Report Card Grades for Every Single NFL Offseason Coaching Hiring
The 2012 NFL offseason saw seven teams looking for new head coaches.
Teams like the Dolphins, Jaguars and Chiefs got an early start on their search, firing their head coaches during the 2011 season.
Other teams, like the Colts and Raiders, fired their head coaches as late as two weeks after the end of the season.
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' announcement that Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano will be their next head coach, each NFL coaching vacancy has now been filled. No time like now to grade each hiring.
Which coaches will succeed in their new homes? Which ones are likely to fail? Which coaches are great fits for their new teams, and which ones make you scream "What the heck?"
Let's take a look.
Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel (B+)
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The Chiefs, much like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, fired their head coach, Todd Haley, during the season.
The firing made sense, as Haley's Chiefs had gone from winning the AFC West last year to being 5-8 at the time of the firing.
Some of that can be pinned to key injuries with Kansas City, but there was also the sense that Haley was losing his team.
In comes Romeo Crennel, Kansas City's defensive coordinator and head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-2008.
Crennel went 24-40 in his three seasons in Cleveland; however, that included a 10-6 2007 campaign. After taking over for Haley, Crennel and the Chiefs went 2-1, with both victories coming against playoff teams (Green Bay and Denver).
This, along with Crennel's prior relationship to Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, helped him secure the head coaching job in Kansas City for 2012.
The Crennel hiring makes sense for the team because the players seemed to respond to him in his three games with the team. It also provides the change many in Kansas City felt was needed while keeping on a semblance of continuity. He has served as Kansas City's defensive coordinator for the last two seasons.
With Matt Cassel, Jamal Charles and other key Chiefs coming back next season, continuity will serve the Chiefs well, especially since Crennel has the players' respect.
Oakland Raiders: Dennis Allen (C-)
Forgive me for having questions about this hire, especially considering that he wasn't even the Broncos coordinator who was interviewed by multiple teams for their opening head coaching jobs (that honor would go to Mike McCoy).
First off, let me question the firing of Hue Jackson. Yes, the Raiders were undisciplined, but it was only Jackson's first season on the job, and they did go 8-8 (the same record they had the year before). I'm of the belief that unless your team turns in a Cam Cameron-esque level of ineptitude, coaches should get at least three years with a team (Note to Raiders fans about to jump on me and say that Jackson was terrible...we need our thumbs to go this direction!).
The Raiders decided to hire Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Yes, Dennis Allen, who was in charge of a defense that ranked 20th in the NFL (which, for the Raiders, was an improvement; they ranked 29th in total defense).
Yes, Dennis Allen, who served exactly one year as Denver's defensive coordinator.
The plus side with Allen is that his defenses are known for causing turnovers. He served as both a defensive line coach and secondaries coach while in New Orleans, helping them win Super Bowl XLIV.
But there are questions when it comes to his experience and whether or not he could lead a team and make them stay disciplined, which, along with Oakland's defense, was their biggest problem last season.
I'm going with C-, but like other grades listed, this could rise or fall after next season. But it is important to note that based off of recent history with the Raiders, if Allen isn't in the playoffs next season, the Raiders will look for a new head coach in 2013 as well.
Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano (C)
Of all the head coaching jobs, the Colts will probably be the toughest.
Sure, you're getting the No. 1 pick (Andrew Luck, unless the Colts plan on shocking everybody by going with Robert Griffin III), but you're going to step into a potential quagmire in regards to the Peyton Manning situation. Even if you do the right thing, at first, fans will look at it as the wrong thing no matter what you wind up doing.
With that being said, why trust someone who's only spent one season as even a defensive coordinator to deal with it? Why not go with a head coach who's younger yet has more experience at least at coordinator.
I'm not saying Pagano will fail. By all accounts, he's a good football mind, and he has been with the Ravens since 2008 and has coached with NFL staffs off and on since 2001. Pagano could do a good job.
But is this the right job for him? Is he the right fit for Indianapolis? Time will tell.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey (D-)
What a blessed career Mike Mularkey has.
After Atlanta's disastrous NFC Wild Card game appearance earlier this year, many Falcons fans were ready to throw Mularkey out of Georgia for good.
Lucky for them, Shahid Khan and his glorious mustache initiated phase one of his "make Jacksonvillians hate the Jaguars so much so that I can move them to Los Angeles before Stan Kroenke gets the chance to move the Rams there" plan and hired Mularkey as his head coach.
Why is this a disaster? Look up Mularkey's time in Buffalo. He was one of many of their inept coaches in the last decade, as he finished his tenure there with a record of 14-18.
