Dropping the Mic on 2020 NFL Coaching Hires

Following the 2019 NFL season, 5 teams made the decision to hire a new head coach.

3 takeaways

Eric Bieniemy passed over…again
Much has been made about the lack of minority coaches during this and other recent cycles. I’m not qualified to speak on the Rooney Rule and the details of why or why not this is happening, but I am qualified to say Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has as strong of a resume as any assistant coach in the league and he should be a head coach.

“He doesn’t call plays”. So what?! My point below, that you will say, calling plays should not be a condition for a head coach. Plus, Sean McVay did not call plays, Matt LaFleur did it for one year, Zac Taylor didn’t call plays, Matt Nagy didn’t call plays. They all seemed to be qualified to some people.

And that’s part of the problem. LaFleur has clearly worked out in Green Bay, but he really wasn’t all that qualified. Zac Taylor definitely wasn’t qualified before the Bengals hired him. Kliff Kingsbury was a bad college coach, who got fired by his own alma mater for being a bad college coach, yet got an NFL job before Bieniemy.

Bieniemy is Andy Reid’s #1 assistant in Kansas City. You know who else worked under Reid? Doug Pederson, Matt Nagy, Sean McDermott, Ron Rivera. Reid’s coaching tree has produced some excellent hires. What has Bill Belichick’s coaching tree produced? Joe Judge this year. Bill O’Brien? Matt Patricia, Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel. With respect to Judge, I’ll take a Reid assistant over a Belichick assistant.

Immediate respect factor
Two of the five hires have Super Bowl experience. Another guy has been a really successful head coach at the college level. The other two were assistant coaches for very respectable organizations, with strong backgrounds.

What I am saying is, these guys will walk into the locker room and garner immediate respect from their players. Could you say that about Josh McDaniels? Could you say that about Robert Saleh?

Lack of “offensive gurus”
Kind of along those same lines, there is a lack of offensive gurus in this cycle. Kevin Stefanski has an offensive background, but he has been around for more than a couple of years. Last year’s hires saw Taylor, LaFleur, Kingsbury and Freddie Kitchens get hired. All were hired solely for their play-calling abilities. In 2 cases, that hasn’t worked out at all. And the jury is still out on Kingsbury.

About the hires

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy
This was a great hire and it was the right hire. Dallas wanted a coach with NFL head coaching experience and a proven track record and quite frankly, despite whatever flaws McCarthy may have, this is as good of a hire as the Cowboys could have made. Sure, it would have been fun to see Lincoln Riley in Dallas, but there is always a risk factor in hiring a college coach. Hiring McCarthy was the safest and easiest hire.

McCarthy was the head coach in Green Bay for 12 years – made the playoffs 9 times, advancing to the NFC Championship game 4 times, and one Super Bowl appearance (a victory at AT&T Stadium). He was the most successful coach available and he has already put together a strong coaching staff, that includes 3 former head coaches (Mike Nolan, Jim Tomsula, John Fassell).

Washington Redskins – Ron Rivera
This was a homerun for the Redskins. Rivera coached the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 (and lost). But he has a ton of respect around the league and that is important. The Redskins have long been a laughing stock and accused of being dysfunctional in their front office and locker room. Rivera is a true leader and a guy who will immediately garner respect from day one.

New York Giants – Joe Judge
I definitely don’t hate this move as much as many other. Sure, he’s not the “big name” fans wanted. He’s not the most experienced guy. But he is a guy with an impressive background working under two GOATS, Bill Belichick and Nick Saban.

John Harbaugh in Baltimore was a special teams coach, before being named Ravens head coach. That’s worked out really well. Here’s the thing with ST coaches. They know how to manage an entire roster. In New England, Judge dealt with offensive and defensive players. He worked with guys near the bottom of the roster and was tasked with maximizing their abilities. If Judge can maximize the talents of the 40th best player on the roster, what’s he capable of doing with the best?

Judge comes across as a CEO-type head coach, which is great. That means he will oversee the full team and let his assistant coaches handle their responsibilities. What’s important is who he hires as his offensive coordinator, because that person will be tasked with developing QB Daniel Jones and maximizing Saquon Barkley, something that old staff often forget to do.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule
I believe in Rhule and think he will be a successful NFL coach. I think the Panthers were wise in paying a fortune to sign him (7 years, $62 million). Anyone who can have the type of success he had at schools like Temple and Baylor, can have success at the NFL-level as well.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski
My immediate concern about this hire – Cleveland thought Freddie Kitchens was a better choice last year. They reportedly hired Stefanski over Josh McDaniels and Robert Saleh. McDaniels supposedly had a plan to reshuffle the entire organizational structure and owner Jimmy Haslem was not a fan of that. Given all the success of the Browns over the last 20 years, how could you blame him…

Saleh did a nice job with the 49ers defense, but he was relatively unknown until SF added some big time pieces.

I woudn’t be too concerned about the optics of hiring the Vikings offensive coordinator, one day after the Vikings offense was terrible, because you shouldn’t be making your decision based on one game anyway.

My other problem is the Browns just keep going down this same hole with unproven offensive guys.

Biggest Loser

Jacksonville Jaguars are the biggest loser of this coaching carousel season. Doug Marrone is 22-28 in three seasons as the Jags’ head coach. His first year, 2017, saw the Jaguars play in the AFC title game, but they are 11-21 since. He was 15-17 as coach of the Bills previously. He was 25-25 at Syracuse. He is an extremely average and bland head coach. In my opinion, the Jaguars are in need of a reset.

They would have been wise to move on from Marrone, who has proven he is an average, mediocre coach and take a gamble on some first time assistant, who could provide a spark to the franchise.

2020 Hot Seat

In addition to Marrone, mentioned above, these 5 coaches should all be considered “in trouble” entering 2020.

Bill O’Brien, Texans – He is a terrible coach. I don’t care how many times they have won the division, he is a bad football coach, who often makes wrong decisions. His biggest issue is the fact that he is HC, GM, and OC. Way too much responsibility for a guy who is still largely unproven in this league. Plus with the way they blew a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs, it’s hard to recover from something like that (ask the Falcons).

Matt Patricia, Lions – 9-22-1 in two seasons. In the four years prior to Patricia, Lions were over .500 in 3 of them (and 7-9 in the fourth). They have regressed tremendously since his arrival.

Dan Quinn, Falcons – Falcons are 24-24 in the three years since Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Those Falcons blew a 28-3 lead and haven’t been the same since. If they can’t get back to the playoffs in 2020, the team should move on simply to avoid remaining in this stale state and finding a new spark.

Anthony Lynn, Chargers – I know injuries were a factor, but the Chargers entered 2020 with legit Super Bowl aspirations and flopped to a 5-11 season. QB is a question mark entering next year and Lynn needs to get them back on track, especially with the new stadium coming.

Adam Gase, Jets – This might be controversial, but Gase is a horrible head coach and a terrible person. He is not a leader of men and was largely a disappointment in year one in NY, after being a disappointment for three years in Miami. The offensive guru has seen Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake, and Dolphins WR Devante Parker have career years without him holding them back.

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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