Denver Broncos new head coach Gary Kubiak addresses the media after he was is introduced during an NFL football news conference, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey
January 24, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The two men vying to put their fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy are testament to the axiom that men who flop in their first NFL head coaching job can subsequently flourish.

Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick were busts in their first go-around.

Carroll was jettisoned by the Jets after one season and then fired by the Patriots after three years in New England, where his replacement was none other than Belichick, who had been banished by the Browns after a mediocre half-decade in Cleveland.

One of them will be fitted for another diamond-encrusted ring this offseason.

When the confetti falls on either the Seahawks or Patriots next Sunday, 12 of the last 18 Super Bowl champions will have been coached by men who had felt the sting of the pink slip as an NFL head coach.

Before this streak, all 23 Super Bowl champions between 1974 and 1996 were led by men who were on the first NFL head coaching job.

Now, retreads are all the rage.

That should bode well for fans of the Broncos, Bears, Raiders and Bills. Of the six openings that have been filled so far, four have gone to men who bring head coaching experience to their new jobs: Gary Kubiak in Denver, John Fox in Chicago, Jack Del Rio in Oakland and Rex Ryan in Buffalo.

Their respective resumes were cited by their new employers as a crucial factor.

Fired after going 50-52, counting playoffs, with the Jets from 2009-14, Ryan landed in Buffalo, where Doug Marrone had stepped down abruptly.

''We were basically the only team looking for a head coach who did not fire their head coach the year before. So we decided ... that maybe we should go the veteran route,'' said Bills owner Terry Pegula.

Others did, too.

''Experience was paramount,'' Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie said after hiring Del Rio, whose 69-73 record in Jacksonville from 2003-11 looks all the better given the Jaguars' 11-42 record since.

Del Rio, who spent the last three seasons as Denver's defensive coordinator, said he's much more comfortable and confident calling the shots and the plays now.

''You have an idea when you're a young coach of what you think it would be'' making all the decisions, ''and then the reality of being a head coach sets in,'' Del Rio said. ''I think there's been tremendous growth. It also was very beneficial after being a head coach, getting the past three years to go back and be a coordinator in a successful group, because I was able to see things from a different perspective.''

Kubiak had that same viewpoint in Baltimore last year when he helped rejuvenate the Ravens as their offensive coordinator after going 63-66 in Houston from 2006-13.

That year in Baltimore was invaluable ''for me as a coach, being around John Harbaugh, being around that organization, being around Ozzie Newsome, watching them go about their business, how they go about being successful week in and week out,'' Kubiak said. ''I take all that with me as I move forward and I know I'm a lot better coach now than I was when I left'' Denver in 2006 after a decade as the Broncos offensive coordinator.

Said Ryan: ''I'm a different man right now than I was six years ago because I lacked experience as a head coach. ... I will be a better coach now. Through experience, I don't think there's any doubt that you become more of an expert.''

Fox is the most experienced of all the recycled coaches. He's 127-96 overall, including 49-22 in Denver, where his 3-4 postseason record led to a split with GM John Elway.

''When John became available, the game changed,'' Bears chairman George McCaskey said.

Never mind that Fox is pushing 60, either. After all, Carroll is 63 and Belichick 62.

''You saw his energy. He's got the fire in the belly,'' McCaskey said. Ryan Pace, the 37-year-old Bears new GM, added: ''I look at John as being my age.''

''He's a youthful personality and I think it's great because he has the experience, still with the energy,'' Pace said. ''So it's a perfect combination. ... You look around the league, you look at Belichick and Pete Carroll, there's a track record of these guys who come in and learn from these experiences, and get better every step of the way.''

Ryan said head coaches with second chances have an extra edge to them that first-timers lack: they're driven to prove they're not only a good coach but a better one for having failed.

''Yes, it is personal, there's no question about it,'' he said. ''It's embarrassing. I see myself as a good football coach and I can't wait.''

To join the club of recycled coaches who know that sweet taste of redemption.

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AP Sports Writers Josh Dubow, John Wawrow and Andrew Seligman contributed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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