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A New Coach Doesn't Guarantee the Bears Ten Wins

There's reason to be optimistic under first-year head coach Marc Trestman. But first-year head coaches don't always get off on the right foot.

Jonathan Daniel

Marc Trestman was hired to bring respectability to an offense that's consistently ranked in the bottom half of the NFL. With his hiring and the thought that the defense would hold onto "good" as opposed to "great," you'd think the Bears are poised to make a Super Bowl run, right?

Unfortunately, that's not always how it works. At least, it generally hasn't for the last ten years.

There have been 44 head coaching changes in the NFL since 2003. In those ten years, first-year coaches compiled 299 wins... to go with 396 losses, a winning percentage of .430. A .430 winning percentage usually puts you closer to being on the clock by the Super Bowl than in the Super Bowl. And usually the reasons for that are two-fold. One, teams usually don't fire head coaches unless they've been bad, but in nearly all cases, point two is that the new coach's philosophies usually take a year or so to take root.

I mean, of course you have your exceptions - most notably Mike McMarthy (8-8 as a rookie head coach, four years later a Super Bowl), Mike Tomlin (10-6 rookie year, the next year a Super Bowl), Jim Harbaugh (NFC conference title game last year, Super Bowl appearance this year), Tony Sparano got the Dolphins to 11-5 following a 1-15 season, and I'd even add Rex Ryan to the list, he of the two playoff berths in his first two years. I'll even toss in Lovie Smith.

Smith took over a 7-9 Bears team in 2003 and they became a 5-11 squad in 2004. Year two saw the Bears at 11-5 and in the playoffs, and the next year was 2006 - 13-3 and a Super Bowl appearance.

But then you've got the glut of other coaches that tried and didn't quite succeed so well - Pat Shurmer, canned after season one; Chan Gailey at 4-12 and never more than 6 wins in a year; Ron Rivera at 6-10 with the Panthers in 2011 and nearly fired this year; Mike Singletary was 5-10 and fired after going 8-8 in his first full season (the next year was last year); Mike Mularkey had a 2-14 season just this past year.

Look at it this way, folks - even if Trestman comes in and his team craps the bed in year one, they'd have a long way to fall to hit Cam Cameron's Dolphins (1-15 in 2007) or Rod Marinelli's Lions (0-16 in 2008). And those were 6-10 and 7-9 teams in the prior seasons. Not great teams, not good teams - but not terrible teams.

But just because some coaches were able to make quick turnarounds, some even in a single season, doesn't mean that good coaching takes hold and shows immediate results within that first year. A team can be 10-6 one year, but that doesn't guarantee they'll be 10-6 the next under a new coaching philosophy, and especially one with as much coaching turnover as this coming year's iteration of the Bears will have.

I'm not sure the Bears will beat ten wins in their first season. But that doesn't mean that making the Lovie Smith for Marc Trestman switch was an awful move. Even in the exceptions I mentioned above, most of those Super Bowl appearances are later than the first year. Teams don't transition from system to system seamlessly. They just don't. So to expect a team to have a better record the next year after experiencing such a coaching upheaval seems like folly to me.

Trestman's time to be judged will come - but don't expect it to come in a potentially disappointing season one. Expect to see the greater gains from his employment really start to show in the second year.