In today’s NFL, few coaches get time to build a team

Getty Images

In 2014, seven new NFL coaches were hired. Four of those coaches have made the playoffs, and the other three have been fired.

That’s life for a coach in today’s NFL: You’d better win quickly, because you won’t get time to build a team slowly.

The news that the Buccaneers had fired head coach Lovie Smith came as a surprise on Wednesday night, but maybe it shouldn’t have been: Smith has coached two seasons and hasn’t made the playoffs, so perhaps we should have expected him to have the same fate as the other two coaches from the class of 2014 who haven’t made the playoffs, Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Pettine.

In the coaching class from 2013, there’s been similar turnover: Rob Chudzinski was fired after one year, Marc Trestman was fired after two years and Chip Kelly was fired in his third year. Bruce Arians and Andy Reid remain, but that’s no surprise as they’re in the playoffs. It is a bit surprising that Mike McCoy and Gus Bradley are still on the job, although they both may have to make the playoffs next year to avoid getting fired in their fourth seasons.

The class of 2012 had seven new coaches, and five — Greg Schiano, Romeo Crennel, Joe Philbin, Dennis Allen and Mike Mularkey — have already been fired. A sixth, Chuck Pagano, was nearly fired despite winning three playoff games in his four years. The seventh, Jeff Fisher, is safe despite failing to make the playoffs in four years. If a nuclear bomb were dropped on the Edward Jones Dome, the only survivors would be cockroaches and Jeff Fisher’s coaching career.

From the 2011 class, just two of the eight coaches hired — Ron Rivera and Jason Garrett — remain. Pat Shurmur, John Fox, Leslie Frazier, Hue Jackson, Jim Harbaugh and Mike Munchak are all gone; Fox was fired after a 12-4 season.

So that’s the state of coaching in the NFL today: It’s almost impossible to keep your job for more than a couple years if you don’t win. Owners like to pay lip service to concepts like building a strong foundation for long-term success, but owners are usually too impatient to find out if coaches are going to succeed in the long run or not. In the NFL you win right away, or you’re fired.

90 responses to “In today’s NFL, few coaches get time to build a team

  1. In some cases those coaches really weren’t great. Trestman was a disaster for example.

    In Cleveland’s case or Tampa they just fire anyone just for the sake of it. Chud after a year, Lovie.

  2. Which makes Belichick’s run in New England all the more impressive. 16 years is a serious run. Especially after early failures in Cleveland.

  3. That’s why I’m glad Dan Snyder owns my team. He is the definition of patience pays off. He let’s Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden work and never interferes. The NFL could learn from Mr. Snyder.

  4. Your comment on Fisher could not be more accurate. What does this guy have on people that he keeps his job?

  5. You could argue that head coaches are more powerful at the college level because of the encroachment of front office executives, the title creep in front offices related to “football operations”, and associated megalomania, particularly amongst front office executives with little to no on the field experience.

  6. Yes and people wonder why teams like New England stay on top for a while. They arent cheaters they have consistency. Carroll also had time to build the Hawks. Unless you have an elite qb or the team is missing a part to puzzle, a coach will need time to develop and build their team.

  7. The Chud firing made no sense to me. But it’s the Browns right?

    It may be surprising that Gus Bradley still has a job, but he has those Jaguars playing better football then they have in the last five years, and I think Jacksonville was smart to retain him.

    McCoy on the other hand. I don’t know how both he and Philip Rivers keep getting a pass.

  8. I think it’s incredibly foolish the Bucs fired Lovie, unless there is some big behind the scenes reason we don’t know about. I thought it was crazy he was run out of Chicago after a 10-6 season. I was worried about the Bucs ascension with Lovie at the helm. Thanks Glazers!

  9. I have no sympathy since most of these guys are signing contracts for longer periods and walking away with huge guaranteed payoffs for years they didn’t work.

    Fact is all you need is 2 years of that kind of pay plus your buyout and you’re set for life and never have to work another day if you don’t want to.

    No sympathy at all for these guys.

  10. And some good coaches are stuck with lousy owners & terrible GM’s.

    Ask Jim Harbaugh.

  11. I think as an owner, upon hiring a coach, unless the coach is a huge disaster and loses the locker room, you should look to give them a solid 3 years.

    If after 3 years you are not starting to see some improvement then it is adequate to cut bait.

