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Grading the Head Coaching Hires from the 2022 NFL Coaching Cycle

All of the nine of the team who have had head coaching vacancies open this offseason have taken their time when it comes to hiring a new head coach. The NFL regular season ended three weeks ago and now four vacancies have been filled.

Teams may be waiting for the candidate they want to hire to finish coaching their team that is in the championship round of the playoffs. There are also some teams that still need to hire a general manager who will have the final say in which head coaching candidate they hire.

At this point, four teams have filled their head coaching vacancies. Here is a breakdown of the coach’s background and a grade for his fit with his new team.

Nathaniel Hackett

New Team: Denver Broncos

Former Job: Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator (2019-21)

Previous Coaching Experience: Syracuse Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks & Tight Ends Coach (2011-12), Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator (2013-14), Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterbacks Coach (2015-16), Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Coordinator (2016-18)

The first domino to fall in this head coaching cycle was Nathaniel Hackett to the Denver Broncos. It appears that Denver pulled the trigger on his hire after the Jaguars considered Hackett a top candidate for their job. This doesn’t come as a total shock considering Hackett was a favorite to land this job along with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell.

Hackett was a great candidate for Denver for a multitude of reasons. The first is that they finally hire their first offensive head coach since they hired Gary Kubiak in 2015. Denver’s lack of consistency on offense and more specifically at the quarterback has been a major reason why this team and multiple head coaches have failed to get this team back to the playoffs. Earlier in his career, Hackett has been able to get solid production out of both E.J. Manuel and Blake Bortles who were overall below-average NFL starters. This likely gives the Broncos the belief that he could develop a younger quarterback with more promise into a potential starter.

NFL Head Coaches

Denver Broncos GM George Paton and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. (Courtesy of John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports)

For the past couple of seasons, Hackett has worked with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Working with a successful young offensive coach like Matt LaFleur and a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers has been a great experience for Hackett and has helped him grow into one of the highest regarded offensive coordinators in the league. Rodgers is a huge fan of Hackett and believes he is head coaching material. Last offseason when Hackett interviewed for the Atlanta Falcons job he called the team and told them they should hire Hackett for their head coaching vacancy. That is not normal for a player to go that far to make a recommendation for an assistant coach.

It is also no secret that the Broncos have been linked the Aaron Rodgers since last season. They seemingly have all the pieces to contend for a Super Bowl but are lacking a quarterback. Denver has the draft capital to offer Green Bay for Rodgers. A star quarterback of Rodgers’ caliber could give the Broncos a legitimate shot at winning the division next season and going forward. If they cannot land Rodgers it wouldn’t be shocking for the Broncos to potentially take a chance on Green Bays’ first-round pick from 2020 Jordan Love.

Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Broncos they can expect a boost in the running game. Everywhere that Hackett has coached has been able to put up great production in their rushing attack. This could mean a larger role for second-year running back Javonte Williams and possibly veteran Melvin Gordon if he is retained in free agency.

Grade: A-

Matt Eberflus

New Team: Chicago Bears

Former Job: Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator (2018-21)

Previous Coaching Experience: Missouri Defensive Coordinator (2001-08), Cleveland Browns Linebackers Coach (2009-10), Dallas Cowboys Linebackers Coach (2011-15), Dallas Cowboys Linebackers Coach & Passing Game Coordinator (2016-17)

Shortly after the first NFL head coaching void was filled the second was filled in Chicago. New Bears general manager Ryan Poles hired Matt Eberflus to be the team’s next head coach. This hire was slightly controversial because many thought Chicago should hire an offensive coach to help develop second-year quarterback Justin Fields. However, Eberflus is more than qualified for the job and has paid his dues over the years to get to this position.

During his tenure in Indianapolis Eberflus built his defense from the ground up. He took a unit that was at the bottom of the league and turned into one of the most consistent units in the league over the last couple of seasons. Eberflus has done an outstanding job at developing young talent with guys like Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore, Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, Grover Stewart, Anthony Walker (no longer with the team), and Bobby Okereke.

