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Grading the NFL's New Head Coaching Hires

The Giants receive a high grade for hiring former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as their new head coach

The Giants receive a high grade for hiring former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as their new head coach

Nine NFL teams decided to make a change at head coach this offseason. Some of them had their target candidates from Day 1. For others, it took a little while before making a decision.

Now that all of the coaching vacancies have been filled, many have debated which team did the best hiring? While it could take years to know exactly who did the best job, here's an initial grade for each of the new head coaches.

Chicago Bears: Matt Eberflus

Even with a young quarterback in Justin Fields, the Bears decided to go with a defensive-minded head coach in Eberflus. While he might not be a household name, Eberflus helped lead a Colts defense that was the only unit to be ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense, rushing defense, and takeaways each of the past two seasons.

Indianapolis also finished in the top 10 in the NFL against the run and takeaways in all four of Eberflus' seasons as DC. Chicago's defense should be much improved, but it remains to be seen if hiring Eberflus will benefit Fields in the long run.

Grade: C

Denver Broncos: Nathaniel Hackett

Hackett is probably a name that fans aren't too familiar with, but he brings 13 years of NFL experience to Denver, including seven seasons as an offensive coordinator.

Hackett spent the last three seasons in Green Bay helping quarterback Aaron Rodgers have two of the best seasons of his career. Rodgers has been rumored to be a trade target of the Broncos.

That may or may not happen, but Hackett has worked with various quarterbacks, including Kyle Orton and Blake Bortles, who nearly led the Jaguars to the Super Bowl.

It appears things are looking up for the Broncos, at least offensively. They're not far from being a playoff contender with Denver's defense, and Hackett can help get them there.

Grade: B

Houston Texans: Lovie Smith

Smith has a lot of experience, and he and new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton should help Davis Mills in his second year. However, this promotion from defensive coordinator was uninspiring for a Houston franchise that's a mess.

The Texans had a long, drawn-out process just to hire someone they could have weeks ago. Smith was in charge of a Houston defense that gave up 384.4 yards per game, which was 31st in the league.

Maybe a roster overhaul will help Smith, but he hasn't had a winning season in the NFL or college since he was with the Bears in 2012.

Grade: D-

Jacksonville Jaguars: Doug Pederson

For another questionable franchise, the Jaguars hit a home run with the hire of Pederson.

Byron Leftwich might have been the franchise's top choice, but Pederson won a Super Bowl with the Eagles just four years ago with Nick Foles as his quarterback. Trevor Lawrence struggled in his rookie season, but Pederson should help the 2021 No. 1 overall pick improve significantly. But the Jaguars' problems go well beyond Lawrence's need to take a step forward.

Grade: A

Las Vegas Raiders: Josh McDaniels

McDaniels has shown he can lead an offense, which is exactly what the Raiders are looking for. There's still a question about whether he can succeed as a head coach in the league.

McDaniels' tenure as the Broncos' head coach more than a decade ago (2009-10) was disastrous. The hope is that his second try will go much better and that he learned quite a bit when he returned to New England after flaming out in Denver.

If the Raiders decide to keep Derek Carr, expect the Raiders to be in the playoff hunt again. But it remains to be seen if McDaniels is the man to make Las Vegas a viable contender in the AFC West.

Grade: B

Miami Dolphins: Mike McDaniel

What a difference a year makes for McDaniel. Last year, he interviewed for the offensive coordinator position with the Dolphins. Now he's the head coach.

Although he's 38, McDaniel has spent the past 11 years working alongside Kyle Shanahan in some capacity. He is expected to bring a similar offensive approach to Miami, which means more emphasis on the run for one.

Miami is committing to Tua Tagovailoa for now, but I wonder whether they will give McDaniel the latitude to pull the plug if he continues to be an average player. Either way, this is an excellent hire since McDaniel can improve the Dolphins' weaknesses while hoping Tagovailoa gets better.

Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings: Kevin O'Connell

O'Connell hasn't officially been announced, but his hire is expected to be finalized after the Super Bowl. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh generated plenty of attention for this opening, but the Vikings appeared to be blown away by O'Connell, who has spent the last two years as the Rams' offensive coordinator.

The bad news for Vikings fans is their offense isn't the unit that could use a retooling. Minnesota finished 30th (383.6 ypg) in total defense last season.

If O'Connell follows in the footsteps of other Rams assistants, this could be a good hire for the Vikings.

Grade: C+

New Orleans Saints: Dennis Allen

Allen was the favorite to be elevated once Sean Payton decided to step away. Others were interviewed, but Allen ended up getting the job. He will undoubtedly have his hands full with a Saints team with major quarterback questions and a salary-cap situation that's the worst in the league.

New Orleans will enter the new league year an estimated $76 million over the salary cap, which is bad news for a team that has still yet to replace Drew Brees.

I haven't even mentioned how terrible Allen was as a head coach with the Raiders from 2012-14 (8-28). This hire seems like a stop-gap until the next coach comes along.

Grade: D-

New York Giants: Brian Daboll

Like the Raiders with McDaniels and new general manager Dave Ziegler, the Giants paired up Joe Schoen with Daboll, who both previously worked together with the Bills.

After the Joe Judge fiasco, choosing Daboll was a wise choice as he has 20 years of experience in the NFL. Now Daboll will be looking to help revitalize Daniel Jones' game the same way he helped Josh Allen after he struggled in his first two seasons in the league (2018-19).

For an organization that has desperately needed stability, it appears the Giants got it right by hiring Daboll.

Grade: A-

— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.