  12. Jim Harbaugh set the standard. Win and win immediately. Do it and rub management the wrong way and still get fired. But fired means you get a 5 million a year gig at MI so in that case fire me please..

  13. to be honest, from the moment they hired Mike Pettine, Lovie Smith, Doug Marrone and Ken Whizenhunt, we all knew they were going to be canned within three years

  14. What about the flip side of the coin? Is there currently any HC with more than 10 years with the same team? Besides Bill B I can’t think of any.

  15. Lovie’s teams have been awful the past two years.

    Even Jameis couldn’t save him from the passive, trash defensive style he stubbornly implements.

    -Buccaneers Fan

  16. Sometimes you can quickly tell that things are going nowhere. No one wanted Chip Kelly to stay. No one wanted Ken Whisenhunt to stay. Both of those appeared to be stubborn un-relatable men who had a “system” but didn’t have the players for that system.

  17. No different than expecting a newly drafted QB to perform. It’s win now or else. There is no patience anymore to build by developing people. I have the feeling the next coach at Tampa will have that Gruden type ride thanks to Lovie Smith.

  18. How is this news? World’s tiniest insight. No one who reads this site is unaware of this fact.

  19. so, blame teams for not keeping coaches long enough to build teams and create a foundation, then criticize the rams for doing just that? fisher is a good coach who does not have that franchise qb that makes good coaches geniuses.

  20. I have no idea how Jeff Fisher keeps his job… I bet when he does get fired, there will be another sucker team courting him.. Just ridiculous

  21. I think that’s too simplistic a way of looking at it. A lot depends on the situation you walk into. GMs and owners can see if a solid foundation is being built and if things are headed in the right direction. That often coincides with wins, but not necessarily. If things aren’t much different from how they were before the coach was hired, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to keep him.

  22. Hopefully, this doesn’t become the trend. While Lovie’s and others’ time may have been two years, it should not be considered two years, as year one is mostly comprised of the same players from the previous coach and/or GM. And, changing schemes on one or more sides of the ball cannot happen on a whim. This is not a Madden game.

  23. If the Tuck Rule gets ruled in favor of Raiders then Belichick would be comparable to Kelly. The next season they went 9-7 and he got rid of Bledsoe and Milloy and had someone named Tom Brady.

    Kelly gambled and didn’t hit a home run but he was worth employing. Especially if Pagano gets 4 years in Indy, smh.

  24. Keeping a coach just to keep a coach is NOT the key to success. Correlation =|= Causation.

    Rather, making the right hire in the first place is the key to success. Having an eye for talent is what separates lucky businessmen from great ones.

  25. “Is there currently any HC with more than 10 years with the same team?”

    Coughlin was with the Giants for 12 years I believe but now that he’s been kicked I think Belichick is the only one.

  26. I’m sorry but I think it’s a joke that people are saying Lovie didn’t get time. The team was 4-12 before he got there and added talent to the roster. He didn’t improve them seeing how he averaged four wins a year. Dirk Koetter was the bright spot in helping Winston this year, keeping him has way more value then keeping Lovie.
    I went to plenty of games this year and Dirk was always by himself in the two hour pre game warm ups, this was key because the rest of the coaches were together. Dirk would have left, now firing Lovie gives us a shot!

    To all the Winston haters, he did have the best passing season for a rookie ever. He had third most passing yards but had more TDs and less INTs then the two above him, luck and Newton. Dirk helped create that history, would love to see what he can do with an extra three months of off season working with the guy.

  27. I tend to wonder if Jeff Fisher would have such luck keeping jobs if he wasn’t on the competition committee. He’s been on the committee (in some form or other) since 2000.

  28. The comment about Jeff Fisher was actually pretty funny. I don’t know how this guy survives year after year, other than the fact that he has always seemed to figure out how to defeat his divisional opponents. I guess the owner didn’t want to fire a guy who went 4-2 against his own division (including a sweep of two time NFC Champion Seattle), and 3-7 against the rest of the league.

    The firing of Lovie Smith only makes sense if the Bucs ownership just got wind of a coach who they wanted two years ago but couldn’t land at that time. The Bucs were actually playing pretty well down the stretch. Lovie Smith took over a reclamation project, and those take longer than two years to complete.

