As a true football fan knows, the season is never over. The offseason is full of roster moves, evaluations, and coaching axes and hires. With the new head coaches in place for the 2018 season, there’s plenty to speculate about as we hit the offseason.
Who’s the best fit for his new team? Is it Chicago’s Matt Nagy, who is paired with young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky? Is it Frank Reich, who brings a red-hot offense to Indianapolis? Who’s the worst fit? Jon Gruden, who was paid handsomely for doing absolutely nothing to this point? Mike Vrabel, who isn’t the offensive guy we’d expected?
Our Fangirlish writers Alyssa, Lizzie, and Charles are breaking down all of the new head coaching hires, discussing the best and worst fits, and talking about the mess that was Josh McDaniels pulling out of Indianapolis.
Were you surprised that there weren’t more head coaches fired? Who did you think would be on the chopping block that survived to live another year?
Alyssa: The two names that immediately comes to mind are Marvin Lewis with Cincinnati and Hue Jackson with Cleveland. Two coaches that not only should’ve been fired but were expected to be. You could say it was shock that both clubs chose to retain them. While Lewis has led his team to seven playoff appearances, he has yet to win a playoff game in that span. Given how much this Bengals team fell off this season, it felt like it was a foregone conclusion that Lewis would be out. But the Bengals delivered one of the first shocks of the coaching carousel in choosing to retain him — in fact, they signed him to a two-year extension. Jackson, next to John Fox, was the other head coach expected to be fired. In two seasons, Jackson has a 1-31 record. That’s right, one win. Not to mention how he butchered the development of rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, which adds another failed quarterback for the Browns. As for some of the other names: I wasn’t surprised that the Broncos retained Vance Joseph because a head coach gets more than a season to define him, typically three. Same goes for the Bucs’ Dirk Koetter.
Lizzie: Yes, I was. Sometimes it’s a massacre and this wasn’t exactly the type of year where a lot of teams were playing good, smart football, so I expected more heads to be on the block. I 100% agree with Alyssa that I’m not entirely sure how Hue Jackson still has a job. I think in Cincinnati there’s more of a, well – he’s done this before feel, and that’s why Lewis is staying, but Cleveland? Who knows. Maybe they don’t even know. But that’s Cleveland for you.Charles: Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati by far. Hue Jackson was in a no win situation and let’s face it : No one can win with that team of losers. Now the Bengals are such a underwhelming disappointment all the freaking time. A team with a star QB, star WR and a pretty decent defense should not fail to make the playoffs constantly. Yes, injuries happen but good coaches overcome them. The Bengals never seem too and that reason starts with the coach.
Of the new coaching hires, who do you believe is the best fit for their new team?
Alyssa: I don’t care if this shows my bias, but I honestly believe Matt Nagy is a really good fit for the Chicago Bears. In the franchise’s history, they’ve only ever had one offensive minded head coach: Marc Trestman, a name that still sends me spiraling into a rage of obscenities. Also in the franchise’s history, they’ve had one true franchise quarterback in Sid Luckman in the ‘40s. The Bears haven’t been known for their offensive prowess. But there’s something refreshing about Nagy and his Andy Reid coaching roots that gives me hope that this might be the guy to get the Bears out of the recent funk that has made one of the NFL’s charter franchises a laughing stock. Nagy’s offensive background is exactly what young quarterback Mitch Trubisky needs to grow and take that next step in his second year, complete with a quarterback incubator in head coach, offensive coordinator (Mark Helfrich), and quarterbacks coach (Dave Ragone) Reid called Nagy the best coaching candidate he’s ever had, which is high praise from one of the league’s best. While Nagy certainly has the offensive mind, he’s someone that commands respect and displays leadership, which is important when you’re leading an entire team and not just an offense. With Nagy being a young coach at 39, he understood the importance of retaining defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to maintain continuity on defense so he can focus on the offense. And he also has put together an impressive staff that bring something unique to this team. Nagy’s saying all the right things right now. But we’ll soon see if he can walk the walk.
Lizzie: I find that this is sometimes a guessing game so early, but I’ll agree that Nagy looks to be in the right place for him and that could turn out to be the best thing for the team. He’s also already has the QB, unlike Wilks. I’d mention Patricia here, but I’m not sure he’s the right guy to fix what Detroit’s problem actually is – which is that, on offense, everyone always expects them to throw the ball.
Charles: Nagy in Chicago will be a good fit and he’ll help grow Mitch a lot. But I’ll go differently and choose Frank Reich in Indianapolis IF they draft a QB. Andrew Luck is still hurt and who knows if he’ll be back. Reich did a great job with Carson Wentz and I think if Indy drafted a QB and gave them time together, it could lead to some good things for the Colts.
