Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Sep 2005

Check Out This Batch of Coaching Candidates

Jay Glazer looks at the top coaching candidates as the rumor mill (Tice) gets spinning (Tice) extra early this year (Tice). Our man Jim Schwartz is here. (When you read "Schwartz has worked with statistical analysts to study down-and-distance decisions," or some such thing, that's a reference to FO.) So is Pittsburgh O-Line coach Russ Grimm, who was also mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate in the Steelers chapter of PFP 2005. As for some ex-head coaches looking for another opportunity, I'll buy Glazer's comparison of Gregg Williams in Buffalo to Bill Belichick in Cleveland, but I'm begging NFL owners, please spare us another round of Wade Phillips, the man who made the worst roster decision in NFL history. One more fun name: Would it not be the ultimate irony if the Green Bay Packers went 3-13, fired Mike Sherman, and hired ... Ed Donatell?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 22 Sep 2005

47 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2005, 2:55am by Aaron


by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 11:44am

Good call on Wade Phillips. In 15+ years of watching football the decision to play Rob Johnson ahead of Doug Flutie stands out a mile for me as the single stupidest decision I've ever seen. I'm pleased to find out that there is good statistical backing for my feelings. The way I remember it, in the three seasons they spent on the same team, the Bills had a 21-9 record when Flutie started and an 8-10 record when Johnson started. How that could possibly be a QB controversy is beyond me.
Also, the Bills shockingly bad special teams season of 2000 occurred after Phillips fired legendary special teams coach Bruce Dehaven in a kneejerk response to the home-run-throwback play in Tennessee the previous year.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 11:57am

Childress has a contract with the Eagles through 2008. Not really sure he'd leave before then, even if a head coaching job opened up. (Not really sure he can leave before then).

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 12:10pm

What bothers me about the annual bloodsport of firing coaches is that the target in the owner's sight is often wrong.

Case in point, Chuck Lamar, GM of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I know a coach who loses 70 percent of the games his team plays might end up seeking gainful employment elsewhere, but why not the front office?

This is particularly true in football, where the revolution in statistical analysis hasn't caught on with every franchise.

That's why I mentioned Lamar. In MLB, his incompetence is even more glaring.

So what are we to make of Charlie Casserly? Great with Gibbs (where, ironically, he put together the Redskins' offensive line), but in the salary cap era, a bust with the Texans?

What about Eric Schaffer? You know, the guy charged with managing the Redskins' salary cap (yes, there is such a creature; they don't just throw darts at a random array of high LTBEs)?

You don't like Tice? OK, what about Rob Brzezinski. You know, the guy with the job of making sure he has enough quality offensive linemen on the team? The guy who scouted the replacements at OT and C? The guy who took personal control, in his own words, of "overhauling the defense" for 2005-06?

He's considered one of the TOP NFL SALARY CAP GURUS, and although they've sliced payroll since he and Tice got there, how much better is the team? Really? And in a weak division within a weak conference?

Great in Miami. Hasn't measured up in Minnesota.

Bud Grant must be chewing footballs.

by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 12:17pm

The best potential Head Coach at the Eagles is John Harbaugh - Andy Reid is grooming him for it but will any owner take the plunge with a ST guy?

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 12:38pm

On another note, this is a little early in the year for me, but I've got to get out the Xmas cards to HOF voters (we've got one in Pittsburgh; you know who you are) about finally putting Russ in Canton.

And Ray Guy.

by Josh (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:25pm

Gregg Williams will definitely be a head coach again, either next year or the year after. His impact on the Redskins has been immediate and obvious. As a 'skins fan, I just hope his second chance does not come with a rival team. Best case scenario: after a successful season Gibbs steps down and hands the reins to Gregg.

by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:28pm

I think there's a very good chance the Bills would have won the Super Bowl if Phillips hadn't benched Flutie. The records Ryan cited don't even tell the whole story, because there were at least two Johnson starts where Flutie came in off the bench and led them to victory, I know at least one of Johnson's win was in the last game of the season when the opposing team was resting its best players because its playoff position was already sealed, and then there's the playoff debacle.

I really don't think there's any way to overstate how stupid it was to bench Flutie for Johnson. It would be like John Fox deciding to deactivate Julius Peppers because Kemp Rasmussen made a couple of good plays in the preseason.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:40pm

Pat (#2 )--

League rules require coordinators/assistants, et. al. be allowed to inetrview for (and accept, if he wants) a head coaching gig.

