Very little surprises me when coaching changes are made at any level of football. Having said that, there was one move made in Columbus that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.
I received word early Thursday that Justin Newman was being let go after his second season as Jordan head football coach. It was a rumor that I initially dismissed, mainly because of the job Newman had done at Jordan.
Jordan made strides in 2017, winning two games after going 0-10 the year before. The offense this fall was as dangerous as any other in Muscogee County, and the defense had made noticeable improvements after struggling the year before.
Jordan junior quarterback Emmanuel Mann scored 23 total touchdowns and did so against tough competition, as five of Jordan’s opponents made the playoffs. The team’s 10 opponents ended the year with a combined record of 66-47.
While I had my doubts, I called Newman to see if he was in fact out as Jordan head coach. He assured me that was not the case, saying he was still running the Red Jackets’ program.
About one hour later, Newman reached back out. He said he had just gotten out of a meeting with Jordan principal Amy Wohler. It was over.
Newman’s 2-18 record at Jordan may make the change justifiable to some. Based on everything I’ve seen, there are plenty of reasons why I don’t believe it was enough to show him the door.
To put it bluntly, “Jordan football” is not synonymous with “winning.” The Red Jackets haven’t made the playoffs since 1996 and haven’t won more than five games in a season since 1993. In the 16 seasons before Newman arrived, there were eight times that the team scored less than 10 points per game.
This isn’t a former powerhouse that has hit hard times; this is a down-on-its-luck program that apparently isn’t happy with the pace that progress was being made.
Newman had preached all summer that this was a “New Jordan,” and his players sure seemed to buy into the idea. That much was clear in the Jordan’s season opener, a thrilling victory over Brookstone that snapped the Red Jackets’ 12-game losing streak.
The win was certainly an emotional one and indicated an important step forward for the team. Even though the rest of the season had its bumps and bruises, there was enough to justify that Jordan was headed in the right direction.
A program like Jordan’s needs stability more than anything else. These teenage football players need someone to stick around in their daily lives and serve as a reliable role model. From talking to Newman’s players before and during the season, he seemed to fit the mold of a coach who could be influential for kids.
Newman’s removal sets up an interesting coach search. After all, how many people will look at Jordan’s history, recognize the growth Newman’s teams made, see that he was let go and decide it’s the perfect place for them? Building Jordan into a competitive program will not happen overnight, but will the next person be given more time than Newman just had?
At the college and professional levels of football, winning is the bottom line. Having said that, with those high standards comes big paychecks and the resources to make it work. Take one look at the paychecks of coaches like Newman and the facilities they work with, and you might rethink putting so much into the win-loss record.
After the decision was made, Newman said he received several messages from people who were completely shocked by his ouster. Judging by some of the talk on social media, it appeared people in the community had trouble comprehending what happened, too.
“I guess they are the same old Jordan after all,” someone commented on the Ledger-Enquirer’s Facebook page.
Just know if that proves to be the case, it didn’t have to be this way.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports