Pa­tience runs out this time of year in the NFL

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The demise in less than a week of Jeff Fisher and Gus Bradley as coaches of their re­spec­tive teams pro­vided ex­am­ples. Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Jaguars boss Shad Khan grew tired of wait­ing for the on­field prod­uct to match their suc­cesses away from foot­ball.

Those two fir­ings, even though Fisher led the Rams through a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion from St. Louis to Los An­ge­les and Bradley was well­liked by Khan and his or­ga­ni­za­tion, might be just the be­gin­ning. Con­sider some of these men in charge to be either in the en­dan­gered species class or ap­proach­ing it: Marvin Lewis, Mike McCoy, Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles, John Fox and Chuck Pagano. It’s not in­con­ceiv­able that Chip Kelly and Hue Jack­son could wind up on the cut­ting room floor, de­spite what their back­ers, uh, own­ers have said in re­cent weeks.

It might hardly seem fair for some of those men and, frankly, in many cases it isn’t. Fox, Bowles and Ryan de­serve more than two years at the helms of their cur­rent teams. Lewis and Pagano have brought con­sis­tent win­ning to their fran­chises at var­i­ous times in their regimes and prob­a­bly could do so again.

As a wise scribe once wrote, the most im­por­tant po­si­tion on any NFL team is owner. When that owner has the last name of Rooney, Mara, Allen, Kraft or Bis­ciotti, panic doesn’t set in. They tend to choose the cor­rect coach for their team and then let him coach.

The re­wards have been Su­per Bowl tro­phies for all of them un­der coaches given the op­por­tu­nity to build a team and help it grow into a cham­pion.

Khan tried that ap­proach with Bradley, who helped put to­gether some great Seat­tle de­fenses un­der Pete Car­roll. The ar­range­ment flopped and the ugly end came Sun­day when the Jaguars blew a 21-20 lead at Hous­ton and fell to 2-12, with nine straight de­feats. Bradley’s 14-48 record was the worst win­ning per­cent­age (.225) of any NFL coach with at least 60 games.

“I thanked Gus Bradley to­day for his com­mit­ment to the Jack­sonville Jaguars over the past four sea­sons,” Khan said in a state­ment. “As any­one close to our team knows, Gus gave his staff and play­ers lit­er­ally ev­ery­thing he had. Our play­ers com­peted for Gus and I know they have great re­spect for him, as do I.

RE­MARK­ABLE PA­TIENCE

“Gus also rep­re­sented the Jaguars, the Jack­sonville com­mu­nity and the NFL in noth­ing less than a first-class man­ner as our head coach. That counts for a lot. It is un­for­tu­nately ev­i­dent that we must make a change. I thought it would be best to do it im­me­di­ately af­ter to­day’s re­sult so Gus can step away, re­lax and re­group with his fam­ily dur­ing the Christ­mas and hol­i­day sea­son.”

Thanks for the think­ing of me so kindly, boss. In truth, though, Khan showed re­mark­able pa­tience this sea­son with Bradley, whom he con­sid­ered fir­ing in Oc­to­ber. The Jags spent big money in free agency and thought they could con­tend for the weak AFC South’s crown. In­stead, they’re ahead of only Kelly’s lowly 49ers and Jack­son’s win­less Browns in the en­tire league.

Khan’s ap­proach over the past four-plus years should be com­mended. He looked around at Mike Tom­lin in Pitts­burgh, Tom Cough­lin in New York un­til the end of the 2015 sea­son, and John Har­baugh in Baltimore and rec­og­nized the need for con­ti­nu­ity.

But when that con­ti­nu­ity man­i­fests it­self in so many losses, with hefty signs of re­gres­sion, it’s time to move on. That’s why Jack­son, a very pop­u­lar coach in Cleve­land, might not be back if the Browns match the 2008 Lions at 0-16. It’s why Kelly, de­spite his mas­sive con­tract and only mi­nor rum­blings about change even as his 49ers have lost 13 in a row, could go.

It must be re­mem­bered, though, that can­ning both of them af­ter they were sad­dled with such un­der­tal­ented ros­ters - and then hit hard by in­juries - means start­ing over with a new coach. And still with a low num­ber of high-level play­ers in those two cities.

Own­ers con­tem­plat­ing coach­ing changes also should look at the stand­ings first. The divi­sion lead­ers in half of the eight di­vi­sions have long-tenured coaches. Of the other teams in strong con­tention to get to the post­sea­son, four more of those have guys who have been in place a while.

And just be­cause their clubs are strug­gling this sea­son doesn’t mean Ron Rivera, Bruce Ari­ans and Sean Pay­ton don’t know what they’re do­ing. — AP

Shad Khan

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