Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Jan 2009

Herm Edwards Fired; Shanahan May Take Over Chiefs

The Week In Quotes may never be the same.

I've always said that Edwards would be the next Pete Carroll: An NFL washout who is not so good at Xs-and-Os, but a guy with great charisma and recruiting ability who is better suited as a college coach.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 23 Jan 2009

59 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2009, 10:25pm by BroncosGuy


by starzero :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 7:47pm

there's always troy aikman . . . .

he may not have been a great coach, but he always struck me as a pretty good guy. kind of tony dungy without the winning team.

by ammek :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 7:50pm

When Shanahan outstays his welcome in Kansas City, does he take over in San Diego?

by Independent George :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 7:57pm

I actually theorized Norv being fired after losing to Indy, with Shannahan taking over in the middle of Norv's press conference ("Wait a minute... that's Shannahan's music!")

Unfortunately, Norv beat Indy to save his job, but that's totally what would have happened.

by black president (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 7:55pm

i've heard scout types comment that they can think of no reason why herm would be particularly good at college coaching

adam schefter is vigorously denying the shanny-to-chiefs thing btw

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 8:14pm

Well, I guess the debate is over because the unnamed "scout types" have spoken. Because a players' coach with great charisma couldn't possibly recruit and motivate college players. That's just crazy talk.

by JD (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 10:04pm

Isn't Herm basically Dave Wannstedt v2.0?

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 9:10pm

I would hate to see this happen.

Therefore I'm glad to see Sheffler denying it -- that basically means i won't happen.

He would be good for the Chiefs, though. With Pioli taking care of the personnel decisions, a young team - they could be in very quick business.

I wonder, btw, if Shannahan has taken Bill Cowhers place as being the guy rumored to take over every time a HC-position opens up.

by MJK :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 8:08pm

So this is what they mean by "coaching carousel"

by ImSoExcited (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 8:13pm

At least mine! Woo woo!

by DestenDennard :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 8:14pm

I hope Herm ends up in a studio somewhere next year. We already know he has a few Coors Light commercials lined up.

by Spenczar (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 8:26pm

And so the "Week in Herm" era dies.
And so the "Week in Singletary" era begins.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 8:32pm

My solution, hire him to write about college football. That would be stupendous.

by Phoenix of Fury :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 9:08pm

I was distraught when I heard of Shannys firing. If he goes to the Chiefs, who knows what I'll do...

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 9:24pm

This is off-topic and unfortunately Patriots related but was Pete Carroll THAT bad (washout) as an NFL head coach?

He was 33-31 in 4 years. His one year with the Jets was 6-10 and about par for the course for that franchise at that time. He was 27-21 with New England which also seems about right to me. Maybe he was average, but is he really in the realm of Rich Kotite and Herm Edwards as a pro head coach?

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 11:20pm

He took a Super Bowl-caliber team and slowly ran it into the ground. So, yes.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 11:40pm

I wouldn't term the 1996 Patriots a "Super Bowl-caliber team." They were a team that played in the Super Bowl. In fact, the Pete Carroll Patriots had a higher DVOA in both 97 and 98 than that 96 team (which finished 8th in DVOA that year).

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 11:13am

Exactly. Parcells took a good but not great team and got it to overachieve, Carroll took the same team (or even better, as you note) and underachieved with it. That's the difference between good coach and poor coach.

He's a great recruiter, no doubt about it. But I don't see any team he's coached to a better record than its talent would suggest.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 11:41am

So because Parcells went 2-1 in the playoffs and Carroll went 1-2, the former is a good coach and the latter is a poor coach? Considering Parcells got the incredibly fortunate break to play at home in the AFC Championship Game against a 2nd year franchise (Jax) as opposed to on the road in Denver (the best team in the AFC that year by a pretty good margin), that seems a bit arbitrary.

