Do new coaches, general managers mean new quarterbacks in the NFL?

Chris Trotman

The old rule says that in the NFL, new coaches and general managers means a new quarterback. A closer examination finds that isn't always true.

When NFL franchises change head coaches or general managers, the common thought is that teams will likely change their starting quarterbacks as well. Typically when a coach and/or general manager is sent packing, it's ultimately because the team is in need of a quarterback. There are occasions when a coach or general manager gets fired with a good quarterback on the roster, but that's generally because the coach or general manager is so inept in other areas that it weighs down the rest of the team.

But, how often does a team actually change their starting quarterback when there is a change in the leadership of the team?

I took a look at teams who have changed either their head coach, general manager, or both in the past five seasons and discovered, to no surprise, that the majority of teams also made a switch at the quarterback position either immediately or following their initial season with the team. The only times a switch was not made within the first two offseasons were in special circumstances, such as a team already having an established starter at the position or a team having a massive contract sunk in the player.

Head Coach Change Only - 63.6 percent

Looking back over the past five seasons, seven of the eleven teams who have changed just head coaches wound up replacing their starting quarterback immediately, be it via trade, draft or free agency. The four teams who didn't had either just drafted a quarterback or had a serviceable starter already in place.

Of the four teams who didn't, however, three replaced their quarterback the following season.

General Manager Change Only - 60 percent

Using the same period of time if you look back, three teams out of five who changed just their general manager wound up changing their starting quarterback via either trade, draft or free agency immediately. Typically with a new general manager running the show, you're going to see them want to bring in their own quarterback.

The two teams who didn't make a change had very capable starters that they inherited in Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler.

General Manager And Head Coach Change - 60 percent

The biggest surprise in all of this was how often a new head coach and general manager in the same year didn't immediately replace their starting quarterback. Only nine of the 15 teams who did so immediately replaced their starting quarterback, but of those six teams who didn't immediately replace their starter, four of those teams did so immediately following their initial season with the incumbent.

The only teams that didn't replace their starting quarterback after a complete overhaul of head coach and general manager were the St. Louis Rams, who decided to keep Sam Bradford, and the San Diego Chargers with Philip Rivers. Bradford has shown to be serviceable thus far in his career and he also earns a big salary from being the first overall pick in the draft in 2010. Rivers might be on the decline in his career, but he's been a top starter for the past few seasons and has gotten the team into the playoffs in the past.

Of this list, there is one team whose quarterback situation is completely unknown at this point and their status was not included. The Jacksonville Jaguars hired both a new head coach and general manager this offseason but hold the second overall pick in the draft. They've done nothing so far in free agency or via trade to address the position, so the assumption is it will be addressed in the 2013 NFL Draft at some point.

If the Jaguars wind up replacing Blaine Gabbert as the starter in 2013, it will mean that 62.5 percent of teams in the past five seasons who've made sweeping changes also replaced their starting quarterback immediately.

