Beware of regression to the mean

When new coaches have success, they usually don't deserve all the credit

Updated: January 29, 2011, 9:34 AM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

Every year, across all sports, a handful of coaching changes seems to trigger sudden, sharp team turnarounds. Fans inevitably react to these reversals of fortune by crediting the new guy's discipline and smarts ("Jason Garrett really brings out the best in the Cowboys ") while questioning athletes' commitment and heart under the old guy ("But man, the team must really have been mailing it in for Wade Phillips").

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.