NFL: Grading The Head Coaching Hires – 2018 Edition

As is tradition, we here at FAM love to bloviate about a myriad of sporting topics, one of which always being to criticize the latest NFL head coaching hires as they are made each offseason. When all of the dust settled, seven NFL franchises decided their team needed a new direction, axed their head man and embarked on the search for the next guy they’re going to fire. Here’s our grades on the fellas who they tapped to try to lead their new franchises to the promised land.


Arizona Cardinals – Steve Wilks (former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator)

Wilks comes to the Cardinals to replace now retired former head coach Bruce Arians. Arians, an offense-centric head coach, leaves behind a team who was very good not long ago, but has plenty of question marks. Wilks and Co. have to figure out who their quarterback is going to be, and that’s always the bigliest of questions in a QB-driven league.

They do have one of the best running backs in the league though in David Johnson, and one of the best cornerbacks as well in Patrick Peterson, so there’s some star power to be had. Wilks says his team will focus on aggressive, attacking defense and ball control on offense. We’re slightly skeptical of Wilks extremely limited coordinator experience, so we’re going with a safe, middle of the road grade on this one for now.

Grade: C+


Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy (former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator)

Nagy comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which includes six other current NFL head coaches, so the concept has been proven that coaches who come up under Reid have had success in the league. An offense-focused coach, Nagy will be tasked with bringing along 2017 first round pick, QB Mitch Trubisky if the Bears are to find success under their new regime.

We like that Nagy came up under Reid, and that’s been proven to be a successful path, but we’re just a little skeptical of his limited experience at the coordinator position with just a handful of games in which he called plays under his belt. Still, Nagy seems like one of the brighter young offensive minds in the game and if he can develop Trubisky into a successful NFL QB, good times should be ahead for the Bears.

Grade: B-


Detroit Lions – Matt Patricia (former New England Patriots defensive coordinator)

NFL GMs are blinded by the glow of assistant coaches who roam the same sidelines as Bill Belichick, and this just reeks of another one of those hires. Patricia spent five seasons as the Patriots defensive coordinator and in that time, the Pats ranked 25th in pass defense. This is in a division with the Jets, Dolphins and Bills, so it’s not as though they were routinely facing prolific passing games.

Also, it was only one game, but Patricia’s defense was absolutely torched less than two weeks ago in his final game as Patriots DC. Just one game? Sure, but it was the biggest game and they looked terrible. Not a good final impression before taking the big seat in Detroit. Simply put, we just don’t like this hire.

Grade: F


Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich (former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator)

After Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels accepted and then subsequently changed his mind and turned down the Colts head coaching job, owner Jim Irsay turned to Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich to become the new head man in Indy. Reich is going to be placed in the unenviable position of trying to figure out if QB Andrew Luck is ever going to play football again, and unfortunately that’s likely tied to his success or failure.

If Luck returns and can regain the former he had pre-shoulder injury, we expect Reich to do well. But as we said before, this is a QB-driven league and it’s extremely difficult to win without a good one. Jacoby Brissett likely isn’t going to win you a ton of games so if the Colts have to embark on a journey to find a long term replacement for Luck, it’s anyone’s guess how that could turn out. We like Reich though, and think he can and do well if the chips fall in his favor.

Grade: C+


New York Giants – Pat Shurmur (former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator)

Shurmur is just one of two coaches who were given a head coaching gig in this round who has previously held the job. He was the Cleveland Browns head coach from 2011-2012 where he went just 10-23, but it’s the Browns so one can hardly hold that against him. Shurmur was given another chance at the big seat mostly based on his success this season as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator where he helped lead the Vikings to the NFC championship game despite being forced to use back up QB Case Keenum for the bulk of the season.

While Shurmur isn’t exactly an inspiring choice, he seems like a safe one for an organization who you wouldn’t exactly expect to go out on a limb. He’ll be tasked with seeing what, if anything, Eli Manning has left in the tank and drafting a QB to replace him. That replacement will likely define Shurmur’s tenure with the Giants one way or the other.

Grade: B-


Oakland Raiders – Jon Gruden (former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach)

So the ole’ Tenessee Vols finally got their man, eh? Not so fast, my friends. The long time ESPN analyst Gruden, who last coached in the NFL in 2008, had been often rumored to be taking the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee, only to finally return to the NFL. Gruden coached the Raiders 1998-2001 before going to Tampa and getting a ring with the Buccaneers in Super Bowl 37.

Gruden was 100-85 at those two previous head coaching stops and he does have a ring, so there is some precedent here for success. However, Raiders owner Mark Davis signed Gruden to an insanely ridiculous 10 year, 100 million dollar contract and that atrocity has to be taken under consideration when grading the hire. That, combined with the time he’s been out of the game (and how good he was in the first place highly in question the deeper you dive into it), makes us pretty weary of this hire. It could go right, but we expect it to go wrong.

Grade: D


Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel (former Houston Texans defensive coordinator)

When Titans GM Jon Robinson and former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey decided to part ways following the 2017 season, Robinson knew exactly who he wanted to be his head coach. Robinson and Vrabel had previously worked together in New England, and Robinson felt as though Vrabel would bring the toughness that he was looking for in the Titans new head coach.

That’s all well and good, but the Titans have a young QB who badly needs elevated coaching and we’re not sure this new staff can deliver that. Vrabel tapped former Rams OC Matt LaFleur to guide the offense and work with Marcus Mariota, but LaFleur spent just one year as an offensive coordinator and has never called plays at the NFL level. This staff as a whole feels like a bigger roll of the dice than most and we simply cannot get on board.

Grade: D


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