Ranking & Grading NFL Coaching Hires

The NFL coaching carousel has stopped spinning, quicker than in most years, so now we have time to rank and grade each hire.

Obviously, our own Cleveland Browns made their hire but so did six other teams this offseason. A popular saying is that the NFL is a Coach/QB league. For these 7 franchises, they have a new coach and everyone of them is offensive minded and had the quarterback position in mind.

So how did these teams do? My own personal rankings and grades as well as an explanation. From worst to best:

7. Mike Mularkey

Mularkey was the interim head coach for the Titans last year after firing Ken Whisenhunt. The Titans went 2 - 7 in his 9 games. The team scored a whopping 1.4 points more per game with him at the helm, and gave up almost 7 more points a game. Mularkey is an offensive guy with little history of success. He helped develop Matt Ryan but Matty Ice was considered pro-ready when he was drafted. The rest of his history is full of Chad Henne's, Blaine Gabbert's and Joey Harrington's.

Mularkey was the worst hire this offseason, by far. It was an uninspired choice about continuity, and reportedly a desire to save money by not having to pay two coaching staffs. The Titans could easily be in the market for a new head coach in the next two offseasons. His, reported, positive relationship with the ownership group will keep him around for 2 years.

Grade = D-

6. Ben McAdoo

McAdoo's first head coaching interview was with the Browns. He wasn't ready then and he likely is not ready now. The Giants have basically kept their group together from last year, except Tom Coughlin. While a new voice might be helpful, putting the blame basically on Coughlin's shoulder is rough. 

McAdoo might turn out to be a great hire in the future but it was a surprise and limited in scope. The Giants are one of the marquee franchises in the entire NFL. Any number of coaches, whether a coordinator still in the Playoffs or a head coach in college, would love a chance at that job. Instead of getting a chance at Josh McDaniels or another high profile coordinator, the Giants seemed to panic when Hue Jackson was taken off the market.

The Giants should have held themselves to a higher standard in hiring their new head coach.

Grade = C

5. Doug Pederson

The Eagles should also have thought better of themselves but they at least tried to get Tom Coughlin to cross enemy lines. Instead, the Eagles take a similar route as the Giants by going back to their roots. Andy Reid has been gone for 3 seasons but he is still in their thoughts as they hired his offensive coordinator as their new head coach. While the Chiefs have had a very good offense, Pederson is not their play caller, Reid is.

The Eagles valued his history with Reid over hiring the best possible candidate. Finding a coach that players like and can relate to was an important aspect in Philly. Going the opposite of the previous coach makes sense but it shouldn't be such a controlling piece to the puzzle.

Not much separates the Giants, Eagles and Bucs hires so they are ranked based on what teams' standing should have led to better decisions.

Grade = C

4. Dirk Koetter

The Bucs surprised many when they fired Lovie Smith. Smith was highly respected around the league but hasn't had great results for awhile. Many reports say the Bucs were worried about losing Koetter to other teams. The Bucs get credit for making sure they keep a guy they really believe in.

Koetter gets credit for his work with Jameis Winston. While the #1 overall pick obviously had talent, there were a lot of concerns about how he would transition to the NFL. Winston was a leader on the team, threw for 4,042 yards with 22 TDs and 15 INTs. His turnover rate was high but that was expected. Koetter's offense helped the rookie be productive quickly.

Whether Koetter, who was a HC in college, can transition to run the whole team is another question. There is hope though in Tampa Bay.

Grade = B-

3. Chip Kelly

Kelly is a known commodity and did a good job with his offense in Philly but that wasn't his only job. His personnel decisions were widely criticized and his ability to deal with players were huge issues. He won't have that power in San Fran which should be huge. He isn't the threat to players he was as the be all end all. Hopefully he has learned from his mistakes.

I don't have high hopes. Kelly is pretty confident that his system is just better than everyone else's and players are not that important. Fine in college where players come and go, not so much in the NFL.

The other issue is that Kelly's offense often leaves his defense is bad situations. The Eagles D was on the field far too often for it to be successful. Kelly's offense lends to this, especially when it is struggling.

With the Niners, Kelly could be controlled a bit and maybe he learned something on the field from his 3 years in the NFL. That is something I believe he might be willing to do and his offensive knowledge is strong.

Grade = B

2. Adam Gase

Gase was considered the "Belle of the Ball" by many analysts. For obvious reasons. He worked well with Peyton Manning in Denver and somehow got Jay Cutler to play under control. That last statement deserves a high grade no matter what. Gase's work ethic, ability to communicate and offensive talent is huge.

His age, youngest HC in the league, a limited experience, coordinator in Denver and Chicago, are a concern. As is the fact that the Broncos didn't hire him for their head job, even though Manning loved him. 

The Dolphins have a lot of work to do but, if they are patient, Gase should be the guy to get them there.

Grade = A-

1. Hue Jackson

Jackson was the other guy most of the NFL wanted. A few rumblings came out that the Bengals thought about firing Marvin Lewis to keep Jackson, much like Tampa did with Lovie. From all reports the Giants, Niners and even the Eagles, late in the process, wanted Jackson to take their job. Seems to be true because Jackson's hiring was followed by those teams quickly filling their positions.

Jackson gets the edge over Gase for a few reason. He has previous head-coaching experience in the NFL, he is a leader of men (players really want to play for him), has had success in a number of organizations and has been a QB guru.

Jackson's hire was universally praised. This grade would probably be an A+ if he had retained John DeFilippo and Kevin O'Connell. At this point, Jackson plans to be his own OC which is a bit concerning.

For now, Hue Jackson gets the highest grade of the seven head coaching hires this offseason.

Grade = A

Which grades or rankings do you agree with? Which do you disagree with?


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