In addition to all the usual duties of a HC, some also chose to act as coordinators for their team on Sundays and call the offensive/defensive plays. I looked at all the HC in the league to see who handled the play calls on one side of the ball this past season. Their were 10 head coaches who called their plays by themselves and 3 who collaborated with the OC/DC to call plays in tandem- and the results weren't pretty.
Called Own Plays:
BUF- Chan Gailey (6-10)
IND- Bruce Arians (11-5)
DAL- Jason Garrett (8-8)
PHI- Andy Reid (4-12)
GB- Mike McCarthy (11-5)
SD- Norv Turner (7-9)
NYJ- Rex Ryan (6-10)
DET- Jim Schwartz (4-12)
CLE- Pat Shurmur (5-11)
KC- Romeo Crennel (2-14)
Called Plays with Coordinator:
CHI- Lovie Smith/Rod Marinelli (10-6)
STL- Jeff Fisher/Defense Assistants (7-8-1)
MIA- Joe Philibin/Mike Sherman (7-9)
Yikes. 13 coaches made play calls this season. Payton would usually make them for the Saints and Arians was techniquely the coordinator forced into a coaching role, but we'll ignore that for now. So of the 13 teams, only IND and GB made the playoffs both with 11-5 records. The other 11 coaches combined for a .375 winning percentage and accounted for 6/7 coaches who lost their jobs this week (Gailey, Schurmer, Smith, Reid, Crennel, and Turner), with Jason Garrett on the hot seat and Ryan/Schwartz both likely needing a playoff birth next season to retain their jobs. Another statistic: of the thirteen Superbowl champions since 2000, only 4 (Billick, Gruden, McCarthy, Payton) have called plays for their teams.
You could also make the argument that at least 5 of those teams (BUF, DET, DAL, SD, PHI) underperformed and have much more talent than their records suggest. It's a stretch, but it's reasonable to make the claim that teams not showing up to play consistently is a sign of weak coaching and all of the above coaches (except Reid since he has so much experience) think like an OC 1st and a HC 2nd. Do you think if Harbaugh or Belichick were the HC of any of these teams acting purely in oversight and the respective coaches were the OC's that any of these teams wouldn't have had a much better record? I think the Bills would have easily finished 8-8, maybe better.
Whats my point? I'm tired of the Bills signing coordinators who don't have a true HC mentality. Williams, Phillips, Mularkey, Gailey... Great coordinators, but lousy motivators, bad challenge/timeout management, questionable choices on 4th down, no ability to adjust, and overall unable to develop a killer instinct or winners mentality in the team.
In my opinion this coaching decision is the biggest choice this franchise has had to make since the decision to hire Marv Levy as GM... Why? Because we just did a 3 year rebuild and the team is primed to excell in the next few seasons. The young guys will enter their primes and the veterans will be in the middle of theirs. Good coach and the right QB this team can be really, really good in two years. Make a bad choice though, and thats at least two seasons wasted and the need to start over with a new system, having to try to retain the young guys like Spiller, Glenn, Gilmore, Dareus, etc. by convincing them to sign back with what seems to be a franchised that can climb out of the leagues cellar, and dealing with disgruntled and accomplished veterans like K. Williams, Mario, Stevie, etc. who are locked up long-term and sick of losing. The stakes are high to make a good decision.
Based on all this, of the main options we are considering I put McCoy at the very bottom of my list. I don't doubt he is an offensive mastermind, but I'm done with HC's who are top notch with X's and O's and hoping they can also run the show and be a great leader. Finding a true leader should be the primary concern, not an afterthought.
Whisenhunt handed over his play calling responsabilities after the 09' season, but without Warner and Boldin it was never able to get back on tract. It's hardly his fault, they never had a good OL, had no playmakers at RB, worked with replacement level QB's, and only had Fitzgerald as a threat on the outside. It's tough to evaluate what kind of a job Whisenhunt really did in Arizona, and for that reason I see him as too risky to take a shot on with better options in play.
Chip Kelly is an offensive genius who would certainly call his own plays while he installs his system and tweaks it for the NFL. The plus side is that he is also a great coach, so it feels a bit different than drafting just another accomplished OC. The downside is that there is a ton of risk involved in implementing his unique yet unproven system with a rookie QB and a bunch of young players who are unfamilar with it. The rewards if it pans out are so high that it's almost too good for a boring and stagnant franchise to pass up, but ultimately Kelly might be doing us a favor by opting to coach elsewhere next season.
My top choices are Horton and Lovie, and I'm bouncing back and forth between the two. Lovie is the safest choice of the lot by a large margin. He is a proven NFL head coach who won games and his players loved. I'm not in love with his somewhat laid back demeanor or the Cover 2 defense, but I can't argue that he has produced. He will always want to be involved heavily in the defense, which he made evident by retaining a large part in the play calling this season despite having an experienced DC who is an expert in the system and understands exactly what he is trying to do. The key would be to find a DC capable of shouldering as much of that load as possible and an OC who can completely run the offense.
On the other hand, Horton is a slightly riskier pick who I believe has an outstanding HC personality and is saying all the right things about how he would run a team. He wants to hire "experts" at OC/DC and give them full playcalling responsibilities while playing an oversight role. If Gailey focused less on what play to call next and looked at the offense from a more outside perspective it would have been a lot easier to see that Spiller wasn't touching the ball enough or that we were passing way too much on 1st and 2nd down. Horton is a fiery guy, a natural leader, and can relate to the players as well as any coach in the league. He also has ties with Norv Turner and could bring him in as the new OC while bringing in a DC with expertise in running 4 man fronts. He wasn't the top DC in the league by any means, but he took an above-average group of defenders and had them finish 5th in the league in yards allowed, right up there with teams like SF, DEN, HOU, and SEA who were far more talented on paper. In my eyes that's enough credentials for a natural leader to earn a shot as a HC.
In the end I would be very pleased with Lovie, but probably a bit more so if we went with Horton. I know everyone will have their own opinion, but I hope nobody is writing this guy off because he isn't a big name or a schematic mastermind. There's more than that to being a great coach, and I think this guy really has the "it" factor necessary to succeed in the role.