Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): With no football this week, unless you count the Pro Bowl, which is really just an excuse to wear Hawaiian shirts, let’s shift gears. A few assistants and position coaches are still trickling in but for the most part, coaching staffs are set for next season. Of the seven head coaches hired this month, five were offensive coordinators, one was a tight ends/interim head coach and the other was Chip Kelly. So what do we think of the new hires?
Personally, I like what the Browns did by poaching Hue Jackson from Cincinnati. Jackson turned Andy Dalton into a legitimate MVP candidate and I’m excited to see what he’ll do with Cleveland’s next quarterback, whoever it may be (odds are, it won’t be Johnny Football). Cleveland also beefed up its staff by adding assistant coaches Pep Hamilton, Ray Horton, Al Saunders and Kirby Wilson as well as chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta (yes, the guy from Moneyball). The Browns aren’t going to be good overnight but I think they’re at least headed in the right direction.
I’ll open it up to you guys—who do you think won (and lost) this year’s coaching carousel?
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): The Titans clearly lost. The decision to keep Mike Mularkey, who is 4-21 in his last 25 games as a head coach, instead of searching out higher-upside candidates is a decision so bad it cannot be explained by the ownership situation. The Titans are not as far away from the Texans or Colts as some may believe, and a new coach plus Marcus Mariota, the No. 1 pick and $40 million in cap space could have gone a long way. With what has the look of a one-and-done coaching staff running the show, the Titans have created a situation where Mariota is going to play under three coaching staffs in his first three or four years in the league. That is not the way to develop a player who should be a franchise quarterback. The decision could not have been worse.
I count myself, among literally everyone else, a fan of the Hue Jackson hire for Cleveland, but I remain unconvinced their new front office structure will work. Other general managers spoke last season of the confusion about who was in charge in the Cleveland front office at the trade deadline, and this new situation seems as convoluted as ever. If one person is in charge, it is a former lawyer with no scouting background who will be heavily influenced by meddling owner Jimmy Haslam and assisted by a former baseball general manager. Full marks for thinking outside the box, but forgive me if I am skeptical this will all work out.
Aside from Hue, I liked both the Adam Gase hire by Miami and the Doug Pederson hire by Philadelphia. The Gase hire has been more widely lauded, so all I will say is Ryan Tannehill’s best shot to turn into the franchise quarterback he is paid like will come under Gase. As for Pederson, I like the hire mostly because he brought in Jim Schwartz, who is one of the better defensive coordinators in the league. The Eagles have way more talent on defense than they showed last season, especially in the front seven, and Schwartz has shown he can take advantage of talent. If they bring back Vinny Curry, get healthy seasons from Kiko Alonso, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, and find a little more talent in the secondary, this defense could be special, which would allow Pederson to use the blueprint his mentor Andy Reid applied so successfully in Kansas City. Those are a lot of ifs, but they are all very achievable goals. It could be a quick turnaround for the Eagles.
Pantuosco: Ray hit the nail on the head with Tennessee. While you could argue other teams tried and failed in their coaching search, the Titans didn’t even participate. Unless you count promoting Dick LeBeau to defensive coordinator and hiring Terry Robiskie, who hasn’t coordinated an offense in over a decade. Giving an emerging talent like Marcus Mariota one of the oldest coaching staffs in the league is a pretty flawed philosophy if you ask me.
I’m interested to see how Chip Kelly, an egomaniac in his own right, meshes with GM Trent Baalke. Kelly was a surprising hire for San Francisco, especially after reports surfaced that Baalke wanted a coach that “wouldn’t threaten his power.” Kelly is the opposite of that and will probably wear out his welcome sooner rather than later. The Niners struck out in their coordinator search, suggesting nobody is too eager to work with either Kelly or Baalke. I guess those two deserve each other. Crazy ego aside, Kelly still has a great offensive mind and could be the one to finally resurrect Colin Kaepernick, who has watched his career stall over the last few years.
Evan Silva (@evansilva): Chip Kelly has some pretty intriguing pieces in San Francisco. A downhill power back in Carlos Hyde, a guy who used to be Colin Kaepernick and maybe could re-become Colin Kaepernick if coached up, a bunch of young offensive linemen with possibly untapped potential, and a painfully talent deficient defense. Playing in the NFC West is brutal, but there could be some fantasy goodness here if Kelly can get the offense rolling.
Love what the Browns are doing. Can't believe I just said that. The Titans, as usual, have no idea what they're doing, bringing back an interim coach the team didn't even play hard for late in the year.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): In general, I thought this was the least imaginative coaching cycle we've seen in some time. Not that NFL coaching cycles are ever all that forward thinking, but this one was particularly uninspired. I guess the Dolphins are winners for going from the league's worst coach to the consensus "hottest" assistant. It's hard to argue with Adam Gase's track record at this point. He's probably the last, best hope for Ryan Tannehill. I think it's particularly good for the Dolphins because Tannehill is finally going to have a head coach that's also the mastermind of the offense. He's hitched to Gase now, not some offensive coordinator who will get fired at the first sign of trouble.
I agree with Evan that the Browns had a great offseason, and that’s scary. I know we're all kind of in the Hue Jackson fan club around here. If they find him a quarterback, he'll find them their second playoff berth of the 21st century.
The Titans … what's left to even say at this point? It's like they're actively trying to sabotage their golden goose, Marcus Mariota. There isn't a single item on Mike Mularkey's résumé that suggested he was worthy of a *third* chance to coach an NFL team.
I thought what the Giants did was weird. I understand wanting to keep continuity with the offense, but if they were going to keep their entire coaching staff intact, they should have just retained Tom Coughlin. They felt like a team that needed total turnover to me. All they really did was re-arrange some chairs.
Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield): I think the winner is clear. It's Jeff Fisher. He doesn't have a winning season in his tenure with the Rams -- he has two seasons above .500 since 2004 -- and now he gets to move to L.A., home of the best weather on the west coast. How does this guy lose but keep winning at the same time?