Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Coaches

In Gregg Eastebrook’s column today, he laments that only 16 of the 32 coaches in the league have won a playoff game.

Well, only 4 to 8 teams will win a playoff game in any particular year. If you plug that into a probability calculation, it would take about 3-4 years for a group of coaches to get to the point where half of them had won a game. Of course, playoff wins tend to be bunched around certain teams and coaches who win get retained while coaches who don’t get fired. So let’s say that in a typical league, you’d expect 4-6 years for about half the coaches to have a playoff win. That’s pretty close to the typical lifespan of a coach. In other words, this is about what you’d expect.

Is this new? Are teams suddenly going with inexperienced coaches? Nope.

In 2000, 13 of the 31 opening day coaches had a playoff win.

In 1990, 14 of the 28 opening day coaches had a playoff win.

In 1980, 11 of the 28 opening day coaches had a a playoff win, albeit with fewer games.

So, yeah. It’s not amateur hour at all.

(Doing the research on that was entertaining. So many flopped coaches who never amounted to anything. And so many who came in with little record and went on to greatness. It’s kind of fun to click on, say, Jimmy Johnson’s name and see that he had no playoff wins going into Dallas and so many in front of him. Experience is not everything, even in coaching.)

Easterbrook has a mental block on coaches, frankly, seeming to think that the only coaches that should be hired are “proven winners”. When a team hires a coach from college, he’ll slag that, pointing out the difference between college and the pros. But if they hire a coordinator from an NFL team, he’ll slag that since they have no head coaching experience in the pros. And if they hire an NFL coach who hasn’t won in the playoffs, he’ll slag that too, apparently.

I guess the only thing teams can do to appease TMQ is to clone Tony Dungy.