Ranking all six head coaching hires this offseason
A total of six teams had head coaching vacancies to fill this offseason, and it took until the day after the Super Bowl for all of them to be filled. The 49ers were the last team to do so, waiting until Monday to make the hiring of Kyle Shanahan official, considering he was still the offensive coordinator for the Falcons.
Previously, the Chargers, Bills, Rams, Broncos and Jaguars all hired new head coaches, with Jacksonville being the only team to stay within the organization for their selection.
Now that all six teams have filled their vacancies, we ranked each of the hires – from worst to best.
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
After four disastrous years under Gus Bradley, the Jaguars opted to stay in-house with their head coaching hire. It’s not that Doug Marrone is a bad coach, but he’s not what the Jaguars needed. They should have sought out a quarterback guru to work with Blake Bortles, who’s on the brink of being a draft bust.
Not to mention, Marrone’s staff is relatively underwhelming. He’ll have his offensive coordinator from 2014 with the Bills, Nathaniel Hackett, and the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator from 2016, Todd Walsh.
The Jaguars should have shaken up their coaching staff. Promoting Marrone didn’t do that in the least bit, nor did retaining Walsh. Sure, the defense was strong this past season, but that shouldn’t have prevented the Jaguars from making bigger changes.
Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
The Bills didn’t retain Anthony Lynn as their full-time head coach after making him the interim head coach for Week 17, which was a bit of a surprising move. Instead, they opted to hire former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
It’s not that it was a bad hire, but with all the issues the Bills have in the front office, and the lack of success they’ve had for the past two decades, McDermott likely won't bring the quick turnaround they need. At the very least, he should be able to turn around the defense, which was inexplicably bad under Rex Ryan.
What’s unclear, though, is how much of the Panthers’ defensive success was McDermott’s doing and how much was the fact that Ron Rivera was the head coach. We’ll find out relatively soon, but the bigger questions for McDermott loom on offense.
Will the Bills’ dominant ground game continue without Lynn? Will he be able to continue Tyrod Taylor’s development as a quarterback, if Taylor returns next season? These are two of the biggest questions McDermott will have to answer.
Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
Admittedly, the Broncos’ hiring of Vance Joseph was a bit puzzling at first. Joseph is a defensive guy, and the Broncos already had a Super Bowl-caliber defense. It’s the offense that’s the problem in Denver.
However, Joseph was a relatively good hire for the Broncos for his leadership characteristics and his ability to command respect from players. He worked closely with Gary Kubiak in Houston and got the most out of his players in Miami – a relatively underwhelming group of defenders.
Of all the new head coaches who were hired this year, none is in a better position to succeed than Joseph. He has a dominant defense and a pair of young quarterbacks to work with offensively. He should succeed in Year 1, and anything short of a postseason berth would be a letdown.
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Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
It was somewhat of a surprise that the Bills opted not to hire Lynn themselves after he quickly rose up the ranks from position coach to interim head coach this past season. The Chargers were fortunate that it happened the way it did as they snatched up one of the top head coaching candidates on the market.
Lynn is a running-game connoisseur, helping the Bills to the top-ranked rushing attack the past two seasons. As the offensive coordinator for most of the season, he improved the ground game for the Bills and worked well with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, catering the offense to his skill set.
In Los Angeles, Lynn will have a different cast of playmakers to work with. Philip Rivers is a traditional pocket passer, Melvin Gordon is more of a one-cut back than LeSean McCoy, and Keenan Allen is more of a volume-catcher than Sammy Watkins.
That shouldn’t be an issue for Lynn, who showed he could adapt to changing situations in Buffalo. Not to mention, he built a great staff around him by keeping Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator and bringing Gus Bradley in to command the defense. If the Chargers can stay healthy this season, they could have some success.
Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams took a chance by hiring McVay, who’s now the youngest head coach in NFL history. He’s relatively unproven, and it’s not guaranteed he’ll be able to be the head honcho in an NFL locker room, but it was still a smart move by the Rams.
McVay spent three years as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, improving Kirk Cousins’ play each year. Like Kyle Shanahan, he’s a creative play-caller who tends to get the most out of his players.
The most promising part about McVay’s hiring might just be who he brought along with him. The Rams were able to bring in Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator. He’ll help ease the transition from coordinator to head coach for McVay, while also handling the defensive side of the ball.
That will allow McVay to focus on building the Rams’ stagnant offense and working with quarterback Jared Goff. Los Angeles does have a handful of young playmakers in Goff, Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, but a foundation needs to be built to capitalize on their skill sets. McVay can do that the way he did with the Redskins.
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were the last team to fill their head coaching vacancy this offseason, but it was well worth the wait. They announced on Monday night what everyone had expected for weeks, officially hiring Kyle Shanahan as their next head coach.
Shanahan joins the 49ers after spending the last two years as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. Super Bowl gaffe aside, Shanahan is a great hire for the 49ers. He’s among the most creative minds in football, and it showed all season with the Falcons. It took a year for him and Matt Ryan to get on the same page, but once they clicked, the offense was firing on all cylinders.
Ryan went from being a decent quarterback coming off of a down year to NFL MVP and near Super Bowl champion. 49ers fans shouldn’t expect that kind of turnaround with, say, Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick, but Shanahan is going to elevate the play of whoever his quarterback is.
What will be key for both Shanahan and the front office is patience. Neither side should expect to make the playoffs or have a top-10 offense in Year 1, so it’ll be important for expectations to be tempered.