As the NFL heads into the offseason, the league has filled its head coaching vacancies with new coaches — but that’s not quite right. Actually, they most of them aren’t new at all — they are pretty much the same cast of characters, with new hats.
You’ve heard of the glass ceiling, the invisible barrier that won’t let certain people rise above a certain level. Now we present the glass floor, the invisible barrier that won’t let certain people fall below a certain level.
Once NFL coaches reach a certain level, they pretty much stay there and won’t go away, like Hillary Clinton or a bad cold. This is not only true of course in the NFL, but in all sports.
Teams don’t fire head coaches as much as they recycle them or reshuffle the deck, replacing fired coaches with previously fired coaches. Of the seven new head coaches that have been hired since the end of the regular season, four of them were head coaches elsewhere and then fired.
Jack Del Rio was hired as head coach of the Raiders four years after he was fired as head coach of the Jaguars. The Raiders have placed their future in the hands of a coach with a record of 68-71, or a .489 winning percentage. That’s why they’re the Raiders. New league rule: Anyone willing to sign on with the Raiders (eight coaches in 11 years) must undergo concussion protocols.
Rex Ryan was fired as head coach of the Jets at the end of the season — and hired as the Bills’ head coach before he could clean out his office. He sports a career record of 46-50 (.479). He hasn’t taken a team to the playoffs in four seasons. He used a first-round pick on Geno Smith. Nice resume. You can see why the Bills would turn to him.
Gary Kubiak, fired as head coach of the Texans two years ago, spent all of one season as an assistant coach for the Ravens before getting another head coaching position, this time with Denver. His head coaching record is 61-61 (.488), largely attributable to the Texans’ two-win nosedive in 2013. If he has Peyton Manning at quarterback, he’ll be a good hire.
John Fox has been a head coach for three teams and has been fired twice, and yet he hasn’t missed a beat — he’s been a head coach for 13 consecutive seasons. As soon as one team fires him, another team hires him — from Carolina to Denver and now Chicago. His resume includes two Super Bowls with different teams and a won-loss record of 119-89 (.572). You might reasonably wonder why he was ever fired in the first place.
That makes a total of 11 current NFL head coaches who have been fired and rehired. The other seven: Jeff Fisher (Rams, Titans), Lovie Smith (Bucs, Bears), Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals, Titans), Pete Carroll (Jets, Patriots, Seahawks), Tom Coughlin (Jags, Giants), Bill Belichick (Patriots, Browns), Andy Reid (Eagles, Chiefs). In other words, more than one-third (11) of NFL head coaches have been head coaches for at least two different teams, all of them having been fired elsewhere.
If you are wondering, there are nine NBA coaches and 12 MLB managers who have been fired and rehired at least once. Flip Saunders and Byron Scott are on their fourth head-coaching stint.
Being fired does not prevent you from getting rehired, unless you are, say, Mike Singletary and have the sideline demeanor of a boot camp sergeant with an impacted wisdom tooth (although this didn’t stop Dennis Green and Buddy Ryan from getting second chances).
On the other hand, winning a Super Bowl won’t prevent you from getting fired, either. It’s all about what have you done for me lately, of course. It’s win now, not later, which is the philosophy of most sports franchises except the Utah Jazz.
Eight of the 11 recycled coaches have taken teams to the Super Bowl, three of them more than once. Both of this year’s Super Bowl coaches have been fired from previous head coaching jobs — Pete Carroll twice, Bill Belichick once. Between them, they have taken eight teams to the Super Bowl and own career won-loss records of 83-61 and 211-109, respectively.
Of those 11 head coaches who have been fired and rehired, four of them sat out just one season before being rehired as a head coach and three of them were rehired by another team immediately.
Apparently, it’s a relatively small pool of men who are considered candidates for an NFL coaching job, and when teams try to venture outside that pool they risk getting a McDaniels or Lane Kiffin. They are two of the many college coaches who couldn’t cut it in the NFL, along with Lou Saban, Nick Saban, Frank Kush, Bobby Petrino, Steve Spurrier, Mike Riley, Lou Holtz, Butch Davis, Bud Wilkinson, Dick MacPherson and Rich Brooks.
Certain teams just have a knack for bad coaching hires — the Raiders and Browns, for instance — or maybe they are just bad organizations to begin with and wouldn’t do any better if Vince Lombardi himself were on the sideline (please, see Raiders and Browns).
Anyway, after all the turnover on NFL sidelines last season, not much has really changed.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org