The dust has settled and the NFL coaching carousel has stopped spinning. Seven teams will enter the 2018 season with a new head coach running the show. The pressure will be on each of these men to succeed where their predecessor failed.
So which of these guys has the best chance to do that? It’s never an easy answer. Often times it depends more on the situation a coach walks into than their general coaching abilities. After analyzing each job and coach, here are my rankings of the seven coaches hired this offseason, based on which is most likely to succeed with their new team.
7.) Jon Gruden – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have some nice pieces to work with on offense which bodes well for a coach whose claim to fame is on that side of the ball. However, there is a lot of work to be done in Oakland. Despite having one of the best pass rushers in the league in Khalil Mack, the defense needs a lot of help.
And while the offense does have a good foundation to build on (a strong offensive line, a franchise quarterback, and very gifted receiver to throw it to) it isn’t strong enough to where you could expect it to carry this team to victory on a consistent basis. I wouldn’t expect Jon Gruden to live up to the massive amount of hype he’s getting after not coaching for about a decade.
6.) Steve Wilks – Arizona Cardinals
I think Steve Wilks can do great things with the Cardinals defense after helping to build one of the best defensive units in the league in Carolina. He’s got a little bit of talent to work with, and I’d expect him to create a top NFL defense fairly quickly. The question is, will he be able to develop an offense?
With a freshly retired quarterback and aging play-makers on the outside, it’s basically going to be a total rebuild for the Arizona passing attack. And even with one of the best RBs in football in David Johnson, the offensive line isn’t strong enough to dominate on the ground. Wilks has to prove he’s more than just a great defensive mind with leadership skills.
5.) Matt Nagy – Chicago Bears
Matt Nagy is probably the coach I’m least confident in on this list. Lucky for him the situation he’s going into isn’t half bad. The Bears have a fairly strong defense in place, so he doesn’t have to worry about this side of the ball as much. Instead he gets to focus on what he does best, which is offense.
There is already a strong running game in place in Chicago and a young, talented QB that Nagy feels he can develop into a big-time star. The only two things I see holding him back are a lack of play-makers and the unfortunate fact that he’s in a loaded NFC North.
4) Mike Vrabel – Tennessee Titans
This is the big wildcard on my list. Mike Vrabel inherits a team that snuck into the playoffs in 2017 by taking advantage of an incredibly favorable schedule, which already sets up for a let down next year. That being said, I think he has all the makings of a really good NFL head coach. The one big thing he really lacks is experience.
Where this could hurt him is on offense, specifically in getting Marcus Mariota back to being the player we saw in his first two years. If he can do that then the Titans could make a return trip to the playoffs in Vrabel’s first year. If not, it could be back to the cellar of the AFC South.
3) Pat Shurmur – New York Giants
Pat Shurmur has been a head coach before (Cleveland 2011-2012) and it did not go well. His 10-33 record certainly isn’t impressive, but even a failed tenure is valuable experience to draw from and build on. Now he takes over the Giants who are only a year removed from the playoffs.
With a strong defense still in place, Shurmur will have a chance to build an offense that already has Odell Beckham Jr, Evan Engram, and Eli Manning. On top of that, he has great draft capital to work with to rebuild the offensive line and basically hand-select his QB of the future if he chooses to.
2) Matt Patricia – Detroit Lions
The Lions are a great landing spot for a first-time head coach. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the game with Matthew Stafford, a stable of pass catchers, and a few star players in the secondary.
Patricia will now have a chance to continue building on these strengths and molding the defense to best fit what he wants to do. That should be easy since he already has a long-standing relationship with Lions general manager Bob Quinn. This shared vision combined with the talent he’s inheriting should lead to early success for Patricia in Detroit.
1) Josh McDaniels – Indianapolis Colts
There are so many reasons I like this hire for the Colts. Josh McDaniels will have the quarterback (Andrew Luck), the draft capital to build his roster, and the previous head coaching experience to build off in this second opportunity.
On top of that there is no powerhouse team in the AFC South, so the division is fairly open. I expect McDaniels to build on the offensive foundation the Colts already have in place and compete for the playoffs in the very near future.