NFLTR Review: Grading The 2023 Coaching Hires

Another hiring cycle is in the books and we look at how each of the five teams with new head coaches fared:

  • Broncos get an F for optics — and the only A for a hire
  • Reasons for optimism — and major questions — for the other four teams
  • Trends from the past decade of coaching hires

Grading The 2023 Coaching Hires

Even in a down year for the NFL coaching cycle, there were still five teams that made changes, including two that just hired a new coach last year when there were a total of 10 coaching changes. The Broncos and Texans are hoping their choices of Sean Payton and DeMeco Ryans go better than Nathaniel Hackett and Lovie Smith. The Panthers settled on Frank Reich, while both Eagles OC Shane Steichen and DC Jonathan Gannon landed jobs with the Colts and Cardinals. 

Some other notable factoids about this year’s cycle:

  • Two of the five teams hired former head coaches, the rest hired first-time coordinators. 
  • Three coaches have a background on offense, two on defense
  • The last time a team lost both coordinators to head coaching jobs was after the 2013 season when the Bengals lost OC Jay Gruden to Washington and DC Mike Zimmer to the Vikings. 
  • Only one coach hired out of five was Black. The Panthers passed on interim HC Steve Wilks and the Colts chose Steichen over Rams DC Raheem Morris, another finalist. Brian Flores was reportedly a finalist for the Cardinals but withdrew to take the defensive coordinator job with the Vikings. 
  • One of the two available GM jobs went to a Black candidate, as the Titans hired Ran Carthon. That pushes the total to eight Black GMs, the most the NFL has ever had. A few team president roles have also gone to Black candidates, and they often are part of the search committee when teams change coaches. So there is some progress, albeit inches instead of leaps and bounds. 

Time will tell which teams chose wisely and which chose poorly. The NFL is not good at hiring coaches, or at least not good enough to avoid half the league turning over every three seasons or so. In fact, since 2013 there have been 77 coaching hires. 

Year Coach Team
2023 Sean Payton Broncos
2023 Shane Steichen Colts
2023 DeMeco Ryans Texans
2023 Jonathan Gannon Cardinals
2023 Frank Reich Panthers
2022 Dennis Allen Saints
2022 Todd Bowles Buccaneers
2022 Nathaniel Hackett Broncos
2022 Brian Daboll Giants
2022 Kevin O’Connell Vikings
2022 Josh McDaniels Raiders
2022 Mike McDaniel Dolphins
2022 Matt Eberflus Bears
2022 Lovie Smith Texans
2022 Doug Pederson Jaguars
2021 Brandon Staley Chargers
2021 Urban Meyer Jaguars
2021 Dan Campbell Lions
2021 Nick Sirianni Eagles
2021 David Culley Texans
2021 Robert Saleh Jets
2021 Arthur Smith Falcons
2020 Matt Rhule Panthers
2020 Ron Rivera Commanders
2020 Joe Judge Giants
2020 Kevin Stefanski Browns
2020 Mike McCarthy Cowboys
2019 Zac Taylor Bengals
2019 Brian Flores Dolphins
2019 Bruce Arians Buccaneers
2019 Adam Gase Jets
2019 Kliff Kingsbury Cardinals
2019 Matt LaFleur Packers
2019 Vic Fangio Broncos
2019 Freddie Kitchens Browns
2018 Jon Gruden Raiders
2018 Matt Patricia Lions
2018 Frank Reich Colts
2018 Steve Wilks Cardinals
2018 Matt Nagy Bears
2018 Pat Shurmur Giants
2018 Mike Vrabel Titans
2017 Anthony Lynn Chargers
2017 Sean McVay Rams
2017 Kyle Shanahan 49ers
2017 Vance Joseph Broncos
2017 Sean McDermott Bills
2017 Doug Marrone Jaguars
2016 Doug Pederson Eagles
2016 Mike Mularkey Titans
2016 Adam Gase Dolphins
2016 Dirk Koetter Buccaneers
2016 Ben McAdoo Giants
2016 Chip Kelly 49ers
2016 Hue Jackson Browns
2015 Dan Quinn Falcons
2015 Rex Ryan Bills
2015 Jack Del Rio Raiders
2015 John Fox Bears
2015 Todd Bowles Jets
2015 Gary Kubiak Broncos
2015 Jim Tomsula 49ers
2014 Ken Whisenhunt Titans
2014 Mike Zimmer Vikings
2014 Jim Caldwell Lions
2014 Bill O’Brien Texans
2014 Mike Pettine Browns
2014 Jay Gruden Commanders
2014 Lovie Smith Buccaneers
2013 Chip Kelly Eagles
2013 Andy Reid Chiefs
2013 Bruce Arians Cardinals
2013 Gus Bradley Jaguars
2013 Rob Chudzinski Browns
2013 Marc Trestman Bears
2013 Doug Marrone Bills
2013 Mike McCoy Chargers

