Win Now! Be Number One Overall

Entering the 2013 NFL season the Houston Texans thought they were close, in fact, very close, to finally being really good and seriously contending for the Big Dance. After all, they were 12-4 in 2012 and even won 12 out of their first 13. Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way. They promptly plummeted to an abysmal 2-14, and won the dubious distinction of picking first in the 2014 NFL draft. The Texans still believe they are not that far away from being an elite team, which can win now. But are they really?

We decided to look at how the team with the number one pick has done the very next year. Can a team really climb out of a low single digit win disaster to emerge as a contender very quickly? Can one new terrific player really help that much? It is easy to puff our chests and whistle in the dark about how good we think we are, but what does history tell us about the number one pick bounce back effect?

We studied the last 25 number one picks in the draft from Peyton Manning in 1998 by the Colts to Eric Fisher last year in 2013 by the Chiefs. During that time period the average number of wins by the booby prize winner was 2.7 the year before they got to pick number one. The next year those teams averaged 6.0 wins per year for a net improvement of 3.3 wins, which is a somewhat impressive increase, but it won’t get you to the post season. In fact, fully 20 teams improved their next year win total, one stayed the same, and four actually did worse. So, if history is any kind of a guide, the Texans can expect to approach breakeven during 2014.

A little closer look at the numbers, though, does indicate that a few teams have achieved huge gains in wins between those two seasons. Three of them have been very recently. The Colts with Andrew Luck vaulted from 2 to 11 wins in 2012. The Chiefs did the same just last year after taking OL Eric Fisher. The 2008-2009 Dolphins had an even greater jump, from a single victory to 11 producing 10 more wins in successive seasons, when they took another OL guy, Jake Long. (Maybe the secret is taking an offensive lineman!) It is interesting to note that of the last 25 number one picks, the only two assured hall of famers, Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman, recorded zero and minus two fewer wins in their first year than their teams had recorded the previous year. If those guys couldn’t do better, who can? It is tempting to conclude that even the number one pick can have little to do with team winning improvement, until we remember Andrew Luck’s 9 more Colt wins just a year ago. Certainly, Andrew Lucks are few and far between.

When we looked at the coaches of these number 1 picking teams, it was no surprise that only 7 of them had the same head coach from year-to-year. One sure way to get the ax is to win 2 or 3 games in a season. In fact, the only two on this list that lasted even one more year were Dan Reeves and Jimmy Johnson. Even Tom Landry fell with only three wins the year before the ‘Boys took troy Aikman.

The Texans are hoping they only have to reload. Unfortunately, over the past quarter century most of the teams have had to re-arm before they could hope to win the gunfight at the OK Corral.

For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- http://perfectprocoach.com .

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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.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Perfect+Pro+Football+Coach

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The Number One Pick: Less than 50/50

As the NFL Draft approaches in May, speculation is already running wild about who will be the top pick. Unlike some years, there does not seem to be an odds-on favorite. While almost everyone agrees that this selection process is at best a crapshoot, it is reasonable to expect, certainly at the upper end and, indeed at the top of the first round, that only superb NFL prospects will be chosen. With the torrent of data from workouts, combines, pro days, film analysis, interviews, scouting service reports and analysis, Kipers, and Kiper-clones, and much more you would think it would be hard to miss with a top five pick.

 

            We decided to look back just a bit to see just how hard it is to miss. Over the last 25 drafts from 1989 to 2013, it is no surprise that quarterbacks have dominated the number one overall selection. In fact, 15 of those 25 (60%) top picks have been signal callers. There have been 5 defensive linemen, 3 offensive linemen, 1 wide receiver and 1 running back. No one can sensibly question the need for a competent quarterback.

 

            Where it gets interesting is to evaluate how these “can’t miss” absolute lottery winners have actually performed on the field. This process is made more difficult by the fact that as of this writing fully 12 these 25 number one picks are still active players, with much of their careers ahead of them. We are, therefore, forced in those cases to assume that their performances to date will remain consistent until they hang their cleats up. That said, here is the way these superior best-of-the-best prospects have done:

 

      Performance Level                                Number                            Pct.

