As the NFL’s annual game of multi-million-dollar musical chairs continues to unfold, teams trying to navigate the postseason face inevitable disruptions and distractions to their preparations as assistant coaches have been interviewed and will continue to be interviewed.
Eventually (and maybe soon), dominoes will begin to fall. Some candidates whose teams keep winning may find themselves on the outside looking in because: (1) they’re not eligible to be hired because their teams are still playing; and (2) other candidates are free and clear.
In the past, we’ve suggested that teams should be able to hire assistant coaches whose current teams are still playing postseason games, in order to prevent an unfair outcome for those who shouldn’t be punished for being employed by a successful team. The better option could be to simply slam the brakes on the coaching carousel until after the Super Bowl.
That approach would give all teams that may be making a change more time to make their decision as to whether to make a change, since they won’t have to immediately fire a coach (or not fire a coach) for fear of missing out on a preferred replacement. It also would give teams that make it to the postseason a full and fair chance to pursue their prospects to the conclusion, with minimal disruption to their coaching staffs.
Although every candidate for a head-coaching job who interviews while also working for his current team would insist that the situation does not undermine preparations for the next playoff game, the truth is that it does. It just does. Beyond the time consumed by preparing for interviews with owners of other NFL teams and the time spent conducting the interviews, the assistant coach whose current employer has a playoff game must balance the possibility that his ship has finally come in, or that it hasn’t.
As one league source recently explained it to PFT, the assistant coach who comes home from work on a Tuesday night during the playoff push isn’t met with questions from his spouse or significant other regarding the nuances of game planning. The spouse instead asks for full and complete updates about the potential for getting a head-coaching job.
It’s an effort in compartmentalization that can be avoided. The league has declined to change the rule because this is the way it’s always been. Revising the rule would lead to, as those who oppose change would say, unintended consequences.
But what would the unintended consequences be if the clear rule was enacted (and enforced) preventing teams from interviewing anyone until after the Super Bowl? While the possibility of what will come next easily could become a focal point for families who could end up with a bigger title and a bigger salary, the best and only way to handle the situation will be to realize that what will come next will reveal itself after the Super Bowl ends and the window for hiring coaches opens.
And while a delay would result in teams not having coaches in place for events like the Senior Bowl, so be it. Teams often haven’t hired new coaches before Senior Bowl week, which is more of an exercise in scouting than coaching, anyway.
Change needs to happen. Maybe someday it will. The sooner it does, the better.