*Bold are what would broadly be defined as successful hires, italics are more borderline. 

(Recent hires have been graded on a curve, even though history says some of the coaches who have done well to start their careers will have trouble maintaining that momentum. For instance, Matt Nagy was named Coach of the Year in his first season too, just like Brian Daboll)

It’s interesting to try and lump these coaches into different buckets to see if any trends emerge, like offense versus defense. Excluding the five coaches hired just this year because they haven’t had a chance to prove themselves yet: 

  • Out of 72 total hires, 25 were graded as at least moderate successes, 19 if you want to grade more harshly. 
  • Forty two hires had a background on offense, 24 on defense and six were other (college or special teams). Fifteen offensive coaches and four defensive coaches were obvious hits, for a rate of 36 percent and 17 percent respectively. No coaches from the other category were successful. 
  • You could slice this up several other ways, but we pulled coaches who were first-timers and coming from coordinator roles on both offense and defense. Out of a pool of 24 on offense, 11 were hits. Out of 15 candidates on defense, there were six hits. 
  • We also looked at retreads — coaches who were hired after being let go by another team. Seven out of 13 of those with a background on offense were successes. None of the eight retread hires with a defensive background have panned out so far. 

As you can see, grading these hires becomes even more of an inexact science, as there are a million variables to take into account that are even harder to disentangle from the outside. How do coordinators adjust to the dramatically different job of being a head coach? Who can lead and who can’t? How do coaches handle the challenges presented by their roster? Who works well with the other people inside the building and who doesn’t? All of these factors are why hires that are praised at first go horribly wrong, leaving teams starting over and plenty of egg on the face of any media folks who ventured a hard opinion on the merits of the hire. 

Now that I’ve told you why I’m probably going to be wrong, here are grades for each of the five coaching hires in 2023. 

Broncos: Former Saints HC Sean Payton

Grade: A+

What makes coaching hires so difficult to get right is the amount of projection it requires teams to make. But with Denver’s hire of Payton, there’s almost no projection needed. We know Payton is a top-tier coach because we watched him put together an outstanding career in 15 seasons with the Saints. He was pivotal in turning the Saints into an upper-tier NFL organization. New Orleans won its first-ever Super Bowl under Payton’s guidance and were perennially one of the top offenses in football over 15 years. Payton comes to the Broncos with a 152-89 record and a .631 winning percentage, both of which rank inside the top 25 in NFL history. 

It’s true that Payton had the benefit of working nearly his entire career with Drew Brees at quarterback, and he’s inheriting a much different situation with Broncos QB Russell Wilson. In 2021, Payton’s only year without Brees, the Saints finished 19th in total offense with a combination of Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian at quarterback. But one consistent theme with Payton has been that he’ll get the most out of any quarterback he’s coaching. Brees was damaged goods when he arrived in New Orleans and developed into a Hall of Fame player. Winston made real strides in his game under Payton, and the team remained competitive even with Hill and Siemian under center. 