He took the team that Parcells had in 1996 and had very similar results in 1997 and 1998. I'm not arguing Carroll is as good as Parcells as an NFL head coach. It just seems to me Carroll had the unfortunate luck to lead the Patriots between 2 Hall of Fame coaches and that he's remembered much more poorly than his actual performance would suggest.

by Aloysius Mephistopheles (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:26pm

I think that's just right. Carroll is remembered as a "failed" NFL head coach for the exact reason given by Scott: People think he took a "super bowl quality" team and "ran it into the ground." The reality is that he wasn't Parcells or Belichick, but was an average NFL head coach whose teams performed as one should have expected. He had a better record as coach of the patriots than Parcells, although admittedly it's not the same since they were awful before Parcells took over. As a defensive coordinator Carroll was always terrific, so you might say that making him a head coach was promoting him to the level of his adequacy, if not his incompetence.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 7:35pm

Vince's labeling Edwards and Carrol as "washouts" seems a bit harsh. And let's not lump either of them with Rich Kotite. Carrol is better suited for the college game where is personal style seems more effective. I don't know if Edwards would thrive in that environment or not; college is more about salesmanship than it is coaching. Herm seems like a guy who could do that, but it is hard to predict. If I were an AD, I wouldn't hesitate to interview Edwards for an open position. On the other hand, if I were a GM, the thought of interviewing college peddlers of snake oil (Holtz, Spurrier, Switzer, et. al.) for a pro position would never cross my mind.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 9:30pm

In other news, Dan Reeves interviewed with Frisco for the open OC job.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 9:40pm

Meant to be -- Singletary + Dan-off-tackle-Reeves = Peace on the bench...

by Aloysius Mephistopheles (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:37pm

Interesting choice. I agree that Reeves is a nice fit for the kind of ball-control team Singletary's putting together. His health seems like more of an concern; I had assumed his heart issues were going to keep him out of coaching for good.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 9:41pm

Note too that those AFC East divisions that he coached in during his time with the Patriots were very strong. In 1997, three teams (including Carroll's Patriots) posted winning records. In 1998, the Pats went 9-7 and finished 4th in the division. In 1999 not one team in the AFC East had a losing record. By DVOA, the Patriots were around the 10% mark in both '97 and '98, before dropping to just above average in '99. It seems hard to criticise Carroll's coaching simply based on those numbers. I've often heard people say that he destroyed the team Parcells built (by allowing the talent base to erode). That may well be so, but would seem to suggest that his problem was talent evaluation, not Xs and Os. Anyone who actually followed those teams care to enlighten me? Was Carroll really a proto-Herm, or more of a proto-Holmgren?

Chiefs fans, before you get excited about the prospect of Shanahan, pray that Pioli has someone good in place to evaluate defensive talent, because he himself is by all accounts more of an administrator and cap/contracts guy (albeit a superlative one) than a scout.

by Dexter88 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 11:54am

I don't think Carroll's problem was on the field at all as you say. It was more the very apparent way in which Bobby Grier was running a second operation and the two of them were definitely not in communication at all. I would agree that Carroll was an average coach who doesn't deserve the bad break he got in terms of timing but what really sinks him in my mind was his complete inability to fix what was obviously a disastrous situation with the front office. And that has been a hallmark of the Belichick years: you never hear about draft picks we should have made or players going to complain to the general manager about the way the coach was treating them. These things were happening during the Carroll era and it seemed that he did nothing to stop it. Why should we feel good about a coach who knows he's losing the battle and does nothing to stop it? I think everyone in New England would have a different opinion if Pete had shown more backbone or at least drew a line in the sand. His teams weren't terrible, they just didn't feel right. Belichick doesn't rub me that way at all. I know they're well coached, so I don't really care which they're trending. When he starts making stupid mistakes, then maybe I'll say it's time to go but I'll never think of him like I do Carroll.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:44pm

But was it Carroll's job to fix that situation? He certainly didn't have the power Belichick has today. How do we know Carroll did nothing to stop the bleeding? He's up against his superior (Grier) who had been in the organization since the early 80's. What was he supposed to do?

by Dexter88 (not verified) :: Sun, 01/25/2009 - 5:52pm

But that's just the point. He was basically set up to fail in the situation. Why is he vilified if it wasn't his fault?

by morganja :: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 10:21pm

What the hell is going on in Carolina?

by panthersnbraves :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 8:21am

Trgovac has been run out of town, it would appear. I'd have to go pull the defensive splits, but on a points and general impression level, the second half of the season was not very good for the Carolina Defense. There were too many missed assignments, combined with the inability to cover Fitzgerald on a national stage.

