Every NFL offseason has movement at a crucial non-player position, the head coach. These choices can make or break a team’s future— it can set them up to build from the ground up, or leave them in purgatory. Seven new NFL head coaches have been hired so far this 2021 offseason. Let’s give each of them a letter grade.
NFL Head Coaches: The Best Hires
LA Chargers | Brandon Staley | A+
Arguably the most talented team on this list may have gotten their guy going forward. Let’s be honest, a lot of this team’s woes this season came from coaching as they had chances to win plenty of games thanks to the exceptional play of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. Pairing him with defensive minded head coach Brandon Staley might be the right recipe for the future. The defensive team had its struggles this year, but if Staley is the defensive genius he’s being hailed to be they will improve, meaning less pressure for Herbert. However, the only downside is that they are going to be facing a juggernaut in the Chiefs twice a year and the Raiders are no slouches.
New York Jets | Robert Saleh | A
Energy. That is what made Saleh a desirable hire for the New York Jets, something the team lacked in a dismal 2-14 year. The way Saleh was able to motivate a 49ers defense who was missing a lot of talent is a testament to his competitive spirit. Even if he fails, he is surely going to be one of the best looking NFL head coaches (see below).
The Jets had just two wins this year and that said a lot about a team who was the laughing stock of the league for most of the year. This pairing could be potent in turning around an organization who didn’t have much to compete for in games this season but still found a way to beat two playoff teams.
But ,this is Saleh’s first go-around as a head coach in the NFL, and the Jets offense is in desperate need of a spark, some weapons, something. Maybe Saleh is the spark that will ignite a strong rebuild, but they will likely be overshadowed by teams on the rise in the AFC East. It’s certainly a good hire, but is it the right fit? At least it’s not Adam Gase.
Jacksonville Jaguars | Urban Meyer | B+
This particular hire garnered a lot of media buzz, as most head coaching hires do, but this was amplified tenfold because of Meyer‘s coaching history. He was the former head coach of two celebrated college football programs, the beloved Florida Gators and The Ohio State University. His time spent coaching in Florida, although it was at the collegiate level, is significant as he is set to take over a professional football team with the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Urban Meyer has long been rumored to eventually become an NFL coach, and now it is a reality. The opportunity to make a player to the caliber of Trevor Lawrence his first draft choice and build from the bottom up is a no-brainer, but what will he be able to do with it?
Meyer is known to be capable of building a great staff (just look at what he did at Ohio State) so the potential is there, but competing with teams like the Colts and Titans in the division might spoil Urban’s upside. Jacksonville also has a league high amount of money available to spend in 2021 free agency.
Atlanta Falcons | Arthur Smith | B
Former Titans offensive coordinator is joining Matt Ryan and the boys. An offensive guru is just what this team needs to keep them in games for now. With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, they might have potential to compete in a (potentially) Drew Brees-less division this year.
The defense is inconsistent, but if they are able to force turnovers like they have been able to do in the past, what Smith is able to do with the offense might prove to be fruitful… for now. The team is due for a massive rebuild, but if they are sticking to their guns, this is one of the best hirings of the off-season so far.
NFL Head Coaches: The Worst Hires
Philadelphia | Nick Sirianni | C-
Philly ousted Doug Pederson and handed over a not-so-great situation to Nick Sirianni, another offensive-minded coach. Sirianni is presented with two key problems right out of the gate, most importantly the quarterback situation. He will have to face the pressure of deciding between Wentz (if he is not traded) and Hurts.
As if that isn’t a recipe to turn a fan base against a head coach immediately, Sirianni will also have to deal with an injury-prone roster. Philly fans know the potential the team has to run away with the division every year, but for the Eagles, it is shaping up to be an unprecedented year under a new coaching staff. They are not a team that likes to change NFL head coaches often, however, so he has that working in his favor. That did not save Chip Kelly or Doug Pederson, however.
Houston Texans | David Culley | C-
Houston has a lot more to worry about than who is their next head coach, but for the sake of this article David Culley should be considered a temporary hire, but not a bad one. The longtime coach who has been around the game for a long time might be what the Texans need during this rough patch of potentially losing their star players Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt.
The ordeal involving Caserio and Watson was touched on in another OTH article linked here, but that mess will spill into the locker room’s chemistry with management indefinitely. Maybe Culley’s experience will be able to rally the troops, but due to sheer circumstance, it’s not looking bright for Houston. He immediately becomes the third-oldest of all NFL head coaches.
Detroit | Dan Campbell | D
The Motor City, AKA the Detroit-rock city, hired a head coach that won’t lack fiery half-time speeches or a hard-nosed attitude. The whole world realized this after his press conference that went viral. But what the coach does lack is experience running a football team.
This article is written after Stafford was traded for Rams QB Jared Goff, which doesn’t seem like a good fit. Trade away tough-as-nails veteran Stafford for unproven stringbean Goff? It doesn’t seem like Goff will gel with the culture, but who knows maybe with Lynn in control of the offense who has talent in DeAndre Swift and Kenny Golladay paired with Campbell’s ability to motivate maybe will see Detroit rise. But from the outside looking in it looks like the Rams sent Goff to die in Detroit and Campbell is just a flashy stand in.
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