Progress Report for the Class of 2015

About one year ago we applied our “Success Probability Gradient” analysis to the seven new NFL head coaches who were jumping into the fray for the first time during the 2015 season. Our forecasts of likely success in the NFL are based upon a reasonable period of performance of at least two or three seasons under fire, even though some owners chop their coaches sooner. We feel it is premature to condemn or praise a man after only one campaign. On the other hand, the ultimate, yet unfinished, body of work is in motion during year one, and it is worth taking a look to see how this crowd is doing so far. In fact, only one, Gary Kubiak made the playoffs, and another, Jim Tomsula, managed to get himself canned after only one year with the dysfunctional 49ers.

Here is how they fared in 2016. “Imp” is the number of games they improved over the previous year.

Coach Team SPG Call Wins Imp*
1 John Fox Bears Probable Success   6  +1
2 Dan Quinn Falcons Probable Success   8  +2
3 Rex Ryan Bills Probable Success   8  -1
4 Gary Kubiak Broncos Possible Success   12   0
5 Todd Bowles Jets Possible Success  10  +6
6 Jack, Del Rio Raiders Probable Failure   7   0
7 Jim Tomsula 49ers Likely Failure   5  -3

             Amusingly, our group finished exactly 56 and 56 as a group. Considering that all of them took over jobs for incumbents that were not acceptable for one reason or another, maybe a .500 record is not so bad. Each situation needs to be considered on individual merits. Gary Kubiak’s 12 wins and playoff bye berth are certainly impressive, but he took over a thoroughbred and did exactly what the departed John Fox did last season. Dan Quin started out 5-0 and then limped home as Offensive Coordinators caught up to Julio Jones. As usual Rex could not live up to his big mouth. Perhaps the very best job was turned in by Todd Bowles with the Jets, who added six wins to Rex’s total and only Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fourth quarter pick fest in the last game kept his team out of the postseason.

 For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- .

The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national booksellers.


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The Class of 2015

The dread of “no more football” is suddenly upon us. The Super Bowl is a fading memory and August seems like it is years away. The draft will begin to pick up steam in a month or so, but right now what can we talk about? Well, the prescient NFL owners have provided us with a little something – their annual bloodletting of head coaches. Next year, as of this writing, there will be seven new men prowling the sidelines for NFL teams in the fall. Does this mean those teams with new coaches will improve? If history is any teacher, the answer is in most cases a resounding “no”. The owners are always much more concerned with cleaning house than re-decorating.

Using our “Success Probability Gradient”, which compares the qualities of the new guys with what we have determined are some of the credentials of the very best head coaches of all time. A perfect score would be “100”, and that guy would be a “can’t miss” hire. Above 85 is excellent, 75-85 is very good, 65 to 75 is marginal, and anything else is almost surely doomed to fail. Here is the way we rate the Class of 2015.

Coach Team SPG Score Outlook
1 John Fox Chicago 73 Probable Success
2 Pat Quinn Atlanta 72 Probable Success
3 Rex Ryan Buffalo 71 Probable Success
4 Gary Kubiak Denver 70 Possible Success
5 Todd Bowles New York Jets 68 Possible Success
6 Jack, Del Rio Oakland 64 Probable Failure
7 Jim Tomsula San Francisco 59 Likely Failure

While there are some very familiar names in this group four of them have either been fired or abruptly left another head coaching position within the last few years. Our analysis does not subscribe to the theory that the second or third time is the charm. History indicates that most (but certainly not all) head coaches fare worse the second time on the job. Also, having been a head coach anywhere before is surprisingly not especially important but having been a coordinator in the NFL is very important.

It doesn’t take a genius to wonder how the 49ers and Broncos think they have upgraded based upon the performances of whom they let get away. Even the Falcons dismissed a guy who had won almost 60% of his games. Let’s check back on this group in a couple of years.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- .

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The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.





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Finding What Is Under the Hoodie

Okay, the master, Bill Belichick, has done it again. Somehow he sent the new wave west coast invincible horde crashing down to earth. The Legion of Boom became the Legion of Doom in a split second. How does this guy do it? Six big dances and four trophies. If he is not the best ever, he is very close. What does he have under the hoodie that is so hard to find in another coach? He doesn’t look like much but the results are indisputable.

