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Looking At Potential Coaching Candidates

1990 Bill Parcells: 1st team, 49 years old, 11 years in the NFL, 3 years coordinating, 7 years head coaching

1991 Joe Gibbs: 1st team, 50 years old, 18 years in the NFL, 3 years coordinating, 10 years head coaching

1992 Jimmy Johnson: 1st team, 50 years old, 4 years in the NFL, 0 years coordinating, 4 years head coaching

1993 Jimmy Johnson: 1st team, 51 years old, 5 years in the NFL, 0 years coordinating, 5 years head coaching

1994 George Seifert: 1st team, 55 years old, 14 years in the NFL, 6 years coordinating, 5 years head coaching

1995 Barry Switzer, 1st team, 58 years old, 2 years in the NFL, 0 years coordinating, 2 years head coaching

1996 Mike Holmgren, 1st team, 48 years old, 11 years in the NFL, 3 years coordinating, 5 years head coaching

1997 Mike Shanahan, 2nd team, 44 years old, 14 years in the NFL, 4 years coordinating, 3 years into tenure

1998 Mike Shanahan, 2nd team, 45 years old, 15 years in the NFL, 4 years coordinating, 4 years into tenure

1999 Dick Vermeil, 2nd team, 59 years old, 10 years in the NFL, 0 years coordinating, 3 years into tenure

2000 Brian Billick, 1st team, 45 years old, 9 years in the NFL, 5 years coordinating, 2 years into tenure

2001 Bill Belichick, 2nd team, 49 years old, 26 years in the NFL, 6 years coordinating, 2 years into tenure

2002 Jon Gruden 2nd team, 39 years old, 11 years in the NFL, 3 years coordinating, 1 year into tenure

2003 Bill Belichick, 2nd team, 51 years old, 28 years in the NFL, 6 years coordinating, 4 years into tenure

2004 Bill Belichick 2nd team, 52 years old, 29 years in the NFL, 6 years coordinating, 5 years into tenure

2005 Bill Cowher, 1st team, 47 years old, 28 years in the NFL, 3 years coordinating, 15 years into tenure

2006 Tony Dungy, 2nd team, 51 years old, 29 years in the NFL, 9 years coordinating, 5 years into tenure

2007 Tom Coughlin, 2nd team, 61 years old, 20 years in the NFL, 0 years coordinating, 4 years into tenure

2008 Mike Tomlin, 1st team, 36 years old, 8 years in the NFL, 1 year coordinating, 2 years into tenure

2009 Sean Payton, 1st team, 45 years old, 13 years in the NFL, 3 years coordinating, 4 years into the tenure

2010 Mike McCarthy, 1st team, 46 years old, 16 years in the NFL, 6 years coordinating, 5 years into tenure

  • Every single coach had experience as either a head coach or coordinator at either the NFL or college level. Every single one.
  • 9 of 20 superbowl coaches in the past 20 years were on their second team.
  • The average age of the superbowl winning coach is 51.55 years old.
  • They average 16 years of total NFL experience
  • They average 3.55 years coordinating an offense or defense
  • The superbowl winning coaches were 4.75 years into their tenure on average. Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs were already tenured and had won superbowls so they raise the average. If you take out the outliers (Parcells, Gibbs, Cowher) the average tenure drops to 3.7 years.
  • 3 coaches were head coaches in college football; Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Tom Coughlin
  • 8 out of 20 of the Superbowl winning coaches were former NFL defensive coordinators
  • 9 out of 20 of the Superbowl winning coaches were former offensive coordinators
  • 8 out of 20 superbowl teams had coaches that fit within the Bill Walsh coaching tree
  • 5 out of 20 superbowl teams had coaches that fit within the Bill Parcells coaching tree

Assistant Coaches that became head coaches before their coaching tenure began belonged to organizations that had these win totals in the 5 years prior to their hiring:

Coaches Name

Regular Season

Wins

Playoff

Appearances

Playoff

Wins

Superbowl

Rings

George Seifert (49ers)

58

5

6

2

Mike Holmgren (49ers)

61

4

7

2

Mike Shanahan (49ers & Broncos)

53

4

6

1

Brian Billick (Vikings)

51

4

2

0

Bill Cowher (Browns & Chiefs)

49

5

3

0

Mike Tomlin (Buccaneers & Vikings)

41

2

3

1

Sean Payton (Giants & Cowboys)

42

2

0

0

Mike McCarthy (Saints & 49ers)

36

0

0

0

They averaged 9.86 wins per year as assistant coaches in the 5 years prior to the hiring, as a head coach of what would ultimately be a superbowl winning team. They would also average 3.2 playoff appearances, 3.6 playoff wins and .7 superbowl champions each.