      Hall of Fame                                                 2                                8.0%

      All Pro                                                           8                                32.0%

      Solid NFL Starter                                          8                                32.0%

      Mediocre at Best                                           2                                 8.0%

      Busts                                                              5                                20.0%

      If you were to assume that a team would be happy to have a number one prospect overall have a Hall of Fame or at least a Pro Bowl career and that anything else would be a disappointment, then there is about a 40% chance of lucking out, or less than 50/50. At the other end, incredibly, fully 1 out of 5 has been an outright bust.

             While we recognize that there is a wide disparity among teams as far as just how much input the head coach has in the draft selections, he certainly must have at least have some say in most cases. (Isn’t that right, Jeff Fisher? You argued for Vince. Right?) Input or not, those coaches whose teams drafted the “Busts” did not have stellar careers, to say the least. How about Chirrs Palmer in Cleveland with both Tim Couch and Courtney Brown in consecutive years, or Lane Kiffin with Jamarcus Russell in Oakland or Dave Shula with Ki-Jana Carter in Cincinnati? Dom Capers took David Carr Number 1 in Houston, who wasn’t a pure bust. It probably would have been better if he had been. The Texans might not have wasted several years waiting for him.

 

            For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website-   http://perfectprocoach.com .

                       

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

 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Perfect+Pro+Football+Coach

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The Hall Missed One: Just the Facts

No sports hall of fame has ever been accused of being particularly objective. The NFL version is certainly no exception. And while we believe that there is more to a candidate’s career than just his record on the field, the numbers should tell most of the story.

 There now about 300 inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame of which 22 or about 7% are coaches. The most recent vote for the Class of 2014, had at least one glaring miss – based strictly on the numbers alone. Tony Dungy deserves to be in the Hall for his superb performance as a coach of the Bucs and Colts. (His off the field activities have been exemplary as well.)

 Using our CASH system to measure coaching performance, Tony ranks a lofty third on our all time list, trailing only John Madden and Vince Lombardi. The CASH system incorporates regular season winning, playoff years, and Super Bowls over the entire course of a coach’s career.

 Of the current list of HOF coaches, 11 of the 13 modern era coaches rank behind Dungy  – in some cases by quite a bit. Here’s how we rank the Hall of Famers – solely based on how their teams performed:

                                               Our Rank        HOF Coach       CASH Score

                                                        1              Madden, John                  2,350

                                                        2              Lombardi, Vince              2,320

                                                        3              Dungy, Tony                     2,304

                                                        6              Shula, Don                        2,251

                                                        7              Allen, George                   2,240

                                                       12             Gibbs, Joe                         2,163

                                                       14             Walsh, Bill                        2,142

                                                       17             Grant, Bud                        2,120

                                                       18             Landry, Tom                     2,097

                                                       23             Noll, Chuck                       1,966

                                                       24             Parcells, Bill                     1,958

                                                       29             Levy, Marv                       1,852

                                                       36             Gillman, Sid                      1,783

                                                       39             Stram, Hank                     1,698

Tony Dungy deserves to be in the Hall.

 For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website-   http://perfectprocoach.com

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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.

 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Perfect+Pro+Football+Coach

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Trading Places

Despite what many believe occurred with Jon Gruden and Herman Edwards, an NFL team can’t trade its coach. It can, however, trade the right to talk to its coach about a job and the release of the coach from his contract. The real difference is that the coach has to be in on the deal – he can’t be sent to another team against his will.

The Buccaneers fired Tony Dungy in January 2002 after losing in the wild card round of the playoffs. Dungy was at the time the only coach in franchise history to finish his tenure with a winning record, yet was let go because he was unable to get the team to the Super Bowl. According to rumors, even before Dungy was fired the Bucs had been talking to Bill Parcells about coming out of retirement to take the reins. Parcells actually signed a contract to coach the team but soon after changed his mind and backed out.

Meanwhile in Oakland, Gruden’s agent said there was a “zero percent chance” that his client would coach the Raiders after his contract expired following the 2002 season. In his four seasons with the Raiders, Gruden had compiled a 38-26 regular season record with two trips to the playoffs, but efforts to get an increase to his $1.2 million per year salary (which was in the lower half of NFL head coaches) had not been fruitful. The Bucs asked Oakland owner Al Davis for permission to talk to Gruden but were told that it would cost them four first-round draft picks and All-Pro defensive tackle Warren Sapp. They declined.

