Replacing Chan Gailey. Some Buffalo Bills fans have dreamed of this change since the day the unemployed former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator took over as the new head coach nearly three years ago. You think firing Gailey will make you happy, but it probably won't.
We find that for particularly poorly performing teams, coach replacements have little effect on team performance as measured against comparable teams that did not replace their coach. However, for teams with middling records - that is, teams where entry conditions for a new coach appear to be more favorable - replacing the head coach appears to result in worse performance over subsequent years than comparable teams who retained their coach.
To boil it down:
- There is little difference in team performance if you replace the coach of a poorly performing team.
- There is a negative effect of a new coach taking over a mediocre team.
Other studies of European soccer, NHL, and NBA coaches have proven similar results: replacing the head coach does little to improve the performance of a team.
Despite all of our talk on different philosophies, tendencies, and intensity levels of new coaches, they are all brought along in similar ways. They join a coaching staff as an entry-level assistant, study their superiors, and work their way up based on merit, attrition and opportunity. Head coaches aren't hired from other fields to come in with new ideas.
So the question becomes, would you like to buy out the rest of Chan Gailey's contract to throw more money at someone else for a statistically insignificant return? My guess is you still will, but at least you have something to think (or cry) about.