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Doug Pederson
Chicago Bears

Grading All 9 NFL Head Coaching Hires

  • Justin Melo
  • February 8, 2022
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With the hiring/promotion of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in New Orleans, all nine NFL head coaching vacancies have officially been filled. The process was extremely fluid and entertaining, and the outcomes welcomed a healthy mixture of successful retreads (Doug Pederson and Lovie Smith) and exciting, inexperienced newcomers (Mike McDaniel and Kevin O'Connell). All nine franchises will now point their eyes toward the future in hopes of successfully shifting their fortunes in a positive direction ahead of the 2022 campaign. The Draft Network has followed each hiring and process extremely closely. We've assigned a letter grade to each franchise for their respective hiring.


The Raiders landed Josh McDaniels in a move that should be extremely beneficial for the talented weapons they possess on the offensive side of the ball. Starting quarterback Derek Carr experienced an excellent season in 2021 and should continue to thrive under McDaniels' tutelage. Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller are the types of pass-catching playmakers McDaniels thrived with while calling plays for the New England Patriots. McDaniels also lured away Patrick Graham from East Rutherford, as the prestigious Graham has agreed to become Las Vegas' new defensive coordinator. McDaniels and Graham established a strong working relationship in Foxboro and Graham's hiring is a big win for the Raiders’ defense. Assuming McDaniels has learned from previous mistakes made in Denver, this hire has the potential to thrive.


Jacksonville's process was extremely flawed and borderline confusing as reported power struggles dominated much of their search. But all’s well that ends well as owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke ultimately landed a Super Bowl-winning coach in Doug Pederson. Pederson should bring some much-needed leadership and stability to Jacksonville's rudderless ship following Urban Meyer's short-lived reign of terror. Pederson, a former NFL quarterback, also qualifies as a home-run hire for the further development of franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is entering a crucial sophomore season and the Jaguars need to better surround him in an environment that allows his natural tools and abilities to thrive. Pederson is fully capable of presenting such a scenario after conducting himself as a brilliant offensive-minded coach in Kansas City and Philadelphia. The potential addition of Rick Spielman in a high-ranking executive role would further strengthen a front office and coaching staff that may finally possess the ability to make Jaguars football relevant again.


The Broncos appointed former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their next head coach in a forward-thinking move that should quickly gain Hackett popularity in the Mile High City. Denver's roster boasts several high-end offensive playmakers such as Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Javonte Williams, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant. Former defensive-minded head coach Vic Fangio alongside underperforming offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur failed to get the most out of such weapons. The Broncos nearly hired Dan Quinn, which would have represented a sideways move following Fangio's departure. Thankfully, the front office pivoted to the much more creative Hackett. Hackett worked under the brilliant Matt LaFleur in Green Bay and should be ready to bring some much-needed creativity to an offense that's waiting to soar. Hackett possesses previous play-calling duties in a successful stint with the Jaguars and should be ready to seize this opportunity.


Unlike some of the other coaches on this list, Brian Daboll undeniably deserves an opportunity to lead a franchise of his own following an incredibly impressive four-year run as Buffalo's offensive coordinator. Daboll did an excellent job helping develop Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen throughout that tenure and will now attempt to do the same with Daniel Jones in New York. Daboll's track record outside of Buffalo is a bit spotty, with three previous offensive coordinator stints in Kansas City, Cleveland, and Miami failing to produce the desired results. Daboll was straddled with some abysmal quarterbacks throughout those journeys, but those failures remain notable because Allen isn't following Daboll to East Rutherford. Daboll was hand-selected by new general manager Joe Schoen to usher in a new era of Giants football. Salary cap difficulties and a lack of a long-term answer at the quarterback position threaten to derail this regime's immediate plans, but Daboll should get the most out of an offensive supporting cast that includes Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney.


One could make the argument the Bears would have been better suited to hire an offensive-minded head coach with the development of Justin Fields at the forefront of their thought process, but hiring coaches based on offensive/defensive philosophies often backfires. Matt Eberflus is an excellent leader of men who should quickly establish a strong culture change in Chicago after Matt Nagy's disappointing tenure set the franchise back. Eberflus did wonderful work as Indianapolis' defensive coordinator over the past four seasons. He oversaw the development of small-school draftees such as Darius Leonard and Kenny Moore II (who was actually undrafted out of Valdosta State) while working alongside Frank Reich and has a penchant for improving young players. Furthermore, Eberflus made a shrewd hire by plucking former Packers passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy from a division rival. Eberflus has all of the coaching qualities necessary to enjoy a fruitful run as Chicago's head honcho.


