Do Defensive Coordinators Make Better Head Coaches?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune had this nugget today:

“Former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has been mentioned as an early candidate to replace John Fox in Carolina. One league insider said it was the preference of owner Jerry Richardson and general manager Marty Hurney to hire a coach with a defensive background.”

Like most Bear fans I wish Rivera well though I’m not as inclined as I once was after Rivera released the hounds on the Bears in their first preseason game.  A Bears offense that really needed the practice under new coordinator Mike Martz got almost no work done and young backup quarterback Caleb Hanie got hurt, stunting his growth in the offense.

But what really struck me was the general preference of Richardson and Hurney for a defensive head coach.  They aren’t alone.  Adam Schefter at ESPN is reporting that former Bear defensive coach Perry Fewell will be interviewing in Cleveland and Carolina (via Michael David Smith at

All of this reminded me of this anonymous quote from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles feature:

“Why is it that defensive coaches can pick good offensive coordinators, but good offensive coordinators don’t always pick good defensive coordinators? I don’t think they understand matchups as well. Every situation is different. If I’m looking for a head coach, I’d be more interested in a coach with a defensive track.”

I’m not entirely sure I agree with this, particularly after seeing the Bears struggle to find the right offense under Lovie Smith.

Statistically speaking offensive ranking correlates almost directly with team winning percentage.  The correlation is much stronger than it is for defensive ranking (and special teams) and its particularly strong for passing offense.

Bottom line, if you find a good offensive mind, it seems to me like you grab that first to be the head coach, then find a defensive coordinator who understands match ups.  Nevertheless it looks like it might be the year of the defensive coordinator as far as head coaching interviews go.

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