and he has NFL experience, which we feel is important. This guy obviously has vision, but more importantly, he executed on that vision.
Mike McCarthy. He’s got the pedigree, the experience, and the passion to be back in the game, as witnessed by his recent media blitz (which was a bit over the top, but hey, this is the LinkedIn era). He’s sat in the seat at the highest level, and he’s won–that’s very important to us.
P.J. Fleck. Very similar to Rhule. Successful at two college programs, Western Michigan and Minnesota, and he’s a former NFL player and coach. He’s not being mentioned at all by pundits, but if we’re doing the hiring, we’d want to check him out.
David Shaw. He’s been a longtime winner at Stanford, and he’s put in time as an NFL coach. We aren’t too enamored of his apparent brand-building–Bill Parcells doesn’t like ‘celebrity quarterbacks’, we don’t like ‘celebrity head coaches’–but he’s been a good, proven leader.
Jim Schwartz. The Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator has head coaching experience, and just coordinated a defense into a recent Super Bowl victory. His cockiness got him into trouble in his first gig and he’s a little taken with himself, but no one questions his intelligence. Even though his first NFL head coaching gig didn’t work out, we’re sure the reps were valuable. The first gig also didn’t work out for a guy named Belichick.
Jim Caldwell. We get it–he seems very low-key, not enough fist shaking and F-bombing. But what does that have to do with winning? He’s won, he’s honorable, he’s an adult, and other coaches like him (we just would not let him ever hire Jim Bob Cooter again). So if you’re a team that needs some stability he provides that. The modern trend is toward analytics, however, and perhaps the young numbers noobs wouldn’t take a shine to him. But what’s more important–a pretty algorithm or ugly winning? We’ll take the latter.
Rex Ryan. He’s on our list for only one team: the Cowboys. We just think he’s the right fit. The Cowboys have lacked identity, and Ryan brings that. He likes to make people laugh, but Rex is not a clown. He’s a very, very bright guy, and very competitive as well. He took the Jets to TWO AFC Championship games while competing in the same division as Belichick. Who else can say that? We think he fits the Cowboys because he’s an accomplished guy that wouldn’t care that owner Jerry Jones holds press conferences. Rex also is a fun guy, and Jerry likes that too.
Dan Campbell. The Saints’ TE coach is a well-respected coach who has some interim head coaching experience. He’s put in a very good apprenticeship under Sean Payton. He reminds us of Mike Vrabel–he won’t be the greatest tactician, but he’s has strong leadership potential. He’s a guy we would want to investigate further.
Dennis Allen. The Saints’ defensive coordinator has NFL head coaching experience. He was not ready for that first job, and he was humbled. Since, he’s had great success going back to New Orleans, and he is thought of as being very intelligent. We’d want to pick his brain and see if the additional seasoning has improved him.
Josh McDaniels. He has tremendous experience, and he has pedigree. We’d approach him with caution, however. Why? We wonder about his maturity and personal honor. What he did to Indianapolis last year was out of bounds–even for the NFL. People in Denver also remember his immature power trips. He’s older now, but has he really learned? We’d talk to him, but we urge caution and a higher degree of inquiry.
Marvin Lewis. He’s had a long and successful track record under difficult ownership circumstances…meaning, the Bengals don’t have as much money as other owners. We’d like to see what he could do with greater resources.
Honorable Mentions for HCR. Karl Dorrell, Jay Gruden, Eric Bienemy, Greg Roman, Todd Bowles, Matt Eberflus.
No-Go Zone for HCR (not an exhaustive list). Urban Meyer (we remember Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino), Brian Daboll (perhaps wound too tight, and we remember Ben McAdoo), Kevin Stefanski (darling of the analytics set, but we remember Monday Night against Green Bay), Shane Waldron (lacks experience and the McVay privilege has worn out its welcome for now), Lincoln Riley, Mike LaFleur, and Robert Saleh.