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AFM Magazine

Letter from Publisher

Change of Heart
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On January 13th, the same day that Michael Jordan retired from the NBA, Jimmy Johnson decided to resign as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Feeling the pain of losing his mother and his father's illness, tired of 30 years of 16 hour days, a failed marriage and lost precious time with his sons, coupled with the frustration of dealing with multi-millionaire players, who refuse to "run through a brick wall like they used to," Johnson told his boss, team owner Wayne Huizenga, he was ready to step aside. He went so far as to bring in his replacement, long-time friend and former assistant, Dave Wannstedt, the recently dismissed coach of the Chicago Bears.

Huizenga made a suggestion that not only changed Johnson's mind, but potentially changed the way that coaching staffs are created and the way teams are run. In a nutshell, Huizenga indicated that Johnson should hire Wannstedt as his "assistant head coach."

Not the type of assistant head coach that we currently see on each team in college and the NFL, the designation that no one knows exactly what it means. Not the assistant head coach who also happens to be the defensive or offensive coordinator and whose opinions and time cannot help but be devoted to "his" side of the ball.

Huizenga suggested a real assistant head coach, a senior level executive, intimately involved in all aspects of the team's day-to-day operation. An assistant who would allow Johnson to focus on his non-coaching duties and allow him to spend less time at the office. Someone who could step in and serve as Johnson's true "right-hand man," and give him an objective, unbiased view of the team. Someone who could go into staff meetings and conduct them in Johnson's place; sit in on team meetings, game planning sessions, etc. and deliver a report back to Johnson.

Will this change the make-up of coaching staffs? Maybe. Everyone needs someone; whether it's to have a system of checks and balances or simply someone to bounce ideas off of. Yet, on coaching staffs this is oftentimes difficult. People have their own agendas or ideas; they are too busy with their own duties to take the head man's place and serve as his eyes and ears, not to mention how they would be perceived by their colleagues.

I think it is going to work out great for the Dolphins and I believe soon most teams will have a real assistant head coach (remember, 35 years ago before George Allen decided it was important, no team had a special teams coach). The one thing I know will change is Jimmy Johnson; he already has. At the press conference announcing Wannstedt's hiring, Johnson said, "There's a time you pull back and say, 'Be with the people you care about. Don't shortchange them.' That's what I plan on doing."

In Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl, virtually every coach in the NFL was there to scout talent. This event has become the "unofficial convention" for the NFL coaching fraternity. The entire Dolphins staff was there, led by their boss, Dave Wannstedt.

Sincerely yours,

Barry Terranova


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