NFL 2021 Head Coaching Grades
To start the 2021 NFL offseason, we had the Texans, Falcons, Lions, Chargers, Jaguars, Jets, and Eagles all let go of their head coaches. It’s always an exciting time of the year seeing what coaches, coordinators, and assistants shuffle around, and this year we have a lot of good candidates. Today, I will be grading the head coaching hires from my own knowledge and opinion. Now, don’t take any of the grades to heart. I’m only grading off of what I know which I believe is a decent amount. But that’s enough talking. Let’s get into my grades starting off with my favorite team. The Falcons.
Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Smith, B+
I might be very biased here, but I think this was a fantastic hire for our franchise. After another disappointing season, finishing 4-12, the Falcons finally decided to do what they should have done 2 years; fire Dan Quinn. I personally think the players lost faith in Quinn after the dreadful Super Bowl. He never did what he was originally brought here to do and that was to fix the defense. We have always had a good offense, but as of recently, it has fallen off. I think it was a bad coaching staff on the offensive side.
I think Arthur Smith can bring some life to this offense with his creative play calls and his own scheme. You see the narrative with him to some people is “oh he just handed the ball off to Derrick Henry 20+ times” , but in reality, that whole offense improved. Look at Ryan Tannehill’s production since he started: AJ Brown and Corey Davis have also improved each year. I dream about what he can do with a fully healthy Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and the 4th overall pick in this years draft. The future is bright with our new hire, and I’m excited to see what happens.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Urban Meyer, B-
After making the AFC championship in his first season, it looked like Doug Marrone would have a very bright future. However. The Jaguars decided to fire him after the magic of that season could not be recaptured. Now with the first pick in the NFL draft (Trevor Lawrence), the Jaguars decided to bring in a former college football coach legend Urban Meyer. Now let me explain the reasoning for not grading this higher.
I think that Urban Meyer was a amazing coach in college; going 187-32 throughout 4 different universities. That doesn’t even include his 3 national championships. This proves that he is a winner, but with that being said, there has been a bad track record of college coaches making a leap from college to the NFL. One example would be Nick Saban. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Meyer will do bad, but the reputation is there. I personally think that Meyer is a good team builder and recruiter, but its very different building a roster in the NFL. I could be completely wrong because the roster, the money, and draft capital is there, but it will be a very interesting next few years in Jasonville.
New York Jets: Robert Saleh, A
I think that we can all agree that former head coach, Adam Gase, should never be a head coach in the NFL again. After his failed attempts with Miami and the Jets, Gase was let go at the end of the season by the Jets. This was a move we all have expected for months. To replace Gase the Jets zeroed in on one of the hottest head coaching candidates in football, Robert Saleh. Saleh has done a phenomenal job being the defensive coordinators for the 49ers during his 3 years there, and now he moves into the ranks of being a head coach.
In 2019, Saleh helped lead the 49ers to one of the top defenses in the league while also helping the team reach the Super Bowl. Following that season, Saleh was getting some buzz around the league as a potential head coaching candidate but never got offered any jobs. Seeing what he did this year with a injury riddled 49ers defense, he came out as one of the best hires for the 2021 season. Saleh is a very firey guy. He loves to get his players hyped on the sidelines, and his players love him for that. He also has brought over a great staff to the Jets and will get every ounce of potential he can get out of his players. This was a great move for the Jets to bring in Saleh as they look foward to a brighter future.
Detroit Lions: Dan Campbell, B
The search was on for the Lions after the firing of coach Matt Patricia. He was yet another failed coach coming from Bill Belicheck. The Lions searched long and hard interviewing Arthur Smith, Robert Saleh, Marvin Lewis, Eric Bieniemy, and Darrell Bevell . They decided to go with the more surprising hire in Dan Campbell. Campbell, who was the Saints assistant head coach/tight end coach, never really had the chance to be a play caller in any of his previous jobs, but was the interim head coach for Dolphins back in 2015 going 5-7.
Campbell did a solid job back in 2015 when he took over a poor Dolphins team. He showed he knows how to operate a football team. Not only has he had that experience, but he has been able to learn from one of the best coaches in football, Sean Payton. Campbell is very fiery. You can tell by this quote from his introduction interview:
“Here’s what I do know. This team is going to take on the identity of this city and this city has been down and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity, right? So this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. All right? And we’re going to stand up and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you.”
“Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. That’s going to be the mentality.”
With all that being said, I think the Lions hired a coach that will have the complete respect of each and every one of his players. He is someone whose players will go out and fight for every inch on the field. This is not the flashiest hire by any means, but I believe this will work out for the Lions.
Los Angeles Chargers: Brandon Staley, C+
Of all the teams on the list, the Chargers had the best situation for a coach to come in and win now. The Chargers struggled to start the year even when rookie phenome Justine Herbert came in to start. As the season continued, they improved to finish 7-9. Some people around the league thought that was good enough to save former coach Anthony Lynn’s job. It obviously was not enough, and he was let go at the end of the season. Now incomes former Rams defensive coordinator, Brandan Staley, to see what he can do with this promising roster.
This passed season, Staley took over for former DC Wade Phillips and did a fantastic job. He lead the Rams to the number 1 defense in terms of total yards allowed and in terms of PPG. To me, that’s not enough to warrant a head coaching job. Just 5 years ago, he was coaching division 3 football. This was also just his first year being a defensive coordinator. I think the talent on their defense really helped, and I can see this being another doomed hire for the Chargers. Brian Daboll should have been hired as there coach.
Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Sirianni, B+
After joining the head coaching search a little later than most teams, the Eagles have found their man in former offensive coordinator for the Colts, Nick Sirianni. This comes after a some what surprising firing of their former head coach, Doug Pederson. Not to long ago, he brought this team there first ever championship. Sirianni has been the OC for the Colts ever since the Frank Reich joined the team.
Sirianni was a surprise candidate for the Eagles as most around the league thought they were heading down the road of hiring Josh McDaniels. I like this hire much more then McDaniels. Sirianni brings with him a very similar scheme that Carson Wentz and the Eagles thrived off of when Frank Reich was there. He could possibly rekindle that same magic. Sirianni has also been getting a lot of praise from former players on how much of a players coach he is. This is good considering Doug had left Philly players with a sour taste in their mouth. With all that being said, I think this was a good find for the Eagles.
Houston Texans: Dave Cully, D+
The time has finally come, The Texans actually hired a new head coach. This choice for coach was very interesting. After the failure of the Bill O’Brien experiment, the Texans decided to go with former Baltimore Raven assistant head coach, Dave Cully. To me, this is the wrong move. The Texans already had problems with their star quarterback wanting a trade because he didn’t feel his input was listened too. This hire just doesn’t sit right.
Cully hasn’t had much success in his previous position in the NFL. Through the years 2019-2020, Cully was the passing game coordinator for the Ravens which lead to a pedestrian passing game. Before that, he was the QB coach Josh Allen’s rookie year and, we know that year was not that impressive. With that on his resume, I don’t understand how the Texans thought this was the guy for them when there where much more promising candidates. If I where Deshaun Watson, I would want out of Houston as fast as possible because I don’t see this franchise making much improvement anytime soon.