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Guidelines for Getting an NFL Job

Imagine, for a moment, you’re Buddy Ryan.

OK, so your imagination doesn’t bend that far. Try it again: Imagine you’re an unemployed pro football coach or a gainfully employed college football coach on the fast track, and you’re looking for somewhere to rest your headset in 1992. Unlike the rest of the country, the National Football League has openings and positions available--as many as nine head coaching vacancies and probably no less than seven, shortly after this weekend’s games are concluded.

So you have options. You have choices. You want the best opportunity out there, but more important, you want to avoid the quicksand traps.

We have the help you need.

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From best to worst, The Top Seven NFL Head Coaching Jobs Worth Considering This Winter, Assuming Chuck Noll Doesn’t Retire and Cincinnati Is Too Cheap to Buy Out Sam Wyche:

1. San Diego Chargers

Environment: Sun, fun and no act to follow.

Management: General Manager Bobby Beathard is a genius. Memorize this. You will be tested on it.

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Talent: A 9-7 team in 4-11 clothing. Marion Butts, Rod Bernstine, Ronnie Harmon and Eric Bieniemy are all quality running backs; because of Coach Dan Henning’s fuel-efficient single-back offense, three will be well-rested. A young and emerging quarterback, John Friesz, is in place, although Henning preferred Billy Joe Tolliver. A young and emerging defense has a lot of talent, although Henning preferred to keep it hidden.

Fan Base: Out sailing. Willing to dock, though, for anyone who wins more than the Padres.

Immediate Outlook: Playoffs in ’92. Why Henning couldn’t win here is a mystery . . . unless you know Henning.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Environment: It’s in Florida, it’s a bay and it’s not Green.

Management: Ray Perkins lasted four years, so owner Hugh Culverhouse is a veritable Job. Culverhouse is an incurable tinkerer but would be willing to grant you complete control of the football operation, provided your name is Bill Parcells or Bill Walsh.

Talent: Been drafting too high for too many years to be this bad. Mark Carrier, Keith McCants, Reggie Cobb, Lawrence Dawsey--a core is there. If you can figure out Vinny Testaverde, apply within immediately.

Fan Base: Confused. Accustomed to Hurricanes, Seminoles, Gators and national-championship runs. Wondering why Tampa can’t recruit.

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Immediate Outlook: Shipped first-round pick to Indianapolis for Chris Chandler. Now Chandler’s gone and that pick could be No. 2 in the 1992 draft. If the real Testaverde steps forward, though, the rest will follow.

3. Green Bay Packers

Environment: Lombardi Country. Thirty-below in the winter, but memories of Starr and Hornung warm the soul.

Management: Ron Wolf has been hired to run the football operation, coordinate the draft and lure an old army buddy named Bill Parcells to the hinterland.

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Talent: Went 10-6 two years ago, then became the Rams of the North. The Packers need their Majik more than the Lakers need theirs. Tim Harris is gone, but the defense still ranks 12th in the league. Running back? When they want to see one in Green Bay, they dig out films of Jim Taylor.

Fan Base: Loyal to a fault. Lindy Infante is 3-12 and a recent newspaper poll showed 55% of the fans in favor of keeping him.

Immediate Outlook: Find a running game, make the playoffs. Make the playoffs, get a suburb named after you.

4. Seattle Seahawks

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Environment: Puget Sound is beautiful, but nothing compared to the sound inside the Kingdome.

Management: General Manager Tom Flores successfully fending off owner Ken Behring’s urgings to return to the sidelines, so far.

Talent: No quarterback, but what else is new? You inherit a strong running game and a stronger defense, the traditional vestiges of any Chuck Knox regime.

Fan Base: Eternally grateful you won’t be moving to Tampa-St. Pete.

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Immediate Outlook: Raiders and Chiefs don’t have quarterbacks, either, but they do have playoff berths. So it can be done.

5. Indianapolis Colts

Environment: Hoosier this, Hoosier that, Hoosier next tailback going to be?

Management: Bob Irsay. No, no, please read on.

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Talent: Quarterback Jeff George, provided he makes it to 1992, is a keeper. Eric Dickerson isn’t; big load of help that trade did the Rams and the Colts. Trade him again and see what you get. Better yet, see what you get rid off.

Fan Base: They’re calling the Hoosier Dome “The House of Frustration.” Lacks a little imagination, but then, look at the team.

Immediate Outlook: If the Colts beat Tampa Bay Sunday, they will own the first two picks in the ’92 draft. It’s a start.

6. Minnesota Vikings.

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Environment: “This here is Super Bowl country, even if we have to rent one.”

Management: Five years of haggling ended Tuesday when Irwin Jacobs and Carl Pohlad sold controlling interest to Roger Headrick and Mike Lynn. Lynn was the Viking GM who mortgaged the ‘90s to get Herschel Walker, then hightailed it to the World League. If Herschel has to stay, Lynn had better, too.

Talent: Twenty-seven Pro Bowl players in the past four seasons, but most have reached the red zone--their 30th birthdays. With Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon and Sean Salisbury at quarterback, you will have no quarterback. And because of the Herschel Boondoggle, you will have no first- or second-round draft choices until 1993.

Fan Base: The Twins and the North Stars haven’t helped matters.

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Immediate Outlook: Those draft choices in ’93 should be good ones.

7. Los Angeles Rams

Environment: Loss Angeles, CA, a.k.a. Anaheim, a.k.a. The New Cleveland.

Management: The philosophy, apparently, is to draft poorly so they don’t have to pay anyone. On those rare occasions when they draft well--Todd Lyght, for example--they force him to hold out all summer, rendering the rest of the year a wash. Underpaid as they are, your players will always be unhappy. Either that or out of camp.

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Talent: The running game is null and void. The quarterback might be scarred for life. They found the defensive line on a street corner. Nobody knows how to snap the ball without fumbling it. But the field-goal kicker never misses.

Fan Base: They stopped showing up at Anaheim Stadium two weeks ago, outlasting the team by two months.

Immediate Outlook: We hear West Central High is looking for a new defensive coordinator.


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