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Reviewing NFL head coach hirings over the past 5 years for success trends

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Hoffman?Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Across the NFL, over the past five years, an astonishing 35 head coaches have been hired (and 16 of those fired), at a pace of seven vacancies filled per year. Several of those hirings (and firings) have happened with the same team - the Jets, Texans, and Broncos all lead the pack with three head coach hirings over that period.

In total, 23 of 32 teams in the league have turned over their head coaching job in that timeframe, including all of the teams in the NFC East, NFC South, and NFC North. The NFC West is the only division with fewer than two head coaching turnovers during the past five years (and with Pete Carroll’s transition this year, they will lose that distinction).

Below is a table of the full suite of NFL head coaching changes over the past five years.

NFL Head Coaching Turnover: 2019-2023

Name Team Year Hired Background Current Status W L T
Name Team Year Hired Background Current Status W L T
Jonathan Gannon Cardinals 2023 Eagles DC Employed 4 13
Frank Reich Panthers 2023 Colts HC/Eagles OC Fired 1 10
Sean Payton Broncos 2023 Saints HC Employed 8 9
DeMeco Ryans Texans 2023 49ers DC Employed 10 7
Shane Steichen Colts 2023 Eagles OC Employed 9 8
Lovie Smith Texans 2022 Texans DC Fired 3 13 1
Matt Eberflus Bears 2022 Colts DC Employed 10 24
Doug Pederson Jaguars 2022 Eagles HC Employed 18 16
Brian Daboll Giants 2022 Bills OC Employed 15 18 1
Kevin O'Connell Vikings 2022 Rams OC Employed 20 14
Mike McDaniel Dolphins 2022 49ers OC Employed 20 14
Nathaniel Hackett Broncos 2022 Packers OC Fired 4 11
Dennis Allen Saints 2022 Saints DC Employed 16 18
Josh McDaniels Raiders 2022 Patriots OC Fired 9 16
Todd Bowles Buccaneers 2022 Bucs DC Employed 17 17
Brandon Staley Chargers 2021 Rams DC Fired 24 24
Urban Meyer Jaguars 2021 College HC Fired 2 11
Nick Sirianni Eagles 2021 Colts OC Employed 34 17
Dan Campbell Lions 2021 Saints TE coach Employed 24 26 1
Arthur Smith Falcons 2021 Titans OC Fired 21 30
Robert Saleh Jets 2021 49ers DC Employed 18 33
David Culley Texans 2021 Ravens passing coord. Fired 4 13
Joe Judge Giants 2020 Patriots ST Fired 10 23
Mike McCarthy Cowboys 2020 Packers HC Employed 42 25
Matt Rhule Panthers 2020 College HC Fired 11 27
Ron Rivera Washington 2020 Panthers HC Fired 26 40 1
Kevin Stefanski Browns 2020 Vikings OC Employed 37 30
Kliff Kingsbury Cardinals 2019 College OC Fired 28 37 1
Zac Taylor Bengals 2019 Rams QB coach Employed 37 44 1
Freddie Kitchens Browns 2019 Browns OC Fired 6 10
Vic Fangio Broncos 2019 Bears DC Fired 19 30
Brian Flores Dolphins 2019 Patriots DC Fired 24 25
Adam Gase Jets 2019 Dolphins HC Fired 9 23
Bruce Arians Buccaneers 2019 Cardinals HC Retired 31 18
Matt LaFleur Packers 2019 Titans OC Employed 56 27

Examining Trends

This isn’t an enormous data set, so drawing sweeping conclusions from it can be a bit of a risk, but it can still be useful to try to identify trends or patterns that might be interesting to explore more fully at some point in the future.

In compiling the data, one thing jumped out to me immediately: The track record of coaches jumping from college to the NFL in recent years is wretched. Urban Meyer, Matt Rhule, and Kliff Kingsbury all failed miserably, with a combined record of 41-75-1 in their short stints in the NFL. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s very little discussion of college coaches filling any of the NFL head coaching vacancies this year. Collective NFL winning percentage: .353.

That said, even prior NFL head coaching success is no guarantee of future success. In total, seven of the coaches here were coming from previous NFL head coaching jobs. All of them - except Adam Gase - had winning records in their prior positions. Even so, Reich and Rivera bombed out. Gase, predictably, fell on his face as well. It’s really too early to say how Sean Payton’s tenure in Denver will play out. Collective NFL winning percentage: .489

But what about the question many Washington fans are asking themselves now: Do we want a former high end offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator as our next head coach? The results were actually quite a bit more stark than I had expected.

Among the former NFL offensive coordinators, their collective head coaching record is currently .542, the best - by a wide margin - of any group broken out for this exercise. Six of eleven of the former OCs had a winning record in their promotional role, and seven are still employed.

The former NFL defensive coordinators performed even more poorly than the NFL head coach “re-treads” did, with a collective winning percentage of .415. Only one (DeMeco Ryans) of ten of the former DCs had a winning record in their promotional role. Even so, six are still employed, despite a relative lack of success on the field.

I’ll be curious to hear from others if this information shapes their perspective on Washington’s next head coaching candidate at all. Please discuss in the comments below.

Poll

Which group would you like Washington’s next head coach to come from?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    The college coaching ranks.
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    A former NFL head coach.
    (14 votes)
  • 87%
    A current NFL OC.
    (554 votes)
  • 7%
    A current NFL DC.
    (48 votes)
  • 2%
    XFL re-tread.
    (17 votes)
636 votes total Vote Now