Mike Silver’s latest article examines the lack of any minority hires among the fourteen NFL head coaches and general managers hired in January (leaving the Jets general manager position as the last remaining vacant job). At the coaching level, seven of the eight hires — Andy Reid (Chiefs), Doug Marrone (Bills), Rob Chudzinski (Browns), Mike McCoy (Chargers), Marc Trestman (Bears), Chip Kelly (Eagles), and Bruce Arians (Cardinals) — have been offensive coaches, with former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (Jaguars) serving as the lone exception.
A few weeks ago, Silver hit on what I view as the bigger problem, the lack of minority coaches serving as quarterbacks coaches, offensive coordinators, and play callers on staffs, the natural candidates for future head coaching jobs. However, even Silver only suggests two potential coaches with offensive backgrounds for owners to consider:
[F]ormer Raiders coach Hue Jackson, has had zero head-coaching interviews (and only one interview for a vacant offensive-coordinator position, in Carolina) despite having presided over top-10 offenses in Oakland in 2010 and ’11, and having gone 8-8 in his lone year as the Raiders’ coach. Newly promoted Ravens offensive coordinator (and former Colts coach) Jim Caldwell, who like [Lovie] Smith has Super Bowl head coaching experience, hasn’t gotten any sniffs, either.
Both of those coaches are stretches, which underscores the real problem. Taking on Jackson first, let’s note that Silver ignored the ineffective offenses Jackson presided over as an offensive coordinator in Washington (2003) and Atlanta (2007), although I understand giving Jackson a pass in both cases. So let’s look at the real claim: were the 2010 Raiders a top ten offense? They ranked 6th in points and 10th in yards, so you might think so. But Oakland also had 199 offensive drives, the 3rd most in the league, and the number of drives an offense has bears no relationship to the quality of the offense. In 2010, Oakland ranked 16th in points per drive, 17th in yards per drive and 20th in drive success rate. Pro-Football-Reference.com ranked the Raiders offense 17th in Expected Points Added, which is a more advanced metric than just yards or points. And Oakland had a considerably easier-than-average schedule that year, too. Strength of schedule, as you cam imagine, can have a big impact: while Oakland may have ranked 6th in points scored with a 25.6 points per game average, they averaged 49 points per game against the Broncos (32nd in points allowed) and 22.3 points per game against the rest of the NFL. In Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the 2010 Raiders ranked 23rd in offense, which is SOS-adjusted.
In 2011, the Raiders offense was a bit better: Football Outsiders ranked them 14th in DVOA, and 13th in yards/drive, 15th in points/drive, and 14th in drive success rate. PFR ranked them 14th in EPA, so I think we can all feel comfortable calling them the 14th best offense. But there are two problems with trumpeting 2011 as a sign of great potential in Jackson. For starters, while Hue Jackson called the plays on offense, it was newly-hired offensive coordinator Al Saunders responsible for the scheme and play design. More importantly, Jackson’s lone season as head coach in Oakland will be more remembered for his awful trade for Carson Palmer, as he sent a 2012 first rounder and a 2013 second round pick to the Bengals in October 2011. Al Davis had passed ten days earlier, and without a clear face of the organization, Jackson took it upon himself to mortgage the Raiders’ future for Palmer. I suspect teams are holding that against Jackson, even if his on-field work in the wake of Davis’ death left one of the enduring images of the season. Suffice it to say, pointing to the Raiders offenses in 2010 and 2011 as a sign that Jackson is some hidden gem is as silly as ranking offenses by yards.
The other name Silver trumpets as being passed over by NFL teams is more comical: Jim Caldwell. As the head coach at Wake Forest from 1993 to 2000, Caldwell went 26-63. He then joined Tony Dungy’s staff in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, taking over as the head coach when Dungry retired after the 2008 season. In 2009 and 2010, Indianapolis went 24-8, made the postseason both years, and made it to the Super Bowl, where the enduring memory of the game is how Sean Payton outcoached him. He was outcoached by Rex Ryan in the playoffs the following year, a blemish that looks uglier with each passing day. Of course, in 2009 and 2010 Caldwell had Peyton Manning on his roster; in 2011, the Manningless Colts went 2-14 with one of the worst offenses in the league. I don’t think there’s an owner or fanbase in the league that would be excited about the hiring of Caldwell as their team’s newest head coach. [Post-AFCCG Update: I will note that Caldwell has been doing an excellent job as the Ravens OC in this year’s playoffs. We’ll see where that takes him next year.] Caldwell and Jackson also bear the retread label, and Reid was the only head coach hired this year who had previously been an NFL head coach. For years fans have cried foul when teams hire head coaches who have been fired from prior jobs, and it looks like at least this year, NFL organizations agreed with that sentiment.
There is one minority candidate who rightfully should have been considered for a job this year: Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Horton may have hurt himself by thinking he was the frontrunner to replace fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, but I can’t blame the Cardinals for choosing to hire an offensive mind in Bruce Arians rather than promoting from within on a team that went 1-11 over the last three months of the season. Again, only one defensive coach was hired this year, so Horton seems to be a victim of his title, not his race. For aspiring defensive coordinators, this was a rough month.
Silver raises a point worth discussing and it’s fair to question the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule. He also bemoans the lack of minority hiring at the GM level, although I don’t considered myself qualified to add anything of note to that topic. On the coaching level, the bigger issue is the lack of quality candidates, not that Jackson, Caldwell, and Horton weren’t hired. The NFL can be extremely insular, and nothing better shows that than the news today out of Chicago. The Bears have hired Matt Cavanaugh — yes, the guy with this resume — as Chicago’s new quarterbacks coach. There is only one explanation for how the Jets quarterbacks coach of the past two years could get the same job in Chicago: Cavanaugh (as QB coach) worked under Trestman (as offensive coordinator) in San Francisco in 1996. As Ian Rapoport notes, the Bears press release ignores Mark Sanchez’ 2011 and 2012 seasons. I can’t say I blame their PR department.