The Bucs reportedly considered several other candidates, including Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen, LSU head coach Nick Saban, Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, and Chargers offensive coordinator Norv Turner, before shifting their attention to 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci. Mariucci had two years left on his contract, but the 49ers agreed to let the Bucs talk to him, possibly due to a rift between Mariucci and general manager Terry Donahue. The teams worked out the compensation that the 49ers would receive for letting Mariucci go, then Tampa Bay’s representatives met with the coach and may have made him an oral offer.

That night, Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer called Davis and let him know that he was still interested in talking to Gruden if Davis would be more reasonable about what it would take to let “Chucky” out of his contract. Davis agreed, probably envisioning a scenario in which Mariucci would jump to Tampa Bay and the 49ers would load up on Buccaneer draft choices, go through the 2002 season with an interim head coach (such as Donahue, the former UCLA head coach), and then grab Gruden after his Raider contract expired. The next morning Gruden was announced as the new coach of the Bucs with a salary of nearly $4 million per year. In exchange for Davis letting Gruden go, Tampa Bay sent the Raiders first-round picks in 2002 and 2003, second-rounders in 2002 and 2004, and $8 million.

If the Bucs evaluated the move based solely on Gruden doing what Dungy couldn’t – getting to the Super Bowl – then despite the cost, they had to view the hiring was an immediate success. Less than a year after he took the job, Gruden’s new team defeated his old one, the Raiders, in Super Bowl XXXVII. He wasn’t able to maintain that level of accomplishment, as he only made the playoffs two more times over the next six years and never won another postseason game. Gruden’s regular season record in his seven years with the Buccaneers was 57-55.

Edwards’ move from the Jets to the Chiefs wasn’t quite as dramatic. His Jets had a regular season record of 39-41 in five years, and had made the playoffs three times. The team finished a disappointing 4-12 in 2005, but that didn’t stop Edwards, who was making $2 million per year with two seasons left on his contract, from seeking a raise and extension.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs were looking for a replacement for the recently-retired Dick Vermeil. The team’s management interviewed their offensive coordinator Al Saunders and reportedly had interest in Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but Edwards’ name kept coming up in connection with the job. Edwards had relationships with Vermeil and Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson dating back to when Peterson, then an assistant coach at UCLA under Vermeil, tried to recruit Edwards to play for the Bruins (he ended up signing with Cal instead). Edwards later played for the Eagles when Vermeil was the head coach and Peterson was the director of player personnel and then served as a scout and defensive backs coach for the Chiefs during Peterson’s tenure as general manager.

The Jets, who were already less than thrilled with the results of Edwards’ coaching in 2005 and his attempts to sweeten his deal coming off that bad season, were further irked by what they perceived as “flirtations” between their coach and the Chiefs. According to Kansas City officials, the Jets contacted them to offer the opportunity to speak to Edwards about the opening. The Chiefs hired Edwards at $3 million per year. The Jets didn’t put up much of a fight, settling for a fourth-round pick to release Edwards from his contract.

If the Chiefs could do it all over again, you’d have to imagine that they’d have gone in a different direction. Edwards made the playoffs in his first season in Kansas City (and lost in the wild card round) but won only six games in the next two years. The Chiefs fired him after three seasons and a 15-33 regular season record.

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The 2014 Coaching Crystal Ball

As of late January there will now be 7 new head coaches in the NFL this fall. Certainly, each team feels it has upgraded the most critical job in the entire organization. But have they really?

We have studied every head coach in the NFL over the past half century and have come up with a model of the “perfect pro football coach”. Using our model, we have compared each of the attributes of each of these new men to predict who has the best chance of coaching success – on paper at least.

With a score of 100 being “perfect” here is how we see the new group making out.
• Bill O’Brien – Houston 74
• Lovie Smith- Tampa Bay 74
• Jim Caldwell – Detroit 68
• Mike Zimmer – Minnesota 68
• Mike Pettine – Cleveland 67
• Ken Whisenhunt – Tennessee 55
• Jay Gruden Washington 51

These scores suggest that O’Brien and Smith should turn out to be solid NFL head coaches. Caldwell, Pettine, and Zimmer are less certain and could go either way. It is likely that Tennessee and Washington will be out looking for coaches again in the next few years.