Of the new coaching hires, who do you believe is the worst fit for their new team?
Alyssa: Immediately my mind jumps to Mike Vrabel in Tennessee. The reason that Mike Mularkey was fired was because he was inhibiting Marcus Mariota’s development. Hell, Mularkey would’ve been fired sooner had they not won that Wild Card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. When you make it a point to hire a defensive-minded coach, who wasn’t helping your quarterback grow, and then go and hire another defensive-minded coach, it makes one shake their head in disbelief and pray for young Mariota. Not that a defensive-minded coach is something that’ll immediately inhibit the Titans’ franchise quarterback, but you want someone that’s going to bring in the right guys to get the most out of Mariota and make sure he doesn’t continue to regress like he did from year two to year three. It just seemed like a foregone conclusion that Tennessee would bring in an offensive mind when the future of your quarterback is at stake. But Vrabel’s staff is shaping up nicely. We’ll have to wait and see.
Lizzie: I’m going to say Gruden just because this seems like a choice made more on nostalgia than anything else. The Raiders are the Raiders and they’ve been the Raiders, with that inflexion that says being the Raiders is not necessarily a great thing, for a long time. Maybe Gruden can fix them, but even if he can, expecting miracles is a good way to be disappointed, and I think Raiders fans might be expecting miracles.
Charles: Matt Patricia for the Lions. The guy is a phony in my book. The Patriots defense has been highly overrated the last few years with this dude in charge and I think he’s not coach material. That defense is always Billy Boy’s and the Lions will find out they were sold fool’s gold with this guy.
What are your thoughts on Josh McDaniels bailing on Indianapolis after accepting the job? Is the Colts job that undesirable? Is he waiting to replace Bill Belichick in New England?
Alyssa: My first reaction is hysterical laughter because there’s a Colts media guy out there that’s been saying how desirable that job is when, in fact, everyone is afraid of it. The uncertainty of Andrew Luck’s future is terrifying the living hell out of everyone. But it’s also hilarious because the Colts might’ve just dodged a bullet with Josh McDaniels — at least it only lasted a few hours, you’re lone brightside. I have to believe that a combination of Luck’s uncertainty and the promise of succeeding Belichick in New England have to do with McDaniels pulling out of the Colts job. While it’s hilarious, it’s also a total dick move on McDaniels’ part after he verbally agreed with Indianapolis and was calling guys to come be on his coaching staff that same day that he had pulled out. God, it was just an awkward situation. No one wants to take this Colts job without knowing there’s a guarantee of a healthy Andrew Luck.
Lizzie: Look, clearly the Colts job isn’t as desirable as they wanted to pretend it was, not without knowing Luck is okay, but I just can’t help but laugh at this, and also, as a Denver fan, I think you should truly be thankful, Indy. This is a win – take it. McIdiot is a good OC, not a good HC. And jury’s still out on what he could do as an OC without Tom Brady, so, yeah – not giving him too much credit. Let him stay in New England, where was clearly promised that Belichick is on his way out and he’ll get a crack at the job soon. We’ll all be happy if he and the Patriots suck together.
Charles: McDaniels figured out that without Tom Brady saving his butt, He’d be revealed as the fraud that the Broncos fans know him as. He’s not going to risk a good thing with New England as he’ll have Brady for a few more years at least (oh goodie). That means more love for his “genius” and the opportunity to take over for Bill is too tempting not to play it safe.
What are your thoughts on Jon Gruden to the Raiders? Worth the money? Overhyped? Overpaid? Do you foresee a different result this time around?
Alyssa: Well, the Raiders are certainly banking on Gruden having an immediate and lasting impact on their franchise. Gruden hasn’t coached in 10 years, so that’s certainly a concern. But his history with the Raiders suggests that he might bring some of that luck and flair to the squad. Or he could end up crashing and burning and costing the Raiders $100 million in the process. But to be fair, Gruden appears to be inheriting one of the more talented rosters of the open coaching positions. So there’s no excuse for Gruden with a talented quarterback and talented defense. If Gruden ends up being the guy that takes Derek Carr to the next level and gets this team back to championship glory, then no one will be concerned about the money.
Lizzie: I have my doubts, not necessarily about Gruden, but as I said before, expectations. This team has had a lot of talent over the years, but they need discipline and they need a guy they can believe in. Can Gruden be both? Maybe, but I don’t think it’ll be as easy as some people believe.
Charles: This is so weird to me. Gruden had plenty of chances to come back with probably better teams and this is the time he picks to return? I guess $100 million talks and Gruden walks..right to the bank. Now that said, the Raiders are good, David Carr is good and the AFC West is very winnable. Gruden has it all in his hands now and it’s put up or shut up time. Does he still have it to win and show us all he made the right choice?
