Houston Texans – Bill O’Brien (from NE by way of Penn State)
O’Brien was practically a done deal before the season was over. It makes me curious about why it took so long for them to actually hire him. Penn State’s season was over, so it could only be the contract negotiations. That means either a) Houston GM Rick Smith was playing hardball with salary negotiations, b) Bill O’Brien was holding out for more money or most likely (as I will explain), c) O’Brien was trying to get as much power over personnel as possible. I consider this the most likely scenario because of O’Brien’s history with Bill Belicheck. More on that later. The big problem I see with this hire is the track record of previous Bill Belicheck disciples. They have all been uniformly rotten. This has at least something to do with their assuming the Belicheck “My way or the highway” attitude in their new gigs. This has been shown to be a bad thing. Repeatedly. The fact that O’Brien went to be a college HC for a couple of years does absolutely nothing to lessen this effect. College coaches rule their players with an iron fist just as much as Belicheck – a stance that does not work with professional players (reference Greg Schiano, Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban. See future status of Jim Harbaugh.)
So whereas O’Brien is obviously a talented coach, I see this ultimately failing. If Houston fans are lucky, it will happen quickly and the owner Bob McNair can clean house with Rick Smith leaving as well. Grade: C-
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lovie Smith (former Head Coach Chicago Bears)
Lovie Smith may have benefited from having a year off from after being fired from Chicago after 2012 season. However, I’m already seeing the same characteristics that doomed him in Chicago (where he had 3 different OC’s in the last 4 years). He brought in [back-up QB] and immediately named him the starter over solid rookie starter Mike Glennon. His hiring of Jeff Tedford as his OC is also highly questionable. Since then, TB has made several key free-agent signings and had a solid draft during which Lovie backtracked and called Glennon his starting QB. Hmm. Let’s hope he doesn’t try to get him killed like he did with Jay Cutler. Bringing in Leslie Frazier as his DC will be helpful, but until he figures out how to hire an Offensive Coordinator, I see him struggling.
Lovie is a solid if unspectacular coach. I expect that he will bring the Bucs back into the NFC South division competition, where they will be up and down just like the Bears were under his tenure. Grade: B-
Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer (DC at Cincinnati)
Mike Zimmer is one of those coaches who everyone says would make a great head coach, but never gets the chance. Well, he now has the chance with the directionless Minnesota Vikings and I expect him to straighten out this team immediately. He has already brought in Norv Turner (arguably the best OC of the past 20 years). He is also making strides to revamp the defense which was what let them down in so many games last year. Grade: A
Washington Redskins – Jay Gruden (OC at Cincinnati)
I could just say that no coach no matter how good (even Joe Gibbs) can overcome the effects of a truly bad owner and just leave it at that, but I won’t. Because, this is just about the most perfectly bad hire that Snyder could make.
Jay Gruden is most famous for being the brother of Super-Bowl winning Head Coach John Gruden. How much similarity there is beyond that is debatable. Cincinnati has had an up and down performance since, well, forever. But especially since Mike Brown inherited the team from his father. He has been notorious for penny pinching, refusing to pay the going rate for star players; even opting out of the league’s scouting service for college players back when every other team was a part of it. It was so bad that when he hired Marvin Lewis (who had been the top HC candidate for the past two years), Lewis would not even apply for the position. He would rather risk becoming a “too frequently passed over” Head Coach prospect than would for the Bengals. Mike Brown had to personally call Lewis and agree to his change his behavior before he would consider the position. It has been a learning process for the two of them and they have to be given credit for trying to do different things and staying at it. Although not having a former coach taking up dead money probably has a lot to do with it, the Bengals’ recent success gives credence to the notion of stability in the coaching situation.
Now as far as Jay Gruden, he has been the OC at Cincinnati for the past 3 years, since they drafted Andy Dalton in the second round and traded away their long-time starter Carson Palmer (it was time for a new contract). Dalton came in and was immediately effective throwing to fellow rookie WR AJ Green. Every year since then, they have added star players to the offense, yet each year has brought no better results. There is no indication that Gruden has the knowledge/aptitude/ temperament to be a successful NFL Head Coach. This hire follows the Daniel Snyder’s pattern of signing based on people’s name rather than their production.
Grade: F for Jay Gruden being stupid or desperate enough to take this job. Team: Unrateable, as always.
Tennessee Titans – Ken Wisenhunt (former HC Arizona Cardinals, OC of Pittsburgh for SB XL, OC in SD in 2013)
Ken Wisenhunt was the Offensive Coordinator at Pittsburgh during Bill Cowher’s only Super Bowl with a rookie QB Ben Rothlisberger. He left after being passed over for the Head Coaching position in favor of Mike Tomlin, but was immediately snatched up by the Arizona Cardinals as their HC. With Curt Warner as his QB, the Cardinals made the only Super Bowl appearance in their history. However, he was not able to “coach-up” any of the other string of QB’s that paraded through Sun Devil stadium. So, he was fired after the 2012 season. As the OC for the San Diego Chargers last year, he made a complete turn-around in Phillip Rivers play.
Everybody had Wisenhunt going to Detroit as their HC to help coach erratic wunderkind Matthew Stafford. I’m not privy to the backroom dealings that occurred, but something is very suspicious that a OC that has excelled with star QB’s, but not with others would pass up an opportunity to coach a fine young talent to go to a team that has struggled to get a durable starting QB.
Jake Locker has shown that he is NFL caliber when healthy, but hasn’t been healthy enough of the time. This makes it even more important to have a capable back-up
Detroit Lions – Jim Caldwell (OC for Baltimore in 2013, former HC at Indianapolis under (sic) Peyton Manning and QB Coach (?) under Tony Dungy.)
It says a lot about this franchise that they are one of only 3 teams to never it make it to a SuperBowl and by far the oldest. It would seem that the possibility of coaching a team that includes Matthew Stafford, Megatron, Reggie Bush, Ndakamon Suh, is something that any potential NFL Head Coach would jump at. Obviously, there’s more to it. When Wisenhunt went to Tennesse instead – a move that puts him right back into the same situation that got him fired from ARZ – you gotta know that there’s major problems in MoTown. This is probably even more so due to the recent death of John Ford. Jim Caldwell’s last 2 stops were in Indy where he had Peyton Manning as his on-field OC and Baltimore where he took a Ravens offense that worked to perfection during the play-offs and made it into one of the worst offenses in the league. Additionally, whether Jim Caldwell has anything near the temperament to toughen up this Lions team we’ll have to see, but color me skeptical.
The big winner in this one is the Baltimore Ravens who get rid of Caldwell and are able to get Gary Kubiak to come in as their OC. Grade: D+
Cleveland Browns – Mike Pettine, (DC in Buffalo)
After running a coaching search that made them the laughing stock of the league, new owner Jimmy Hazlet fired his entire front office and started over. The new ownership was supposed to bring a higher level of competency to this organization. Instead, they have shown more incompetency than even the Oakland Raiders after Al Davis went senile. This is not surprising seeing as the front office was comprised of guys that have failed repeatedly in multiple organizations. After firing Rob Chudzinski (both a questionable fire and even a questionable hire in the first place), they refused to name a new head coach until they were able to interview all the potential coaches. Since several of those coaches went to the Super Bowl, this meant that they left their early interviewees hanging. That is, until, the interviewees one by one declined to pursue the position. In the end they were again left with going after a lower tier prospect in the Buffalo Bills DC, Pettine. Thankfully for the Cleveland fan base, the owner then promoted the newly hired pro personnel man Ray Farmer to GM and fired all the other front office stooges. Put this one down as a learning experience for Haslett and lets see if he’ll get a clue from this. As a Baltimore fan, I’m hopeful that the Browns don’t get their act together, as we have enough concerns with Pittsburgh and a re-invigorated Bengals squad…. Grade: C+