As a reaction to the incessant drive and all-consuming desire to one up their peers in the exclusive club that comes with NFL ownership, teams annually cashier about seven or roughly one fifth of the total head coaches per year. In fact, there have been fifty over the past seven years. As we have reiterated time and again both in this column and in the book, “The Perfect Pro Football Coach”, the owners are far more anxious to throw out the old than to adequately select a better replacement. Get the old guy the hell out, and then we’ll figure out what we do next! Unfortunately that mindset is doomed to failure. Things don’t seem to get better very often.

To back up this indictment of NFL ownership, a few numbers will suffice. In 2009, there were nine new head coach hires. Six seasons later, guess how many of these new guys still were employed? Why zero, of course! With Rex Ryan ousted from the Jets, all nine have been canned. From 2009 through 2011, twenty new head coaches were brought in across the league. Things are just a bit more encouraging with seventeen firings and three lucky survivors. Pete Carroll, Jason Garrett, and Ron Riviera still have their jobs, although both

Garrett and Riviera were wobbling before making the playoffs this year.

We have studied in depth the careers of 285 NFL head coaches, every one since 1960. We have established the profile of what the perfect pro football coach should look like based upon historical precedent. Using our Success Predictability Grid we can forecast the probable success of a new prospective coach. We have tracking data back to 2009, and we are certainly not infallible. Pete Carroll’s success, for instance has surprised us. The NFL owners hit on only three of twenty or a paltry 15%. Our forecasts for new hires have been closer to 75%, which is certainly far better than the league norm.

Why are the NFL experts so blind to history? It is a superb teacher.

We will review our outlook for the seven new members in the class of 2015 in this column in the near future.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- .

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The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.


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High Noon, Texans, Time to Draw Down

Okay, Houston, go for your gun, and let’s see what you are made of. Here’s my take from three points of view: (1) what I think they will do, (2) what I think is best for the team, and (3) as an unabashed fan, what I would like to see them do. Let’s take them in reverse order:

A Fan Through and Through

Not even a tough call. Grab Johnny Football and don’t look back. He, not Clowney, truly offers a once in a generation kind of opportunity with all the potential to be a Drew Bees plus. I love quarterbacks who can keep drives alive with their feet. Even Brady and Manning sometimes do that, to say nothing of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Everyone forgets that the lowly Texans thoroughly dominated the Seahawks at Reliant Stadium in the first half last season, until Wilson literally took off running after the intermission. Manziel will frustrate, I am sure. He will invent new ways to throw picks, but with him out there I would never feel we are completely out of it. I see some “oops” type losses but also many, many more exciting games with chances to win. Some downside is for sure, but a huge upside could be within reach. Where have the Texans gotten so far by being ho-hum conservative?

Best for the Team

Bill O’Brien is a rookie coach but this is hardly his first gig. He knows that despite all the unrealistic expectations last year this team is not close to being a real contender. There are just too many holes. If he had to play a game tomorrow, his lineup might make him wish he was back at Penn State. The owner, Bob McNair, also understands this predicament. As long there is steady progress and winning football, O’Brien will get at least three and maybe as many as five years. The best pick for a near term solution has to be Blake Bortles. Just look at him. He is in the Tom Brady and even Penn State mold. He has all the tools, and should show steady progress. His college coach is a close O’Brien friend and mentor. I just don’t see O’Brien going with the gimmicky Manziel or slightly built, maybe not quite ready for primetime Bridgewater. They should try to trade down if they can but not without being assured that they can get Bortles. Otherwise, bite the bullet and grab him at number one. Forget this “he’s not a fist pick in the draft” quality player crap.

The Fearless Prediction

Owing in part to the apparent lack of a clear cut choice among the three prominent quarterbacks and also to the feeling that none is a truly worthy of first pick in the draft, they will attempt to extract additional value out of their position by trading down, although I don’t see them going lower than about number 10. It does take two to tango. Cleveland would be a good trading partner since it has two first round picks. Houston and Cleveland could switch between 1 and 4, and the Texans at least pick up Cleveland’s pick at number 3 of the second round. Cleveland still picks at number 26 of the first round. Cleveland gobbles up Manziel and St Louis at number 2 takes Clowney. Jacksonville then might take Bortles and, if they do, Houston is thrilled to take linebacker Khalil Mack. They would be tempted to take Bridgewater there, but I think they will wait for a quarterback (maybe Garoppollo, Mettenberger, or even Derek Carr) at the top of the second round. St Louis might also pass on Clowney for OT Greg Robinson, which would make Clowney very tempting for Jacksonville at number three. The same approach would work if they switch with Oakland at 5 or Atlanta at 6 but not much later. Both Bortles and Mack should be gone before 10. The Texans end up with three of the first 35 or so picks. Bottom line, I think Khalil Mack will be wearing a Texan uniform in the fall. Bill O’Brien knows he has a few years at least. He will not be roped into grabbing a quarterback just because they are picking so high.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- .


