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By Norman Chad

Monday, December 1, 2003; Page D02

Jim Fassel is the embodiment of the pitfalls of coaching in the NFL -- at any given time, you don't know if he's playoff-bound or unemployment-bound.

With an overheated sports world inflamed by talk radio and the Internet, Fassel's job security doesn't vary week to week, it varies New York minute to New York minute.

His post-defeat news conferences sometimes take on the trappings of the Sacco-Venzetti trial.

Who in their right mind -- Brian Billick obviously is qualified to answer this -- would want to be an NFL coach?

Heck, swallowing goldfish has better long-term prospects than coaching in the NFL.

Various ancient cultures sacrificed virgins; modern-day culture sacrifices NFL coaches.

Taking a head coaching job in the NFL is similar to taking the plunge with Drew Barrymore -- you'll have some kicks and you'll soak up the nightlife, but you should pack lightly and, eventually, you'll take a road trip from which you don't return.

Only five coaches have been with their teams for more than five years (Fassel, Jeff Fisher, Mike Shanahan, Dan Reeves, Bill Cowher) and just one -- the Steelers' Cowher -- has been in the same place for more than 10 seasons.

The average lifespan of an NFL coach is roughly equivalent to that of a grasshopper.

Even when you win, you lose. Tom Landry was run out of Dallas, where his record over 29 years was 270-178-6. Don Shula was run out of Miami, where his record over 26 years was 274-147-2.

You think Jack Del Rio stands a chance in Jacksonville?

On the bright side, many former coaches once exiled to used car dealerships now can call Bristol, Conn., home!

Here are some of the current NFL coaches closing in on TV work:

Dave Wannstedt, Dolphins: He keeps piling up victories, but ultimately, if you can't wear a headset or a bean cap in a proper fashion -- they always seem to sit askew on his noggin -- you can't win a Super Bowl.

Dick Jauron, Bears: He's forever classy and well-mannered and he's been dealt a lousy hand, but, the fact of the matter is, take away the Bears' magical 13-3 2001 season and Jauron's record is 20-40. It's hard to fire a Yale man, though.

Butch Davis, Browns: I'm not a Davis fan, so I don't know why I'm telling him this -- Butch, when you get whacked, if it's a Carmen Policy production, one moment you'll be shaking his hand and the next moment your parking spot will be in Lake Erie.

Dan Reeves, Falcons: The man is the sixth-winningest coach in NFL history and took the Falcons to their only Super Bowl, but Michael Vick's injury might send him to The Home Depot for a new set of house keys.

Steve Spurrier, Redskins: A lot of people think the old ballcoach will survive beyond this season, but remember -- he works for the uberowner, Daniel Snyder, who once fired a lawn service for cutting his grass horizontally rather than vertically.

Mike Holmgren, Seahawks: I consider him a friend and a colleague and, geez, some people consider him the second coming of Pop Warner, but if you're steering my Team of Destiny and can't hold a lead on the road, you'll have to answer to someone somewhere sometime soon.

Jim Haslett, Saints: Haslett reminds me of the auto mechanic who gives you a $200 estimate and a $2,000 bill and seems a bit irritated when he's explaining away the difference.

Marty Schottenheimer, Chargers: He's No. 9 on the NFL's all-time victory list. The Chargers seem intent on keeping him from reaching No. 8.

Gregg Williams, Bills: If Kevin Gilbride is your offensive coordinator, you either have a death wish or the '85 Bears defense.

Dave McGinnis, Cardinals: I'm not entirely sure coaching is Dave McGinnis's best path to career success.

Jim Fassel, Giants: If this guy's back were up against the wall any more, he'd be a flat-screen TV.

Ask The Slouch

Q. How long would the Hundred Years' War have lasted if the English had used a prevent defense? (Curtis Bare; Charlottesville)

A. Actually, the key to that conflict was that the English had no answer for Joan of Arc. Or, as Henry VI told Fox News at the time, "You can't stop Joan of Arc, you can only hope to contain the voices in her head."

Q. Tiger Woods has decided to get hitched. Will marriage help or hurt his golf game? (John Vernon; Hayward, Calif.)

A. I was about to get my first PGA Tour card when I got engaged in spring 1984. Nowadays, I clean out the water hazards on Course No. 3 at the Putt-Putt in Rockville.

Q. Did you watch the Lawrence Taylor interview on "60 Minutes"? (Philip Ayres; Baytown, Tex.)

A. Heck, I lived that life myself -- L.T. wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know.

Q. Speaking of bowls, did you purchase the one you use to give yourself a haircut over the counter or are they special order? (Jim Schoenike; Oconomowoc, Wis.)

A. It's not a bowl, it's a colander.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. E-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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