As like any job, you have to bide your time before moving up the next step of the corporate ladder in an attempt to reach your end goal. While the pay scales are vastly inflated, the same can be said about the NFL world of coaching.
The coaching carousel is truly just that. More so, it’s a recycling process for a majority of coaches. They bounce around from team to team year after year as if their future employer(s) could care less about their past failures. The spotlight may have been too much. They may have not been ready to lead a group of 53 men into the battle-type grounds of the league. They didn’t see eye to eye with the front office. Whatever unfolded throughout their tenure doesn’t really matter within the coaching ring because their respective niche skill sets are a hot commodity.
In further regard, there are generally two avenues in which a coach arrives at the helm: previous college head coach or some position within the NFL, either as a coordinator or head coach. It’s the great debate that comes up every year when the coaching free agency is in full flux on the profession’s “Black Monday”: where should the organizations deviate their attention to when selecting the team’s next head coach?
The collegiate path to the NFL has worked for few, mainly those in the last five years with Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh and Chip Kelly not facing any speed bumps in their transition. (Before he built his dynasty at Southern Cal, Carroll served as the head coach with both the New York Jets in 1994, compiling a 6-10 record, and the New England Patriots from 1997-99, compiling a 27-21 record.) Yet, it has failed far more, centered around the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s Nick Saban‘s brutal experiment with the Miami Dolphins.
Coordinator positions are the next stop for franchises to tab their next leader with mixed results across the board. There’s one train of thought in which a coordinator’s value is exaggerated because of his cast on the field while other signal callers stand out because they are able to maximize their players’ potential immensely, no matter the baseline talent of the roster. All the while, they still have not proven themselves at the mecca of the profession.
After less-than-satisfying seasons under Mike Sherman, the Green Bay Packers were left with an ever-pressing problem with Brett Favre‘s wick beginning to burn out and no head coach, begging the aforementioned question. Enter Mike McCarthy. When general manager Ted Thompson hired the San Francisco 49ers‘ offensive coordinator in 2006, it was a surprise to say the least. Like many other coordinators who have gone on to become head coaches, he had no experience at the top.
Sure, he led a potent offense with the New Orleans Saints, thanks to the play of Aaron Brooks, Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn. But, his last season in San Francisco didn’t make the splash that should have vaulted him to be offered one of the most historic jobs in the entire NFL, as their offense finished last in the league in points scored and total yards.
His overall body of work, especially at the quarterback position with his West Coast philosophy, seemed like a no-brainer after the fact, and that’s still true eight seasons later.
While some grumble about his questionable play calling and supposed lack of care about the defensive side of the ball, McCarthy has put Green Bay back on the map, getting to two NFC Championships and bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown in 2011. In the process, he became the franchise’s third most-winningest coach and has guided the offense to nothing less than a top-10 finish in all but one of his seasons.
There’s still work to be done for the Packers, but the bright mind from Pittsburgh has proven he’s the man for the job with never being previously in charge, tacking up another diamond-in-the-rough find for Thompson with minimal proven success.