Realistic First-Year Predictions for Every New NFL Head Coach
In the NFL, there's nothing that inspires the hopes of a fanbase more than a new head coach.
At the introductory press conference, it's all sunshine and happiness. The new head coach waxes grandly about what a great opportunity it is, what a great city it is and what kind of football team he's going to field.
The clichés flow freely: The team will be aggressive, yet mentally tough and fundamentally strong. They'll open up the passing game and rush the passer, yet somehow also run and stop the run. They'll score quickly yet still control the clock, they'll play hard yet not commit penalties, they'll play to win yet not turn the ball over, et cetera ad nauseam.
Of course, the coach says a Super Bowl championship is their goal, and visions of Lombardi Trophies will dance in fans' heads.
How realistic is any of this, though? How quickly can any of the eight new head coaches be expected to fulfill the goals they laid out on Day 1? How many wins can fans of these teams really expect in the first year of the new head coach's regime—and how many losses should they be bracing themselves for?
Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
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Bruce Arians was just named NFL Coach of the Year, and rightfully so. He steered the unlikely Indianapolis Colts squad to a 9-3 record and a postseason berth no one thought possible at the beginning of the year.
Arians, though, has a very long, very mixed track record. He was not beloved by Pittsburgh Steelers fans during his time there as offensive coordinator and hasn't been a head coach at any level since 1988. Even during the Colts' 2012 run, their success was more about the brilliance of quarterback Andrew Luck than the brilliance of Arians.
The Cardinals have leading rusher LaRod Stephens-Howling and much of their already poor offensive line hitting free agency. They don't have a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster, and there won't be one available in the draft.
They're also over the salary cap.
Arians will have to find a quarterback who can get receiver Larry Fitzgerald the ball and plug him into an offensive system that masks the deficiencies of the offensive line and running game. If he can't do either, Cardinals fans should start worrying.
2013-14 PREDICTION: 2-14
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the middle of a complete franchise overhaul. New owner, new general manager, new head coach and even a new logo.
Jaguars fans may wonder if the team is heading in the right direction, but all directions lead away from their appalling 2012 season. Just about everything that could go wrong for the Jaguars did go wrong, leading to a 2-14 record and the No. 2 overall pick.
With 2011 first-round quarterback Blaine Gabbert flopping and 2012 first-round receiver Justin Blackmon showing no chemistry with Gabbert, the Jaguars have almost nothing working on either side of the ball.
Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has a long way to take the Jaguars, but with that top pick and plenty of cap room, he should have no trouble taking the first step or two of that thousand-mile journey.
He'll have to prove the disciplined, physical mentality his 2012 defense played with was instilled by him and not Seahawks skipper Pete Carroll.
2103-14 PREDICTION: 5-11
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns
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Cleveland Browns fans will have to forgive the rest of the world for scratching their heads when Rob Chudzinski was announced as head coach. "Chud," as he's sometimes called, had been a former Browns assistant and oversaw the sometimes rocky development of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Beyond that, it was tough to see how Chudzinski got an interview, much less the job. Now that Chudzinski has assembled his staff, though, the Browns look rock-solid in the X-and-O department.
Chud and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner should be able to wring whatever production can be wrung out of second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden. Turner will have to prove that his leaguewide reputation as an offensive mastermind is still deserved, despite his track record as a head man.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton will be coaching to prove he deserves serious interviews during the next hiring cycle.
With a solid offensive line and powerful every-down back Trent Richardson, the Browns could be a solid offseason away from surprising people.
Good thing they have the No. 6 overall pick and nearly $50 million in cap room.
2013-14 PREDICTION: 9-7
Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
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In after one of the longest head coach courtships in recent memory, former Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly finally agreed to become the new Philadelphia Eagles skipper.
The football world is anxious to see how Kelly will adapt his famous zone-read offense to the NFL and whether or not quarterback Mike Vick will be kept around to run it. According to CBS, Kelly likes the idea of keeping Vick at a reduced salary but is spooked by Vick's injury history.