What are your thoughts on Matt Nagy to the Bears? Is he the guy to get the most out of Mitch Trubisky? Does Nagy’s inexperience worry you?
Alyssa: The Bears couldn’t have gone in a more opposite direction of John Fox than they did with Matt Nagy. And, as a Bears fan, it’s a really satisfying and hopeful direction. I believe Nagy is a great fit for the Bears, but you also have to keep in mind that his impact shouldn’t be expected to be immediate. The Bears still have a lot of issues that this coaching staff and general manager need to address, including receiver, pass rusher, and cornerback. But there’s an odd sense of hope and optimism with Nagy leading the charge. Obviously the most important factor in this coaching hire was the development of Mitch Trubisky. Ryan Pace and Nagy have both tied themselves to the success of Trubisky. But seeing the offense that Nagy will run (as he calls plays), seeing the coaching staff he’s brought in to help Trubisky make that leap from year 1 to year 2, I can’t help but feel optimistic that it’s going to happen; that Nagy is going to get the most out of Trubisky. And that’s a pretty big deal as I’m an eternal pessimist. But something that might get lost in the Trubisky shuffle is how Nagy was able to retain Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, which is huge for this football team. The Bears defense, even with a plethora of injuries, were a top 10 defense last season. And seeing how far this unit has come — without Pro Bowlers — makes you excited about the future as hopefully Pace will bring in some new toys.
Lizzie: At some point you gotta give inexperience a chance, otherwise we’re just recycling the same coaches over and over again. So, yes, there’s a possibility that there’s a learning curve, not just for Trubisky but for Naggy. So be it. Fox’s experience didn’t exactly pay off in the Bears favor last year, so why not?
Charles: Yes, Matt Nagy is a great choice for the Bears. John Fox was such a awful , timid coach his last year in Chicago. Fresh blood was much needed and it is here in Chicago. Trubisky still needs work and Nagy can help him continue his growth. Will the Bears make the playoffs next year? Probably not but two years from now? Definitely.
What are your thoughts on Pat Shurmur to the Giants? Can Shurmur handle the pressure of the NFL’s biggest market? Will he get the most out of a new young quarterback? And how much longer do you see Eli Manning lasting in New York?
Alyssa: At first glance, Pat Shurmur isn’t someone you’d picture as head coach of the New York Giants. New York is a whole other monster — a mega monster for someone making their way from Minnesota to the Big Apple. But a media circus doesn’t define a head coach. From what we’ve seen from Shurmur as offensive coordinator with Minnesota, you can’t help but feel like he could be the coach to bring with him a culture that stresses respect, discipline, and accountability, which is something that was severely lacking since Ben McAdoo took over for Tom Coughlin. The Giants locker room is a mess. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but I feel like Shurmur can get there. As for Eli Manning, I believe Shurmur can get the most out of him for however many years he has left in New York. But let’s be honest, this upcoming draft is going to be about drafting Eli’s replacement. Whoever the Giants draft, whether it’s Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, Shurmur is the perfect guy to mold that young quarterback. Shurmur is the right combination of bold and smart to not limit or overwhelm a young guy. It’ll be interesting to see how this whole quarterback situation plays out.
Lizzie: I …don’t think so. I see this as a one/two year thing, at most. Maybe he can fix the locker room, and if he does, that’s exactly what the Giants got him for, but can he win, consistently – something the Giants haven’t been able to do in ages? Not unless the Giant’s only problem was the locker room, and if it was, then we need to have a long talk about why they took this long to address the problem.
Charles: I predict another 5-11 year for the Giants as they continue to waste some of the more talented offensive players in the NFL.
What are your thoughts on Steve Wilks to the Cardinals? Is he inheriting a team that’s in rebuilding mode? Where does he turn for quarterback?
Alyssa: I think Steve Wilks is a solid hire and the perfect guy to continue to mold this defense that packs talent. Now, offense is a whole different story. There’s uncertainty on multiple fronts, including quarterback after Carson Palmer’s retirement. Then you have the uncertain future of Larry Fitzgerald, who has been a staple at receiver and leadership for that team. He’s been contemplating retirement for the past couple of seasons, and this might be the year — with Bruce Arians and Palmer gone — that he finally rides off into the sunset. Though you are getting David Johnson back next season, which is a great start for an offense that is shrouded in uncertainty. It does feel like Wilks is inheriting a team in rebuilding mode on the offensive side of the football. Defense you can continue to build. But the offense certainly needs some work, starting with the quarterback. You have to believe that the Cardinals will be one of the teams bidding for Kirk Cousins’ assistance in free agency — or attempting to trade for him should the Redskins decide to place the franchise tag on him. They could also look to the draft, but you’d certainly like a veteran presence rather than throwing a rookie straight into the fire.
