The NFL’s annual game of coaching roulette essentially wrapped up on Thursday with a flurry of hires in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York and Tampa, leaving only the Titans down in Nashville without a head coach (and the team is likely to remove the “interim” label from Mike Mularkey and keep him on for another season). With the hiring and firing cycle done for the year in the NFL, let’s take a look at the winners and losers, and gaze into the crystal ball for some predictions in the 2016 season for each team and coach.
Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
After the “grand experiment” of hiring a very talented (but prickly) coach went off the rails this season in Philly, much was made about Chip Kelly being a poor fit for the NFL, or that the league had somehow outfoxed him or caught up with his personnel schemes. The reality of the situation is probablya bit more complex than any of us will ever know, but suffice it to say that Chip Kelly is still a really good coach. (It’s not like he’s gotten measurably less intelligent about the game.) However, Kelly the general manager probably got in the way of Chip Kelly the coach with some very questionable decisions, say, chasing off DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, while also trading Nick Foles for the toxic commodity Sam Bradford.
With Kelly serving as only the coach in San Francisco, the Niners and Kelly should both be getting their groove back like their names were Stella. Kelly immediately has at his disposal the best quarterback he’s ever worked with in Colin Kaepernick. Add to that fact that the Niners have a boatload of cash to spend on free agents and suddenly the ultra-competitive NFC West has gotten even more competitive.
Crystal ballin’: The 49ers will shock the world and win the NFC West before bowing out in the NFC Championship game. Colin Kaepernick wins his first MVP trophy and Chip Kelly wins Coach of the Year honors.
Bob McAdoo, New York Giants
A win for Big Blue fans and New York-area moustache enthusiasts. McAdoo provides a bridge of continuity not only from the outgoing Tom Coughlin era, but also in continuing to serve as the “Eli Whisperer,” as the Giants try to squeeze out one or two more playoff runs with their “getting-up-there” franchise QB. McAdoo was also instrumental in coaxing the best out of the generational talent that is Odell Beckham Jr., and he already has seen the hellstorm that can be the NYC media.
Crystal ballin’: The New York Giants sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, and McAdoo acquits himself quite well in his first season as the head coach.
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Having worked closely with Tampa’s quarterback, Jameis Winston, in Winston’s impressive rookie showing, can only help both parties moving forward. The obvious winner here is Winston, who won’t have to worry about learning a new offensive system and can continue to develop with Koetter by his side. Of course, that would have still been the case had the Bucs not fired Lovie Smith last week.
Crystal ballin’: Tampa, Winston and Koetter all experience some growing pains and the franchise misses on the playoffs yet again. Still, Winston by and large improves on his promising rookie year and avoids a sophomore slump thanks to Koetter’s steadying presence.
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeffrey Lurie’s decision to hire Doug Pederson officially signals the “changing horses midstream” phase of the Eagles strange rebuild/metamorphosis. Three years removed from getting rid of Andy Reid for Chip Kelly, Lurie has gone full circle with the hire of a Reid disciple in Pederson. How Pederson’s game pace and playcalling will work with personnel largely handpicked by Kelly will be a fascinating, if possibly gruesome, watch next season, and DeMarco Murray should find plenty of rushing attempts with Pederson’s run-happy offense.
Crystal ballin’: I feel good about this hiring. Pederson is a very capable coach and, in spite of the whole “Lurie snake eating tail” situation from a personnel perspective, one should be able to see Pederson molding Bradford into an Alex Smith prototype who is never asked to do too much more than one would expect of a game manager. Deploy Murray and Ryan Mathews as a Jamaal Charles-styled two-headed running back monster? Sure. The team won’t be winning a Super Bowl next year, but the Iggles should be fine.
Hue Jackson, Cleveland
Hue Jackson, through no fault of his own, is in a sticky situation. Cleveland’s entire franchise is in disrepair after seasons and seasons of coaching turmoil and organizational in-fighting that would make the UN blush. All that being said, if any man can dissolve the miasma of losing in Cleveland, it is Hue Jackson. Tasked with the responsibility of keeping franchise cornerstone, Joe Thomas, and armed with the No. 2 overall draft pick in April’s draft, Jackson has some work to do. What will be interesting is to see if he affords the hyper-talented Josh Gordon another shot with the franchise.
Crystal ballin’: It’s the Cleveland Browns. Any positive progress will be a godsend. Jackson would do well to be granted a fairly long leash and the opportunity to build the franchise in his mold with more than just a season or two of evaluation. If the Browns management can be that patient, Jackson could be building a contender in a few seasons from the rubble of this franchise’s past decade of incompetence.
Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins
Adam Gasem who has gotten the most out of quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford, will look to coax the “best Ryan Tannehill” out of the “confused and erratic” version we’re accustomed to seeing on Sunday afternoons. Gase was the one to resurrect Manning’s career in Denver and is largely responsible, along with Peyton’s arm, for the offensive juggernaut that the Broncos were back in the 2013 season (a year in which Peyton won MVP). That doesn’t guarantee Tannehill will win MVP next year (or ever); but it does mean that Gase is a very competent offensive mind with a thorough handle on maximizing quarterbacks. One thing for certain is Gase’s obstacles in Miami. He’s coming into an organization that’s burdened by a huge payroll — and that could hinder their opportunities to fix problems via free agency. Fortunately, the ‘Phins do have some decent draft picks and Gase (and newly appointed GM, Chris Grier) could fix some of those issues (leaky o-line, leaky secondary) with the right draft selections.
Crystal ballin’: .500 and some improved play from Tannehill. A two-game swing in the right direction is about all anyone could reasonably expect from this franchise in the loaded AFC East. Best-case scenario has Gase forging a psychic link with Tannenhill, and the duo scorch opposing secondaries, while their own secondary marginally improves.