Over in the NBA, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers agreed to an interesting deal over the weekend, with Boston sending coach Doc Rivers to L.A. in exchange for a future first-round draft pick, pending league approval. The situation is not unique, as the NFL has seen coaches get dealt. One example: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquiring Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders in 2002.
It begs the question: What would a top-tier NFL coach be worth via trade, in terms of draft picks?
Comes down to this: Would a team rather have Andrew Luck or Bill Belichick?I would put the value of a top-tier coach at two No. 1 picks (at least), plus something else. In fact, let's insert names and ask a new question: Would you rather have a young franchise quarterback like Andrew Luck, or Bill Belichick?
Both would increase the value of the surrounding team. Luck went to the playoffs last season with a team that won two games the year prior. Belichick won 11 games with Matt Cassel, a quarterback who had not started since high school and had seen only a portion of training camp as a starter.
Personally, I would pass on the star quarterback and take the top-tier coach -- someone like Belichick, Tom Coughlin or Mike Shanahan, to name a few. With the salary cap inching up by small amounts each year, the value of an excellent coach only increases.
Coaches certainly matter, but they aren't as valuable as playersTo land a top-tier coach in a trade, I believe a team would need to offer at least a second-round pick to get it done. When you think about the importance of having a great leader in the locker room, I think it amounts to a draft value that represents a potential starter. In most draft rooms across the NFL, second-rounders are viewed as potential starters, so that would be the starting point for the trade, in my mind.
While some would argue that a great coach is worth a blue-chip pick, I would be hesitant to give up a first-round selection for a coach, despite his pedigree. Coaches certainly matter, but ultimately, the game is won by players -- blue-chip players.
Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh are the only coaches worth a high first-round pickA great coach is worth more than a very good player. A great coach -- like Bill Belichick -- is not worth more than a truly elite quarterback.
Let's break it down further: Is Belichick worth more than a premier pass rusher? I believe the respective values would be very similar. A top pass rusher like Jason Pierre-Paul would cost a high first-round pick, plus a big contract and more picks. That's fair value for a truly elite coach, but Belichick and Jim Harbaugh would be the only two current coaches worth that much.
Multiple first-round and second-round picks not out of the question for the right coachAfter recently seeing the Chicago Bears deal their top pick from 2011 (Gabe Carimi) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick, you can see that the value of a first-rounder is often overstated. Free agency hasn't rendered the first-round pick useless, but it's certainly a bit overrated in terms of team building. Teams don't wait four or five years to allow first-round picks to pan out like they did in the 1970s and '80s. Thus, getting a premium front man for your franchise should cost at least two top choices, with either cash or some mid-rounders thrown in, too.
Put another way: What would fans of the Kansas City Chiefs or Cleveland Browns have given up to acquire Bill Belichick this offseason? Is two first-round picks, two seconds and some cash out of the question? To me, that's a fair deal to get your football team on the right path. Maybe Belichick is too senior at this point. After all, Jon Gruden was only 38 when Tampa Bay traded precisely that aforementioned package to the Raiders.
If I ran a team, I would offer two first-round picks (not in successive years) and contingent picks based on finish, much like player trades. The money aspect would be simply to take over that coach's current salary and pay the prorated amount of any bonus he received in his original deal. Otherwise, why not just hire someone new?
Jon Gruden's price was STEEP, but Sean Payton and Harbaughs might net that muchThe Buccaneers set the market when they gave the Raiders two first-round and two second-round picks -- along with $8 million in cash -- in exchange for Jon Gruden. The only current coaches I could see commanding close to that much would be Sean Payton and the Harbaugh brothers. Who knows, maybe Jerry Jones will give it a shot if Jason Garrett can't get the Dallas Cowboys to the Super Bowl.
I would like to see head coaches on the hot seat or with expiring contracts get traded away. Wouldn't you like to see the New York Jets deal away Rex Ryan in the final year of his contract to a defensive coordinator-needy team like the Cowboys or New Orleans Saints? I could see the Saints sending over a sixth-round pick for Rex to come in and help his brother Rob rework the team's defense.
Mike Tomlin definitely worth a first-round pick, would be perfect man to rescue JetsThere's not much I wouldn't do to land Mike Tomlin as my head coach. A first-round pick? Sign me up. A top-10 pick? I'll do that, too. The reason I like him so much is he's the best blend of new- and old-school coaching philosophies in the game, by far. You've never heard one bad word about him from his current or ex-players, have you? Steering the ship through controversies involving Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes and others? No sweat. Three 12-win seasons -- with two Super Bowl trips -- out of the past five tell you all you need to know about succeeding while handling adversity.
Tomlin's been able to maintain a level of success through player turnover that's so good, an 8-8 record (like last season) feels like 4-12. Don't get me wrong, I love the fresh blood of Jim Harbaugh, but let me see a track record more than a couple years long before I trade a potential franchise player for the coach's services. It's absolutely ridiculous that there's already a media/fan groundswell claiming 2013 is an important one for Tomlin in Pittsburgh. I get that this is what happens when you set the bar so high, but one mediocre -- and not even a bad -- season puts you on notice? Wow. But if that's true? Hey, I'm happy. My Jets might not have to trade a first-round pick to get him in the offseason. Try this headline on for size: "TOMLIN MOVES INTO NEW HOUSE WITH JETS."