Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Jul 2013

How Did Marion Campbell Keep Getting Hired?

Over at Chase Stuart's site, valued FO reader Shattenjager has a guest post about the NFL coaching career of Marion Campbell. The five-act long read begins with Campbell's apprenticeship under George Allen and (especially) Norm Van Brocklin. It then navigates through his years at the helm of Atlanta and Philadelphia (and Atlanta again), culminating with an answer to the title's question.

If you're a fan of thoughtful forays into NFL history or often wonder -- as I do -- how some head coaches keep getting hired despite all qualifications to the contrary (or you just like supporting your FO brethren), click over and give it a read. God knows we all need a break from the latest iteration of "Police Investigating Aaron Hernandez for Possible Role in _________."

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 06 Jul 2013

21 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2014, 4:48pm by ??????? ?? ?? 2013


by Shattenjager :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 1:17am

Thanks for linking, Danny!

However, just for clarification, I'm just Shattenjager except on Twitter, where I am Shattenjager777.

Also, thank you for calling me "valued." I appreciate it.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 4:59am

Fixed. Our user database shows you as shattenjager7; hence, the error.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:12am

"B. I did not count any games where a coach was in charge of an expansion team. So Dom Capers’ line does not show his career line, either."

That explains why Dom Capers' career stats are so low -- his entire career was predicated on that first season in Carolina, which this stat completely excludes.

It's also notable that Campbell's career seems to exist in the same orbit as Dan Henning and Dave Shula -- guys who actually have worse rate stats than Campbell. Campbell also seemed to step into a lot of really disorganized organizations, or into teams very much on the precipice of decline.

The more interesting exploration would be Dan Hanning. Like Campbell, he's a guy who had some coordinator success -- but it all came after his failed head coaching career!

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 2:30pm

In about 2040 I look forward to the future generations of FO readers explaining how Norv Turner managed to coach for 15 years

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 12:01am

Turner had 9 seasons with a record of .500 or better and 4 playoff appearances. He may have been uninspiring, but he wasn't an abysmal failure as HC like Campbell and Herm Edwards were.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 7:41am

In a normal world, I think Norv would've been fired in 1995, and would never have been re-hired, but JKC was too busy trying to build his stadium and then died, leaving Norv there until he finally gets to the playoffs in year 1 of the Dan Snyder Era.

by Travis :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 7:54am

Herm Edwards made 4 playoff appearances in 8 years as head coach.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:13am

He even won a couple of playoff games. Herm was just really boom-bust.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:26pm

Herm Edwards' teams faded out a lot faster than Turner's did. Mind you, I'm not defending Turner, I was just pointing out why he didn't belong in the same conversation as Marion Campbell.

by usernaim250 :: Tue, 07/09/2013 - 9:32pm

Actually, in 2040, FO readers will be exploring why Turner was so maligned given that he was actually a good coach. We know what Aikman thinks of him. Paul Zimmerman, no dummy, was also a fan.

Do this:

Look at Offensive DVOA at every team Turner coached. Compare the year before he arrived, his first year, his last year, and the year after he arrived. He was hired to improve offenses, and that's what he delivered, every time.

He twice built good teams in Washington. Once his QB injured himself. In 1999 check offensive DVOA. They were a fluttering Brad Johnson pass and/or a botched snap which would have given them a FG attempt at the end from taking on the Rams for a Super Bowl berth. Oh by the way they beat the Rams on the road on Monday night the following year.

In 2000, despite Snyder's crazy FA shopping spree and insistence on playing Jeff George, the Redskins beat the defending champs (Rams), the champs to be (Ravens), and the NFC champs (Giants) all on the road and had a winning record when Turner was canned. They lost 9-7 to the Giants and the kicker missed from 39 and 49. The week before the kicker missed a tying field goal from 44 with a minute left. Yes he got fired because of the kicker.

No one could have succeeded in Oakland. And the vitriol he drew in SD is due to unrealistic expectations. He won those playoff games Marty didn't, and then the team got old and injured an performance fell off.

