From 1991 to 1995, Bill Belichick was the coach of the Cleveland Browns, and for most of that time the Browns were mediocre at best.
One time in those five seasons, Cleveland won 11 games and advanced to the NFL playoffs. The other four years, it failed to reach eight wins, and Belichick was fired after a 5-11 season.
For the past 16 seasons, Belichick has been the coach of the New England Patriots. New England has won four Super Bowls and 13 division titles in that time, and Belichick is now considered one of the best coaches in football.
He’s the poster child for every professional administrator and college athletics director who takes a chance on a coach after a rough first job. That means South Carolina fans might be hearing Belichick’s name a lot if the Gamecocks hire Will Muschamp as their next coach.
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Muschamp, a 44-year-old Georgia native, was the head coach at Florida from 2011-2014. Like Belichick at Cleveland, he had one signature season surrounded by a lot of mediocrity. The Gators were 11-2 in 2012, but didn’t reach eight wins any of the other three years and Muschamp was fired in 2014 on the way to a 6-5 record.
“It’s just a heart-breaking situation,” Florida offensive lineman Max Garcia told the Orlando Sentinel when Muschamp was fired. “All the players in the locker room feel the same way. We’re all devastated that this is happening, but we understand the situation. We understand that we have to produce and win games on the field. That’s the bottom line.”
Garcia called Muschamp a “great coach.”
“He has developed us as people, not just as players,” Garcia said. “We all wish him the best. We’re all going to be rooting for him. I don’t think there’s anyone on this team that would say anything negative about Coach Muschamp.”
Earning a second chance
Second-chance success stories aren’t that hard to find the NFL. Eleven of the past 17 Super Bowls have been won by coaches in their second or third coaching job. Marv Levy was fired by the Kansas City Chiefs before taking the Buffalo Bills to four Super Bowls.
“There are a variety of reasons why you get a second chance, but usually if your reputation is good, you have the advantage of experience,” Levy told BuffaloBills.com. “You learn some things and wish you would’ve done something a little differently. I learned in Kansas City, and I said it when I came to the Bills, offense sells tickets, kicking wins games and defense wins championships. If you want a good quarterback, then have a great defense. He doesn’t have to play catch up, he’s not predictable, he doesn’t get blitzed and the turnovers don’t mount. So you do learn things like that.”
Less common in college
Career resurgences are tougher to find in college football, though. It’s commonplace for coaches to move up the ladder and have success in bigger jobs, but not as much for coaches who get fired from their first job.
College athletics directors often are hesitant to take a chance on a fired coach, a 2014 FoxSports.com report concluded. Fifty-one FBS programs hired coaches in 2013 and 2014 and only six of those coaches had been fired or resigned from previous jobs. (Two of those six times the hiring involved Bobby Petrino, who was fired for off-field issues at Arkansas.)
“With social networking and media coverage and publicity in a hire now, there’s some people who would be influenced by what would be the marketable hire instead of hiring somebody who’s a flat-out good ball coach,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told FoxSports.
Charlie Weis was hired at Kansas in 2012 after being fired from Notre Dame in 2009.
“When you’re a head coach the first time and it doesn’t work out, you’re not all fired up about it,” Weis told FoxSports.com. “You’ve put strain on your own family and the families of all your assistant coaches and you didn’t achieve what you intended to achieve. That being said, when you get another opportunity, you think about all the things you did wrong the first time.”
Alas, Weiss was fired during his third year at Kansas with a 6-22 record.