After the obvious news that Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci was finally fired a few weeks ago, I started thinking about how different coaches (programmers/managers) function. How does coaching style play out on the field and in the locker room? Why do successful coaches find ways to win in different situations, while others move to a new team and fail?
In the case of the Lions, there's a long history of failure. In fact, a fired Lions head coach has never been hired by another team. (Not good news for Mariucci, who should be the first to break that curse.)
But how can Mariucci - a pretty successful coach in San Francisco - come to Detroit, and fail miserably? You can pin a lot on the organization. Like in radio, some teams just don't ever win. There's something in the walls, in the culture, that breeds failure and mediocrity.
Yet, you could say that about the Cincinnati Bengals, a franchise that has pretty much sucked for years, and yet now, is thriving under head coach Marvin Lewis. Or the Bears, a team that hasn't been any good since the Jim McMahon era, but now head coach Lovie Smith may be turning it all around.
So while there are other factors that play a major role in failure and success, the only wise thing about the Lions move is that they've attempted to "fix" the most obvious obstacle in the way of their achieving the goals - the head coach.
Which brings us to Bill Belichick. After failing in Cleveland (and being driven out of town by unhappy Browns fans), the quiet, unmagnetic Belichick has done nothing but succeed at New England. Yes, his team is having a tough season, but in the main, you'd take the Patriots' track record over the past few years without blinking an eye.
Belichick lacks charisma - something that Mariucci has in spades. Mariucci looks good, speaks well, is a great interview, and is even from Michigan. But even all those personality tools have failed him in Detroit. He brought a rigid system to the Lions (how come he couldn't make the West Coast offense work in Detroit?), failed to understand that his personnel were not well-suited to the scheme, and proceeded to stay the course, Sunday after Sunday, loss after loss.
Contrast that with Belichick. There's not a lot of fun in this guy's personality arsenal, but he's a great listener. Throughout his career, Belichick has been a sponge, learning from every coach he's ever encountered, from his father to a series of pro and college leaders. When conditions change, Belichick adapts, adopting different styles and tactics to fit changing situations. I'm not suggesting that Mariucci lacks listening skills or that he's turned down the advice and counsel of those around him. But clearly, one guy figures out how to make the best of his situation, while the other has let his situation get the best of him.
Two coaches - a plow-ahead, confident guy, and a considerate listener who is willing to put his ego aside to learn from whoever's got an idea, and some answers. I know who I'd like on my sideline (and in the corner office).