When will a coach bet on himself?

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Jim Caldwell’s it-is-what-it-is approach to his current employment situation in Detroit serves as a reminder of a periodic hot take that often bubbles up for me whenever a good coach closes in on the completion of his contract: When will a coach treat the looming expiration of his deal as a shot at free agency?

Rarely if ever does an NFL head coach: (1) finish every game of his contract; and (2) inform the NFL, “I’m available to the highest bidder.”

When Jason Garrett’s contract expired in Dallas after a Final Eight season in 2014, he could have made the Vince-McMahon-strutting-GIF move to another city, but he truly didn’t want to leave the Cowboys. Last summer, with both coach Pete Carroll and G.M. John Schneider entering contract years, they could have individually or collectively said, “Hey, Rams! Interested?” after the 2016 season ended.

They opted instead to re-up.

For whatever reason, coaches (and General Managers) never bet on themselves in that way, choosing the sure thing over the shot in the dark. Maybe they’re conservative by nature when it comes to the knowledge that large amounts of money will continue to flow to the bank account beyond the current year. Maybe they have a hard time assessing their own potential value objectively. Maybe they fear that the jobs that become available are available not because the current coach stinks, but because the organization does.

Regardless, there’s never been a head coach who says, “I don’t want a new contract for now. I want to hit the open market next year.” Maybe Caldwell, if he takes the Lions to the playoffs again without an extension before the season ends, will hit the open market without making the declaration in advance.

And maybe the boss of the Lions will become the first NFL head coach to walk into free agency like the boss of the WWE.

37 responses to “When will a coach bet on himself?

  1. List one time when the alleged free agent coach had a better offer. There is no better place to coach then Dallas and having gone years without making playoffs AND not getting fired proves that.

    Bigger question is why don’t more coaches put up their future as compared to demanding extensions (e.g., Marvin Lewis). They just want the guaranteed big bucks.

  2. My guess is that Caldwell, is just fine with the possibility of cashing in big next year, not like he has not made more money that he will ever need to live conformable if he ends up being done after the season.

  3. Its because they get guaranteed contracts so if they are later fired they can get paid millions for years to come whether they are reemployed by another team or not.

    You can cut a player and all you have to eat is the dead money in the cap. You cut a coach and you might be paying him for 3 or 4 more years.

  4. It might have a little something to do with why jobs might be coming open, lol. If a coach is in demand it’s usually because their teams are or have been doing well, almost all teams with a vacancy are not. Faced with that scenario how many coaches, besides Parcells, are going to re-up with the devil they know rather than roll the dice on the one they don’t?

  5. Most good coaches won’t leave good teams for bad ones that spend more money because team success is so important to their profession. Most good teams have coaches in place that make it impossible to spend large amounts of money on coaching ‘free agents’.

    There is also a salary cap for players that does not exist for coaches. It is not difficult for a good coach to get a raise with the same team.

  6. I think it’s also that coaches spend time building a team; getting their guys. It’s easier for players to pack up and move on. Coaches in this situation probably compare rosters and easily pick the bird in the hand.

    However, the big caveat would be if another team with a coaching vacancy had a franchise QB the coach believed he could win with. Then you could see it happen– but even then it will be focused, more than opening up to the highest bidder.

  7. “When will a coach bet on himself?”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    INSERT: Las Vegas comment

  8. When Jason Garrett’s contract expired in Dallas after a Final Eight season in 2014, he could have made the Vince-McMahon-strutting-GIF move to another city, but he truly didn’t want to leave the Cowboys.

    Really? I remember garretts new deal. That’s all that espn and skip bayless could talk about. Will garrett take his talents to South Beach, maybe LA or even Denver? Are you kidding me? No team was clamoring for garrett driving his contract up. He wasn’t being chase by any team. Just like no decent coach would go to Dallas because of Jones. Garrett wouldn’t be a head coach anywhere else, he is the biggest joke in sports when combined with jarry.

  9. Because they can’t control how their team performs, it’s up to the players. It would be idiotic not to re-up when an offer is there.

  10. “Cashing in” implies a coach has accomplished something far above the norm. It is Jim Caldwell, you’re talking about, right? The guy who thought benching Stafford was the answer, but then realized that firing his offensive coordinator several games later was the correct answer. The same guy who’s team limped across the finish line just this past year?

