Time and time again, NFL coaches will find themselves on the hot seat when things start going poorly, and the losses start to pile up. However, the latest trend many have noticed is when a new coach takes over for an established predecessor who was fired, has a brief stint of success, only to find themselves clearly over their head by their second year, or shortly thereafter. It’s basically a scenario of: “I built this house, so please don’t mess it up when I leave.”
Let’s take a look at some of the recent coaches who were hired after successful coaching stints by legends either being fired, or electing to retire:
Ben McAdoo Replacing Tom Coughlin
The most recent firing in the league was NY Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who quickly fell out of favor with owner John Mara after the benching of two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning. Many former Giants were quick to chime in on social media about the poor way the coaching staff treated Manning, and this did not improve the prospects of McAdoo staying in charge for much longer.
Where did it all go wrong for a coach who led this Giants team to the playoffs in 2016? For starters, he lost his main wideout (Odell Beckham Jr.) to injury, and then the losses came faster than McAdoo could control. Tom Coughlin deserved a lot of the credit for McAdoo’s early success, since he had a major hand in drafting and developing the roster during his tenure in New York. McAdoo became another statistic of a coach who found early success, only to fall out of favor with the owner.
Jim Zorn Replacing Joe Gibbs
Did the Washington Redskins really think replacing Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs with a quarterback coach was going to work? For awhile, the answer was yes, as Jim Zorn led the Skins to a 6-2 start during the 2009 NFL season, only to finish at 8-8. The next year was an embarrassment, even for Dan Snyder-standards, as they ended up at 4-12, bottoming out in the NFC East.
The early success of Zorn was directly attributed to the team Joe Gibbs re-built, and he coasted to some early victories based on a similar strategy as his predecessor. This was surely one hiring the Redskins wanted to erase from their memory as quickly as possible.
Wade Phillips Replacing Bill Parcells
The Dallas Cowboys appeared to be moving in the right direction of getting back to a championship-caliber team after Bill Parcells’ tenure with the Cowboys ended and was replaced with a great coordinator in Wade Phillips. Phillips led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record in the 2007 season, followed by seasons of 9-7 (2008), 11-5 (2009), and the wheels finally coming off in 2010 with a 1-7 start, followed by Jerry Jones letting him go in Week nine.
Wade Phillips proved to Jerry Jones that he needed someone who wouldn’t be over his head in running his team, and Phillips went on to find future success back in his coordinator role.
Chip Kelly Replacing Andy Reid
Of all of the coaching moves made above, this one seemed like it had the best chance of working out. But alas, the Philadelphia Eagles let Andy Reid coach go after fifteen seasons at the helm. In comes Oregon’s offensive mastermind of a coach in Chip Kelly, who got the Eagles back on track with matching 10-6 records his first two seasons, only to fail during his third season with a 6-9 record before being let go.
Chip Kelly was able to hide behind a lot of his mistakes early on because of the rich depth of a roster Andy Reid had established. Once Kelly started trading away play-makers such as LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles in exchange for players that didn’t match his play-calling tendencies, he was essentially doomed.
Based on the situations described above for each of the NFC East teams, the owners for each franchise surely learned a valuable lesson about attempting to replace a legendary coach for an “experiment.” Buyers beware; not all that shimmers turns to gold.