In general, we do not like new head coaches who have been NFL head coaches previously. In fact, in about two-thirds of the cases the coach does worse in his next head coaching job. He was probably fired the first time with good reason. We also put a lot of weight in a coach’s career winning percentage everywhere he has been and in every football job, including as a player. Ken Whisenhunt, for instance, has an overall career winning record of under 50%. We also feel college coaching experience is important and are not sure how Jay Gruden’s arena league experience will translate. All have been NFL coordinators, which we believe is a critical credential.

Are any of these guys upgrades over the men who were shown the door? Time will tell.

For more on on how we rate head coaches visit our website- http://perfectprocoach.com .

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

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Perfect+Pro+Football+Coach

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Minority Report

Much has been said and written about the NFL’s Rooney Rule and whether it’s right or wrong, working or not, needs to be expanded or has outlived its purpose. Here we’re not going to cover any of that, but rather what the rule is and how it works. The Rooney Rule requires that any NFL team looking to fill a vacant head coach position must interview at least one minority candidate.

The NFL formed its Committee on Workplace Diversity, chaired by Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, in 2002 in response to public criticism and rumblings of possible legal action over its lack of minority head coaches. That December, the NFL owners unanimously adopted the committee’s recommendations, most notably the rule that has been tagged with the committee chairman’s name.

A year later, the NFL issued guidelines clarifying some aspects of the Rooney Rule, such as the requirement that teams conduct interviews in person. The previous offseason, the Cowboys had complied with the rule by having a phone call with former Vikings coach Dennis Green. Green assured the league office that it had been a serious, detailed interview, but under the guidelines that wouldn’t have counted.

The rule doesn’t specify what a “minority” is, but the NFL has stated that it includes members of groups historically underrepresented as head coaches, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. So racial groups are covered, but not nationalities, as in 2007, the NFL told the Raiders that the team hadn’t fulfilled its obligation under the rule by interviewing Southern Cal quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian, an Armenian American.

A team may name an interim head coach from within the organization without having to comply with the Rooney Rule. If they go with someone outside their current staff, then the rule applies. For example, the Saints had discussions about hiring Bill Parcells as an interim coach for the 2012 season while Sean Payton was suspended. They ultimately decided to stay in-house with Joe Vitt (and Aaron Kromer while Vitt was suspended), but they would’ve had to interview a minority candidate before hiring Parcells.

A non-minority interim head coach can’t be given the permanent (or, more accurately, non-interim) position unless the team has abided by the rule. The Rams fired Scott Linehan four games into the 2008 season and named defensive coordinator Jim Haslett interim head coach. The Rams and Haslett then renegotiated his contract to provide that he would be ensured the non-interim job if the Rams won at least six of the remaining 12 games, but the NFL rejected it based on the Rooney Rule.

The rule does not apply when a team has a preexisting contractual commitment, approved by the NFL, to make one of its current assistants its next head coach. These “head coach in waiting” arrangements are rare in the NFL, with the last one occurring in the pre-Rooney Rule days. In January 2000, as the Rams were preparing for the NFC championship game, the team agreed to designate offensive coordinator Mike Martz as the Rams’ next head coach upon Dick Vermeil’s retirement in exchange for a promise by Martz not to take another job. Vermeil had stated that he would coach through the 2001 season, and Martz, the architect of St. Louis’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense, was a hot candidate. Vermeil surprisingly stepped down after the Rams won the Super Bowl a few weeks later and Martz was elevated to the big chair.

The Rooney Rule has only been violated once. In January 2003, shortly after the rule had been enacted, the Lions were looking for a head coach and general manager Matt Millen made no secret of his desire to hire Steve Mariucci. Mariucci, a Michigan native, had recently parted ways with the 49ers despite a 57-39 regular season record and four playoff appearances in six seasons. Millen reportedly contacted five minority candidates about interviewing, but each declined because he didn’t believe that he had a real shot at the job. Concerned about someone else snatching the guy he wanted, Millen hired Mariucci without complying with the rule. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue hammered Millen (personally, not the Lions organization) with a $200,000 fine, and warned that the next violator would owe $500,000.

