A thought occurred to me while sitting between an Ole Miss fan and a Mississippi State fan last week. Each was arguing that they will have a better season next year because they will have a better head coach.
Ole Miss has already hired, somewhat controversially, Lane Kiffin, while Mississippi State is still looking for a new head man after showing Joe Moorhead the door last week, unceremoniously.
My thought was that the head coach of a football team may be a little overrated. Maybe it isn’t right that the head coach gets all the glory when his team wins and all the blame when his team loses? Maybe his success or failure has more to do with things that are not necessarily under his control? Perhaps, a 6-6 or 7-5 season in Oxford or Starkville was just what fate had in the cards.
Take Jim Harbaugh for example.
Harbaugh was a super successful head coach at Stanford in college and then parlayed that success with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. With the Niners, he was one play away from winning the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh had the reputation as being the greatest coach since Knute Rockne, and when Harbaugh was hired by his alma mater Michigan, everyone in the media proclaimed it a home run.
Fast forward five seasons and Harbaugh has not lived up to expectations. While Harbaugh has had success in Michigan, he now has many detractors. His biggest blemish being that he has still not beaten Ohio State.
Looking back now, I wonder was Harbaugh really that great of a coach with Stanford and San Francisco or was he just a good coach who had some fortunate breaks?
And, perhaps his failings at Michigan, such as they are, have more to do with the circumstances in Ann Arbor than his abilities as a head coach.
To help (or hinder) my argument, let’s take a closer look at Bill Belichick with the Patriots and Nick Saban at Alabama. These two are regarded, arguably, as the greatest coaches ever in college football and the NFL.
Belichick was fired by the Cleveland Browns before getting another gig with the New England Patriots. Six Super Bowl victories later, and he is now considered the best ever. It is funny how having a quarterback named Tom Brady can help your image.
On the other hand, it is harder to poke any holes in Saban’s legacy. The main reason Alabama has been great over these last 13 years is because of him. Still, this success, I believe, also has something to do with the unparalleled passion of the Crimson Tide fan base, who seem to be willing to do whatever it takes to stay on top.
In conclusion, I don’t even know if I have convinced myself that a head football coach is a little overrated. But, I hope I have given you some food for thought.
As a sports fan, I know how it feels when your team is not doing well. And, I know that the immediate knee jerk reaction is to fire the head coach and get someone better.
And, just so we are clear, the Cowboys had to let Jason Garrett go.
David Healy is the sports editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org