The Vikings will make one of the more surprising hires following Kevin O'Connell's participation in Super Bowl LVI as Sean McVay's offensive coordinator. O'Connell's appointment represents a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks for the 36-year-old former professional quarterback. O'Connell possesses little to no playcalling experience following two stints as an offensive coordinator under Jay Gruden in Washington and McVay in Los Angeles. O'Connell certainly possesses an intriguing resume. Analyzing his one year as Washington's offensive coordinator in 2019 qualifies as a difficult exercise because Gruden was fired just five games into O'Connell's run as Washington's OC. McVay undoubtedly has a knack for identifying coaching talents and the Packers (Matt LaFleur) and Bengals (Zac Taylor) certainly don't regret their decisions to pluck from his coaching tree. O'Connell now takes over a Vikings roster that has plenty of offensive talent and badly needed a new approach following Mike Zimmer's tireless and old-school antics. We do love the bold and offensive-minded approach Minnesota decided to take. Color us slightly skeptical regarding this hire, but we wouldn't be totally shocked if it proved to be a fruitful one by new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.


New Orleans' search was truly unique when compared to the other eight teams. The Saints entered this process without looking for a culture shift or change in leadership and were the only team on this list whose participation was mandatory. Head coach Sean Payton established a strong culture throughout his largely successful tenure which nearly approached two decades. Payton's decision to step down from his role meant the Saints had to make a choice regarding their uncertain future. General manager Mickey Loomis could either promote a member of Payton's staff in search of continuation of the same or search for a candidate outside the franchise that would force change. Loomis opted to stick with what has worked in New Orleans by promoting long-time defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Allen will deliver necessary continuation. The Saints' franchise and players are plenty familiar with Allen's coaching techniques and overall personality. For those reasons, Allen's promotion makes sense on the surface. There are also concerns in relation to this appointment. Allen previously served as a head coach with the Las Vegas Raiders from 2012-14, where he racked up a horrid record of 8-28 before being fired throughout the early portion of his third campaign. Allen has been an excellent defensive coordinator in New Orleans, but being the head coach brings different challenges and responsibilities altogether. The jury is very much out on this hire.


The Dolphins quite possibly made the most ambitious decision with the appointment of Mike McDaniel. McDaniel built a strong behind-the-scenes reputation as one of the finest offensive assistants in football while working under both Mike and/or Kyle Shanahan in Denver (2005), Houston (2006-08), Washington (2011-13), Cleveland (2014), Atlanta (2015-16), and San Francisco (2017-21). McDaniel is obviously well-rooted in the outside zone running scheme that the Shanahan's helped (and continues to help) grow and evolve in popularity. McDaniel now gets an opportunity to serve as a head coach for the first time in his young coaching career. He'll almost certainly bring those offensive philosophies with him to Miami as he attempts to transform a Dolphins offense that lacked direction and clarity in recent years. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is entering a crucial season that may determine whether or not he remains in Miami beyond 2022. General manager Chris Grier must upgrade an offensive line and rushing attack that is currently ill-equipped to successfully execute McDaniel's preferred brand of offensive football. We loved McDaniel as a coaching candidate, but we're not quite sure about the fit here.


It's extremely difficult to wrap your head around what occurred in Houston following David Culley's firing. The Texans began their process by vetting several intriguing candidates. Former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and current Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo were initially viewed as frontrunners due to their existing relationships with Nick Caserio and Jack Easterby. Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon presented himself as a strong outside-the-box candidate after coaching up an Eagles defense that overachieved throughout 2021. The Texans then flirted with former quarterback Josh McCown for the second consecutive offseason despite his lack of collegiate and professional coaching experience. The Texans allegedly allowed the negative public perception surrounding McCown's potential appointment to lead their search in another direction before they ultimately landed on associate head coach Lovie Smith, who was only named as a candidate four weeks into their search despite Smith already being a member of their staff. This search and appointment make absolutely no sense. We'll give Smith a "D" rating due to previous success in Chicago, but this one feels like an "F."