The rest of the league apparently learned from Millen’s mistake, and many teams have found ways to comply with the rule even when it has been apparent that their respective short lists really only consisted of a single name. The Cowboys’ 2003 call with Green occurred when it was common knowledge that Parcells was all but signed, sealed, and delivered, a year later the Dolphins talked to former Raiders head coach Art Shell while LSU’s Nick Saban seemingly prepared for his introductory press conference in Miami, and in 2010 the Seahawks brought in Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier despite it being widely reported that Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll was the guy in Seattle. The greatest eyebrow-raiser may have been the Redskins’ interviewing of secondary coach Jerry Gray in late 2009 before firing Jim Zorn and quickly replacing him with former Broncos and Raiders coach Mike Shanahan. To date, no coach that has been interviewed has afterwards claimed that it was a sham, but they could also be concerned about the impact those statements might have on future opportunities.

The NFL expanded the Rooney Rule in 2007 to also apply to team president, general manager, and equivalent openings not held by team owners or their family member. Some have called for the rule to also cover offensive and defensive coordinator and assistant head coach positions, since those are the jobs that most directly lead to head coaching positions. If that change were made, the NFL would probably also have to loosen its tampering rules for assistants. Currently, a team doesn’t have to allow its assistants under contract to talk to other teams except for head coaching jobs. Teams would be in a tough spot if they were required to interview more candidates but their competitors were able to deny permission to talk to the ones in whom they are interested.

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Tamperproof

As the coaching carousel makes its annual spin, let’s take a look at the rules that apply to NFL teams as they search for new leadership and how those rules have impacted past decisions. The NFL’s Anti-Tampering Policy contains most of the limitations that come into play in head coaching searches. According to the policy, “tampering” includes interfering with a coach’s relationship with his current NFL team or other unpermitted actions to induce a coach to seek employment with another team. The tampering rules for coaches mostly deal with contact between a team and a coach or his representatives, but they also limit what a team may say about a coach under contract with another team.

For example, in 1998 Carmen Policy, CEO of the new Cleveland Browns franchise, was looking for the team’s first head coach. At a community luncheon that November he was asked about Green Bay’s Mike Holmgren, who was rumored to be considering leaving the Packers. Policy replied, “I’m not permitted to refer specifically to Mr. Holmgren – because that would be tampering.” He should have stopped there, but decided instead to get cute, continuing, “Let’s just say if a head coach who’s out there, who’s won a Super Bowl, who’s been to another Super Bowl, who is coaching a team in contention for the playoffs this year, who is an offensive-minded coach, looking to perhaps move when the season’s over, were to be interested – I’d take a look at him.” This “hypothetical” perfectly described Holmgren. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was not amused, fining the Browns $10,000.

An NFL team may only talk to a coach under contract to another team about a head coaching position with that team’s permission. The specific rules that apply to a particular situation depend upon whether the coach in question is the head coach or an assistant with his current team.

An NFL team can’t talk to the head coach of another NFL team about employment for the current or future seasons during his team’s playing season, which begins at the start of training camp and ends after his team’s final game of the season including the playoffs (but not the Pro Bowl). This applies even if the coach’s current team is willing to let him talk. In the offseason the interested team still needs his current team’s permission if he’s under contract.

A head coach is still considered under contract if he voluntarily resigns or retires with time left on his contract, unless he and the team agree otherwise. For example, in 2001 Washington had to send two draft picks to the Chiefs when they hired Marty Schottenheimer because the coach was still considered under contract with Kansas City even though he had resigned after the 1999 season. If a coach has been fired or his contract expires, he’s fair game for other teams. A coach may also negotiate the right to talk to other teams under certain conditions into his contract. Holmgren was allowed to talk to and join the Seahawks in 1999 even though he had a year left on his contract with the Packers because the contract contained a provision that allowed him to leave to take a position where he had authority over player personnel decisions. Seattle named him their executive vice president, general manager, and head coach but had to send the Packers a second-round draft pick as also specified in Holmgren’s Green Bay contract.

The relationship between Baltimore Colt owner Carroll Rosenbloom and Don Shula, his head coach, began deteriorating when Rosenbloom said Shula had been “outcoached” in the team’s upset loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III. A year later Shula resigned from the Colts, claimed that Rosenbloom’s son had released him from the last three years of his contract while the owner was out of the country, and signed with the Dolphins. The Colts argued that Shula was still under contract and the Dolphins had tampered with their coach. Commissioner Pete Rozelle agreed, and while he allowed Shula to stay in Miami, he sent the Dolphin’s first-round draft pick to Baltimore as compensation.