Year Team Coach GM QB CHANGE Coach GM QB
2007 Ravens Brian Billick Ozzie Newsome Steve McNair 2008 John Harbaugh Ozzie Newsome Joe Flacco
2007 Falcons Bobby Petrino Rich McKay Joey Harrington* 2008 Mike Smith Thomas Dimitroff Matt Ryan
2008 Buccaneers Jon Gruden Bruce Allen Jeff Garcia 2009 Raheem Morris Mark Dominik Josh Freeman
2008 Chiefs Herm Edwards Carl Peterson Tyler Thigpen* 2009 Todd Haley Scott Pioli Matt Cassel
2008 Jets Eric Mangini Mike Tannenbaum Brett Favre 2009 Rex Ryan Mike Tannenbaum Mark Sanchez
2008 Lions Rod Marinelli Matt Millen Jon Kitna* 2009 Jim Schwartz Martin Mayhew Matt Stafford
2008 Jaguars Jack Del Rio Shack Harris David Garrard 2009 Jack Del Rio Gene Smith David Garrard
2008 Rams Scott Linehan Jay Zygmunt Marc Bulger 2009 Steve Spagnuolo Billy Devaney Marc Bulger^
2008 Raiders Lane Kiffin Al Davis JaMarcus Russell 2009 Tom Cable Al Davis JaMarcus Russell^
2008 Broncos Mike Shanahan Jim Goodman Jay Cutler 2009 Josh McDaniels Brian Xanders Kyle Orton
2009 Seahawks Jim Mora Tim Ruskell Matt Hasselbeck 2010 Pete Carroll Pete Carroll Matt Hasselbeck^
2009 Redskins Jim Zorn Vinny Ceratto Jason Campbell 2010 Mike Shanahan Mike Shanahan Donovan McNabb^
2009 Bills Dick Jauron Tom Modrak Ryan Fitzpatrick 2010 Chan Gailey Buddy Nix Trent Edwards*
2010 Raiders Tom Cable Al Davis Jason Campbell 2011 Hue Jackson Al Davis Carson Palmer
2010 Panthers John Fox Marty Hurney Jimmy Clausen* 2011 Ron Rivera Marty Hurney Cam Newton
2010 Broncos Josh McDaniels Brian Xanders Kyle Orton 2011 John Fox Brian Xanders Tim Tebow^
2010 49ers Mike Singletary Scot McCloughan Alex Smith 2011 Jim Harbaugh Trent Baalke Alex Smith^
2010 Rams Steve Spagnuolo Billy Devaney Sam Bradford 2011 Jeff Fisher Les Snead Sam Bradford
2011 Jaguars Jack Del Rio Gene Smith Blaine Gabbert 2012 Mike Mularkey Gene Smith Blaine Gabbert
2011 Bears Lovie Smith Jerry Angelo Jay Cutler 2012 Lovie Smith Phil Emery Jay Cutler
2011 Broncos John Fox Brian Xanders Tim Tebow* 2012 John Fox John Elway Peyton Manning
2011 Bucs Raheem Morris Mark Dominik Josh Freeman 2012 Greg Schiano Mark Dominik Josh Freeman
2011 Dolphins Tony Sparano Jeff Ireland Chad Henne* 2012 Joe Philbin Jeff Ireland Ryan Tannehill
2011 Chiefs Todd Haley Scott Pioli Matt Cassel 2012 Romeo Crennel Scott Pioli Matt Cassel
2012 Chiefs Romeo Crennel Scott Pioli Matt Cassel 2013 Andy Reid John Dorsey Alex Smith(?)
2012 Raiders Hue Jackson Al Davis Carson Palmer 2013 Bruce Allen Reggie McKenzie Matt Flynn(?)
2012 Bills Chan Gailey Buddy Nix Ryan Fitzpatrick 2013 Doug Marrone Buddy Nix Kevin Kolb(?)
2012 Bears Lovie Smith Phil Emery Jay Cutler 2013 Marc Trestman Phil Emery Jay Cutler
2012 Cardinals Ken Wisenhunt Rod Graves Kevin Kolb* 2013 Bruce Arians Steve Keim Drew Stanton(?)
2012 Jaguars Mike Mularkey Gene Smith Blaine Gabbert* 2013 Gus Bradley Dave Caldwell Blaine Gabbert (?)
2012 Chargers Norv Turner A.J. Smith Phillip Rivers 2013 Mike McCoy Tom Telesco Phillip Rivers
^ - indicates QB was replaced the following season
* - indicates multiple QBs played that season
? - indicates QB at this point is unknown or assumed

With the NFL being a quarterback league now, if your team is making changes at the top, the recent trends say that a change at the quarterback position is coming either immediately or the following season. Coaching and general manager jobs now are made and undone at the quarterback position, so unless your team is set at the quarterback position and makes a change... a change at the quarterback position is coming.

It's the most important position on the field and can have the biggest impact on a team, as the chart above shows, new coaches and general managers in power want to live and die with their own quarterback, unless it's a special circumstance.

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