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January 18, 2002

by Bill Hogan



The papers are referring to the hiring and firing of NFL coaches as a 'coaching carousel'. You know, like a merry-go-round.

I think it's more like the childhood game 'musical chairs'.


Remember? Ten kids, nine chairs, when the music stops everyone scrambles to sit down. The one still standing is out of the game.

The music stopped in Tampa. Sit down Bill Parcells. So long, Tony Dungy - and thanks for turning the league's laughing stock into a perennial playoff team.

The Panthers, too, pulled the needle off the old 45. They're tired of losing. 1-15 is downright embarrassing. See ya, George Seifert - we need an experienced Super Bowl winner to coach our team.

(The fact that Seifert won two Super Bowls with the 49er's must have eluded the Carolina management).

Two Super Bowl wins will elevate a coach to 'God-like' status. A genius. A master. A guru.

But what do you call a coach that wins two Super Bowls then leads a team to an NFL record fifteen straight losses?

Here's what I think. He sat down in the wrong chair. And the team didn't let him sit there long enough to see how the game might turn out.

If, a year from now, Seifert lands in Oakland or Miami or Chicago - and he wins another Super Bowl - is he a genius again?

For coaches, it's all about being in the right place at the right time. Or the right place long enough for it to become the right time.

Chuck Noll led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowls, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is regarded as one of the NFL's greatest coaches.

By the coaching criteria that seems to be the standard among owners today, Chuck Noll would have been out of football and running a bagel shop in downtown Pittsburgh long before he ever had the opportunity to win a Super Bowl.

His first Steeler team went 1-13 in 1969. He 'improved' to 5-9 in 1970, then 6-8 in 1971. Three more years of really bad football in a city with a long history of really bad football.

By today's standards, it should have been time to stop the music, send this bum packing and get someone in there that can win.

Cooler heads prevailed. Noll continued to coach in Pittsburgh and by 1974 he had assembled a team that would win four Super Bowls in the next six years.

Is Noll a coaching genius? Or was he able to hang on to his job long enough to be in the right place at the right time. You be the judge, but I'll give you this piece of information to chew on: by 1974, the Pittsburgh Steeler roster included nine future Hall of Fame players.

(How many future Hall of Famers can you find in the 2001 Carolina Panthers media guide?)

Curly Lambeau. Does the name ring a bell? It should, the Hall of Famer is so highly revered in Green Bay that the Packers play their home games in a stadium named after him.

He coached the Packers in the early days of professional football. It took Lambeau nine years to win a championship. The Providence Steam Rollers won a championship before Lambeau's Packers. So did the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

How many NFL owners today would have given Coach Lambeau nine years to bring home a winner?

He'd have been flipping burgers in a Wisconsin diner before the Champagne in the Frankford locker room lost its fizz.

(On the bright side, he probably could have taken credit for being the first to coin the phrase 'would you like curly fries with your order?')

It took Tom Landry eleven seasons to turn the Dallas Cowboys into 'America's Team'. His first three were a disaster. The Cowboys were a combined 9-28-2 from 1960-62.

After six dismal seasons he finally made it to the NFL Championship game - only to lose to the Green Bay Packers.

He made it back the following year and lost again to the Packers on December 31, 1967 in the famous "Ice Bowl". Wind chill temperatures at game time reached thirteen below.

Imagine current owner Jerry Jones in the stands for that game. "I'm freezing my billionaire ass off for this? Get rid of the bum". Excuse the language, but what would you expect from a man who turned 'America's Team' into 'America's Most Wanted'.

Five years later, Landry would lead the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl victory. A 24-3 win over Miami. Of course having a future Hall of Fame quarterback named Roger Staubach didn't hurt.

Musical chairs.

Sit in the right one at the right time, and you're a genius.


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