Further, the Eagles have a blooming quarterback prospect in Nick Foles, but Foles doesn't seem to be a fit for Kelly's offense.
Regardless of what happens with the quarterback position, the Eagles have enough talent to move the ball and score. It's the other side of the ball where the biggest questions are. After investing in pass-rushers and cornerbacks, the Eagles burned through three defensive coordinators in three seasons.
The defensive coordinator Kelly hires—according to The Associated Press, it'll be Cleveland Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis—will make the fourth in four.
What kind of scheme Davis runs, and how much of a personnel overhaul is required to run it, will determine how quickly the Eagles can shore up that unit. With about $5.2 million in cap room and the No. 4 overall pick, they have some resources to work with.
2013-14 PREDICTION: 6-10
Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
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Doug Marrone was not a "hot" name amongst media and fans, but the former Syracuse University head man (and Sean Payton protégé) is well respected by those in the know. The Bills made a great hire for their long-term future.
Their short-term future is a little murkier.
They have the cap room to re-sign their key free agents, but after splashing a huge contract on Mario Williams and not getting a huge return, they may be gun-shy about adding pieces beyond that.
According to The Buffalo News, new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was noncommittal when asked about quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has a $3 million roster bonus coming due. The Bills will likely have to make a move there; what move they make will likely cap their realistic win total for 2013.
Marrone will have to find a quarterback whose skills complement receiver Stevie Johnson's and get him enough pass attempts to be effective without neutralizing catalyst C.J. Spiller.
2013-14 PREDICTION: 6-10
Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
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It seemed like former San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner always found a way to make his offense less than the sum of its talented parts.
Turner inherited a team with Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates in their primes. He took them to the AFC Championship Game in his first season as coach and then did a little bit worse every subsequent year.
Now, all those backs and receivers are gone. Rivers just turned 31 and Gates is 32. Talented tailback Ryan Mathews can't stay healthy.
Mike McCoy, though, has been MacGyver-ing together excellent offenses for three seasons running. Whether he's had Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow or a paper clip running his offense, the Broncos have put up points and won games, however possible.
With the No. 11 overall pick, the Chargers are at a nice "swing" point in the draft where they could move up for an offensive playmaker, move back for a lineman and pick up picks, or stand pat and take the best player available. They also have about $9 million in cap room to throw around.
Ultimately, McCoy will have to scrape up more than 21.9 points per game to prove he's better at getting the most out of what he's got on hand than Turner was.
2013-14 PREDICTION: 9-7
Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
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Andy Reid, in a vacuum, was the best NFL head coach on the market this offseason.
The NFL is not a vacuum.
The Kansas City Chiefs hired Reid, an offensive and quarterback guru looking to win now, to take over a roster with no quarterback. Worse yet, they gave Reid total control over football operations.
It's hard to see how an organization trying to get away from former GM Scott Pioli's allegedly oppressive corporate culture would turn around and give total control to a first-timer for the second time in a row.
Reid will have to prove that not only has he not lost his coaching chops, he can also dramatically expand his player personnel role and skipper the least talented roster he's worked with in many years.
2013-2014 PROJECTION: 4-12
Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
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Marc Trestman's résumé threw many NFL fans for a loop. Yes, it's true he came from the CFL, where he was extremely successful as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.
Trestman, though, had a long, decorated career as an NFL assistant. Most notably, he was the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995 and 1996, when he coached Steve Young, Jerry Rice and company while they were the first- and third-ranked scoring offenses in the NFL, respectively.
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall aren't Young and Rice, but they're both extremely talented players. If Trestman can shore up the offensive line, the Bears could finally unleash the potential of the quarterback/receiver pair they invested so much to reunite.
The hire was a brilliant, outside-of-the-box call by the Bears' top brass. However, Lovie Smith was fired for not winning now with a win-now roster. The pressure on Trestman couldn't be higher, and the clock starts ticking now.
2013-14 PREDICTION: 11-5