When he was coaching the Atlanta Falcons, Jerry Glanville chased down an official he thought had blown a call and said "This is the NFL, which means Not for Long when you make those calls." Today, Glanville's line applies to his former coaching brethren. At least nine teams will have new coaches next season. Chaos reigns even where guys are staying. Jimmy Johnson had to be talked out of quitting the Miami Dolphins by Dan Marino and owner Wayne Huizenga.
With Marty Schottenheimer's resignation after 10 years of leading the Kansas City Chiefs, the deans of NFL coaching are the Pittsburgh Steelers' Bill Cowher and the Minnesota Vikings' Dennis Green, who have lasted seven seasons apiece. Only six NFL coaches will enter next fall with more than three seasons in their posts. Things have gotten so crazy that coaches now stage press conferences to say they're not leaving, as Johnson did last week.
Why such upheaval? Money, mainly. Jerry Richardson shelled out more than $500 million to become the founding owner of the Carolina Panthers, and one 4-12 season was enough for him to lose patience with Dom Capers, a man he'd thought of as a son. But the cash cuts both ways. Mike Holmgren, lured by Paul Allen's billions and by the nearly absolute power the Seattle Seahawks' owner promised him, left a good gig with the Green Bay Packers, which paid him $2 million in '98, to take over troubled Seattle for $4 million a year. Johnson, meanwhile, is already rich. A generation ago reluctant coaches had to suck it up and go to work anyway. They needed the money. Johnson, who made $156,000 in one day on the stock market last year and is probably worth more than $10 million, is wealthy enough to do as he pleases.
Money has changed the players, too. Johnson could be brutal in practice with his 1991 Dallas Cowboys, but tough tactics didn't work as well in Miami this season. Johnson was amazed that he had trouble getting the Dolphins to go all out in practice before their Nov. 1 showdown with the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East lead. He sees a leaguewide erosion of team spirit. "When I got to the NFL in 1989, you'd meet the other coach at midfield before the game and he'd talk about his team as we," Johnson says. "Now coaches are mad at the front office, mad at their players. It's much less a team thing."
A group led by real estate magnate Howard Milstein has now bid $800 million for the Washington Redskins and their cash cow of a stadium. For years the league has wanted big money from TV and from Fortune 500 types like Milstein. The NFL got its money—and the madness that goes with it.