Coaching staff sizes know few limits
Barry Wilner, Associate Press
Join the club.
Not the head coaching fraternity — with only 32 jobs in the NFL, it's
one of the most exclusive groups in sports.
try getting a slot on a pro coaching staff. By opening kickoff in
September there will be more than 600 coordinators and assistant
coaches, as well as assistants to the coordinators and to the
assistants, judging by current rosters.
Including the head
coach, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay top the list with 23 underlings. The
thinnest coaching crews are in Pittsburgh, with 15 overall, and,
perhaps not surprisingly considering Bill Belichick's involvement in
nearly everything Patriot, 16 in New England.
"You look at the
game, and the way the game has evolved, it has become specialized,"
says Andy Reid, who moved to the Chiefs after a superb 14-season run in
Philadelphia, which like Kansas City has 22 assistants this year. "You
break it down and you have red zone, short yardage, nickel, and then
you have all these different personnel groups, and so you try to hire
teachers to teach all these things you want to do."
salary cap for coaching staffs, guys like Reid can do just that. He has
former Vikings head coach Brad Childress as a "spread game analyst."
successor in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly, moved up from coaching the
Oregon Ducks. His staff includes a sports science coordinator.
really have one, possibly two coaches at a position," Reid explains.
"Special teams is big, so you have two coaches there. Secondary, you
have two coaches there; one coach works with the cornerbacks, one coach
works with the safeties. They're offering the same voice but doing two
different positions. Offensive line you break into halves, guard-center
and tackles, however it works. You're OK there. And on down the line."
team has control of the number of assistants on staff, unlike, say,
baseball, where MLB rules allow for a manager and seven coaches to be
dressed for games. The NBA permits the head man and three assistants on
the bench — essentially a front row of chairs — and more in a second
row. The NHL has no limits.
In major college football, NCAA
rules allow nine assistant coaches who can give on-field instruction
and recruit. There is no limit on the number of non-coaching staff
members football programs can have, but when it comes to on-field
activity, they can only chart statistics.
One reason for the
expansion of NFL staffs has been teams' willingness to get recently
retired players involved. They might not have teaching skills yet, but
they understand the ins and outs of playing a specific position. So
they step in as, say, an assistant offensive line coach (Todd Washington in Baltimore) or an aide to the tight ends coach (Justin Peelle in Philadelphia).
Another job is keeping up with the technology available for game preps,
scouting and strategy.
have a lot of behind-the-scenes guys who do more in the breakdown and
the analyzing of data and so forth, so that's an area of expansion, the
so-called quality control positions," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says.
"They've expanded throughout the league."
And there's Shaun Huls with the Eagles, given the title of sports
science coordinator. A Mr. Wizard of the gridiron?
are a lot of other sports that have evolved faster than football has
evolved from a science standpoint," Kelly says, "and we want to be on
the cutting edge of that."
So Huls will assist the strength and
conditioning coach (Josh Hingst) in the weight room implementing
individual plans for Eagles players. He'll also be "trying to stay on
the cutting edge of what the new technology is out there not only to
monitor our players working out, but recovery," Kelly adds.
Denver has four weight coaches, which makes its staff look even larger.
I believe in that because it's more personalized," coach John Fox says.
"One of the big beefs in offseason conditioning over in those
departments around the league is one or two guys (to coordinate), and
so these guys pay to go to these other places because it's more
individualized. I prefer our guys to be here. So, we've catered a
little more to that to keep our guys working out here."
number and length of actual workouts on the field have been limited
under the collective bargaining agreement reached between the players
and the league in August 2011. That also has led to more assistants,
the idea being conducting breakout sessions in which the players at a
position are broken into two or three groups, each with a coach.
Arians, the Coach of the Year as an interim in Indianapolis last season
and now the head man in Arizona, has 20 assistants.
thought that small classrooms make for better success in teaching,"
Arians said, "and the more eyes on the linemen, the offensive-defensive
linemen, their blocking unit, the outside-inside linebackers and tight
ends, the more hands-on coaches you have, the more improvement you'll
make as a player daily in the classroom and on the field."
With all their underlings, the Cardinals can have a set of eyes on
almost every player on any given play at practice.
And, Arians points out, "It's helping some young coaches grow as
coaches, which I want to do also."
many cooks, uh, coaches can cause some problems, too. The approach and
message throughout the organization needs to be the same, which means
the three coordinators must be in tune not only with the head coach,
but with each other and with their assistants.
Plus, nearly everyone else in the organization, right on up to the
Titans coach Mike Munchak wants to pound the football on offense — he
was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, after all — then coordinator
Dowell Loggains, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, running backs coach
Sylvester Croom and everyone on that side of the ball had better be
emphasizing the rushing game.
And they all need to truly
recognize who is the boss. Munchak and all other head coaches won't
hire someone who can't adopt the same philosophy.
"I wouldn't do
it if it wasn't the right guy," Munchak said. "You don't want someone
coming in and blowing the whole place up and wanting to take over."
coaches will say the numbers don't matter and you could have 1,000
coaches. But if they aren't doing the job, it's the same as having a
Doug Marrone, a former assistant with the Jets
and Saints, took over in Buffalo this year. He has a strong conviction
about who he wants helping him. He doesn't have a number attached to it.
think that my philosophy's always been it's not about quantity, but
it's about quality, and we feel that we have high quality in our staff
and enough coaches that we need," says Marrone, who has 20 assistants.
"The great thing about (Bills President) Russ Brandon and (owner) Mr.
Wilson and the organization is that they never really put a limit on
how many people we can hire or what we can do. So they're all in for
whatever we need to do to get this team to where we all would like it
to be and I appreciate that. But, again, I think it's quality more than