Unless Childress's contract had *very* unusual language in it, he can be considered.

by SJM (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:41pm


Childress' contract status prevents other teams from interviewing him for the same position he already holds, I believe, but any assistant can be interviewed or hired as a head coach. It's a promotion, and no team can prevent an assistant from being promoted regardless of his contract status.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:43pm

A little surprised Jim Bates didn't make the list off his work in Miami. At this point, it doesn't look like he's going to help himself this year though. I think the GB secondary could kill any coach's career.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 1:53pm

Redskins fans are hoping that Gregg Williams chooses to stay where he is... if we wants more money, Snyder can pay him. Our dream is when Gibbs contract runs out in 3 years, Williams will step in and take his place.

Of course the problem with this is, what if Gibbs doesn't re-build the team successfully? Our mindset right now is Gibbs can do no wrong, even if he goes 6-10 forever. There's no one we'd rather have coaching the Redskins than Joe Gibbs (or someone he's groomed). I think Williams would be a great head coach because he's been able to learn alot from Joe Gibbs... not X's and O's but personel wise.

Carl... don't bother, the HoF voters hate former Redskins. If Russ Grim goes in before Art Monk, that's a pity.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:00pm

"I think the GB secondary could kill any coach’s career."

Actually, I've faulted the front line more than the secondary. It's one reason why the Packers keep getting burned on their too many player blitzes. They are getting zero pressure on the opposing QB, so they're bringing in guys who should be covering receivers either in their zones or man to man.

I predicted this would happen, but no one listened to me. Sniff, sniff.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:01pm

Of course, I also predicted Detroit would win the division, basing my theory on, 'Well, if Harrington really blows at least they've got a very good Garcia on the bench.'

Then he broke his ankle/leg.

Too late. I already picked Detroit to win. Grrrrrr...

The irony is that they still might win the damned division. It's not as if the Bears are really all that.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:07pm

At this point, Aaron is thinking, "Hey, I thought Carl used some advanced system of player metrics and projected SoS in Markov format to predict future success."

To which I say, Yes. But when I got to the QB rating metric, I divided Harrington and Garcia in half and multiplied by two, therefore getting a numerical value for one slightly better than mediocre QB.

For the Bears, they still had Grossman in there. Sigh. Who knew?

I had no faith in the D-line of the Packers or the O-line of the Vikes. The computer did my dirty work and put them at the bottom.

The computer said Detroit would go 10-6. I'm not so sure now.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:23pm

Re: 13

I think Minnesota has a better chance than Detroit. The Vikes have been very bad to this point, but I think they'll look a lot better when they play Detroit and GB.

Back on topic (sorta), if the Lions play badly the rest of this year, will they clean house? And will that cleansing include Mooch?

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:27pm

"So what are we to make of Charlie Casserly? Great with Gibbs (where, ironically, he put together the Redskins’ offensive line), but in the salary cap era, a bust with the Texans?"

As a Texans fan, I personnally blame a combination of the coaching staff and bad luck more than Casserly. Bad luck in the shape of Boselli+Joppru=0NFL snaps played. The coaching staff for not getting some sort of play out of that O-line, or not complaining hard enough about the talent level if the players really were that bad in the first place. If Pendry could coach worth a damn, he'd have got better pass-protection from a replacement-level group that got handed to him after the draft than he has out of 3 clearly serviceable starters (McKinney, Wiegert and Wade), 1 talented moron (Pitts - and you'd think a better coach might have taught him not to jump quite so much) and whichever of Riley (journeyman) and Wand (big softie with poor technique but why hasn't he learned any?) you go with. Especially with Bruener there to help out. The one clearly bad decision on Casserly's part for which I think significant blame attaches is foisting Palmer on Capers in the first place rather than letting him pick his own man.

On topic, where's Mike Trgovac in the Next Generation spot? I'm sure Peppers and Jenkins would have been good players whoever had coached them, but would they have been two of the four best defensive players in the league (and the two best linemen) if they hadn't had a good D-line coach when they arrived? And his record in the two years since his promotion looks pretty exemplary to me.

by charles (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:28pm

Add to list
Buffalo d-coordinator Jerry Gray
Cleveland o-coordinator Mo Carthon
and i assume that Al Saunders is taking over for vermeil when he retires but if their is a cheifs fan that knows the story let me know.

