How to Manage an NFL Franchise Part 1: Picking a Good Head Coach – The Athletic

This is the first of a five-part series in which we’ve asked our preliminary analysts, Nick Baumgardner and Diante Lee, to consider how they would execute a nfl franchise as general manager. We are putting them through the interview process.

the athleticThe NFL Draft Team is proud to evaluate college players on their way to the professional ranks. However, what if our experts were run by an NFL front office? What have you learned about the modern NFL, your own preferences and approaches, and recent history of successful franchises that could drive your decisions?

In Part 1 of our series, Nick Baumgardner and Diante Lee start building their dream teams from the top down. What are your priorities when choosing a head coach? Let’s start the process…

What do you look for in a head coach, philosophically and schematically?

Diante Lee: When we talk about the overall philosophy of a good leader, in sports or otherwise, I care about problem solving and acceptance more than anything else. It is just as valuable to have identifiable traits and qualities, to engender complete belief in those top-down principles, and to know when and how to step away from them without alienating people. you look at the nfl Today’s head coaches, and those with five or more career playoff wins, are the types of leaders most receptive to change.


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I want someone with a proven track record of success on opening dashes and third downs, in the red zone, two-minute situations and the “middle eight” (last four minutes of the second quarter and first four of the third), and on special teams. . Those are all situations that reflect a team’s identity and how well a coach and team can process rapidly changing conditions in a game.

Schematically, there is no one way to do things. I want someone with a clear understanding of balance as a concept for building an offense or a defense, not a binary between running and passing or coverage and rushing. He would be behind an offense that distributes touches on all three levels of the field and a defense that can change the landscape at any time.

Nick Baumgardner: A consistent leader able to find and fix problems long before they become real problems – this scheme wins for me. I want a trainer who can be the best communicator in the building. If they can’t communicate clearly with everyone in the organization, we’re in trouble before we start.

There is more than one way to win a football game, and I am open to almost any scheme, as long as the head coach can communicate it correctly. Being an expert in game management from the start is not something that is required. It would be preferable, but I’d be willing to let a rookie head coach learn if I love his understanding of the game and his leadership.

Which style of head coach would you prefer: “CEO,” offensive-minded, defensive-minded, or something else?

Leeward: Ideally, I would like to have a CEO type, someone who can intervene with the equity of the relationship to make good coordinator and assistant hires. I don’t place too much importance on offensive or defensive guys, as long as they can identify their own blind spots. Those types of guys already have some experience as successful head coaches, though, and it’s a rare commodity to find.

If not a coach with prior experience, I look for “man leader” types. I’m not saying I want Ted Lasso to wear headphones on Sundays, but I’d rather have a coach’s strongest points lean toward his people skills than his magic on a whiteboard. Special teams coordinators, offensive line coaches, defensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches — I’d say the best of those tend to have an innate profile for building confidence, thinking as much about the weakest link as the All-Pro, and prioritizing buys. in.

Baumgardner: I need a capable CEO who has also demonstrated experience on one side of the ball – I would prefer an attacking end, but I’m not opposed to a defence. For me, however, the CEO part is more important. I don’t need a head coach who calls all the shots, but I do want a coach who can communicate a vision of what needs to happen on both sides of the ball and hold people to our defined standard of performance, both within the team and across the board. field. front office.

My offensive preference has always been based on a versatile running game that features athletic linemen who give the team the opportunity to be as multiple as possible on the ground to set up viable situations in the air. Defensively, I’d be scared of anyone who isn’t willing to base from split safeties. We’re going to make a gap and a half as best we can, be smart and limit severe bleeding.

Brian Daboll led the Giants to a playoff victory last season, his first in charge. (Matt Krohn / USA Today)

Which head coach hire in the last four or five years best reflects what you want?

Leeward: Most recently, it would be Brian Daboll in New York. Both coordinators hired aligned with the priorities that I would like my organization to have. Bringing in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale established a clear identity, and handing over his playbook (and play-calling duties) to Mike Kafka was a rare thing for a new head coach, especially one hired because of his offense. . Bringing in and retaining the staff he sent sent a message that he knew his cohorts were capable and trusted him, and that investment paid off with the product we saw on Sundays.

