The Unique Job Of Coaching

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard 

Being a head coach in any professional sport (or major collegiate one) is a tough task. Well paying but still tough task. It’s tough for a laundry list of reasons but one that people do not give a lot of thought to is the speculation that you will lose your tough job sooner rather than later.

Coaches

In the NFL, Jim Harbaugh and Rex Ryan seem to be the odds on favorite to lose their jobs at the end of the year. Fair or unfair the media, fans and general discourse have already made the decision for their employer.

Is this right? No. Is it unfair? Yes. Would you want your employer to do the same thing to you? Probably not.

However coaching is not like your job. It is not (or at least probably not) like your current position where every decision you make is scrutinized in real time. Where hundreds of millions of dollars rest on your decision, broadcast in HD and meticulously reviewed by pundits the morning after.

Can you imagine your job and your families future being influenced by pundits, 24 news, social media and the Internet? No wonder these folks are being paid so much.

It’s not an easy job but one that is coveted across the board for whatever reason.

A Not So Silly Season

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Over the last two years this time of year has been a proverbial revolving door when it comes to head coaches in college football. This year, not so much. The main reason is that nearly all of the major college football programs have hired a new coach within the last three years.

Look at the major college football conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and Sec. After the 2012 and 2013 seasons there was a total of 24 coaching changes. Between those five conferences this year there will be three coaching changes (give or take).

This is the first time since 2006 that the SEC isn’t changing out a coach. The man who changed that in 2007, Nick Saban at Alabama.

Most people felt back in September that the two biggest job openings this year would be USC and Texas. USC has already been opened and filled. Lane Kiffin was fired (not surprisingly) by USC back at the end of September. He’s been replaced by Washington Head Coach and former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian.

Steve Sarkisian

The Texas job, as of this post, will open possibly by the end of the week if the reports are correct. This will be the biggest job out there by far with all of the resources, money and pressure one could want.

Next year could bring a back the typical ‘silly season’ but let’s hope, for the coaches and the fans, that it comes around as often as the World Cup because it can drive people, well, silly.

The NFL’s Black Monday

The NFL has there own version of the coaching carousel just like the collegiate ranks do. In the NFL though all of the firings seem to happen on the same day. That day is sometimes known as ‘Black Monday’ and it takes place the Monday right after the final regular season games. This year seven coaches got handed their walking papers which was almost a record. What did they all have in common? Not one Super Bowl win as a head coach.

Of the seven coaches (there were also five General Managers fired too) three of the coaches had led their teams to a Super Bowl but lost. All of them had been to a Super Bowl or won a Super Bowl as an assistant coach. This can be interpreted in manu different ways but the main one is that success as an assistant doesn’t always translate to success as a head coach in the NFL.

Some of the seven fired coaches have already interviewed for other head coaching positions in the league. No concern that the coach couldn’t win a Super Bowl during his last job but this is being done while there are at least four former Super Bowl winning coaches who have at least expressed some interest in returning to the sidelines.

Changing head coaches in the NFL and in the collegiate ranks doesn’t fit any other hiring or firing practices in business. Non compete’s go out the window, it’s highly doubtful that references are called and existing contracts are nearly completely neglected (except of course for the millions paid out for a coach to leave town). On the other hand most coaches, unlike their private sector counterparts, can see it coming a miles away.

While football doesn’t follow any of the normal business rules when it comes to hiring and firing it does pervert the hiring and firing process in other industries. Because it is such a public event people sometimes take this as a guide (right or wrong) of how   their company should go about making changes. Perhaps if the process was more transparent people would be more understanding of the unique nature of the coaching business. Then again, maybe not.

The Coach and the Microscope

All sports have a name for the leader of the team. The man or woman has been referred to as manager, skipper, and field general among others. One term comes out over and over again, coach.

While all leadership positions come under tremendous scrutiny, there are two that come under more scrutiny than the others;  President of the United States and Head Football Coach for an SEC team.

While America will vote for the next President in the very near future but the future is an uncertainty for two coaches in the SEC, Derek Dooley at Tennessee and Gene Chizik at Auburn. Both schools have a tradition of winning and a very vocal/loyal fan base.

Say what you may about their styles, game plans, and decision making skills but both have gotten to where they are because at some point they convinced someone that they were the right man for the job. Now comes a time in their lives and careers where they will receive a lot of negative attention. This will be felt by them, their staff’s, players and families.

On one of the major sports radio stations in Nashville, Tennessee this past Monday fans were calling in and literally throwing out names of other people they felt could or should be the next head coach at the University of Tennessee. Some logical but most ridiculous. One can only imagine what it would be like to be the person they are talking about replacing.

Coaching changes happen all the time in every sport. It goes with the territory. Changes at the top of any business happen with some frequency for that matter. What is rarely considered though, especially by a rabid fan base, is the emotions of the coach or their family. Can you imagine what it must be like for Coach Dooley’s wife or Gene Chizik’s kids to have to listen to the constant talk about their father losing his job?

Nowadays even contract information comes out. The Knoxville News Sentinel combed through the Tennessee coach and his assistants contracts in an effort to figure out how much it would take to get rid of everyone. The number is pretty big (Coach Chizik’s is even more). It’s also important to note that these are public universities and not professional football teams. Is all of this private money or will some of it have to come from the cash strapped states of Tennessee and Alabama?

While coaching changes are a way of life in the coaching profession one would hope that it would be handled with a little more class. A little more consideration. We’re talking about people’s jobs and their families lives. While none of these men or their staff’s will starve by any means it should give fans pause to know that these are real people and not some emotionless robot walking the sidelines. Their families shop at the same grocery store as the fans do and their kids attend the same schools. While on one level this is a business decision on another it’s matter of human decency.