Grading Every NFL Head Coach, GM and Coordinator Signing So Far
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For many NFL franchises, it’s already been a whirlwind 2013, and I’m talking about the ones that didn’t even make the postseason.
Since the end of the 2012 season, a third of the league’s teams have made changes to either their coaching staffs or front office, and the turnover has fans wondering if their squads have made the right decisions.
It’s time to grade every head coach, general manager and coordinator hiring made since Black Monday, 2013:
Honorable Mentions, Receive Grade of Incomplete
It was a mistake for the Jets to retain Rex Ryan.
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Here's a list of the teams that still have vacant positions at the moment:
The New York Jets have openings for general manager and offensive coordinator after Mike Tannenbaum and Tony Sparano were fired.
The Cleveland Browns are in search of a general manager after letting go of Tom Heckert.
The Arizona Cardinals are still looking for a new head coach to replace Ken Whisenhunt as well as an offensive coordinator.
The Oakland Raiders have an opening for offensive coordinator after firing Greg Knapp.
The Panthers are looking for a new offensive coordinator after Rob Chudzinski took the Cleveland Browns head coaching job.
The Denver Broncos are now looking for an offensive coordinator after Mike McCoy left to take the San Diego Chargers head coaching position.
And Mike McCoy will also fill in his offensive and defensive coordinators in San Diego.
The man they call "Chud".
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Rob Chudzinski hired as head coach
After swinging and missing with Oregon coach Chip Kelly, it appeared that new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner were aiming to deliver a “big name,” which made the hiring of “Chud” all the more surprising.
Before the Browns officially introduced Chudzinski last Friday, he hadn’t yet interviewed with another team. He was coming off a season as Panthers offensive coordinator in which the team struggled to find an identity over the first half of the season.
While the hire isn’t exactly inspiring, I think Chudzinski could succeed. He grew up in Ohio as a Browns fan and served as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008, helping turn Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowler, which is just about on the same level of achievement as turning water into wine.
I do like the reports that Norv Turner will be named as Chudzinski’s offensive coordinator. The Browns have some terrific pieces in place on that side of the ball, headlined by running back Trent Richardson, wide receiver Josh Gordon and tackle Joe Thomas.
Time will tell if Chudzinski is the man to turn around the Browns after two decades of misery. I don’t love the hire, but I’m willing to give it a chance.
Hey, at least his son, Lane, is a good kid. Wait. What?
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Monte Kiffin hired as defensive coordinator
I don’t have an issue with the Cowboys firing former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but I do question the team’s decision to hire 72-year-old Monte Kiffin as his replacement, especially after his horrendous run under his son, Lane, at USC.
I’m not questioning Kiffin’s coaching ability. He’s the forefather of the Tampa 2 defense and helped the Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII.
But, I question his coaching scheme when considering the Cowboys' defensive personnel. Kiffin runs a 4-3 defense, but the Cowboys have all the pieces in place for a successful 3-4.
Their best corners, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, both excel in man coverage, yet the Tampa 2 requires cornerbacks to play in zone.
The 3-4 system also fit linebackers Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware. I believe both players, especially perennial Pro Bowler Ware, are good enough to prosper in any defense, but why mess with success?
The Cowboys were a team that needed answers this offseason. The hiring of Kiffin has only prompted more questions.
Kansas City Chiefs
"Run the ball with Jamaal Charles? Nah"
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Hire Andy Reid as head coach
I’m more down on the hiring of Reid than most. I know about his past success in Philadelphia. I know he was able to turn the Eagles around and bring them to five NFC championship games and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX.
I like that Reid admitted the team is looking for the "next Len Dawson," implying the Chiefs are starting over at quarterback. Kansas City holds the first overall pick in April’s draft, so Reid will receive an opportunity to stack the cupboard.
But still, if I were a Chiefs fan, Reid’s in-game management would scare the heck out of me. I just don’t have the confidence in Reid to ever win a Super Bowl. I expect Reid-coached teams to have issues with clock management and play selection.
Unfortunately for Kansas City, I’ve seen the Andy Reid movie before. I know how it ends: usually with horrendous mismanagement.
