Grading the NFL's New Head Coaching Hires

The New York Giants are giving Pat Shurmur another shot at being a head coach

The NFL offseason has featured seven head coaching hires, including moves from the New York Giants, Tennessee Titans and (eventually) the Indianapolis Colts.

 

While it appears the Oakland Raiders (Jon Gruden, right) and New York Giants (Pat Shurmur) hit a home run with their hires, other moves featured less established names in the coaching circles.

 

With the coaching carousel complete, here's a look at how the teams fared, at least in our classroom.

 

Grading NFL Head Coach Hires for 2018

 

1. Pat Shurmur, New York Giants

Previous Job: Vikings offensive coordinator

Career Record: 10-28 (Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles)

 

Regarding the fit, the Giants couldn't have done much better than the hire of Shurmur. Despite his previous record as the head coach of the Browns,

 

Shurmur was one of the hottest candidates on the open market.

 

As the coordinator of the Vikings, Shurmur helped revive Case Keenum's career. After being a career journeyman his first four seasons in the league, Keenum threw for a career-high 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns.

 

Shurmur led Minnesota to a 13-3 record, NFC North title and the No. 2 seed in playoffs. The Vikings beat New Orleans but lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game.

 

Shurmur has learned a lot since his first coaching stint with the Browns as he has worked under brilliant offensive minds such as Chip Kelly and Norv Turner. With a better organization backing him this time, Shurmur should have a lot more success with the Giants.

 

Final Grade: A+

 

2. Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders

Previous Job: Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach (2002-08)

Career Record: 100-85

 

Raiders owner Mark Davis deserves a ton of credit luring Gruden from the ESPN booth back to an NFL sideline, granted a $100 million contract is a nice carrot to offer.

 

Of course, this hire comes with a ton of questions including can Gruden adapt to the current NFL after a 10-year coaching hiatus? Also, can Gruden get the most out of quarterback Derek Carr after he had a disappointing 2017 season?

 

One thing that will help Gruden is the Raiders have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball in Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and All-Pro defender Khalil Mack. So, don't be surprised if Oakland rebounds from their 6-10 2017 showing pretty quickly.

 

Final Grade: A

 

3. Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

Previous Job: New England Patriots offensive coordinator

 

New Lions general manager Bob Quinn was able to convince Patricia to turn down the Giants head coaching job and accept the Lions. Both Quinn and Patricia work with the Patriots organizations for years, so the two have a history.

 

The most significant concern with the hire of Patricia is Bill Belichick’s former assistants don't necessarily have the best history of when it comes to assuming head coaching roles. One positive is, in the six years Patricia ran the Patriots’ defense, the team finished in the top 10 in points allowed every single season.

 

With all the talent on defense the Lions already have in Darius Slay, Jarrad Davis, A'Shawn Robinson, Tahir Whitehead and Teez Tabor, and an outstanding quarterback in Matthew Stafford, the Lions could contend for a playoff spot in what should be a competitive NFC North perhaps as early as this season.

 

Final Grade: B

 

4. Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals

Previous Job: Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator

 

Although not too many people know a lot about Wilks, he has some impressive credentials.

 

Last season, the Panthers finished seventh in total defense as they allowed 317.1 yards per game. Carolina's defense also blitzed 44.5 percent of the time (the league average is less than 28 percent according to Pro Football Focus).

 

Arizona will return a ton of big names on the defensive side of the ball including Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson, Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, Budda Baker and Tyrann Mathieu, so that shouldn’t be Wilks’ primary concern.

 

The Cardinals’ offense, however, is a different story following the retirement of Carson Palmer and the three other quarterbacks on the 2017 roster (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Barkley) are free agents. If Arizona can find the right quarterback, the Cardinals could once again become a factor in the NFC West.

 

Final Grade: B

 

5. Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

Previous Job: Houston Texans defensive coordinator

 

Despite making the postseason and pulling off the upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card game, the Titans surprisingly fired Mike Mularkey. It seemed like Tennessee wanted to hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, but they got into the hunt too late (and McDaniels ended up spurning Indianapolis to stay with New England).

 

The knock on Vrabel is his lack of experience and the fact that the Texans’ defense took a step back in his lone season as the coordinator. Although to be fair, losing stalwarts like J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, while dealing with other injuries, certainly didn't help.

 

While the Mularkey firing was a bit puzzling, the Titans did the right thing going in a different direction. Developing quarterback Marcus Mariota is the team’s top priority as the 24-year-old took a definite step back last season.

 

Final Grade: B

 

6. Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

Previous Job: Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator

 

During his playing days, Reich had a habit being reliable when a team needed him. After striking out on Josh McDaniels, Reich once again saved the day, this time for the Colts.

 

Reich was named the new Colts head coach on Sunday afternoon. The hiring ended a six-week coaching search in which the Colts went from being the first team to fire their head coach to being the last team to fill their opening.

 

The last two seasons, Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator as he helped improve the team from the 22nd-best offense in 2016 to seventh this season. The most prominent question mark with this hire is Reich did not call plays for Philadelphia as head coach Doug Pederson did.

 

Now Reich will have the task of reviving the Colts franchise, and quarterback Andrew Luck missed all of 2017 with a lingering shoulder injury. To further complicate things, Reich won't be able to pick his entire staff as a few assistants McDaniels brought in will stay under contract even after had second thoughts.

 

Final Grade: B-

 

7. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Previous Job: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

 

No one was surprised John Fox was let go by the Bears after the season. The only surprise was that the Bears didn't make a move sooner. Make no mistake about it, the Bears hired Nagy simply because the team has a young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky to develop.

 

If Nagy can get Trubisky's game to progress much like Sean McVay did with Rams quarterback Jared Goff, this will be an A+ hire. If not, then the Bears will remain in the NFC North cellar, and this move will be an F.

 

While the Bears do have some pieces to work with in Trubisky, running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, as well as a solid offensive line, the team will need to be patient with Nagy and allow him to go through some growing pains.

 

Final Grade: B-

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

 

(Pat Shurmur photo courtesy of www.giants.com; Jon Gruden photo courtesy of www.raiders.com)

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 10:17

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