Every NFL head coaching hire this year, graded

Every NFL head coaching hire this year, graded

After weeks of stagnation on the NFL coaching front, the floodgates are open and teams are shaping their visions for the future. A total of five openings are/were available this cycle, with two teams (Caroline and Indianapolis) moving to rebuild after midseason layoffs and interim head coaches, while the Cardinals, Broncos and Texans picked to immediately part ways with their head coaches. following the regular season.

It’s hard to really choose a “best job” from the bunch. The Texans offer the No. 1 overall pick and huge cap space, but also the biggest uphill climb to return to competition. The Broncos need someone who can bring Russell Wilson back to life, and anything else is secondary to that. The Panthers and Colts have talent, but are sorely lacking in quarterbacks — and the Cardinals, well, good luck to anyone trying to take over a Kliff Kingsbury-inspired team and try to make it work.

Let’s break down every head coach hire from 2023.

Recruitment of Sean Payton for the Denver Broncos

The Broncos were far less concerned with finding a football coach and far more invested in finding someone who could fix Russell Wilson. That’s the approach Denver had to take, and Payton was really the only man for the job.

At this point, the franchise was so committed to Wilson, completely hitching their wagon on his ability to produce, that they faced an extinction-level event for their chances of competing over the next 5-7 years. Payton may not work, but he’s the only one who can give this team a chance.

The big question mark surrounding this plan is whether Wilson is ready for what’s to come. Payton is notoriously demanding of his quarterbacks, which is a good thing, but not everyone can respond to that pressure like Drew Brees or Tony Romo. So far, Russ has been more or less pampered by the coaches around him, first with Pete Carroll, who takes a more passive approach to individual player development – ​​then with Nathanial Hackett, who clearly didn’t think that he had a reputation for challenging Wilson.

Plus, there’s reason to wince when you think about what Payton likes to do offensively and pair that with Wilson’s skill set, as they don’t mesh at all – which means there will also be va- back and forth in attack.

Doubts about this operation should not be one-sided either. Whether Payton still had the magic remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that for all the head coaching success he had with Brees in New Orleans, he also insisted that the team do everything in their power to keep Taysom Hill, a horrible decision that did not bear fruit.

Basically, the Broncos are throwing a Hail Mary and hoping they can catch it. This is the only piece left in the book for this situation. Not only are there questions about whether this experiment will work, but the team had to give up critical project capital to sign Payton, which means he’s really going to have to roll with the roster as built.

Grade: Graduation C + Hired DeMeco Ryans for Houston Texans

Houston hired the best possible coach available in the market. I’m also very scared of what the Texans will do next. Both of these things can be true at the same time.

DeMeco Ryans has thrived as a defensive coach since he started with the 49ers in 2017. As San Francisco’s defensive architect in 2021 and 2022, he showed an unnatural understanding of defense not just of the defense. place where the league was, but also of its direction. A linebacker-focused scheme, it demands excellence from the defensive front, with below-average blitz assist, while also requiring the secondary not to expect help from linebackers. Meanwhile, linebackers themselves must be well-balanced in everything, and above all: smart. They have the free rein to diagnose games and the confidence to swarm wherever they think the game is going. It’s a special system if you have the staff for it, or the ability to train players.

Ryans is destined to be a big deal. In 10 years, it looks like we’ll be discussing Kyle Shanahan’s coaching tree in revered and respectful terms as Ryans and Mike McDaniel prove their genius year after year. Now it behooves Houston not to be absolute morons about it.

There is something very unsettling about having a coach as promising as Ryans land in such a chaotic place as Houston. A team with a recent history of hiring and firing black coaches at an alarming rate, chewing up their careers and spitting them out. David Culley and Lovie Smith were both scapegoats for the team’s woes, fired after one season and never even had a chance to develop the team – which we can stand in stark contrast to Gary Kubiak and Bill O’Brien, who gave a combined 15 years of punctuated mediocrity.

That said, and I may regret it, I’m going to give Houston the benefit of the doubt. Ryans signed a six-year deal, a deal that signals the front office’s commitment to giving him time to build this team the way he sees fit. Ryans also turned down further interviews, so obviously the pitch he was given convinced him to go to Houston. Finally, this team has draft capital for days, cap space forever, and if given time, this looks like the move that will really, really change Houston.

Rating: A+

In isolation, this rental is fine. It’s unremarkable, even more annoying — but this team needed a steady hand after years of wasted stupidity under Matt Rhule, one of the worst head coaching hires in NFL history.

Rhule had complete control over the Panthers, a responsibility he neither earned nor carried out. If nothing else, Reich knows how to win in the NFL and understands much better how to work closely with a general manager instead of dictating how the show should go.

Still, it was an effortless move from the Panthers. It was the definition of the facility, compounded by the decision not to give interim coach Steve Wilks a chance, that brought the Panthers back from the brink and nearly pushed them into the playoffs. Functionally, neither Reich nor Wilks is an exciting move, but they both offer the same low-end stability – the only difference is that Wilks had untapped potential that we’ll never really know now.

Ultimately, the Panthers improve dramatically with this hire. Yes, it’s a high floor/low ceiling situation, but that might be enough. Carolina has a talented roster that just needs a quarterback to put it all together, and Reich is a solid rookie to achieve that specific goal — even though he might not be the type. coach to go to the Super Bowl.

Grade: B Remaining teams to hire a head coach

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