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Stability at Head Coach and QB = Sustained Success

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Why is it that a number of NFL teams in this era of the salary cap have skillfully managed to sustain a high level of success?

After all, the way the NFL rules are set up—-the intention was to ensure parity and to give every franchise a fighting chance at winning the Lombardi Trophy.

The immediate answer is—-stability at head coach and quarterback.

Let’s begin by closely examining the records and accomplishments over the past 10 years of the longest tenured NFL head coaches.

Bill Belichick—-New England Patriots (2000—-present)

  • QBs: Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady
  • Key picks of Belichick’s 1st draft: QB Tom Brady
  • 2000 Record: 5-11
  • First Super Bowl Win: 2001
  • Record Last 10 years: 123-37
  • Division Titles Last 10 Years: 10
  • Playoff Record Last 10 Years: 15-7
  • Super Bowl Record Last 10 Years: 2-2 (2018 TBD this Sunday)

Sean Payton—-New Orleans Saints (2006—-present)

  • QB: Drew Brees (UFA signing 2006)
  • Key picks of Payton’s 1st draft: RB Reggie Bush, S Roman Harper, G Jahri Evans, T Zach Strief, WR Marques Colston
  • 2006 Record: 10-6, 1st in NFC South (lost in division round)
  • Super Bowl Win: 2009
  • Record Last 10 Years: 110-70
  • Division Titles Last 10 Years: 4 (plus 2 wild card berths)
  • Playoff Record Last 10 Years: 7-5 (funny, Wikipedia lists the recent loss to Rams as “screwed by refs”!)
  • Super Bowl Record Last 10 Years: 1-0

Mike Tomlin—-Pittsburgh Steelers (2007—-present)

  • QB: Ben Roethlisberger
  • Key picks of Tomlin’s 1st draft: LB Lawrence Timmons, DE LaMarr Woodley, TE Matt Spaeth
  • 2007 record: 10-6 1st in AFC North (lost in WC game)
  • Super Bowl Win: 2008
  • Record Last 10 Years: 103-76-1
  • Division Titles Last 10 Years: 4 (plus 2 wild card berths)
  • Playoff Record Last 10 Years: 5-6
  • Super Bowl Record Last 10 Years: 0-1

John Harbaugh—-Baltimore Ravens (2008—-present)

  • QB Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
  • Key picks of JH’s 1st draft: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice (Ravens offered entire 2008 draft in an effort to move up to select Matt Ryan, but were turned down)
  • 2008 record: 11-5 (2nd in AFC North, lost in AFC Championship Game)
  • Super Bowl Win: 2012
  • Record Last 10 Years: 93-67
  • Division Titles Last 10 Years: 3 (plus 3 WC berths)
  • Playoff Record Last 10 Years: 8-5
  • Super Bowl Record Last 10 Years: 1-0

Mike McCarthy——Green Bay Packers (2006—-2018)

  • QBs: Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers
  • Key picks of MM’s 1st draft: LB A.J. Hawk, T Daryn Colledge, WR Greg Jennings, C Jason Spitz
  • 2006 Record: 8-8
  • Super Bowl Win: 2010
  • Record Last 10 Years: 91-66-1
  • Division Titles Last 10 Years: 5
  • Playoff Record Last 10 Years: 10-8
  • Super Bowl Record Last 10 Years: 1-0

Marvin Lewis—-Cincinnati Bengals (2003—-2018)

  • QBs: Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton
  • Key picks of ML’s 1st draft: QB Carson Palmer, G Eric Steinbach, WR Kelley Washington
  • 2003 Record: 8-8
  • Super Bowl Win: 0
  • Record Last 10 Years: 85-73-2
  • Division Titles Last 10 Years: 3 (plus 3 WC berths)
  • Playoff Record Last 10 Years: 0-6

Pete Carroll—-Seattle Seahawks (2010—-present)

  • QB Matt Hasselbeck, Russell Wilson
  • Key picks of PC’s 1st draft: T Russell Okung, S Earl Thomas, WR Golden Tate, S Kam Chancellor (rated top draft of the century by NFL Scouts Inc.)
  • 2010 Record: 7-9 (1st in NFC West, lost in NFC Divisional round)
  • Super Bowl Win: 2013
  • Record Last 9 Years: 89-54-1
  • Division Titles Last 9 Years: 4 (plus 3 WC berths)
  • Playoff Record Last 9 Years: 9-6
  • Super Bowl Record Last 10 Years: 1-1

Common Denominators:

  • Same head coach of 9 or more years.
  • Same QB last 10 Years, except Lewis who had Palmer, then Dalton, and Carroll who had Hasselbeck, then Wilson
  • All have on 3 or more Division Titles in the last 10 years
  • All have earned 6 or more playoff berths in the last 10 years
  • All have won a Super Bowl over the last 10 years, except Marvin Lewis (Belichick has won 2)
  • Only Payton, Tomlin, Harbaugh and Carroll made the playoffs in his 1st year
  • All (except Lewis) have won a Super Bowl within their first 5 years
  • Only 1 of these coaches (Belichick) has been able to win more than 1 Super Bowl over the last 10 years.

What this means for the 2019 Arizona Cardinals:

The hope is that new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and QB Josh Rosen will emerge as one of the top long-term HC/QB tandems. Both Mike Tomlin and Mike McCarthy inherited 2nd years QBs (Roethlisberger, Rodgers) when they were appointed. As did Sean McVay when he inherited Jared Goff.

The NFC West now has three of the most promising HC/QB tandems in the NFL in McVay/Goff, Carroll/Wilson and Shanahan/Garoppolo.

Thus it appears to be auspicious that the Cardinals have made the moves at HC and QB in order to get their ducks in a row.

Over the past 10 years, the Cardinals have the 2nd best record in the division at 80-79-1. While the Seahawks have won 4 of the last 10 NFC West titles, the 49ers, Cardinals and Rams have each won 2 over that span.

Right now it is an uphill battle for the Cardinals to get back into contention.

Having the first pick in 6 of the 7 rounds in the 2019 NFL Draft (10 picks total), upwards of $50M in cap space in which to pursue key free agents and the 1st dibs on waiver wire claims from now until the 5th game of the 2019 season—-gives the Cardinals an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen their roster in all three phases of the game.

The biggest question of all, ultimately, is whether Kliff Kinsgbury and Josh Rosen are a formidable match. Their NFL longevity and the Cardinals’ success over the next 4 years and beyond will likely depend on it, that is unless the coach proves to be over his head and/or a different QB emerges as a superstar.