In the National Football League, there is a slogan or term called the “Kiss of Death.” It is used when a NFL club is struggling to win more games than they lose and the owner gives the head coach a public vote of confidence. There are a few obvious reasons the owner makes this statement publicly. First, to send a message to ensure the fan base that everything is going to be ok. Second, the last thing they need in a losing season is less fans through the turnstiles (this means less parking, lower concessions and loss of jersey sales revenue).
As the NFL heads into the back end of the 2010 season, several coaches find themselves on the hot seat, and deservingly so. There are several teams stacked with talent, but yet those teams are struggling with marginal to poor direction from the top, off field chaos, and locker separation. They have underachieved to this point and will need to finish strong in order to keep their jobs, and in some cases (as we will discuss), it is inevitable that they will be fired at season’s end.
Let’s start with job security. Coach’s jobs are only as secure as their last win. Those on the hot seat include one that just signed a long term deal. Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings (presently touting unimpressive 2-5 record), is feeling the pain of a hot seat that is on fire. He has final say on personnel, trades away a third round pick for Randy Moss, and a month later waives Moss for several reasons. His locker room is confused and in a disarray. Players lack direction and are currently underachieving.
The opposite of Childress is John Fox the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Coach Fox came into the season as a “Lame Duck,” a term used when a coach or personnel executive heads into their last year of their contracts, and ownership is not willing or has no plans on giving them an extension. Coach Fox thought he could prove to ownership that he is a good coach by leading the NFL’s second youngest team to a winning season in the last year of his contract. This approach has backfired. Yes he is a good coach, but the 1-6 record and his team sitting at the bottom of the NFC South has made the Panthers the worst team in the NFL. Yes the team lost free agents Julius Peppers, Jake Delhomme, and several others, but they also made mistakes in the draft by trading future first round picks away to move up in current drafts. These things have sent this franchise into a tail spin.
The NFL is a quarterback driven league. If you don’t have one the likelihood of a team having success, winning their division, and making it deep into the playoffs is pure madness and unrealistic. The following coaches are struggling mainly because of the inconsistency at the quarterback position. While these teams are solid in other areas (defense and special teams), the lack of leadership and production at the most important position on the field is missing a field general. Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville’s Jack Del Rio, Broncos head man Josh McDaniels, and San Francisco’s Mike Singletary all fall in this category.
San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner has a track record of slow starts and winning in November and December, but he is struggling with the loss of key players and finds himself between a rock and a hard place with a poor record and the inability to win on the road.
With eight games remaining and parity throughout the league, there have been no in-season firings to date. Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is feeling the most heat. He has one of the most talented defenses in the NFL, but his team not playing well. There have been poor decisions made, not to mention marginal coaching and the ability to lead his team. With the Super Bowl being played in the Cowboys new stadium, the players and coaches are struggling with the stress and pressure of being in that game. Owner Jerry Jones has said “Wade is our coach and will remain at the helm, if there is anybody to lead us out of this it is him.” That truly was the kiss of death.
In 2006 there were seven coaches who were either fired or resigned; Marty Schottenheimer, Jim Mora, Art Shell, Nick Saban, Bill Cowher, Bill Parcells, and Dennis Green. Fans jump on the bandwagon of the local beat writers, columnist sand bloggers. It’s like water cascading over a waterfall; it can’t be slowed let alone stopped.
This year brings a different set of circumstances because of the labor issues and the battle over the next CBA. Some coaches could retain their jobs because of it. With the uncertainty of a lockout, owners may be unwilling to fire coaches for several reasons. The process of replacing a coach is arduous. Once the new coach is hired, they have to bring in a new staff. A new system has to be implemented. New coaches need plenty of time to set their plan in motion. They also have to evaluate the current players while looking forward towards Draft, OTA’s (Organized Team Activities) and Mini-camps.
The bottom line in any professional sport – and the NFL is no different – is WINNING! Generally when you stop accomplishing that goal, and start down the road where losses pile up, it’s not good for anyone. Firing a coach has a domino effect. It affects the assistant coaches, their families, kids schooling, moving and an incredible amount of stress is put on everyone involved. It is a wait and see situation for 2010 season, but it is coming, coaches will be fired.