Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Oct 2005

Coaches Lack Game Plan for Own Health

While we all hope that Mike Martz makes a speedy recovery, it's pretty surprising more coaches don't suffer job-related health problems. Coaching staffs routinely work 100 hours a week, and when you couple that schedule with a diet of Big Macs and milkshakes, bad things can happen.

This wasn't always the case, though. Dan Reeves said that when he played in Dallas, Tom Landry didn't keep ungodly hours. And when Troy Vincent first came into the league with Miami, he said that Don Shula was out the door by 5pm. I can't see today's coaches making it home in time to catch "PTI," but 20 hour workdays can't be good either.

Also, Len Pasquarelli weighs in with some stress and health-related anecdotes from various coaches.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 12 Oct 2005

17 comments, Last at 14 Oct 2005, 3:24pm by Zac


by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 10:38am

Dan Reeves said that when he played in Dallas, Tom Landry didn’t keep ungodly hours

nor did Paul Brown or St. Vincent

the first coach who was really noted for the hyperintense 24/7 coaching lifestyle was George Allen

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 10:45am

I hate to be uncouth about this, and I certainly wish him well, but does anyone else find the humor in an article about Mike Martz having the headline "Coaches lack game plan"?

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 10:51am

I don't know--what's the official statute of medical limitations when we can start making fun of Martz again?

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 11:42am

You have to wait until he throws the challenge flag.

In other words, about twenty seconds after he's back on the sidelines.

by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 12:54pm

I'm sure the average lawyer (at least big firm lawyer) works considerably longer hours now than 30 years ago. Most CEO's probably do as well. When you are talking about highly desirable, well paid positions, over time competition will drive up the job requirements. Not that it's healthy, but probably inevitable. Just curious, how much has the avarage salary of an NFL coach increased over the last 30 years as compared to rest of the economy? Even adjusted for inflation, modern coaches may still be getting more per hour than they did 30 years ago despite the longer hours.

by Joey (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 1:34pm

Led is correct. A recent study by one of the business magazines showed people are working longer hours than even just a few years ago--even with all the time-saving promises of technology.

It's hard for me to pity coaches for their long hours because 1) They're compensated so generously, 2) They're doing what they (supposedly) love, and 3) In the case of head coaches, they largely control what hours they keep.

Imo, most coaches are wasting their time working the hours they do. Particularly in the case of head coaches who don't also serve as a coordinator or GM, there simply isn't 100+ hours of work to do. Somebody else is doing most of the work. It's impossible to tell for sure, but my suspicion is that for every epiphany coaches have while rewatching a game film for the 50th time there are probably 5 cases where the coach will talk himself out of a sound strategy. It's like that scene in The Princess Bride where the guy talks in circles trying to decide which goblet contains the poison; the longer he talks, the more confused his reasoning becomes.

by Darius (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 1:43pm

There's got to be a point of diminishing returns. The more hours you work in a day, and in a week, the less effective you become during those extra hours, it stands to reason. I wonder if the teams have studied how coaches spend all of those hours, and how effective they are as a result.

And there is no excuse for eating poorly. These guys have got to have nutritionists and trainers at their disposal, as well as all the gym equipment they could possibly use.

by Darius (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 1:51pm

I also wonder how much of those massive hour counts are inflated through self-reporting (and I wonder for lawyers, etc., too). It's kind of like how everyone today says they're so busy, so much busier than in the past. Of course they say they're busy; it makes them feel important.

by Joey (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:05pm

When you think of it, it's rather insulting to the normal fan how big a deal is made over coaches' hours. There are plenty of self-employed people out there who's every waking moment is spent on their business. Is it really more impressive that Jon Gruden gets up at 3:30 a.m. as opposed to the farmer, truck driver, or shopkeeper who make 10% of his salary?

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:16pm

Len Pasquarelli weighs in

I'm sorry, but that's too easy

(you should be ashamed of yourself)

by Rob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:30pm

Anyone know how head coaches in other professional sports compare to football, schedule-wise? From a glance, it seems they work a lot less, or at least get less attention for the ungodly hours they put in.

For example, NBA coaches look a hell of a lot healthier their NFL counterparts... though maybe the fact that they don't dress like total slobs is a factor.

by Browns Dude (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:41pm

That picture makes it look like Martz needs to use a voice box to speak. :)

Mike, say "Luke, I am your father"

by marc (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 6:38pm

Well many of the players making average to league minimum salaries are sacrificing future health for a few years of glory at a far lesser compensation than a head coach. Basically, the NFL tends not to be good for a person's health (Korey Stringer, Mark Hatley, etc). This is hardly news.

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 8:04pm

RE: #11

NFL coaches would argue, I'm sure, that they have more work to do than coaches in other sports. They have a lot more film to watch for an individual game, more players to keep track of, etc. So that's probably how they justify sleeping in their offices. Which is, I think, ridiculous.

I remember when Spurrier was with the Redskins, he had some great line about coaches who spend too much time at work. And, if memory serves, it was aimed directly at Jim Haslett.

Short hours obviously didn't give Spurrier an advantage, but long hours haven't exactly helped Haslett, either.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 10:36pm

I get the NIMpression that many (most?) NFL coaches work those hours because they know that all the OTHER NFL coaches are working those hours

and, God forbid, if you're not successful, you don't want to be accused of not working hard enuff

by adwred (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 12:20pm

As stressful as it is, don't these coaches have a lot of downtime during the months before and after the regular season / playoffs? I mean I am sure they are working but would there be much of a reason for them to be up all night in May? And prepping for the draft, mini-camps, etc., would seem to be more manageable than the week to week adjustments expected during the season.

by Zac (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 3:24pm

What's the ethical thing for a boss to do given an illness like this? Like, say they end up mailing in the rest of the year. Would it be considered inappropriate to fire him while he's on leave?