Please take Knapp of this list he sucks, reeves offense was much better for vick.

by Nate (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 3:07pm

Re: 13
I think Minnesota has a better chance than Detroit. The Vikes have been very bad to this point, but I think they’ll look a lot better when they play Detroit and GB.
Back on topic (sorta), if the Lions play badly the rest of this year, will they clean house? And will that cleansing include Mooch?

They definitely need to clean house, but the house cleaning needs to start higher than Mooch, at Millen. However, he just got extended through 2008, so who knows. What idiot spends 3 consecutive first rounders on game breaking WR's when your coach runs an itty bitty dink and dunk offense?

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 3:45pm

Regarding the comments relating to Al Saunders taking over from Dick Vermeil, or Gregg Williams taking over from Gibbs:

I thought the NFL had a policy now that teams had to interview at least one minority candidate for any head coaching vacancy. I remember Detroit got fined when they hired Mooch, because they didn't interview any minorities (mainly because nobody else was interested in interviewing because they knew the Lions were set on Mooch)

My point is, I don't see how it's possible for a non-minority (if that's a word) to just take over a head coaching job, unless the team is prepared to just go ahead and pay the fine.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 3:58pm

I'm pretty sure teams are allowed to promote a guy in their organization to head coach without first interviewing a minority candidate.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 4:08pm

I’m pretty sure teams are allowed to promote a guy in their organization to head coach without first interviewing a minority candidate.

That would be false. There are no exceptions. The Detroit example miffs me a bit, because they had planned to retain Morninwheg (that can't be spelled right, can it?) and then Mariucci suddenly got canned. So they made a move specifically for one guy they felt was right for their franchise. Especially since the Lions have historically been one of the leading employers of minorites in front office positions.

by Hook (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 4:32pm

A great coordinator (Gregg Williams) does not make a great HC automatically. Buddy Ryan anyone? Chris Palmer? Dick Jauron? Marty Mornhingweg?

Williams had his shot and he frankly sucked. He played scared ALL the time. He was the guy that made TMQ start tracking preposterous punts. You can't be an HC if you're just playing not to lose. The staff he assembled was likewise equally mediocre.

Williams might get another shot once he's had some time to think things through, but for every Belichick we're going to have a zillion Lindy Infantes and Rich Kotites. The odds are against having someone suck once and then magically do better later.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 5:28pm

Was Buddy Ryan a bad head coach? The Eagles did go to the playoffs under him, they just couldn't win. And I'm asking because I'm not old enough to remember if was a great coach, or if he is of the same mold as Mike Tice.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 6:31pm

"And I’m asking because I’m not old enough to remember if was a great coach, or if he is of the same mold as Mike Tice."

His body is in the same mold.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 8:38pm

Actually, Jim Schwartz would be an outstanding head coach for MN. He's done a great job with that defense, especially after the injuries they saw last year and in 2003.

Imagine what he could do with the stable of defensive talent MN now has. Wow.

The problem is what to do about the obvious gaps in the line because of front office incompetence and, because of injuries, the issues at WR.

It's tough to rebuild a line on the fly, or to add never-weres as high priced free agents (see Houston Texans). Would they give him the time (probably three years) to really make MN a real offensive threat again?

Will Peppy still be alive after a grind in that division?

I foresee the Vikings' field crew hosing Peppy off Urlacher's Nikes. That won't be pretty.

by ElJefe (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 8:44pm

Re #23

Buddy was a very good Def. Coord., and had a couple of great years in Chicago when his imaginative schemes met overwhelming personnel.

He was a great judge of talent, assuming he had significant input into the Eagles drafts during his tenure.

He was a lousy game-day coach, and seemed generally out of his element as the boss of the whole team. The Eagles had a lot of talent but were usually out-prepared by the opposition, particularly in the playoffs.

