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Grading the Current NFL Coaching Hires



(Photo by The Los Angeles Times)

With five of six head coaching vacancies being filled last week alone, I figured that it would be a fun idea to give all the fan bases projections for how well their teams are positioned. The grades are based on the head coaches’ credentials and the teams’ chances of winning with them and their current set of coordinators. Remember, many of the most victorious teams have great coaches to complement the talent. However, it helped that their staff was kept intact.

It must also be noted that the NFL has commendably seen an increase in the number of minority coaches as the league has matched its record of eight in 2011. Technically, the record could increase to nine once the San Francisco 49ers hire their coach. But due to them having the last current vacancy, we shall wait and also grade their coaching hire as incomplete.

Lastly, we should also give the media an “F” for actually spazzing out over the Rams and Chargers’ supposed “need to hire a big name coach! Otherwise, they’ll file for bankruptcy and have to sell their teams!”

Gee, I never knew that Pat Riley, Dave Roberts, Mike Scioscia, Paul Westhead, Don Mattingly, Mike Dunleavy, and Bill Sharman were mega names before they came. The last time I checked, they became famous for winning and no big-name coach wants to go to a place with destined losers.

The players grab the headlines more anyway, but until the two L.A. teams have some that help them win with style, the big-name coach will always be irrelevant and may never come.

Team: Buffalo Bills
New Coach: Sean McDermott
Grade: B-
Due to the Bills’ dysfunction evidenced by their denial of obvious dysfunction, the hiring of McDermott would like have looked like a great hire had another team made the move. He ran an NFC Champion defense and coached under two organizations when they were decent: Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles. Frankly, the Bills will be going nowhere as long as their president Russ Brandon stays aboard. He has been with the organization since 1997, and when this is the last team to not make the playoffs in this century, Brandon is an example of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. In fairness to the Bills, this looks like a halfway decent hire considering that their past ones were comical with foresight beforehand and hindsight after the fact.

  • Dick Jauron (2006-2009)
  • Chan Gailey (2010-2012)
  • Doug Marrone (2013-2014)
  • Rex Ryan (2015-2016)

Frankly, this hire was likely made by team general manager Doug Whaley because he has probably convinced owners Terry and Kim Pegula that he never got to hire his own head coach, someone that should be tied at the hip with him. Let it be known that predecessor Buddy Nix hired Gailey and Marrone and the Pegulas (and likely Brandon) hired Ryan. Whaley may have a point considering that he was groomed in the Pittsburgh Steelers way of doing business and knows a thing or two about winning over there. However, with an extra first-round pick used on Sammy Watkins and lack of playoff entry, his job will be clouded with doubt, leading the Pegulas to another job search as they do what a lot of bad owners do, keep Brandon and be absentee by vacationing on a yacht in the Florida Keys.

Team: Denver Broncos
New Coach: Vance Joseph
Grade: A-
People might be frustratingly asking “how you can you let Wade Phillips walk and hire a defensive guy when the offense the weakness of the team?” Except, Joseph deserves the benefit of the doubt after having been a Phillips disciple from 2011 till 2013 in Houston, a place where they ran Phillips’ elephant 3-4 formation. He has worked with other great defensive coaches like Mike Nolan, Mike Zimmer, and Jim Washburn, and has likely has become as well-rounded with formations as Ron Rivera was.

Both have run different kinds of 4-3 defenses and worked with the 3-4. But with the veteran defensive mind’s specialty in defensive back play, particularly proven by his work of turning around the careers of Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell and Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs Terence Newman and Adam Jones, Joseph can have great use of this defense. The Broncos unit is as loaded in the secondary as it is in the pass rush, and with Joseph’s multiple-front background, do not be surprised if the Broncos makes the playoffs with a heavy use of nickel and dime packages and formations featuring three edge rushers.

Plus, it helps to have a respectable offensive coach like Mike McCoy, a man known even to coach Tim Tebow and Jake Delhomme to success. However, in an organization that has seen conflicts between administrators and coaches, one should worry about McCoy and Joseph pairing up considering that they never worked together. McCoy, along with new quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, looks like a John Elway selection instead of a Joseph one.

Maybe things can be okay considering that Musgrave and the Broncos new defensive coordinator Joe Woods worked together in Minnesota under its one-time coach, Leslie Frazier, and thus bring continuity. But Woods himself brings another red flag: he is calling plays for the first time in his career. However, after coaching elite defensive backs like Ronde Barber, Antoine Winfield, Darren Sharper, and Harrison Smith for thirteen years in the pros, you would think he paid his dues and became more knowledgeable about diagnosing plays.

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
New Coach: Doug Marrone
Grade: F
This is the worst hire among all of the filled positions. The Jaguars started the hiring season with a fart after promoting a coach with character concerns that do not triumph his coaching talent. Marrone (allegedly) preached teamwork and likely demanded respect but quit on his team with no respect for any of his players and assistants. Even without hindsight, he chose to skip $8 over his last two years for a smaller $4 million buyout with the technicality of having a 50/50 chance at becoming the New York Jets new head coach for likely even more money.

Guess what? He ain’t the Jets head coach and will never see the green he once expected from Gang Green.

Two years ago Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News wrote a damning column about how his peers deemed him as “average” and a “control freak” that was “too thin-skinned to get over [any] criticism.” Mehta also wrote about how Jets owner Woody Johnson “likely didn’t see the side of the man who alienated so many at his previous job.”

Alienating others seems to be Marrone’s forte as the job that he parlayed into the Bills head coaching position had its share of unhappy campers, individuals that actually put their names on the criticism of him.

Former Syracuse assistant Bob Casullo possibly burned bridges, hence put his career at risk, by referring to Marrone as “Self-centered, selfish, and greedy” and “Already has his plan in place for his next job” upon taking his newest position.

