Gridiron Rant: Is Changing Your Football Coach Always the Solution?

Giants stun Pats - Tom Coughlin gets wet

Giants stun Pats – Tom Coughlin gets wet (Photo credit: jwinfred)

We see this every year in both college and professional football. The team underperforms and it becomes time for a new coach. The days of the “five-year plan” are no more. But is this change a good thing?

Let’s look at the Jacksonville Jaguars for example. Tom Coughlin was the team’s first coach. After a very quick rise to the top that saw the Jags make the playoffs in only their second season and come within a play or two of playing in the Super Bowl on a couple of occasions, the team started to slip a bit. So Coughlin took the blame and was run out of town.

Since leaving Jacksonville, Coughlin has gone on to lead the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships, while the Jaguars are now on their third head coach. In fact, the Jags’ quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, is in his third season and has played for all three. Predictably, he has struggled while other young QBs drafted at the same time or later have flourished. No wonder, considering every year he has had to learn a new offense with new terminology and a new playbook.

The Giants threatened to can Coughlin on several occasions, yet decided against it and have been rewarded with two Super Bowl Championships. Would Jacksonville have a Super Bowl or two had they kept Coughlin? We’ll never know for sure, but we do know he is capable given the right support.

So where is Jacksonville now? They are looking down the barrel at a third straight last place finish in the AFC South. There are rookies all over the starting lineup, including three in the secondary and two at wide receiver. Their best receiver is suspended for the first four games and their best running back is coming off a season during which he grabbed more pounds than carries. Are these problems that can be blamed on the new head coach? They shouldn’t be. But apparently similar problems were blamed on Mike Mularkey when he coached them for one season.

College football is no better. In fact, it may be even worse. Only in college football can a coach be on shaky ground after going 11-1 in his second season.

Orange and Blue Debut Spring Scrimmage Florida...

Orange and Blue Debut Spring Scrimmage Florida Gators April 9, 2011, (74 of 122) (Photo credit: photo-gator)

But at the University of Florida, no coach who loses to the University of Georgia has the least bit of job security. When Will Muschamp took over the Gators job, they had beaten the Bulldogs 18 times in 21 years. Now Muschamp is 0-2 against them. If he goes 0-3, the natives could get restless.

You say that’s ridiculous, yet there is no way a guy who nearly played for the national championship in his second season could be in hot water only a year later. I say ask Gene Chizik about that. He won the national championship at the Auburn University in 2011. In 2013, he was out of a job. The University of Tennessee canned Phil Fulmer after years of being in contention in the SEC. They are now on their third coach in five years and have one SEC win in the each of the last two seasons. Was getting rid of Fulmer a good idea?

A couple of years ago, Georgia fans wanted to run Mark Richt out of town. Now after two straight wins over Florida and a near BCS title last season, he is their golden boy. But the truth was, even before the  last two seasons, Richt had been doing a very good job compared to their previous coaches. Luckily for UGA, cooler heads prevailed.

This is not to say that in every situation sticking with a coach is the right answer. Sometimes a change has to be made. But it should be done as a last resort. Because the truth is that the new coach might be far worse.  It’s like that old saying, “be careful what you wish for… you might get it.”

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