He also had the problem that afflicts many who are handed the "genius" label. They feel everything they do has to be original. Hence the Bears doing just fine on D with Vince Tobin replacing Buddy in 1986-7, and Bud Carson getting more out of Buddy's players in 1991 than Buddy ever did as the head coach. They were free to be "normal" and not feel compelled to invent new blitzes/alignments every year.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 8:53pm

re #23: Buddy Ryan probably gets a bad rap as a HC. He took over a bad Philly team in 1986, after mediocre seasons in 86 and 87, the Eagles then went 10-6, 11-5, 10-6 and Ryan got fired because he couldn't win in the playoffs. To be honest, though, with the benefit of hindsight I don't know that the Eagles "should" really have won any of these three playoff games that they lost. They lost to a pretty good Bears team in 88, a pretty good Rams team in 89 and to a pretty good Redskins team (who would win the Superbowl the next season) in 90.
He only had two years as HC in Arizona, going 8-8 and 4-12 between 1994 and 1995. Doesn't sound too impressive until you realize that the 8-8 record is the second best record the Cards have recorded in the last 20 years!

by Zac (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 11:37pm

Can someone help me out here? I thought I heard that the proliferation of "Assistant Head Coach" titles was to get around the rule that was mentioned in posts 8 & 9. And is that rule only for head coaching jobs? I found articles mentioning Tampa Bay's refusal to let DL Coach Rod Marinelli interview for a coordinator job with the Bears.

On a side note, click my name to see the rather odd intro that is being shown when you go to buccaneers.com .

by Joey (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 1:24am

And while you're answering Zac's questions in #28, clarify the minority candidate rule for me. Isn't there an exception if the "one guy you really want" is available? I can't remember hearing that the Cowboys interviewed anyone before hiring Parcells, for example.

by Joey (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 1:32am

BTW, one name that used to on all the he's-going-to-be-a-head-coach-someday lists that you seldom hear mentioned anymore: Gary Kubiak. I wonder if he regrets not making the leap when he had the chance?

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 10:29am

SS and everyone else regarding coordinators (Childress in particular):

I didn't know about the fact that they were forced to be able to interview for head coaching jobs (hence the reason I asked) but Childress probably still won't take a head coaching job before his contract runs out with the Eagles. He's basically said so already. He was kinda disappointed with the process for the Cleveland/SF/Miami jobs.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 12:02pm

"you seldom hear mentioned anymore: Gary Kubiak."

The one thing about FO I can definitely say is that we hear Kubiak all the freakin' time.

He probably has retired on his royalties from licensing his name to the Dartmouth boys.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 12:17pm

re #29: no, you can't get away with it if there's some guy "you really want".
Dallas got away with hiring Parcells because Jerry Jones had conducted a phone interview of Dennis Green before extending an offer to Parcells. We can certainly debate whether or not this was a "token" interview which was inconsistent with the spirit of the rule, but bottom line is Dallas were considered to have interviewed a minority candidate for their vacancy before hiring Parcells.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 12:43pm

Parcells isn't a minority?

by Pretzel (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 1:48pm

I have consulted the great oracle of All Things Football. By which I mean Lifetime Television for Women.

From 1996, "For My Daughter's Honor," a drama starring Gary Cole, Nicholle Tom and Alyson Hannigan

Synopsis: Amy is a 14-year-old high school student who has sex with the football coach. When Amy's parents find out, they force her to report the affair to the authorities. The town turns against Amy when the coach is fired right before the championship play-off games. Based on a true story.

This "true story," I suspect, wasn't based on the "sexy" Bill Parcells or Mike Tice.

by Pretzel (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 1:50pm

Meanwhile, this repeat from The Golden Girls, a Lifetime mainstay:

Episode Six

"Dorothy's got confrontation problems of her own. Her students at the local Catholic boys' school are slapping "Kick Me Hard" signs on her back not because she's a substitute, but because she refuses to pass Kevin Kelly, making him ineligible to play in a big game. The coach offers to take her out on Saturday night, the school's dean (a priest) threatens her with a "vocal and active alumni" reaction, but Dorothy stands her ground."

by Pretzel (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 1:52pm

In "Summer Sports for Women," Lifetime compares football to Ultimate Frisbee:

"Time to test that endurance with Ultimate Frisbee! Most fast-paced games last between 70 to 90 minutes and work the legs, core muscles and arms. Think of it as 'a combination of football and soccer in terms of field space, passing, scoring and running,' says Michael Degnan, spokesperson for the Ultimate Players Association, the sport's national governing body."

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 1:52pm

That was also the first year of the rule and the league clarified some of the language after that.