College head coaches that won superbowls in the past 20 years these win percentages at the school they worked at prior to becoming an NFL head coach:

Jimmy Johnson: 85% of games coached at Miami were wins (52-9)

Barry Switzer: 82% of games coached at Oklahoma were wins (157-29-4)

Tom Coughlin: 60% of games coached at Boston College were wins (21-13-1)

Bill Parcells is an outlier when measured against every single criteria. He was a bad college head coach (3-8 overall). He didn't work under a strong head coach with a strong coaching tree in the NFL. He only had 4 years of NFL experience before he became a head coach and in that timeframe his teams only collected 24 wins in that 4 year span.

Joe Gibbs is a disciple of Don Coryell, he worked for Coryell as a running-back coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and again as offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. He had 8 years of NFL experience before getting the head job as the Redskins head coach. In those 8 years his teams averaged 8.75 wins but keep in mind that up until 1978 there were 14 games in a season. His winning percentage as an assistant coach was .593% and that is heavily dragged down by his one year in Tampa Bay.

Dick Vermeil is confusing, he disappeared off the face of the earth in the NFL coaching world for about 15 years only to come back and lead the Rams to a superbowl. The Rams were his second professional team, he obviously coached the Eagles in the late seventies and early eighties. But he was also a good college coach in his two years at UCLA where he went 15-5-3. He won 37 games in his last 4 years as an assistant with the LA Rams. He was initially hired to the Rams by George Allen.

These coaches had a head coaching stint prior to the one with the team they won a superbowl with:

Coaches Name

Regular Season Wins

Win %

Playoff Appearances

Playoff Wins

Mike Shanahan (Raiders)

8

40%

0

0

Dick Vermeil (Eagles)

54

53%

4

3

Bill Belichick (Browns)

36

45%

1

1

Jon Gruden (Raiders)

38

59%

2

2

Tony Dungy (Tampa)

51

56%

4

2

Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville)

68

53%

4

4

Note that no coach has ever won a Superbowl with two teams.

So, with all of this said, how does this stuff apply to looking for a new head coach? Well, here's the criteria I have come up with:

  • Has been on teams that have won at least 40 games in the past 5 years. The higher the better.
  • Has been on teams that made at least 2 playoff appearances
  • Ideally you want the coach to have a superbowl ring on their finger
  • Comes from a strong coaching tree; mentored by a strong coach
  • Has at least 3 years of coordinator experience
  • At least one decade of NFL coaching experience

If you're going to hire a guy who already had a head coaching job:

  • Has shown the ability to put together a playoff team in the past
  • Did not win a superbowl with that team

If you're going to hire a college coach (Johnson, Switzer, Vermeil, Coughlin):

  • Must have an NFL background (mentor, scheme)

-All of these coaches ran prostyle offenses. Vermeil and Coughlin were NFL coaches before they were college coaches. Spread offenses aren't going to cut it in the NFL, pro-style schemes are required, NFL experience is preferred and a mentor with NFL experience would be nice too.

  • Mentored by a strong head coach

-Jimmy Johnson was mentored by Frank Broyles and Jackie Sherell, both of whom were highly successful coaches. Barry Switzer played for and coached under Frank Broyles at Arkansas and coached under Chuck Fairbanks at Oklahoma before succeeding him. Vermeil was mentored by George Allen. And Coughlin was a disciple of Vermeil (in Philly) and Parcells (in NY).

  • Won at least 60% of their college games

-Must be a winner.

  • Must have a "signature" win

-Vermeil and his UCLA bruins beat the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. Coughlin and his Boston College Eagles beat the #1 ranked Notre Dame team in his last year at BC.

  • A win percentage greater than or equal to 50% in bowl games

-Bowl games are when you face the best competition so a good game planner and coach should always be successful on the big stage against the best competition.

  • Strong leadership qualities and a strong recruiting record

-College coaches are a risk, leading college players is different than leading grown men. The best college to pro transitions happen when the coach is a good leader, is energetic and knows how to motivate people. Also a good recruiting record is a nice thing to have because that would indicate that they're likeable and can effectively communicate and sell their message to players.

