Midseason Firings: Good for a Team?
2010 was definitely the year of the midseason firing. Wade Philips, Brad Childress, and Mike Singletary all got the boot before the year was through. But was firing these guys before the season ended a smart move?
The biggest reason not to can a coach midseason is of course, the disruption to the team. There is always a chance that the players could become less focused because it means (potentially) learning a new scheme or at the very least a set of rules. New sheriff = new rules. New atmosphere. While that can be a positive thing, if a team already has its share of problems, a new coach might only serve to exacerbate the ones already there. Sometimes what is wrong with a team goes deeper than the coach, and takes years to correct.
Another reason to wait is because a bad season does not necessarily mean the coach is the problem. Firing the coach is an emotional reaction to losing, and if you do it in response to the complaints (of players or fans) it can leave a team even more lost than it was before. Teams that band together to overcome problems (with the present leadership in place) can become stronger going forward.
Yes! Fire ‘em!
Of course, there are positive reasons for midseason firings as well. The first is to satisfy frustrated players and fans that you want on your side for the future. Firing a coach midseason can be a signal that the team ownership is in tune with the fans; the message being that we hear you people – we aren’t going to put up with losing!
It’s rare when a team completely turns it around when a new coach arrives. You might get the huge win as an emotional reaction (ala the 49ers 38-7 win over Arizona) but it doesn’t necessarily last for the long term. A team really is more than just one person, and that includes the coach.
If a team does seem to respond better under one coach (Jason Garrett, for example, who went on to a 5-3 record), it makes me wonder what is going on with the players. Garrett did change some things (having the team practice in pads for one) but for the most part it was the same situation. Are those players really so different now because Garrett is at the helm? Especially in Dallas, where Jerry Jones (despite his recent announcements that he will allow Garrett to make the personnel decisions) still gets a little too involved with running the show. Who’s to say that a year down the road the players won’t get sick of Garrett and “refuse to respond” to him. What then?
A final thought, which is that by the team decides to let go of their coach, their season is usually in the toilet anyways. In this case, a midseason firing can mean an early look at the new year, which can mean new office personnel, coaching, and players. Or, you could do what the Packers did a few years back, which was basically fire all the coaches except head coach Mike McCarthy. That brought in Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, and the team then had two winning seasons and is now in the playoffs. The Packers players had the consistency of the head coach, but got revitalized with new supporting coaches.
All in all, I love a midseason firing myself. Sometimes it’s shocking and other times it doesn’t make sense, but you never know what can happen with some fresh blood on the scene.