It doesn't matter who you're going to hire - if you have a head coaching vacancy you must interview a minority candidate. There was one minority candidate, Art Shell IIRC, who was willing to interview with anyone, anywhere, anytime and helped at least one team go after "their guy" with a token interview.

The interview has already helped minority coaches - Marvin Lewis wasn't the front-runner but after an impressive interview the Bengals took a closer look at him. Not that Lewis wasn't in the running for a lot of jobs but he wasn't a top-tier guy like some other assistants. Lovie Smith may have been a beneficiary - Angelo started some interviews with coaches but it seemed like he was really just buying time to see if Saban would make the move.

by jebmak (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 2:00pm

Parcells looks like a majority.

And nicely done on the triple post #12-14, you don't often get to see those.

by Pretzel (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 2:01pm

Also, this relationship testimonial from Ms. Hagar Scher, Lifetime editor, in her popular She Said/He Said advice column:

"I loved curling up with a book, sipping wine, throwing dinner parties, heading to the theater and sharing dishes at restaurants. He enjoyed watching football, guzzling beer, playing with gadgets and discussing solar energy. Still, we loved each other. A lot. Spooning with him felt like home."

Mike, spooning with you once felt like home. A home replete with solar energy.
But now, that energy is all gone. There is no more fun in the way you coach football, guzzle beer or play with gadgets, gadgets like your dysfunctional wideouts and offensive linemen.

The sun is setting on our solar energy dreams, Mike. Winter in The Land of A Thousand Lakes. NFC Central.

I love you, Mike. But we must end our relationship. But let's remain friends.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 2:04pm

It's the NFC North, Pretzel.

by Pretzel (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 2:12pm

OK. You need to get in touch with your feminine side, Carl. It doesn't matter if it's the NFC Central or the NFC North. The important things is what feels right to you, and how you express that feeling.

To me, NFC Central seems warm and fuzzy. Like a hot mug of cocoa or a cute teddy bear you just wanna hug.

Mike Tice is like a cute little teddy bear you just wanna hug. Or find seats midfield for cheaper than printed price.

Go Eagles!

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 2:35pm

Uhhhhhhh. I think the NFC North feels right.

I feel soiled even having his conversation.

Does Pat know you root for the Eagles, Pretzel?

It "Pat" really "Pretzel?"

I'm kind of creeped out right now.

by jack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 3:21pm

How often does it work out when an asst coach moves up when the head coach leaves? Sure, Belichik didn't lose a single game after taking over the Jets, but I can't think of any cases where an ascending asst coach has been successful. Mike Martz, I suppose, could be considered a success, but I don't know if KC would be happy a similar result for Al Saunders.

Gregg Williams might be a successful coach, given another chance, but I don't see Washington being successful unless they turn over the reins to an asst owner. But then, I used to think the same thing about Steinbrenner and the Yankees.

by deadteddy8 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 3:59pm

#44: George Siefert w/ the Niners, Callahan w/ the Raiders (first season at least). Both of those guys basically stepped into ideal situations, so it's not surprising that they had success right away.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 5:50pm

Not that I'm complaining, but remember when Gary Kubaik always used to show up on these lists? I think his offensive accomplishments in Denver have been even MORE impressive since the loss of Elway and Davis, because he's still making a very good offense, but with drastically less talent. Whatever happened to him as a potential head coach?

Also, can someone explain to me why Art Shell never got a second chance at coaching? He took over a team that was 1-3 and went 7-5 the rest of the way. He then proceeded to take a team that hadn't had a winning season in 4 years, and turned it into a team with 4 winning seasons (and 3 playoff appearances, and 2 playoff wins) in 5 years. And then he got canned (after a 9-7 season), and it was another 6 years before the team had a winning season again.

I understand why he got fired. Al Davis is a complete nut-job. But he's the longest-tenured head coach of the Raiders since Flores. He took a team that lost before he got there, and lost after he left, and somehow managed to win while he was there (58.7% winning percentage).

Why has no one else ever given Shell a shot? Especially since the NFL mandates teams at least interview minority candidates. He's the perfect minority candidate, he's already been successful in the NFL, and he never even gets job interviews. That's always really bugged me.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 2:55am

And speaking of Mr. Art Shell, I take you back, back, back to one of the first few articles written for Football Outsiders in September 2003: Pythagoras Grades the Coaches. Basically says exactly what you just said, and since then two more years have passed and still nobody talks about giving Art Shell another head coaching job.