When things are going bad for a team, there’s a familiar refrain: fire everyone. Certainly there are some teams that could use a reboot: the Colts are doing Andrew Luck more harm than good, whatever it is Gus Bradley is building in Jacksonville is well behind schedule and Jeff Fisher’s contract extension in Los Angeles is just embarrassing.
More embarrassing is changing coaches after one season. It signals your team, from ownership to the front office to the state of the locker room, is an incompetent mess. Hitting the reset button a year after hitting the reset button rarely turns anything around. Teams that move on from a head coach after one year almost always wind up hiring other bad coaches, continuing the cycle.
With the Eagles on a three game losing streak, Doug Pederson’s job security has become a topic.
Pederson hasn’t lost the locker room, and guys aren’t giving up on him yet, but as he referenced, that is one of the two directions this season could go in. While the Eagles’ 5-7 record isn’t surprising considering the lack of talent on the roster and the youth they have at quarterback and head coach, the overall regression must be concerning for Jeffrey Lurie. Few players — and coaches — have gotten better as the season has gone on, and that’s typically the saving grace for a struggling team when each person is arguing to have a job the following season.
Although it happened as recently as last year with Jim Tomsula and the 49ers, it’s rare for teams to part ways with a head coach after a single season. But if the Birds continue to stumble and completely unravel, the team will be under considerable pressure to make some type of change. Pederson wasn’t the Eagles’ first choice last offseason, and if his team continues in its current direction, he may not be their first choice next offseason either.
Firing Doug Pederson after one year won’t solve anything. In the past 25 years, 14 coaches have been fired after one season. Only two of those worked out—and one of them was sent packing at the height of his success with the team.
1992 Buccaneers: Richard Williamson out, Sam Wyche in
Williamson took over the Bucs in 1990 as an interim coach. After a 3-13 full season in 1991, he was fired and replaced by Wyche, who had taken the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1988. Wyche went 23-41 in four seasons.
1994 Redskins: Richie Petibon out, Norv Turner in
Petitbon was promoted after Joe Gibb’s first retirement in 1993, taking over a playoff team. The Redskins cratered under him, going from 9-7 to 4-12. He was fired after one year and “hot coordinator” Norv Turner from the Cowboys was his replacement. Turner lasted until his eighth season, having made the playoffs only once and going 49-51-1.
1995 Jets: Pete Carroll out, Rich Kotite in
Carroll was promoted after Bruce Coslet was fired in 1994. After 11 games, Carroll had the Jets at 6-5, a game behind the Dolphins for the AFC East. Then Dan Marino scored on a fake spike to drop the Jets to 6-6, they would finish 6-10. Jets owner Leon Hess declared “I’m 80 years old and I want results now” and hired.... Rich Kotite, who went 3-13 in 1995 and 1-15 in 1996.
1998 Raiders: Joe Bugel out, Jon Gruden in
Al Davis was in the prequel of his completely out of touch years (we’ll see those later). After firing Mike White after two seasons, he promoted Bugel, who had gone 20-44 in three years as the Cardinals head coach. In 1997 Bugel went 4-12, and in came “hot coordinator” Gruden, who never had a losing season in four years in Oakland and won a playoff game in his last two. After clashing with Davis, he was traded to Tampa Bay.
2000 Packers: Ray Rhodes out, Mike Sherman in
To replace Mike Holmgren, the Packers essentially traded coaches with the Eagles: they hired Ray Rhodes, who had won nine games in the last two years with the Eagles, while Andy Reid left Green Bay to replace Rhodes. After the then worse season of Brett Favre’s career and a three game losing streak in December to drop the Packers out of the playoffs at 8-8, Rhodes was fired. To replace him the team promoted Mike Sherman, who was on the staff when Holmgren retired. Sherman saw a modest improvement to 9-7, then reeled off four straight playoff seasons that saw him gain front office control. With it he had one of the worst drafts in Packers history, highlighted by trading up to draft a punter in the 3rd round who was so bad Sherman didn’t play him his rookie year. Green Bay went 4-12 and Sherman was fired.
2001 Jets: Al Groh out, Herm Edwards in
After Bill Belichick resigned after one day as Jets head coach, the team promoted linebackers coach Al Groh. After a three game losing streak to end the season left the Jets at 9-7, Groh “resigned” to take the head coaching job at his alma mater Virginia. Days later Jets GM Bill Parcells also resigned. The Jets brought in Tampa defensive backs coach Herm Edwards, at the time a rising star in the coaching world, to replace him. Edwards went 39-41 in five seasons.
