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Across The Middle: Next Coach Needs To Be A Winner

| December 27th, 2017

When the Bears hire their next coach, they better make sure he knows what it takes to win.

When looking at the 10 active head coaches with the highest winning percentage and 10 who lasted three years or fewer in their head coaching stints, the difference was clear. Of the 10 coaches with the highest winning percentages:

  • 7 had won at least 20 more games than they lost prior to taking their current jobs.
  • 9 had major championship game experience.
  • 9 won championships at some point in their lives.

Out of the 10 coaches who flamed out quickly, the best had won 14 more games than he lost and only two had previously won Super Bowls.

Two coaches that make this study a bit more inexact are Pete Carroll and Andy Reid. Carroll had six years as a defensive coordinator, going 49-47 and he was 33-31 as an NFL head coach prior to coming to Seattle. But his work at USC was exemplary, going 97-19 with two championships. Reid is the only coach in the top 10 who had no experience as a coordinator, but he was part of the great Green Bay Packers teams of the mid 90s, where he won a Super Bowl. Any way you slice it, you’re looking at two coaches who had quite a bit of success before they hit it big with their current teams.

Five of the current coaches — Bill Belichick, Ron Rivera, Bruce Arians, Reid and Carroll — were plus-20 in wins as assistants and won Super Bowls. Two — Mike Tomlin and Mike Zimmer — won Super Bowl rings as assistants (neither were coordinators when they won), but did not finish their careers as assistants at plus-20 in terms of wins. Two others, John Harbaugh and Sean Payton were plus-20, but didn’t have Super Bowl rings. The only coach with neither is Mike McCarthy.

So, what does this mean going forward?

• Five candidates for head coaching openings are both plus-20 in wins and have Super Bowl rings including Darrell Bevell, Pete Carmichael, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia.

• Others who were plus-20 with championship game experience are Todd Haley and Dave Toub.

• Matt Nagy is plus-20 in his time as a position coach and coordinator, but has never appeared in a Super Bowl.

• Three others have won Super Bowls, but don’t have a win-loss record of plus-20: Dennis Allen, Teryl Austin and Frank Reich.

• Candidates who don’t have the wins or the ring include: Pat Shurmur, John DeFilippo, Jim Schwartz and Matt LaFleur.

What’s interesting about this crop of candidates is that three — McDaniels, Allen and Shurmur — were all a part of the 10 coaches who lasted fewer than three seasons. McDaniels would’ve checked all of the boxes before his first gig, although his Super Bowl rings came as a position coach before, not as a coordinator. Allen had only one year of experience as a coordinator and of the 10 coaches with the highest winning percentages only two (Tomlin and Reid) had one year or less as coordinators.

Haley is an interesting name, but he hasn’t gotten a sniff after being fired from Kansas City. Other legal issues are certainly part of the reason.

Shurmur, DeFilippo and LaFleur seem to be hot names right now, but none of them check any of the boxes. This is the first time Shurmur has been in charge of a top-10 offense, LaFleur has bounced around with a lot of success, but has never been in charge of an offense and this is just the second time DeFilippo has been a part of a winning team.

Of course, before we completely cross them off, we must consider Mike McCarthy, a coach who had never been a part of a Super Bowl team and hadn’t been a part of many winning teams as a coordinator, but has the third highest active winning percentage and, of course, a Super Bowl ring. Although, if you go back to McCarthy’s time as a position coach, he was plus-24, coaching quarterbacks at the end of Marty Schottenheimer’s run in Kansas City.

There are several factors when choosing a coach. You can’t just jot down a few things on paper, but most of the great head coaches have come from winning teams and there’s something to be said about knowing how to get the job done.

Rap Offering Clues?

I don’t think Ian Rapoport intended to give anything away in his report Sunday morning when he said President/CEO Ted Phillips was calling about the availability of coaches, but it may have been a huge bomb, just not for the reasons many are thinking.

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Phillips isn’t hiring the next coach and nobody — not even Rapoport — is reporting that he is. But why is he making calls? Dan Bernstein later reported that the Bears are just following protocol and Phillips is just checking on the “contractual eligibility of possible hires currently employed elsewhere in the league” but, ummm…all of the coordinators are contractually eligible. It would be Pace’s job to call them. The same is true with college coaches, if Pace wants one, he can make the call. Phillips wouldn’t be involved in either scenario.

It doesn’t add up.

Within minutes of reporting that the Bears had begun reaching out, Rapoport reported that the Panthers were trying to lock up Ron Rivera with an extension so that other team — specifically the Bears — wouldn’t try to steal him.

The clear conclusion to draw here is that the Bears called the Panthers about Chico. The Panthers don’t want to let him go, but with ownership in the air and an interim GM, the former Bears player and defensive coordinator may not want to stay. And the Bears are trying to find out.

The only other conclusion — which I think is a bit more far-fetched — is that Phillips is going behind Pace’s back to see if any of the top candidates would want roster control. Pace isn’t going to hire somebody to take his primary responsibility away, but the Bears may not be willing to let a good candidate get away just to keep Pace happy. It could be that the McCaskey family regrets allowing Nick Saban to leave in order to keep Jerry Angelo happy years ago.

In either scenario, Phillips would be acting on someone else’s behalf. My guess is that Pace has a relationship with Rivera, but Pace can’t call about his availability simply because that’s an ownership-level call. GMs talk to fellow GMs, they don’t talk to other owners.

We’ll know a lot more in less than a week, but my guess is that the Bears have heavy interest in bringing Rivera back.

Bring On Minnesota

The Vikings probably need to win to get a first round bye and, I guess, there’s no real reason to think they won’t, but I’m expecting the Bears to give them a game.

The players in the locker room really like John Fox and they know this is going to be his last game. I think they’ll play hard and keep the game close, but I’m just not sure the Bears have the talent to stick with the Vikings.

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