  29. I’d pry Jim Harbaugh away from Michigan if I were a team looking for a head coach. Pretty clear he was the solution, not the problem, in san fran. Look how far they rose up when he got there, and how far they fell when they kicked him to the curb.

  30. In today’s nfl, those franchises don’t get any chance to get to Super Bowl because of how foolish they are. It’s like a man or a woman who keeps having a change of heart about their loved one. Lol

  31. The Bucs were undisciplined on both sides of the ball. Making bonehead Personal Foul penalties, leading the NFL in total penalties is selfish and shows a lack of discipline and that is on the coaches, I’m sorry. The Bucs have talent and were getting better, with that great 3-1 3rd quarter of the season, then flopping to 0-4 which isn’t even stumbling home. It’s being dragged.

    GMac and Lovie were two peas in a pod with their laid back demeanor. That only works when you have a veteran team and the Bucs are the second youngest team in the NFL. They need discipline.

  32. Different reasons for most of those changes. Some organizations are just dysfunctional (Browns), some have idiot owners (Niners) some of the coaches are just plain not good as HCs (Schiano, Cremmel, Trestman).

    In Tampa’s case, it’s pretty clear Koetter is responsible for most of their modest success. Just look at what happened to ATL and Matt Ryan after he left.

    Tampa was looking at a situation where they’d lose Koetter soon and figured they’d either have to make Koetter the HC or go after a HC with an offensive mind– like Hue Jackson.

  33. Dear lord the pompous New England fans out in full force again…

    Belicheat isn’t the reason for NE’s success. For the 6 years of his career he stunk. Made the playoffs once and lost in the first round. Took 5 years off and, along with Brady, learned how to cheat the system.

  34. There’s something oddly comforting about the prospect of Jeff Fisher being in the league for 200 years and probably coaching 30 different teams. He’s the Highlander of pro football.

  35. Of the currently active coaches in the NFL, only six have guided their current team to a Superbowl Championship:

    Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have done it one time each.

    Bill Belichick has accomplished this feat four times since his tenure with the Patriots began in 2000. In that time, he has also guided the Patriots to 6 AFC Championships, 13 AFC East Championships and has been voted AP Coach of the year three times. The other five coaches mentioned above have been voted Coach of the Year a combined two times between them.

    It is rare that you can point to a single individual within a profession and state that they are the undisputed standard of excellence. Bill Belichick is such an individual. He is the Gold Standard of the NFL.

  36. I agree with your observations and have made a similar comment,in a number of prior posts.But, I disagree , with said premise.If you can turn over Head Coaches every two years , or less [ Tomsulal] then you have to reconsider completely, the importance, the Head Coach has on your NFL Team.If you are given literally no time to identify potential problems and incorporate solutions, then your total input and contribution to the team takes on a much attenuated demeanor and the Organization can save itself millions by not having a Head Coach position.Turn to the inputs of the OC and DC.Use the GM to negotiate contracts and be done with it…If your going to hire a Head Coach…let him be a HC and give him time to act, otherwise you just keep turning over the Staff until you get lucky !

  37. The “win now” mentality encourages signing more-talented players who have legal issues.

    Keep that in mind when blasting GM/coaches for advocating the signing of players like Greg Hardy, because 2-3 years to turn a team around is hardly any time at all.

  38. there is no excuse for going 2-14 as a newly hired head coach, regardless of the roster you inherited, and especially in a division as weak as the NFC South. that kind of failure is what got the guy before you fired. after a start like that, lovie would’ve had to knock it out of the park this season to save his job, and he didn’t even come close.

  39. Jeff Fisher will always have a job as long as he is willing to throw away draft picks on players who don’t deserve to be drafted, so the NFL can look better in the eyes of people who don’t watch football.

  40. Say what you want about the Bengals and their playoff failures but at least they have stability in their organization and have allowed Marvin to build that team from the ground up. Where were they before Marvin got here? They were a joke. He’s made them relevant and built that team himself despite having a horrible owner. I’d rather be where they are right now then turn over coaches and QBs every 2 or 3 years that doesn’t get you anywhere.

  41. I’m not so sure it’s a sign of today’s NFL, so much as several disfunctional franchises keep doing this over and over (Cleveland, TB, Washington, etc.).

