Saturday, January 24, 2009
There's something particularly bizarre in the air in the NFL coaching circles when old-schoolers like Dan Reeves are interviewing for coordinator jobs. Reeves is the latest candidate to sit down with 49ers head coach Mike Singletary about the open position in the Bay Area (the others included Scott Linehan, the Browns' Rob Chudzinski, Denver's Rick Dennison, and former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski, among others.)
In more recent times, guys like Reeves would have been the first out of the gate when talking about the head coaching vacancies, but there's been a dramatic shift in what teams want out of a head coach, and it's skewing comparatively younger. Look at Raheem Morris getting the job in Tampa Bay; Josh McDaniels getting a shot in Denver; Eric Mangini getting a new job lickety-split in Cleveland after the Jets gave him the ax. Even coaches like Ken Whisenhunt, Rex Ryan, and Steve Spagnuolo (who are in their late 40s or early 50s) are part of this trend.
(Al Davis was out in front on this with Mike Shanahan and Lane Kiffin; it's just never worked because it's Al Davis you're dealing with.)
The NFL's management style for coaches has changed -- you can't be a truly old-school hardass any more nor can you be a pushover; the understanding of players and where coaches lie on the disciplinary scale is somewhere in between. Consider it the Tomlin Effect, which goes beyond the purely "black coach" or "relatively young coordinator" deal. The Steelers coach, as do the best of them these days, is able to both relate to his players yet demand and coax good performances out of them. Tony Dungy may be the prototype here; he proved you didn't need to scream to be an effective head guy or chew up space on the sidelines.
Where this eventually leads us is to the rumors that guys like Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, and Bill Cowher will be back in the mix in 2010 -- I'm not so sure about that. The game has shifted slightly on them. Shanahan will probably take a job in 2010 in Phil Jackson-style (read: if there's enough personnel to take it deep into the playoffs), but Holmgren and Cowher might wind up looking like Joe Gibbs did in the later years of his second stint with the Redskins if they decide to get down on the sideline again.