Do we have enough evidence now? You could have been — and probably should have been — convinced 20 years ago, when first-year head coach George Seifert led the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory.
If that didn’t persuade you, watching Barry Switzer lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl championship six years later should have been enough. Switzer was in his second year with Dallas, just like Mike Tomlin was in his second year with the Steelers when they won the Super Bowl last year.
And it doesn’t always have to be as obvious as a league title. Look at Pete Carroll. His reputation is that he’s great in college, but not right for the NFL. Yet his first New England team won one less game than the beatified Bill?Parcells had managed the year before. Apparently the difference between one of the greatest coaches of all time and a guy who’s not right for the NFL was one game.
Or perhaps the difference between any good coach and any other good coach can be as simple as this: talent.
Isn’t that what a lot people said when Seifert won with Bill Walsh’s leftovers, or when Switzer won with the team Jimmy Johnson built? What about Tomlin’s near immediate success with Pittsburgh?
You tell me what’s more likely: that the Cowboys, Steelers and Niners would all find outstanding coaches, or that those coaches were merely good ones working with supreme talent.
Jim Caldwell leading the Colts toward a potential undefeated season and a Super Bowl win is further evidence that every decent coach can win with great talent. This is not to say definitively that these guys aren’t great coaches; only that there’s no way of knowing if Seifert or Caldwell — or even Bill Belichick — is better than Jim Zorn or Tom Cable.
Consider what’s happening in Foxboro these days. After a series of bad drafts and failed acquisitions, the Patriots aren’t as talented as they once were. Hence the 8-5 team being coached by a guy with five Super Bowl rings. It’s a lot like how, after eight straight 10-plus-win seasons with the Niners, Seifert went to the expansion Panthers and didn’t have a winning season in three years. Did he lose his talent as a coach, or did he just lose his talent?
– Bob Halloran is a sports anchor, author and reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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