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6/21/2007

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Can "Player's Coaches" Succeed?

The 2007 season will see a whole new set of head coaches, and the league has entered an era of the "player's coach," its in vogue right now. A majority, if not all, the new head coaches are thought as being coaches that can relate to players at different levels rather than being the hardcore, stern, disciplinarian type coach.

Wade Phillips (Cowboys), Norv Turner (Chargers), Cam Cameron (Dolphins), Mike Tomlin (Steelers), and Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals) are all coming into favorable situations with teams with alot of upside.

Turner is coming into a team, that by all accounts could have been in the Super Bowl last year with their explosive offense and aggressive defense; however, the question will be can a player's coach like Turner get this team over the hump? Is he the final piece needed to get this team to the Super Bowl, is this the perfect situation for Turner and his players?

Players have said that change can be good, and some players respond better to different coaching styles than others. Could this be the answer in San Diego? We know Turner can get the offense going, but will the lack of being a disciplinarian make the team lose concentration and cause more penalties? We'll see how the team responds from the hardcore coaching style of their previous coach in Marty Schottenheimer compared to Norv Turner.

The Chargers head coaching change and situation mirrors the Cowboys greatly. Wade Phillips is coming into a situation where the team has improved over the year's with the base of talent coming from the draft. The main difference between the Chargers and Cowboys are the coaches. I believe the Cowboys have assembled the better coaching staff, from the Special Teams coach Bruce Read, WRs Coach Ray Sherman, DC Brian Stewart, OC Jason Garrett, to name a few.

The Cowboys have two major strengths on each side of the ball. Wade Phillips is the defensive-guru, and Jason Garrett is the offensive prodigy who comes from a solid offensive minded lineage.

Both Turner and Phillips could be what their teams need in this day and age in the NFL, this could be their perfect opportunity at the right time.

ESPN has a good article that covers this very subject, they talk about how there's a cycle in the NFL; in where, stern coaches get the boot in favor for mild-mannered coaches. Right now, the league has entered the era of the player's coach.

The two teams in the Super Bowl were coached by player's coaches, Tony Dungy (Colts) and Lovie Smith (Bears)

Those players talked about their preference for coaches who don't rely on intimidation, rigid rules or silly mind games to motivate their teams. They liked the idea of being around head coaches who saw themselves more as teachers than drill sergeants, and it's become apparent that the league's decision makers have recognized the value in that as well.

Players like Julius Jones embrace the change:

The Cowboys were so pleased to have a mild-mannered coach that some -- notably running back Julius Jones -- publicly expressed their gratitude for not having to deal with a daily dose of Tuna any longer.
Charger's players are looking forward to a new regime as well:

"I think Norv has been good to have around because the younger players are learning that there's another way to do the job as a head coach. As much as we liked Marty, it's important for some of these guys to know that not every coach has to give a bunch of passionate speeches or be a tough guy to win games."

The interesting part of the article comes from the end:

The question, of course, is whether all these players' coaches -- and the warmer environments they subsequently create -- will produce more victories than their predecessors. Usually, the knock on such men is they can become too soft, and eventually lose their ability to motivate players. That's what killed Turner when he coached the Oakland Raiders, and it's also been a knock on Phillips and Buffalo's Dick Jauron in the past. They were such nice guys in their previous jobs, their teams never became that tough or consistent.

The theory has been that player's coaches have short term success, and players stop responding and inherently need more structure and discipline. This may or may not be true, depending on who you ask. Colts fans would argue that their coach has been very successful over the years, while others would point out the factor that it took Dungy a long time to get his team over the hump because of the way he coaches.

People are so use to seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl that was the assumed blueprint for success: get a disciplinarian like Belichick and you too can win a Super Bowl. Well, guess what, there may be some truth to this, and this is why we saw coaches like Gibbs, Parcells, and Coughlin return to coaching, they were the desired type of coach at the time.

Look at the past Super Bowl winners (excluding last year):
XL 2006 Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10
XXXIX 2005 New England 24, Philadelphia 21
XXXVIII 2004 New England 32, Carolina 29
XXXVII 2003 Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21
XXXVI 2002 New England 20, St. Louis 17
XXXV 2001 Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7

Did the Colts and Bears set the bar now for their coaching style as being the more effective style or is this just a coincidence? We'll see how the games pan out; however, with the league having more player's coaches there's going to be some canceling out of each other somewhere along the line. I like our chances in the NFC East where players are failing to respond to coaches like Gibbs and Coughlin, who are old school disciplinarians. Andy Reid is probably the only consistent coach in the NFC East the last several years, so I would expect them to be in the hunt as usual, despite their diminishing talent on both sides of the ball.

So to answer the question, I would have to say yes. I think our coach, Wade Phillips will have success. A Super Bowl victory being the ultimate goal. He has the staff and hungry players to make a serious run here in Dallas.

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