Inside look at interview process when NFL teams seek a coach

One of the major considerations when NFL teams hire a head coach is not just who that person is, but also what kind of staff can that coach assemble. Who will be coming with him? That part is often overlooked when people are speculating who might fill one of these coveted 32 jobs.

Candidates are always asked this during interviews, and frequently give pie-in-the-sky answers. “I’ll have Jon Gruden as my offensive coordinator, and Bill Belichick as my defensive coordinator,” or something of that nature.

Hey, it sounds good.

An NFL team executive shared that during one hiring cycle, at least five different candidates said they intended to bring Dan Quinn along as defensive coordinator. He said it was almost comical.

Sometimes a candidate will hand over a proposed list of hires that comes straight from his agent and is populated with fellow clients of that representative. That’s as transparent as it sounds, and screams, “I don’t have a mind of my own,” or, “I haven’t really thought this through.”

When Stan Kroenke and his top brass at the Rams were interviewing Sean McVay, they asked the young coach who he envisioned as his defensive coordinator. McVay said Wade Phillips. That was easy enough to check, because Phillips had been fired by Denver and was free to talk to anyone.

So, during the course of the interview, the Rams called the agent of the seasoned defensive architect and asked if Phillips would indeed be interested in working with McVay. The agent confirmed that Phillips would.

That told the Rams a few things. First, McVay wasn’t blowing smoke in the interview; he could actually deliver Phillips. Second, that Phillips had given McVay his stamp of approval. And third, that McVay was self-aware and confident enough to bring in someone with far more experience — including head coaching experience — and wasn’t threatened by that.

So, just as it is in every hiring cycle, deciding on a new head coach does not just mean bringing on one new personality at the top.