A Cautionary Tale of Coaching Changes
The narrative is always the same, particularly from fans.
"Fire the head coach, that'll fix everything."
I admit, when I hear that kind of chatter, I usually come away grateful that person isn't really in charge of making crucial business decisions.
Coaching a team takes time. Finding the right person to fill that role also takes time.
And that's not just in the NFL or a major sports entity. It's the same in any business. The idea that a simple, knee-jerk reaction to a situation is remarkably going to make things better is illogical at best.
This morning, there appears to be more and more chatter surrounding the uncertain future of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Seems there are some within the organization who believe that owner Art Rooney should step in and fire Tomlin following the chain of events on the field which led to the Steelers losing at home in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For the record, Tomlin has just finished his 11th season as coach of the Steelers. Between regular season and playoff games, Tomlin has a record of 124-67, to go along with two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl championship in 2007.
But there have been a number of tumultuous postseason losses, particularly of late, including this past weekend, also to the likes of the Patriots, Broncos and Ravens.
I understand the idea that sometimes the message gets lost in the locker room. It happened in Denver once the relationship between coach and player begins to sour like it did in 2008 with Mike Shanahan, or as it appeared to flounder in San Diego following the exit of Marty Schottenheimer in 2006.
But let's study the Chargers for a moment. Schottenheimer was fired by team president Dean Spanos after a 14-2 regular season record still found the Chargers falling short of expectations, losing a home playoff game to the New England Patriots 24-21.
Schottenheimer's relationship with team management had been under scrutiny for some time, not just with Spanos, but also with general manager A.J. Smith.
The Chargers replaced Schottenheimer with Norv Turner, who guided the team to three consecutive division titles, yet their postseason bids ended exactly the same, with an early exit before Tunrer was eventually shown the door following the 2012 season.
I've long maintained that Schottenheimer will go down in the annals of history as one of the finest coaches the league has ever known. And while expectations don't always match up with realities, neither Tomlin nor Schottenhiemer are the sole reasons why a team -- or a business -- doesn't become the preeminent "top dog" in any industry.
This doesn't just apply to Tomlin. The same can be said to anyone calling for the firing of a coach who is still learning on the job, still assuming his spot as the face of the franchise. The idea that simply hiring and firing people with the same regularity with which some people change socks is illogical at best and dangerous to the stability for anyone involved with that business.
Are Steelers fans wrong to be disappointed? Absolutely not. But your disappointment as a fan should never come with such a pricetag so high that a man loses his job. That same mentality would only apply to those who think that because your favorite song doesn't come up right away on a jukebox justifies your decision to smash the machine to pieces.
Ask the Chargers organization how many Super Bowls they've been to since the firing of Schottenheimer.
I'll save you the time in which you'd need to check Google. The answer is zero.
Tomlin may need to make changes to the structure of the assistant coaches under him. Sometimes, a little shakeup is necessary. Look at how many times the Patriots have gone through assistant coaches or players on the field, and year after year, one thing remains constant.
Yes, winning championships makes things easy. But there can only be one at a time, and if the preferred business model is to be that unless you win a title your job is on the line, I can think of more than two dozen current coaches going into this weekend who should feel pretty unsafe about things.
Firing Tomlin would be an enormous mistake. Let's see if cooler heads prevail.