But, as you can see from Bill Parcells and Mike McCarthy, the numbers aren't foolproof. Both of these guys, while incredibly different, are strong motivators and players respond well to them for the most part. That is something I think people tend to overlook, pedigree is nice but at the end of the day you need to be able to communicate with players and have a message that players will buy into. The outlier candidate at this point IMO, is Perry Fewell.

So, with ALL of that said, who are the coaching candidates to watch out for? Keep in mind that at this point, I'm extrapolating the 2011 record. All numbers win and superbowl numbers are from the last 5 years.

Coordinators:

Mike Pettine (Jets & Ravens)

Coaches Name

Regular Season Wins

Playoff Appearances

Playoff Wins

Superbowl Rings

Coordinator

Experience

Age

Mike Pettine (Jets)

46*

2

6

0

3

Bruce Arians (Steelers)

53*

4*

5

1

8

59

Joe Philbin (Packers)

56*

4*

5

1

5

50

Bill Musgrave (Falcons & Min)

41*

2

0

0

4

43

Mike Mularkey (Falcons)

44*

2

0

0

8

49

Pete Carmichael Jr. (Saints)

49*

3*

3

1

3

40

  • Mike Pettine:

Disciple of Rex Ryan

Part of the Bill Walsh coaching tree via Brian Billick

Connections with Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith and Mike Singletary

  • Bruce Arians

Disciple of Bill Cowher

Part of the Marty Schottenheimer coaching tree

Connections with Bear Bryant, Jim Mora Sr., Tony Dungy, Ken Wisenhunt and Mike Tomlin

  • Joe Philbin

Disciple of Mike McCarthy

Part of the Marty Schottenheimer coaching tree

Also connected to Mike Sherman

  • Bill Musgrave

Disciple of George Seifert

Part of the Bill Walsh coaching tree via George Seifert

Connected to Jack Del Rio, Joe Gibbs, Al Groh, Jim Mora Jr, Bobby Petrino, Mike Smith and Leslie Frazier

  • Mike Mularkey

Disciple of Sam Wyche

This guy is a melting pot of a coach. You can trace him to Tom Landry via Dan Reeves and Chan Gailey. You can trace him to Marty Schottenheimer via Bill Cowher and Cam Cameron. And he even has connections to Belichick via Saban and Brian Billick via Mike Smith.

  • Pete Carmichael Jr

Disciple of Sean Payton

Part of the Bill Parcells coaching tree via Sean Payton

He has connections to both the Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells coaching tree via Sean Payton.

Potential Outliers:

Jay Gruden:

This guy just knows football. He is one of the greatest Louisville QBs of all time. He is in the AFL hall of fame and was called the 4th best AFL player of all time in 2006. He has 6 AFL championships on his resume, 4 as a player and 2 as a coach. He coached in Tampa Bay with his brother Jon Gruden for 7 years and has a superbowl ring on his finger. In his 1 year as the head coach of the Florida Tuskers, he took them to the championship game. And he is doing an incredible job for the Bengals. Some guys are just naturals and Jay Gruden would appear to be just that. He has a strong track record of winning at different levels in different situations, he has a players' background, he has superbowl and playoff experience, he was mentored by his brother Jon Gruden (Bill Walsh coaching tree) and he has shown the ability to develop and utilize talent effectively. Keep an eye on him.

Perry Fewell:

He doesn't meet the criteria that I established because he was stuck with an awful Bills franchise. He doesn't have the wins and playoff experience that I look for but he does have the NFL experience and pedigree that I'm looking for. Fewell is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the game. He is known as a great teacher with just the right combination of bravado and scheming ability. Players very clearly respond positively under him. He has displayed the ability to develop talent. He has coached under Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville and New York. He has coached under Lovie Smith in Chicago. And he has worked with Dick Jauron in Buffalo. He is probably the strongest assistant coach in the game today.

Former Head Coaches:

Mike Mularkey

-Mike never did get the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs but he did get the more out of that team than anyone else did until Chan Gailey. He has a strong coaching pedigree and record. He played under Chuck Noll, he is a disciple of Sam Wyche and he has worked with strong coaches like Bill Cowher, Nick Saban and Mike Smith. He wasn't actually fired from Buffalo either, he got into a disagreement with the direction of the team with management and resigned. He is known as a good in game coach who is a creative play caller (or at least he was in Pittsburgh) but he is also content to grind it out on the ground. He deserves most of the credit for the development of Matt Ryan, Roddy White and other Atlanta Falcons offensive players.

