Our very own bamrock is penning more for Bleacher Report, and yet again he has a solid article up on a rather interesting topic. What does history tell us about top assistants taking over for legendary head coaches? Answer: Mixed reviews.
The loss of a future Hall of Fame head coach like Tony Dungy is certain to have an impact on a team's success, right?
If you ask Redskins fans who witnessed the transition from Joe Gibbs to Richard Petitbon in 1993, you would get a resounding "yes!" Petitbon took over after Gibbs retired and led the 'Skins to a dismal 4-12 finish. He was abruptly fired.
Head Coach Jim Caldwell and Petitbon have a number of noteworthy similarities.
Both spent years developing teams and won Super Bowls under their predecessors.
Both were entering their first head coaching jobs in the NFL.The similarities end there.
Richie Petitbon's coaching tenure with the Washington Redskins is the example everyone uses as one where an assistant took over for a legendary coach only to take a Super Bowl-winning franchise and drive it into the ground. Petitbon inherited a top five defense, a league MVP quarterback, and a stable of offensive weapons. Petitbon coached one year in the pros as a head man (1992). He was fired after his only year as a head coach and never returned to coach in the league again.
Call me crazy, but Petitbon is a bit of an extreme when it comes to examples.
If anything, Petitbon's tenure as a head coach exposed him as someone who clearly should not have been given the reigns to a franchise like the Redskins. Perhaps it exposed him as an over-rated coach, period. Also, the league back then was much different. So, using examples that are almost 20 years old and applying them today are not always accurate.
Just like anything else, when you replace someone who was arguably the best in the league at what he did that replacement will likely not be as good. Look at Pittsburgh. While Steelers fans might disagree, you cannot tell me that Mike Tomlin (pictured above) is a better head coach than Bill Cowher. Hell, Tomlin himself wouldn't even make that claim even though he has as many Super Bowl rings as Cowher and Dungy.
What Tomlin brought to the table was stability. The Steelers transitioned almost seamlessly from a coach who liked to run the ball and grind clock to a coach who wanted to throw the ball on first down. Along the way, they kept the same corps philosophy of the defense (Zone Blitz 3-4), but with Tomlin (a Dungy Tampa-2 disciple) they made a few "tweaks." Gone were the crazy, exotic blitzes Dick LeBeau loved to throw at people. The defense re-focused on technique and fundamentals rather than scheming an opponent to death. The result was a much more disciplined and fundamentally sound Steelers defense in 2008.
Caldwell, like Tomlin in Pittsburgh, seems to be making that same, seamless transition. Just like Tomlin, he is keeping the same corps philosophy with the Colts defense. Also like Tomlin, there is some tweaking. So far, things seem to be working well:
Caldwell said [new defenseive coordinator Larry] Coyer has merged well with the Colts' defensive staff, most of which have been on staff for five or more seasons: defensive line coach John Teerlinck (eighth season with Colts), linebackers coach Mike Murphy (12th season), secondary coach Alan Williams (eighth season), defensive line assistant Bill Teerlinck (third season) and special assistant Rod Perry (third season).
“He has fit right in and done a remarkable job of bringing some cohesion to that group,” Caldwell said. “You have a lot of smart men that have been within the system – John and Murph and Rod and Alan and Bill. He has done a nice job of bringing them all together and they're working well.”
With the talent this team has, and the quality of the coaching staff (Caldwell included), this team is certainly NOT the 1992 Washington Redskins. Just like last year, and the year before that, I am very excited about the team's talent and overall direction. They're still on of the youngest teams in football. Peyton is 33 and has several more years of great football left. They drafted a young, explosive RB and has shored up the DT position by adding five new players who were not on this team this past January. Russ Purnell is gone. We have a new, energetic defensive coordinator that players are responding to. Howard Mudd and Tom Moore are staying.
Yep, things look pretty good in our neck of the woods. How it all shakes out remains to be seen.