Last week was a gloomy one in Cleveland (or bright, depending on your perspective), with both the Cavaliers and Browns firing their head coaches after early season struggles. As Indians beat writer Zack Meisel pointed out, neither move was out of character for either team:
The Indians introduced Terry Francona as their manager on Oct. 8, 2012.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) October 29, 2018
Browns head coaches fired since then: Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, Hue Jackson
Cavs head coaches fired since then: Byron Scott, Mike Brown, David Blatt, Tyronn Lue
This stands in stark contrast to the Indians, who have had far more stability in their front office and coaching staff. They seem to be the best run team in the city, but how do they compare to other teams in the state, and where do the Blue Jackets fall in the pecking order.
For this exercise, I developed an objective rating system to rank the 7 major professional franchises in the state. First, I looked at how much turnover they had among general managers and head coaches. Look at the NFL’s Patriots or NBA’s Spurs. They’ve had one man running the show for two decades, and they have remained competitive throughout that time despite changes to the roster.
The third factor considers each team’s playoff success - or rather the lack thereof. Have each team’s moves resulted in playoff appearances, or not?
These figures were calculated over a period of time of 18 seasons, to correspond with the number of seasons the Blue Jackets have existed. The coaches tally includes interim coaches who coached more than one game.
Without further ado, here are the results:
7. Cleveland Browns
Missed playoffs: 16 times
No surprise the lowly Browns are in last place. They have been notorious for hitting the reset button every 2 years or so, especially under owner Jimmy Haslam. Retaining coach Hue Jackson after a 1-31 record in his first two seasons was a remarkable attempt at stability, if a hugely misguided and unearned one. That mistake was rectified with Jackson’s firing last week, but how much further did that set this team back? Fortunately there appears to be some promising young talent assembled by new GM John Dorsey, including Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Baker Mayfield.
6. Cincinnati Reds
Missed playoffs: 15
No Reds fan I know is optimistic about the near future of this franchise. A team led by the prime years of Joey Votto reached 3 playoffs in the early 2010s but failed to advance beyond the Division Series (sounds familiar!). Will new manager David Bell have more success than Bryan Price, or is the roster a limiting factor?
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
Missed Playoffs: 13
Here lay the Blue Jackets, buried by a debut decade marked by futility. They went through the second most coaches on the list (behind the Cavs and Browns) but the NHL is known for having a quicker trigger finger on coaches than the other leagues. Ownership has shown great patience with GMs, giving them plenty of time to put their mark on the team. Fortunately, things are trending upward. John Tortorella is in his fourth season as coach (third full season), Jarmo Kekalainen is in his seventh (sixth full season), and the team has made the playoffs 3 times in the previous 5 seasons, including the last two.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Missed Playoffs: 8
Kind of weird to have a team this low that won a championship just two years ago, right? That’s what happens when your fortunes ride with having the best player in the world. With LeBron James, the Cavs were a power in the Eastern Conference. Without him, the only thing they can contend for is the number one pick in the draft. Uncertainty regarding his long term plans led owner Dan Gilbert to frequently change GMs and coaches to build the best possible roster around the King while they could.
3. Cleveland Indians
Missed Playoffs: 12
Given their positive reputation, I’m surprised the Indians aren’t topping the list. The GM number is misleading, as they have not hired an outsider in the time frame. Each time they promoted from within. Therefore it has been the same guiding principles building the roster throughout. The missed playoffs number is higher than it should be as well. MLB has the fewest playoff spots of any of these teams, and the Indians missed the playoffs 4 times since 2001 in years with a .500 record or better. Thanks to injuries and bad luck, the mid-2000s core only made the playoffs once. The current core has made the playoffs 4 times in 6 years, including the last 3. Unfortunately two first round exits have followed a miracle pennant run and blown World Series lead. Still, the window to compete should be open for the next two years.
2. Columbus Crew SC
Missed Playoffs: 7
Anthony Precourt is a pile of garbage, but give him credit for hitting a home run with the hire of Gregg Berhalter as sporting director and head coach. He’s built a consistently competitive team despite a shoestring budget and crumbling stadium. Overall, the Crew haven’t burned through many GMs or coaches, and they’ve only had one extended stretch of playoff absences (2005-2007), but that was immediately followed by their one MLS Cup victory.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Missed Playoffs: 10
I am amused the Bengals win this list, because I know that many Bengals fans will want to disagree. The owner has not fired the GM...because the owner is the GM. It’s not clear that it’s a job that Mike Brown is any good at. Certainly he’s nowhere near the football mind his father was. He’s also notoriously cheap when it comes to hiring a scouting department. Coach Marvin Lewis is another figure who receives criticism from the fanbase, but he has survived to be the second longest-tenured active coach in the league (behind New England’s Bill Belichick) and keeps the team in playoff contention most years. His biggest failing is the inability to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs (oh boy, that again!).
My numbers have spoken; what do you think? Which franchise is the best in the state? How do you think the Blue Jackets stack up against them?