Lombardi: Life of a coach can be bittersweet

PackerReport.com's John Lombardi asks: Who in their right mind would want that kind of job?

Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer was recently fired by his team. There were a lot of reasons for his dismissal. He did not get along with his boss, General Manager A. J. Smith. He has not won a playoff game in recent history. He has lost at least five of his assistants this off-season, including two coordinators, Wade Phillips and Cam Cameron, who left for head coaching gigs with the Cowboys and Dolphins respectively. He also caught heat for wanting to interview his brother Kurt for the defensive coordinator job. He was going to allow a couple other coaches interviews for jobs with the Cowboys and the owner, Dean Spanos, and Smith had had enough.

The Chargers went 14-2 last year and Marty has won more games than any other active coach. He has not won a Super Bowl, but is a solid coach. Atlanta Coach Jim Mora was fired with a career winning record. Bill Parcells quit rather than tolerate the circus down in Dallas. Look at Andy Reid, coach of the Eagles. He just took a leave of absence to attend to the trouble his two sons are in. Bill Belichick is involved in a messy divorce case.

Everywhere a coach turns, he is second guessed - by the media, fans, and within his own organization. He has no family life. He works long hours and is judged by unrealistic expectations. His wife and kids are virtual widows and orphans for a large part of the year. He has little job security and can be fired for ridiculous reasons.

Even when they are not fired, coaches have to move to advance in their profession.

Sure they make a lot of money. They are famous and in some people's minds, powerful. Theirs is not the only industry that demands long hours and sacrifice. But is it worth it? I honestly do not know. If we were judged by the same criteria as sports coaches, than most of us would be unemployed. I am not asking you to feel sorry for them, but rather I am saying that due to the publicity and fervor with which football is followed, these men operate under intense scrutiny.

They are largely judged by people who have no real expertise in the field they labor in. No sooner than a man is hired than the vultures start circling. Websites go up dedicated to getting them fired. The best part is that the folks who take potshots are not really qualified to judge. Fans have the right to judge. The media is obligated to observe and comment on the team. Owners can hire and fire whoever they want, but all of them are unqualified to judge the performance of a coach. This includes me. I am out of it. I do not spend all day watching tape anymore. I am no more qualified to criticize the way a doctor operates than any of us are to condemn a coach. You may think you are, but you are not.

We are welcome to criticize and call for a change, but ultimately we have no real clue what is going on in the huddle. Sure a team may be losing or playing poorly. We can jump to the conclusion that that is someone's fault, primarily the head coach. In today's results oriented society, if you do not produce, you are out on your rump. That is what these guys sign up for. They know full well what they are getting into. Yet, a guy can be a great coach and still fail. It is a harsh reality.

In Cleveland, Belichick was considered a loser. His philosophy was primarily the same as it is in New England. What is the difference? Is he older and better able to handle the job? Is he smarter? Did he learn how to coach all of a sudden? Or is it because he was lucky to draft Tom Brady in the sixth round? There is a fine line between winning and losing. Sometimes the coach is the problem, but in most cases it is more complicated.

What does all this have to do with the Packers? Nothing really, other than they are a team in the NFL. But next time you want to get on Mike McCarthy because he runs it right up the middle on third and 5, remember that he knows more than you and had his reasons. It may not have worked and he may not reveal his reasons to us, but ultimate responsibility rests on his shoulders and he will rise or fall on his performance.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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