Hire John Dorsey as general manager
With Chiefs owner Clark Hunt adamant about a new "organizational structure" that will see the head coach report to the general manager, and both men ultimately report to him, the team needed to succeed with its GM hire.
I believe it has with longtime Packers executive John Dorsey.
Dorsey was a Packers college scout in the '90s when Reid was an assistant coach in Green Bay. In the 2000s, Dorsey helped build the Packers into perennial contenders, as the front office turned out a series of excellent players in the draft.
Dorsey's successful background and his familiarity with Reid make him a terrific choice by the Chiefs.
It'll be up to Dave Gettleman to surround Cam Newton with talent.
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Hire Dave Gettleman as general manager
I like the hire. Gettleman was an integral member of Jerry Reese’s Giants front office, helping the team seemingly pluck quality players out of thin air on the way to Super Bowl championships following the 2007 and 2011 campaigns.
The Panthers do have pieces in place, most notably Cam Newton, who still has potential for superstardom at the quarterback position.
Richardson opted to retain head coach Ron Rivera before hiring Gettleman. Rivera will need to win in 2013, or he’ll surely lose his job, as Gettleman will want to bring in his own man
San Diego Chargers
The real McCoy.
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Hire Tom Telesco as general manager
I think the Chargers made an outstanding hire with Tom Telesco as their new general manager. The former Colts vice president of football operations worked hand in hand with GM Ryan Grigson in reshaping a team that went 2-14 in 2011 to an 11-5 outfit in 2012.
Telesco had been with the Colts since 1998, helping build the team into a perennial powerhouse. After his hiring in San Diego, former Colts coach Tony Dungy spoke glowingly of Telesco’s time in Indianapolis.
Former Chargers GM A.J. Smith did a horrible job in his final years on the job. The cupboard isn’t totally bare in San Diego, but the team desperately needs an infusion of young talent. Telesco is the guy to make it happen.
Hire Mike McCoy as head coach
Despite the Broncos hideous late-game play-calling and decision making in Saturday's divisional playoff loss to Baltimore, I think Telesco made a terrific hire with former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Chargers Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle joined the SiriusXM Blitz yesterday shortly after the news became official, and waxed poetic about his new head coach. He believes McCoy is the man to fix their offense, and referenced his ability to adapt in-game. Make no mistake, players in San Diego are excited about McCoy.
McCoy's offensive background is good news for Philip Rivers, who has been flat-out poor in the past two seasons.
Now, the Chargers are far from being a Super Bowl-caliber team. But, with Telesco picking the players and McCoy coaching them, I think the team is back on the right track.
The man to lead Buffalo back to the playoffs.
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Hire Doug Marrone as head coach
Marrone is a no-nonsense leader with NFL experience, having cut his teeth under the likes of Bill Parcells (as Jets o-line coach) and Sean Payton (as Saints offensive coordinator).
What he did at Syracuse was remarkable. His 25-25 record with the Orange doesn’t tell the whole story; the mere fact that he steered the team to a .500 record after the way former coach Gregg Robinson ran the program into the ground is extremely impressive.
I love the staff he is putting together. He hired his Syracuse offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, to serve in the same position. Hackett, 33, is a bright, young offensive mind who meshes well with Marrone. Hiring former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to the same position was a coup. Pettine is a tremendous defensive coach and was itching to remove himself from Rex Ryan’s (rather large) shadow.
Grade for Marrone: B+
Grade for Hackett: B
Grade for Pettine: A-
Name Doug Whaley as general manager in-waiting
Whaley, a former long-time, respected member of the Steelers excellent front office, was named the general manager in-waiting in an organizational shakeup earlier this year. He'll replace current GM Buddy Nix at an undetermined time.
This is fantastic news for Bills fans. Whaley was very well-regarded in Pittsburgh, and Nix has shown to be clueless, most notably in handing Fitzpatrick a massive contract after six games of production, and hiring Chan Gailey as head coach.
With Marrone and Whaley running the show, I expect things to be better in Buffalo then they've been since Marv Levy and Bill Polian were in charge.
Don’t be shocked to see Whaley and the Bills select Marrone’s Syracuse QB, Ryan Nassib, in the first or second round of April’s draft.
