October 7, 2014

DUBNOV | MLB, NFL Coaches Fired in Post-Season After Teams Fall Flat

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It is that time again in the sports year when a bunch of coaches start losing their jobs. It seems to happen every year. With the end of the MLB regular season, Bo Porter of the Houston Astros and Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins lost their jobs after subpar performances by their teams. In the NFL, Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders surrendered his coaching position after the team’s tenth straight loss dating back to last November. In professional football, the term “Black Monday” has come to describe the mass firing of coaches following the final Sunday of every NFL season. Last year’s casualties included Mike Shanahan of the Redskins, Leslie Frazier of the Vikings, Greg Schiano of the Buccaneers, Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions and Rob Chudzinski of the Browns.

None of those names are legendary coaches. Some are young coaches while others are mediocre coaches that were stuck with subpar teams. In an industry as cutthroat as professional sports the coaching position is never safe. But what makes a good coach? A good coach is not one who can draw up the best play or substitute in the best player. That comes with luck. A good coach can understand the players he is given to coach and can do an excellent job of developing chemistry with and amongst the players.

However, how can a mediocre coach succeed with a poorly performing team? There is little hope. It is often too easy to blame the failures of a team on a lack of talent of the person directing the show. If a team that is expected to win fails to do so, a coaching change is not an outrageous option. However, it is all too common that a young coach has to take over a struggling team and find a way to make sense of the mess. It is very rare that this type of change is successful (barring the signing of a major free agent or draftee alongside the introduction of the coach). This is a ‘good guys finish last’ type of scenario.

The real issue is that sometimes fans get tired of seeing the same result under the same coaching staff. Then the change happens. A new face is introduced. There is a short period of success (or sometimes there is not). And after all that, the team is in the same place. The Cleveland Browns are a great example. The team changed four coaches in a span of five years, and after all the commotion, the team is still one of the worst in the league.

Bo Porter’s departure from the Astro’s dugout is another example of a coach taking the blame for a terrible roster. The team’s poor performance was certainly not due to any outrageous mistakes that Porter made with the lineup. With a roster composed of players that would find far greater success at the Triple-A level, Porter had little power in trying to compete in the Major Leagues.

Teams that perform poorly need a way to show the fan base that changes are being made. Instead of doing the dirty work, which includes developing young players and recruiting big name free agents, it is much easier to prove that a team is progressing in some way after a firing. However, it is not common that these changes fail to lead to any more success on the field.

Firings are expected to happen in the industry, but in the modern world of sports, coaches are fired all too often. The issue is that the firings do not usually solve issues of the team. Unless coaches make blatant mistakes in their ability to create a winning environment with all of their resources, it would be much better to see a coach stick by a team through a rough patch and try to carry the team through an unsuccessful season en route to eventual success.