He may not be Wes Welker, but Danny Amendola has managed to give Tom Brady a favorable impression.…
Coaching Staff Sizes Vary Greatly
Barry Wilner, Associate Press
Join the club.
Not the head coaching fraternity — with only 32 jobs in the NFL, it's one of the most exclusive groups in sports.
Instead, try getting a slot on a pro coaching staff. By opening kickoff in September there will be more than 600 coordinators and assistant coaches, as well as assistants to the coordinators and to the assistants, judging by current rosters.
Including the head coach, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay top the list with 23 underlings. The thinnest coaching crews are in Pittsburgh, with 15 overall, and, perhaps not surprisingly considering Bill Belichick's involvement in nearly everything Patriot, 16 in New England.
"You look at the game, and the way the game has evolved, it has become specialized," says Andy Reid, who moved to the Chiefs after a superb 14-season run in Philadelphia, which like Kansas City has 22 assistants this year. "You break it down and you have red zone, short yardage, nickel, and then you have all these different personnel groups, and so you try to hire teachers to teach all these things you want to do."
With no salary cap for coaching staffs, guys like Reid can do just that. He has former Vikings head coach Brad Childress as a "spread game analyst."
Reid's successor in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly, moved up from coaching the Oregon Ducks. His staff includes a sports science coordinator.
"You really have one, possibly two coaches at a position," Reid explains. "Special teams is big, so you have two coaches there. Secondary, you have two coaches there; one coach works with the cornerbacks, one coach works with the safeties. They're offering the same voice but doing two different positions. Offensive line you break into halves, guard-center and tackles, however it works. You're OK there. And on down the line."
Each team has control of the number of assistants on staff, unlike, say, baseball, where MLB rules allow for a manager and seven coaches to be dressed for games. The NBA permits the head man and three assistants on the bench — essentially a front row of chairs — and more in a second row. The NHL has no limits.
In major college football, NCAA rules allow nine assistant coaches who can give on-field instruction and recruit. There is no limit on the number of non-coaching staff members football programs can have, but when it comes to on-field activity, they can only chart statistics.
One reason for the expansion of NFL staffs has been teams' willingness to get recently retired players involved. They might not have teaching skills yet, but they understand the ins and outs of playing a specific position. So they step in as, say, an assistant offensive line coach (Todd Washington in Baltimore) or an aide to the tight ends coach (Justin Peelle in Philadelphia).
Another job is keeping up with the technology available for game preps, scouting and strategy.
"You have a lot of behind-the-scenes guys who do more in the breakdown and the analyzing of data and so forth, so that's an area of expansion, the so-called quality control positions," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says. "They've expanded throughout the league."
And there's Shaun Huls with the Eagles, given the title of sports science coordinator. A Mr. Wizard of the gridiron?
"There are a lot of other sports that have evolved faster than football has evolved from a science standpoint," Kelly says, "and we want to be on the cutting edge of that."
So Huls will assist the strength and conditioning coach (Josh Hingst) in the weight room implementing individual plans for Eagles players. He'll also be "trying to stay on the cutting edge of what the new technology is out there not only to monitor our players working out, but recovery," Kelly adds.
Denver has four weight coaches, which makes its staff look even larger.
"But I believe in that because it's more personalized," coach John Fox says. "One of the big beefs in offseason conditioning over in those departments around the league is one or two guys (to coordinate), and so these guys pay to go to these other places because it's more individualized. I prefer our guys to be here. So, we've catered a little more to that to keep our guys working out here."
The number and length of actual workouts on the field have been limited under the collective bargaining agreement reached between the players and the league in August 2011. That also has led to more assistants, the idea being conducting breakout sessions in which the players at a position are broken into two or three groups, each with a coach.
Bruce Arians, the Coach of the Year as an interim in Indianapolis last season and now the head man in Arizona, has 20 assistants.
"I've always thought that small classrooms make for better success in teaching," Arians said, "and the more eyes on the linemen, the offensive-defensive linemen, their blocking unit, the outside-inside linebackers and tight ends, the more hands-on coaches you have, the more improvement you'll make as a player daily in the classroom and on the field."
With all their underlings, the Cardinals can have a set of eyes on almost every player on any given play at practice.
And, Arians points out, "It's helping some young coaches grow as coaches, which I want to do also."
So many cooks, uh, coaches can cause some problems, too. The approach and message throughout the organization needs to be the same, which means the three coordinators must be in tune not only with the head coach, but with each other and with their assistants.
Plus, nearly everyone else in the organization, right on up to the owner's box.
If Titans coach Mike Munchak wants to pound the football on offense — he was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, after all — then coordinator Dowell Loggains, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, running backs coach Sylvester Croom and everyone on that side of the ball had better be emphasizing the rushing game.
And they all need to truly recognize who is the boss. Munchak and all other head coaches won't hire someone who can't adopt the same philosophy.
"I wouldn't do it if it wasn't the right guy," Munchak said. "You don't want someone coming in and blowing the whole place up and wanting to take over."
Some coaches will say the numbers don't matter and you could have 1,000 coaches. But if they aren't doing the job, it's the same as having a minuscule staff.
Doug Marrone, a former assistant with the Jets and Saints, took over in Buffalo this year. He has a strong conviction about who he wants helping him. He doesn't have a number attached to it.
"I think that my philosophy's always been it's not about quantity, but it's about quality, and we feel that we have high quality in our staff and enough coaches that we need," says Marrone, who has 20 assistants. "The great thing about (Bills President) Russ Brandon and (owner) Mr. Wilson and the organization is that they never really put a limit on how many people we can hire or what we can do. So they're all in for whatever we need to do to get this team to where we all would like it to be and I appreciate that. But, again, I think it's quality more than quantity."
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