He has also gotten production out of stars like DeForest Buckner and stars that have been perceived to be past their primes like Justin Houston and Xavier Rhodes. On top of that Eberflus took a veteran rotational pass rusher like Denico Autry and developed him into a player that could lead his team in sacks in a given year.

Chicago has a veteran defense that has roots and already is established as one of the more talented units in the league. However, there is speculation that Chicago could part ways with some of the more expensive players on the defensive side of the ball to start using some of those assets to help Justin Fields. If that is the case then Eberflus shouldn’t have an issue retooling his defense with young players and getting production out of them early on.

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New Bears general manager Ryan Poles and newly hired head coach Matt Eberflus (Courtesy of Chicago Bears)

A major factor in the Eberflus hire was his choice of offensive coordinator. The Bears’ next offensive coordinator is responsible for being hands-on in Fields’ development and the progression of this offense going forward. If the offense fails it will only be a matter of time until Eberflus gets on the hot seat regardless of how the defense is playing.

Chicago managed to steal Luke Getsy away from the Green Bay Packers. Getsy was Green Bay’s quarterback coach and passing game coordinator. He was expected to take over as the Packers offensive coordinator now that Nathaniel Hackett is in Denver. However, Getsy decided to leave for Chicago because he will get the opportunity to call plays for the Bears that he wouldn’t get with the Packers.

Getsy started receiving national attention after interviewing for Denver’s head coaching vacancy. A coach who has played a major role in coaching Aaron Rodgers to play at the level he has the past two seasons like Getsy has the experience to develop a young player like Fields.

It is unclear how high the bar will be for the Bears next season because there is a lot of questions about their personnel. But Bears fans can expect very solid defensive play and overall a better-coached offense that features growth from their young quarterback.

Grade: B+

Brian Daboll

New Team: New York Giants

Former Job: Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator (2018-21)

Previous Coaching Experience: New England Patriots Defensive Assistant (2000-01), New England Patriots Wide Receivers Coach (2002-06), New York Jets Quarterbacks Coach (2007-08), Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator (2009-10), Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator (2011), Kansas City Offensive Coordinator (2012), New England Patriots Tight Ends Coach (2013-16), Alabama Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach (2017)

The New York Giants hiring Brian Daboll as their head coach has been a controversial hire that has been discussed for the past few days. But the controversy has nothing to do with Daboll as a person or coach and more to do with how the Giants may have gone about their hiring process. After hiring former Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen, Daboll quickly became the favorite to land the job because of their relationship formed during their time in Buffalo. New York landed arguably landed the hottest coaching candidate over the last two head coaching cycles.

The expectation is that Daboll will take the blueprint of what was done in Buffalo and apply it to a Giants team that feels lost and partially hopeless. New York’s recent hires have helped remove that sense of hopelessness because the team feels to be moving in the right direction. But this team is a couple of years away from competing for a potential playoff spot.

Daboll’s experience with multiple coaching staffs around the league is a huge plus because he has seemingly seen it all, worked with a bunch of different players, and systems throughout his career. Technically speaking Daboll is a part of Bill Belichick’s massive coaching tree. However, the difference between Daboll and a majority of former Patriots assistant coaches is that he has worked on different coaching staffs and made connections outside of New England. He has worked with arguably the greatest college football coach of all time Nick Saban and spent the past couple of seasons working with Sean McDermott in Buffalo.

NFL Head Coaches
New Giants GM Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll.
(Courtesy of Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

Since taking the job Daboll has built an exciting group of coaches to be his assistants including former Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Mike Kafka who is going to become the teams’ offensive coordinator and the Giants have interviewed multiple notable candidates for their defensive coordinator void.

New York is expecting Daboll to do one of two things. Either make Daniel Jones look more like Josh Allen or move off Jones to a quarterback that he could develop to look like Josh Allen. Daboll played a massive role in developing Bills quarterback Josh Allen from an athletic quarterback with all the tools to be a star to a quarterback whose name is in the best in the league conversation.

