Timing for hiring of coaches whose teams are still in the playoffs must change

Mike Florio

Last week, Peter King proposed a moratorium on any coaching interviews or hires until after the Super Bowl. It would make for a far more fair playing field, even if the rule would routinely be violated with off-the-record conversations that never officially happened.

Before considering such a radical change, why not dust off an idea that died on the vine three years ago? In 2017, the Competition Committee proposed a rule change that would have permitted a club to “negotiate and reach an agreement with a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the employer club’s season.”

The proposal was made in March, the owners discussed it in May (the meeting where many proposals go to die), and then it died. It should be resurrected.

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From time to time, a team will wait to hire a coach whose team is still playing, with the eventual hire one of the worst-kept secrets in the league. So why not let it become official, with the understanding that the new coach will not actually take the job until after his team’s season ends.

Any “what if?” scenario that could be conjured regarding potential distractions applies whether the assistant coach has accepted an offer or not, from thinking about the next job (instead of the task at hand) to lining up assistants, to considering any of the many logistical issues that will need to quickly be handled once things become official.

There’s an important reason for allowing assistant coaches to be hired before their teams end their playoff runs. For the Browns, two minority candidates — 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — couldn’t have been hired at the time the hire was made. (As it’s currently going, Biemieny could have been available tonight.) So the Browns were able to hire Kevin Stefanski, who was available, at a time when Saleh and Bieniemy couldn’t have been hired, providing Cleveland with a certain amount of cover for not actually hiring a minority candidate.

Even without that reason, it makes sense to let teams hire their preferred candidates even if their seasons haven’t ended. The team shouldn’t have to wait, and a candidate shouldn’t have to worry about possibly getting passed over simply because someone else can be hired immediately.

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