2002 Redskins: Marty Schottenheimer out, Steve Spurrier in
To replace the previously mentioned Norv Turner, the Redskins hired Schottenheimer, who nearly went to Super Bowls with the Browns and Chiefs. After a five game losing streak to start the season, the Redskins finished strong to end 8-8. Schottenheimer and Dan Snyder clashed and the two parted ways after one year. To replace him, they hired Florida coach Steve Spurrier, who entered the league with much hooplah and left it with a 12-20 record after two dismal seasons.
2006 Raiders: Art Shell out, Lane Kiffin in
Al Davis, by now a shell of his former self (no pun intended), had brought back Art Shell in 2005, who went 2-14. Davis then settled on his sixth choice: USC co-offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, an up-and-comer in the college ranks who was the youngest NFL head coach since 1962. Kiffin didn’t make it through his second season.
2008 Dolphins: Cam Cameron out, Tony Sparano in
Cameron replaced Nick Saban, and in his lone season went 1-15, with that one win being in overtime. In came Sparano, who had the fortune of his first season being the year Tom Brady was hurt, the Dolphins went 11-5 and then won just 18 games over the next four years.
2010 Seahawks: Jim Mora out, Pete Carroll in
Mora replaced Mike Holmgren and went 5-11, which was actually an improvement over Holmgren’s final 4-12 season. But the Seahawks saw past that an fired Mora after the same discipline issues from his time in Atlanta were present in Seattle. Pete Carroll was brought in, and it being his third NFL head coaching job, was seen as a questionable move. Carroll would of course go on to win the Super Bowl, but not until after back to back 7-9 seasons.
2012 Raiders: Hue Jackson out, Dennis Allen in
Jackson was the last coach Al Davis hired before he died, and when Davis’s son Mark took over, he wanted his own staff, so Jackson had to go despite an 8-8 season. In came Allen, who won 8 games in two years.
2013 Jaguars: Mike Mularkey out, Gus Bradley in
Shad Khan bought the Jaguars in late 2011, and in 2012 hired former Bills coach Mularkey. After a 2-14 season, Khan fired Mularkey and brought in “hot coordinator” Gus Bradley, who has worst winning percentage of any multi-year coach since the 1930s.
2014 Browns: Rob Chudzinksy out, Mike Pettine in
At the end of the 2012 season, Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns and cleaned house for 2013, hiring a new front office and coaching staff. And in 2014 they did the same, replacing the front office and coaching staff. And then they did it again two years later when Pettine was fired.
2016 49ers: Jim Tomsula out, Chip Kelly in
Jim Tomsula was the worst coach in 49ers history. Chip Kelly is having the worst season in 49ers history.
Aside from Pete Carroll and Marty Schottenheimer, none of the firings were unjustified, but the issue here isn’t to fire or not fire a coach after one season. It’s what’s next for a team that does. And it usually doesn’t work out.
Teams replacing a coach after one year hire one of four types of coaches. They promote a seasoned coach, which for the Eagles would be Jim Schwartz, who got to the playoffs in his third year in Detroit then went 11-21 in the next and final two seasons. They hire a high profile college coach, and that’s not happening with the Eagles. They hire a “hot candidate” coordinator, which they failed to do this year when Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo turned them down. They hire a retread looking for a last chance. Whichever type of coach it is, a few years later they replace that coach too. Five of the replacement coaches were fired after two dismal years, and five coached for at least four years without any real success. The only coaches with lasting success were Gruden, who clashed with his front office, and Carroll, who looked to be stuck in mediocrity until Russell Wilson.
Doug Pederson has the worst group of skill position players in the league. He has a rookie QB who everyone agreed needed developing. His offensive line has been hit with injury and suspension. Of course his team is going to struggle. Pederson hasn’t been perfect, but what rookie head coach is? He may not turn out to be a good a head coach, but less than one season with a bad roster isn’t enough evidence of that.
In a universe where the Eagles fire Doug Pederson after one season, on the heels of cleaning out the front office after one year, the odds are they will hire a bad coach to replace him, which only kicks the can down the road. The Eagles roster and having cleaned house this offseason demand at least another year of patience.