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Reporting on the problems you cause: Media and "Coaching Carousel"

The NFL has colloquially become known as N.ot F.or as the terms of coaches and players with their respective teams has shrunk annually. In this age of instant gratification and over analysis (of which I am an admitted part of the problem) it is near impossible for coaches to retain tenure through even modest failure.

What drives that? You, partially. The Internet has created an army of super-informed fanatic fans that demand nothing short of excellence. Often times this demand for new management can reach epic, monumentally hysterical proportions. As an example, here is a poll from Stampede Blue as recently as December where Fire Tony Dungy (soon coaching in the Super Bowl) was the 2nd most popular option among the admittedly small sampling size of the poll. But how could 33% of any sampling really think that Tony Dungy needed to be fired? At what point this season would that assessment ever have been justified?

Anyways, fans can be crazy. But I don't think we're the main culprit here as NFL Coaches are fairly insulated from the likes of us. The "pressure to win" comes from somewhere, and I'll cowardly lay blame on the "Media" as it is a popular whipping boy that cannot defend itself. I kid because I don't want to jump on that bandwagon just yet, but often times articles are printed that set the bar so high, or benightedly ignore fairly recent success, that we now all take it for granted that coaches are gone if they cannot produce Superbowls immediately.

Case in point is this Newsday article.

And this was supposed to be a quiet year for coaching turnover? On the heels of a whopping 10 coaching changes coming into the 2006 season, we've already seen five coaching changes this year. And that doesn't include Bill Parcells, who still is undecided about whether to stay on in Dallas. But if you think next year will be any quieter, you'll be in for a surprise.
You almost get a sense that this guy is lamenting the fact he's about to "report". Actually, he's part of the story.

Repetition of a narrative makes it conventional wisdom, and Bob Glauber has no problem repeating stories that I find ridiculous. He lists eight coaches who are "in the hot seat" next season. This list includes three division winners from 2006, and of the 5 that didn't win their division this year, 2 of them won it in 2005 and only one of those coaches has failed to make the postseason the past two years.

My quick thoughts on those coaches, then on why I think some "rumors", "talks", or "coaching uncertainties" are best left unmentioned:

Tom Coughlin -- While a strong case could be made that he's "lost" the team, Coughlin took the Giants to the postseason two years in a row and won the division in 2005. The majority of teams in this league wish they were good enough to lose in the postseason twice in a row. I don't think Coughlin is a great motivating coach, but what more does he have to do?

Brian Billick -- "In the hot seat" because he led the Ravens to the 2nd best record in the league? Because of a postseason loss? What more does he have to do?

Marty Schottenheimer -- He who still says that the coaching job he was most proud of was his 8-8 run with the 'Skins just won his division and was 3 points away from a Conference Championship. What more does he have to do?

Bill Belichick -- To be fair, Glauber only mentions Belichick because of contractual reasons, but should we really doubt that Belichick will coach the Patriots for the forseeable future? Are expectations so high that "Dynasty" isn't good enough? What more does he have to do?

Romeo Crennel -- No comment. Hasn't done anything.

Jack Del Rio -- I don't think Jack Del Rio is the greatest coach in the world, but Jacksonville made the postseason last year and was one win out of the playoffs this year. What more does he have to do?

Jon Gruden -- Won a tough division in 2005 though experienced a premature exit thanks to the Redskins. Tampa Bay has won exactly two division championships, exactly one conference championship, and exactly one Superbowl. All under Jon Gruden. Are fans so deprived that we're willing to throw our coaches under the bus after one bad year out of 3? What more does he have to do?

Joe Gibbs -- I don't think Coach Gibbs is "in the hot seat" if we fail miserably next year; I think he might retire. Still, his contract runs through 2008 and if only to discourage the "Coaching Carousel" mentality I would support even a failing Joe Gibbs in 2008. He's done enough for this fan. I may be alone in that opinion and I respect the dissent. But if Joe Gibbs wants to Coach the 'Skins until his contract is up I support that.

Now, back to the thrust of the article. Coaches don't mysteriously find their way to a "hot seat"; buzz is generated about what they're "expected" to do by writers such as Bob Glauber. In turn, their weekly wins and losses and media fumbles and meltdowns are emphasized (or over emphasized) and analyzed consistent with the running narrative. Once this narrative is established there is virtually no way to escape it. For instance, Marty Schottenheimer would have to win the Superbowl as there was a narrative this year about his replacement and all he did was take the team to within a game of the AFC Championship. Anything short of a Superbowl and he's gone. And that's unreasonable.

I personally resent the Coaching Carousel and wish it would end. Expectations are ludicrous and often times confusing. The worst result are the One-And-Done coaches which isn't at all fair to those individuals. And while I admit, as a superfan and a Blogger, that I'm part of the problem, it wouldn't make sense for me to complain about that fact without recognizing my complicity in it. And sportswriters should also recognize that they're the cause of these narratives. And as each loss mounts someone will inevitably ask Coach X whether he thinks his time might be cut short, whether he is in the "hot seat" so to speak, and that's precisely the kind of "pressure" that leads people to early retirement or forces an owner's hand. There isn't anything enjoyable about a thankless job where your exploits last week are forgotten so quickly.

Nothing against Newsday, but I'm just of the opinion that fans and writers don't give Coaches as much slack as they deserve. Maybe I'm in the minority on this though. Reader(s)?