Those expectations are high and seemingly unrealistic that Daboll could strike lightning twice at the quarterback position. But in order to succeed New York needs great play out of their quarterback and to find the rightful successor to future Hall of Famer Eli Manning whether it is Daniel Jones or not. The Giants have had below-average quarterback play for about a decade and in a league that is so quarterback-driven, they need to make a major upgrade at that position to be competent.

Despite the pressure, the New York media will put on Daboll early on he feels like he can handle the heat and stick through this rebuild that will take a couple of seasons. If Daboll is given a fair amount of time to fix this franchise this could end up being one of the best coaching hires in recent memory.

Grade: A

Josh McDaniels

New Team: Las Vegas Raiders

Former Job: New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator (2012-21)

Previous Coaching Experience: New England Patriots Personnel Assistant (2001), New England Patriots Defensive Assistant (2002-03), New England Patriots Quarterbacks Coach (2004-05), New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach (2006-08), Denver Broncos Head Coach (2009-10), St. Louis Rams Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach (2011), New England Patriots Quarterback Coach (2012-19)

This past season the Las Vegas Raiders seemingly did the impossible. After interim head coach Rich Bisaccia took over for Jon Gruden after five games the Raiders snuck into the playoffs. On top of that, both of their 2020 first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette were cut due to off-the-field issues. After that, there was a legitimate chance that the team would retain Bisaccia for at least another year. Instead, the Las Vegas Raiders hired Josh McDaniels to be their next head coach.

A couple of weeks ago this hiring would have seemed shocking. But over the last couple of week’s McDaniels became the favorite to land the job. Las Vegas only interviewed four candidates including Bisaccia. It was rumored that the Raiders liked McDaniels early on in the interview process. After the Raiders hired Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler as their new general manager it was clear the McDaniels was going to follow shortly.

It was shocking to see Josh McDaniels leave New England and land a head coaching job. It wasn’t too long ago that McDaniels accepted the head coaching job at Indianapolis but then decided to return to New England instead. It was assumed that McDaniels returned with the idea that he would eventually take over for Bill Belichick when he retires.

McDaniels said it best at his introductory press conference that he wasn’t ready to be a head coach when he got the Denver job. Over a decade later McDaniels is older, wiser,  much more experienced, and has the qualifications to be a head coach. He wasn’t only Tom Brady‘s offensive coordinator but he is now the guy that coached up Mac Jones to be a Pro Bowl (alternate) player in his rookie season. His latest feat is what earned McDaniels this job. But it is also worth noting that McDaniels was a part of all six New England Patriots Super Bowl victories during the Bill Belichick era.

His fit in Las Vegas is strange. McDaniels is the offensive mind that kept Tom Brady in positions to look like a star as he aged and coached up Mac Jones to be the best quarterback in his rookie class despite having the least amount of translatable physical traits among the other rookies. So it is safe to say that McDaniels’ expertise is in the quarterback development market. So that begs the question of what will his addition to the staff mean to the team. In other words, how does McDaniels immediately make this team better?

NFL Head Coaches
Las Vegas Raiders new head coach Josh McDaniels, owner Mark Davis, and new general manager Dave Ziegler. (Courtesy of Las Vegas Raiders)

Last season the Raiders offense played well and their quarterback Derek Carr appears to be at his ceiling. It is extremely unlikely that McDaniels could help Carr take another step in his development at this point in his career. The only thing that could get Carr to the next level is another weapon or two for him to work with.

Secondly, if Mark Davis felt the pulse of his locker room, especially the team leaders, it was clear that the team wanted to give Rich Bisaccia a shot at being the permanent head coach. In years past teams would usually give their interim head coach an interview just to do a service to the coach. However, after leading the Raiders to the playoffs it felt like Bisaccia earned the opportunity to be the team’s head coach once again. This was evident from how Raiders players reacted to the news that Bisaccia was not retained and they were going with McDaniels as their new head coach.

