There are 192 reviews of the NFL on Glassdoor, a popular job review site. One is titled “The Greatest Old Boys Club on Earth”, penned by a former league employee in California. The poster writes that “the organization has every imaginable flaw that results from too much bureaucracy alongside the deepest of old boys club mentalities”.
This “mentality” that the former employee points out is most conspicuous in the league’s head coaching carousel. Year after year, NFL pundits mention familiar names vying for vacant positions. Ultimately, these old familiar coaches become new coaches of different teams.
It follows a cycle. A head coach gets fired, he latches on as a coordinator with a new team, his new team has success, a head coaching spot opens up when the season ends, teams pursue him, and, finally, he is hired again as a head coach.
Currently, there are eight head coaches that previously worked for another team in the same capacity. Here’s the question, though — are teams honestly convinced that these coaches have changed? After all, there’s a reason they were fired in the first place.
Once upon a time, Pat Shurmur was fired by Cleveland after compiling a 9-23 record in two seasons. During the offseason, he joined Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. When Kelly was fired at the tail end of his third season, Shurmur took over as the interim head coach for one game.
Then, the Vikings hired him as their tight ends coach. Three months into the season, they promoted him to offensive coordinator. In 2017, his Case Keenum-led offense took the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. Finally, this past January, the Giants hired him as their new head coach.
In 2011, Raiders head coach Hue Jackson guided the team to a 7-4 start. They would only win one game the rest of the season, missing the playoffs at 8-8. Jackson was fired, only to be picked up as special teams coach of the Bengals. After a promotion to offensive coordinator, he lasted just two more seasons before being snatched up by the Cleveland Browns.
In 2013, Doug Marrone left his post at Syracuse to take over as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Just before the new year in 2015, Marrone quit after producing a mediocre 15-17 record with the team. Jacksonville quickly scooped him up as an assistant head coach. After Gus Bradley was fired, he took over as their new head coach.
It seems that NFL teams prefer experience over aptitude. Once a head coach, always a head coach. A firing from the position just means paying dues in a reduced role before being back in the spotlight again.
This, of course, poses a problem. Recycled coaches act as road blocks for young, hungry, aspiring head coaches. No doubt, some recycled coaches (i.e. Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick) have success in a new environment.
What do you think? Comment below.
Want More Underdog Stories?
Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for a bite-sized rundown of the best underdog stories in sports!Subscribe Now