As the NFL playoffs get underway, two prominent coaches are on the outside looking in and wondering what ever happened to that good old fashioned virtue called patience.
One year after he was welcomed into San Francisco to direct the reconstruction of the woebegone 49ers, Chip Kelly was advised to seek employment elsewhere. That’s what happens when a team goes 2-14.
This, of course, was not a new experience for Kelly. He was one of college football’s hottest coaches after leading the University of Oregon to four bowl games including the 2011 championship game. He had the pick of a fistful of NFL jobs and settled on Philadelphia, taking an Eagles team that had been 4-12 the year before he arrived, to consecutive 10-6 records in the next two seasons. He was just the second coach in NFL history to win a division championship in his first year on the job.
Armed with some new roster-construction muscle, he cleaned house in his third year, remaking the roster. But the Eagles dipped to 7-9 and Kelly was shown the door. His sometimes irascible personality clashed with powerful people in the organization and that left him vulnerable. Did the 49ers not know that Kelly had a reputation for a “my way or the highway’’ approach? Maybe not, because they couldn’t wait to recruit him for a job that turned out to be temporary.
Kelly’s ‘Niners were a hit at the start, opening the season with a 28-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Rams, the first opening day shutout in the league since 2009. Things soured rather quickly after that in s season pockmarked by a 13-game losing streak. It ended 2-14 and now the 49ers will open the 2017 season with their fourth head coach in as many years. Continuity is not a quality with which this franchise is familiar.
Then there was the matter of Rex Ryan. Good, ol’ Rex is a brass band every time he marches into another town. He was a quote machine in New York with the Jets, arriving with a chip on his shoulder, challenging the dominance of division neighbor New England. “I’m not here to kiss Bill Belichick’s ring,’’ he boasted, promising Super Bowl glory for a team that had not been to that game since 1969.
But Belichick has Tom Brady at quarterback and Ryan had Mark Sanchez. It was not a fair fight and after two straight unexpected trips to the AFC championship game, Ryan’s Jets fell on hard times. After four losing seasons management finally tired of Ryan’s bluster and boasts and sent him on his way. It took him no time to land in Buffalo where the Bills had been through a revolving door of coaches since Marv Levy retired.
When he got to Buffalo, the Bills were in the midst of a 15-year playoff-less stretch. Not to worry. Sexy Rexy would change all that. He strutted into town, equipped with four straight losing seasons with the Jets and was rewarded with a five-year $27.5 million contract. Imagine if he had a winning record. How much would he get then?
The bloom was off Ryan’s rose rather quickly. His 8-8 first season was disappointing and the Bills weren’t much better this season. They were 7-8 when the axe fell on their boisterous coach, who was invited to leave and to take his twin brother, defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Rob Ryan with him. Having 10 men on the field instead of the standard 11 when Miami scored a decisive touchdown in Ryan’s last game may have had something to do with the joint exits.
Four other coaching jobs became available at season’s end with Gary Kubiak retiring from Denver because of health concerns, Mike McCoy leaving San Diego, Jeff Fisher finished with the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville shopping to replace Gus Bradley.
Not to worry. There are replacements out there. Chip Kelly and Rex Ryan are available.