Dick Vermeil retired as head coach of the Rams after winning Super Bowl XXXIV. He and the team agreed to tear up his coaching contract, which had two years left, and replace it with a four-year consulting contract. The next year, when the Chiefs hired Vermeil as their head coach without getting the Rams’ permission, St. Louis charged Kansas City with tampering. Tagliabue awarded two of the Chiefs’ draft choices to the Rams and ordered Vermeil to repay the money he had received from the Rams under the consulting contract.

In 2002 Bill Parcells signed a contract to become head coach of the Buccaneers, but quickly changed his mind and opted to not return to coaching (yet). A year later, when Parcells met with the Cowboys to discuss their head coach opening, the Bucs accused Dallas of tampering. Tagliabue ruled that no tampering had occurred because the NFL didn’t officially recognize the Parcells-Tampa Bay contract since the Bucs had never filed it with the league office.

An NFL team can’t talk to an assistant coach under contract with another team about a head coaching opportunity during his team’s playing season except with his current team’s permission during limited windows in the playoffs. If his team has a bye in the Wild Card weekend, the interview must occur before the end of the Wild Card games. If his team is playing in the Wild Card round (and wins), the interview must occur after the Wild Card games and before the end of the Divisional Playoff games. The time and location of the interview has to be acceptable to his current team, and if the team grants permission to one team then it must grant permission to all interested teams – it can’t be selective in what teams it allows talk to the coach. It can be selective, though, in who it allows to talk to other teams – a team may give permission to interview one assistant but deny permission as to other members of its staff.

Each interested team may, in general, interview an assistant only once during the playoffs, and may not have any other contact with the coach or his representatives until his team’s season is over. The coach can’t sign a contract or officially accept the position until his team’s season is over. In seasons where there are two weeks between conference championship games and the Super Bowl, a team may, with the assistant’s current team’s permission, have a second interview with the coach no later than Sunday before the Super Bowl.

When Holmgren was the offensive coordinator of the 49ers, his contract (signed in 1990) contained a clause that prevented him from leaving for a head coaching position unless he had been bypassed for a head coach opening in San Francisco. In 1992, the Packers wanted Holmgren to be their head coach. The 49ers sought to block the move based on Holmgren’s contract, but Green Bay cited a recent directive from Tagliabue stating that teams could not prevent their assistants from becoming head coaches. The two franchises also had hard feelings over the trade of linebacker Tim Harris from the Packers to the 49ers for a pair of draft choices during the 1991 season – San Francisco believed that Green Bay had concealed a drug investigation involving Harris. The league office stepped back and told the two sides to work something out, and they eventually resolved both disputes with Holmgren going to Green Bay and the Packers returning one of the picks from the Harris deal to the 49ers.

In 1995, there were no exceptions for assistants on teams in the playoffs. Despite that, the Steelers, who were still alive in the playoffs, allowed the Panthers to talk to Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dom Capers about becoming the expansion team’s first head coach. While none of the parties made any official comment about the meeting, it was reported that Capers would be named Carolina’s coach. Tagliabue fined the Panthers $150,000 and stripped them of two draft choices for tampering, fined the Steelers $50,000 for agreeing to being tampered with, and ruled that any interested team could interview Capers after the season and no team could sign him to a contract for at least five days after that. Carolina general manager Bill Polian admitted that the team had broken the rules out of concern that a college team would snatch Capers before the Panthers could talk to him. Capers joined the Panthers after the Steelers’ season ended.

After the assistant’s team’s season has ended, an interested team must still request permission to talk to (and hire) the coach about a head coaching job but, through March 1, the current team must grant that consent.

The tampering rules only apply to interactions between NFL teams, so an NFL team’s dealings with a college coach are not covered. The primary limiting factor on an NFL team being able to pry a coach away from a college is his contract, which may require him to pay a substantial buyout if he leaves. Even interviewing with an NFL team can have harsh consequences for a college coach – in 2009, Boston College warned Jeff Jagodzinski, its head football coach, that if he talk to the Jets about their head coach vacancy he would be fired. Jagodzinski went ahead with the interview, didn’t get the job, and was greeted back in Boston with a pink slip.

Coming soon we’ll discuss what has become an important step in the process of hiring an NFL head coach – the Rooney Rule.

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