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Historical impact of NFL coaching changes and how it relates to the Minnesota Vikings

Purple Pain
Minnesota Vikings
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This fan blog entry was originally posted at Purple Pain Forums by MidwinterViking.

A really good question was asked in response to the Run it Back! post I made: How many coaching changes have resulted in a significant change to team performance?  That post suggested the team needed to improve by 6 PPG over the field. To answer this, I loaded the franchise history for teams back to 1970 (same time frame as that article). 

Here is what I found:

I counted 319 coaching changes since 1970.  

If there was a mid-season coaching change, I didn’t count that (that’s a train wreck, not a coaching change). The change is attributed to the first year of the new coach.

There were some huge swings in the early decades of the NFL, so I also filtered to recent changes: 

Recent = anything since 2000

Related: Evaluating Minnesota Vikings’ draft picks by selection history

  • Total coaching changes: 319
  • Recent coaching changes: 140
  • Total coaching changes that corresponded with a +6 or greater change: 90 (28% of all changes)
  • Recent coaching changes that corresponded with a +6 or greater change: 37 (26%)
  • Total coaching changes with a huge gain, +10 or more: 33 (10%)
  • Recent coaching changes with a huge gain, +10 or more: 20 (14%)
  • Total changes that showed some improvement (+1 or better): 181 (57%)
  • Recent changes that showed some improvement (+1 or better): 81 (58%)
  • Average impact of all changes: +1.98
  • Average impact of recent changes: +2.45
  • Vikings’ coaching changes: 8 (remember, I skipped mid-year changes)
  • Vikings’ coaching changes with +6 or greater impact: 3
  • 1985: +12.2
  • 1986: +8.6 (that’s right, back-to-back years. Les Steckel’s 1984 Vikings set a really low bar)
  • 1992: +8.1

Related: Minnesota Vikings mock draft: 2022 NFL Draft projections and analysis

Some changes to be in awe of and give the team hope:

  • Matt Nagy’s 2018 Bears: +12.1
  • Frank Reich’s 2018 Colts: +14.4
  • Doug Marrone’s 2017 Jaguars: +14.4
  • Sean McVay’s 2017 Rams: +19.9
  • Andy Reid’s 2013 Chiefs: +21.1
  • Some cautionary tales for the doomers:
  • Vance Joseph’s 2017 Broncos: -8.1
  • Marc Trestman’s 2013 Bears: -8.2
  • Steve Wilks’ 2018 Cardinals: -8.4
  • Ken Whisenhunt’s 2014 Titans: -10.3
  • Raheem Morris’ 2009 Bucs: -12.1

And for bonus fun: the “pointlessness award” goes to Al Groh’s 2000 Jets: started at 0, moved to 0 for a net change of 0. Groh was fired after one year; he never had a chance to Groh on anyone.

How are we feeling, Vikings fans? What about fans of other teams with new head coaches? This piece change anything for you?

As always, if you’ve enjoyed this piece, please consider hopping over to Purple Pain Forums and debating with other Minnesota Vikings fans about not only this topic, but so much more!