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Lewis feeling the heat; Belichick a cut above

2/12/2008 - NFL

The NFL head-coaching landscape changes every offseason.

Four teams changed head coaches in 2008. Eighteen have changed head coaches at least once since January 2006. Twenty-seven have changed since January 2002. And so on.

Every so often, it pays to step back and take inventory.

Thirty-one of 32 current head coaches were never head coaches at the major college level, for instance. Eight were never NFL coordinators on offense or defense. Fifteen of the 17 most recent hires were white. And so on.

ESPN.com sizes up the head coaches from 10 angles:

1. On the hot seat

Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis has made it five years on the job without winning a playoff game, so put him high on the list.

Five other coaches since 1996 have made it five seasons in one place without experiencing postseason success, but only one of them -- Mike Holmgren in Seattle -- made it to a sixth season (source: Elias Sports Bureau).

The others were Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego, Dick Vermeil in Kansas City, Dick Jauron in Chicago and Bruce Coslet in Cincinnati. Coslet resigned three games into his fifth season. Vermeil retired after his fifth season. Schottenheimer and Jauron lost their jobs.

Holmgren enjoyed at least two advantages over Lewis. He had won a Super Bowl as a head coach with Green Bay, and he was the Seahawks' general manager for his first four seasons in Seattle. Holmgren bought extra time in Seattle by sacrificing the GM title, and Seattle was Super Bowl-bound within three seasons.

Carolina's John Fox and San Francisco's Mike Nolan might also need strong seasons in 2008.

2. Pro is the way to go

Blame Bobby Petrino if you must, but realize that NFL teams cooled on former college head coaches even before Petrino burned the Atlanta Falcons by bailing on them after one season.

The New York Giants' Tom Coughlin is the only NFL head coach who served in the same capacity at the NCAA Division I level. Miami's Tony Sparano was head coach at the University of New Haven, a Division II program.

Oakland's Lane Kiffin jumped from college assistant to NFL head coach, but most other head coaches had extensive experience at the NFL level.

3. Second chances can pay off

Seven current head coaches were fired as head coaches by other NFL teams: Mike Shanahan, Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Coughlin, Jauron, Wade Phillips and Norv Turner. They have guided their current teams to eight Super Bowls, winning seven, in 35 combined seasons with their current teams.

Three other head coaches left previous head-coaching jobs on their own terms: Holmgren, Jon Gruden and Herm Edwards.

These 10 current and former head coaches account for 41 of 64 playoff victories by coaches in their current roles. They account for 10 of 14 Super Bowl appearances by coaches in their current roles.

4. All bow to Belichick

The Patriots have won 14 playoff games in eight seasons with Belichick as head coach.

Philadelphia's Andy Reid is the only other NFL head coach with more than half as many playoff victories in his current job. Reid has won eight playoff games in nine seasons with the Eagles.

Denver's Mike Shanahan and Indianapolis' Tony Dungy have each won seven playoff games with their current teams. They needed a combined 19 seasons to match Belichick's eight-year total.

San Diego's Turner, of all people, leads NFL head coaches in playoff victories per calendar year with his current team (2.05). But Belichick is close behind (1.74) despite spending eight times as long on the job.

Dungy (1.15) is the only other head coach to average more than one playoff victory per calendar year with his current team. Coughlin (.975), Reid (.880) and Carolina's Fox (.827) are close behind.

5. Revisiting the Rooney Rule

Former NFL player and executive John Wooten says the Rooney Rule is working, and he would know.

Wooten promotes diversity and equality of opportunity for minority coaches, scouts and executives through the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

"Believe me, it's working," Wooten said.

For evidence, Wooten points to Jim Caldwell's promotion as future head coach in Indianapolis. He points to the promotion this offseason of at least four minority coaches to assistant head coach, and the addition of two minority coordinators.

And yet, the ranks of NFL head coaches have gotten whiter recently.

All four head coaches hired this offseason were white. Four of the five hired in 2007 were white. Two of the 10 teams that changed head coaches in 2006 hired black candidates, but Oakland dumped Art Shell after only one season.

None of the six black head coaches built his reputation on the offensive side of the ball, perhaps a reflection of the obstacles black quarterbacks have faced over the years.

The Rooney Rule took effect in December 2003. The league had two minority head coaches in 2000 and seven in 2006.

In 2000, 146 of 512 total NFL coaches were minorities (28.5 percent), according to the league. The figures were 175 of 578 (30.2 percent) in 2003 and 206 of 621 (33.2 percent) in 2007.

6. Super Bowls buy time

The Bucs haven't won a playoff game under Gruden since January 2003. Tennessee hasn't won a playoff game under Jeff Fisher since January 2004.
Droughts that long generally test an owner's patience. But both coaches led their teams to Super Bowl appearances, a good way to buy extra time.

Among current coaches, only Cincinnati's Lewis has gone longer in his current role without a playoff victory. The Bengals hired Lewis about two weeks before Gruden and the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII.

Twelve head coaches have lasted at least four seasons in their current roles. Ten have led their current teams to the Super Bowl.

7. Youth is served

Coughlin, 61, is the oldest head coach in the league.

Six head coaches were in their 30s when they accepted their current jobs. Three remain in their 30s: Kiffin (32), Tomlin (34) and the New York Jets' Eric Mangini (35).

Seventeen coaches were in their 40s when they were hired.
Nine were in their 50s, but none had reached 60 when he was hired. Phillips came closest. He was 59.55 years old when the Cowboys hired him.

Three current head coaches are in their 60s: Coughlin (61), Crennel (60) and Phillips (60). Holmgren joins them in June. But the average age for current head coaches is not quite 50. Current coaches averaged 46.3 years old when hired for their current jobs.

Gruden, 44, is the youngest current coach with a Super Bowl victory in his current job. Dungy is next at 52.

8. Offense, defense a tossup

Sixteen head coaches built their reputations on defense. Fifteen built their reputations on offense. Baltimore's John Harbaugh, hired last month, is the only head coach with primarily a special-teams background.

The 16 defensive-minded head coaches have won 34 playoff games, including four of eight Super Bowls, in a combined 64 seasons with their current teams.
The 15 offensive-minded head coaches have won 30 playoff games, including four of six Super Bowls, in a combined 55 seasons with their current teams.
Teams with offensive-minded head coaches have averaged slightly more playoff victories per season, but the difference is so small as to be insignificant (.545 to .531).

9. Desperation time

Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game in 17 years. Detroit hasn't won one in 16 years.

Kansas City (14), Cleveland (13), Buffalo (12) and Dallas (11), Arizona (nine), Miami (seven) and Baltimore (six) have also gone longer than five years without winning when it counts.

Their head coaches might deserve a break, in other words, because these franchises appear to be suffering from pre-existing ailments.

Houston, which joined the NFL in 2002, gets a pass.

10. Uncoordinated coaches

Zorn's hiring in Washington gave the NFL seven current head coaches with no experience as an NFL coordinator. The number becomes eight with Harbaugh, whose coordinating experience was limited to special teams.

The others without NFL coordinating experience: Reid, Coughlin, Edwards, Detroit's Rod Marinelli, Kiffin and Sparano.

Reid and Coughlin have led their teams to Super Bowls. The other five, counting Zorn, have been on the job a combined five seasons in their current roles, not long enough to pass judgment.

Mike Sando covers the NFL for ESPN.com.