An NFL coach is a lot of things. He is leader, teacher and motivator. A coach is also a schematic master. He has to be part psychologist, disciplinarian, best friend, father figure and politician. Clearly no person can be great at all of these things. That would be one heck of a person.
Teams know the basic qualities they want in a coach. Then they have to tailor things to meet that specific group of players. The Denver Broncos have been outstanding in recent years. When they let go of John Fox last year, they weren't looking for an unproven coach. They wanted a proven winner, someone they felt could help them get over the hump and win a Super Bowl. They brought in Gary Kubiak and Denver is the top seed in the AFC. He proved to be the guy that team needed.
When the Jets fired brash and outspoken Rex Ryan a year ago, they wanted to hire a coach with a completely different personality. They hired Todd Bowles. Like Ryan, Bowles is a defensive sage. The difference is that Bowles doesn't want to be the class clown. He simply wants to coach. He'll give a fiery speech from time to time, but Bowles isn't going to feed the media crazy comments and wild theatrics. The Jets had their best season in years. Bowles was what that team needed.
Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie has shared some of his ideas with the media. He is looking for someone who can do a good job of developing relationships with players. He is also looking for someone who has great communication skills. Lurie doesn't have a preference for offense or defense, young or old, proven coach or hot young assistant. He might not have strong feelings in areas like that. His hiring record would indicate Lurie is flexible in all of those facets.
When you think about an NFL coach these days, more than anything, he is the leader of the organization. The owner is turning over control of his organization to the coach. Think of it like a ship. A person or company might own the ship, but the captain is the one who runs it and controls it. Andy Reid set the tone for the Eagles' organization during his 14-year tenure. Kelly did the same thing during his three years.
The new coach can be an X's and O's wizard, but that won't do him any good if he can't lead. A team is comprised of 53 players not including practice squad members. More than half of them will be millionaires. Some will be worth tens of millions of dollars. Not just anyone can lead a group like that. It requires the right combination of brains and personality. The coach also oversees the assistant coaches and support staff. In the end, the coach has to get 100 or so people on the same page. They need to be committed to the same cause and working toward specific goals. They also need to work well together. The leader sets the tone for all of that.
Often we think of leading as emotion. That's not the case. Tony Dungy was a terrific leader, but didn't give a bunch of rah-rah speeches. He was a great defensive coordinator for the Vikings. He then helped turn the Bucs into a winning franchise. Dungy went to the Colts and helped make them a great team and won a Super Bowl. That is three different franchises and three different sets of players. Dungy organized, motivated and led those teams. Jimmy Johnson was more vocal and emotional. That led to great results in Dallas, but not so much when he was with the Dolphins.
Lurie needs to find the right coach for the Eagles. After talking to the players, Lurie will have a very good idea of the kind of personality he's looking for. As he meets with candidates, he can get a feel for whether that person seems like a good fit for the team. There is even a balance that has to be struck at this level. The new coach needs to be right for the current players, but the team is also looking long term. You don't want to focus too much on the 2016 Eagles and lose sight of the next several years. If this team had just missed winning a title, that would be one thing. This team missed the playoffs. There is work to be done.
Ray Rhodes was very good at getting the most out of his current team, but he struggled to also think long term. He paid the price for that. His fourth season was his worst. Most coaches build to something. The Eagles peaked in his second year. Think about what Lurie did to replace Rhodes. He hired Andy Reid, a very detail-oriented coach who did an excellent job of balancing the present and the future. Reid didn't want a team full of veteran players. He believed in having a young roster. He talked about building a program, not just a team. Reid was the perfect successor to Rhodes. Reid brought structure and discipline.
I do have confidence in Lurie's ability to hire a good coach. Rhodes, Reid and Kelly all had multiple 10-win seasons. Rhodes and Reid each won Coach of the Year awards. The challenge now is to hire a great coach, one who can finally lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win. Lurie is going to do everything he can to find that coach, but remember this is all a projection. Every hire is made with good intentions. Not all work out.
If Lurie can learn from his experiences with Rhodes, Reid and Kelly, and he's able to look around the league and see what's working right now, maybe this will be the time the Eagles finally find Mr. Right.