THE race was on this offseason to hire a young, offensive-minded head coach and a handful of candidates were snapped up quickly by some franchises. Eight teams opted to make a change in leadership at the conclusion of the 2018 season and they all acted swiftly to find ‘their guy’. With half of the new coaches under the age of 40, it seemed that anyone who had previously shaken hands with Sean McVay was right for a promotion, with some of the hirings shaping up as better fits than others.
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8. Arizona Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury
THE Arizona Cardinals didn’t waste any time in their coaching search, potentially jumping the gun in their hiring of Kingsbury. No offense to the former Texas Tech lead man, but his hiring was somewhat of a surprise, especially because he hasn’t been even close to an NFL sideline since his training camp stint with the Buffalo Bills in ’06 at the end of his playing days.
KINGSBURY’S 35-40 record in his six years with the Red Raiders is far from inspiring despite possessing talented QB’s you may have heard of before in Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield. There’s no denying that the Cards new head coach has had some success running an offense through the passing attack, NFL defenses are a lot more intimidating as opposed to the likes of Kansas and Lamar. Kingsbury and his sophomore QB Josh Rosen will have their work cut out for them in 2019.
7. Cincinnati Bengals, Zac Taylor
THE most responsibility Zac Taylor has dealt with in his career was serving as the Dolphins interim OC back in 2015, so this is a huge jump up the ranks. Tabbed as an up and coming coach for a few years now, Taylor has served as the Rams quarterback coach in recent times and helped steer Jared Goff to a career-best year in 2018. That being said, there are plenty of NFL assistants out there with more experience on their resumes and at just 35-years old, Taylor has a long way to go.
OFF-SEASON moves for the Bengals will play the biggest factor in determining how Taylor’s first pro season unfolds. With an ageing defense and uncertainty around Andy Dalton at quarterback, making the leap to head coach isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Full credit to Cincinnati for trying something different by firing Marvin Lewis and not handing the reigns to Hue Jackson, but they’ve taken a huge gamble. You have to wonder how much the ‘Sean McVay effect’ fast-tracked Taylor’s hiring…
Image from cincinnati.com
6. New York Jets, Adam Gase
BACK in 2016, Miami hired Gase in an effort to help him turn Tannehill into a franchise QB and spark their offense. Sound familiar? I don’t hate the idea of pairing Sam Darnold with an offensive-orientated coach in Adam Gase, but was he really the best of the bunch? New York was linked to Mike McCarthy before opting to hand Gase the full-time gig and he hasn’t looked like the play calling guru we once saw on display in Denver.
THE former Dolphins coach still seems to be riding the wave of his two-year success with Peyton Manning executing his system and at some point, Gase needs to prove he is capable of recreating an above average offense. In Gase’s defense having Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler and Brock Osweiler run your team isn’t the best recipe for success. With a bunch of cap space and young talent, this is far from a trainwreck and Gase could prove me wrong, but we have seen this play out once before already.
5. Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur
MATT LaFleur was the first coach hired back in early January, with the former Titans coordinator a unique choice as Mike McCarthy’s replacement. Don’t get me wrong, the Packers were wise to move on from the former Super Bowl winning leader, but LaFleur’s hire was puzzling, to say the least. He didn’t have a ton of weapons at his disposal, but LaFleur’s Titans were just the 25th ranked offense last season, so he seemed an unlikely sort to pair with Aaron Rodgers in the final years of his NFL tenure.
HOWEVER, LaFluer is no spring chicken, with nine previous coaching gigs dating back to 2003 in both college and NFL systems. He previously worked with the Falcons as the quarterback’s coach during Matt Ryan’s MVP season in 2016 and managed a stint with McVay and the Rams before joining Tennessee for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, given Rodgers’ age, LaFleur will be on a relatively short leash to start his career, but he should hold his own.
4. Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores
FRESH off a Super Bowl W, Brian Flores became the second consecutive de-facto defensive coordinator from the Patriots to earn a head coaching job. Much like Matt Patricia before him, Flores started with New England in 2004 and won multiple championships alongside Bill Belichick. Despite spending 15 years with the Pats, Flores has only one season of calling plays under his belt and his talents will be put to the test right away.
FROM day one Flores shapes as a good leader for a Dolphins franchise that needs a steadying force in their locker room. He certainly played his role for the Super Bowl winning Patriots and while Miami needs to express patience, Flores has a chance to be successful with the Dolphins. Not too many of Belichick’s disciples have gone on to achieve greatness and piecing the right assistants around Flores will go a long way into determining how far Miami can go with him at the helm.
3. Denver Broncos, Vic Fangio
WHILE the quarterback rotation seems to be the talking point for the Broncos, their new head coach could help turn the other side of the ball into a ferocious unit once again. We saw how Fangio fueled the Chicago Bears too great heights, with a handful of his assistants following him to Denver to help nurture their promising D. With key pillars Von Miller and Bradley Chubb leading the way, Fangio has landed in a fairly promising situation.
THE other side of the ball is where the question marks remain and a revolving door of QB’s doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. With Case Keenum a far stretch away from a franchise guy, Vangio will need to find the right supporting staff to potentially develop a young draftee, although they are far from lost with encouraging rookie Philip Lindsay, Emmanual Sanders and Courtland Sutton on the roster. After 30+ seasons in the NFL though, Fangio’s experience should put him in good stead from day dot.
2. Cleveland Browns, Freddie Kitchens
WE’VE already been treated to half a season of the Freddie Kitchens-Baker Mayfield show and the returns were quite promising. The Browns finished the season with a 5-2 record after Hue Jackson’s mid-year firing and Mayfield went on to average over 280 passing yards per contest throwing 19 TD’s with just eight interceptions. Cleveland opted not to employ the interim coach in Greg Williams, instead handing the full-time job to Kitchens after serving half a season as the offensive coordinator.
PRIOR to his job in Cleveland, the former Alabama quarterback, who ranks inside the top-10 for multiple school records, served a handful of coordinator roles for the Arizona Cardinals spanning over 11 seasons. His experience beyond that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the chemistry between Kitchens and Mayfield in the latter half of 2018 gives fans some hope. Boasting plenty of playmakers across the roster thanks to a plethora of high draft picks, expectations are high for the Browns this season, something fans haven’t been able to say for most of the 21st century.
Image from 10yardpenalty.com
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Arians
AFTER previously retiring from head coaching in 2017, Bruce Arians is back on NFL sidelines at the tender ago of 66. The former Cardinals head coach lands in Tampa Bay with a few of his prior comrades, including former Jets coach Todd Bowles, who will serves as his defensive coordinator. However, all eyes will be on the Bucs offense under Arians’ guidance, mainly focusing in on tumultuous quarterback Jameis Winston.
WINSTON and Arians have crossed paths before when the former No. 1 pick attended a camp as a 12-year old and the new coach has declared his intentions to build the team around Winston. With only one year left on his contract, things could change if the quarterback fails to live up to expectations, but make no mistake, Arians is a great get for a Buccaneers franchise that needs stability and veteran leadership. Some wonder how much gas he has left in the tank, but his resume speaks for itself and is by far was the most experienced coach in the coaching cycle.
Banner from bucswire.usatoday.com