Instead in a confusing fashion, the Raiders went to the New England coaching/executive tree to grab Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels. What makes those hirings confusing is the fact that the Raiders (and too many teams around the league) haven’t realized that hiring those with Patriots and Bill Belichick roots doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for a long-term period of time ever. Teams like the Raiders haven’t realized that there is no replicating the knowledge, experience, mindset, and philosophies that Bill Belichick’s coaching style brings to the table. He is not comparable to Sean McVay’s or Kyle Shanahan’s assistant coaches who all run a similar offensive philosophy that could be executed perfectly after a year or two of adding to personnel and developing players in the building already.

After doing what they did last season it felt like the Raiders has two options when it came to their next head coach. They either should have retained Rich Bisaccia and tried to replicate what they did last year or gone with a big flashy hire like Jim Harbaugh, Doug Pederson, or Brian Flores. Instead, the Raiders landed a solid option with McDaniels who likely won’t’ be awful but likely lacks the ability to get this team over the top in an insanely talented AFC West and AFC overall.

Grade: B-

Kevin O’Connell

New Team: Minnesota Vikings

Former Job: Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator (2020-22)

Previous Coaching Experience: Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks Coach (2015), San Francisco 49ers Offensive Staff Member (2016), Washington Commanders Quarterbacks Coach (2017),  Washington Commanders Quarterbacks Coach & Passing Game Coordinator (2018), Washington Commanders Offensive Coordinator (2019)

When the Minnesota Vikings let go of long-time head coach Mike Zimmer and long-time general manager Rick Spielman it was hard to predict what direction the team would go to replace them. Even after Minnesota hired former Cleveland Browns Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to be their new general manager, it was unclear which direction they would go in at head coach. It surprised many when the Minnesota Vikings planned to hire Kevin O’Connell to be their next head coach.

What made this hiring so surprising is that shortly before O’Connell was hired the team interviewed Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh for who believed he would be offered the job. Instead, Harbaugh was surprisingly not offered the job and returned to Michigan.

O’Connell is the latest member of the Sean McVay coaching tree to land a head coaching job. It is clear that the Vikings want to emulate what Sean McVay is doing in Los Angeles. Over the past couple of seasons, Sean McVay has done a great job of grooming his former assistants for future head coaching jobs. A couple of examples of his former assistants being head coaches at the next level are Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor, and Brandon Staley.

Minnesota’s mindset when bringing in O’Connell was to get more modern with how they coach their team. The Vikings have done a great job developing players over the years but were very old-fashioned, borderline outdated, under Mike Zimmer. O’Connell is a younger coach that is from a coaching tree that has produced very well in recent years and can bring in some modern philosophies that could get this team over the hump. All the star players on the Vikings roster shouldn’t intimidate O’Connell because he has dealt with plenty during his time with the Rams.

It is also worth noting that O’Connell was Kirk Cousins‘ quarterbacks coach in his final season in Washington. This means that he already has a relationship with Cousins and knows his strengths and weaknesses. O’Connell could already have a head start on helping Cousins improve and become more consistent. This past year O’Connell was tasked with tweaking the Rams offense to get the best out of a veteran quarterback since they swapped Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford last offseason.

NFL Head Coaches
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford with new Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. (Courtesy of Los Angeles Rams)

The biggest issue with this hire is that no one knows anything about O’Connell outside of that New England drafted him in the third round in 2008, he was a member of that elite Washington staff that featured (now) four NFL head coaches, and that he has been the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles. Being the offensive coordinator for the NFC Champions is a huge feat, however, it is very important to note that O’Connell doesn’t call plays. Sean McVay calls the plays for the Rams offense.

It isn’t such a bad thing that O’Connell wasn’t a darling of the media to become a head coach this offseason. The same could be said for the other three former Sean McVay assistant coaches prior to landing their jobs and to this point, they have done well for themselves. However, this hire feels underwhelming because the Vikings have an opportunity to really take control of the NFC North with the combination of all of the talent across their roster and the fact that Aaron Rodgers could be traded this offseason.

Minnesota had the opportunity to hire a proven commodity in Jim Harbaugh who has a long track record of achieving success and turning the narrative around for football programs at both the pro and college level. Instead, they elected to be cautious and hire O’Connell who can potentially be a very good head coach but could also keep this team afloat near the middle of the pack.

