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Should the Rams Seriously Consider Trading for a Head Coach?

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As the head coaching search heats up for the Los Angeles Rams, should they explore every possible avenue, including a trade? Let’s at least take a look before dismissing...

Clearly by the title of this article, many of you are already rolling your eyes, throwing your keyboards, cursing my name, cursing the Rams, locating an actual ram on a mountain and yelling at it, etc. If I was writing this article at the end of the 2015 season, I would be right there with you.

On the surface, such a move certainly reeks of desperation, to imply that a franchise needs to TRADE for a head coach (it is still possible, of course), instead of simply luring one based on a pool of available candidates, from the collegiate and professional arenas. That is normal modus operandi.

However, the Los Angeles Rams are not in a normal modus operandi situation. Not by far, as evidenced by the current meltdown and lack of a clear path forward. Let’s consider the following, heading into the offseason:

  1. The Rams do not have a 1st round pick in the 2017 draft (after trading it to the Tennessee Titans), but should be ok in the 2018 draft.
  2. The Rams already selected who they believe is their franchise QB in the previous draft, Jared Goff, and it’s already clear they have mishandled him.
  3. The Rams are still several years away from their new stadium, so while they are not in need of a Band Aid fix, they will need someone who can turn the ship around quickly so that they can sell those seat licenses and boxes.
  4. The Rams will be in fairly good cap shape heading into this offseason (although they will have many decisions to make on key players), with $39 million in cap space.
  5. The Rams could use an established head coach to lead this franchise (at least until the stadium is ready), albeit one that has likely worn out his welcome with his current franchise or had a down season and has an impatient front office.
  6. The Rams need to re-invigorate an already mortified LA fanbase. Moving to LA simply wasn’t enough for fans, they expect a quality product.

Sounds like a situation in need of creativity yet calculated prudence. Let’s keep going.

A Short History of NFL Head Coaching Trades

It’s not a novel concept, of course, to trade for a head coach. It’s just not very common. Last year, CheatSheet.com took at look at the 5 best head coach trades. From the last 20 years within the NFL, there have been three notable ones:

Bill Parcells, New England Patriots to the New York Jets (1997).

If there was ever a coach that was ready to move on and start anew, it was the NFL’s Bill Parcells. Now nearly synonymous with his insistence on leaving successful teams for floundering ones, Parcells found himself in a tenuous situation with the New England Patriots — specifically, he didn’t want to coach the team, but he was still under contract for another season. The solution?

“[Parcells] and Belichick would move to the New York Jets. Belichick would be head coach and Parcells would merely be his ‘adviser,’ his Bobby Heenan — thus technically not in violation of his existing deal,” Bryan Curtis wrote for a Grantland piece covering the coach’s career. “The next year, Parcells could become the Jets coach. The NFL office, for the second time, stopped him from implementing his plan. The Patriots wound up getting first-, second-, third-, and fourth-round picks for Parcells.”

Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002).

Arguably one of the most famous trades in NFL history, the Oakland Raiders sent Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for “four draft picks — two first-rounders and two second-rounders — and $8 million,” because they were “faced with the reality that they were going to lose him one way or the other,” according to the Los Angeles Times. At the outset, it seemed like a fair deal for both sides, but it clearly came back to bite Oakland when the Bucs thoroughly trounced the Raiders in the 2002 Super Bowl.

Bill Belichick, New York Jets to the New England Patriots (2000).

Chalk this one up to being another one of those “trades by reparations,” when Bill Belichick left the New York Jets after just one day of employment in 2000 to sign with the New England Patriots, the New York squad decided to call BS on BB, who was still under contract with the team. After all the dust settled, the Jets walked away with New England’s first, fourth, and seventh round picks, while sending out a pair of their own picks (in the fifth and seventh round).

Clearly, the above coaches, during their peaks, were among the best. Jon Gruden, currently being tossed around as a candidate to coach the Los Angeles Rams, would have to leave an extremely good situation at ESPN, making him unlikely. On Mike and Mike last week:

"Right now I have no intentions of coaching," Gruden said. "I really enjoy what I'm doing. I feel like I'm really close to the fire, and I'm getting plenty of satisfaction out of doing what I'm doing."