He's clearly a great offensive coach and only a good head coach, but he is a good head coach and not the worst ever, as some accuse him of (I think because they don't like his face).

by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 2:35pm

The dungy index was interesting. Af first I was suprised at how low Rex Ryan was, but then I realized his first season had the same record as the year before, and that playoff wins were discounted. The real suprise was how low Herm Edwards was: third from last, below Rich Kotite.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 4:26pm

Fascinating read. I like the idea put forward by some of the commenters on that website: an analysis of how various quarterbacks kept getting starting jobs after decisively demonstrating an inability to quarterback (looking at you Joey Harrington...and Kim McQuilkin, egad, his stats are nausea-inducing).

by Tom Gower :: Sun, 07/07/2013 - 6:35pm

Harrington's not too hard. The Lions gave him a couple years as a starter after they took him early in the draft-pretty reasonable. Then he won the "backup quarterback on a team whose starter is lost" award two years in a row, in Miami and Atlanta. I don't begrudge Miami and Atlanta for signing him-they never intended him to start for them, he was probably one of the 64 best quarterbacks in the NFL (he wasn't Ryan Leaf-bad, just consistently thoroughly mediocre) and taking a modestly-priced flier on a backup/reclamation project is rarely a clearly wrong move. I mean, David Carr's still kicking around, we just don't think about him because he hasn't started a game since 2007.

by Dean :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:23am

Great stuff! It's actually a thought I've had many times over the years. Just how DID this guy get 3 shots?

We frequently lambast a team for hiring "retreads," but it frequently works. If you take a look at the last 15 years worth of Super Bowls, you find the winning coach comes from two possible categories. The first is the newly promoted assistant getting his first head coaching job at any level. The second is the "retread." The guy who didn't win a championship the first time around sometimes does in his second. Bill Belichick. Tony Dungy. Jon Gruden. Mike Shanahan. I'm missing one. But at the time they're hired, these men all have basically the same qualifications as Campbell circa 1982.

On a side note, no coach has ever won a Super Bowl and then gone on to coach another team to a Super Bowl victory. Even if you broaden the scope to NFL Championship Game in the pre Super Bowl era, you still only get 1 instance (Weeb Ewbank) in 80+ years of history. Likewise, no coach, regardless of previous success, has won a championship in his third (or greater) NFL head coaching gig.

So as much as Big Media hates the retread, they're statistically the most likely candidate to turn your team around.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:57am

Dick Vermeil also didn't win a championship at his first stop but did at his second. He, of course, is not a typical retread (or a typical anything else as an NFL coach), but he fits that criterion. So does Tom Coughlin, who is a more typical retread.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:02am

I don't begrudge teams hiring "retreads", but I'm not sure Cambpell belongs in that category, because unlike the other coaches you mentioned, he had no success prior to entering the Retread Category.

by Dean :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:11am

Good point. Many coaches had limited success in their first stint only to do better their second time around. Perhaps they learn from their mistakes? But just because you get a first chance does NOT mean that you deserve a second chance. Statistics can guide us, but they are merely a useful companion piece. They don't replace thinking.

by RickD :: Wed, 07/10/2013 - 2:25am

Gee, who are you missing.

Here's a hint:

Excuse me while I light myself on fire.

(Coughlin coached the Jaguars before the Giants.)

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:52am

Thanks to everyone who has read or reads in the future, whether you comment somewhere or not.

It was fun to research and write, plus it gave me a reason to tweet at Amanda Palmer, which is always good. I'm glad to know that some people have appreciated it. I do hope it was more fun than reading about Aaron Hernandez yet again.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 07/08/2013 - 3:05pm

" I do hope it was more fun than reading about Aaron Hernandez yet again. "

You need not set such a low bar for yourself. :)

by ??????? ?? ?? 2013 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/09/2014 - 4:48pm

Aw, this was a very good post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a good article