Nate Goodyear: NFL’s Nepotism Hires Haven’t Worked Out

Mike Silver of NFL.com was the first to report that, in lieu of EVERY OTHER CANDIDATE backing out, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is set to accept a multi-year deal as the head coach of the 49ers whenever Atlanta’s season comes to an end (at risk of editorializing: it’s going to be this weekend).

Coach Kyle, is, of course, the son of two-time Super Bowl champion and former 49ers assistant Mike Shanahan. Without speculating as to whether or not Kyle is the right guy for the job (it doesn’t matter, because, again, he’s the only guy interested), I’ll present a list of some other famous NFL sons and their, um, interesting track records as head coaches.

Wade Phillips

Let’s start one of the (partial) success stories.  Wade’s old man, Bum, coached eleven years for the Oilers and Saints, compiling a record of 82-77, making the playoffs three times. Wade, for his part, has 12 seasons under his belt as a head coach, and has been a coordinator in the league since 1981, when he took the reigns of the Saints’ defense.  It took Wade until 1993 before he was given his first full-time head coaching opportunity, leading the Broncos to a 16-16 mark in two seasons.  He’s gone on to pile up 82 wins and 64 losses, with five trips to the playoffs and six seasons above .500.  Combining his career as a Head Coach and a coordinator, he’s had twelve defenses ranked in the top five in points allowed.

Rex Ryan

Rex’s pops, Buddy, was a mediocre NFL coach that had the good fortune of standing next to Mike Ditka while Walter Payton and a couple of hall-of-fame defensive players carried them to a Super Bowl.  He would have less success as a head coach in Philly, where he lacked to talent to replicate his success.

Rex, of course, took the league by storm when he was given the Jets’ head coaching gig, reaching two straight AFC title games and showing a willingness to offer a good sound byte.  Since then, it’s been all downwhill.  His career record is an unremarkable 61-66.  He hasn’t had a team over .500 since his second season in New York (that was 2010!) and definitely hasn’t made the playoffs.  That’s also the last season that the defensive wizard had a unit that finished the season ranked in the top half of the league in points allowed.

Also, his brother Rob has been a defensive coordinator for twelve seasons, only two of which have seen him lead a top-15 defense.

Lane Kiffin

Lane’s father, Monte, is a hall-of-fame defensive coordinator that has spent sixteen years with four different teams and is most well-known for being the architect of the “Tampa 2” defense that spurred the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl.  Lane, on the other hand, is the definition of a silver-spoon nepotism hire whose only remarkable achievement has been continuing to fail upwards.  He rode a 5-15 record as the head coach of the Raiders right into Knoxville, where he was immediately rewarded with the keys to the Tennessee football program.  He spent one year there before burning his second bridge in as many years and springboarding himself to USC (an obvious upgrade and an inexplicable prize for a guy that went 7-6 and lost in the Peach Bowl). After four mediocre years in Los Angeles (in which, to be fair, he was saddled with scholarship and postseason bans), he moved on to Alabama where he ran Nick Saban’s offense before bouncing to become the head man at Florida Atlantic just a few weeks ago.

Why he didn’t get an interview with the 49ers, we will never know.

Brian Schottenheimer

We remember Marty Schottenheimer, right? The guy that was always good enough to get there, but not good enough to win it.  Marty Schottenheimer coached for twenty-one seasons, going 200-126-1 and making the playoffs thirteen times.

His son, Brian, hasn’t been able to break through the ceiling of being an offensive coordinator.  That probably has a lot to do with the fact that, in nine seasons, he’s had just three in which his units have finished in the top half of the league in points scored.

Jim Mora, Jr.

You know his daddy because of this:

As for Junior, he was once a bright young star in coaching circles before flaming out of the league spectacularly after just four seasons.  He went 11-5 in his first season with the Falcons, making his only playoff appearance.  His record got worse in every subsequent season, going 8-8 the next season, followed by 7-9, and then got fired after a 5-11 stint with the Seahawks.  He’s currently been exiled to college football, where he’s the head coach at UCLA.

Mike Nolan

Hey, another 49ers guy! Dick Nolan led San Francisco to three playoff appearances in the early 70s and coached for a total of eleven seasons. Mike was a defensive coordinator before taking over the 49ers’ gig in 2005, where he is most remember for looking dapper on the sidelines and doing his best to ruin Alex Smith.  He went 18-37 in four years and lost his job to Mike Singletary.

Hey, that’s just a few! It’s not to say that Coach Kyle can’t succeed, because if nothing else, coach’s kids are due – but football history is littered with the spoils of the inter-genetic hiring pool, and the 49ers are taking a known risk by going for a swim.

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