“NFL Coaching Hires”
The NFL has filled all 9-vacant head coaching jobs.
In the midst of the cross fire of the Brian Flores lawsuit about racial discrimination in hiring practices, only two hires were of minorities.
They came from all directions: hot coordinators; veteran rehires; retreads.
A closeup look at who-why these guys got hired. A different perspective courtesty of NFL.com:
New Orleans Saints
Allen, the Saints’ well-regarded defensive coordinator, was considered the front-runner as soon as Sean Payton announced he was stepping aside. Allen won just eight games in his two-plus seasons as the Oakland Raiders’ head coach, but the Raiders were in a bit of rebuilding mode then and he did not get to enjoy the fruits of his final draft class — which included Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. And around the league, there had been a feeling in recent years that Allen deserved a second chance to be a head coach. In Allen’s seven years as the Saints’ defensive coordinator, his unit has become the strength of the team. Allen was Payton’s natural replacement because the Saints were not looking for an overhaul, although it will now be his job to figure out the Saints’ quarterback situation and to manage under the Saints’ difficult salary cap conditions. With the retirement of Tom Brady, though, the NFC South is wide open again and if the Saints get the right quarterback, they could be poised to regain preeminence in the division.
New York Giants
Have you watched Josh Allen over the last two years? Then you know why Daboll immediately became the front-runner for this job once the Giants hired Joe Schoen as new general manager. Daboll and Schoen spent the past four years together in Buffalo, and the Bills’ offense has been in the top three in scoring in each of the past two seasons, coinciding with Allen’s rise. Just look at the quarterback’s immense growth under Daboll’s tutelage:
Allen in 2018-19: 56.3 comp%, 184.4 y/g, 6.6 y/a, 30 TD, 21 INT, 78.2 passer rating.
Allen in 2020-2021: 66.1 comp%, 271.2 y/g, 7.3 y/a, 73 TD, 25 INT, 99.2 passer rating.
It’s no secret that the first order of business in New York is to develop quarterback Daniel Jones, whom the Giants know has been undermined by constant coaching turnover. In a related vein, Big Blue’s offense has fallen into utter disrepair, finishing 31st in scoring and total offense in each of the past two seasons.
Now, it must be noted that the Giants were one of three franchises specifically named in Flores’ lawsuit, with the coach claiming the organization brought him in for a “sham interview” in order to fulfill the Rooney Rule. The team claims this allegation is “disturbing and simply false.”
The rare hire from the defensive side of the ball, and the most curious of this cycle so far. Eberflus, who has a reputation for being detailed, had emerged from previous cycles as an impressive interviewee. But the biggest question surrounding the Bears in the wake of Eberflus’ hiring is the development of young quarterback Justin Fields, which will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who was the Packers’ quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. The other question: How smart was it to match a first-time head coach with a first-time general manager (Ryan Poles) when there were more experienced coaching candidates available?
On the plus side, Eberflus executed a rapid defensive turnaround in Indianapolis, transforming the Colts’ D into a top-10 unit that recorded the second-most takeaways in 2021. Still, the grade on this hire will be determined almost completely by what becomes of Fields.
OK, yes, maybe hiring Hackett helps the Broncos’ chances of luring Aaron Rodgers to town. But did you know he also helped get Blake Bortles to the playoffs in Jacksonville?
It’s no surprise the Broncos went with an offensive coach, given that their offense has been in the doldrums since Peyton Manning retired. Which brings us to the most important piece of hiring Hackett: Who is his quarterback? If it’s Rodgers, fantastic. If it’s not, can Hackett get the most out of whoever’s taking snaps? This is an extremely high-flying division, so the pressure will be on Hackett to turn around the offense quickly and to finally identify that next great Broncos passer.
Lastly, there is an important detail to keep in mind: The Broncos will likely be sold in the coming months, and new owners are known to like making their own imprint. So the clock on Hackett might tick even louder than usual.
