Grading the New NFL Head Coaching Hires
By Max Hirsch
This NFL off-season will certainly go down in the books as one of the craziest to date, with seven new head coaches and almost a third of the NFL teams with new quarterbacks set to start next season. What makes football so amazing is that any team can come out of nowhere and win the Super Bowl if they make the right move in the off-season. For example, in 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles finished at the bottom of their division with a disappointing 7-9 record, but just a year later the team finished first in the conference with a 13-3 record and won the Super Bowl. This type of comeback is difficult to spot in other major sports. A substantial part of success comes from who is placed as a team’s head coach. Here is The Cougar Chronicle’s take on the vacancies that were recently filled.
The first hire I want to talk about is Robert Saleh, the New York Jets’ new Head Coach. Everyone that moderately keeps track of football knows the Jets’ struggles. Despite having one of the biggest markets in the NFL and a huge fan base, the team has only finished above .500 once in the past nine seasons. Their former coach, Adam Gase, led them to a 9-23 record during his tenure and took a lot of heat for their performance. Due to the Jets’ unforgettable season, Gase was highly criticized by his players, who spoke out about his inability to connect with them. Now, with newly hired Head Coach Robert Saleh, the Jets hope to change the culture around their locker room. Notably known as the former Defensive Coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, Saleh is a highly energetic coach who constantly brings passion to the game and connects with his players on a level that is deeper than football. He has received plenty of praise from his former players in San Francisco, most notably All-Pro Cornerback Richard Sherman, who said the Jets “got a good one.” If anyone is going to change the Jets’ culture and turn around their recent failures, it’s Saleh. I give it an A.
The next hire to discuss is David Culley of the Houston Texans. The main knock on this hire is that it’s not going to keep franchise Quarterback Deshaun Watson in Houston. Watson was seen advocating for the Chiefs’ Offensive Coordinator Eric Bienimy to get the job, but when Houston didn’t even give him an interview, Watson was fed up and subsequently demanded a trade. He was told he’d be involved in the head coach search, but the fact that the Texans’ organization wouldn’t even give his top choice an interview showed he really had no say. But Houston had a chance to fix this; after Watson demanded a trade, they could have hired Eric Bieninmy to keep Watson content. Instead, they hired David Culley, a qualified and accomplished coach, but not one of the coaches Deshaun Watson had any interest in. It may seem like too much to give your quarterback a big say in the head coaching position, but Deshaun Watson is a proven superstar and the Texans needed to do whatever it took to keep him around. I’m afraid the David Culley hire has only increased his desire to leave Houston, thus making this an awful hire. I give it a D.
The last hire to examine is Nick Sirianni, the new head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. I’ll start by saying that I think firing Doug Pederson was a huge mistake. In five seasons with the Eagles, Pederson led them to three playoff appearances and their first-ever Super Bowl. There’s no doubt the Eagles struggled last season and that their play-calling was partially to blame, but giving up on Doug Pederson like that is extremely disappointing, especially after the city became so fond of him. With that being said, given the position the Eagles were in, the hire of Nick Sirriani was solid. Sirriani worked under Colts’ coach Frank Reich, who was the Eagles Offensive Coordinator during their Super Bowl season. Reich was largely credited for the offense’s success that season and it was clear the Eagles missed him when he left. Their offense went from ranking first to being average ever since he left, and I get why the Eagles hired someone who worked under him. Reich has had nothing but praise for Offensive Coordinator Nick Sirianni, and he was clearly successful as the Colts had a top offense last year. So although I’m upset Doug Pederson will no longer be coaching the Eagles, I’m excited to see Sirriani lead them to their next chapter. I give it a B-.
Needless to say, next season will certainly be interesting. Every year there’s a breakout team that stuns everyone -- and it stems from these moves in the off-season that are overlooked. Let’s hope it’s the Eagles again!