Lizzie: I don’t see what you do here other than rebuild. When you’ve got no QB, you just have to accept that it’s time for you to suck for a bit, and then figure out where you can go from here. Do they go after Cousins? Hell yes. Do they get him? I’m not sure they’d be anyone’s first choice.
Charles: I have no clue who this guy is honestly and I wish him all the best. Because he’s got a team that is in full blown rebuilding mode.
The New England Patriots have lost their defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to Detroit. Do you foresee Patricia having success with his new team? And do you expect any turnover in New England?
Alyssa: Well, following Super Bowl LII if you’re a Lions fan, you’re not feeling too good about that. Patricia has been brought in to not only bring a winning culture to Detroit, but also to boost a defense that has been the downfall of this franchise for the past few years. It’s not the offense that the Lions are looking to overhaul, it’s the defense. When you have Matthew Stafford at quarterback, you’re comfortable and content. But the Lions lost a lot of games because their defense game up a ton of points, and that’s an area where they hope Patricia can help develop and grow. I could see Patricia having success with the Lions, but again it’s not an immediate success, at least on the defensive side of the football. It’s going to take bringing in the right players and the right staff to mold that squad. As for New England, had they been losing both Patricia and Josh McDaniels, I’d be more concerned about turnover in overhauling both their offensive and defensive staffs. But as long as you’ve got Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you’re golden.
Lizzie: Look, the Patriots always find a way, and it’s not like they’ve been winning on defense alone, so I’m gonna say this doesn’t really make a different. As for Patricia, I think he can do well in Detroit, he’s got a talented team, but can he be the guy to take them to the next level? I don’t know. Maybe he can fix the defense, but if he doesn’t give the offense some balance, then …they’re not real contenders.
Charles: The Patriots have always been Bill Belichick’s team. If you think that Patricia had any real importance to the defense , watch this upcoming year. If Belichick is back to fully running that defense, they will be better than they were the last few years.
After Josh McDaniels screwed them, Indianapolis hired Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as their new coach. What are your thoughts on the hire? And also the drama and desirability that is the Colts job?
Alyssa: I think it’s a solid hire. Reich is a really good football coach who if paired with Andrew Luck — that is, a healthy Andrew Luck — could be very good. Look at what Reich was able to accomplish with Carson Wentz and Philadelphia. That offensive production — and adapting to Nick Foles when Wentz went down — is simply stunning. But the whole drama with the Colts head coaching job is enough to make me feel uneasy about this whole thing. The Colts’ job wasn’t appealing due to the uncertainty surrounding Luck. Luck, who might require more surgery. Luck, who still hasn’t thrown a football. If Luck isn’t Luck again, things could get ugly for Reich. (Which is probably why Josh McDaniels bailed.)
Lizzie: I agree with Alyssa, solid, not spectacular and trust this Broncos fan, BETTER THAN JOSH MACDANIELS. Way better. Of course, the drama has everything to do with the fact that Andrew Luck isn’t ready, and without him, this team just isn’t a contender.
Charles: Oh boy coaching under Jim Irsay lately has been a adventure to say the least. It all depends I suppose on what Alyssa said : will Andrew Luck be healthy? If he isn’t and they draft a rookie QB, it will be a long 2018 in Indy. I have faith in Reich if that happens but will Irsay is the biggest question.
Of the new head coaches in 2018, who do you think would have the best chance to be Coach of the Year?
Alyssa: While I think there are some really good coaching candidates this year, you have to consider the situations they’re coming into. Some are inheriting squads that aren’t necessarily expected to be playoff contenders in year one. So the coach I think headed into the best situation is Jon Gruden, who is getting a team with a somewhat experienced quarterback and a young defense that could make that leap to the playoffs this season.
Lizzie: No one. Sorry, just not feeling too excited about any of these seven.
Charles: Matt Nagy, especially if the Bears make the playoffs.
Is there a coordinator out there that you think is primed for a head coaching job come 2019?
Alyssa: A couple of names jump to mind: Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. It’s shocking to me that Toub hasn’t gotten a head coaching opportunity yet. He’s someone that’s thrived under Andy Reid and had the best special teams units year in and year out. He’s been around a lot of football, he’s got the leadership, he’s got the respect, and he’s someone with a lot of resources. Maybe next season is the year where Toub finally gets his chance. DeFilippo is someone that might’ve been a year away from being ready, but there’s no doubt what he’s been able to do with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. DeFilippo is someone that a lot of people have spoken highly of, and it wouldn’t surprise me in a year or two if he gets his chance.
Lizzie: DeFilippo for sure, he’ll get a chance sooner rather than later. Other than that, no one truly stands out.
Charles: DeFliippo better be telling his family they’ll be moving in a year from now.