He then went on to Miami, which was probably his best offensive coordinating job other than his tenure as Steelers OC, as he did manage to get a decent season out of Joey Harrington (granted, he would've been fired from his second head coaching gig by now had the Dolphins signed Drew Brees over Daunte Culpepper, but let's not get into that right now; that wasn't his fault).
In Atlanta, he put together a decent offense that centered around their running game; however, it was too conservative when it mattered most, which is why in his time in Atlanta, they didn't win a playoff game.
Overall, he's been decent at best as an offensive coordinator. But he doesn't seem to have the leadership qualities needed at head coach. I don't see him succeeding in Jacksonville, a team that next season will likely be the front-runner in the Matt Barkley sweepstakes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Schiano (B)
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I actually liked this hire for the Buccaneers.
There, I said it.
I know Schiano is a college coach who didn't get to a BCS Bowl game, but look at the job he's done with Rutgers.
Prior to getting to Rutgers, the Scarlett Knights were a joke. Schiano helped build that program into being a respectable Big East contender (stop laughing; that wasn't a joke), as he went 68-67 in his 11 seasons at the helm.
Schiano also ran a pro-style offense at Rutgers; you will find throughout history that the coaches that use a pro-style offense in college tend to succeed in the NFL (Jimmy Johnson, Jim Harbaugh and Bill Walsh are three examples I could think of there).
Also remember this: Despite their abysmal 4-12 record, it's not like the Buccaneers are that much of a disaster. They have a franchise quarterback in place and are one of the youngest teams in the NFL with cap room to spare and a draft pick that assures that they'll add Trent Richardson to the team.
Schiano will succeed in Tampa Bay; the only downside to that job is that the Buccaneers will likely be in the toughest division in the NFL in 2012.
St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher (B)
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Jeff Fisher was the crown jewel of the coaching carousel this season, making the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins await his decision for upwards of a week.
My decision was very, very simple, it was based on a shared collective vision in restoring this franchise to a place of significance. It was that vision that made my decision very, very easy.
A decision that was so easy it took him a week to figure it out. And keep in mind, both Fisher's people and the Rams claimed that during that time there were no contract talks.
Fisher is a great fit in St. Louis, as he was considered by many to be the best coach available. His no-nonsense attitude, along with the Rams' possession of the No. 2 pick (which will likely become the most bid on draft pick the NFL Draft has seen in the last decade) as well as a potential franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford already in tow makes St. Louis a team to watch out for in 2012.
The Fisher hiring also helps invigorate a fanbase who right now is frightened by the potential of the team moving to Los Angeles.
Rams fans, don't worry; look at who you hired: someone who will get the franchise on the right track while in the city the team is currently in. With that will come increased ticket sales and no reason to move the franchise.
Jacksonville, as I'm sure you noticed, did the opposite.
However, I took some points off for hiring Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator. Bad move, Jeff; I would've gone with Hue Jackson. Just ask Mark Sanchez or any Jets fan how Schotty Jr. "develops" quarterbacks.
Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin (B+)
He wasn't their first choice (Cowher), their second choice (Gruden), their third choice (Fisher), fourth choice (Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) or even fifth choice (reportedly Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy).
But he was their best choice for head coach.
The former Packers offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin will come to Miami with a defense that just needs some minor tweaks (and switching to 4-3, which, ironically, fits better with the personnel currelty present), wide receivers who seem bred to run a West Coast offense (look at what Brandon Marshall did while Shannahan was his coach in Denver) and a running back who fits so perfectly in the West Coast offense that it's actually shocking to me that this will be his first time in one (Reggie Bush).
All that's needed is a quarterback. Oh, wait; there's already a West Coast quarterback already available—and Philbin had a hand in developing him (Matt Flynn)!
Sure, there's all of the Peyton Manning talk, and considering his injury, he'd be better served in a West Coast offense at this point of his career.
Then take a look at the draft. Odds are, if Miami loses out on Flynn and Manning, that will mean possibly one of them going to one of the teams they'd have to compete with to trade up for Robert Griffin III (who would actually be a very impressive West Coast quarterback due to his big arm, accuracy and mobility; think Michael Vick, but more accurate).
But if they do sign Manning, as I pointed out already in this piece, they have the luxury of being able to pick a quarterback later in the draft to be their future quarterback.
Now tell me, doesn't Kellen Moore have "West Coast Offense" written all over him? Come to think of it, that's probably the only NFL offense he could succeed in (and he'd do it well).
Right now, it might not seem like such a great hire, but Miami found the right guy for the job, the perfect fit and someone who gives them options. I still won't give them an A simply because it took them so long to figure out that he was the right guy for the job (while I was advocating him being just that in November), as well as the fact that if there's any team that could screw something good up, it's the Miami Dolphins.
While I see hope at head coach, Jeff Ireland is still the general manager, and even worse, Stephen Ross still owns the team.