With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, all new NFL head coaching hires are officially official. Here is the first of a two-part one-word association series for each of the eight head coaching hires.
Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals)- Mindboggling- What Sean McVay has done in two years to turn around the Rams franchise is incredible, but the rush to hire anyone who has crossed paths with him is a little ridiculous.
The Cardinals even referred to Kingsbury as a “friend of McVay” in the press release announcing the hire. That is all well and good and Kingsbury’s offenses at Texas Tech were always productive, but this is not the Big 12 anymore and Kingsbury’s head coaching record in Lubbock was only 35-40 anyway. Knowing that, how in the world can anyone expect this to turn out well? If a guy can not cut it in the Big 12, he has no business being an NFL head coach.
Of the teams that made coaching changes, Arizona was the furthest away from being competitive. They have the top draft pick for a reason. With this hire, they will have it again next year.
Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals)- Encouraging- Taylor is another McVay influenced hire, but this one is a little different. Unlike Kingsbury, what Taylor has been associated with the last couple of years as a Rams assistant has actually been productive in terms of wins and losses. It is probably a little early for Taylor to be an NFL head coach. How the rest of his staff takes shape will be key.
It is so refreshing to see an organization that has been so resistant to change go completely out of its comfort zone with this hire, especially after several in house candidates and past Cincinnati retreads seemed to initially have the edge on landing the job. Will Taylor work out? Only time will tell. Still, this is an organization that has had very little success since the 1980s. For the first time in a long time, they are trying something different. That is progress, regardless of the results.
Adam Gase (New York Jets)- Solid- Hiring a guy with a 23-26 head coaching record is not going to excite a fanbase, but this pairing can work. Gase has a reputation as a quarterback guru. Considering he had a respectable record and one playoff appearance with guys like Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore and Jay Cutler, it is actually well earned.
None of the guys above have the talent or upside of a 21-year-old Sam Darnold. How the Jets front office builds around Darnold on the offensive side of the ball through the draft and free agency will be key. Gase may or may not have substantial say in that process, but he is the right guy to get the best out of Darnold. That is the most important thing.
Freddie Kitchens (Cleveland Browns)- Lazy- This is a classic example of a team who is not used to success, finding a little, and latching on to a small part of it in hopes that it will last long term. It rarely does.
Yes, the Browns did post a 5-2 record once the coaching staff was overhauled. The changes included Kitchens being installed as offensive coordinator, but they lost to both playoff teams that they faced and barely beat bad teams like Carolina and Denver. When digging deeper, the only way that seven-game stretch looks special is when you compare it to what the Browns were in the year and a half leading up to it.
Baker Mayfield’s rookie year featuring 27 touchdown passes in just 13 starts is encouraging, but the seven-game run above which Kitchens was just a small part of was somewhat reminiscent of Tim Tebow’s 2011 Denver Broncos. In other words, fool’s gold, the Browns fell for it. With the talent they have, Cleveland is done being a laughing stock, but they could have done so much better than a guy who the best thing that can be said about him is that the offense wasn’t terrible in his brief coordinator stint last year.
Be sure to check back in a couple days for part two of NFL head coaching hires word association.