Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jets retain Callahan, will he ever he a head coach again?

The NFL head coaching vacancies are one fewer after the New York Jets hired Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan as its head coach to replace Eric Mangini, who was fired the days after the season.

The Jets finished 9-7 but choked their way out of the playoffs by losing four of their last five games. According to a report from, Ryan will retain former Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan as offensive line coach. Callahan is also the assistant head coach in charge of the running game.

Callahan interviewed for the head coach job after Mangini was dismissed. I was talking to a fellow Husker fan who mused, “Callahan is going to luck his way into the job.” I told him, “Fat chance.”

Personally, I give Callahan about a five percent chance of being a head coach again in his career. Why do I say five percent, you ask? Seems a little generous?
Think about it for just a moment. In 2002, Callahan led the Oakland Raiders to the AFC Championship Game and a berth in Super Bowl XXXVII in his first season as a head coach, making him just the fourth rookie head coach in NFL history to do so. The Raiders suffered a lopsided defeat, losing 48-21 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coached by his former boss Jon Gruden. The Raiders finished with a 13-6 record in Callahan's first season.
Despite the success of his 2002 team, the 2003 imploded to a 4-12 season. After his team got off to a 2-5 start, many of his players, in particular Charles Woodson, Tim Brown and Rich Gannon. Owner Al Davis fired Callahan two days after the season.
Callahan went 27-22 at Nebraska, leading the Huskers to two bowl-less seasons in four years.
Many expected that the 2007 season would be a breakthrough year for Nebraska. Instead the program endured new lows in stumbling to a 5-7 season. The team had five consecutive losses against Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas. It was the first time since 1958 that Nebraska had lost five consecutive games. Steve Pederson’s firing as athletic director and Tom Osborne’s hiring as athletic director was a strong indicator that Callahan would not be long as the Husker head coach. He was dismissed the day after Nebraska’s season ending 65-51 loss to Colorado.
Callahan has always been a credible assistant coach wherever he has been but even though his two stints as a head coach were checkered that ended unceremoniously, here’s where I come to the five percent conclusion:
A) Callahan deserves a mulligan for what happened in Oakland, which is a tough organization to work for with Davis lurking over your shoulder. The Raiders have also gone 24-72 since 2003. Things never got any better under Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin or Tom Cable.
B) His failure at Nebraska might have been due in part to the phony Pederson being the AD. Callahan, however, led the program to new lows under his watch and also alienated the Husker fan base.
C) However, the fact that Nebraska immediately turned things around in Bo Pelini’s first season as head coach, going 9-4, reflects very strongly on how badly the Huskers underachieved under Callahan.
One thing to keep in mind, however, those staunchly involved in the NFL might write off his experience at Nebraska as, “Well, that was college” or “Maybe he’s not a college coach.” Inaddition, the NFL likes to recycle coaches. So if the Jets go deep into the playoffs, he might end up being a viable candidate after all.

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