Do Men Make the Coach or the Coach Make the Men – A Look at Coaches in the NFL


Head Coaches Andy Reid and Bill Belichick after the game (USA Today Media)

Sometimes in the world in professional football, it is the raw talent of players that carry the team but at the same time sometimes it is the coaches accredited to the performance of a team. In order to be successful a team needs to have both. The Patriots dynasty would not be the same without Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.


And yet, the question needs to be posed: exactly how much do coaches contribute to the success of the team?


A prime example of coaching’s significance is last week’s game Patriots vs. Titans. In this particular case, the victor, the Tennessee Titans, became victorious through superior coaching and stratagems. Ex Patriots player and head coach of the Titans Mike Vrabel led his team with complex strategies tailored to his former team. This ultimately proved successful as the final score stood 34 – 10.


Despite having less talent than the opposition, the Titans were ultimately victorious due to the superior coaching. In one particular set of plays, the Titans ran the exact same play that the Patriots did, yet with small differences in strategy, the Titans were able to score much more yardage.


This, however, is not to say that coaching can save a team where the talent is not there. The aforementioned Bill Belichick became head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 1991. Despite winning the Super Bowl as an assistant coach, his talent was not enough to save the team as the Cleveland team performed horribly until 1995 where Belichick was fired and the franchise became disbanded. One of the main reasons this team went 36-44 during his time there was the innate lack of individual talent the players had. In many cases, as good as a coach is, they still can not overcome the talent differential that players bring to the table.


The same can be said about the other side as well. Sometimes, player talent vastly overshadows the coaching. The 2010 and the 2011 San Francisco 49ers is an example of a team that had talent but lacked the coaching ability to be able to perform to their full potential. Throughout the 2010 season and earlier, the 49ers had key players such as Alex Smith, who performed remarkably well throughout their games, however, the team lacked the correct guidance from the coaching position. Head Coach Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary did not achieve as much as they could have during their years as head coach. However, in 2011, Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach and fully utilized the team to meet great success in both the regular and postseason, making it to the Super Bowl in 2012. This is an example of how coaching is necessary for a team’s success in the National Football League.


As evidenced, an important balance must be reached between player talent and coaching ability. The success of a dynasty heavily depends on this careful equilibrium.


In other sports, coaching may not have as much of an impact as compared to football. In basketball, for example, the role of the head coach may not be as fully developed or integral as it is in say, baseball. A lot of sports that hinge on team success seem to depend more on the stratagems than individual sports such as swimming.

Ultimately, it is the balance between individuality and communion that defines the success of any sports team.