  42. Marvin Lewis has been in Cincinnati for 13 seasons, and guided his team to the playoffs 7 times. Despite the lack of success in the post season, the stability within the organization (front office and coaching staff) has led to what would be considered one of the deepest and most talented rosters in football, and one of the most successful regular season records over the last 5 seasons. And now the Marvin Lewis coaching tree is starting to see success as well, with Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden both making the playoffs this season, and Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther getting serious consideration for a head coaching position.

  43. there was no greater owner than the late, great Al Davis.. fire them as quickly as he hired them.. you taught ’em all Uncle Al.. i miss you Uncle Al.. LA Raiders, baby!

  44. The irony is that they are just recycling the same failed coaches over and over. Where’s John Fox coaching now? Seems like yesterday he was coaching the Panthers. I am almost certain Lovie Smith coached the Bears this year. And if I told you Jeff Fisher was still failing to make the playoffs in Tenessee, would you argue much? The NFL coaching carousel is incredibly hard to get on but also very hard to get off. These guys change colors like people change dirty draws. Wasn’t that long ago Rex Ryan was all blustery on the Jets sideline using assistant coaches to trip opposing kick returners and now he’s the coach of the Bills…who I swear just signed Chan Gailey to a 3 year contract to be their head coach.

  45. If I’m a team looking for a young offensive minded coach I’d be looking to pair then with Lovie to less the defense and lean on from an experience standpoint

  46. When are GM’s and owners going to understand a Head Coach is not going to turn around a team in a year or two. It takes time to get the pieces that fit the coaches system in place. They can’t do it with the pieces they have. To expect 2-14 to go to 14-2 in a season is ludicrous. The Bucs were showing improvement – Lovie just ran out of (a very short) owner patience. He has the skill to improve a team – just needs the pieces and time to make the system work.

    Maybe when a coach is interviewed the Director of Player Personnel or Director of Scouting should select. They know what the pieces already are – they can better pick the coach that fits the pieces. Picking the one that fits the pieces seems better than picking a different one then trying to get the pieces to make it work, especially in a season or two. Contracts and NFLPA stand in the way of making that successful.

    Instead, maybe we should continue recycling coaches based on past performance and tell everyone they will turn things around with a new team. Coaches don’t fit teams unless it is a team they built.

    Outstanding example and possibly the exception. Seahawks HC Pete Carrol. He made the playoffs his first year at 7-9 but was in a worthless division that year. He got to the Super Bowl and NFC power because the owner let him make over 200 trades in a year. Plus he drafted well. His owner was willing to make his selection as HC fit but to do so allowed an almost 100% makeover of the team. Unless you are willing to do that you need to pick a coach that fits the pieces already there.

  47. “(Other than Belichick) Is there currently any HC with more than 10 years with the same team?”

    Marvin Lewis was hired in 2003.
    Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton were hired in 2006.
    Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh were hired in 2007.

    They’re the only current coaches with more than 6 years tenure.

    Google, Wikipedia

  48. The expansion teams – Jacksonville and Carolina – pretty much set the bar at two years. Reid proved it only takes one.

    That being said, if the coach goes from 2-14 to 6-10, you can expect a winning season in his third year, but not if you fire him. Three years is fine with an existing team, no expansion draft and salary cap burdens.

    Now, Tampa has to start from the top again and hope they find a knowledgeable coach.

  49. It’s not necessarily absurd to fire a guy after 2 years if you know you made a mistake and hired the wrong guy. You might as well cut your losses.

    But when you’ve fired guys every 1-2 years over and over again like the Browns and the Bucs, it’s evidence of an idiotic lack of patience that makes it difficult to hire quality people.

    Like Mike Pettine might not have been a great coach, but he was the best the Browns could get 2 years ago, and it’s not very likely they’re going to find anyone any better now.

  50. The coaches that got fired all suck. Lovie Smith….sucks. Wisenhunt….sucks. Pettine…..LOL. Owners want results? I never!

    Coaches that are new and winning:
    Arians
    Zimmer
    Bowles

    They all took over non-playoff teams and, with much of the same roster as the previous guy, made the teams respectable…..immediately.

    The real issue is how awful owners/GMs are at hiring coaches. Zimmer was passed over for literally decades for chumps who failed and Chicago somehow let Arians leave and hired a guy from the CFL. Mike Pettine!? He’s barely a high school coach.

