Commentary

Coaching searches made tougher

Dolphins saga has broadened list of traits required by prospective candidates

Originally Published: November 15, 2013
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

When Mike Shanahan coached in Denver, he had TV cameras installed in each of his team's positional meeting rooms so he could watch what was going on anywhere and everywhere.

Some questioned whether the measure was too extensive, too invasive. But it wasn't a question of spying on his coaches and players so much as it was creating a system to oversee everything that was being taught. Coaches need to know all they can about their team.

This brings us to the latest of the many lessons that will be learned from the mess in Miami. The lesson is this: When teams begin searching for and interviewing head-coaching candidates in the coming weeks, the set of skills required for the job will go as far outside the scope of football as the storylines that have emerged from the Miami locker room.

Know this: Teams that know they could be firing their current head coach and hiring a new head coach already are lining up candidates. They already have devised candidate wish lists. Those lists are based primarily on a coach's accomplishments, men who can succeed and men whom a given team can sell. In light of what has unfolded in Miami, owners might want to reconsider what's most important to them.

To be a head coach in the NFL these days is not just about delivering a fiery pregame talk or devising some blitz-busting scheme. It's about being a leader, a face of an organization and someone willing to tackle the most unimaginable and unpredictable crisis possible. Maybe it's a quarterback spearheading a dogfighting ring. Maybe it's an organization offering bounties on opposing players. Or maybe it's an offensive lineman feeling mistreated and not knowing where to turn.

But there will be something. There usually is.

And in this day and age of social media, the criticism in times of crisis is louder and stronger than ever before. It's like a siren that never quiets. New-age owners hear it and listen to it, as outlandish as some of it is. It sometimes can lead them to look for new coaches. When they do, they need to consider what traits matter most. They need coaches who hear and see everything. And then some.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank keeps a long list of traits he seeks in a head coach. At the top of the list is what he refers to as someone who is a "leader of men." Blank wants someone whom, when his team runs out of the tunnel, his players believe in.

But teams also need someone the public believes in -- and trusts. It is worth noting as owners prepare to kick off their searches for the men who will have to answer to these questions.

Solid GM hires: It looks as if NFL owners made many right decisions in hiring the eight general managers they did last offseason.

Of the eight hired -- Steve Keim in Arizona, Doug Whaley in Buffalo, Dave Gettleman in Carolina, Mike Lombardi in Cleveland, Dave Caldwell in Jacksonville, John Dorsey in Kansas City, John Idzik in New York and Tom Telesco in San Diego -- a handful will be in contention for the NFL Executive of the Year.

Keim has helped turn around a Cardinals team that was down and out. Whaley has helped give life to the Bills. Gettleman has helped transform the Panthers into one of the league's most underrated and under-the-radar teams. Lombardi has the Browns believing. Caldwell has begun to plant seeds that will sprout later. Dorsey has helped lead an unbeaten team. Idzik has helped put the Jets in a spot no one expected them to be.

So many successful first-year general managers could help influence other NFL owners who are undecided about making a change to take the plunge.

Broncos hold key to AFC picture: There has been plenty of buildup for Sunday night's Broncos-Chiefs game. But a broader view shows it's not just Sunday night's game that's so significant for Denver.

The Broncos will play the game of the week for the next three weeks. It starts Sunday night, continues next Sunday in New England against the Patriots, then concludes the following Sunday in Kansas City against the Chiefs again.

This three-week stretch should determine who wins the AFC West and who becomes the conference's No. 1 playoff seed. The AFC West winner is likely to get a bye, then be 120 minutes at home from going to the Super Bowl. The AFC West's second-place team will have to open the playoffs on the road and win three road games to get to the Super Bowl.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the Week: Kansas City at Denver -- In a game in which so much attention has gone to the Chiefs' defense and Broncos' offense, don't be surprised if it's Kansas City's offense and Denver's defense that determine the outcome.

Upset of the Week: Pittsburgh over Detroit -- The Steelers' last-chance stand to jump back into the AFC North race.

Player of the Week: Bears QB Josh McCown -- Some in Chicago believe the Bears are better off with McCown in the lineup; he can make his case Sunday.

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