Why Do Teams Fire Their Coaches?

Top Level Staff Changes Don't Always Show Results


Colin B, Staff Member

A few weeks ago, on a cloudy Sunday at FedEx Field, in front of 76,483 people, the Washington Redskins were clobbered by the New England Patriots and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, 33-7. The next day, Redskins coach Jay Gruden was fired after the Redskins worsened their record to 0-5 after the loss to the reigning Super Bowl Champions. So why is it that when teams struggle through tough losing streaks the front office, as well as the fans, insist on firing the head coach? There are a few examples of obvious firing reasons, such as arguments and bad relations with players or members of the front office, but is there really any evidence behind the most obvious reason so many coaches in the major sports leagues are fired (unfortunate streaks of tough losses or missed playoffs)?

So why are coaches fired so easily and without thought? Many coaches do not select their players, whether, through combines, trades, or the draft, but are held accountable for the front office’s poor decisions. If an elite college quarterback has entered the draft, a team might choose him, but if he fails to perform, the powerless coach becomes the scapegoat and is fired. More often than not, however, coaches are fired when teams do not win enough games and/or qualify for the playoffs. Also, the average NFL coach spends 3 years at a time with one team, but almost all head coach firings came off of two consecutive playoff-missing years. However, the fewer coaches you rotate, the better your team performs under the consistency.

Number of coaches since 2007 Average win percentage
1 .638
2 .540
3 .512
4 .430
5 .389

But is this a good enough reason to eliminate the head coach? According to ESPN’s article, Does firing the head coach actually lead to more wins?since the first 16-game season in 1978, teams coming off of a losing season average 1.6 more wins the next, whether they hire a new head coach or not. However, there is always the lure of making the playoffs and drawing more attention, money, and fame to the team. In leagues such as the MLB, the largest jump in a team’s value is when they reach the playoffs in October. So is it possible that franchises really are just picking up and dropping head coaches freely, merely in order to reach the playoffs and championships, all for the money? Yes, it is, but we may never really know the truth.