But to loop back to Herm - any chance he takes a DC job somewhere? I don't see it at Carolina, though.

by Sometime FO Reader (not verified) :: Sun, 01/25/2009 - 10:49am

Plus, according to an acquaintance of mine that played for him at Ball State in the 80s, Trgovac is "the worst human being on the planet." That surely can't help his cause.

by Feagles - King ... :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:46am

Am I the only one who wants to see him and Emmitt Smith together on a pre-game telecast?

by Aloysius Mephistopheles (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 7:07pm

I think so. It would be too rich; rather like a caviar and foie gras omelet.

by Gus (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 2:43am

I'm a little surprised. I don't think Herm did THAT bad of a job with the Chefs, all things considering. I thought he had done a good job bringing in young talent, Larry Johnson killing aside.

by taxistan :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 7:05am

Herm belongs on the radio.

by Led (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 11:07am

Herm is a strange kind of coach who could tread water in the short term as a figurehead head coach with a talented team and good coordinators or could be reasonably effective with a young rebuilding team, but he could never be a good coordinator and is not a difference maker at this level. He's a good leader and motivator (and, I think, a good man) but he adds zero value in terms of strategy. I can see him being a good coach for a small division I college program -- he'd be a good mentor, graduate all his players and occasionally inspire his team to knock off one of the big guys. As a Jets fan, I'm glad he's no longer coaching my team but I'd definitely root for him in that role.

by Pete (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 12:35pm

Ah, another great case for minority coaching requirements, huh? Yes, Herm is a great guy. He is a good motivator and his players love him. However, he is not the best coach in the league and others are better. Yes, he was a player and I think he might have potential as a position coach or commentator.

Excluding Dungy, is there proof that black head coaches consistently out-perform white head coaches? There are plenty of lousy white head coaches, too, of course. However, I have not seen performance dictating that black (potential) head coaches deserve preferential treatment.

by Anonymous2343 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:38pm

I wrote a paper on the Madden study and black coaches outperform white ones. Black coaches averaged 9.1 wins while white ones averaged 8--a significant difference that often results in playoff vs. non-playoff participation. There is no sample size issue, because the study took into account the ENTIRE population of black coaches in NFL history. What else can one do at that point?

No, black coaches deserve preferential treatment because owners are predisposed to hire from the more numerous pool of white coaches, which is odd considering that 2/3 of the league's players are black. It's white coaches who inherently get preferential treatment. The fact that the NFL had to make owners interview black candidates through the Rooney Rule should make that quite clear.

by Aloysius Mephistopheles (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 7:19pm

There's still a sample size issue. There have been very few black coaches in league history. Including every black coach only means, as you noted, that the authors of the study have done everything in their power to reduce sample size issues. If the study included only one black head coach because there was only one black head coach in NFL history, you wouldn't say there was no sample size issue. Saying there's a sample size issue doesn't mean the authors did anything wrong, it just means that there aren't enough data to draw the kind of definitive conclusion that you're drawing.

by Aloysius Mephistopheles (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 7:22pm

That said, it's hard to argue that the Rooney rule is becoming a pretty stark example of affirmative action working.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 01/26/2009 - 1:29am

I know, it's splitting hairs, but, there aren't any "minority coaching requirements" in the NFL. There are "minority coaching candidate interview requirements" but even if you are of the opinion that those requirements are unreasonable, you simply can't claim that the Rooney rule had anything to do with the Chiefs hiring Herm. He was their first choice the whole way, as evidenced by the fact that they traded a draft pick to acquire a coach who they probably would have gotten a week later if they had just waited for the Jets to fire him.

by Matt W (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:14pm

You know what the case for minority head coaching requirements is? It's that when a black coach fails, there's always someone saying "This shows that pushing to hire more black coaches is a bad idea." When a white coach fails, no one ever says "This shows that pushing to hire more black coaches is a good idea." The fact that a bad black coach is taken to stand for black coaches everywhere, and a bad white coach is just a guy, is part of the institutional bias against black coaches that the Rooney Rule was designed to fight.

