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Hasty NFL head coach firings shouldn’t surprise us any longer

Lovie Smith“This is the NFL , which stands for Not For Long …” — Jerry Glanville

“Just win, baby!” — Al Davis

Those realities intersected yet again Wednesday night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Lovie Smith after just two seasons on the job.

The news came as a shock to many, following a season in which the Bucs improved their record by four games, and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston showed legitimate promise. Why not give Smith more time to build upon that amelioration? Why shun continuity and force your No. 1 overall draft pick QB to work with his second head coach in as many pro campaigns?

On Thursday, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht presented a pretty clear and simple answer to those questions, and it has everything to do with winning.

“When you have eight wins, and three home wins, in two years, you’ve been patient enough,” he said.

In today’s NFL, job security for head coaches belongs in the same category with Loch Ness folklore. Of the eight new hires in 2011, only two men — Jason Garrett and Ron Rivera  — still hold their post. Pat Shurmur (Browns) was out in two seasons while Hue Jackson (Raiders) didn’t last more than one.

Five of the seven coaches of the 2012 class have been booted. The two that remain — MIke McCoy and Gus Bradley — are definitely on the hot seat entering 2016. Romeo Crennel (Chiefs), Greg Schiano (Bucs) and Mike Mularkey (Jaguars) never made it past year two. Crennel and Mularkey were granted only one full season.

2013, more of the same. Rob Chudzinski (Browns) gets pink-slipped after one year, and Marc Trestman (Bears) is gone following his second. In some #BizarroNFL stuff, Chip Kelly held the Eagles’ gig for three seasons … and I was shocked that he didn’t stay longer.

With Smith’s dismissal Wednesday, the entire 2014 crop of fresh head coaches has officially dissolved. Ken Whisenhunt (Titans) and Mike Pettine (Browns, yet again) are also currently unemployed. And the 2015 class of six has already lost one member: Jim Tomsula (49ers).

It should come as no surprise that all but one of those teams in parentheses has missed the playoffs during this five-year period of turnover — that’s why they were fired in the first place, right? Thanks to Andy Reid, who followed Crennel, only the Chiefs have played meaningful games into January.

Now, you could blame each franchise’s lack of postseason qualifications on bad coaching and that moves were to made to rectify that in short order. You may be right.

I’d argue that these teams are floundering as a result of the quick hooks. No other sport stresses teamwork, togetherness, family more than American football. It’s a brotherhood, they say. NFL coaches use so many war metaphors such as being in a foxhole and accomplishing a mission, you’d imagine that maintaining a tight unit with a stable locker room general is integral to success.

But brotherhood be dammed; how many games did you win this year? That is truly the only thing that matters in this climate. Hell, winning games won’t even save your job. John Fox got fired by the Broncos following a 12-4 season in 2014.

It’s actually all about lifting that Lombardi Trophy. Of course, that’s what every team strives for, but a select few have the current roster and coaching to obtain such a prize. However, that doesn’t stop the delusions of grandeur from basically ever owner in the NFL. Just look at this exchange from earlier this week between 49ers CEO Jed York and a reporter asking about the team’s head coaching search:

“Are you in need of somebody who you’re comfortable with, who makes you feel good when you’re in a room with them?” York was asked.

“We’re in need of somebody that can win Super Bowls,” York said.

“So, personality doesn’t matter?”

“We’re in need of somebody that can win Super Bowls.”

Every team wants to win the Super Bowl, but only one of 32 can actually do it each season. That’s kind of a rule. And the 49ers right now are probably 29th among the league’s best bets to be playing in Super Bowl LI (Hey there, Blaine Gabbert!).

I’d rather root for a team with executives who really care about winning rather than one with people who care about only the bottom line. But holding an incoming head coach to such a ridiculous standard without having a sense of your on-field talent (or lack thereof) can’t possibly make such an opportunity seem appetizing.

So, a word of warning to all of those men currently considering the vacancies in Tampa Bay, San Fran, Tennessee, New York, Philadelphia, Miami or especially Cleveland: choose wisely.

Know that your plan and vision will need to work and work immediately, no matter the hand the you’re dealt on the field. It’s Super Bowl or bust, buddy. Otherwise, odds are the only thing you will have added by 2018 is another line on your resume.

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