Twenty-hour work days, constant criticism, a salary that might be less than some of your players make, very unstable job security, and now the risk of heart problems and/or strokes. The NFL coaching fraternity is one that takes a lot to want to get into. There’s no instant gratification here, whatsoever. The constant news cycle and social media allow for continuous praise or blame to be dispensed by experts and amateurs. Why would anyone sign up for that?
Last week, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox underwent open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve. He had been hoping to hold off the surgery till the off-season but during the bye week, he felt dizzy while playing golf and tests revealed the surgery was necessary to do immediately. Fox’s Broncos are currently 8-1. Not saying that he doesn’t have any stress at all but he’s not getting much criticism these days since he’s got #18 running the offense. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio took over as interim head coach in Fox’s absence and all but admitted that Peyton would be running the offense on his own.
Also last week, Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the sidelines at halftime of the Texans’ Sunday night loss to the Colts. Kubiak was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where the team later announced that he suffered a “transient ischemic attack”, which doctors describe as a “mini-stroke”. Kubiak missed the Texans’ last game against Arizona but will reportedly be back on the sidelines this week. The Texans are 2-7. Win or lose, coaching can be hazardous to your health.
How long till other coaches have similar health issues. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh looks like a heart attack waiting to happen at times. Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano has been operating under a widely known “hot seat” which has included a billboard fans put up near the team facilities calling for his firing. Following the 2012 season, eight NFL head coaches were fired; 7 alone on what is called “Black Monday”, the Monday following the Week 17 games.
What’s in it for them? Well the salaries are nice. NFL coaches make an average $7 million, even if they can be fired at a moment’s notice, that’s still a good living. There’s also the chance that you do just enough things right for a certain amount of time that you’re labelled a “genius” like Bill Belichick and even if you don’t win a Super Bowl after that point, you’re legend never dies.
There’s also a huge market for former coaches in the broadcasting world. Former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden was fired from Tampa after several years of inconsistency and poor records following his Super Bowl victory. Now, he is the color-man on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and is heavily recruited each offseason by any desperate team looking to replace their previous coach. Gruden didn’t have nearly the coaching prowess he does now in his late years with the Bucs but a few Spider 3 Y Banana’s each Monday and he’s a coaching legend capable of turning around any teams’ misery. Gruden signed a 5-year contract extension with ESPN that began in 2012. Even he knows it doesn’t pay to be an NFL coach anymore.
Quite possibly NFL head coaches do it for the glory, just like the players. I’m sure they love the money, who doesn’t like money, and people seem to dig being in charge of stuff as well as being on television. But, I’d bet it’s for the glory. All of them deep down want to be carried off of the field like Chuck Noll in the 70s. They’d like to have a trophy named after them like Vince Lombardi. They want their greatness debated for decades to come; they want their legend to follow them wherever they go. And if it all works out right, they want a nice cushy network job so they can complain about the next guy that steps up. Sounds great, as long as their health holds out.