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Midseason Coaching Changes & the Year After

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Does History Favor the Bold?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stats comparing teams records before and after the coach are relatively commonplace and often discussed why firing a coach mid season is a bad idea. For example, the Giants were 2-10 with McAdoo vs 1-3 with an interim coach. Did they suddenly flip a switch and dominate teams that year? No, and most teams don’t.

But for many of the teams making a midseason swap, the focus isn’t on making the Playoffs the same season the coach is fired. It is doing it the year after.

If you’re realistic about the Jets, that’s pretty much where we are with Bowles. 2018 is lost so the focus becomes 2019 and beyond. I did some digging to see how teams do in the year after a midseason swap and if they are better or worse off than teams that wait until the end of the season.

For example, how do the Giants stack up to teams that waited until the end of 2017-2018 season to fire the coach?

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Last season:

Ben McAdoo was the only coach fired midseason last year. The Giants finished out the year 3-13 after starting 2-10 under McAdoo. Currently the Giants are 3-7 in 2018. Teams that waited to replace their coach after the 2017 season are a combined 16-29, which is good for a .355 winning percentage.

2016:

Jeff Fisher, Gus Bradley and Rex Ryan were fired midseason from the Rams, Jaguars and Bills respectively. (Ryan with one game left in the season). Interestingly enough, all three of those teams made the Playoffs the next year.

At the time of the firings, the Rams Jaguars and Bills were a combined 13-29 when the coaches were canned. In 2017, those teams improved and went 30-19 with three Playoff appearances and two divisional titles.

Meanwhile, three coaches were fired after the 2016-2017 season. The teams that waited until the end of the season and started 2017 with a new coach went a combined 20-28.

Zero of the interim head coaches were kept as the head coach for the next season.

2015:

Three coaches were fired midseason with the Dolphins, Eagles and Cards combining for a 8- 18 record at the time of the firings. Those teams went 24-23-1 in 2016. (Giving a half point for the tie, the teams went around .510 winning percentage.)

Teams that waited to the end of 2015 season to find a new coach went a combined 23-41 in 2016.

Side note: Only Mike Mularkey was kept as the head coach for the next season after getting the interim tag in 2015.

2014:

Only one team made a midseason switch in 2014, the Oakland Raiders who were an abysmal 0-4 under Dennis Allen. They “improved” to 7-9 the next year in 2015 under a brand new head coach, replacing the interim coach Tony Sparano at the quarter mark of the season.

Those that waited until after the season to fire head coaches went 49-37 the next year. This is last time rookies coaches that were not preceded by a midseason firing got to a collective .500 record.

2013:

In 2013 only one coach, Gary Kubiak, was let go during the middle of season after a woeful 2-11 start. The Texans achieved a winning record of 9-7 in 2014.

Meanwhile, six teams waited until the end of the season to tell the coach to take a hike. Those teams combined for an 33-63 record in 2014.

2012:

No coaches were fired midseason. This was an anomaly.

2011:

Three coaches ended up fired midway through the season.

The Vikings, Dolphins and Jaguars all made midseason coaching swaps. They combined for a 19-29 record the season after.

But would teams waiting fair any better? No, but it’s about as close as you can get at 31-48-1

Below is a table comparing one year to another.

Quick Table. (The year listed below is the record of the teams the following year after a firing.)

2018: Midseason EOS

.222 .355

2017: Midseason EOS

.612 .417

2016: Midseason EOS

.510 .359

2015: Midseason EOS

.438 .510

2014: Midseason: EOS:

.563 .313

2012: Midseason: EOS:

.396 .394


Just looking at the numbers, in only two of the last five seasons have teams making midseason coaching firings have failed to fare better than those waiting until the end of the season. That’s including if you isolate the Giants so far this season.

One season is for all intents and purposes a tie with three others having big enough gaps that showed the teams that made midseason swaps ending up with not only an advantage, but winning records.

Only one season had the rookie coaches breaking .500 collectively for teams that waited.


Stats can only tell you so much. Looking over a few of the teams, you had several head coaches who were completely in over their heads (Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, Joe Philbin in Miami) or perennial underachievers (Jeff Fisher in St. Louis/L.A., Chip Kelly in Phily.) You can easily make the case that those teams had talent and/or the front offices got tired of excuses from the head coaches for very poor records with the talent they had.

Bringing it back to the Jets, if management felt that there is plenty of talent and the coaching staff was underachieving, it makes no difference if you wait or fire Bowles now. In fact, the stats slightly favor making that bold move and sending Bowles packing during the season.

As I’ve mentioned, It doesn’t matter what happens this year, it’s all about the year after in many of these cases.