Wade Phillips has failed twice before as a head coach, but Dallas feels he is the best man for the job. Phillips is a good coach and he prefers to use a 3-4 defense, the scheme already in place in Dallas, which was probably why he was chosen over someone like Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera who uses a 4-3 defense and cover-2 defensive system. Unfortunately Phillips is known for coaching good regular season teams that fail in the playoffs, exhibited by 14-2 San Diego's 1st round playoff loss this season. Plus at age 59, he fails Bill Simmons's Speed Limit Coaching Corollary. Simmons says that any team that has a head coach over age 55 should be worried because the success rate for these coaches doesn't seem high. "Maybe coaching isn't a young man's game, but it's definitely a younger man's game" says Simmons.
I was thinking about the ideal coach because I was recently re-reading Rob Reischel's book Packers Essential. He discusses Vince Lombardi who was 46 in 1959 when the Packers hired him. Lombardi was a top NFL assistant with the New York Giants who believed he never would have a head coaching opportunity after getting passed over in New York. "He had prepared for that job for a long time," said former Packer Norm Masters. He was young, experienced, and knew exactly what he would do if he ever became a head coach.
While an NFL team is unlikely to find the next Lombardi, teams should be looking for someone with experience and past success, but who has never had a head coaching opportunity. Looking around the NFL at the top offenses, why doesn't Tom Moore's name ever get mentioned as a possible head coach? Maybe he is happy in Indianapolis and he does flunk the Speed Limit Coaching Corollary, but as the offensive coordinator of one of the best offenses in NFL history over the last 9 seasons, wouldn't you at least want to talk with him? How about Bob Bratkowski in Cincinnati? He has built Cincinnati's offense from the ground up and every important offensive player has been drafted since Bratkowski was hired in 2001. Cam Cameron was hired in Miami after a great season coordinating San Diego's offense, but both him and Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia have had previously unspectacular results as head coaches. If you ignore coaches that have failed in previous head coaching tries then you would miss some pretty good coaches like Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy. However, for every Belichick and Dungy, there are many retread coaches that never again succeed. I would look for the assistant coach with NFL experience, but first time head coach, and leave the retreads behind.