Eric Mangini

-Perhaps the best former head coaching candidate on this list. He has fantastic pedigree; he has worked under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He has 3 superbowl rings on his fingers.

He is known as a very good teacher who knows defense, if you need any proof of that just look at the Patriots, Jets and Browns today:

  • -The Patriots' defense has been on a steady decline and has struggled to develop young defensive talent ever since Mangini's departure.
  • -The talent that Rex Ryan is working with was largely put together by Eric Mangini, Mangini drafted Darrelle Revis and David Harris, Mangini developed Sione Pouha and Mangini was the guy who set up the framework for the 3-4 defense that Rex Ryan works with today.
  • -In Cleveland he brought in the defensive talent that they're still working with today. 9 of 11 starters were brought in by Mangini. He drafted Joe Haden and TJ Ward, he traded for Chris Gocong and Sheldon Brown, he signed Scott Fujita. With the talent that Mangini amassed, the Browns are now the 5th ranked defense in the NFL.

Mangini has shown the ability to put together a playoff team and he has shown that he is a strong talent evaluator. Here is a list of players that Eric Mangini drafted:

D'Brickshaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Eric Smith, Brad Smith, Leon Washington, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Alex Mack, Joe Haden, TJ Ward, Colt McCoy and Shawn Lauva

That is 8 Pro-bowlers, 3 all pros, 1 future all pro (Haden), a handful of good players and a player that the Browns consider their franchise QB. More often than not, Mangini hits in the draft.

Jim Mora Jr

-I wouldn't sign him but he fits the criteria that I put forward.

College Head Coaches As Potential Head Coaches:

Kirk Ferentz

-He has over 100 wins at Iowa, a 6-3 record in Bowl Games, he has consistently displayed the ability to develop NFL caliber talent, he has an NFL style approach to the game and he is part of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. His roots are founded in NFL style football. He is a tough football coach who is a good teacher of fundamentals. He has turned Iowa into a football factory.

Mark Richt

-He has been a college coach his entire career. He was a QB at Miami. He was the offensive coordinator for Florida St under Bobby Bowden for a decade. He has been with the Georgia program for a decade as well and he has a career record of 103-36 and a bowl game record of 7-3. He is a players coach that is very respectful and genuinely tries to help his players. He runs a pro-style offensive scheme that he learned at Miami and he runs a NFL style 3-4 defense. He has developed a bunch of talent at Florida State and Georgia. He goes up against the best week in and week out and he consistently comes out on top. He could be an intriguing option at head coach. 

Les Miles

-This dude is wonky, something is just a tad off about the guy everyone knows as the "Mad Hatter". He eats grass and he gets some miraculous stuff to break his way, but it works. He is definitely a players coach that is energetic and well liked by players. He established a culture that allows players to swagger around on the field and let their personality show, his teams are very vocal, physical and downright violent at times. He has created an alternate universe down at LSU, nothing makes any sense at all. He gets his quarterbacks to WANT to block on the backside of plays and he has punters that taunt. He just has a way of getting the best out of players. He isn't a big schemer but he is a solid teacher of fundamentals and he always gets a positive response from his players. And he isn't an egomaniac, he is more than willing to surround himself with strong personalities and make the team better. If you surrounded him with a good set of coordinators, I have no doubt that Les Miles could succeed at the NFL level. He has 3 years of NFL experience too, he worked under Chan Gailey and Dave Campo as the tight end coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He wins 80% of his games and he is 5-1 in bowl games at LSU.

Al Golden

-Consider this guy a future candidate, would I take him right now? Sure but I think most NFL teams would wait on this guy. What isn't to like? He is a former player, he is professional, he turned the Temple program around, he is a great motivator and he knows what he is doing. He has worked with Joe Paterno and Al Groh, Paterno is a great guy to follow in terms of motivation and decorum and Groh is a Bill Belichick disciple. This guy is one of the best coaches in college football and he should end up in the NFL at some point. He is tough, he inspires confidence in his scheme and he is a great teacher. He is the real deal. 

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