Coordinators Promoted To Head Coaches

Mike Tainer of Football Outsiders and NBC Sports writes a great article about coaches who are promoted from coordinators to head coaches like the Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo.  Most of the article is focused on how Tony Sparano looks so out of depth with the Miami Dolphins.  Spags is mentioned a time or two in the article, but it is the times that the Rams head coach is not mentioned that ring most true.

Part of Sparano’s problem may be his personality. Some coaches are all bluster and brimstone speeches. Others, like Sparano, are lower-key. … The low-key guys, like Wade Phillips, can exasperate both fans and superiors when they don’t display any rage after a tough loss.

Steve Spagnuolo is not mentioned in this paragraph, but a lot of that rings true with the Rams head coach’s low key personality.  But, what is the alternative?

The most successful coaches can modulate their personalities, which is another trait coordinators don’t need to master (the head coach has the emotions, the coordinator has a dry erase board). An Andy Reid can be soft-spoken, like Dungy, but wield authority behind the scenes. A Tom Coughlin or Mike Tomlin can come across as gruff and angry in press conferences but approachable and fair-minded in the locker room or staff meetings. “A coach has to know when to kick butt and when to take his foot off the pedal,” Sundquist said. Many assistants only know one or the other, or neither.

I hate blockquoting so much, but this is a great article (click the link and read the whole thing) and all of it is relevant to the Rams.  Spagnuolo is cool and collected on the practice field and with the press, but does he know when to kick butt behind the scenes?  We have heard different things and we may never find this out for certain until after Spagnuolo has moved on from the Rams.

So instead of looking for strategic masterminds, teams should seek out master communicators with delegation skills and charismatic personalities.

By all accounts, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is the former.  He gained acclaim with defenses that were able to decimate even the best offenses with the strategic use of players.  That does not mean he won’t be successful as a head coach, but more successful head coaches are in the latter category.

…look for coaches with some college experience. Many coordinators, like McDaniels, worked their way through the NFL’s “quality control assistant” ranks, meaning they started out as film slicers and data entry techs. College coaching involves more teaching…

Of course, the other failed head coach mentioned here is current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.  Head coach Steve Spagnuolo has a lot of college experience on his resume from UConn to Maine to Rutgers to Bowling Green, but none as a head coach.

The next best thing to college coaching experience may be a varied NFL résumé. John Harbaugh made his reputation as a special teams coordinator, a job that involves combing the bottom of the roster for talent, teaching young players unfamiliar roles (superstar NCAA receiver, you are now a kick gunner), and making sudden changes on the fly, skills that serve him well as a head coach.

And lastly, a varied resume always helps and the Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo has stayed within the linebackers, defensive backs and defensive coordinator positions since 1986.

This all does not mean that Spagnuolo will not succeed as the Rams head coach, however, Mike Tanier does a great job analyzing coaches that succeed and coaches that fail.  Sadly for us and for the Rams, Spagnuolo falls far too often in the latter case.


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