The Vikings seemingly didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to go with a bold hire in Harbaugh because of how he coaches and for reasons involving his personality. That is understandable to be concerned about but there is proven evidence that Harbaugh can get his teams to their peak in time. This roster has the talent to be a Super Bowl contender and Harbaugh felt like the missing piece to get them there. Instead, the Viking selected to gamble on a younger coach who is unproven and follows the trends in how the league is headed.

Grade: C+

Doug Pederson

New Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Former Job: Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach (2016-20)

Previous Coaching Experience: Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Quality Control Coach (2009-10), Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach (2011-12), Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator (2013-15)

Jacksonville got the earliest start on the head coach search when they interviewed candidates shortly after firing Urban Meyer midseason. Somehow the Jaguars were one of the final teams to find their head coach during this coaching cycle. Despite hiring late in the cycle, the Jacksonville Jaguars were hired Doug Pederson to be their next head coach. After what happened last year the team could look back and say they should have hired Pederson when they had the opportunity last year.

It was surprising to see how little attention Pederson got from teams looking for a new head coach. He only interviewed for four out of the nine head coaching jobs. Pederson was extremely successful during his tenure in Philadelphia. A few highlights of his accomplishments during his time there in Philadelphia include three playoff births in five seasons and a Super Bowl victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots with Nick Foles at his starting quarterback.

It is fair to say that Pederson was a scapegoat for the Eagles’ disastrous 2020-21 season that went the way it did due to awful quarterback play from Carson Wentz. He just looked broken when he played for the Eagles when he would overthink simple things looking to make the big play and end up missing open targets or turning the ball over in crucial moments. Pederson was given the blame for Wentz’s meltdown and not being able to fix it.

However this past season Wentz showed in Indianapolis that in a new and better situation that he still makes those mistakes. Wentz’s breakdown at the end of the year clarified that Pederson didn’t deserve as much heat as he did from what happened in Philadelphia during his final season there. It may have earned him part of his creditability and another opportunity to coach an NFL team.

Pederson acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done in Jacksonville. In his short time with the team, Urban Meyer has done a lot of damage to the team and the culture of the organization. It also doesn’t help that general manager Trent Baalke let Meyer do whatever he wanted and structure the roster the way he did and try to replace many young foundational pieces already in place within the past year. However, he knows what success looks and feels like and has the ability to take the pieces that the Jaguars have and turn them into the core of a potential playoff team within a few seasons. Pederson coached up the Eagles to win a Super Bowl in his second season with the team. He also coached Carson Wentz to look like an MVP caliber player that season.

NFL Head Coaches
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, recently hired head coach Doug Peterson, and GM Trent Baalke. (Courtesy of James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Jacksonville’s head coaching cycle was an interesting one because they missed out on candidates like Nathaniel Hackett and Matt Eberflus, who they interviewed prior to being hired because they didn’t want to work with general manager Trent Baalke.

Then Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator and former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich was ready to take the job if they replaced Baalke with Arizona Cardinals Vice President of Scouting Adrian Wilson. Jacksonville refused and didn’t hire Leftwich.

Then there were rumors of former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio being the potential next coach and that didn’t feel like a great fit. Kevin O’Connell was the favorite to land the Jacksonville job next. However since the Rams are in the Super Bowl, the Jaguars couldn’t interview O’Connell for the first time until after the Super Bowl. Since they couldn’t interview O’Connell he ended up taking the Minnesota Vikings job.

They missed out on multiple candidates because they refused to let go of their general manager which has legitimate reasons for why nobody wants to work with him. The last three head coaches who worked under Baalke when he was a general manager were fired after their first season. Both Jim Tomsula (2015) and Chip Kelly (2016) were let go after their first season in San Francisco and Urban Meyer got let go for his own personal reasons this past season.

Despite all of the controversy Jacksonville dealt with in the coaching hiring process they landed a great option in Doug Pederson. He is the coach that could take this team to the next level and out of mediocrity in the near future.

