How Secure Is Tice?

As hard as it is to believe, Mike Tice has more seniority than more than half the coaches in the NFL after just 33 games. While turnover is expected on rosters, the coaching hook has become an alarming trend.

There was a time when coaching changes were rare. In the 1970s and into the '80s, you could count on Bud Grant, Tom Landry, Chuck Knox, George Allen, John Madden, Chuck Noll, Don Coryell and Hank Stram to be on the sidelines. Even if a team was bad, a coach got five years to turn things around.

As Mike Tice ponders the improbable play that kept the Vikings out of the playoffs, he has to wonder if that will come back to bite him in the fickle era of coaching we currently live in.

To look at the numbers, it's really quite frightening how many coaches have been terminated over the last two years. Tice took over as head coach in the final game of the 2001 season -- a Monday night game vs. the Ravens that had been postponed because of the Sept. 11 attacks. The coaches he saw then bear little resemblence to what we see now.

Prior to the 2002 season, the Texans, Colts, Chargers, Panthers and Buccaneers all hired new coaches. Tony Dungy was fired by the Bucs for continually getting them to the playoffs but not advancing far enough. Considering that three of the four non-expansion teams have won division titles in the last two years -- and two have gone to the Super Bowl -- it only sets to hammer in the point that change is good.

Before last season, the Bengals, Jaguars, Cowboys, Lions and 49ers all added new coaches. In the short off-season we've seen so far, the Bills, Raiders, Giants, Redskins, Bears, Falcons and Cardinals -- seven of 32 teams -- have added a new coach.

The result is that, with 33 regular-season games as a head coach, Tice has more seniority with his current team than 17 other current head coaches -- a trend that seems to be speeding up instead of slowing down.

Even those with longer tenure are on a short leash. Only Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher and Mike Shanahan have been coaches with the same team for more than five years, and Cowher is on the line this year to keep his job.

There is no free ride in coaching anymore. Three AFC South teams have hired a new coach in the last two years. Three NFC East teams have hired a new coach in the last 12 months. In fact, the only divisions that haven't seen at least two coaches fired in the last two years are the AFC East and AFC North.

Job security is never assured in the NFL -- whether as a player or a coach. But the current rate of turnover has to beg the question -- will Tice be safe for very long if the Vikings don't turn things around in a hurry?

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