Late NFL hires can be successful ones

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday January 16, 2013

Posted by: Chris Vannini on January 16, 2013

Eight NFL head coaching jobs have opened up since the end of the regular season, and with the Bears hiring Marc Trestman and the Eagles reportedly hiring Chip Kelly today, two remain open: Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars.

If your NFL team hasn't hired a head coach yet, there's no need to freak out. In December, we told you how long college coaching searches can be successful ones, and the same goes for the NFL.

Today is Jan. 16. Of the four coaches competing in the NFL conference championship games this weekend, only one was hired before this day in the year he was hired.

Bill Belichick (Jan. 27, 2000): Belichick was the hand-picked replacement to succeed Bill Parcells with the New York Jets, but he was the coach for only one day. He resigned at took the head coaching job with the Patriots, where he became one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.

John Harbaugh (Jan. 18, 2008): Harbaugh had served as the Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator for 10 years, as well as the defensive backs coach in his final year. He was not considered a favorite, but a great interview and great recommendations earned him the job. The Ravens have made the playoffs every year under Harbaugh, and this will be his third AFC Championship Game appearance.

Mike Smith (Jan. 23, 2008): The Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2003-07 earned his first head coaching job at any level with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008. He earned NFL Coach of the Year honors in his first season. The Falcons have made the playoffs in four of the five years and posted a winning record in all five.

Jim Harbaugh (Jan. 7, 2011): Harbaugh didn't have to move far, going from Stanford's head coaching job (2007-10) to the San Francisco 49ers. In his first season, Harbaugh took the Niners to the NFC Championship Game and earned NFL Coach of the Year honors. In year two, the Niners are back.

So, followers of the Cardinals and Jaguars should know that there is still a good opportunity to hire a successful coach. It's not about the speed of the search, it's about hiring the right person.







Chris Vannini is the lead writer for and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to

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