“Whoever gave him that three-day opt out clause [for a $4 million buyout], his agent is a genius and the person that signed it for the Buffalo Bills is a complete idiot,” said Casullo. “That person should stand up and say, ‘It’s me. I’m the idiot.”

That idiot might be Brandon considering all the damage his presence has done in Buffalo with two sports teams, and the newest idiot might be Jaguars owner Shad Khan as he does one more thing that Casullo believes any team with Marrone will do: “[Reshuffle] an egomaniac, less-than-.500 coach.”

A record that is “less-than-.500 coach.” looks like Jacksonville’s destiny, and based on the hire of Tom Coughlin as its Executive Vice President; Khan was likely recommended by Coughlin to have his fellow Syracuse Alum, Marrone, be named the coach. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on January 2, 2017, that “One Super Bowl-winning coach advised him to promote Doug Marrone.” I wonder who that coach was.

Do not be surprised if Coughlin is ultimately trying to take Marrone’s job away, considering Coughlin’s past assistants like Perry Fewell and Pat Flaherty are on Marrone’s staff. As Marrone failures and public outcry of Coughlin’s coaching heroism are expected to happen, the odds of Marrone’s job being Coughlin’s are excellent. A future under Coughlin might be limited due to his age, but it is better than anything Marrone and Bradley could offer together over five years.

Team: Los Angeles Chargers
New Coach: Anthony Lynn
Grade: B-
I loved Anthony Lynn as a head coaching candidate and, frankly, thought that he was better than the coaching hire listed down below. Lynn ran the greatest running game in football in 2016, and with this accomplishment, he became something that Chip Kelly was never able to be: Chip Kelly and the Black Chip Kelly.

Kelly came out of college heralded as this high-octane offensive genius who specialized in running the football, including using a running quarterback that could throw with some decency.

Could you imagine if Kelly was not the 49ers head coach but exiled in Buffalo as its offensive coordinator and got the job with L.A.’s newest team? Gregg Rosenthal, Peter King, and Bill Barnwell would each have quintuple orgasms for the coach that has been, at best, falsely advertised.

Unfortunately, I am pessimistic about the Chargers finding success with Lynn because they made it clear that they wanted their head coach to keep Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator, even though Whisenhunt’s work from 2014 to 2016 shows that he is not worthy of his current position. They have not improved since Frank Reich’s departure and are only trying to appease Whisenhunt’s friend, Philip Rivers.

Rivers’ age and play in 2016 has shown that he is not the long-term future for the Chargers and the play of Melvin Gordon is what makes this team successful. Instead of Rivers, the Chargers and Lynn will need to draft an athlete-quarterback in 2017 that excels or must improve as a passer and that way the Black Chip Kelly nickname can stand true in a place where winning and excitement matters, Los Angeles.

Team: Los Angeles Rams
New Coach: Sean McVay
Grade: B-
For now, the Rams look like they do not have a sham head coaching hire by adding Sean McVay and stand even better with Wade Phillips as the new defensive coordinator. Except, based on the team’s years of losing under Stan Kroenke, lack of a .500 record since 2006, and a winning season since 2003, I trust nothing they do.

With its history of using Michael Sam’s gayness, Hard Knocks, and a move to Los Angeles as publicity stunts, the McVay/Philips appointments look more like a PR move that makes the team look like it is going in the right direction.

They have an offensive-oriented coach that could tutor their quarterback. He is also the youngest head coach in NFL history and has a famed defensive mind who can easily be inserted into the shoes of men already doing a respectable job. Especially with all that defensive talent, like we never heard that before under the last coaching staff.

Jeff Fisher was supposed to be the savior with all that talent and claimed to have a coaching plan for the team’s supposed franchise quarterback, and based on how he and others landed jobs and worked for the Rams; they may have only picked people that generally “relate” with their football-unsavvy business administration.

Fisher is the client of famed agent Marvin Demoff, a man whose influence has been so strong, there are no other reasons other than nepotism, personal relations, and, frankly, institutional racism, that helped Fisher and son Kevin. If you forgot, Kevin went from Tampa Bay Buccaneers “Senior Assistant” to Rams Chief Operating Officer (COO) in 2009, and once his dad’s client, Fisher, was available, $7 million in annual salary went down the drain along with the team’s future.

Now, they have acted similarly by going into the client pool of another big-name agent, Bob Lamonte, and picked his client whose family name has helped him land gigs in Tampa and Washington. McVay is the grandson of the famed general manager John McVay, a man most famous for assembling five championship-winning teams in San Francisco. With the younger McVay’s first two NFL bosses, Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan, being ex-employees of his grandfather, he will either be Jim or John Harbaugh or another one of the many long list NFL bloodline failures that will haunt the Rams the way past ones have.

Do the names Blake Williams and Brian Schottenheimer ring a bell?

Plus, with repeated team failures from 2009 to 2016, would it not be time for the team to find a new COO and let the COO’s dad ruin someone else’s team?

In fairness to all parties, however, McVay looks like he has a great resume that includes helping turn around Kirk Cousins’ career. He aided in the Redskins becoming an above average offense (22.8 points and 350 yards per game) in scoring (24.8 points) and yardage (403 yards) and was a part of three winning teams under Shanahan and Jay Gruden. The brightest spot might be the team’s future under Phillips as all teams he has guided as defensive coordinator or head coach have not only posted high sacks totals but made the playoffs since 1988.

Unfortunately, the team will have to wait until 2018 or 2019 to have hopes of a playoff run because with picks lost from the 2016 and 2017 drafts. On the other hand, with incompetence at the offensive line, running back, and quarterback positions, the Rams may have to wait longer and thus could end the remarkable streak set by all of Phillips’ teams.