All of the head coaching jobs in the NFL are now filled. How did the teams do hiring their new coaches? Can these coaches find long term success? Here are the NFL Coaching Hire Grades for the 2019 offseason.
AFC Coaching Hires
Cincinnati Bengals: Zac Taylor- C
The best thing about this is that the Bengals made a change. Marvin Lewis had run stale and the team needed a culture change. Unfortunately, because the team is unwilling to pay a lot of money and because they don’t have a general manager, they can’t attract top coaching talent.
Simply put, Cincinnati hired Taylor because he liked the city when he was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bearcats and he had a connection to Sean McVay. The problem is that he has six years of coaching experience at the NFL level, which is pretty minimal compared to other coaches on the market. He could end up being a good NFL coach, but it is a complete unknown at this point.
Cleveland Browns: Freddie Kitchens- C+
Freddie Kitchens helped the development of Baker Mayfield after he was promoted to offensive coordinator when Todd Haley and Hue Jackson were fired. His job now is to keep the momentum going for Mayfield and now, given the talent on the roster, make a push for the playoffs.
Kitchens at least was the play caller for the latter half of the season. The problem with the hire is that it was actually a coveted job because of the young talent on the roster. With names like Bruce Arians and Mike McCarthy reportedly interested in the job, they left a lot of possibilities on the table.
Denver Broncos: Vic Fangio- B
Fangio has never been a head coach, but has plenty of experience coaching the defensive side of the ball. Most recently, he has turned the Bears into one of the NFL’s top defenses. He’ll have solid players to work with on defense with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. If he can make the defense top notch again, that just leaves the offense to improve.
The Broncos have traded for Joe Flacco, but he isn’t a for sure answer to the Broncos’ problems. They do have running back Phillip Lindsay, but need the passing game to improve. That may be hard for Fangio to fix as a defensive specialist and without a top quarterback, but he’ll have time to groom one.
Miami Dolphins: Brian Flores- C
It’s another year and another Bill Belichick protege getting a shot at a head coaching job. Flores has been with the Patriots his whole coaching career, but was the defensive coordinator for just one season stepping in after Matt Patricia left for Detroit. As is the case with all Belichick assistants, people will wonder how much of the success was because of Belichick.
Flores will take over a Dolphins team that has rid itself of a lot of their good players over the last few seasons. Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi and Ndamukong Suh are no longer there. The defense will need to be great, while the offense starts to find new playmakers.
New York Jets: Adam Gase- B-
Gase has a reputation for being able to work well with young quarterbacks and will now get to work with Sam Darnold. He also has put in place good gameplans, which helped the Dolphins beat the Patriots, despite not having the most talent. Gase will have to find some playmakers for Darnold to work with, but at least has the quarterback position solidified.
There is a downside to Gase though, as he was the coach when all of Miami’s talent was traded for draft picks. At the end of this past season there was even a report that a lot of the Dolphins players wouldn’t play if he was brought back as head coach. He’ll need to find a way to keep talent and work with players more, but his football intelligence is there.
NFC Coaching Hires
Arizona Cardinals: Kliff Kingsbury- D
The most head-scratching coaching hire of this offseason was Kliff Kingsbury. He was fired as Texas Tech’s head coach after posting a losing record. He was then hired as USC’s offensive coordinator because of his innovative offense. The Cardinals swooped in and hired him as their head coach after he couldn’t get a college head coaching job.
A lot of coaches haven’t had success at one stop and found it at the next. What Kingsbury will have to do is get Josh Rosen’s career on track. The rookie struggled in his first season and needs to gain momentum to get his career back on the right path. Kingsbury and his offense could help him improve, but given that he couldn’t find success at the college level, he should have been hired on the offensive staff before getting a head coaching job.
Green Bay Packers: Matt LaFleur- C
Mike McCarthy was another coach that was starting to go stale and the Packers were right to get rid of him. Aaron Rodgers was reportedly changing a large number of the plays at the line of scrimmage. McCarthy also wasn’t using running back Aaron Jones a lot, even after he was the leading rusher in the NFL on yards per carry in the middle of the season.
The Packers hired Matt LaFleur who had previously worked for the Rams and Titans as an offensive coordinator. This was another case of someone being hired because they worked with Sean McVay. It could work out, but he’ll have to get on the same page as Rodgers, which will be hard if Rodgers and McCarthy couldn’t get on the same page.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bruce Arians- A
Tampa Bay got Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and just at the right time. Arians will now help Jameis Winston try to become the player that he was drafted to be: a franchise quarterback. If he can do that, he will have completed his job.
Arians is an offensive-minded coach that helped Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. He also had success with the Cardinals as the head coach. Working with Winston should produce good results and after that Arians will need to produce a running game and good defense. That will take work, but if he can make it work in Arizona, he should be able to work in Tampa Bay.