The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.


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The Circus is in Town

            There are some things I just don’t get. Nor should I, I suppose, since I am at best a causal fan and not directly involved with pro football on the field. Jadeveon Clowney, in my judgment, is very appropriately named for the media circus where he currently occupies the center ring. I have no doubt that he can and might turn out to be a wonderful pro, but the incredible pick of a generation or once in a lifetime player???? Come on, where has everybody been?

You don’t have to look back very far to find some equally or even more impressive stat-toting pre-draft collegians. Everyone gasps at Clowney’s 4.53 forty, but that is not rarified air for a top pick. Von Miller ran a 4.49, Kevin Hardy a 4.54, and Peter Boulware a 4.59. Those guys were good, but busts Keith McCants and Courtney Brown also ran 4.51 and 4.52 respectively. Even super bust Aaron Curry ran a 4.56 out of Wake Forest in 2009. The very best defensive linemen picked in the top five over the past 25 years, including notables such as Cortez Kennedy, Mario Williams, and Nadamkong Suh, as a group averaged only a pedestrian 4.8 or so. Ah ha! See, Clownery is better than those high achievers! Sure, except that those guys weighed an average of 296 lbs or a full 30 lbs more than the ringmaster. When he gains weight what will happen to his speed? No one knows. Clowney’s stats are okay for a linebacker, which might suit him just fine, except that he has never really played that position. Does it make any sense to call him a once in every thirty year guy at a position he hasn’t even played? Great prospect but way, way over hyped.

Of course, even I will acknowledge that he is an impressive physical specimen, but let’s look at his track record to date. He was so caught up in his own press clippings that he took his last season at South Carolina off. I guess he was saving himself for the NFL. If that lack of motivation is not another huge red flag, I am not sure what any player’s college performance is supposed to mean. Just wait until he has all that bonus cash in the bank, he will be really motivated then. Uh huh.

As we have discussed herein with previous installments at length even the very top pick in the draft leads to an perennial all pro only about a third of the time, which is about the same chance you have of taking a bust. Based upon this year’s crop of talent, I do agree that Mr. Clowney, is a deserving first round pick, but when it is all said and done in a few years I believe he will be found closer to the cotton candy vendor than the high flying trapeze.

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The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.


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Buying Power

“They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
— Bill Parcells

Very few NFL coaches have the final say on who the team drafts; for nearly every team, that authority rests with the general manager. A few more coaches have authority over who makes the 53-man roster, which gives them something akin to a veto – they can’t pick their players, but they can pick who aren’t going to be their players during the season. Of course, that has to be used judiciously, unlike when Vikings coach Brad Childress exercised his power by cutting Randy Moss in the middle of the 2010 season without first discussing it with the front office or ownership. The Vikings cut Childress three weeks later.

Most coaches don’t get heavily involved in the draft process until around the combine – they get a little busy with other things during the season, and then have to prepare for free agency. The involvement of head coaches tends to wane over the course of the draft itself; because they haven’t had as much exposure to the players toward the bottom of their draft boards, they are more likely to defer to the scouts in the later rounds.

The current NFL head coaches who wield the most power on draft day:

1. Bill Belichick, Patriots. Team owner Robert Kraft gave him the power that he wouldn’t give to Parcells, the guy who initially brought Belichick to New England as an assistant. Belichick makes the call on all football matters, period. The Patriots don’t have anyone with the “general manager” title; Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio reports to Belichick and fills the role once occupied by Scott Pioli as the coach’s chief talent evaluator.

2. Pete Carroll, Seahawks. Seattle named him “Head Coach and Executive Vice President of Football Operations” in 2010. When they hired General Manager and Executive Vice President John Schneider a week later, the team said that personnel decisions would be made collaboratively with no single authority figure, but if it came down to a coin toss, Carroll would win. By all accounts, Carroll and Schneider have great chemistry and it doesn’t appear that any disagreement has ever reached the hypothetical coin toss stage.

3. Lovie Smith, Buccaneers. His contract gives him the final say on personnel matters, power that he didn’t have in his previous stint with the Bears. It’s unusual for a coach who doesn’t have either a proven track record in that area or a Super Bowl win on his resume to be given that kind of clout, but not unprecedented. The Bucs hired Jason Licht as general manager a few weeks after bringing Smith into the fold.

