If we’re being honest, this is not an exciting new crop of NFL head coaches.
Some of them could be superstars. Not too many people were excited about the Philadelphia Eagles hiring Doug Pederson, and he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL. Any one of the eight new coaches hired this offseason could similarly become championship coaches.
But with all eight hires now official, after the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots ended their season, there are plenty of flaws to pick apart with the class. Some of them will be good coaches, and we’re here to figure out which ones have the best chance. Here’s the ranking of the eight hires:
8. Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals — Taylor is a perfect example of why the new head-coaching class of 2019 has a lot of questions. He is highly thought of, but had he been the quarterbacks coach (for one season) for someone other than the Rams and Sean McVay, would he have this job? Plenty of NFL assistants had to look at Taylor’s résumé and wonder why he got a shot at age 35 while they wait. It might work out, but there’s a risk.
7. Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals — This is one of the most unusual hires in recent NFL history. Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech, where he is a legend, and quickly agreed to be USC’s offensive coordinator. Then all of a sudden NFL teams coveted him. Kingsbury’s final five college seasons produced four losing seasons and one 7-6 record. He won’t get easy wins against Kansas or Lamar in the NFL either. He knows how to call an offense and maybe that will be enough, but the Cardinals will look absolutely foolish if this doesn’t work out.
6. Adam Gase, New York Jets — Gase went 23-25 as Dolphins coach, never lived up to his reputation as an offensive genius and his time in Miami was marked with weird decisions. Maybe he’s a great coach who just never had a healthy or good quarterback in Miami, and his offensive brilliance will come out with Sam Darnold. But he’s still riding the wave of being Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator in Denver for two seasons, and at some point he needs some more positive results.
5. Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns — There’s no question that Kitchens, working in tandem with Baker Mayfield, had a very good half-season as Browns offensive coordinator. It’s also worth noting that before he was promoted to interim offensive coordinator in midseason, he was a mostly anonymous assistant who had never called a regular-season game. The Browns wanted to retain Kitchens, and that’s smart considering how good he was over the past couple months of last season. Maybe they found a hidden superstar who just needed a chance. But it also wouldn’t be too shocking if this doesn’t work out.
4. Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos — I like this hire, because the Broncos weren’t going to do better. Denver has an uncertain quarterback situation, a frightening ownership situation, a general manager in John Elway who casts a huge shadow over the organization, and yet fans expect a big winner every year. It’s a lot tougher job right now than most people have admitted. The Broncos could have gotten the fifth- or sixth-best McVay clone, but they went in a completely opposite direction and hired a good defensive coach who is finally getting his first head-coaching shot at 60. There’s always uncertainty with a first-time head coach, but Fangio clearly knows football.
3. Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers — Stop if you’ve heard this before: It’s a hire that makes sense for many reasons, yet is still a gamble because the résumé is a bit short. LaFleur has been around some fantastic coaches including, yes, McVay. He’s young and people like his creativity. And still, he has been in charge of one offense and the 2018 Titans finished 25th in yards and 27th in points. Not all of that was in LaFleur’s control, but there must be a bit of trepidation trusting him with the rest of Aaron Rodgers’ prime, given a fairly thin track record.
2. Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Buccaneers weren’t going to do better than a two-time NFL coach of the year. If Arians was 20 years younger, this would be No. 1 on this year’s list without question. But he’s going to turn 67 this season, and how many years is he really going to keep coaching? But look at it this way: The NFL is a temporary league and you’re probably doing it wrong if you’re worried about what happens five years down the road.
1. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins — Is putting Flores No. 1 an overreaction to Super Bowl LIII? Sure. But Flores actually has something really good on his résumé. He’s not someone who was fired from his alma mater after not winning in the Big 12, he didn’t wash out with the Dolphins, and he didn’t direct one offense that was in the bottom eight of the league last season. He wasn’t hired after one good-half season as an offensive coordinator or because a team hopes Sean McVay’s magic has rubbed off. He’s not a short-term answer in his 60s. Flores is 37 years old, well respected by players and for a while has been touted as a star in making. He landed on a Dolphins team that won’t be good for a while, and hopefully he’ll be given patience. He’ll need it. But he absolutely could be the first Bill Belichick assistant to hit it big. He comes in with a lot of positive momentum. Multiple Patriots players and Belichick said Flores called the Patriots defense in the Super Bowl, according to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson. He wasn’t just along for the ride as Belichick called the shots.
The entire league is looking for the next McVay, and the Dolphins landed the guy who figured out McVay’s offense in a Super Bowl.
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