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The secret formula for a new HC: Why it shouldnt be Art Briles


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Now, I know Art Briles is a popular topic around here.  Hes flashy, hes catchy, he has great skin, I get it.  But I believe hiring him, or honestly almost anyone(with one or two exceptions) would be another 4 year disaster.  History is a great teacher, one that is often ignored because we cant be bothered to crane our necks up from whats right in front of us.  History can teach us a lot about the failures of the Redskins ownership to pick good coaches, and the successes of other teams that have.  When you do begin to look at history, you realize that there are two things that are very true:


1.  The Redskins coaching failures has not been the result of the Redskins choosing good candidates who just didnt work out, as some fans bemoan(as though we are cursed).  Instead, we chose quite possibly the least qualified candidates we could.

2.  There IS a pattern for successful NFL teams, as to their head coach's prior history before being named head coach.  There are exceptions, but those exceptions are few, and by looking at successful teams we can learn a lot about what ours should mimic.


Lets look first at #1.  The Dan Snyder era has been marked by coaching hires made on gut instinct rather than any real rational thought.  The first head coach Snyder hired was Marty Schottenheimer, who was quite possibly the best.  He had been very successful in both Cleveland and Kansas City, leading them to 11 playoff appearances in 15 years.  Only, he didnt get more than one year to actually be head coach.  He has the best record in that one season of any Redskins coach under Snyder.  He went on to coach San Diego, making the playoffs twice and getting fired after going 14-2.  Schottenheimers problem was getting along.  Even with the chargers he had only one season below .500, and in all, he had only 2 losing season in 21 seasons coaching.  Snyders second coaching choice was Steve Spurrier.  Spurrier was the opposite of Schottenheimer, flashy, and without substance.  His team was highly ranked, but they didnt play defense particularly well, or run the ball very well.  Any time you hire a coach whos claim to fame is college "run and gun" without any other substance, youve made a very poor decision.  Spurrier lasted less than 2 years, and Snyders next decision was to again, go in the complete opposite direction as the previous hire.  Instead of hiring fresh blood, he went for old blood, Joe Gibbs.  Instead of hiring for a coach of the future, he instead hired one he knew would save his butt for a while, and indeed, though not great, Gibbs was the winningest coach Snyder chose(that lasted more than one season).  After Gibbs, Snyder made another terrible move, he hired Jim Zorn when he ran out of other candidates to interview.  He promoted him two times within a month and a man with no experience became head coach.  Again, another complete reversal from the previous hire(a growing trend).  After the Zorn experiment, he then did another total reversal, and went to hire another old retread in Shanahan.  So he hired another older coach who had been out of the NFL for a couple years, and the results arent terribly surprising.  


In this emerged a pattern.  Instead of hiring a younger up and coming coach WITH NFL experience, Snyder hired coaches on gut reaction.  If the last taste in his mouth was youth and inexperience, he went for the oldest most tenured coach available.  If his last hire was an old stallwart, he went and hired someone with no NFL experience.  In none of these cases did he ever hire a coach who had NFL experience, and was a coach moving up the NFL ladder.  He picked those on the bottom rung, or those who had already climbed up, and then climbed back down again.  


On to pattern #2.  I've alluded to the successful pattern of NFL hires in the previous section, but here is where the pattern that other successful teams use becomes clear.  When you look at the NFL's dominant teams currently, all but a pair of brothers produces a very solid trend.  I took the last 3 years of football, took the teams that had at least 2 good years out of the three(in other words, 10-6 or 11-5 and better, or teams that have made the playoffs each of the last 3 years).  These are the teams that one could consider to have been the most dominant in recent years.  The most dominant and consistent performers have been: The Patriots, the 49ers, and the Bengals, who have made the playoffs each of the last 3 years.  The other dominant teams have been Colts, Broncos, Saints, Seahawks, Packers, Falcons, Ravens and Texans.  Now, the Ravens, Texans, and Falcons all had bad years this year, but the prior two they dominated the NFL.  As one good year doesnt make a franchise, a coach, or a player, neither does one bad one.  All in all, these are 11 teams that we wish we could be like.  Being fans of the Patriots, Saints, 49ers, Seahawks, or Packers would be nice, wouldnt it?  To make the playoffs multiple years in a row?  And the pattern that emerges is that, with the SOLE exception of the Harbaugh brothers, each and every one of these teams hired as their head coach a man who was rising up the ranks of the NFL, who had previous head coach, OR offensive/defensive coordinator experience.  None of them were new to coaching as at least a coordinator in the NFL.  And when they DID coach in the NFL, they were successful, and quite quickly.  Maybe not in the first season, but always by the second.  To further prove that, the list is:


