I (Luis) was working in the Chicago Tribune’s newsroom in 2014 when reports surfaced about Joe Maddon becoming the next manager of the Chicago Cubs. My mother, having heard something on the radio confirming the news, texted me asking if the rumors were true. My response was simple: “It’s only real if he puts on the blue cap with a red ‘C’ on it.”
Football doesn’t go that far when a coach is hired, but the sentiment is similar. Nothing is real until ink meets paper, a contract is signed, and the introductory press conference is completed.
The Indianapolis Colts learned this the hard way when Josh McDaniels backed out of an agreement to become the team’s next head coach on Tuesday. News of McDaniels backing away came hours after the Colts tweeted information regarding an introductory press conference that never would take place.
But this wasn’t the NFL’s first coaching snafu.
It was all reminiscent of 1999, when the Bears announced Dave McGinnis would be the team’s next head coach replacing Dave Wannstedt. The problem? McGinnis hadn’t agreed to terms, hadn’t signed the contract, and ultimately walked away and returned to his post as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. Remember that?
WGN-TV’s Larry Hawley re-visits the events of January 22, 1999, with quotes from McGinnis explaining what happened that day. Fast forward 19 years and McGinnis found himself recounting what happened in an interview with the Talk of Fame podcast. However, McGinnis didn’t seem to see the similarities between his situation and that of McDaniels.
“I spent the night in the hotel room, and the next morning, waiting for a call back to come up to finish my interview, the phone rang. I thought it was the Bears’ front office calling, but it was (Leslie) Frazier, who I was going to hire on my staff,” McGinnis recalled. “(Frazier) told me he had another job being offered to him, and that if I would just tell him he had a job with him, that he would turn the other people down. I told him, ‘Les, I don’t have this job yet; I can’t in good faith tell you that.’ He said, ‘Well coach, it’s been on the radio for an hour. You’re the head coach. There’s a press conference at 11.’ This is about 8:30 or 9 in the morning. So, yeah, it’s a whole lot different.”
Well, it’s not all that different. A premature announcement was made and a time for an introductory press conference was announced. And it all came despite McDaniels signing a contract or even making a public statement regarding his move. So maybe it’s not a one-for-one comparison, but the two situations both serve as teaching points for current and future general managers – don’t announce anything until everything is signed.
As for the Colts, they’ll go back to the drawing board hoping to do better than the Bears did in hiring Dick Jauron in the wake of the McGinnis debacle.