When you get fired in the sports world, the reason usually has to do with one or both parties not living up to the expected standard. That can include anything from poor performance during a season to embarrassing the organization through scandal. Firings are an unfortunate staple of sports. In fact, it’s usually the go-to phrase for disgruntled ‘fans’ when performances fall below the franchise standard. There are some employers that want to give a coach the opportunity to save their job by letting them finish the season. However, in most circumstances, it’s better to nip the problem in the bud sooner than later.
Let’s start out by saying the obvious. No one wants to get fired. Sure, there are some extenuating circumstances where this statement can be contradicted. The majority of firings are one sided. However, a ‘mercy’ firing is a person being relieved of their position for the benefit of both employee and employer. We’ve seen lame duck coaches stay far too long because of contract complications or a bullish owner not wanting to admit defeat. But there are more pros to firing a coach before the end of the season than one might think—for all parties involved.
Chief among them is getting a head start on finding the coach. The sooner a job is open, the sooner you can begin a coaching search. The downside being that most eligible candidates are currently employed with another team and focused on that season. Some other positives are
- Provides an opportunity to assistants
- Prevents alienation from agent and future clients
- Allows a fresh start for all sides involved
- Re-engages fanbase into coaching search
- First step in paving the way to the future.
These points and more make an early firing a reasonable option in most situations. However, there are few negatives when it comes to getting a head start on the search than being the last team to the party. For the firee, the extended offseason allows them to recharge the batteries and take a survey on the current job landscape.
Did Mike Babcock want to be fired by the Leafs before the all-star break? Definitely not. However, he will be one of the more interesting names available when the coaching carousel begins in earnest this spring. Today’s problem can turn into tomorrow’s opportunity in a blink of an eye.
While the spotlight narrows in on the head coach, general manager and owner, assistants get cast to the shadows. Most were hand-picked by the exiting coach. With the coach’s firing, they’re left in limbo. Now they’re looking for a chance to find a role on another staff within the league or perhaps to elevate their own stock.
We’ve witnessed some assistants make the most of their chance after being elevated to the interim coach. Perry Fewell was named the interim coach for the Carolina Panthers after head coach Ron Riveria was relieved of duty. Fewell, who served as an interim head coach for the Buffalo Bills in 2009, now has a four-week audition to prove himself a contender to have the interim tag removed from his position. It’s not common for assistants to be given the chance to win their job. They’re often viewed simply as placeholders.
Displaced assistants have to tread lightly given their lack of security on the team. Going to work knowing that a 5-game losing streak could potentially leave you looking for a new gig is tough! Despite your ability to develop the players on the roster, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor should the losses pile up.
That lack of confidence regarding where you will be at the start of each season leads to a somewhat chaotic personal life, as well. Being able to keep your family in one spot is a minor miracle due to the instability of the job. From finding a new school for the kids to figuring out when to put the garbage to the curb, it’s the small nuances of life that require plenty of adjustments.
However, not everyone feels that bringing down the guillotine before the end of the season is necessary. Jerry Jones, owner and GM of the Dallas Cowboys, refuses to let go of embattled head coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys’ coach has been on the hot seat for the better part of three seasons. With the the team faltering down the home stretch, it seems inevitable that Garrett and the ‘Boys are destined for a divorce. Jones has provided conflicting support regarding Garrett’s job security. Jones’ hesitation represents the internal conflict that is necessary when considering relieving a coach of their duties.
Loyalty should not be scoffed at. A contract is signed and rightfully should be honoured with few exceptions. In sports, players are cut, traded and released at a moment’s notice. These transactions occur so often that they don’t resonate with a fanbase. Of course, if a superstar like Aaron Rodgers or LeBron James are put on the transaction wire it would be a notable exception. The majority of player transactions often don’t get the same fanfare when their credentials are revoked. That said, few players in the sporting world have a larger reach on the franchise in comparison to that of the head coach. Not only does a coach firing effect the immediate staff, the roster and fanbase, but it has an indirect impact across the league. Once you get to the pro level, the coaching circle is fairly small. Everyone knows one another. Which makes it truly awkward when you’re tapped to replace a good friend.
Such is the business of sport. It’s better to move on with your future than to linger on the mistakes of your past.