Ranking Jeff Fisher and the 6 Other NFL Head Coaching Hires
We have seven new head coaches in the NFL. Well, four new coaches, really, but let’s throw the retreads in there for fun.
Since the average tenure of an NFL head coach is less than four years, we can expect most of these guys to be gone relatively quickly. But which ones will get the axe?
That’s what I’m here for. Let’s take a turn on the coaching carousel to rank this year’s hires.
7. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs
Praise the gambling gods. Romeo Crennel is back in the league!
Any time you have the chance to hire a coach so bad that he inspired an Internet cartoon (The Flabbergasted Four!) you have to do it.
Crennel’s defense was middle of the pack at best. Yes, I’m aware that they lost one of their best players (Eric Berry), but he also got two games each against Tim Tebow and Carson Palmer, and others against Ryan Fitzpatrick, Donovan McNabb, Curtis Painter, Matt Moore, Caleb Hanie and Mark Sanchez.
That should guarantee any competent defense a top-10 ranking.
As a head coach in Cleveland, he led the Browns to a 24-40 record. He’s also a member of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. As history shows, the apple falls quite far from the tree. No former Belichick assistant has won a division as a head coach.
Oh, and Crennel was an interim coach before having the tag removed to get the job permanently. No coach has ever won a Super Bowl after originally getting the job on an interim basis.
In other words, there is every indication that Romeo Crennel will fail as head coach of the Chiefs.
Romeo’s one redeeming quality as a coach is that his players love playing for him. We saw that in their upset win against the Green Bay Packers, but there’s a reason we never call Bill Belichick and Sean Payton players’ coaches.
You have to have to be able to discipline your players to win in this league. Crennel is soft. His players will walk all over him.
I always question the logic of promoting an assistant to head coach. If he was so good, then why was the team bad enough to warrant firing his boss?
I’d understand it if they were promoting a hot coaching prospect, but Romeo is a 64-year-old failed head coach. Unless Scott Pioli wants to tank for Matt Barkley, he’s going to be very disappointed with his new coach.
Luckily, we’re all going to make a lot of money betting opponent (-13.5) over the Chiefs.
6. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m willing to overlook Mularkey’s less than stellar tenure with the Buffalo Bills. He actually did a decent job, considering his quarterbacks were J.P Losman and Kelly Holcomb.
What I can’t overlook is the disaster that was Atlanta’s Wild Card playoff loss. You can’t blame the players when you have Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Their failure to score a single offensive point against the Giants has to fall on the coach.
Mularkey never successfully gave his offense an identity. Sometimes he’d try to air it out like the dome team they are. Other times he’d try to make them the ground-and-pound team they’re built to be.
For some reason, he could never make his offense great at either. Naturally, this led to crunch time failures against the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and New York Giants.
If you can’t give your offense an identity, how can you give one to your entire team?
You also have to question how Mularkey will do with a severely downgraded roster. If he couldn’t produce an elite offense with guys like Ryan, White and Turner, how will he do with Princess Gabbert as his quarterback?
How can he hope to throw down field with receivers like Jarrett Dillard and Cecil Shorts?
Maurice Jones-Drew better prepare to face a lot of eight-man fronts. Oh wait, he already does.
The Jaguars had the right idea in hiring an offensive-minded coach, they just picked the wrong one. Mularkey’s three stops before Atlanta (Buffalo as a head coach, Pittsburgh and Miami as a coordinator) all saw improvements of at least two wins after he left. In fact, both Pittsburgh and Miami improved by 10 wins the year after replacing Mularkey.
Those aren’t the sort of stats you want to hear about your new head coach.
5. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
The immediate red flag this hire brings up is that it passes the Brad Childress “coordinator who didn’t call plays” test. How can you take credit for an offense if you aren’t even the one calling the plays?
Still, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that Philbin is not the bumbling idiot Childress was.
At the very least, Philbin was a big part of an offense that scored 35 points per game. He helped facilitate the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. We may not be able to call him an offensive savant like Payton or his former boss Mike McCarthy, but at least he didn’t screw things up.
For an organization whose best quarterback this past decade was either Trent Green or Chad Pennington, it’s only natural to go after the guy who coached Rodgers. I get the plan, but I just don’t think it works in practice.
There is only one Aaron Rodgers, and if you think paying Matt Flynn $60 million to be your quarterback changes that, you’re sorely mistaken.
One thing Philbin does have in his favor is that his players clearly care about him. You can say that much after getting humiliated by the Giants a week after the death of his son. That’s where Philbin differs from Childress. It will be interesting to see if he can walk the line between players’ coach and disciplinarian.
I just don’t know if he has the coaching chops to come in and fix the Dolphins in his first job. Philbin may be a decent coach some day, but there’s a steep learning curve involved in making the jump from non-play-calling coordinator to head coach.
Given owner Stephen Ross’ proclivity for going after star power (he has chased both Jeff Fisher and Jim Harbaugh) I’d say Philbin will be on a short leash.
4. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders
24, 10, 13, 13, 32, 10.
That’s how many points Allen’s defense gave up during each game during Denver’s highly publicized six-game winning streak.