    Look, Caldwell is a guy the players like, and play hard for, but he has not yet inspired confidence from the fan base. And, rightfully so, Quinn is letting the year play itself out.

    Bob Quinn has some chips in his back pocket he can ‘cash in’, and they are named Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia.

  11. Coaches want to win also…

    Why would a coach of a good team leave to coach a team with a coaching vacancy – that almost certainly would not be a good team?

    Nobody would choose to leave a good team to coach a bad team. That is unrealistic…

  12. Not creative at all actually. These coaches get guaranteed money on extensions. They also know that if there’s a coaching vacancy it’s usually not the previous coaches fault. It’s because the team hasn’t drafted well and doesn’t have a great roster. Look at the vacancies this year. Niners, jags, Rams, bills, chargers. So some great coach should hold out for almost equal money for one of those jobs? I know it’s the offseason but we don’t need an article about everything.

  13. Maybe because there are hundreds of WR positions in the NFL, but only 32 HC jobs….

  14. Let’s face it, the only stat that matters for coaches is their winning percentage. You won’t find many coaches build a program up, and then leave for more money just to start the process over again.

  15. I guess you haven’t figured out that coaches are numbers guys. They always play it safe based on the probabilities, not on the odd outlier here and there. That’s why you won’t see this happen.

  16. “Regardless, there’s never been a head coach who says, “I don’t want a new contract for now. I want to hit the open market next year.””

    What player is going to buy-in with the coaching saying something like this at the beginning of a season? Idiotic article.

  17. Because good owners lock down good coaches. Sure Bill Belichick could probably make more on the open market, but Bob Craft isn’t going to let him get there. He will offer Bill whatever it takes to prevent him from testing his options. That amount is not necessarily the amount the highest bidder would have paid as most people put a value on stability (not having to move, already knowing your boss, etc…)

  18. head coaches aren’t pieces you plug in to another team, they have to set the vision for a team.

    also Bill Parcells proved they don’t have to finish one job before they start negotiations for another.

  19. Players have to “cash in” by the age of 30 or, well, it’s not going to happen. Coaches have until they’re…how old is Tom Coughlin?

  20. Doug Marrone did it and lost. He opted out of the Bills contract making himself a free agent coach. No one offered him a head coaching gig. It was the ultimate bet on himself!

  21. Clueless Jim Caldwell if fully aware that his days as the Lions HC are numbered. There aren’t any other NFL teams that would even consider him as an OC.

  22. Because it’s tough to just pickup and start all over again creating a new system when the one you have in place works fine and you’re most comfortable.

    If it doesnt work you’l eventualky be shown the door anyway and get a chance to start anew.

    Why ruin a good thing when it falls in your lap. Ask Doug Marrone how it worked out.

  23. Coaches have staffs. 30 some guys are tied to that head coach. 30 some guys may not be able to follow that coach into a different job.

  24. It’s not just betting on yourself. If you have a good QB and stable ownership in the NFL, You have a great chance to keep it together. If there’s a losing franchise, with shaky ownership, and/or uncertainty at QB, you’re lucky to get 3 yrs. If you’re a coordinator, looking at 10x the paycheck, that’s one thing. An established coach like Garrett, for example, why would you do it? Caldwell is a diferent story. The new GM inherited him.

  25. Belichick also has Brady, who on many occasions has said is another coach and the commander of the entire offense when on the field. Not only does he know the roles of his WRs. Brady also knows what all 5 linemen are supposed to be doing and the RBs & TEs as well.

    It’s easy to say BB would rather take more money elsewhere, but he would be risking his legacy. Imagine if he left to take over a .500 team, like the Eagles or Dolphins. 5 years into the job, he’s 45-35 and only made the playoffs on a “one and done” once. The entire sports universe’s opinion of him would shatter.

    Belichick is gambling continuing when TB finally hangs it up. I’ve heard he wants to prove he was the more important of the two…time will tell.

  26. Would a coach want their players to do the same thing? Considering their job relies on a team concept and statements like “the individual is never bigger than the team” I’d say no.

    If they’re any good, they’re modeling that behavior and trying to make the team succeed.

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