Are you sensing a trend? McDaniel, 38, is another offensive whiz kid who has made a meteoric rise. He served as San Francisco’s run game coordinator from 2017 to 2020 and, after one season as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, he will take over in Miami. McDaniel got his coaching start as an intern for the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan. He has been with Kyle Shanahan ever since, including stints with the Houston Texans, Washington Commanders, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons before going to San Francisco. McDaniel did not call plays, but he and Shanahan have produced some of the NFL’s best running games. Not to be overlooked: McDaniel was on the staff in Washington that developed an offense around Robert Griffin III’s unique talents. Now, the Dolphins hope he can do the same with Tua Tagovailoa.
McDaniel joins Miami at a time when its leadership is under scrutiny. Team owner Stephen Ross fired previous coach Brian Flores after back-to-back winning seasons, citing issues with “communication and collaboration,” and has been named in Flores’ class-action lawsuit, where Ross is alleged by Flores to have offered the coach money to lose games during Flores’ first season. Ross has denied Flores’ allegations, calling them “malicious attacks,” and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said matters pertaining to the integrity of NFL games “will be reviewed thoroughly and independently.”
Las Vegas Raiders
The longtime Patriots offensive coordinator finally gets his second chance with the Raiders in the headline hire of this year. The setup is much better than the one he had during his catastrophic tenure in Denver: He has the general manager he wanted (Dave Ziegler, also from the Patriots), a quarterback he can either take to new heights or from whom he can quickly move on (Derek Carr, who has just one year left on his contract), a star tight end (Darren Waller) and a team that just went to the playoffs despite its head coach getting fired in the middle of the season.
The pitch from McDaniels for the last few years is that he has learned from everything he did wrong with the Broncos (also, presumably, from when he left the Colts at the altar after verbally agreeing to become their coach). If that’s true, his long history of success — not just with Tom Brady, but this past season with Mac Jones — suggests McDaniels is well-prepared to help Carr and the offense prosper. The Patriots fielded a top-eight scoring offense in 13 of the 14 seasons McDaniels was the offensive coordinator. (They were 27th in 2020, post-Brady/pre-Jones.) Considering they play in the same division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, the pressure will be on McDaniels to make the right decision on Carr.
Shad Khan laid out pretty clearly why he made this choice: The Jaguars owner hopes Pederson can recreate the magic he had as the head coach in Philadelphia, where he went 42-37-1 over five seasons, helped make Carson Wentz an MVP candidate and then won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles after Wentz was injured.
Molding Trevor Lawrence into a top quarterback will be Priority No. 1. A more general ambition: bringing some consistency to a franchise that has had precious little of it. It’s worth noting that Pederson took the Eagles to the playoffs in two other seasons in addition to the Super Bowl year. He was the selection after an exhaustive — perhaps meandering — search that exposed candidates’ concerns about the presence of general manager Trent Baalke. It remains to be seen if Jacksonville’s front office will undergo changes, too, though the Jaguars did notably interview longtime Vikings GM Rick Spielman for a high-level front office position.
Smith, who was David Culley’s defensive coordinator, was the Houston Texans’ landing spot after a circuitous and confusing search moved away from Josh McCown at the 11th hour. So Smith, an accomplished coach who took the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl, starts his third go-around as an NFL head coach for a franchise that hasn’t been short on controversy. Smith is Black and, like the Dolphins Mike McDaniel, who is multi-racial, was hired after former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a class action lawsuit against the league over its hiring practices related to minority coaches. He takes over a team that is about to move on from Deshaun Watson, whose roster has been depleted in recent years and that overachieved with four wins last season under Culley. With the Texans in the midst of a protracted rebuild, it is fair to wonder if Smith will be given more time than Culley got to improve the Texans.
With O’Connell’s hiring expected after he’s done coordinating the Rams’ offense in the Super Bowl, this will be the first big move for new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. But O’Connell’s history will sound familiar: He works under Sean McVay. And like McVay, O’Connell’s rise has been meteoric. The former San Diego State quarterback was drafted by New England in 2008 and spent a few years bouncing around the league. His coaching career began at the NFL level, when the Browns hired him as their quarterbacks coach in 2015. He has been the Rams’ offensive coordinator for the last two years, and while he hasn’t been the play-caller, he’s worked very closely with McVay on designing game plans and plays.
While the Vikings’ defense faltered last season, all eyes will be on O’Connell’s handling of quarterback Kirk Cousins, with whom he worked closely as Washington’s quarterbacks coach in 2017.