Grading the NFL Head Coaching Hires
The NFL off-season fun isn't over, but key coaching decisions are done and dusted.
In retrospect, the hiring and firing of various head coaches was almost a sport within a sport.
Some teams pulled out all the stops and secured a promising prospect.
Others? Let's just say it speaks to the need for the league expanding its drug-testing program.
Browns: Hue Jackson
Hiring grade: B+ Season prediction: 4-12
Incredibly, this Factory of Sadness secured arguably the best coaching hire of the offseason.
Jackson was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2014-15, helping lead the Bengals to two straight playoff appearances. The man made Andy Dalton a top-tier quarterback, that alone says a lot.
Before the Bengals, Jackson had been a journeyman, coaching in college, the NFL, and even had a brief stint with NFL Europe. Dude’s only head coaching experience came with the Raiders, another team known for giving head coaches the boot. Jackson led that team to an 8-8 season.
A big indicator of Jackson’s ability to succeed is the fact that he dumped Johnny Manziel.
The question now is how much patience will the Browns have this time around?
Give Jackson at least 2-3 years, and you'll start seeing a relevant Browns team.
Giants: Ben McAdoo
Hiring grade: B+ Season prediction: 4-12
As a Giants fan, it was tough seeing Coughlin say his final goodbyes. Replacing a two-time Superbowl coach is no easy task.
That being said, I'm almost alone on this one when I say McAdoo was a fantastic hire. A majority of NFL sites have him listed as one of the worst hires this year. I disagree. The only things I can see going against Mcadoo are the following factors:
- His ability to run a defense, since he's never held a coaching position on that side of the ball, and
- Dude looks like a principal.
What he does have going for him is his ability to improve an offense dramatically, starting with the quarterback play.
The year before McAdoo showed up in East Rutherford, Eli Manning posted an 18:27 TD/INT ratio. In the two years McAdoo was offensive coordinator, Manning’s TD/INT ratio was 30:14 in 2014 and 35:14 in 2015.
Before that, dude was the QB coach for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
His résumé might not be as extensive as others', but he's used the last half of a decade to make a name for himself. If McAdoo can adjust to taking control of a defense as well, he should have no problem next year.
49s: Chip Kelly
Hiring grade: C+ Season prediction: 5-11
As an Oregon alumn who carries a deep hatred for the 49ers, this one makes me cringe.
However, San Francisco seems to have been the best fit out of the choices available to the Chipster. Although, I'm still a little shocked the Titans didn't make a bolder attempt to get him.
At this point, dude needs no introduction, but here's one anyway:
- the former Oregon head coach who brought his lightning fast offense to the Eagles,
- only to be fired after three years of dismantling the teams personnel,
- not to mention running a spread college offense with a quarterback (Sam Bradford) who has papier-mâché knees.
Of course, mention any of this to Kelly, and you’ll get this response:
The intrigue here is Kelly now has Colin Kaepernick as his starter, a player he had previously tried to acquire while in Philly. It seems to be a promising scenario, and the 49ers do have some strong pieces.
Even if Kelly ends up succeeding where he couldn't in Philly, I wouldn't expect a quick rise in team fortunes. The 49ers still play against two of the best teams in the NFL -- ie- Cardinals and Seahawks -- twice a year. Expect his first season to be a losing one.
Buccaneers: Dirk Koetter
Hiring grade: B Season prediction: 8-8
It’s hard to argue that the Lovie Smith firing was unexpected; the Bucs went 8-24 under his regime. Now it’s time for OC Dirk Koetter to take over.
Never heard of him? Don’t worry, neither have most Buccaneer fans.
- Koetter began his first head-coaching gig at the collegiate level with up-and-comer Boise State, where he went 26-10.
- Dude then became the Arizona State Sun Devils coach before entering the NFL as the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator.
- He followed that gig by being the Falcons' OC, before
- Finally landing in Tampa Bay.
Koetter did some remarkable things for the Bucs, offensively. He took a rook QB -- Jameis Winston -- and helped him reach the 4000-yard passing mark, and a 22/15 TD/INT ratio.
Dude also brought Doug Martin back from a two-year slump where he only gained a total of 956 yards, and set him up to gain 1400 yards on the ground.
If Koetter can magically help Vincent Jackson age backwards about five years, this team would be in line for a playoff berth.
I'm a fan of this hire, although I'm skeptical as to what Koetter’s plans are defensively. Assuming it’s not Love Smith’s outdated Tampa 2, he can’t do much worse.
Much like Kelly in San Francisco, it’ll be an uphill battle for the Bucs; playing the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons twice each will be a serious challenge.
Dolphins: Adam Gase
Hiring grade: B- Season prediction: 8-8
A virtual unknown outside of the coaching circuit, Adam Gase was nothing short of a shocking hire for fans, mainly because most fans haven’t heard of him.
A deeper look reveals the dude to be a solid hire. He's spent 13 years in the league, and he'll still be the youngest coach in the NFL.
- The year before, Gase was the OC of the Chicago Bears, where he made Jay Cutler look halfway decent.
- Before that, he was the OC for the Peyton Manning’s Broncos during their SuperBowl run a few years ago.
The Broncos were the highest-scoring offense in the NFL under Gase. Considering the Dolphins are built around a high-flying offense, this seems to be a perfect fit.
For years, the Phins' ownership decisions seemed to have represented something like this:
This time however, it seems like the Dolphins got it right. The question is: will Gase have what it takes to dethrone Belichick and the Patriots as the king of the AFC East?
Eagles: Doug Pederson
Hiring grade: C- Season prediction: 6-10
Five days before the final game of the regular season Jeff Laurie and the Eagles finally had enough of Chip Kelly and pulled the proverbial plug.
At the time, Eagles fans found a glimmer of hope. But it soon went from this:
Titans: Mike Mularkey
Hiring grade: D- Season prediction: 3-13
Oh man, where to start?
The Titans got rid of Ken Whisenhunt after Week 7, and they couldn't find anyone better than their interim coach.
Mike Mularkey has gone 18-39 as a head coach in two years with the Bills, one with the Jaguars, and half of this last season with the Titans. Dude also interviewed for the top job for the Browns but didn’t get the callback.
You know it’s bad when even the Browns don’t want you.
It's possible that Mularkey was just never given enough time as head coach, but is that really a gamble you want to take on a coach in charge of your young franchise quarterback?