Grade: A

Mike McDaniel

New Team: Miami Dolphins

Former Job: San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator (2021)

Previous Coaching Experience: Washington Commanders Offensive Assistant (2011-12), Washington Commanders Wide Receivers Coach (2013), Cleveland Browns Wide Receivers Coach (2014), Atlanta Falcons Offensive Assistant (2015-16), San Francisco 49ers Run Game Coordinator (2017-20)

The biggest surprise firing of the 2022 head coaching cycle was Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins. Rumors about his relationship with general manager Chris Grier and owner Stephen Ross were the explanations to why he was fired. After being let go Flores revealed some of the corrupt practices that occurred within the organization and now he has a lawsuit against the Dolphins, the league, and two other teams for how he was treated.

While this was going on the Dolphins were able to land a new head coach. Despite all of the controversy surrounding the team, they landed an interesting head coaching candidate. The Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel to be their next head coach. Despite being a younger coach he has a lot of coaching experience.

McDaniel has followed Kyle Shanahan throughout his time at Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta, and San Francisco. Last offseason he was promoted to offensive coordinator after his co-offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur took the offensive coordinator job with Robert Saleh and the New York Jets. He knows as much as anybody how to implement Shanahan’s offense to achieve success.

NFL Head Coaches
New Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel with San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. (Courtesy of AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Miami’s offensive personnel can fit what McDaniel will bring to this offense. San Francisco has gotten great offensive success with average quarterback play, a committee of running backs, and great production out of the wide receiver & tight end positions. Tua Tagovailoa is about an average quarterback who can be successful in an offense where he isn’t asked to do too much. Miami will likely have a committee of running backs including Myles Gaskin leading the backfield. They also have great pass catchers in Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki (if he is retained) who can potentially be better under Shanahan’s offense.

The biggest test for McDaniel will be if he could sustain enough success to not get affected by the incompetence the organization has dealt with for too long. He will need to outlast Chris Grier who butchered Miami’s latest attempt to rebuild. Also depending on the legitimacy of Brian Flores’ claims of owner Stephen Ross trying to incentive him to lose games in 2019-20, McDaniel may outlast the team’s owner.

McDaniel has the tools to achieve success in this league but it won’t be easy doing so with one of the league’s most dysfunctional teams. He is young and could have possibly stayed at San Francisco another year before becoming a nationally known head coaching candidate. But this is the type of outside-the-box hire that could potentially turn a franchise around.

Grade: B+

Lovie Smith

New Team: Houston Texans 

Former Job: Houston Texans Associate Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator (2021)

Previous Coaching Experience: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Linebackers Coach (1996-2000), St. Louis Rams Defensive Coordinator (2001-2003), Chicago Bears Head Coach (2004-12), Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach (2014-15), Illinois Head Coach (2016-20)

One season after the Houston Texans revealed that they were in total dysfunction they are still in total dysfunction. After overachieving at 4-13 this season the Texans fired David Culley who likely shouldn’t have been hired as the team’s head coach. But the Texans showed what shape the organization was in by firing the guy who did a great job despite not deserving the job for his first place but then hiring his defensive coordinator to replace him. For context, the Houston Texans hired Lovie Smith to be their next head coach.

Immediately after firing Culley, many thought they did so to bring in a potential New England Patriots assistant like Josh McDaniels or Jerod Mayo. This was because of general manager Nick Caserio’s roots in New England. Instead, the three finalists were reportedly former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon, and Josh McCown. For the second season in a row, the Texans were interviewed McCown to be their head coach despite having any experience coaching in the NFL.

McCown only has a year’s experience coaching his son’s football team and zero professional experience. It is well known that McCown was a great presence for a young quarterback to have in the locker room. But that is not enough for him to be an NFL head coach.

