Life has many up and downs. No matter how talented or driven a person may be we all face difficulties in our careers. Getting through tough times in my career was hard, but it is in those moments of trial where we find opportunity for growth.
The world of the NFL can be like being on a roller coaster at times. People have asked me many times, “What has been the toughest point in your career as a coach?” Some may think it was being fired, but I’d have to go back before then to my last couple of years as an assistant. This is why it was so tough.
In the mid-nineties, people started to talk about me as a head coaching candidate. The interviews with owners started to come. I would prepare, map out what I would do for their team, and ultimately get excited about the opportunity. After waiting a couple of weeks, the rumors would start circulating about me being the front runner. Then I would get the call and they’d tell me I interviewed well, but they are going in a different direction. That happened three or four times and I started to wonder if it would ever happen.
There was one year in particular where I was the defensive coordinator for the Vikings and we had the number one defense in the NFL. That offseason there were seven head coaching jobs available. I didn’t even receive a phone call for an interview. It was a discouraging time. That process was not only difficult for me but also for my wife and family. I had to fight through it. God was building patience in me and perseverance. I learned to trust Him more during that time.
Finally, in 1996, it was God’s timing. We didn’t have a good year as a team or as a defense. There were only two head coaching jobs open. I thought that it was certainly not going to be the year. That’s when I got the job in Tampa. The tough times that lead up to success are powerful character builders.