For as bad as he played at times last season, Wilson is still closer to Brees’ echelon than the others. Payton’s arrival is excellent news for Wilson, who Denver is tied to through at least this season due to the sizable investment the team made in him. There’s a precedent for elite quarterbacks returning to form after a lull in their 30s, too. 

So why does it seem like Payton was the team’s third preferred choice? The acquisition cost might have had something to do with it. Denver had to give up a first-round pick for the right to pay Payton in the neighborhood of $20 million a year as one of the league’s best coaches. The money doesn’t matter as much as the pick, especially since the Broncos already gave up a massive haul of picks for Wilson. In theory, the Broncos could have hired a great coach and kept the pick. 

They’d have been taking a massive leap of faith, however. Payton is a proven commodity and we’ve seen that coaches are difference-makers when it comes to being a successful team year in and year out. Personally, I think a first-round pick for Payton was a steal, as expensive a price as it was. 

Cardinals: Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon

Grade: C+

New Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort seemed to have his sights set on Gannon since before taking the job, and patiently waited until Arizona had a shot at him following Philadelphia’s run to the Super Bowl. The two share a lot of mutual friends and a similar football upbringing even though they’ve never worked directly together. Knowing he might get a GM job this year, Ossenfort made it a point to get to know Gannon last offseason. So there’s reason to be optimistic the two will be on the same page and there won’t be excessive friction between the front office and coaching staff. 

As for what Gannon brings to the table, he’s been the coordinator for Philadelphia’s defense for the past two seasons. In 2021 the team had some struggles, particularly against the higher-level quarterbacks on their schedule. This past season, the personnel got dramatically better, especially in terms of fitting what Gannon likes to run, and the Eagles were one of the league’s best defensive units, nearly setting an NFL record for sacks in a season with 70. But those struggles against elite quarterbacks emerged again in the Super Bowl loss. 

Gannon runs a version of the umbrella defense that’s become immensely popular around the NFL, with roots in longtime NFL defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. The basic premise of the system is building the defense back to front instead of front to back, emphasizing shutting down the pass first instead of the run. The system aims to take away the deep pass by playing a lot of two-high shells with both safeties back, either showing it pre-snap or rotating into it after the ball is snapped to keep the offense off balance. The scheme will let offenses have short passes and runs, banking more often than not they’ll make a mistake during a long drive. 

Chargers HC Brandon Staley helped make this system popular thanks to his success running it with the Rams, and Gannon has drawn a lot of comparisons to Staley due to his age, intelligence and demeanor. That would have sounded like a much higher compliment two years ago than it does today, as the jury remains out on Staley to a degree, but it’s still telling of what kind of coach the Cardinals think they’re getting. 

As it was with Staley, the big question with Gannon will be how he can maximize the young quarterback he’s inheriting, particularly because he doesn’t come with a background on offense. Arizona is betting Gannon’s smart enough to figure it out and the culture he’s expected to instill will go a long way in getting more out of QB Kyler Murray. They just went down the offensive guru route with Kliff Kingsbury anyway, so it’s understandable they want to try something different.

Year 1 will likely be bumpy for Gannon and the Cardinals. Murray’s ACL recovery could stretch into the regular season, and there will be an adjustment period on defense. Arizona’s system has been dramatically different than what Gannon will install and the personnel reflects that. With an entirely new regime in place, there could be significant turnover on the roster on both sides of the ball. 

I’ve given Gannon the lowest grade of all five hires because I think there are more questions he has to answer compared to the other candidates. He very well could end up the best hire out of everyone. It would just be more of a projection based on what we know right now. 

Colts: Eagles OC Shane Steichen

Grade: B

The Colts ran one of the longest, most extensive searches we’ve seen from an NFL team in quite a while, and the end result was hiring a former Eagles offensive coordinator for the second straight time. Steichen replaces Reich, and while both have similar backgrounds, there are some key differences that drew Indianapolis to Steichen. 