Anyway, the link in my name goes to a study from 2001 (before the Rooney rule) that shows that from 1986 to 2001 teams coached by black head coaches won more games than teams coached by white coaches, that they made the playoffs more often, and -- this is key -- that they had a better record the season the coach was fired. So there's evidence that, before the Rooney rule, black coaches had to be better in order to get a job, and black coaches had to be better in order to keep a job. Of course there's a sample size issue here (because there weren't many black head coaches). If the Rooney rule actually gives black coaches an unfair advantage, you'd expect black coaches to have a worse record since 2003. Any evidence they do?

Oh, and no fair excluding Dungy. He was hired at Indy after the Rooney Rule went into effect (and was fired from Tampa Bay even though he hadn't been under .500 since his first season).

by Matt W (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:18pm

Sorry, Dungy wasn't hired under the Rooney rule. Still, there's absolutely no reason to exclude him. His success doesn't disprove the idea that, before the Rooney rule, on average black men had to be better than white men in order to land NFL head coaching gigs.

by Pio (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 2:09pm

Not to mention the fact that overall, black coaches have done pretty well in the league when given the chance. Dungy's of course the posterboy, but Lovie Smith has done pretty well in Chicago as well, and Mike Tomlin's just led the Steelers to a Superbowl. Romeo Crennel's been about average in Cleveland so far, and Marvin Lewis's Bengals have been pretty much mediocre; still, Herm's the only black coach in recent times that could unequivocally be called bad. (Of course Art Shell and Dennis Green were pretty bad in their last assignments, but that's mitigated by the fact that they were excellent in their earlier runs with the early 90s Raiders and the late 90s Vikings respectively.) Unless I'm missing someone?

by Matt W (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 1:35pm

So, I may have missed somebody, but these are all the black head coaches I could think of and their records since 2003, the year the Rooney Rule went into effect:

Dennis Green 16-32
Tony Dungy 75-21
Marvin Lewis 46-49-1
Herman Edwards 74-102
Mike Tomlin 22-10
Art Shell 2-14
Lovie Smith 45-35
Romeo Crennel 24-40

Total: 304-303-1

By this crude measure, this suggests that black head coaches are doing about as well as white head coaches. Which means that the Rooney rule isn't making teams hire worse black coaches, but rather that it's leveling the playing field; like it was supposed to.

by Pio (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 2:11pm

Didn't refresh and see this before I posted, sorry. This is basically what I was trying to say except with, ya know, actual data instead of my subjective impressions.

by Matt W (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 8:43pm

No worries -- and I just realized I goofed up Edwards's numbers (I think I added his 2003-2005 Jets totals to his career totals instead of to his KC totals) -- he was 35-61 since 2003. Anyway, I wouldn't want to say the numbers are super-meaningful.

by mrh :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 3:05pm

If all the HCs in the NFL were black, they'd have a .500 winning pct. If they were all white, they'd have a .500 winning pct. If one group dominated the population, they'd have close to a .500 winning pct - there is no way around that fact. A small group of coaches, however the group is defined, could have a better or worse than .500 winning pct but once that group gets fairly large it will tend toward the mean winning pct.

If half the coaches in the NFL were purple and half were green, and the purple ones had a .600 winning pct over an extended period of time, it would be fair to conclude that they were better coaches as a group than the green guys. Right now, we don't have evidence to pick one group over another.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 4:57pm

The blood bath continues ... by my calculation we've only got 13 teams with the same coach they had two seasons ago in 2006. That's 19 departures in two years.

And if you go back one season further there's only eight left ...

Tennessee - Jeff Fisher (1994)
Philadelphia - Andy Reid (1999)
New England - Bill Belichick (2000)
Carolina - John Fox (2002)
Jacksonville - Jack Del Rio (2003)
Cincinnati - Marvin Lewis (2003)
NY Giants - Tom Coughlin (2004)
Chicago - Lovie Smith (2004)
Buffalo - Dick Jauron (2006)
Houston - Gary Kubiak (2006)
Green Bay - Mike McCarthy (2006)
Minnesota - Brad Childress (2006)
New Orleans - Sean Payton (2006)

Total change in the NFC West, AFC West in two seasons!

