How much of a grace period does winning a Super Bowl get you? Apparently about five years judging by Tampa Bay’s surprising decision to fire Jon Gruden on Friday.
Some coaches don’t even last that long, leaving on their own terms such as Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy did within two years of winning it all. Others last a little longer such as Brian Billick, who was fired six years after winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore, and Mike Shanahan, who was fired eight years after leading the Broncos to back-to-back championships.
While the firing of Gruden came as a shock to most, including Gruden himself, it was the latest example that in the NFL winning a Super Bowl is now like buying a car. It loses value the moment it’s yours and steeply decreases in worth with each passing day.
Amazingly, there are only two active head coaches (Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick) who have won a Super Bowl as a head coach. Think about that. Last year's Super Bowl between the Patriots and Giants featured the only two current head coaches with Super Bowl rings. Not since the advent of the Super Bowl has the league been so devoid of championship winning coaches.
The good news is if you're a team looking for a head coach, you couldn't have picked a better time to go shopping. This current batch of head coaching free agents is the equivalent of the NBA’s 2010 free agent class led by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. There are six coaches who have won Super Bowls since 1997 currently available for hire.
Gruden and Shanahan won't be unemployed for long, Cowher and Dungy will get the itch to get back on the sidelines soon and Holmgren and Billick would certainly jump at the chance of coaching a team with an established quarterback.
The only stigma against these coaches is that no Super Bowl-winning coach has ever won a Super Bowl or was as successful with his next team. Only two (Bill Parcells and Holmgren) returned to the Super Bowl, and each lost in their only appearance with another team. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who will likely hire one of these coaching free agents next year, even brought up this fact as one of the reasons why he was hesitant to make a coaching change in order to bring in a former Super Bowl winner. That was, of course, before Gruden and Shanahan became available. Even Jones would have to admit either of those coaches would be a huge upgrade over Wade Phillips, who watched as his friend and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart was fired because of the performance of a defense Phillips was mostly in charge of.
There's no doubt in my mind that one of the six available Super Bowl winning coaches will break the stigma against retread championship coaches and win a title with his new team. Unfortunately, that will only buy them about five years of security before having to find a new job and we start talking about the success rate of Super Bowl-winning coaches on their third team.