For the most part, the teams who had coaching vacancies after Black Monday filled those voids fairly quickly. Outside of the Cleveland Browns, every coach was replaced before the divisional round of the playoffs. The biggest question moving forward is were the right men selected for the job. Grading the new NFL head coaching hires is always tricky, but always fun nonetheless.
Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers: C
This appears to be a desperation move by the new owner David Tepper. Tepper wants to put his prints on this franchise by making a big splash with his first coaching hire. Rhule signed a seven-year, $60 million contract to become the head coach. Many reports penciled in the New York Giants as the landing spot for Rhule, but after seeing this contract, it’s obvious why he ended up in Carolina. Owners weren’t happy about making a college coach a top-six paid head coach either.
While Rhule is known for turning college programs around, the NFL environment is tougher to navigate. Applaud the Panthers for having faith in Rhule, but this is more of a head-scratcher than a splash.
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys: B
Jerry Jones set out to hire a coach with previous head coaching experience and landed one of the best available candidates that fit the criteria. While McCarthy’s tenure ended with reported tension between him and Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy has a Super Bowl victory on his resumé.
Many fans believe McCarthy is Jason Garrett 2.0 due to bland play calling, but this past year out of football may give him the reset necessary to reinvent his offense. McCarthy has a solid one-two punch in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and hopes to have Amari Cooper back next season. Cowboys fans should be skeptically excited.
Ron Rivera, Washington Redskins: A+
Dan Snyder hit a home run with this hire coupled with the firing of Bruce Allen. The Redskins were in desperate need of a leader in the organization and Rivera fits the bill comfortably. Not only does Rivera have a great reputation as a coach, but he is respected around the league as a good human being. This hire brings an instant credibility boost to this organization.
People will knock Rivera’s coaching record, 76-63-1, but he is a two-time Coach of the Year award winner. With Snyder giving him the keys to the franchise, Rivera will hit the ground running to change the culture in the DMV.
Joe Judge, New York Giants: D
This is a harsh grade for two reasons; the Bill Belichick coaching tree is historically poor and Eric Bieniemy was available. Judge seemingly won his introductory press conference with Giants fans and some reporters. However, he’s not the first to have a great introductory press conference.
Taking a look at Judge’s track record, it’s mystifying how he landed the job over other candidates. Having a track record of being a special teams coordinator since 2015 and a wide receivers coach for one of the worst groups of wide receivers in the league doesn’t scream success. Judge is adamant about teaching fundamentals, but does he really expect to turn Saquon Barkley into the Tim Duncan of running backs?
Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns: B
While Josh McDaniels was reportedly a lock for the head coaching job in Cleveland, Stefanski edged him out by agreeing to the demands of Paul DePodesta and the Haslams. Simply put, he agrees to be the analytics coach.
Browns’ players mentioned they wanted their next head coach to be a leader. In some circles, Stefanski fits that criteria. The biggest question that he will need to answer is how he will approach commanding discipline. That was the biggest flaw of the Browns’ season and costed them games as well as their best defensive player. Analytics can’t fix that issue.
The NFL Coaching Hires Outlook
Carolina has no choice other than stick with Rhule for years. That contract is ridiculous. The Browns have a good hire, but the Haslams and fans need to have patience. The Redskins are in good shape as long as Snyder stays out of the way. The Giants will be on their next search within two seasons. Dallas will be better, but still no Super Bowls in the near future.
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