Ranking the 2012 NFL Head Coaching Changes
There was a lot of chatter about some huge names in coaching from the middle of the NFL season to the NFL championship round. Jon Gruden’s name was tossed around, Brian Billick turned up, Marty Schottenheimer got an interview, and Bill Cowher got his usual rumor buzz rolling.
But in the end, there was really only one big name hire, and there were a slew of head-scratchers. As we inch closer to the official off-season, we take a look at all the changes in team’s front offices around the league as we rank the NFL coaching changes:
1. Jeff Fisher (St. Louis Rams)
Fisher gets the nod as the best head coaching hire for 2012 because of his NFL head coaching experience as he was at the helm of the Oilers/Titans franchise for 17 years. While I see Fisher as the best hire this offseason, I still see the hire as slightly overrated for two reasons: first, Fisher only led the Titans to six winning seasons of the 17 he was head coach with only a 5-6 record in the playoffs. My second reservation with Fisher is the recent hiring of Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer’s questionable playcalling and failure to develop Mark Sanchez (which I understand may be a nearly impossible task) led him to be the target of Jets’ fans complaints. In spite of those two points, Fisher is by far the most proven of all of the candidates and is joining a good situation where he already has an answer at quarterback in addition to the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.
2. Joe Philbin (Miami Dolphins)
Philbin is responsible for the incredible development of Aaron Rodgers and the dangerous Green Bay offense (although it’s Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, not Philbin, who in fact calls the plays offensively). Since he has taken over as offensive coordinator in 2007, the Packers, thanks to Philbin’s ability to create mismatches, haven’t left the top 10 in the categories of points scored and total yards. Philbin’s been an assistant coach at both the college and pro ranks for 28 years which caught the eye of several teams. Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross got him off a plane going to Oakland where he was to interview with the Raiders. He was also pursued by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, showing that Philbin and his services are highly sought after around the entire league. The hire also gives the Dolphins a leg up on signing backup Packers QB Matt Flynn in free agency.
3. Romeo Crennel (Kansas City Chiefs)
Former Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley and GM Scott Pioli were apparently unable to effectively work together to breed success in Kansas City as seen in 2011. Crennel and Pioli, on the other hand, have a long history working together and that will be key in establishing structure and trust throughout the Chiefs organization . As seen in the last three games under the then-interim Crennel, the Chiefs played for their coach knocking off the then-undefeated Packers and the Denver Broncos. His 24-40 record as a head coach in Cleveland is what causes Crennel to slide down from the top of this list, but the slide stops here considering that record was achieved with several less-than-stellar quarterbacks. Not even Jesus Christ himself could bring a team with Charlie Frye under center to the playoffs.
4. Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts)
Pagano is a solid hire for the Colts who desperately need help defensively. Former players for Pagano have raved about him, he had continued a tradition of stellar defense in Baltimore, and he has 28 years of coaching experience at the college and pro level. While I don’t think former Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell was the root of the Colts’ woes in 2011, I do believe Pagano nevertheless is a better coach and gives the Colts a better chance moving forward. The hire is also excellent considering former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has been brought in to run the offense. Arians was Peyton Manning’s first quarterback’s coach with the team in the late 1990s, so he’s no stranger to developing elite, young talent (assuming they go ahead and draft Luck) and running a high-powered offensive attack at the pro level.
5. Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The Bucs in 2010 were 10-6 with the youngest team in football; they were the only team in NFL HISTORY to win 10+ games while starting 10+ rookies. The reason for the disappointing 2011 campaign where the Bucs lost ten straight games to end the season was completely due to then-head coach Raheem Morris and the way he led the team, if you want to call it that.
Not only were the Bucs one of the most penalized teams in the NFL in 2011, but several players were noticeably giving up and taking plays off…and it was allowed. Trust me, I follow the Bucs more than any team and watch every single one of their games multiple times: Raheem Morris was too much of a friend, not a coach, to the players and the outrageous lack of discipline and selfish play was the result.
If there is one person who will not tolerate selfishness and who will wisely bring in players that buy into one central vision and a team concept, it’s Greg Schiano. Matching this incredibly young and capable core group of players (as seen in 2010) with the structured and discipline-preaching Schiano makes this hire a solid fit for the Bucs. The evaluation of this hire is still rather incomplete though since no coordinators or position coaches have been hired yet which is of central importance considering developing QB Josh Freeman is the top priority in Tampa and the hire of a defensive-minded coach didn’t satisfy that paramount issue yet. Overall, Schiano is a very underrated hire though.
6. Dennis Allen (Oakland Raiders)
Allen is the first defensively-minded head coach hired by the Oakland Raiders since John Madden was hired in the late 1960s. Allen did a terrific job with the Broncos’ defense in 2011, and the hire allows GM Reggie McKenzie to have his own guy at the helm, one that he can work with cooperatively. Allen is described as a fiery, drill sergeant-like coach which the Raiders could definitely use considering their perpetual lack of discipline.
The reason why Allen is ranked so low on this list is his inexperience. At 39 years old (he played at Texas A & M at the same time as Raiders punter Shane Lechler), Allen has only been a coordinator in the league for one year, no matter how successful it turned out being. His only other NFL coaching experience before last season was as a secondary coach for two years, assistant defensive line coach for one year, and defensive quality control assistant for three years. So yes Allen is an appealing young coaching talent and has been successful everywhere he’s gone, but the reason why he’s below the hires above on this ranking is because of his lack of experience.
7. Mike Mularkey (Jacksonville Jaguars)
All six hires above, to me, were wisely chosen and forward-thinking. I can’t express the same statement for the hiring of Mike Mularkey. Maybe it’s his brief, unsuccessful stint as head coach in Buffalo. Maybe it’s the fact that Falcons fans were relieved to hear that Mularkey was leaving town. Maybe it’s the TWO points the Falcons scored in the Wildcard Playoff loss against the Giants. Or maybe it’s because no matter who is the coach, I see the Jaguars organization going nowhere so long as Blaine Gabbert is under center. I simply can’t find any good in this hire. Sorry, Jags fans.