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10 Head Coach “Best Fits” for 2018
Take a look around the NFL as the 2017 season comes to a close and you will see a good amount of Head Coaches that will be on their way out between Monday and the Super Bowl. Some of these “Hot Seat” coaches may end up convincing their GM or Ownership to give them another year while others will get cut very quickly. Some of the firings may happen due to another coveted candidate becoming available. Let’s take a look at a handful of teams that should be/will be moving on from their current HC and a best fit scenario for who is available or could be available.
1. Cleveland Brown: I covered this in another article about how they should approach 2018. I will say this, I am not a fan of constant change in personnel so firing a coach before he hits 3-5 years doesn’t usually make sense but in this case the Browns should move on from Hue Jackson and do everything in their power to bring in Bruce Arians. Jackson is a very good coordinator but not a good head coach. 1-30 over the past 2 seasons proves that. Even after all of the draft picks they nailed this past year, he couldn’t get the team to scrape together a single win in the first 15 games. That’s a sign that he’s not capable of being “the man.” Arians, on the other hand, is that man. He has been through the gauntlet and has had to coach under adversity and been successful. In 2014 when he was named NFL Coach of the Year (his 2nd time), he lost his starting QB after game 6 and still made the playoffs with a backup that wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard. Arians didn’t throw in the towel nor did he panic. He is the perfect fit to turn around the Cleveland Browns from a bottom feeder team to a competitive team. It may take 3-5 years to make a playoff run and be a contender, but considering where they are now, taking the team to 5-11 in 2018 would be a GIANT step forward for them. Even IF the Browns beat the Steelers in week 17 this season and finish 1-15, a 5-11 season in 2018 would equal as many wins as their last 3 seasons COMBINED.
2. Chicago Bears: Anyone but John Fox! I’m just kidding here. Well, sort of. They definitely should NOT bring in Jeff Fisher. They would be better off having a reconnection with Lovie Smith than keeping Fox or bringing in Fisher. Who should they bring in? They should aim for two targets here. Marvin Lewis will be out in Cincy and Hue Jackson will be gone from the Browns (ideally anyway). Bring in Lewis as HC and Jackson as OC. Jackson would be great for Trubisky to work with and could really help his development. Lewis is a defensive minded coach and the Bears are stacked on defense. This pairing could help the Bears at least get back to an 8-8 type of play which is a great target for them in 2018.
3. New York Giants: It would be hard to find anyone that could make the boneheaded decisions that McAdoo did (i.e. benching Eli) but lets be real for a moment. McAdoo didn’t have a lot to work with in 2017. Especially on offense as his WR group was absolutely destroyed by injury. Now here is where I do have to say that it didn’t stop the Jaguars. WHAT?!? Yes the Jaguars have gotten hit worse by injuries at WR than the Giants did yet the Jags won their division and finished with 10+ wins. Maybe the Giants record is more indicative of poor coaching after all. Well, that and poor personnel decisions (which is why they let their GM go as well). The ideal fit at HC? Matt Nagy, OC of the Kansas City Chiefs. Nagy has a “no BS” type of personality which is what the Giants need at the moment with the personalities they have on board. From the Collins-Apple feud to dealing with OBJ, Nagy could put that all to bed fairly easily. Nagy has also proven that he can open up a playbook and throw points up on the board. The Giants have a talented WR group along with a young, promising Tight End so a pass-first offense centered around big plays from OBJ and Shepard until they sort out their running games woes would go a long way.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: With the assumption that this will be the final year of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincy, a smart move for the Bengals would be to start a restructure over on defense as well as bring in a Head Coach that can keep players personalities in check. Matt Patricia, who is currently the Defensive Coordinator for the Patriots, checks all the boxes that the Bengals should aim for. The AFC North is a brutal, smash-mount division due to playing the Steelers and Ravens twice each year. I think Patricia could hang with these guys and build a stout defense to compete all while figuring out the “Andy Dalton Conundrum.” Cincy has talent on their offense, there isn’t any question about that. Patricia could pair himself with the right OC to really bring that talent into the light.
5. Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano is not the answer for the Colts. Sure he has had some success as in his time there but lets be real about this, the Colts will finish under .500 in 2017 which makes that 3 straight years without a winning record. Pagano only has 5 seasons that really count for him as the Colts HC (2012 he was out while recovering from cancer in which Bruce Arians stepped in and coached the Colts while being named NFL COY) and in that time, he only has 2 winning seasons (2013 & 2014). Pagano is a former DC and all of his experience as a coach is on defense yet he cant seem to put together a team that can stop opponents from scoring (in 2017, they are ranked 29th in Yards Allowed and 30th in Points Allowed). In the AFC South, Indy needs to put up points. The Jaguars and Texans have both taken huge steps forward (Texans sidelined by injuries to way too many key players) and the Titans can score points as well. Its time to switch gears and get an offensive minded HC at the helm and I believe a great fit would be John DeFilippo who is currently the QB Coach for the Eagles. The uncertainty surrounding Andrew Luck and his injury makes banking on his return like trying to tread water while wearing full snow gear. The move for Jacoby Brissett was a solid plan just in case Luck either cant return or wont be able to for another season. That being said, DeFilippo makes perfect sense to come in and work with Brissett to help the Colts be able to move the ball on offense and score points to keep up with their division.
6. Detroit Lions: To say that Jim Caldwell has stumbled would be an understatement. He has flat-out tripped on his talent and fallen on his face. Since becoming the Lions HC in 2014, he led the team to 2 playoff appearances in 4 years and lost in the Wild Card Round both times. He also has not finished better than 2nd in the division yet. Their 8-7 (current) record in 2017 also is being tarnished by fans saying that the Aaron Rodgers injury is the reason the Lions are 2nd in the NFC North this year instead of 3rd. Ouch. So most likely, Caldwell is out. The NFC North has 2 stout defenses (Min & Chi) and a typically high scoring offense (GB). Maybe the Lions should match up a top defensive minded HC with a risk taking OC? Kris Richard, the Seahawks DC, makes for an intriguing candidate for HC. He has done well in Seattle by keeping that tough defense gelling even through massive injuries to key players. This defense has weapons that I think Kris could utilize and have a lot of fun with. The offense, like I said, would need a boost at OC but that we can discuss in another article.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Its not a stretch to say Jon Gruden is a HUGE target here seeing as current HC Dirk Koetter hasn’t quite panned out. Gruden has been away from coaching since 2008 (last with the Bucs) and has excelled as a great personality on camera for football games. He has said on many occasions when potential coaching opportunities came up that “it would have to be the right spot.” Its not a secret that his heart is in Tampa Bay. This could be the deal that puts Chucky back on the sidelines.
8. Tennessee Titans: Watching a talented offense like the Titans falter in 2017 was a top storyline, especially with the Tennessee faithful. The head-scratching play calling, personnel decisions and game management is all stemming from a Head Coach that isn’t up for running all aspects. If the Titans lose in week 17, they will finish 8-8 and there is no reason to continue with Mularkey. This may be a bit of a reach, but the Titans should focus efforts on Patriots OC Josh McDaniels. McDaniels had a brief stint as a HC for the Denver Broncos back in 2009 & 2010 and he didn’t fare as well as people had thought going 11-17 during that span. Being back with the Patriots for his second run might have helped him work on some things that he was missing before. Plus the Titans offense is set up to be successful. A very good, young QB. An uber talented sub-25 year old RB, and a solid offensive line. McDaniels could focus efforts in the off season to bring in talent at the WR position to help Mariota and make the situation even prettier.
9. Arizona Cardinals: Here is an odd situation. There are rumors of Arians and the team parting ways after this season and there are comments that he, himself are denying those rumors. Obviously Arians wouldn’t want that “cat out of the bag” before its time because he wants the focus on beating Seattle. Lets move forward with the rumor though. Arians leaves and the team needs a new HC. Would it be out of the question to see their own OC, Harold Goodwin, promoted? Afterall, he has worked with Arians since 2007 when they both were with the Steelers. So Goodwin has essentially mentored under Arians for 10 years and in 3 different franchises, seeing success in all 3. If Arians does leave Arizona, this could be the chance of a lifetime for Goodwin. Or maybe he goes to Cleveland with Arians?
10. Oakland Raiders: This is a very tough one. I do like Del Rio as a Head Coach and he has tasted success in his days. He has a talented roster but it just seems like he struggles to make it all click at the same time. Over the last 2 seasons, Del Rio has fired both his OC and DC yet this season, the team struggles to A) stop opponents from scoring and B) put points on the board consistently. Maybe the struggles are deeper than the Coordinators after all? If that is the case and the Raiders finish the season (by losing to the Chargers) 6-10, Mark Davis might struggle to find reasons to NOT replace Del Rio. If that happens, maybe looking into the NFC North and making a play for Vikings DC George Edwards could work. Edwards has turned that Vikings defense into a monster and bringing that to Oakland could help the Raiders momentum as they prepare for a move to Las Vegas. Stout defense isn’t always sexy, but this could bring “W’s” next season.