There are four first-year head coaches in the NFL this year. Not one of them will have to face a more-tenured counterpart this weekend.
Seven of the league’s 32 teams started 2012 with new men at the helm, including the Chiefs, who gave the full-time gig to Romeo Crennel after Crennel had finished out the 2011 season as the interim head coach. Four of those seven teams hired men who had never before been head coaches on the NFL level – Tampa Bay (Greg Schiano), Oakland (Dennis Allen), Miami (Joe Philbin) and Indianapolis (Chuck Pagano).
In a weird coincidence, those four teams will be paired off in twos on Sunday in Week Nine of the NFL season. Schiano’s Buccaneers travel to Oakland to face Allen’s Raiders, while Philbin’s Dolphins and Pagano’s Colts will square off in Indy. The actual Philbin-Pagano meeting won’t take place, as Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September and is currently undergoing treatment. However, the Colts’ interim leader, Bruce Arians, has also never before been a head coach at the NFL level.
Both Schiano and Allen have led their teams to 3-4 starts in their first year at the helm, and both teams come in having won two of their last three. Both coaches are also spearheading rather significant culture changes at their teams’ facilities. Schiano is refashioning the Buccaneers into a detail-oriented and accountable group while Allen’s Raiders are in the early stages of the post-Al Davis era.
Schiano made the move back to the NFL in 2012 after a decade as a head coach on the collegiate level at Rutgers. Allen has been in the NFL since 2002 but he has never served as a head coach at any level. Fully taking charge of every aspect of a team’s operation has proved to be the most significant adjustment for Allen.
“Now you’re responsible for the whole team as well as trainers, video,” he said. “You’ve really got a responsibility to everybody within the organization. The umbrella under which you operate is a lot bigger than what I’ve had to do in the past. But coaching football is still coaching football and that’s what we love to do, and that hasn’t changed.”