Jaguars HC Search: Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

Coaches like Mike Mularkey may not always have the best past statistics to make them great head coaches, yet he pulls it off..usually (just not in 2012).  Source: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As I look around at the Jacksonville Jaguars head coaching candidates, I keep trying to infer the possible success of the Jaguars based on the statistics of the coaches.  Do we rule out coaches that don’t have a top 10 defense or offense?  What do we do with special teams coaches?  Are we focusing on past head coaching experience?  What about passing offense, do we want to focus on that over the run?  These are all questions that run through my head whenever names like Jay Gruden, Mike McCoy, and Brian Schottenheimer are thrown out.  Despite having Greg Roman as the supposed “top candidate” we Jags fans are ultimately in the dark.  We simply don’t know if Caldwell wants a defensive coordinator, a special teams coordinator, or an offensive coordinator or whether that person has to have a track record of success.

Of course, names like Gruden, Roman, and McCoy do have a lot of success.  But does it really matter?  I was thinking about this as I watched the Green Bay Packers play the San Francisco 49ers.

Mike McCarthy is a fantastic head coach.  I’d put him up against Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin any day.  But before he was hired by Green Bay  he really wasn’t that much.  He had two good seasons as an offensive coordinator for New Orleans in 2002 and 2003, but, ultimately, his offensive rankings were mediocre.  His one year in San Fran was abysmal.  Yet his mind is so well respected that Green Bay knew they had to have him.  Since then the Packers have hoisted the Lombari and put up gaudy stats on offense.

Belichick’s team is in the playoffs again and nobody is shocked.  Who would  have been able to predict this based on his time in Cleveland?  Source:  Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick is like Darth Sidious.  You may not like him (though many do) but you have to give credit where credit is due.  The guy has made New England the greatest dynasty since the Dallas Cowboys in the 19990s.  Yet during his time in Cleveland as a head coach, his team was mired in mediocre land.  The Browns hired him in large part due to his great work as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.  Yet in his first stint as a head coach he was nothing exceptional.  He left for another coordinating job and ultimately ended up making the Patriots one of the greatest NFL dynasties of the 2000s.

Keith Armstrong doesn’t seem like much on paper, but maybe he’s that next guy.  Maybe his special teams work with multiple teams can translate to win after win in Jacksonville.  Maybe Roman and his successful Niners offense is that guy.  But, really, we don’t know.  This is why the interview process is so important.  The interview process can make mediocre ex-head coaches like Mike Mularkey stand out in comparison to their previous record.  The interview process can tell you that McCarthy will make a good head coach.  Yet we all look at that past statistics as well.

The primary flaw with using past statistics as the primary indicator is that the prospective head coach is always orchestrating the goals and plan of their head coach or general manager.  The coach could be a premier defensive mind but can’t seem to rank high in the statistics because the team focuses more on building a crazy good offense.  Similarly, a really good offense could be the product of an offensive minded head coach more so than the coordinator.  Ultimately, as armchair GMs and fans, we simply can’t tell from this far away how good a coaching prospect is going to be.  Our best guesses may be ballpark at best.

Will this stop me from forming opinions based on the body of work presented?  No.  But it will make me respect the selection that Dave Caldwell makes.  While Gruden or Roman may become top candidates because of what they have done, keep in mind that there may be some flaw hidden deep within the pages of history that we can’t see.  We’ve been told to not judge a book by it’s cover, and in hiring a head coach it may be one of the more important lessons we have learned.

- Luke N. Sims

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You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims

Topics: Bill Belichick, David Caldwell, Greg Roman, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike McCarthy

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  • vallenii

    One thing every prospective head coach will bring to the interview is a “laundry list” of assistants they would pursue. A GM can learn who the most highly respected assistant coaches are.

  • http://twitter.com/dlago89 Daniel Lago

    Great article. Definitely something to keep in mind. Nowadays it seems the head coach is a leader first and a coordinator/”Xs-and-Os” guy second. What’ll be really important is who the head coach brings in to be assistant coaches.