To start, Steichen is far younger. At 37, he’s one of the youngest head coaches in the league. The two men also have dramatically different styles, even though both are considered player-friendly. Reich is calm and steady no matter the situation, but at times he bordered on non-confrontational and some in the Colts organization were frustrated that he didn’t call out some players who were underperforming. The early indications from Steichen are he’ll be more fiery. 

Steichen’s background on offense is also one of the areas the Colts found appealing. He’s worked with a lot of successful quarterbacks including Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts. He was Philadelphia’s primary play-caller this past season and for half of last year, and the Eagles had a ton of success on that side of the ball in 2022. 

But the Colts are hiring Steichen to be an offensive coordinator, not a head coach. That’s an important distinction and will ultimately dictate how successful Steichen is in Indianapolis. He’ll call plays and have a lot of input into the offense but his ability to lead, pay attention to details and instill a culture will be just as, if not more, important. 

There’s a lot to like here, but that uncertainty factor should temper optimism about the future of the Colts for the time being. 

Panthers: Former Colts HC Frank Reich

Grade: B+

The elephant in the room here is interim HC Steve Wilks, who did an excellent job of coaching the Panthers to a 6-6 record when he took over midseason. He did it without the benefit of a quarterback upgrade, cycling through P.J. Walker, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, and without one of the best offensive players in the league after the Panthers traded RB Christian McCaffrey. He deserved the job, full stop. I saw someone on Twitter put it this way — and I apologize for not having a direct citation, so if this was you or someone you know, please send it to me. Reich may have been a great hire, but Wilks would have been the right hire. 

I think that’s a good way to sum things up here. Wilks showed he could do the job at a reasonably strong level, and there are reasons to believe he would have improved with an offseason to implement his vision and improve the team. But there are a lot of reasons to be excited about Reich if you’re a Panthers fan as well. 

The biggest is his background on offense, which is what drew the Panthers to him over Wilks. Reich got the job in Indianapolis for his work as the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning Eagles. In five years with the Colts, he had a top-10 scoring offense three times. Only one of those was with Andrew Luck and the two years he missed the mark were in 2019 with Jacoby Brissett and last year, though he only coached about half the season. Overall, Reich comes to Carolina with a record of 40-33-1, which is not too shabby. 

Reich also put together an outstanding staff with the Colts when he first started, and so far it looks like that’s continuing in Carolina. The Panthers landed DC Ejiro Evero, who interviewed for all five head-coaching vacancies including Carolina’s and had plenty of options with other teams. On offense, they retained OL coach James Campen, added Duce Staley from the Lions, convinced Jim Caldwell to join their staff as a senior offensive assistant (another one of their head coaching interviews) and landed Josh McCown as QB coach. McCown is viewed as a potential future head coach and has had multiple NFL teams hot on his tail to add to their staff.

Reich isn’t done either. He still needs to hire an offensive coordinator and has said he’s willing to give play-calling duties to bring in another top candidate. If that doesn’t work out, Reich’s already shown he’s a plus NFL play-caller, which is the big benefit of hiring a head coach with a background on offense. He’s also shown a willingness to be aggressive on fourth downs, which is another potential edge to be exploited. 

Of course, there’s a reason the Colts fired him. Over time, Reich wasn’t able to replace the talent he lost on the coaching staff and that seemed to catch up with the team this year. The Colts were never able to win the AFC South even in strong years, and their inability to get past the Titans and even Jaguars led to questions about Reich’s teams being soft. Reich’s personality may have heightened that criticism, as he’s laid back and not the type to rip players apart in front of the whole team. Personally, I think those criticisms are related more to style than substance. If you want examples of grit, Reich’s 2018 team rebounded from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs. 

An inability to find a solution at quarterback also doomed Reich in the end. While Luck’s retirement caught everyone off guard, Reich’s not blameless. His hearty recommendation led to the team pursuing Carson Wentz in 2021, and though that squad also clawed back from a 1-4 start to put itself in prime position for a playoff spot with two games to go, Wentz and the team infamously choked. Indianapolis dumped Wentz and it proved to be the beginning of the end for Reich. 