1. Patriots: Bellicheat, He was a DC with the Giants, then a HC with the browns, assistant head coach with two teams before the patriots.  By his second season the patriots won the superbowl.

2. 49ers: Harbaugh, the exception to the coordinator rule, did have NFL coaching experience with the Raiders, but only as a QB coach.  He lead Stanford to their best season in history and won coach of the year award before being fired. But unlike Spurrier, Harbaugh ran a pro style offense, and had the #11th ranked defense, substance before flash.  Plus, if you've ever seen him throw a hissy fit on the sidelines you would have to say "there's a special person".

3. Bengals: Marvin Lewis, he was the DC with our own Redskins, he did not have a losing season in his first 4 years coaching there.  He had 2 poor seasons, but the bengals have made the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 seasons.

4.  Colts: Chuck Pagano, he was the DC for the Ravens prior to the HC job in Indy, and was a coach in the NFL for 5-6 prior seasons.  His team was 11-5 in his first and second seasons.

5.  Broncos: John Fox, he was the DC for the Giants, and then the HC for the Panthers.  In only his second season the Panthers made it to the superbowl, and despite his worst season being 7-9 he was fired, to be hired by the Broncos and make the playoffs all 3 years.

6. Saints: Sean Payton, he was the OC for the Giants and Cowboys before being hired by the Saints.  In his first year the Saints made the playoffs.

7. Seahawks: Pete Carroll, he was first a DC for the Jets, then their head coach for one year, before again becoming a DC and then the HC of the patriots, where they made the playoffs his first 2 years.  He then returned after coaching USC to again become a HC and the Seahawks have made the playoffs in 3 of his 4 years, making that 5 of the last 7 seasons he has coached an NFL team.

8.  Packers: Mike McCarthy, he was the OC for the Saints and 49ers prior, and his team went 13-3 in his second year.  They have been under .500 once and have made 6 of 8 playoffs.

9. Falcons: Mike Smith, he was the DC for the Jaguars prior, and in his first season the Falcons made the playoffs.  Their WORST record under him prior to this season was 9-7.

10. Texans: The Former Gary Kubiak, while Kubiak has been fired, he did collapse on the field this year in his defense.  Kubiak was the Broncos OC prior to this job, and after a 6-10 season had only one season below .500 in the next 6.  He is probably the weakest coach in this list, and yet, still better than what we have had by far.

11. Ravens: John Harbaugh, he was the Special teams coach for Phily prior to his head coaching job, and was for almost a decade.  The Ravens made the playoffs in his first 5 seasons, this season being the first they havent.


So, in this list we see a pattern emerge.  EVERY successful coach in the NFL right now(under my definition of playoffs in 2 of the last 3 season)had previous NFL experience.  Every coach except the Harbaugh brothers had been an Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, or head coach somewhere.  Every coach had made the playoffs by their second season.  NONE of the coaches came straight from college, without NFL experience, none except Harbaugh came as a position coach.  None had been a miserable failure of a head coach, or taking years off from coaching.  Almost all were hired as head coach as a natural promotion from their current coordinator position.  The Redskins previous coach hires failed in almost all of these.  They didnt have NFL experience, were promoted too high, or were called back to the game after having taken years off.


In the end, if we take the time to look at history and the successful teams around, I personally think its very clear that we dont need to reinvent the wheel.  We dont need to do anything crazy, we dont need to hire someone nobody has heard of, or someone EVERYONE has heard of(Cowher), we really need to just follow the great teams, find a great defensive or offensive coordinator in the NFL, and hire them, and if they dont turn out by the end of the second year, fire them and move on.  So no, I dont think Art Briles is the answer for the Redskins, I think someone like Mike Zimmer is.

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