Chip Kelly, Mike Pettine, Jim Tomsula. What do they share in common? They all were fired by their respective teams at the end of their seasons. For Kelly, the Philadelphia Eagles decided their experiment with him at the helm and as the General Manager was over before the final game. Pettine led the Cleveland Browns to a 7-9 record his first season in 2014, but 2015 wasn’t as good to him, finishing 3-13. Tomsula didn’t even have a chance with the San Fransicico 49ers, finishing 5-11 and immediately getting the can. Does the culture in the NFL not see the big picture that a new culture takes time to build? Very good chance. Just take for instance the comments Jed York made regarding the future of the 49ers and the caliber of coach needed to produce for the team.
“When asked if the personality of the next head coach was going to be a factor in the next hire, York said, “We’re in need of somebody who can win Super Bowls.”
He repeated, “We’re in need of somebody who can win Super Bowls.”
That’s an interesting tidbit to say the least. Jim Harbaugh led the 49ers to three consecutive NFC Championships and a trip to the Super Bowl in 2012. Apparently, York and Harbaugh couldn’t coexist enough to stay together. York appeared to have a huge ceiling for Harbaugh that year on purpose, which clearly wasn’t fair. Down seasons happen when you achieve success and you would figure York could process that, even in theory.
“York was asked if the 49ers had that person when Harbaugh was the coach.
“We haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1994,” York answered.
Now, a year later, the 49ers are back in the same position of entering into a search to find the team’s next head coach.”
And this is where maybe the win now culture isn’t beneficial. It’s highly commendable and understanding to set high expectations. But culture shifts anywhere take time; great acheivments don’t come overnight.
Eight-and-8 and 5-11, neither one of them is acceptable to me,” York said. “I’d rather take a swing on ‘Jimmy T’ like we did and if we miss, the nice thing about the NFL is, they reward you for missing. We have a high draft pick. I don’t want to be drafting him, but if we don’t compete for championships, I’d much rather be drafting high and being able to add the top-tier talent in the draft to this roster.”
Picture this; what if the New England Patriots dismissed Bill Belichick after his first season with the team in 2000? He finished 5-11 and the next year he won the Super Bowl. The next three years he won two more. Or Ron Rivera for the Carolina Panthers; first two seasons 6-10 and 7-9. The next three? 12-4, 7-8-1 and 15-1. Another common factor of the last three seasons? NFC South champs and three consecutive playoff appearances. But Belichick and Rivera wouldn’t have achieved their success had they not had a chance to establish their culture. Some front offices do get it and it has paid dividends.
In the end, the front offices for NFL teams are thirsty for instant gratification to keep up with the leagues elite. For Pettine and Tomsula, not enough time was granted to give the two coaches the ability to build their philosophy, vision and culture. For Kelly, the primary reason for his dismissal was the ball-drop of offseason moves as the General Manager. But for someone with that much power and control of the roster, it may have been in the Eagles best interest to let Kelly’s vision manifest. Didn’t happen obviously. But that’s the reality of the situation for NFL coaches. Is it fair? Not necessarily and the culture of win-now-or-get-the-pink-slip mentality may cloud the NFL for years to come.