All NFL head coaching vacancies were filled Monday night after the New Orleans Saints promoted defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to the top spot. The process took a little longer than last year’s carousel and came with much more controversy. Putting those logistics aside, let’s look at how each team graded out with their head coaching hires.
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Chicago Bears – Matt Eberflus
This was probably the most interesting hire of the cycle, but it’s not necessarily bad. Eberflus has put together some nice defensive units. He’s been inconsistent in the past, but the Indianapolis Colts have had a couple of top 10 defensive groups. Eberflus also turned a completely washed Xavier Rhodes into a competent NFL cornerback again, so he knows how to develop guys.
The issue with this hire isn’t Eberflus, but the notion of a defensive guy. Chicago offense was morbid under Matt Nagy, but with Justin Fields at the helm, the rookie needs to develop. New offensive coordinator Luke Getsy should help with that development, but if Fields falters, questions will be asked of the hire.
Denver Broncos – Nathaniel Hackett
You have to think this move comes with some sort of hope that the Broncos get Aaron Rodgers. Hackett is not a proven coach in any right. We don’t know how involved he really was in Green Bay’s system, but he’s a young guy who seems to be a bright mind. Additionally, the Broncos definitely needed offensive brains to come in after the unit struggled mightily under Vic Fangio.
Houston Texans – Lovie Smith
By far the worst hiring of the offseason. The Texans, not too unexpectedly, ran a morbid coaching search. For a few weeks, it seemed like Josh McCown was going to be the guy, but they flip-flopped last minute and promoted their defensive coordinator Smith. Smith has been bad on both the collegiate and NFL levels, and it’s honestly shocking that Houston went this direction. It seems as if they were simply afraid of the media firestorm they would’ve gotten for hiring an unproven McCown. Now, we wait to see how long it is until the Texans have to look for another head coach.
Pederson is the most experienced coach out of this bunch. Say what you want about his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he brought that franchise a Super Bowl. The only true downside to this hire was that the Jaguars couldn’t get Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, but even he would’ve been an unproven guy on the NFL level. Hopefully, Pederson can use his experience to a team that desperately needs some continuity.
Las Vegas Raiders – Josh McDaniels
This one would have to be the worst if we weren’t counting the Texans. McDaniels has had an uber-successful career with the New England Patriots, but his play-calling has gotten more and more frustrating over the last five seasons. In addition, there are questions about his character and the classic argument that Patriots coaches never pan out as headmen.
Finally, there’s the argument for Rich Bisaccia. Bisaccia led the Raiders to the playoffs. He brought culture into an organization that was tasked with adversity like none other. Players vocally wanted him back, but owner Mark Davis had to go out and make that Las Vegas “splash.” The McDaniels hire could work out, but Bisaccia was a proven guy, and the Raiders could now be in trouble.
Miami Dolphins – Mike McDaniel
The San Francisco 49ers run-game “guru,” McDaniel was bound to be a head coach sooner or later. The only problem is this Miami roster is deteriorating. McDaniel is the last hope in the development of Tua Tagovailoa but takes over with an awful offensive line and almost worse skill position players. How this team went on a late-season push in 2021 was honestly remarkable. Overall, McDaniel is a good hire but may find himself out of a job quickly, simply due to the roster itself.
This hire was actually great. It looked like Jim Harbaugh was a lock to be in Minnesota for a few days, but they got the better guy in O’Connell. The former Rams offensive coordinator, O’Connell, knows how to use great route-running receivers while getting the ground game going. With skill players like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook, O’Connell will be chomping at the bit to put up a serious number of points. Hiring O’Connell may just have the most upside of any pickup yet.
New Orleans Saints – Dennis Allen
You almost had to assume that the Saints would hire from within after Sean Payton left. Allen has been the New Orleans defensive coordinator since 2015 and has head coaching experience (although that turned out poorly). Everyone loves to make a big deal about the tough cap situation the Saints find themselves in every offseason, but then again, they get out of it every year as well. Allen is a solid hire for New Orleans, and while not the flashiest, he may be able to get it done even with the rough roster.
New York Giants – Brian Daboll
On paper, this is the best hire of the offseason. Daboll, obviously, is most well-known for developing Josh Allen as the Buffalo Bills‘ offensive coordinator. One thing fans do need to wrap their heads around, though, is that Daniel Jones isn’t Allen. Daboll won’t turn this guy into a perennial MVP candidate, and they’ll need to run the ball, something Daboll doesn’t often do. Overall, the hire looks good, but with no coaching experience, and another hard-nosed personality, time will tell how it works out. Still, the grade is high because Daboll has great potential in New York.
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