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Interim coaches can have lasting consequences

There for a while, they were two men having the same career.

One coached defense and one coached offense, but for most of three seasons, you had to call out the chains to measure the difference between Raheem Morris' team and Todd Haley's.

Both of them struggled in their first year (Haley won four, Raheem won three). Both of them had impressive, 10-win second seasons. And both of them have struggled though catastrophic seasons this year.

The difference is this: Haley no longer has a job, and for at least the time being, Morris does.

Just asking, but who out there wants an interim for Christmas?

Why, other towns have them. Romeo Crennel has taken over in Kansas City, and Miami has turned to Todd Bowles, whoever he is, and the Bucs have just lost to Jacksonville and Mel Tucker, who may end up as the city's new mayor. As unpleasant as the noise is around Tampa Bay, there are doubtless some who think a substitute head coach sounds like a fine idea.

But it isn't.

Not even now, not even with a seven-game losing streak, not even with the problems that seem to multiply with every loss. Morris may lose his job at the end of the season, but there isn't a lot to be accomplished by rushing to do it now.

I know, I know. When a community has lost faith in a coach, and that seems to be the situation in Tampa Bay, a replacement sounds like an idea that should be executed as soon as possible. As a statement from the owner, it sounds strong, it sounds assertive, it sounds as if their standards are above what everyone is witnessing. It stops the noise. It promises the future. It promises that if you will pay, the team will sell you a ticket in the name of making a change.

In reality, firing a coach near the end of a season usually accomplishes almost nothing. After 13 games, most of the ship has sunk, and naming a new captain isn't going to plug the leaks. Here's a secret: Assistant coaches usually don't know any different plays than the head coach.

If you remember, there was once another Bucs coach who was on a losing streak, and the team was underachieving, and fans were calling for his head. And, with three games to go, the team fired Ray Perkins and promoted — ta-daa — Richard Williamson.

Williamson promptly went 1-2, which wasn't any better. The problem was that his players pled his case to ownership, and somehow, Williamson was hired for the next year. He went 3-13, a thoroughly wasted year for a franchise that had wasted too many of them.

This doesn't have anything to do with Raheem, and for those of you ready to storm the castle, this isn't saying he should be back next year. As I have written, I can see no reasonable argument for it any longer. That said, I have never understood the reasoning for interim coaches.

You know who interim coaches are? They're guys like Rick Venturi, who filled in twice. In 1991, he finished up a Colts season by going 1-10. In 1996, he finished up a Saints season by going 1-7. Tell me: What was salvaged?

Buffalo fired Dick Jauron after a 3-6 start in 2009; Perry Fewell finished 3-4 as his replacement. After Butch Davis went 3-7 before being fired by Cleveland in 2004, Terry Robiskie went 1-5. Marion Campbell was 3-9 for the Falcons in 1989; Jim Hanifan was 0-4.

Even worse, a little bit of success can convince the team an interim coach is ready to be a head coach. Minnesota must be re-thinking its decision to keep Leslie Frazier, for instance. In 2000, Arizona turned the reins over to Dave McGinnis, who went 1-8 and was promptly named permanent head coach. After three straight losing seasons, he was gone, too.

Oh, there are rare exceptions. Back in 1987, Marv Levy took over a bad Buffalo team at 2-7. He finished only 2-5 that year, but he ended up winning four AFC titles. Jeff Fisher started as an interim coach with the Oilers, but he ended up reaching the Super Bowl. Marty Schottenheimer had a fine career (playoffs notwithstanding) after a mid-season promotion. Don Coryell got his start as an interim. So did Art Shell.

Most guys, however, are just trying to plug leaks. Most take over too late in the game to change offenses or defenses or culture or attitude. Consider this: An interim coach has never taken over and led his team to the post-season. Why? Because if a team was anywhere close, it wouldn't need to change coaches.

Besides, who among the Bucs' staff would you promote? Greg Olson? His chair is as hot as Morris'. Maybe Keith Millard, who has enough credibility to shake things up.

As upset as many people are about the Bucs, as ready as they are to see someone else in charge, hiring an interim coach isn't going to cure anything. Ask yourself: Do you really think the Jaguars are in firm hands today? Are the Chiefs better off? Have the Dolphins turned it around?

The Bucs should let Morris finish out the season, then take their time discussing his performance, evaluating the possible replacements and discussing how is best to repair a broken franchise.

In case the Bucs disagree, here's a thought.

I don't think Richard Williamson, old, rested and ready, has anything to do.

FIRED

AFTER GAME 13

Interim coaches can have lasting consequences 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:49pm]

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