The compensation required for those head coaches is also prohibitive to the Rams’ situation. Each coach required multiple draft picks, including first round picks.

So, you’re not going to have the draft capital or even partner to trade for a Hall of Fame, let alone a current top 5, coach if you are the Rams.

Potential Head Coaching Trade Candidates

There have been plenty of rumors floated around about the following candidates, and for good reason: they are both in the NFC South, where the Falcons have run away with the division, and are struggling this year after getting new mega deals.

The percentage is based on IF the Rams decide to make a trade, who is more likely. Everyone else is <50%.

Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints) - 75%

Why him?

Our own SBNation discussed Payton (and Ron Rivera) being strong candidates, should the Rams decide to trade for either of them. Payton just signed a 5-year contract extension a year ago, and Rivera just signed a 3-year contract extension after a Super Bowl run, but things can change quickly if a front office and owner decide enough is enough.

Payton is known for being an innovative offensive mind, as well as being at the helm during a certain thing that rhymes with MountyBate (let’s not get into that here, though, shall we?) He won a Super Bowl after the 2009 season, but since then has struggled to get deep into the playoffs.

Payton has spent most of his career embedded with quarterbacks, either as a quarterback coach or an offensive coordinator. Defense is something he hands over to someone else. He’s had the luxury of a QB named Drew Brees for the last 10 years, which has not hurt his perception as an offensive guru and (overall, at least) successful head coach. Yet he’s now had three straight sub-500 seasons, with the Saints defense limiting Brees’ prime years. Payton’s shine is wearing thin in New Orleans despite a new deal.

Payton is a SoCal native, and is allegedly looking to head that way should the opportunity present itself. He could be looking for a young QB to mold, and Goff presents a fresh student of the game.

What it would take

Apparently, not too much per Ian Rapoport:

The Saints would demand compensation to allow Payton to leave, but it might not be much. If he really wants out, the Saints aren't likely to hold him hostage, pay him his huge salary and ask him to coach the team when he wants to be elsewhere.

The way a deal would work, theoretically, is the Rams and Saints would agree on compensation first (draft picks or players). Then, the new team and Payton would work out a contract. Finally, the Saints would receive its picks.

Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers) - 50%

Why him?

After going 15-1 and riding an elite defense and an MVP QB to the Super Bowl, Rivera’s squad has taken an abrupt turn into hard times. They currently sit at 6-9, and have watched the Falcons, well, rise up in the NFC South.

The defense is not the same as in 2015, with star CB Josh Norman now in Washington and star MLB Luke Kuechly sidelined with a concussion. But Newton has been the real story, looking very little like the QB who won MVP last season and regressing mechanically. It has certainly been a frustrating year for Rivera, to say the least, but could he be looking to the West?

Last week, Ian Rapoport floated the possibility that Rivera could end up with the Rams via trade. He noted that Rivera being of Hispanic descent and from the area could be a factor:

Rivera also has strong ties to former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who is currently chillin’ in SoCal after abruptly leaving his postion. Oh, and Rivera played at the same college as Jared Goff. Interesting, right?

But why would the Panthers simply trade away a coach one year removed from a Super Bowl? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, unless a) Rivera insists on a trade, b) owner Jerry Richardson is impatient, and/or c) there is a growing rift between Rivera and Panthers GM David Gettleman, who made some decisions that Rivera likely did not support (e.g. Norman).

What it would take

If Rivera is asking for the trade, I would expect the compensation to be significant, and require at least 2018’s 1st round pick. Unless, the Rams decide to trade picks AND a player to be determined. But with a growing talent dearth coming up, why would the Rams trade away a top player under contract?

Conclusion

No, the Rams shouldn’t try to trade for any the above coaches UNLESS a) they could not land a top assistant coach, b) the price was not prohibitive, and c) the coach was genuinely interested in the Rams’ situation. The odds of all three being met are slim at this time.