Replacing the best: would you want to be next?

The sports world has gone into a frenzy thanks to two moves, one expected and one out of nowhere. Alabama coach Nick Saban and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are no longer coaching their respective teams. You can hear the crying in Alabama and New England from all over the world.

Saban and Belichick are two of the most decorated coaches in the history of football. Saban has seven national championships (the most in the history of college football), 11 Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and countless awards earned due to his hard-nosed coaching. Belichick has had similar success at the pro-level winning eight Super Bowls, the most in the history of the National Football League (NFL), and reaching three more. Those achievements are nearly impossible to match for any successor leading to otherworldly expectations for those taking over from those legends. This leads to the question: who wants to be next?

From the outside, the Patriots and Alabama would be dream jobs for any coach. They have a winning culture, their facilities are world-class and they both have passionate fan bases.

The issue lies with who came before them in the sense that they are simply impossible to replace.

Alabama and the Patriots have such high expectations that anything but making a deep run at a championship will be seen as a failure and many people will be questioning whether someone is fit for the job. The tale of a highly accomplished coach leaving a team only for the team to fall to the middle of the pack is one as old as time. You can look all around sports and see that programs take some time to rebuild once their iconic leaders step away from their power positions.

I don’t think the issue is something tangible but mostly a question of aura. The sports team doesn’t have the same aura or energy that they once had.

Teams are no longer terrified of facing that team because they aren’t run by the same serial winners who have led them for countless years.

The coach that is coming into the program won’t have the same aura or pull that their predecessor once had. They would be building the team from nothing.

People will devalue what they did prior to taking the job because they didn’t have the same pressure that they have at the temple of their sport.

People will give them minimal time to adjust because of the high expectations that were set before them.

I don’t doubt that the coaches that will be hired to replace Belichick and Saban will be good, maybe even great coaches, but they won’t be given a chance to show their greatness.

Their greatness likely won’t reach the same level as their predecessor and will thus be considered a disappointment, maybe even a failure.

Saban and Belichick will constantly be looming over them, putting very unnecessary pressure on their former teams.

There is no solution to this problem that the new coaches will face. The idea of coaching at the temple of a sport is a much better idea than it is in practice.

They will be constantly compared to the greatest coaches of all time and thus likely get fired after one or two
underwhelming seasons.

The program will once again hire a coach who has performed at every other level but might underwhelm and the cycle will repeat itself until a once-in-a-generation coach is found again who is enticed by the idea of bringing a former great back to the national spotlight.

I truly don’t believe it matters who Alabama or the Patriots hire; the coach will likely not be coaching at the same place in five years because they couldn’t replicate success that is impossible to replicate.

Saban and Belichick are the latest two sporting titans to step away from their historic programs and they will certainly not be the last. Replacing legends will always be tough but it has not proven to be impossible.

The Green Bay Packers also went through a passing of the torch with their quarterback and seem to have found their third legend in as many quarterbacks, even though it is still early on in Jordan Love’s career.

There is still hope when moving on, but you just have to get incredibly fortunate.