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NFL: Ranking the 8 First-Year Coaches

Bell MalleyAnalyst IIINovember 29, 2016

NFL: Ranking the 8 First-Year Coaches

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    Every season, a new crop of coaches enter the NFL, and a few others hop around from one team to another in hopes of new beginnings.

    Only two first-year coaches have ever won the Super Bowl, and in general they have bumpy opening campaigns.

    Some teams reach into their own staff to find a coach, some look to other teams and a few may even dip into the college ranks, or find a coach who is out of work.

    Prior to the 2011 NFL season, eight teams had different men at the helm than on opening day of 2008. Only one of these coaches had been an NFL head coach previously.

    Among these coaches, some rose to the challenge, whilst other withered under the pressure.

    I will rank how these eight men performed.

    Note: Interim Coaches hired in 2010 and maintained (Garrett and Frazier) will be counted, but those hired in mid-2011 will not (Mel Tucker, Romeo Crennel, etc)

8. Leslie Frazier

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    Team: Minnesota Vikings

    2010 Record: 6-10

    2011 Record: 3-13

    Despite his team's struggles in 2010, which saw Frazier replace Brad Childress 10 games into the season, the Vikings former defensive coordinator expected big things in 2011. The team moved for former Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, adding a seasoned veteran to an offense that already had arguably the top running back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson.

    On the other side of the ball, the Vikings also have loads of talent, led by four-time All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen.

    However, over the course of the season, McNabb faltered, and was benched after a terribly disappointing 1-5 start. Peterson spent too much time on the sideline, and despite Allen's dominance the defense was porous, allowing 358.2 yards per game, good for 21st in the league.

    Peterson totaled a career-low 970 yards in only 12 games for Minnesota.

    Although Christian Ponder's play showed signs of hope for 2012, a team with high expectations should never fall as low as Minnesota did.

7. Pat Shurmur

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    Team: Cleveland Browns

    2010 Record: 5-11

    2011 Record: 4-12

    Pat Shurmur was considered an odd pick to become the Cleveland Browns' new head coach, but given the team's youth they figured that a new face from outside the organization who hadn't built a legacy himself would be beneficial.

    It wasn't.

    Colt McCoy, who showed signs of brightness last season, dropped into a "sophomore slump" as he threw for 2,733 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 games.

    Peyton Hillis was hit hard by the "Madden Curse" and his yards and TDs dropped by 600 and eight respectively (he did appear in six less games).

    Now, the core that looked so hopeful may be en route to a blow-up, and Shurmur will need to right the ship fast if he wants to stay in Ohio.

6. Jason Garrett

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    Team: Dallas Cowboys

    2010 Record: 6-10

    2011 Record: 8-8

    Garrett took over for the fired Wade Phillips midway through the 2010 season, and after a 1-7 start and despite being without starting quarterback Tony Romo, Garrett led them to a surprising 5-3 finish, winning the job for the following year.

    Expectations were high in the Big in 2011, but they stumbled to a 1-4 finish, including a win-or-go-home game against the eventual NFC champion New York Giants in Week 17.

    Garrett cost his team a W in Week 13, the beginning of the end for his team. With the game tied at 13 with seven ticks remaining, Dan Bailey lined up for—and hit—a 49-yard game-winning field goal for the Cowboys. However, there was a timeout on the play. And it wasn't the Cardinals who called it.

    It was Garrett.

    Bailey went on to miss another 49-yarder after the timeout, and Arizona won in OT, halting the 'Boys' four-game winning streak.

    Dallas' collapse left Garrett's seat burning, and he better step up in 2012 in he wants to stick around any longer.

5. Mike Munchak

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    Team: Tennessee Titans

    2010 Record: 6-10

    2011 Record: 9-7

    Munchak was promoted last season to replace the legendary Jeff Fisher.

    That in itself is a tough task. That he competed for the playoffs with an immensely struggling Chris Johnson, a new QB under center, an unproven receiving corp and a middle-of-the-pack defense (at best) is tremendous.

    Looking at the record, the Titans' coach was impressive, but they never really looked like a true contender, even though they finished in a tie for the AFC's sixth seed.

    Also, Munchak came from within the system. Previously the offensive line coach in Nashville, that makes the transition smoother, and drops him lower on this list.  

4. Hue Jackson

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    Team: Oakland Raiders

    2010 Record: 8-8

    2011 Record: 8-8

    It may seem weird that Jackson is ranked No. 4 on this list after getting fired, but he did quite a job in his lone season at the helm.

    They started the year 7-4, but injuries drove quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Darren McFadden out of the lineup.

    Carson Palmer, who the Raiders acquired in a trade was only decent, and Jackson's team hold on the AFC West crown was lost after three consecutive losses in December.

    With a chance to get to the postseason, they lost to the rival Chargers 38-26 in Week 17.

    Jackson's offense finished 2011 sixth in the NFL in scoring, with the explosive team Al Davis built finally paying off.

    However, with Al now no longer with the team, new general manager Reggie McKenzie decided to clear the staff, deciding to hire Dennis Allen at head coach.

    I consider the Raiders as the best team in their division, and with all the injury problems, it seemed to me as if Jackson did a good job in his first season.

3. Ron Rivera

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    Team: Carolina Panthers

    2010 Record: 2-14

    2011 Record: 6-10

    Ron Rivera took over for a team in disarray.

    However, he built one of the NFL's most explosive offenses during his first head coaching job.

    Cam Newton, who Carolina landed with the No. 1 overall pick in the April draft, was at the hub of this offense, and he will only improve with more seasons under his belt.

    The young defense will also get better, as Rivera entered to fix the woes on that side of the ball.

    Rivera helped rejuvenate former All-Pro WR Steve Smith, and the offense has a very bright future.

    People saw no hope for this franchise in September, but Rivera's team will become very strong in upcoming years, and he proved that with a brilliant opening stanza.

2. John Fox

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    Team: Denver Broncos

    2010 Record: 4-12

    2011 Record: 8-8

    The man Rivera replaced in Carolina, John Fox, inherited a team in similar troubles.

    After an awful 1-4 start, Fox made a very bold decision.

    He announced that second-year QB Tim Tebow would take the reigns to his offense.

    The team started playing old-school style football, running the ball 50 times while only using the pass sparingly.

    After a three-game losing streak to end his season, the Broncos opened a new page to their playbook, "pulling the trigger" with Tebow, who responded by leading his team to a stunning 29-23 wild-card win over the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Fox turned the Broncos into a great defense, and made a great choice to save his team's season. He deserves this spot.

1. Jim Harbaugh

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    Team: San Francisco 49ers

    2010 Record: 6-10

    2011 Record: 13-3

    Was there any doubt?

    Harbaugh's accomplishments as an NFL rookie coach are ridiculous.

    His D became one of the most feared in the NFL, as he made Carlos Rogers a Pro Bowl cornerback and the Smith's (Justin and Aldon) cornerstones of a vaunted defensive line.

    That's without mentioning arguably the league's best LB duo, NaVarro Bowman and Patrick Willis.

    On offense, he made Alex Smith an NFL-caliber QB, and Vernon Davis one of the most prolific tight ends in the NFL.

    His team went an amazing 13-3 on their way to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

    He then won one of the greatest games ever, a 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints before losing a heartbreaker to the Giants in OT of the NFC Championship.

    Oh, and his team was considered one of the most dysfunctional just a season prior.

    Was there any doubt?

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