Mazurek: Coach hirings a mixed bag
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Sunday is championship Sunday in the NFL, that time of the year when teams with good quarterbacks get to gloat over those who don’t.
However, as fans watch Tom Brady best Peyton Manning yet again (it’s not going to be close folks), the playoffs mark an important time of the year for the teams that didn’t make the cut. The quest for these misfit teams: find a head coach to lead them out of obscurity.
Seven teams fired their coaches this offseason (yes Giants fans, Tom Coughlin was fired, there’s no such thing as a mutual breakup): the Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Dolphins, Browns, Titans and Buccaneers. Some of these teams hired a new coach who will take them to the promised land, some did not.
The teams that improved at the head coaching position include the Eagles, 49ers and the Browns.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, the Chip Kelly experiment did not work out. Kelly was given complete control of the team and despite one NFC East division title, he failed to win consistently. Kelly was brash, unconventional and had problems controlling his locker room. The Eagles new coach, former Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, sits at the opposite end of the spectrum, spending the last three seasons as the coordinator of the NFL’s safest offense. Such a shift in style is needed in the City of Brotherly Love.
Kelly will take over head coaching duties in San Francisco. The 49ers, who were foolish to push Jim Harbaugh away, admitted defeat after just one year of “cheerleader” coach Jim Tomsula. Kelly will hopefully learn from his stint in Philadelphia and if there is a coach who can fix Colin Kaepernick, it’s Kelly.
The last team that succeeded in their head coach search is the the Cleveland Browns. To be fair, the Browns could hardly get worse than Mike Pettine who became the latest, and hopefully last, casualty of Johnny Manziel. The Browns hired former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as their new coach and honestly, things can only get better for the Browns. The addition of Paul DePodesta, a baseball sabermetrics guru, as Chief Strategy Officer is also one of the most interesting moves in recent offseason history.
Next up are the teams whose new head coaching hires have a lot to prove but aren’t failures … yet.
First up, the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins made arguably the sexiest hire by nabbing “quarterback whisperer” Adam Gase. Gase, who spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the explosive Denver Broncos offense before a one-season stint with the Chicago Bears where he coached Jay Cutler to career marks. The only big knock is that Gase is young, and at 37, will be one of the youngest head coaches in the league.
However, it is worth noting that though Gase has been in high demand as a head coach, both the 49ers and the Broncos passed on hiring him last offseason. Additionally, his impressive numbers in Denver are most likely inflated from having Peyton Manning at quarterback. And though Cutler had a great year under Gase, the Bears offense as a whole was 23rd in the league in points per game and 21st in yards. Gase’s first priority will be to make Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill into a franchise player, but even if he does, it may not translate into wins.
The Giants are in the same boat as the Dolphins. The Giants parted ways with longtime head coach Tom Coughlin and promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to fill the job. McAdoo knows the offense and works well with Eli Manning, but so did Coughlin and he failed to win a very easy NFC East for five consecutive seasons. The Giants needed a more dynamic hire.
Lastly, we have the teams with last year’s first- and second-overall picks, who are also the ones who made the worst head coaching decisions this offseason. The Titans fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt seven games into last season and replaced him with Mike Mularkey, who went 2-7 the rest of the season. Simply put, you have to win more than two games with the No. 2 overall pick at quarterback. Color me unimpressed.
Then there’s Tampa Bay, who went 6-10 last year. Not a great record, but considering they went 2-14 the year before, it’s a big improvement. Yet despite this quantifiable uptick, the team fired head coach Lovie Smith and promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to Smith’s job. To me, this is the biggest mistake of the offseason. Smith is the man who lead the Bucs’ turnaround and he was the perfect coach to keep quarterback Jameis Winston out of trouble off the field. Smith has a proven track record of success and I predict Tampa Bay will regret this decision in the years to come.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.