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Wednesday's 60-second rant: Head coaches not only ones to blame

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Posted Nov. 14, 2012 @ 4:13 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Andy Reid should be fired. Norv Turner is toast. Ron Rivera? Nice knowing you. Don’t let the door hit you — or Pat Shurmur or Mike Mularkey or Mike Munchak — on the way out.

That’s what fans are saying in some circles, and some media members are on board, too.

We could see a number of head coaches fired this offseason. It’s a hazard of the business. There are no more three-year plans — heck, remember when it was five?

Free agency, the Internet and impatient fans, sick of seeing quick-fix turnarounds in other NFL cities, equal a recipe for one- or two-year disasters. Equanimity does not exist in today’s NFL.

And neither does perspective, in some respects. We’re ready to bury the head coaches after every tough loss, but it’s not just their work — the assistants are a huge part of the operation.

We’ve already seen a couple coordinators — Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and Panthers special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy — get whacked this season, but those might have been hide-saving moves by two head coaches (Reid and Rivera) already in deep trouble.

It’s not that coordinators don’t take a lot of guff. They do, but often the head coach is made the easy scapegoat for everything that goes wrong because it’s all “on their watch.”

Where I am from, you fire the guy who is not doing his job. It might be a bit cliché, but I still can remember leaving my high school locker room every day to the phrase: “Every chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Hackneyed? Sure. But it’s dead on.

Reid has not gotten the help he has needed from the slew of high-priced assistants he has brought in lately — OL coach Howard Mudd and DL coach Jim Washburn among them — whose philosophical changes have netted a step backward the past two seasons. The two coordinators not fired, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and special-teams coordinator Bobby April, are two more well-respected veteran coaches who have had bad seasons.

Reid might take the fall for certain personnel moves, too, but he’s not the only one who makes the call on bringing in players. GM Howie Roseman and others are a part of that process.

It has felt like Turner and GM A.J. Smith have been on thin ice for some time, and both are to blame for the Chargers' slow crawl to mediocrity. But part of their failures are not obvious and have more to do with trusting people who haven’t done a good job with personnel.

After Rivera left to take the Panthers’ job, the hiring of Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator — which is on both Turner and Smith — was a disaster and set the team back a year. Special-teams coordinator Richard Bisaccia was brought in to fix the horrible units from 2010, and though the rankings have improved, they have remained a problem. He has had too much say over the roster, too, leading the team to bring in flops such as Corey Lynch and Eddie Royal, letting go of Laurent Robinson and keeping Antonio Garay inactive until recently because of special-teams considerations.

Almost every team that will fire its head coach this offseason has a similar type of problem. Everyone wants to start at the top, but it’s amazing how much the people down the chain a few links can derail the whole operation.

If you peel back a few layers, you see what’s really happening with some of these moribund teams. The head coach’s head is on the chopping block, but others’ failures are part of their death sentence. You could argue that firing the head coach almost always leads to mass staff changes, but now we’re getting into the "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" argument.

Some talented head coaches will be out of jobs this season. As will some talented assistants. But not all of these head coaches should lose their jobs. Sometimes cutting the foot off — and not just the head — gets the job done.

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