Grading Every NFL Head Coaching Hire of 2021

Story posted January 28, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Logan Bourandas

Three-and-a-half weeks after the conclusion of the NFL season, the head coaching search for all seven teams that fired theirs is complete. In this article, we grade how each of the seven teams did on their new hire.

New York Jets: Robert Saleh

Over Adam Gase, anything would’ve been an improvement for the New York Jets, but it seems like they hit big with Saleh. Saleh anchored one of the best defenses in the NFL with San Francisco this season, as the 49ers were top five in yards allowed despite being hit especially hard by the injury bug.

The Jets still have major questions on the offensive side of the ball—especially at starting quarterback—but with Saleh bringing a defensive identity the Jets, at least Gang Green has some hope. Players such as Allen Robinson, Deshaun Watson and Richard Sherman liking the move also doesn’t hurt.

Grade: A

Los Angeles Chargers: Brandon Staley

While hiring an offensive coach to help develop standout rookie Justin Herbert would’ve made sense, it’s understandable to hire Staley. His Rams became the best defense in the NFL despite this year being Staleey’s only year as the team’s defensive coordinator.

The Chargers had one of the worst defenses in the league last year but have stars such as Joey Bosa and Derwin James returning from injury to help out. If Staley can also help Herbert continue to grow, this should be a good hire.

Grade: A-

Jacksonville Jaguars: Urban Meyer

Meyer is heading back to Florida and most likely getting the chance to work alongside Trevor Lawrence. Meyer has been out of the game since 2018, and this is his first job at the NFL level, so there’s some concern on how he can adjust.

There’s little concern about his ability to help Lawrence reach his potential, but planning against an NFL defense for the first time ever may be a problem. The supposed health issues that caused Meyer to leave Ohio State don’t help him out either.

Grade: B-

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Sirianni

The Eagles get their clone of Frank Reich, as Sirianni could potentially be the answer to reviving Carson Wentz’s career if he stays in Philadelphia. Sirianni had worked as the offensive coordinator for Reich and the Colts since 2018, posting two top-10 seasons in yards per game with Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers at the helm.

Reich was credited with the development of Wentz, as he was having an MVP season before he got hurt in Reich’s final year in Philly. We’ll see if the magic has rubbed off on Sirianni, who’s worked in the NFL since 2009.

Grade: B

Detroit Lions: Dan Campbell

This was one of the strangest hires of this season’s carousel, as Campbell has never even been a coordinator. His only leadership experience is an interim head coach stint for the Dolphins back in 2015. Even then, he was only a tight ends coach and may have been unqualified, but he did lead a subpar Dolphins team to a 5-7 record and made an argument to be hired full-time before the Dolphins went with Adam Gase.

Campbell did gain experience under Sean Payton since then but remained a tight ends coach in his four years in New Orleans. He is a motivator, which is what the Lions need, as they looked like the most unmotivated team in the NFL the last few weeks. Campbell also played for the Lions, so that helps.

Grade: C+

Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Smith

Smith may have been one of the best options out there, but his fit with the Falcons is questionable. Smith has worked with the Titans since 2011, but during that time he’s always had a top-tier running back; Chris Johnson, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry were all on the Titans at some point during Smith’s tenure.

Now he goes to a Falcons offense set up to play a different style of football that features a bruised-up Todd Gurley as its lead back. It also doesn’t help that the defense is still a mess. Smith has the potential to turn it around in Atlanta, but he’s got his work cut out for him.

Grade: B-

Houston Texans: David Culley

This should’ve been the Eric Bieniemy hire, and it’s sad that he’s once again without a head coaching job.

Culley comes to Houston after working with the Ravens for two years as a passing game coordinator. The Ravens finished dead last in that stat this season. Culley also worked with Josh Allen during his rookie season, and the second he left for Baltimore, Allen broke out and led the Bills to the playoffs. Before that, Culley worked as a wide receivers coach for the Chiefs, where he worked with rookie Tyreek Hill. Hill had just 593 yards that season. Guess what? Hill had his first thousand-yard season the next year—the first year Culley was gone.

Culley has the experience, but the question marks all over the entire roster makes it seem like he’s set up to fail. Throw in the fact that Deshaun Watson, who wanted the Texans to interview Bienemy, has asked for a trade, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster in Houston.

Grade: D-

 

Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email lxb5412@psu.edu.