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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Assistant Head Coach

I've run on about coaching for years now - since starting this blog, every coaching position has changed at least once, and most twice - and there's not a ton to say, but it struck me recently that there's no Assistant Head Coach.

There's been one for at least every year since 1999. I can't remember Dom having one, and team documents back that up. After, you had John Marshall, who was DC and AHC; you had Richard Williamson as another, in 2000-01 in an attempt to mentor the immature Bill Musgrave (and eventually replace him - FYI, I never felt that Williamson should've continued as OC, and I'd come to understand that George Seifert wasn't given much choice).

Marshall's title was to get him (which at the time seemed great - he'd had the #1 defense; he came from the same system Seifert did), which is how you did that back then; it ended up leaving a bizarre hierarchy, with eventually two AHCs on one team.

John Fox tagged Scott O'Brien with the AHC title upon entering, and trusted Jim Skipper with it after O'Brien left. Skipper seemed like a natural choice to become head coach here at times if it were needed (and at times last year, it felt needed). I'm not a fan of firing head coaches mid-season, but if you do it, you have to identify a candidate that's not already in charge of one unit. It's an imbalance of power, and leaves that coach with the worries of both a failing unit and a failing team.

Which brings us to now - no assistant head coach. It's a young team, and the feeling seems to be that should the Panthers name one down the line, it'll be earned.

And there are no concerns of firing Rivera, by any means. I think, administratively, it makes sense given the attention he's stated he wants to put into defense, to have someone doing some day to day tasks however, and they don't have that.

Past that, there's no real succession plan. The young coaches coordinating the offense and defense are a combined unit younger than anyone else in the NFL (and yet each has experience at coordinating); at times both Rob Chudzinski and Sean McDermott have had mentions as head coaching candidates in the NFL. If either, or both, have the level of success that fans hope, they could get interviews. Then what?

It might seem far-fetched, but look at the last two head coaches - each had a coordinator change going into year two. Both promoted from within, changing the balance of the staff they'd carefully crafted (Fox had it again a few months later, with Sam Mills' cancer issues). Succession plans are necessary.

So who would succeed Rivera if needed?

Without an Assistant Head Coach, who knows. That's the owner's call in the end, but most often comes with an experience taking on those tasks with the existing team. I'm not a fan of coordinators moving - too much change. The only coach with real head coaching experience is Mike Shula. That seems to be a natural move.

What about coordinators?

Shula or Pete Hoener (TEs) could move up to OC as necessary; the others, excepting Fred Graves and John Matsko, lack the experience, and that pair doesn't have the coordinating experience of Shula or Hoener.

On defense, Ron Meeks makes natural sense, as the only defensive assistant with a lot of experience; however there's no assistant DBs coach right now, and no one to move up from the third-tier assistant pool.

Let's hope it never comes to this, unless it's a coordinator leaving after, say, a second consecutive Super Bowl. That I could handle.
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