UFL Coaches Pass Muster... or Do They?

Tobi WritesAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2009

9 Aug 1999: Coach Denny Green of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the sidelines during a practice game against the New Orleans Saints at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport

Denny Green, Jim Fassel, Jim Haslett, and Ted Cottrell.

Three former NFL head coaches and a high profile former NFL defensive coordinator.

This foursome was chosen in part to be competent coaches, but mostly to give the UFL credibility with fans, with wannabe NFL players, and with potential UFL future owners.


The Rockstar

Denny Green is everything a startup league could want.  He has led a team that was dominant in the NFL, with one of his Vikings teams going 15-1. 

He owns a 117-102 record in the NFL.  He is boisterous, honest, blunt, and forceful.

His media meltdown in Phoenix is an often quoted favorite of today's NFL fans.  But it and his Arizona teams' underwhelming performances had cast a huge shadow over his NFL job prospects.  The UFL was a godsend for Green and Green is a godsend for the UFL.

People want to watch Denny Green and see what will happen next.


The Mad Scientist

Jim Fassel once was thought of as an offensive genius. The inspired tinkerer.  An innovative thinker who had tutored Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Phil Simms and John Elway.  He was a golden boy. 

He was named the Giants head coach in 1997 and immediately won the league's coach of the year award.  By the next year Fassell was under fire from Giant fans.  In spite of this, in 2000 he lead an undermanned Giants team to the Super Bowl. 

Eventually strong anti-Fassel sentiment and inconsistent and unprofessional players like Tiki "Coach Killer" Barber cost Fassel his job in New York.

Fassel has since tried to catch on with other teams without much success.  He was the Offensive Coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens for a few years, but had little success.

Ultimately, his lack of success and differences in philosophy led to head Coach Brian Billick firing him in season: a career killing move in the NFL.

After getting run out of town as a head coach in New York and getting dismissed during a season in Baltimore after a pretty underwhelming run there, few NFL teams were rushing to interview Fassel.

The UFL offered the discredited Fassel a second chance that did not appear to be coming in the NFL.

He owns a 60-56-1 record in the NFL.


The Journeyman -

Like Fassel, Jim Haslett won the NFL Coach of the year ward in his first year in the NFL.  He took over the New Orleans Saints team that Mike Ditka built but couldn't coach to wins.  His 2000 Saints team won the first playoff game ever in New Orleans.

His Saints would never again reach those heights.  They floated around .500 for four years until the talent moved out of it's prime and the team collapsed to 3-13 in 2005, leading to Haslett's dismissal.

Haslett resurfaced as the defensive coordinator for the LA Rams in 2006 and was promoted to interim head coach after the very unmemorable Scott Linehan was fired.

Haslett was given a contract with a clause that stated he would become the permanent head coach if he won six of the team's remaining 12 games. 

Despite a fair amount of talent, the team went 2-10. The Rams chose to go in a different direction for the 2009 season.

Haslett has a 48-62 career NFL record.


The Bridesmaid

Ted Cottrell was a long time Defensive Coordinator who had a lot of success in stints in Buffalo and New York but was seen by fans in New York as unfairly overlooked for multiple NFL head coaching positions, and as such is a decent choice for the New York Sentinels head coaching position.

Clearly, the UFL did a solid job of meeting likely league goals with their choices.  Players do look at the UFL and see that the coaching they receive there is comparable to what they would receive in the NFL.

Fans have openly cheered the UFL for it's "proven NFL coaching." Clearly for some fans, these choices are a home run, but how alluring will these names be once the games start?


Denny Green was a great head coach for most of his time in Minnesota, but under his leadership the team was often considered undisciplined and eventually collapsed to 5-11 record in 2001 due to sloppy play. In Arizona, Green's team were seen as consistent underperfomers.

Fassel's Giants and Haslett's Saints teams were also considered underacheivers dogged with undisciplined play.

Cotrell's reputation as a genius of a Defensive Coordinator took major hits over the last few years as his teams have consistently been exposed by opponent's passing games.

I'll say it.

Can these guys really coach?

Imagine if the UFL season rolls around and NFL fans tune into the league out of curiosity only to see a bunch of unknown and never were players stinking it up in very sloppy, poorly coached games. 

New York in particular may be a problem, as Cottrell has never been a head coach at any level.

The UFL really could have done with an ace in the deck.  A Jim Mora Sr.  A Marty Schottenheimer.  A Jimmy Johnson.  A Bill Cowher. Even a Brian Billick. A coach who has a history of coaching disciplined teams that consistently wins games.

Leagues do best when there is a front-running team.  Certainly The Las Vegas Locomotives appear the most likely to assume that role with quality QBs JP Losman and Tim Rattay on the roster, but I suspect they won't dominate. Maybe without an inoperable tumor like Tiki Barber interfering, Fassel will prove to be the league's ace.

I don't know that there will be a front-running team in the UFL's Premiere Season.

And that may be the problem with these coaches.


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