One of my favorite lines of the show Mad Men to happen this year was when Dr. Faye Miller, played by Cara Buono, tells Don Draper, "She hopes his fiancée knows he only likes 'the beginnings of things.'"
What is scary is that most NFL teams only like new beginnings, and based on the amount of coaching openings expected, there might not be enough qualified candidates to begin anew.
Just some 24 months ago, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett were the hottest coaching candidates in the league. Jim Mora was the bright shining star headed to his hometown in Seattle, as he settled into a job he was promised when Mike Holmgren eventually left. Now, McDaniels is out of work, Garrett is barely holding on to his interim job and Mora is my partner at the NFL Network.
Dallas' search ongoing
One bad movie would never scare a studio away from a hot Hollywood star, and if a successful television star had one flop and was let go by a network, another network would swoop in and hire them immediately.
In the NFL, however, where opinions of other teams actually matter in the hiring process (which is ridiculous), they went from hot to cold fast. Perception does not always meet reality.
Like players, some coaches are not the right fit and can look much better when they are in an organization that benefits their skill set and allows them to do what they do best.
Henry Kissinger said in his memoirs about working in Washington, "that you must rely on the intellectual stimulation you bring to the job and you cannot renew it while you are there."
Being a head coach is like working in Washington and most coaches are better the second and third year on the job than when they started, but unfortunately if they don't start fast, they don't make it until their best years.
When Bill Polian was first hired as the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, he inherited Hank Bullough as his head coach. Prior to being a head coach, Bullough had been a top coordinator in the league, but he was a disaster as a head coach, and when Polian fired him in the middle of the season and brought in Marv Levy, everyone then in the league thought he was crazy.
Had anyone done the research, however, they would have known that Levy had the Chiefs on the right track in his prior job, but the strike ruined the chemistry in his locker room. He subsequently had a bad year, which led to his firing. Polian knew the circumstances involved, knew that Levy was good in his first job and would be even better the second time around, and did not hesitate with his decision. He was not looking for new beginnings, but rather the right coach to fit his needs.
On Monday night while working on NFL Total Access, Paul Burmeister asked who were the hot assistant coaches in the league right now. When going through the list of the top coordinators in the league right now, though, no name jumped out and there was not many potential head-coaching candidates. Yes, there are a few that deserve an interview, but just because they are fresh names does not mean they deserve to be hired.
If Mora was hot two years ago, what did he do in one year with a lousy roster that should keep teams from hiring him again? His biggest mistake was not telling everyone, including his general manager, that the team's talent level was poor and it needed to rebuild.
The reason the Cowboys are losing now is due in large part to bad self scouting and misjudging their own talent level. It has nothing to do with Garrett's coaching inexperience. In fact, Garrett has proved he is ready, and if any team is paying attention, he should be hotter now than he was two years ago.
The same can be said about McDaniels. He can make the quarterback play at a level beyond description, and proved that in Denver with Kyle Orton. Why would he not be hot again? I could understand a team not wanting to give him complete control, but why not bring him on as a coach without front office responsibilities? Really, his star has not fallen that far.
New beginnings are good for teams that want to be patient and allow their new coach to grow. But instead of trying new beginnings, teams might want to examine the hiring process of the Steelers before making a decision.
The Steelers don't change coaches after one bad year, because they hire a coach who fits their organization. They treat the hiring process much like they do the drafting process, they know what they want in their leader, they know the qualities they need and they identify coaches who fit those characteristics. And most of all, they have an organization that helps the young coach grow into the job.
But not all teams are like the Steelers, so when those teams hire a new coach, they start a new beginning and are not ready for the tough times or the bumps in the road. All teams should clearly identify what they need in their next coach, not just from a scheme standpoint, but also from a leadership standpoint.
They should also refrain from limiting their list to fresh coaches and keep an open mind. Don't try to win the press conference with a perceived popular choice, but rather get the right man who can win games. Most of all, what was hot a few years ago, has still not necessarily lost its shine.