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A Coaching Game

Durga Ghosh |
March 4, 2014 | 10:15 a.m. PST

Staff Writer.

Coaches come in as many shapes and sizes as their players do. This type of variety makes a team exciting, makes a team explosive, makes a team interesting to follow even when they aren’t on the field. But such diversity in coaches is not always welcomed, however. 

WATCH: When variety becomes a little too much. 

Coaches are meant to set an example for their team. How they run their team, how they care for their players, how they integrate their beliefs -- all of these factors can be seen in how a team carries itself during a game. And a coach’s job doesn’t just stop when the game clock stops. A coach’s responsibility does -- or, at least, should -- spill over into the locker room, into press conferences, into their world outside of football. If not, Miami happens.


Here’s a list of a few indispensable NFL coaches, from the belligerent to the benevolent. 

Jim Harbaugh's never one to have his emotions, or passion, quelled. (Flickr/Football Schedule)
Jim Harbaugh's never one to have his emotions, or passion, quelled. (Flickr/Football Schedule)

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers: The Players' Coach

It often seems as though Jim Harbaugh cares about his team, the game of football and not much else. It seems to be working: In his three seasons, the 49ers have 41 regular- and postseason wins, tied with New England for the NFL lead. Harbaugh may get a little overzealous at games, even combative, but that’s what makes Jim Harbaugh who he is. Contrary to rumors of him wanting more money or power, Harbaugh genuinely seems as if all he really wants is to continue coaching the team and has maintained that he absolutely wants to stay in San Francisco. Besides, what else would he buy with more money, anyways? More khaki’s? Harbaugh may not be a favorite of General Manager Trent Baalke, but what matters is his players love him, and they play for him.


Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: The Coach’ s Coach

Sean Payton learned at the right hand of one of the NFL’s most stern,most successful disciplinarians, former Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. Payton began as a head coach and quarterbacks coach, later was promoted to passing game coordinator and was soon in charge of play calling. All this experience gave him an incomparable intelligence for football. He knows his offensive line. He understands preparation and attention to detail, and his players love that about him just as much as other coaches can respect that about him. Payton understands how to carry himself in interviews, creating a respectable persona on and off the field. 


Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: The Steamroller

Belichick and Brady doing what they do best, winning. (Flickr/ mrstevens2006)
Belichick and Brady doing what they do best, winning. (Flickr/ mrstevens2006)

Bill Belichick has gained respect for being a constant through a decade-and-a-half of the Pats' unrivaled success. Belichick has essentially served as his own general manager, and is also one of the rare head men to set the tone on both sides of the ball. All told, he has total control in a way no other coach does, able to execute his coaching with a .786 winning percentage since 2007. Belichick’s also a coach who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. When cornerback Aqib Talib was injured by Wes Welker, Belichick had a few choice words to share, never mind that Welker was once a player of his. It’s Belichick’s job to fight for his players, and it’s a fight he never takes lightly. On the field, it’s clear his team fights just as hard for him.


Vince Lombardi, Greenbay Packers: The Inspiration

Lombardi was an innovative user of subjective player ratings. Getting a high rating became a key motivation for the players, and it led his team to embody his philosophy of “Winning isn’t everything, but striving to win is.” When he took over the Packers in 1959 the team was terrible (1-10-1 in 1958). When he departed after nine seasons, he left behind one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. He led the Pack to five NFL championships, including three in a row between 1965-67, finished his NFL career with an overall 105-35-6 record. Lombardi’s legacy has left the world of football with inspiration in the highest form: The Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy. 


Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Everybody’s Coach 

Carroll's charisma on the field is contagious. (Flickr/Football Schedule
Carroll's charisma on the field is contagious. (Flickr/Football Schedule

Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever” attitude has not only reshaped teams; it’s reshaped fans. His relaxed energy has sometimes been criticized, but Carroll’s positivity is hard to ignore. He and general manager John Schneider built the league’s best current defense from the ground up over a four-year period. He’s created a team that is ruthless on the field but lighthearted off of it, and always encourages his players be themselves. He even sets his practice playlists according to their tastes. While Carroll’s model of football is as ancient as the game itself -- run the ball, play strong defense and make plays on special teams - his model of leadership that gives him an edge. Carroll calls the shots, and with his “always compete” mantra, he’s assembled the youngest Super Bowl-winning team in NFL history.


So, what type of coach seems to work best? There may not be an exact formula -- you may be as haughty as Harbaugh or as cool as Carroll -- but what it comes down to is the amount of passion each coach brings to their team. Whether it be through consistent plays or creating a specific culture amongst a team, a coach that works is a coach that commits. Each coach listed here seems to have found a style that works for them, and has stuck to it

Contact staff writer Durga Ghosh here.



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