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Grading Each NFL Coaching Hire

As news is coming from Denver that the Broncos have found their new head coach, the coaching carousel is almost coming to a stop (don’t let the Falcons fool you, they have their man). However, did each team get it right with who they hired?

While the jury will be out until we see their teams on the field, it’s never too early to give snap reactions to the coaching moves around the league.

Atlanta Falcons – Dan Quinn

Nothing can be announced until the Seattle Seahawks‘ season is officially over, but all signs are pointing to Quinn joining the Falcons as head coach and bringing along Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator. Quinn, the mind behind the best defense in the league, will be looked to in order to re-build the Atlanta defense.

Quinn is a strong hire – not only is he a great defensive mind, but he and Shanahan will bring a fresh outlook to the entire Falcons organization. Arthur Blank opted to go young for a head coach, and he selected one of the best available. Considering Atlanta ranked dead last in defense during 2014, it was imperative that they bring along someone who was capable of turning the tide. Quinn is that guy.

Grade: A-

Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan

The last few years in New York seemed to be taking their toll on Rex Ryan, but his Buffalo presser seemed to completely rejuvenate the fiery coach. Ryan is a good coach, don’t let the recent struggles of the Jets mislead you. If he could take Mark Sanchez to the playoffs in multiple years, you know he is capable of doing big things.

Ryan will be handed the league’s fourth best defense – allowing an average of just 312.2 yards per game. If that doesn’t excite you about the possibilities with the Bills then you are crazy. Bringing former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman along for the same position will go a long way in terms of shoring up an inconsistent Buffalo attack on offense. Though, Ryan and Roman still need to find a suitable signal caller.

Doug Marrone was quick to jump ship, and the Bills should thank him. Bringing Ryan on is an instant upgrade for the organization as the team will thrive and the fanbase will be invigorated. There are still question marks in need of answering on offense, but there is much to be excited about in Buffalo.

Grade: B+

Chicago Bears – John Fox

Known as “Mr. Fix”, John Fox can quickly turn around franchises. He did it in Carolina and Denver, so why not assume the same will happen in Chicago?

The hiring of Fox is one we have struggled with for a while now. There really is nothing that stands out to us saying “bad hire!” but something just feels off. With all of the coaching talent available, Fox just doesn’t seem like the right man for the job in the Windy City.

Dan Quinn and Todd Bowles were the two we felt were the best suited to bring the Bears back to relevancy. They seemed like the type of coaches that would be perfect for first time general manager Ryan Pace to employ – young and hungry coaches. Instead, Pace opted to go with the veteran coach who brings along a proven track record.

The biggest issue here is whether or not Fox can turnaround Jay Cutler – or if he and Pace believe Cutler is still the man for the job in Chicago. The hiring of Fox seems to indicate Pace wants Cutler at the helm of the turnaround, hoping that “Mr. Fix” can get the best out of the embattled franchise quarterback.

Grade: B-

Denver Broncos – Gary Kubiak

Remember when Kubiak said he wouldn’t leave the Baltimore Ravens? Yeah, once the Broncos came calling that quick backtracking became understandable. There are, undeniably, a bevy of issues surrounding this team heading into the offseason – Will Peyton Manning return? What about Julius Thomas? Is Demaryius Thomas going to be back? Yet, with Kubiak, the Broncos will have a coach who has experience in re-building if the answer to those offseason questions end up being answered by the worst case scenario.

Kubiak’s offensive mind could be enough reason for Manning to give yet another year of his life to the NFL. Kubiak will bring a new voice to the Broncos, something that John Elway obviously believed was necessary in order for the team to take the all-important next steps.

Grade: B

New York Jets – Todd Bowles

We have been big fans of Bowles here at Sports Grumble. The quick rise of Bowles has been exciting and well-deserved. The job he did with the Arizona defense was extraordinary, and he will be expected to do the same thing to turn around the lowly Jets.

Obviously the biggest issue at hand for Bowles will be the New York offense, which has been a real struggle in recent years. With no true quarterback on the roster, he will have quite a bit of work ahead. Young coordinators who jump to the NFL are either hits or misses, and the jury will be out on Bowles until he produces. While a situation such as Atlanta may have been a better destination, he and new general manager Mike Maccagnan will have a clean slate to work from going forward.

Grade: A-

Oakland Raiders – Jack Del Rio

At one time, there was a mixture of up and coming coaches (Bowles, Pep Hamilton) as well as coaches who had been around the block (Mike ShanahanEric Mangini) being rumored for the gig. Del Rio falls in between those two categories. Coming off a few strong seasons as the Denver defensive coordinator, the Raiders felt he was the right man to cultivate the young talent on this team – and we agree.

Not only can Del Rio flat coach, but he has the old “Raider” mindset – gritty, tough and loyal. For a team as young as the Raiders, it was important that ownership find someone who could lead them in the right direction through experience and knowledge. As intriguing as candidates like Bowles and Hamilton were, they didn’t have the experience of Del Rio.

Grade: A

San Francisco 49ers – Jim Tomsula

It’s tough to toss a guy under the bus before he has coached his first game in the NFL, but the Tomsula-era in San Francisco could not have got off to a more bizarre start that it did last week. Yet the 49ers obviously see something in Tomsula, why else would they be giving him the keys to a very talented team?

While many coaches have successfully made the jump from position coach to head coach (Mike TomlinJohn Harbaugh), you also have those who struggled mightily (Jim Zorn). It is unfair to compare Tomsula to any of those coaches as of now, but he does have large shoes to fill despite how the Jim Harbaugh tenure ended.

Overall, it just seems like a strange hire for the 49ers. Who knows, it could turn out to be a brilliant decision. Right now, however, it just leaves a lot to be desired as it is very reminiscent of the Mike Singletary hiring.

Grade: D+


It isn’t that often that the majority of teams fill their NFL coaching vacancies this successfully. As we mentioned, the true grades will come as their careers unfold, but the majority of teams in need of a new man in charge this offseason made the right moves in order to push their team forward.

What grades would you give this teams?


Cover Photo: Associated Press

Grant E. Doepel

Grant E. Doepel

Founder at Sports Grumble
Editor in Chief and co-founder of Riverfront City Sports and Sports Grumble, Doepel is a Cincinnati native who lives and breathes Queen City sports. A University of the Cumberlands graduate with degrees in Journalism and Communication Arts, Doepel still resides in the Greater Cincinnati area to provide easy access to the riverfront stadiums.
Grant E. Doepel

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