Of the nine NFL head coaches hired in 2006, only three remain with their original teams after the Minnesota Vikings fired Brad Childress this week.
Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers have been the shining stars of that coaching class. Houstonís Gary Kubiak is the only other survivor and likely will lose his job if the Texans donít make the playoffs this season.
As for the rest, itís a motley collection of coaches that didnít stand the test of time. Besides Childress, there was Buffaloís Dick Jauron, Oaklandís Art Shell, the New York Jetsí Eric Mangini, Detroitís Rod Marinelli and St. Louisí Scott Linehan.
Although Mangini received another head coaching chance with the Cleveland Browns, there are indications heís again on shaky ground.
McCarthy understands he works in a bottom-line business that demands results, or else.
ďItís part of the deal,Ē McCarthy said. ďItís part of the job description. Itís a tough business on a lot of different angles. It just goes with the territory.Ē
There is no substitute for winning, which has kept Payton and McCarthy gainfully employed. Both have the benefit of working for strong, fundamentally sound football organizations.
General Managers Mickey Loomis of the Saints and Ted Thompson of the Packers have final say in personnel decisions, leaving their head coaches to handle on-field issues.
Although New Englandís Bill Belichick is a notable exception, the best chance for NFL success is to put someone other than the head coach in charge of the football operation.
The Packers floundered for more than two decades until then-team President Bob Harlan placed Ron Wolf in charge of all football matters in 1991, including the hiring of the head coach. Itís no coincidence the Packers flourished under that arrangement by winning a pair of NFC championships and one Super Bowl title.
Harlan later admitted he made a mistake 10 years later when, upon Wolfís retirement, he gave Mike Sherman the head coaching and general manager duties. Those two huge jobs were too much for one man, and Harlan corrected the situation by hiring Thompson in 2005.
The Vikings are in a sorry state now because they didnít follow the Packersí model. Owner Zygi Wilf failed to appoint a clear-cut football boss, which allowed Childress to commit such blunders as trading a third-round draft pick for receiver Randy Moss and then cutting him less than a month later.
Childress spent too much time dabbling in personnel matters, including the wooing of quarterback Brett Favre, and in the process lost the respect of his team.
This isnít to say the Vikingsí scattershot approach couldnít work for a little while. After all, they won a pair of division titles and advanced to the NFC title game last season. But their foundation wasnít solid enough to sustain that success and led to this seasonís colossal collapse.
Although Thompson is criticized for not employing a Vikings-esque, go-for-broke mentality, itís his steady, even-handed philosophy that will make the Packers a serious playoff contender not only this season, but in the years to come.
Thompsonís selection of a solid coach in McCarthy is another reason the Packers are considered one of the better teams in the league.
Unlike Childress, McCarthy has worked hard to establish a strong rapport with his players. Unlike Childress, McCarthy doesnít allow members of his team to skip the entire offseason workout program and half of training camp. Unlike Childress, McCarthy doesnít throw members of his team under the bus in public. Unlike Childress, McCarthy doesnít make decisions under the cloak of secrecy behind his bossí back.
Itís not hard to figure out why McCarthy is looking forward with optimism toward the playoffs, Childress is standing in the unemployment line and the Vikingsí future looks murky at best.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.