Houston reportedly informed Gannon that he wasn’t going to land the job. Then it was between McCown and Flores. Then Houston made the ‘tough’ realization that McCown is head coaching material in 2022. The Texans had the opportunity to go against the grain and hire the coach who is suing the league for their wrongdoings but also a coach who fits the New England-esc system the team wants to implement and is minority head coach which would do a lot in the P.R. department after the team has dealt with more than enough issues involving race in recent memory. But they did not hire Brian Flores.

NFL Head Coaches
Recently promoted Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith with his team. (Courtesy of Brett Cooper/Houston Chronicle)

Very shortly the Texans interviewed their associate head coach and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and named him as the team’s head coach. Hiring Smith feels like Houston couldn’t decide out of who was left on the market that would be interested in the job so they went with a member of their staff with experience being a head coach.

As much as hiring Smith deserves to be criticized, it isn’t an awful hire. Smith has previously held two head coaching positions in the league before with the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has 11 years of experience being a head coach at the professional level. During his time in Chicago, Smith won Coach of the Year in 2005 and got the team to a Super Bowl the following season. Twice he got his team to the NFC Championship.

It has been a very long time since Smith coached at a high level in the NFL. After his tenure in Tampa Bay, it felt like a pipedream that he would return as anything but a defensive coordinator. But now he has the opportunity to attempt to turn this team around. It is unlikely that the Texans are much better next season with little change expected to this team barring any major additions to the roster. At this point, it doesn’t appear that the coaching staff will go through major changes either. Hopefully, Smith will get more than one season to try to make the Texans relevant again.

Grade: C

Dennis Allen

New Team: New Orleans Saints

Former Job: New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator (2015-21)

Previous Coaching Experience: Atlanta Falcons Defensive Quality Control Coordinator (2002-03), Atlanta Falcons Defensive Assistant (2004-05), New Orleans Saints Assistant Defensive Line Coach (2007-07), New Orleans Saints Secondary Coach (2008-10), Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator (2011), Oakland Raiders Head Coach (2012-14), New Orleans Saints Defensive Assistant (2015)

Major news broke out of New Orleans earlier this offseason when Sean Payton announced his retirement after 15 seasons as the team’s head coach. Even though the Saints are in a transition period in the post Drew Brees & Sean Payton-era they may not want to make major changes with all the talent on the roster. New Orleans could be headed towards a retool instead of a rebuild. New Orleans hired Dennis Allen to be their next head coach to start that era.

New Orleans did their due diligence interviewing notable candidates like Aaron Glenn, Eric Bienemy, Doug Pederson, and Brian Flores. They also interviewed another in-house candidate in special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi. The Saints did the right thing by hiring Allen to be their next head coach. New Orleans’ next step is to keep as much of this staff together because they have done so well over the past few seasons. It was not too long ago that the Saints were a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Allen has completely reinvented himself in New Orleans. After a brutal tenure in Oakland as their head coach, Allen joined Sean Payton’s staff and worked his way up to the defensive coordinator position. Within his first two years as the coordinator, Allen had coached this defense from one of the worst in the league to one of the most consistent units over the last half-decade.

NFL Head Coaches
Recently hired New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen with star linebacker Demario Davis. (Courtesy of USA Today)

He has done an outstanding job grooming many young players over the years into stars and key contributors for the Saints’ defense. Those players include Vonn Bell, David Onyemata, Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Trey Hendrickson, Marcus Davenport, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. On top of that, he helped veterans like Demario Davis rewrite the script on their careers. Davis went from solid starter to one of the best linebackers in the league in New Orleans.

This past season New Orleans’ defensive play carried the team to their 9-8 record. They were a game away from making the playoffs after starting four different quarterbacks last season. Allen got to re-debut as a head coach during Week 15 when Sean Payton had COVID-19. New Orleans was up against the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football. Despite all of New Orleans’ issues and Payton being out, Allen coached the team to an impressive 9-0 victory. His defense played outstanding that night and always played great against Tom Brady’s Buccaneers teams.

New Orleans will need to make some additions to their roster to become contenders again. But the foundation set up by Sean Payton is enough for Allen to get this team back into the playoff picture very soon. Allen has grown since his time in Oakland and has the tools to be an NFL head coach.

Grade: A

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