Steve Keim must fix the Cardinals QB situation.
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Hire Steve Keim as general manager
Keim is a football man, through and through. His tremendous eye for talent has been a poorly kept secret in NFL circles for years. It was only a matter of time before he ascended to the top front office position, and I’m happy for the Cardinals that it’s happening in Arizona.
Keim’s first major order of business will be to hire a head coach. Look for Keim to target an offensive-minded head coach while trying to retain the services of well-regarded defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Once the head coach is in place, Keim must address the quarterback position, as the 2012 Cardinals featured the worst collection of signal-callers in the history of football.
If there’s one man that can fix that problem, I’d bet on Keim. I love his hire in Arizona.
Jaguars fans, rejoice: Tebow won't be your QB in 2013.
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Hire David Caldwell as general manager
Wow. You want to talk about “winning a press conference"? Watch David Caldwell’s introduction to the Jacksonville media last Thursday. It was, in a word, epic.
Caldwell, a highly respected Atlanta Falcons executive, was a sought-after commodity in the weeks after Black Monday, most notably by the Jets, who reportedly offered Caldwell nothing short of “the house” to come and run the show.
I didn’t love his decision to fire coach Mike Mularkey, but I understood it: New general managers will almost always want to hire their own man.
Given Caldwell’s track record in Atlanta, I believe the Jaguars made the right hire, and he can help turn their franchise around.
Hire Gus Bradley as head coach
Gus Bradley, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator, became a highly sought-after commodity in the past few days, as reports stated that the Eagles would have hired him if they hadn't swayed Chip Kelly to leave Oregon. Once Philadelphia inked Kelly, Caldwell and the Jaguars wasted no time in bringing Bradley to Jacksonville and making him their next head coach.
Bradley coached a Seattle defense that had a dominant run down the stretch of the season. The Seahawks D finished the season ranked fourth overall, and impressed as the team reached the divisional round of the playoffs.
I like the hire for Jacksonville. Bradley and Caldwell, much like Telesco and McCoy in San Diego, represent a young, energetic duo that will re-energize a jaded fanbase.
The Jaguars rebuild won't happen overnight; there are too many holes on both sides of the ball. But, I trust that Bradley will get the defense in order, and sooner rather than later.
Bradley's first move as head coach might be his most important: hiring a quality offensive coordinator. The Jaguars offense was nothing short of an abomination in 2012, and they must receive better production from the quarterback position. That hire could end up making or breaking Bradley. I'm betting that he'll succeed.
Bears fans should be excited.
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Hire Marc Trestman as head coach
Bottom line: Marc Trestman is an outstanding football coach, and I expect him to do a great job in Chicago.
Throughout the hiring process, I've heard from various NFL people that Bears general manager Phil Emery is one of the most prepared people in the league, blowing away prospective coaching candidates with his knowledge and questions. The fact that he chose Trestman speaks volumes.
I have the pleasure of working with former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon every day on the SiriusXM Blitz, and he speaks very highly of Trestman, who helped Rich win the NFL MVP in 2002 as the offensive coordinator in Oakland.
Emery is right: The Bears offense never reached an appropriate level of success and consistency under former coach Lovie Smith, and he needed someone to come on and remedy that side of the ball.
I believe Trestman is the man to do this. It's an outstanding hire for Emery and the Bears.
The new boss in Philadelphia.
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Hire Chip Kelly as head coach
I thought the Philadelphia Eagles were doing a horrendous job in their search for a new head coach. They had swung and missed with college coaches Brian Kelly, Bill O'Brien and, most importantly, Chip Kelly.
It seemed as if they couldn't give the job away. It looked like owner Jeffery Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman were handling the situation in a clueless fashion.
And then, the bomb dropped: The Eagles have hired Chip Kelly as their new head coach (via ESPN.com).
This is an outstanding hire for the Eagles, one that should re-energize their outstanding fanbase. I cannot wait to see Kelly's offense in the NFL.
But, it's more than than just the offense: It's Kelly's attention to detail, the legendary practices that he runs and his commitment to an uptempo approach.
Give Lurie and Roseman credit: They knocked this one out of the park. This is an outstanding hire for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz", hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter.