For years, the NFL has employed a simple rule when it comes to assistant coaches under contract. Unless they are being offered a head-coaching job, the team currently holding the rights to the assistant coach can keep him from leaving for another team.
For some reason, the decision of the Vikings to prevent running backs coach Kirby Wilson from leaving to become the run-game coordinator in Cleveland has sparked consternation in some circles, with John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance openly lobbying for Wilson to be released.
“When a guy gets a chance to advance, the team should not deny him that because there’s only so many opportunities,” Wooten said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “My position is that the team should let the guy go. It was not a lateral move. We were talking about an elevation to running game coordinator.”
Wooten should take it up with the league, which maintains the rule that allows a team to require an assistant coach to honor his contract unless the promotion entails becoming a head coach. And if any assistant coach wants the freedom to leave for an upgrade, the assistant coach should sacrifice the security that comes with a multi-year contract and accept employment on a year-to-year basis.
It’s no different than a team that needs a starting quarterback wanting to give the backup with another team the job. The team that has the backup under contract has the no-brainer right to expect him to honor the contract. The fact that any team would be pressured to relent on such a fundamental concept is unfair to every team.