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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Patience Used To Be A Virtue in the NFL

Consider the following win-loss records of actual NFL teams over their first three seasons with a new head coach:
● 0-11; 4-9; 5-8
● 1-13; 5-9; 6-8
● 6-10; 7-9; 7-9
● 7- 9; 1-3; 8-8
How long do you think the head coach of these teams would last in today's NFL? I'm not sure if any of them would've lasted beyond two seasons. But now take a look at to whom those records belong:
● 0-11; 4-9; 5-8 (Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys - 2 Super Bowl Championships)
● 1-13; 5-9; 6-8 (Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers - 4 Super Bowl Championships)
● 6-10; 7-9; 7-9 (Bill Belichick, Cleveland Browns - 4 Super Bowl Championships with the New England Patriots)
● 7-9; 1-3; 8-8 (Mike Shanahan, LA Raiders and Denver Broncos - 2 Super Bowl Championships with the Broncos)
I'm not a big fan of Rex Ryan, who was just fired by the Buffalo Bills, but surely two years wasn't long enough for him to turn a Bills' franchise, which hasn't been to the playoffs in 17 years, around. Of course, there's no guarantee that Ryan would've turned the franchise around, but the Bills need to give someone enough time to do so. Imagine if the Cowboys hadn't stuck with Tom Landry, or the Steelers hadn't held on to Chuck Noll. Would they have been as successful? Probably not.

The Cleveland Browns did stick with Belichick for five years, but Belichick's success after leaving Cleveland suggests that firing him was a (huge) mistake. To be fair to the Browns, Belichick had only one winning season during his tenure with them, but compare that to Tom Landry who didn't have a winning season until his 7th year (no, that isn't a misprint). Then, of course, there is Bill Walsh, who was 2-14 and 6-10 in his first two seasons as the 49ers head coach before he won the Super Bowl in his third. And let's not forget that the New York Jets fired Pete Carroll after one season (6-10), and while Carroll has since won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, the Jets are still looking for their first Super Bowl win since Joe Namath predicted one back in 1968.

Unfortunately, patience no longer appears to be a virtue in the NFL. My sense is that some owners are quick to blame their coaches when they should focus more on the poor draft decisions of their general managers. They remind me of some segments of corporate America that privilege short-term profits over long-term viability, which is generally not conducive to organizational success.

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