By Julie Buehler
I’ve been watching the NFL with an analytical eye for more than a decade now and I can’t remember a time in which there have been so many talented teams so woefully underperforming. And it’s because coaches aren’t given enough time to install a system, earn buy-in and change a franchise.
I don’t know much of what I want to know, but what I do know, I’ve learned well.
I know patience is a virtue. I know ego is a vice.
I know good men are hard to find. But I know they’re easy to spot.
And I know the only thing tougher to find than NFL franchise quarterback is a franchise head coach.
Few professions on the planet endure a spectrum of public approval that slides from Carolina-Reaper-hot one week to polar-ice-cap-cold the next.
Few professions are blamed, scorned and held accountable for the flukes of life like a football coach.
And the NFL is full of good coaches who are in bad situations.
So to fire or not to fire?
I predicted Joe Philbin would get the ax in Miami. The team was clearly out of ideas and loaded with talent that should have fostered creativity.
But the Colts proved against the Pats, they have, um, unique ideas, it’s execution that’s the problem.
The Colts are a good team that looks really bad. There are whispers of organizational infighting, and shouts calling for head coach Chuck Pagano’s job.
It’s true the team is underperforming but Pagano has 3 playoff wins. That’s 3 more than Marvin Lewis who’s been the head coach of the 6-0 Cincinnati Bengals.
Pagano and his team have advanced a round further in each round of the playoffs each year since he’s been the head coach.
Think that’s something to pull the plug on?
I’m not saying Pagano is a great head coach or in the ranks of a Bill Belichick, but don’t forget, Belichick was punted from Cleveland just as they were gaining momentum and the franchise never recovered. Meanwhile, his next stop, New England, well, they’ve enjoyed the fruits of Cleveland’s labors in sculpting the lessons an NFL head coach needs to learn.
It’s easy to look around the NFL, see the Dan Campbell Experiment and conclude the Colts need a new head coach. But Campbell is just that, an experiment. The Dolphins are a talented team, they needed a firecracker to light that franchise, but long-term solutions are harder to find than firecrackers. .
If the Colts fire Pagano, they’re more likely to find themselves in the same boat as the 49ers. And the Jim Tomsula Experiment is a disaster.
Still think the Colts should move on?
Look at the Texans.
Gary Kubiak was punted from Houston, worked as an the offensive coordinator successfully in Baltimore and now has the Denver Broncos undefeated as head coach.
Bill O’Brien worked for one season, now it’s a train wreck. Again, he served as a firecracker, but is now mishandling the Texans quarterback situation due to inexperience.
Andy Reid won in Philly, got fired, won in Kansas City as Chip Kelly won in Philly, now they’re both losing. So are they good head coaches or not?
Jay Gruden is terrible one week, awesome the next.
The Lions were a playoff team last year, this year, they have one win, is that Jim Caldwell’s fault?
Dan Quinn has the Falcons flying high while the Seahawks are barely getting off the ground without him.
The Bengals have stuck with Marvin Lewis. Now they’re undefeated.
The Cowboys stuck with Jason Garrett, went 13-3 last year and were sent home after a fluky play. Now Romo is out and they’re getting beat by former Cowboys like Dwayne Harris.
Each situation is different, but generally speaking, firing a head coach based on a week-by-week analysis is going to lead to the kind of temperamental environment no team can win in. No matter how good the talent is on the field or in the coaching staff.
Julie Buehler hosted the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day for 3 years, but now she can be exclusively seen on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in to KMIR’s nightly news or KMIR.com for her sports reports.