4. Chip Kelly, Eagles. It’s not clear who makes the final call on draft day, Kelly or General Manager Howie Roseman. Both report directly to the owner and Kelly does have the final say on who makes the 53-man roster, so if Kelly doesn’t have the ultimate authority over the draft then at the very least he has major input. Before joining the Eagles Kelly had spent his entire career at the college level, where (for the most part) there are no scouting departments and the coaches handle the talent evaluation as part of their recruiting duties.

5. Sean Payton, Saints. General Manager Mickey Loomis has the final say on all personnel decisions, but his background is in contract negotiations and salary cap management, so he is very deferential to Payton’s opinions. The two work so well together that Payton’s 2011 contract extension included a clause that would have allowed him to leave if Loomis were no longer with the Saints, although the league office rejected that provision. Because of that relationship, the coach has a greater influence on draft decisions than it may appear on paper.

6. Jeff Fisher, Rams. He called many of the shots later in his tenure with the Titans when he also held the title of executive vice president, and reportedly the primary reason that he chose the Rams over the Dolphins in 2012 was that St. Louis offered greater input on personnel matters. Fisher was hired before General Manager Les Snead and both answer directly to the owner. While Snead has the final authority over personnel moves, the Rams leadership has stressed that those decisions are made cooperatively.

7. Andy Reid, Chiefs. He had Belichik-esque authority in Philadelphia, but now seems happy to be able to keep his focus on the Xs and Os and other traditional coaching duties. The Chiefs hired General Manager John Dorsey about a week after Reid last year and both report directly to the owner, but Dorsey has the final say on all personnel matters (“51% of the vote,” as Reid described it). The coach and GM have had a close relationship going back to when both worked for the Packers in the ‘90s, and are definitely on the same page philosophically so Reid’s input carries significant weight.

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Is My Bike Under the Tree????

It is the Christmas morning of a lifetime. Finally, you just know that a new bike is under the tree. Sure enough, there is a big package sitting there. It just has to be that fantastic new bike that you have been dying for. But wait a minute, until you unwrap it, look it over closely, and actually ride it for a while you just can’t be sure that it is the object of your dreams. The Houston Texans are now just a month from that special day when eager team officials hope to use their draft picks of a lifetime to uncover that player of a lifetime – a franchise quarterback. Could he be under the tree? What are their chances of even coming close?

We went back through a quarter century of drafts and took a look at how the top five selections have fared once the glare wore off and the assumed thoroughbreds were set loose on the track. These 125 players from 1989 through 2013 were graded their success level of their careers. They break down as follow:

Success Level                 Number            Percentage

BUST                                   17                     13.6%

MEDIOCRE AT BEST      15                    12.0%

SOLID PRO                        45                    36.0%

ALL PRO                             37                    29.6%

HALL OF FAME                   2                     8.8%

Total                                   125                 100.0%

The results are telling. Less than 10% were hall of famers, but almost 40% were All Pro or better, which means that about 2 of the 5 made it to the Pro Bowl consistently. At the other end just fewer than 14% were outright busts and in all, over one fourth couldn’t ever even catch on with regular jobs. Remember, we are only looking at the very tip of the iceberg: the top 125 picks of the several thousand players chosen over the last 25 years. Any knowledgeable draftnik would agree that if there is any “sure thing’, or maybe “best bet” among draftees, the top five would be where they are. The numbers above indicate that it  even at the very top among the crème de la crème, it is less than 50/50 deal at best. The draft is a crap shoot. (Maybe we could drop the “shoot” part.)

To go one step further, there have been 28 quarterbacks chosen among the first five picks of those 25 drafts, which is the most of any single position. There have been two hall of famers (Troy Aikman and, presumptively, Peyton) and eight more All Pros, indicating that teams have about a 35% chance of getting a very good QB among the top 5. Also, somewhat incredibly, there have been 5 outright busts and 3 very mediocre top 5 QB selections. There is, therefore, just under a 30% chance of your dream date ending up in the scrap heap. That leaves 10 “solid pros” in the middle. The numbers indicate that it is a bit harder to come away with a very good quarterback than a player from another position. If you expect, and it would be reasonable to do so, that only an All Pro or better would be an acceptable result from a top five pick, then be prepared to be disappointed about two-thirds of the time. The reality is the Texans probably won’t find their guy with numero uno.

In our next installment we will look at the historical busts and see how they compare to the guys available this year.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- .


The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.


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