  51. Also, Assuming it was all true, I would much rather BB and TB both came out and admitted messing with camera locations and ball pressure than physically drag a small woman into a bathroom and sexually accost her. Your boy beat a rape charge TWICE writing checks. The accuser one of the times even ADMITTED a settlement out of court was reached!! Many team’s fans can pout about alleged ethics and morals if they choose, the fans of Rothlisberger can NOT!

  52. Bradley has Jax on right path – and now that he got rid of a really bad choice he made for D coordinator (Babich) maybe they’ll make up ground there. O will continue to mature.

  53. If you are going to be fair, it’s not just impatient owners. It’s also impatient fans, who then pressure the owners, and the media, who constantly “grade” and critique team performances.

  54. How many of you threw up in your mouths when daytontriangles wrote “He (BB) is the Gold Standard of the NFL.”. The only people that believe that are the NE Patriot kool-aid drinkers that refuse to admit their coach is a confirmed cheater.

    THAT, folks, will be his legacy for ever. Can’t go back and change Spygate. DeflateGate’s not over yet.

  55. Ron Rivera came within a whisker of getting canned himself. After we got trucked by Arizona in game 4 in 2013, RR was 14-22 as the head coach. Since then, he’s 33-10-1. It helps to have an owner who used to play the game, rather than some cat who made billions in other industries and bought an NFL team to use as a plaything. If most of these owners ran their businesses like they do their NFL teams, they would have ended up as French fry cooks at Wendy’s.

  56. 6 super bowls: 5th grade science proves there was no tampering!! Once it is over I hope Tom the GOAT Brady sues ALL involved!! Guess you don’t understand Spygate was filming from the wrong area! The same area the Jets filmed from earlier yet were not disciplined for. Your IGNORANCE is astounding!!!

  57. Jeff Fisher has 6 winning seasons in 21 years coaching. 2 Terrible franchises hire him and he dissed my Dolphins. Stephen Ross is the dopiest owner in the NFL

  58. 6superbowls says:
    Jan 7, 2016 4:33 PM

    How many of you threw up in your mouths when daytontriangles wrote “He (BB) is the Gold Standard of the NFL.”. The only people that believe that are the NE Patriot kool-aid drinkers that refuse to admit their coach is a confirmed cheater.

    THAT, folks, will be his legacy for ever. Can’t go back and change Spygate. DeflateGate’s not over yet.
    ———————————————————-
    Bill is the gold standard!!He will be a first ballot HOF coach!
    In federal court the NFL admitted there was no evidence against Tom regarding framegate. The NFL had already CLEARED the GOAT BB in the same framegate case.
    You are right one can not go back & change the fact that BB filmed from the WRONG spot. Just like as a Pittsburg fan you can’t change the rape stink regarding Ben or steroid use during earlier Pittsburg wins!!

  59. Report comment
    farmboss17 says:
    Jan 7, 2016 1:14 PM
    What about the flip side of the coin? Is there currently any HC with more than 10 years with the same team? Besides Bill B I can’t think of any.
    ———————————–
    Marvin Lewis, Mike McCarthy…I bet Tomlin is close too

  60. 6superbowls says:
    Jan 7, 2016 4:33 PM

    How many of you threw up in your mouths when daytontriangles wrote “He (BB) is the Gold Standard of the NFL.”. The only people that believe that are the NE Patriot kool-aid drinkers that refuse to admit their coach is a confirmed cheater.

    THAT, folks, will be his legacy for ever. Can’t go back and change Spygate. DeflateGate’s not over yet.
    _____________________________

    Funny, but the NFL official record books do not seem to support your view. Not a single asterisk next to any Patriots title or record.

    I know facts seem a bit beyond you, so I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible.

    1: The first three Patriots Super Bowl wins happened BEFORE there was any rule about taping plays.

    2: DeflateGate has been over since the NFL’s lawyer stood up in front of a federal judge and said there is zero evidence that Brady deflated footballs.

  61. If ya buy into the idea that college kids are coming out more NFL ready now than ever before ( I don’t ) then firing coaches after 2 yrs. might make sense. But then is that really the coaches fault if he doesn;t have the final say on drafting?

  62. The best organizations have continuity in their front office and coaching ranks. I understand certain situations if a coach just isn’t working, but to not give most at LEAST a 3 year window is rediculous. Really a clown show.

    It’d be like firing a college coach after 1 year because he didn’t make a bowl game, and not giving him 3-4 years to pick HIS players and build HIS team.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.