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NFL Unfiltered Week 6: Are all NFL head coaches the same?


Rampant speculation on the future of an NFL head coach is as fundamental to pro football as tackling, touchdowns and trash-talk.  

Is he leaving?  Will management fire him?  Does he want more power within the organization or to become the league’s highest paid coach?  

It is enough to give anyone who follows the game a migraine. However, and more importantly, discussion on the future of any coach usually misses the more salient point and that is, it doesn’t really matter.  Photo: bet.com

Now, it is not my intention to convince you the head coach is meaningless because he is the fourth most important figure in an organization, right behind the owner, quarterback and talent evaluator.  

Still, the league has a bunch of good old boys hired through arguably the largest network of average in any industry. Yet, talk about the head coach’s future grips a fan base and often entire regions.  

Is there really a difference between New York’s Tom Coughlin and New England’s Bill Belichick?  Aren’t Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin essentially the same guy?  Isn’t it safe to say Buffalo’s Doug Marrone and Oakland’s Dennis Allen are simply biding time?

With all the talk centering on whether this is 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh’s last season in San Francisco, the narrative, as it so often does when a coach has success, is beginning to shift. It seems the 49ers are making a terrible mistake if they allow Harbaugh to leave.  

In my view, that is utter nonsense. And there is recent evidence proving it.  

Consider two seasons ago, when then first-year Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano needed a leave of absence to begin his arduous battle against cancer.  

At the time, all the supposition focused on how devastating it is to lose your head coach, particularly so early in a season.  

Remember what happened?  

Bruce Arians, now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, won 11 games and an AFC Wild Card berth.  And while CHUCKSTRONG became part of our parlance and Pagano became a national human interest story, it obscured the fact that Arians had legitimate coaching skill, too.  Skill at least on par, if not better than Pagano’s.  

Had the Colts simply hired Arians instead of Pagano to begin with, the team’s fortunes likely remain the same.  

Even historically, there are examples of the scant differences between head coaches at the top-level of football. In fact, George Seifert and Barry Switzer each won Super Bowl championships after replacing NFL coaching legends Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson, respectively.  

Seifert, a good coach with the 49ers, clearly wasn’t Walsh, as he proved during his tenure with the Carolina Panthers. And Switzer, well, we all know he did little more than steer a perfectly moving vessel with the Dallas Cowboys.  

For all the accolades showered upon the NFL’s elite head coaches, the fact is, they don’t have many ways to distinguish themselves beyond game day strategy and motivational speeches.  Unless of course, you believe some actually leave the office at a reasonable hour to spend more time with their families.  

Again, this is not meant to say good head coaches do not matter because they do.  But in my view, there is far less separation between them than what is reported.

If Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers split at the end of this season, there are no shortage of suitable replacements both in and out of the network.    

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-Unless you think the Eagles are Super Bowl favorites (and I don’t), their 27-0 destruction of the New York Giants makes no sense. Chip Kelly’s savvy and intelligence was never on display more than the first offensive drive of each half. The Giants looked like they hadn’t watched any film.

-By my count, 12 of the league’s 32 teams are in dire need of an upgrade at quarterback. And that includes Dan Snyder’s Washington team.  

-Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson plays like he did against Dallas more often than you think. It’s just that he usually makes one or two plays in a game to alter the outcome.

-It’s absurd to think the Cowboys ought to begin managing running back DeMarco Murray’s carries for two reasons: 1) It doesn’t matter if they wear him out because Tony Romo cannot carry them anymore and 2) backup Joseph Randle is very capable.  

-The Cowboys/Seahawks game is just the latest example of why NFL statistics are incredibly misleading. The Seahawks’ defense entered the game ranked in the top 5 against the run, yet the Cowboys gained huge chunks of yardage running the football- and it wasn’t an accident. The run is always available against the Seahawks if a team commits to it.  

-Oakland Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr looks like the genuine article, despite his poor decision at the end of the Chargers game. With Carr in the fold, Oakland looks like the most obvious destination should Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers part ways. Are the Raiders dumb enough to trade a top five draft pick for a head coach?  

-Atlanta’s trade for the rights to select wide receiver Julio Jones and Washington’s trade for what amounted to Robert Griffin III, convinces me no NFL player is ever worth trading away 10% of an active roster. Jones is a great player, but he is merely a wide receiver and the Falcons need a lot of help.  So does Washington. 


Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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