Baumgardner: Last season wasn’t the best, but I’ve been a fan of signing Mike Vrabel since Tennessee took a chance on him before the 2018 season. He’s unique in that he worked with college players while on the staff at Urban Meyer in Ohio. State, has run his own defense in the NFL and has been a position coach.

He was also a good player, one who said what he meant and did what he said. As a coach, that translates to a 48-34 mark over five seasons. I think Vrabel could be a college coach in a major program right now and be successful. The list of current NFL head coaches who could run a winning college program is smaller than people realize. I think Vrabel is on it.


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Based on these criteria, please list three possible candidates you would like to interview for your head coaching position.

Leeward: Defensively, I go with Dan Quinn, the best retread option on the market. The letter of introduction of a team led by Quinn is to hire great assistants (Kyle Shanahan, Steve Sarkisian, Matt LaFleur, Mike McDaniel, Raheem Morris, Jeff Ulbrich, etc.) and a style of play based on speed and aggressiveness. He’s added to his toolkit, as evidenced by how well he’s developed defensive backs and linebackers in Dallas and how he’s included more changes in his scheme to keep offenses guessing.

As far as offensive minds go, I’m going to pick another guy from Andy Reid’s coaching tree: Mike Kafka. His name has been heating up on the coaching carousel ever since his time with patrick mahomes in Kansas City, and how he called the offense in New York was proof that he is comfortable crafting his offense around the strengths and weaknesses of his quarterback and supporting cast. He’s been a player and coach for much of this league’s offensive evolution, and I’m confident he’ll know how to put a franchise on an upward trajectory.

One more, from the university ranks: Dave Aranda at Baylor. We know that schematically, much of his playbook is inspired by the type of 3-4 defense that we’re seeing rise in popularity. He also helped develop several NFL players, many of whom were linebackers he worked directly with. His offense at Baylor mixes college style with some pro passing concepts. He has maxed out his roster and improved every show he’s been on. It is still a bit early in Aranda’s career to make this big leap, but his name is expected to generate more and more interest in the coming years.

Eric Bieniemy will call the plays in Washington this year after five seasons as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

Baumgardner: Eric Bieniemy is having a fresh start in Washington, and I’m thrilled to see it. The “but he’s got Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid” argument is gone. I’ve read many people’s opinions on Bienemy (and the anonymous reports on how well he does or doesn’t do in interviews). We know that he (like many) had problems off the field when he was young / in his 20s. But his success with the best offense in football in the last five years is undeniable. It simply is. I want to talk to him about my work.

My defensive candidate: Raheem Morris. Morris, a 46-year-old lonesome, has already been an NFL head coach, a defensive coordinator in college and a defensive coordinator at multiple NFL stops. He has also coached offensive positions in the NFL (WRs in Atlanta). Morris led Pro Football Focus’ best football defense in 2021, and while things weren’t perfect last year, the rams they were still very good against the run and a great tackling club. Morris ticks a lot of boxes for me.

One of, if not the best, non-head coach play callers in the NFL right now is lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. He took over midway through Dan Campbell’s first season (with the team winless) and rebuilt the offense on the fly. Detroit’s running game is as diverse and technically strong as any in the NFL, and Johnson, a quarterback and math and computer science major in North Carolina, was able to inject confidence into jared goff at a time when Goff was at his lowest, mentally, as a player.

(Brett Veach top photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Sage Monroe

Hi there! My name is Sage Monroe and I am a politics and business blog article writer currently studying at the University of Vermont. Writing has been my passion since a young age, and I am fortunate enough to be able to pursue it as a career. I spend most of my time researching and analyzing current events to provide insightful and thought-provoking commentary on a variety of topics. My articles can be found on various blogs and news websites, and I am always looking for new opportunities to share my ideas with the world. When I'm not writing, you can find me hiking in the beautiful Vermont countryside or enjoying a good cup of coffee at my favorite local cafe.

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