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 7:22pm

Shanahan is not going to the Chiefs, which would have been poetic justice for Pat Bowlen. Note that Adam Schefter isn't just some reporter; he co-authored Shanahan's book. Why Mort reported this story the way he did is beyond me. As far as I can tell, the only activity is Lil Hunt asked some questions internally about what it would take to land him. If I ask a friend what it would take for me to marry Jennifer Aniston, that doesn't make it an impending event.

I actually think Herm did an admirable job in KC given the circumstances. The team you saw this past year was not poorly coached. They were prepared, motivated, and gutty. And not very talented. But Herm was entering his last year in his contract. Pioli either had to extend Herm (in lieu of reporters asking the same question every week and the sword of Damacles visible over Herm's head) or make the change now. Even if he wasn't sure Herm wasn't his guy, he had to fire him.

In the right circumstances, Herm could win. Remember, Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl. Even those of you who think Herm is a terrible coach can't say with a straight face that he isn't a far better coach than the Bootlegger's Boy. At least not sober.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 8:55pm

You sir get serious FO board points for invoking the Sword of Damocles. Bravo.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Sun, 01/25/2009 - 2:22am

And minus points for not using it correctly...

and double minus points to you for not recognizing that fact...

references to common classical cliches are much more impressive when they are done right.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Sun, 01/25/2009 - 11:37am

The sword of Damocles refers to a less than optimal situation in which a person in position of power is asked to operate in spite of their imminent termination. In other words, they live and work in fear, and the product of their labor is largely irrelevant. The metaphor seems apt to me, it can be interpreted in many ways.

Lighten up, geez, too many damn "gotcha" posters on this site.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Sun, 01/25/2009 - 1:15pm

OK, but you have to admit he spelled it wrong. :)

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Sun, 01/25/2009 - 4:21pm

The sword of Damocles is other men's ambition/jealousy/greed, not the situation.

Reread it more carefully. The metaphor is not apt. As for lightening up, that is the internet's problem, my post was made with extreme lightness and a smile...

It was not meant in a super serious way, just informative.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/26/2009 - 10:18pm

No, gin, the sword is absolutely referencing a situation, or, more specifically, a position. Dionysius did not rig the sword out of ambition or jealousy; he was already in charge. Rather, he was making a point about the threats accompanying a seemingly enviable position or situation. More generally, the phrase alludes to a condition of constant peril. You don't need to reread me; you need to reread Cicero.

And if, from your own words, you sound like a self-righteous, half-educated, supercilious (as opposed to "super serious"), humorless bore, don't blame the internet.

(And, yes, I misspelled "Damocles" in the original post. Those that leveled that criticism were legitimate. Yet, I blame the internet.)

by Theo :: Sat, 01/24/2009 - 9:11pm

I wouldn't welcome Herm on my dutch local football team. As far as I know, he doesn't know horse crap about offesnse, defense or play calling.
He's a motivator tops.

by Chris G (not verified) :: Mon, 01/26/2009 - 11:51am

Maybe Herm should be hired on as Assistant Head Coach/Motivation somewhere. Just let him get the players hyped up to execute someone else's game plan. He doesn't even need to be around the team during the week. All he needs to do is show up Sunday before the game, and maybe be available for a speech at halftime. The players do need to know why they play the game after all!

by morganja :: Mon, 01/26/2009 - 2:03pm

The Sword doesn't have to be other men's greed, ambition etc. In the story it represents the constant danger from whatever source, the fact that at any second, the string could break and the sword could fall. It's about living each moment in fear.

I only saw a couple of KC games this year. It didn't seem the play-calling was all that bad. It seemed more like they were dealing with a young, lesser skilled roster.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/26/2009 - 10:25pm

thank you, morganha. You are living proof that "football fan" and "literate, articulate person" are not mutually exclusive.