The not so dirty secret behind the Broncos was that Tim Tebow mostly played terribly. It was Allen’s defense that led the way for that team. Predictably, their veterans couldn’t sustain that effort forever. Unless you want to blame Allen for Champ Bailey’s age, I’d say he did all he could.
The problem is that there’s more to the game than defense.
How will Allen manage a disappointing offense?
That unit seemed to drop off after paying a king’s ransom to acquire Carson Palmer. They’d probably be best served re-signing Jason Campbell, but you can’t trade two high draft picks for someone and not play hm.
And what about former Ohio State star Terrelle Pryor?
We’ve yet to see if he can be an NFL quarterback, but he certainly has the athleticism to make some big plays. Will the Raiders be able to integrate him into the offense?
How Allen does in managing the quarterback situation will go a long way in determining how successful he is as a head coach.
We’re witnessing a dramatic change in how the Raiders do business. Al Davis is gone, and Oakland now belongs to Reggie McKenzie. McKenzie’s former employer, the Green Bay Packers, built their team around the draft, and largely ignored pricy free agents.
If McKenzie plans to do the same with the Raiders, it could be a few years before they’re ready to contend. If Allen can weather the storm during this rebuilding process, he has a chance to survive as an NFL head coach.
3. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
I’m not nearly as high on Fisher as others. People make him out to be a star because of his 17-year tenure in Tennessee, but statistically he wins a little bit more than he loses and has no rings to his name. You will not lose games because Jeff Fisher is your coach, but you’re aren’t going to win many either.
However, for this Rams team Fisher is the perfect fit.
Because above average is a massive upgrade from downright terrible, which is the level of coaching they received from Steve Spagnuolo. The guaranteed upgrade to Fisher is much better for this team than taking a chance on a young up-and-comer.
They have a quarterback who has proven he can thrive when he isn’t asked to win games, and can hide behind a strong running game, which happens to be a Fisher staple. The Rams offense used to be able to capitalize on the turf of the Edward Jones Dome. With Fisher running the show, Steven Jackson should get back to his Rro Bowl level.
Young defenders like Chris Long, Robert Quinn and James Laurinaitis should give Fisher and blitz maestro Gregg Williams the foundation for a solid defense. The secondary needs some work, but that's what the draft is for.
Speaking of the draft, the Rams are also likely to get a very nice bounty for the No. 2 overall pick. Cleveland may be willing to give up both the No. 4 and No. 22 picks in a package to move up for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
If the Rams can get a couple of nice young players out of that trade, their core will be set.
Jeff Fisher isn’t an elite coach, but he is a good one. He’s the kind of coach who can take you far with the right players. The Rams may not have those players yet, but they’re on the right path. The NFC West is only a year removed from sending a 7-9 team to the playoffs.
With a few good moves, Fisher could have the Rams competing for the division title this season.
2. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are soft.
The Baltimore Ravens are not.
That’s what led to this hire.
With Bill Polian and Peyton Manning (likely) gone, Jim Irsay saw an opportunity to give his team a new identity.
Nobody can replace Peyton Manning. Not only is he the best player in Colts’ history, but he’s an all-time great who will some day land in Canton. To move forward without him, the team needs a completely new mindset.
With Andrew Luck coming in, Pagano can build his team around an incredibly smart quarterback and a defense that can trade punches with anyone. If that sounds familiar, it should, because that’s the formula New England used to win three Super Bowls.
Not so coincidentally, those were the teams that always gave Manning’s Colts trouble.
Manning will be gone in the coming weeks. Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis will likely follow. It’s the dawn of a new era in Indianapolis. Chuck Pagano, the man who did as good of a job against Tom Brady's Patriots as anyone this year, will build this team in the image of his Ravens.
They will be smart, dirty, and, most of all, physical. After years of being known as softies, Pagano is exactly what the Colts need.
1. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year, a former college coach named Jim Harbaugh took the league by storm. He got the job by revitalizing a dead program, giving them a minute in the spotlight, and then keeping them at a level of respectability.
For all of the respect and accolades Harbaugh got at Stanford, Schiano did nearly the exact same thing at Rutgers.
And he did it without Andrew Luck.
He has produced NFL players all over the field (i.e. Ray Rice, Devin McCourty, Kenny Britt and Gary Brackett). Also, he has built his teams around a stout defense, strong running game and excellent special teams.
If you watched the 49ers last year, then you know that model can win plenty of games.
If you’re looking for the next Harbaugh, then this is it. Schiano is an excellent motivator and game planner. He took the Rutgers program from laughingstock to consistent Big East contenders.
Throwing aside their awful season, this Bucs squad has talent. Josh Freeman has shown flashes of greatness and LeGarrette Blount is one of the league’s better power backs. I can’t say I’m as confident in this defense as I was in Harbaugh’s 49ers, but they’re a young and talented group that’s ready to take the next step.
In addition to the players already on the roster, Tampa Bay has more cap space than any team in the league. With that type of money, they’ll be able to address almost all of their needs in free agency.
Whatever they miss can be covered in the draft, as the Bucs have a fully stocked cache of draft picks, including the No. 5 overall selection. This team is ready to make dramatic improvements, and the hiring of Greg Schiano was a great start.