Midseason coaching changes produce consistent, if not winning, results

By Nick Pellegrino

After the winless Houston Texans fired head coach Bill O’Brien, his replacement, Romeo Crenel, became the oldest head coach in National Football League history. And he won, too.

This week, the Atlanta Falcons, also winless at 0-5 under Dan Quinn, now look to Raheem Morris to turn the season around.

Which got us thinking: does a new coach taking over at midseason actually change the fortunes of an NFL club?

Statistically, the switch often produces positive results in NHL hockey, but with so fewer contests in pro football, it seemed unlikely that new leadership could convert a club’s fortunes and turn them into instant winners.

So we looked at the numbers and saw a strikingly consistent trend, although not a winning one. Utilizing numbers from 21st Century games, plus Year 2000 (since there were so many pink slips — four of them — issued that season), theywon at a rate hovering around30 percent across the board.

In the AFC, including Crenel’s victory last week, teams are now 4-10 (.286). However, all of the triumphs came in the current decade (2010-20) at 4-5 (.444). Is this a trend?

In the NFC, new coaches fare much better at 8-10 (.444), although the Falcons have lost twice in this situation )(2008 and ’10). Plus, they are underdogs this weekend against the Vikings (-4.5; total 54) at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium (FOX, Sunday at 1 p.m. ET).

Conclusion: use caution before wagering on the Falcons.

INSIDE THE DATA

Looking at the raw data, we also find new coaches that loss their first game (12-20 overall, .375), tend to post the same winning percentage in their second game, Among those 20 losses, Game Two produced a cumulative record of 7-13 (.350).

Then, among those baker’s dozen losses, Game 3 for the new mentor came in at 4-13 — again, just over 30 percent (.308).

RESEARCH NOTES

The Chicago Bears, one of the  NFL’s charter members from 1922 (first season came in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys in another league), has  NEVER made a midseason coaching change.

The  minor exception came in 1942, when Chicago  owner/coach George Halas became involved in  World War II following a 5-0 start. Two  assistants became co-head coaches for the  next 3 1/2 seasons before Halas retuned. Halas held the record for oldest coach (72)  when he stepped down in 1967. Cremel (73)  broke the mark last weekend.

The Bears’ ’42 season ended with a perfect  11-0 record, but “da Bears” lost at home in the title game to Washington, 14-6. It was the first crown for the Redskins since winning it all in 1937, their first year in  D.C. after the franchise relocated from Massachusetts  (the Boston Braves/Redskins, 1932-36).

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