Commentary

Lockout hits these coaches harder

Their already difficult situations are made worse by lack of offseason activities

Originally Published: May 27, 2011
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Jack Del Rio, Todd Haley and Hue JacksonAP Photo/Getty ImagesJack Del Rio has to groom a rookie quarterback, and Todd Haley has to build on last year's success depsite a tougher schedule. Hue Jackson has to prove lifting the "interim" tag wasn't a mistake.
The NFL Coaching Association filed a brief in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pushing for the end of the lockout.

Many thought this was done to support the players in the labor dispute. Larry Kennan, who runs the NFLCA, says that wasn't the case. According to Kennan, the filing was done solely for the coaches, whose careers are affected by the current lack of an offseason with their players.

The brief says the average coach is 46 years old and works in an environment that lacks job security, operating mostly on two-year contracts. It notes that in the past three years more than 60 coaches have been fired from positions they held for two years or less and that every two years 40 to 45 percent of the NFL coaching jobs change.

To stay in the business, coaches move frequently, regularly buying and selling homes and sometimes owning multiple homes during transitions.

In a perfect world, the 2011 class of coaches won't be judged on the outcome of a season in which they didn't have normal control, but this is a mean, cruel world. Once the labor problems are over, coaches will be asked to piece together their rosters and win.

The lockout affects some coaches more than others. These 10 are facing the toughest odds and deserve something of a pass. Remember their names and check back toward the end of the season to see if, indeed, they faced nearly impossible situations.

1. Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo: It was going to be difficult for a veteran offensive line coach to switch over to coordinate the defense. Now Castillo must do it without an offseason and maybe a training camp. Eagles coach Andy Reid believed he needed a change in defensive philosophies. The Eagles' defense came from the brilliant mind of Jim Johnson, but his death left a void. Johnson had some of the best blitzes in football, but many relied on Johnson's feel of the game and years of experience. Castillo hasn't had an organized team activity, minicamp or meeting with his defenders to give them a new plan.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio: His long tenure has been controversial for the past few years, but owner Wayne Weaver is demanding a trip to the playoffs this season. Along with trying to fix a defense that has struggled the past few seasons, Del Rio now has to groom a young quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. We saw last year how the burden of developing a young quarterback caused friction for John Fox in the final year of his Carolina Panthers contract. Del Rio could go with veteran David Garrard, but he must win and show some progress with a rookie quarterback he barely knows.

[+] EnlargeMike Martz
Robin Alam/Icon SMIMike Martz was unable to get a contract extension from the Bears.
3. Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz: Unable to get a contract extension, Martz is in the final year of his deal. His head coach, Lovie Smith, and the rest of the staff have two years extra on their contracts. The task for his offense and quarterback Jay Cutler grew that much tougher when the NFL moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line, a rule change that affects the Bears more than most teams. Devin Hester and Bears returners spoiled Cutler for two years by giving him drive starts around the 32-yard line. Touchbacks could force Cutler to drive 80 yards for touchdowns and 40 just to get field goals. Martz needs time in the offseason to rework things. If the Bears' offensive scoring drops below 20 points, he could be a postseason casualty. The Bears are coming off an NFC title game trip and don't expect a drop-off.

4. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley: Haley spent two years trying to upgrade the offensive talent and get the bodies and minds of veteran Chiefs offensive players right. He brought in Charlie Weis last year to get more out of QB Matt Cassel. Weis has left for Florida, and Haley is left to call the plays. The Chiefs won 10 games last year, but a tougher schedule and the lack of an offseason with players to drive them could cause the offense to backslide. That might lead to unfair judgments of Haley, who produced a playoff team in his first two years.

5. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy: Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton or Brady Quinn -- even McCoy can't tell you who he'll be working with at quarterback once camp or the season starts. Orton could be traded. If McCoy's job performance is judged on how quickly Tebow develops, his job security could be in jeopardy by season's end. Tebow needs more coaching than just about any quarterback in football. He needs work on his throwing mechanics, and that isn't happening during the lockout. Tebow's popularity among Broncos fans makes the job that much harder. If the Broncos go with Tebow and the result is losses, McCoy is in an impossible spot.

6. Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano: Even though owner Stephen Ross gave Sparano a contract extension, he's going year to year. Sparano has to try to win in a division in which the Dolphins are arguably third in talent behind the New England Patriots and New York Jets, and his roster has plenty of issues. Chad Henne regressed at quarterback last year, and a new offensive coordinator can't work with him during the lockout. The team plans to bring in a veteran to challenge Henne. Running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are unsigned. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall 's off-the-field issues are a constant worry. Good luck.

7. Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer: Palmer is one of the league's nice guys, but he often finds himself in impossible situations. He worked with two expansion teams -- the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans -- and he was judged on two quarterbacks -- Tim Couch and David Carr -- who didn't make it over the long term. Now, he is offensive coordinator for Mike Munchak as the Titans try to develop Jake Locker. And Locker, who needs work on his mechanics, is locked out of the Titans' headquarters.

8. Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson: Thanks to Jackson's play calling and the work he did with Jason Campbell, the Raiders went 8-8 and Jackson went from interim coach to head coach. Owner Al Davis won't accept a drop-off or excuses, even though everyone sees the potholes in the road ahead. Jackson must revamp the offensive line completely. He probably will lose Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff in the secondary. Defensive end Richard Seymour held a Raiders workout for players this week, but he did it in Georgia, where he lives, not Oakland.

9. Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable: The former Raiders coach took over the Seahawks' offensive line, which is trying to replace three starters. The Seahawks used their first two draft choices on offensive linemen James Carpenter and John Moffitt and they have to find another guard in free agency. Starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is unsigned and has to decide whether he wants to return to what will be the league's youngest and -- until the lockout is over -- most uncoached offensive line.

10. Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak: Texans owner Bob McNair has the greatest respect for and faith in Kubiak, but will that faith hold if Kubiak goes six years without a trip to the playoffs? Kubiak plays in a division controlled by the Indianapolis Colts, and that deceases the odds of the Texans being a playoff team. McNair hired Wade Phillips with hopes of making a quick fix of the defense, but trying to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in training camp -- or even less time -- is like trying to rebuild an engine in an Indy 500 pit stop.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer