The 2022 coaching carousel has finally finished spinning. It was possibly the most ridiculous one we’ve ever seen. It certainly will be the most expensive once the lawyer’s fees have been paid. Nine teams hired a new head coach this year, the Eagles will play six of them seven times. Let’s review the hires and what they say about the franchise that gave them the job. If any of them last more than four years they’ll have been relatively incredibly successful. Of the seven coaches hired four years ago, five have been fired.
Teams the Eagles don’t play
Who did they hire: Nathaniel Hackett, Packers offensive coordinator
His claim to fame: Coached Aaron Rodgers.
Nathaniel Hackett, the son of former USC head coach Paul Hackett, is the 4th Aaron Rodgers coach to get a head coaching job after Joe Philbin, Ben McAdoo, and Mike McCarthy. Maybe don’t hire these guys? Rodgers’ combination of smarts, arm, and mobility means he can make up for a massive amount of mistakes a coach makes. But Rodgers isn’t coming with the coach to patch over his flaws.
Except maybe this time he is? If Aaron Rodgers is a Denver Bronco, then great hire. If not, well congratulations to the Broncos on hiring this year’s winner of the Arthur Smith No Way Is That Guy That Young Award.
42 my ass.
Green Bay was Hackett’s third stop as an offensive coordinator, having previously held the role for the Bills in 2013 and 2014, and Jaguars from 2016-2018. In Buffalo the Bills offense was 25th and 26th in DVOA, in Jacksonville the Jaguars were 27th, 15th, and 30th. In both stops he worked under Doug Marrone. So the Broncos have hired Doug Marrone Lite.
Who did they hire: Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
His claim to fame: Being the Colts head coach for about seven hours in 2018.
There’s maybe three teams I would have guessed would actually hire Josh McDaniels. The Raiders would absolutely be one of them. A year ago it was almost the Eagles, so glass houses and all that.
I don’t know how one would accurately assess it, but Mark Davis has to be one of the three or four dumbest owners in the NFL. For starters, the only reason he owns the team is because his dad did. Say what you want about owners like Shad Khan or David Tepper or Stephen Ross, but they had some level of competence to be able to be successful businessmen. I am not saying that rich people are smart, they quite clearly aren’t, but they do possess the ability to complete simple tasks. I can not think of one thing I would be confident Mark Davis can do on his own with no supervision, and I challenge you to come up with one.
In Davis’ latest stroke of genius he hired a Belichick assistant as both the head coach and GM, as McDaniels joins Dave Ziegler, who worked his way up the Patriots front office since 2013. Replicating the Matt Patricia era in Detroit is not something a franchise should aspire to. At least the Lions hired a first time coach, Davis has hired the coach who ran Jay Cutler out of town for Matt Cassel but instead wound up with Kyle Orton, and then he drafted Tim Tebow in his first head coaching job, and left his second head coaching job on day one.
Who did they hire: Mike McDaniel, 49ers offensive coordinator
His claim to fame: He’s the latest member of the Kyle Shahanan/Sean McVay boy band, the NFL’s version of Menudo. Wow, a really topical joke you have there with a Menudo reference you may be saying to yourself. Well guess what, Menudo were on tour in December.
The Dolphins started the firestorm that was the 2022 head coach hiring cycle by firing Brian Flores to winning too much then inadvertently dropped jet fuel on it by hiring McDaniel.
McDaniel is biracial but since he looks like a white guy we get insulting phrases like Adam Schefter saying he “identifies as multiracial”. No Adam, he is multiracial. This isn’t a Rachel Dolezal situation.
This hire is and will be overly scrutinized, which isn’t fair to McDaniel. But it does speak to how broken the NFL’s process for finding head coaches is. This is the third head coach hired by Dolphins GM Chris Grier. All three have been part of a circle that other coaches have been hired from. First was Adam Gase, who was one part hot coordinator and one part Assistant Coaches Who Worked With Peyton Manning, the latter includes Jim Caldwell, Mike McCoy, Frank Reich, and Ron Turner. That’s not a horrible list of coaches, but it is its own feedback loop. Next he hired Brian Flores from the never ending line of Bill Belichick assistants. And now he’s on to McDaniel, the latest installment of Shanahan/McVay assistants. Eventually the 2013 Washington coaching staff will run out of first time head coaches.
This ties back to a core point of Brian Flores’ lawsuit, though it wasn’t the exact point Flores is making. When NFL teams hire head coaches, they tend to hire from the same circles as everyone else. And when those coaches leave to take the promotion they tend to be replaced by coaches from the same circle. The Dolphins went the hot coordinator/QB guru route with Adam Gase (who was replaced in Chicago by Dowell Loggains, who Gase later hired in both Miami and New York). That didn’t work. They then went to the Belichick tree to hire Flores (who was replaced in New England by former Patriot linebacker Jerod Mayo), after three seasons they started over again. Now they have hired from the same McVay/Shanahan tree that teams keep tripping over themselves to hire from.
If your team isn’t getting results and you’re doing what everyone else does, you should try something different.
Teams the Eagles play
Who did they hire: Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
His claim to fame: He’s white.
This hire is mired in controversy after Brian Flores alleged that the Giants had already made up their mind that they were hiring Daboll before interviewing Flores.
For a moment, let’s assume the Giants version of events that they gave Brian Flores an honest interview and he was seriously considered, perhaps even the runner up. If that is the case then the Giants fired a former Bill Belichick assistant to hire a former Bill Belichick assistant and they had another former Bill Belichick assistant as a plan B. The best case scenario for the Giants is that they’re just really stupid. There are and will be lawyers, and “my client is stupid” might be enough in this particular case.
As for the merits of Daboll, this has all the hallmarks of the “hot coordinator” who rode a QB to a job he will be fired from in a few years while the QB doesn’t miss a beat without him.
Because the Bills were his fourth gig as an offensive coordinator and none of the previous jobs were any good. He was OC for the Browns in 2009 and 2010, the Dolphins in 2011, and the Chiefs in 2012. He was also Alabama’s OC in 2017 as part of Bill Belichick and Nick Saban’s unofficial coach exchange program. Daboll’s Browns offenses were 24th and 21st in DVOA, 20th with the Dolphins, and 31st with the Chiefs. But those were a decade ago. What’s happened since then? A few warning signs.
At Alabama he left after one year in part because he was frustrated with Nick Saban over who to play at QB. Daboll wanted to bench Jalen Hurts and start Tua Tagovailoa, but Saban didn’t want to. Daboll was proven right when benching Hurts during the National Championship game won the title for the Tide and Tagovailoa won the starting job the next season when Daboll wasn’t there. But it’s not the greatest sign that some low temperature tensions with the best to ever do it was a factor in leaving. Saban has a history of quickly and quietly moving on from assistants he doesn’t feel are getting the job done and getting it packaged as a promotion, and Daboll’s departure after one season was not seen as a surprise. Additionally, Brian Flores’ lawsuit alleged that Daboll might have been willing to make a lateral move because he “isn’t happy with Sean [McDermott].” After their loss to the Patriots McDermott threw Daboll under the bus a little.
Maybe these don’t mean anything. Or maybe they’re signs that Brian Daboll can’t handle criticism. But he sure can dish it out, because though the Brian Daboll era is still in its infancy, it has already produced a hit.
That is top shelf head coach bullshit right there.
Who did they hire: Kevin O’Connell, Rams offensive coordinator
His claim to fame: Is 36 and works for Sean McVay.
For a guy who scored 3 points in the biggest game of his life, Sean McVay has a pretty big coaching tree. O’Connell joins Brandon Staley, Matt LaFleur, and Zac Taylor as NFL head coaches who worked for McVay. That’s more coaches than points scored if you’re counting at home.
In order for the Vikings to move forward as a franchise they have to move on from Kirk Cousins. But they can’t bring themselves to do it. Kevin O’Connell was Cousins’ QB coach in 2017 with Washington, and he is reportedly “very high” on Cousins. The Vikings are $16 million over the cap and Cousins has one year left on his contract for a $45 million cap hit. It would be easy to give Cousins a contract extension that dramatically reduces his 2022 cap charge, and the Vikings will take that route because it’s easy. But easy and success do not go hand in hand.
After scoring on the opening possession of the 2017 NFC Championship Game, the Vikings gave up 38 unanswered points and then gave Kirk Cousins $150 million to throw two touchdowns in the playoffs. Case Keenum threw as many for significantly less money. Kevin, there’s still time to pull a Josh McDaniels.
Who did they hire: Lovie Smith
His claim to fame: He was already on staff when the league told the Texans they couldn’t hire Josh McCown.
Lovie Smith seems like a nice guy. He’s had a respectable coaching career, including reaching the Super Bowl as a head coach and assistant. He’s won as many playoff games as Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott, and more than Mike Zimmer and Jim Caldwell.
But there is only one reason he is the head coach of the Houston Texans: they couldn’t hire Josh McCown. The Texans interviewed McCown a year ago, when he was still on the roster as a player, before eventually hiring David Culley, a then 65 year old career position coach. They then interviewed McCown again this year where he was a finalist for the job. What did McCown do during the 2021 season to boost his resume?
Absolutely nothing. McCown has helped coach a high school team since 2019, a role he continued last year. Not be the head coach, but help the head coach. That’s the entirety of his coaching career. Turns out it was pretty smart to not take a real coaching job and risk failure since not working didn’t hurt his chances of getting hired.
We all know how this will play out, Smith will be fired in a year or two. Maybe by then Josh McCown will have risked his career by doing something as taxing as spending a season as a D-III position coach.
Who did they hire: Matt Eberflus, Colts defensive coordinator
His claim to fame: He worked for Frank Reich even though he was hired by Josh McDaniels.
There is a line of thinking that hiring a defensive coach is a bad idea due to the league being so QB centric. If the team is successful, the offensive coordinator will get hired and then the team is screwed. But this doesn’t really happen. If your QB needs a specific person calling plays to function, you need a new QB. The only team to get burned like this in recent memory was the Falcons after Kyle Shanahan left Dan Quinn to his own devices, and while the offense took a step back, it didn’t implode as soon as Shanahan left. Matt Ryan had his second best season, at least statistically, two years after Shanahan.
The other hesitation is that defensive coaches are somehow inferior to offensive coaches. But that’s also not true. From 2010-2019 every Super Bowl had at least one head coach that did not come up the ranks on the offensive side of the ball. Of course many of those were because Bill Belichick was coaching in them, but take him out of the equation and 6 of the 14 coaches to coach in the Super Bowl during that time frame weren’t offensive coaches. Defensive coaches have a reputation of being needlessly conservative, but high profile offensive coaches like Sean McVay and Sean Payton are among the most wasteful coaches. You can succeed in the NFL with a defensive coach. Play calling is not the most important qualification for being a good head coach, leadership is.
This is a roundabout way of me saying I don’t have anything against the Eberflus hiring. When he was a position coach with the Cowboys he was considered a smart up and comer, and he continued to impress with the Colts. And he’s going into a pretty good situation for a bad team: he either has his franchise QB in Justin Fields, or if not neither he nor his GM drafted Fields so moving on shouldn’t be difficult.
So this seems like a solid hire. Which is exactly why it won’t work out. Whatever seems like a good hire at the time not only rarely is, they usually turn out to be a pretty bad one.
Who did they hire: Dennis Allen, Saints defensive coordinator
His claim to fame: 2nd worst winning percentage is Raiders history.
Dennis Allen was Raiders head coach from 2012 until he was fired during the 2014 season. He won 8 games. In the two seasons prior to Allen the Raiders 8 games in each season, in the two after they went 7-9 and 12-4. It’s not like he was in a hopeless situation.
Allen did a fine job with the Saints defense, but in a league full of hiring people because you know them, this promotion fits right in. Allen was an assistant with the Saints from 2006-2010 and then Sean Payton brought him back for 2015 after he was fired from the Raiders.
The Saints were in a bind but they screwed this up. Sean Payton stepped down so late in the game that the first hires were announced two days later. The Saints were so far behind the rest of the league in the 2022 coaching hire cycle that they should have instead treated it like being ahead of everyone in the 2023 coaching cycle. New Orleans is a staggering $76 million over the cap for 2022. Their best QB is Jameis Winston, who won’t have Sean Payton calling plays for him and his contract voids this offseason anyway. The Saints are going to be terrible this year because they have to be. So why not hire a guy who checks the leadership boxes but might be a little light on experience? A guy like DeMeco Ryans or Byron Leftwich, just to name two. The Eagles took a similar approach when they hired Nick Sirianni, and so far that’s worked out well.
Instead they hired a middle aged white guy they already had on staff. At least they saved some time with paperwork.
Who did they hire: Doug Pederson
His claim to fame: He won the Super Bowl, you may have seen it.
I’m not going to slag Doug Pederson. Can’t do it, won’t do it. But I can slag the Jaguars, because they are going to fail Doug. Since Shahid Khan bought the Jaguars in 2012, Jacksonville has been the NFL’s poverty franchise, a team that exists so that other teams have someone to play.
In 10 years of Khan’s ownership, the Jaguars have had only one season with a winning record, which was also their only season without double digit losses. They can’t even do a single season of 7-9/8-8/9-7 mediocrity. If Doug Pederson wins seven games he should get Coach of the Year consideration. This franchise hung on to Blake Bortles for longer than the Rams held onto Sam Bradford and the Jets held onto Mark Sanchez.
The Jaguars are so poorly run that even in making the completely defensible move of hiring a Super Bowl winner they managed to screw up. Byron Leftwich was considered the favorite until he apparently and rightfully demanded that Trent Baalke not be in charge. Kudos to Leftwich for standing his ground. So then they turned to Pederson. But hey, this is the second time Doug Pederson was plan B. It worked out for him before.