by Jerry Angelo
June 05, 02014
I recently read that a few NFL head coaches spoke out on the sum of time required of them to mold and monitor the culture of their team. One coach in particular said the bulk of his time used to be spent on X’s and O’s. Now a good deal of that time is spent concentrating on the culture of the team.
If that’s the case, something is wrong.
I understand the concerns of these coaches, but the point I want to make is this: The players don’t pick the teams they play for. The teams pick them. It’s up to ownership and upper management to establish the principles on how they want their franchise represented. The head coach and his staff are the liaisons between the front office and the players. It’s up to the coaches to make sure the club is depicted in that manner.
There are franchises that miss the mark and continue to flounder because they leave personnel decisions to the coaching staff. They fail because they keep changing philosophies based on their hires. Understand that approximately 75 percent of the head coaches in the NFL are fired every three years. It should not be a responsibility of the coaches to create the identity of the organization. The head coach and his staff’s job are tough enough. Their focus should be on coaching, developing and creating ways to utilize the talents of their players to win games.
When you look at a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, you see a franchise that is a model of consistency. The reason for this is that the Pittsburgh brass creates their identity based on long-established convictions passed down from one generation to the next. When the Steelers have issues, they act on them based on traditional thinking. You rarely, if ever, see Pittsburgh reacting to a situation mindlessly.
The Steelers are not immune to making mistakes, but it’s rare to witness their organization react irrationally. It doesn’t make a difference who their coach is, who plays quarterback or what the schedule looks like. Pittsburgh remains steady and steady in the NFL is very much above average.
Coaches are responsible for the discipline and behavior of their players, but they should not be given the autonomy to determine the organization’s overall philosophy. It’s simply too much responsibility for any one group to handle. These are coaches, not trained psychiatrists or FBI agents.
Let’s look at the facts: In most cases, head coaches are hired based on their specialty. Whether he is a renowned offensive or defensive coordinator doesn’t matter. What matters is what he accomplished coaching half the team. If he was successful, those credentials often times qualify him to become a head coaching candidate.
When he’s hired as the head coach, it’s not just his on-field strategy that is adopted, but most of the time ownership finds itself implementing the head coach’s philosophies. Those views manifest themselves in the players they covet both in the draft and in free agency. This is where the potential problems and dysfunction can start. The coaches may be in the best position to run the team, but they are in the worst position to determine its course, particularly in the long run.
Why? Because of the inordinate amount of pressure put on these coaches to win now. It’s hard to balance what is right and what is wrong when all eyes are fixed on you with unrealistic expectations. You are naive to think that the head coach and his staff can be caretakers.
The organizations that maintain the respect of their peers are the ones that establish their own tenets that set the foundation and the standards the franchise operates from. There can be ambiguities when it comes to defining these tenets. If so, things get compromised. What should be clear has now been colored gray all because things were assumed and not spelled out from the top.
Teams go to both great lengths and expense to determine which players are good for business and which players aren’t. The psychological testing and interviewing, as well as the investigating done on these athletes who qualify for the draft are unparalleled. In short, the reports given to the decision-makers state which players can be trusted and which players can’t.
Most organizations fail because they keep changing philosophies based on their coaching hires. I’m not exonerating general managers from this topic because they have the job of protecting ownership. But in today’s game, general managers feel the pressure just like the head coach to win now and they have become just as vulnerable as coaches when it comes to prostituting character in the name of winning.
An obvious example is this and you see it far too often: A player has multiple positive drug tests in college leading to his dismissal from the team and, yet, an NFL team still decides to draft him. What’s that tell you about the culture of that team? I understand that people make mistakes, learn from them and move on productively with their life, but how about the guy who doesn’t learn? Teams reap what they sow.
I’ve said repeatedly that the business of football is to win games. Football is not a ministry. It’s a hard hitting, violent game that people are paid a lot of money to perform and fans pay a lot to see. That’s why it’s up to ownership to set the standards because they’re not under contract and although they may live in a fishbowl, the waters they’re in don’t have fins swimming around them.
Follow Jerry on Twitter: @RealJerryAngelo
Jerry Angelo was the General Manager of the Chicago Bears from 2001 to 2012. Prior to joining the Bears, Angelo spent 14 years overseeing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' scouting department as their Director of Player Personnel. Angelo graduated from Miami University in 1971.