WEAROUT : Slower Than Burnout, It’s Expiration Date for Effectiveness

Burnout isn’t the only affliction that pushes professional coaches into retirement prematurely.

There’s also lassitude, Raider executive Al LoCasale said the other day.

“Nine or 10 years are about as long as any pro coach can operate at top efficiency,” LoCasale said. “After that, most of them find that they’re better off moving out.

“They aren’t burned out, exactly. They just can’t do it any more--not the way they want to do it, not the way they used to do it.”


This is a theory first advanced by Raider owner Al Davis. The theory gained more credibility a few months ago when Bill Walsh ended 10 years as coach of the San Francisco 49ers by resigning after his third Super Bowl triumph. At 57, Walsh is now an football analyst for NBC.

Earlier, John Madden and Tom Flores had both left the Raiders after a decade or so as coach, and after each had won the Super Bowl at least once.

In 1967, the late Vince Lombardi left the Green Bay Packers after winning two Super Bowls in nine years.

“It’s hard for a pro coach to maintain the level of his enthusiasm for more than a decade,” LoCasale said.


“He has been motivating many of the same players all that time. They’ve heard all his lines and all his funnies--over and over, probably. Most players get to where they can even impersonate a veteran coach nicely at parties.

“After 10 years or so, the coach has given all of himself that there is. He’s generated the best results he can get. When the time comes to put it into third gear, he discovers that third gear isn’t there any more.”

The famous exceptions are Don Shula, who has been coaching pro teams for a quarter-century, lately at Miami, and Chuck Noll, who has led the Pittsburgh Steelers all that time.

Tom Landry led the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years until a new owner fired him this spring.


However, the league’s three senior coaches have all hovered around .500, if that. The Dolphins were 6-10 last year, the Steelers 5-11, the Cowboys an NFL-worst 3-13. Landry’s last three teams were losers.

Last year, however, neither Noll, Shula nor Landry seemed close to burning out.