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Giving coaches personnel power rarely works out

If you look through the history of coaches that are given the power normally relegated to a GM, it rarely seems to end up being a good thing.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals find themselves in the midst of a search for a head coach once again, just one year after hiring their last one. This time, the Cardinals appear to be taking a different path, interviewing mostly offensive minded coaches with head coaching experience.

One person that the team was very high on and tried to get in for an interview (before they were turned down) was former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. It was reported that the Cardinals were willing to hand over all personnel power to McCarthy in exchange for him agreeing to coach the team.

But how often have we seen coaches getting that type of power and it actually working out for the benefit of the franchise? Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The most obvious name that immediately comes to most peoples’ minds is Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. That tends to happen when you are a perennial Super Bowl contender and have arguably the greatest QB of all time at the helm. Belichick, though, has made his fair share of drafting mistakes and has traded very talented players away for far less than what their play would indicate in terms of value. The NFC West was the recipient of two of those players in Chandler Jones and, to an extent, Jimmy Garoppolo.

But Belichick, even with some mistakes, is in rarefied air. Sean Payton is another guy who has significant roster control (although New Orleans does have GM Mickey Loomis), but again, any mistakes made with the roster tend to get covered up easier when you have a Hall of Fame QB. Pete Carroll and Andy Reid, two current coaches with some, but not total power, have had success as well, but they rely on their GMs for drafting and free agent signings. Looking at some other examples, it tends to lean towards it being a very bad idea to give a coach too much decision making power.

While the jury is still out, Jon Gruden has undoubtedly made some mistakes with the Raiders ever since he inked a 10 year, $100 million contract to coach and control things with Mark Davis’ franchise. He traded Khalil Mack for a decent haul, but then complained that his team didn’t have any pass rush after trading away one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. He has helped make Derek Carr into a subpar quarterback. He fired Reggie McKenzie, who made many of those draft picks that turned into great talents, and recently hired NFL Network personality Mike Mayock. I don’t think I need to go any further.

Gruden is really just the most recent example though. Let’s look at a few other names: Chip Kelly (Eagles), Mike Shanahan, Jeff Fisher, Ken Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith and Mike Holmgren. Those are just some of the names that come to mind that gained most, if not total, control of their respective teams and proceeded to squander the opportunity in every way. Cardinals fans know with Whisenhunt especially how well that went after he was given roster control. Once Kurt Warner retired, that roster fell completely apart.

So did the Cardinals “dodge a bullet” by not being able to interview McCarthy? Maybe. But no matter what your opinion of that situation is, history tends to dictate that maybe coaches should be left to do what they do best: coaching.