In Carolina, Reich will have a lot of influence on how the Panthers move forward at quarterback, whether it’s in the draft or even another veteran. Getting that decision right will be pivotal to how things go in his second stint as a head coach. As we pointed out above, there’s a strong history of second-chance coaches with offensive backgrounds doing well. If Carolina can avoid a landmine at quarterback, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the team. 

Texans: 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans

Grade: B+

I probably slept on how appealing the Texans’ job would be to some candidates, as they do have some young pieces, plenty of future picks and a lot of cap flexibility. Ownership has a bad reputation and there’s a stink around the team given how David Culley and Lovie Smith were clearly sacrificial coaches in hindsight. Some level of rebuilding for the Texans was always inevitable but they’ve been one of the worst teams in football for two years now with very little signs of progress. Was it really necessary to spin their wheels in the mud at the bottom for that long? 

Regardless, the future seems much brighter with Ryans in town now. He was seen as one of the top candidates available this year with his work on San Francisco’s defense and his leadership acumen. As a former Pro Bowl linebacker and a coach who worked his way up from the bottom, he carries a ton of cache with players. Plenty of teams had their eyes on him, so it likely helped the Texans that the bulk of Ryans’ playing career came in Houston. 

The arrival of Ryans should mean positive things for the defensive side of the ball. The Texans were already pretty stingy against the pass last year but horrid against the run. Some of that is related to personnel but as noted, the Texans have the resources to get better in a hurry. 

Like it is with any defensive coach, the big question will be what the plans for the offense are. Ryans is bringing former 49ers passing-game coordinator Bobby Slowik with him to presumably run another variant of the Shanahan-style offense. This will be his first time calling plays, so some growing pains should be expected. San Francisco has been a pipeline for offensive coaches, however, so there’s reason to be optimistic. 

The Texans obviously need to solve the quarterback position, and they’ll have the benefit of the No. 2 pick to at worst get one of either Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, assuming those are the top two on their board. The offense they’re running is also known for being quarterback friendly, which is a nice perk to help onboard a rookie. 

Overall, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Ryans. The key will be overcoming the inevitable growing pains as Ryans and the staff gain experience. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the relationship between Ryans and GM Nick Caserio. This past year, the McNair family that owns the team ousted controversial executive Jack Easterby, who played a major role in bringing Caserio over from New England. The McNair’s also took a much bigger role in the search compared to the past two years. For a while, the Texans were heavily connected to Gannon, who is a favorite of Caserio’s. Even as they zeroed in on Ryans, some reports said there was a “faction” within the organization that still thought highly of Gannon. 

Caserio probably doesn’t have the cache to force Ryans out but it’s never a good thing for an organization when things devolve into a power struggle. Perhaps the two men will work well together but it’s worth pointing out that the ingredients for discord down the road seem to be there, whether they come to fruition or not. 

This Week In Football

  • Despite a little bit of last-minute drama with his visit to the Saints last week, in the end the expected outcome came to pass between the Raiders and QB Derek Carr, as the team officially released him on Tuesday before the guarantees in his contract came due. We wrote about how that outcome always made a ton of sense last week in this section, so we won’t rehash things. Carr’s now free to sign with any team, including the Saints. Plenty of other teams should be interested too, like the Jets. The Panthers also came up on Tuesday when he was cut. Carr won’t be in a huge hurry to pick, however. For one, the level of interest by some teams could depend on what Packers QB Aaron Rodgers decides. If he retires or stays in Green Bay, Carr will be in greater demand as the top quarterback available, and he’ll have a month before free agency to take his time and find the best fit. 
  • We still don’t know what’s going to happen with Rodgers in 2023, as the quarterback himself has a large say in that and hasn’t tipped his hand. Perhaps after his isolation retreat he’ll be ready to share his plans. What we do know is that whatever happens will be driven by him. If he wants a trade, the Packers will accommodate him. If he wants to be back, they’ll welcome him too. Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause but he’s not getting traded somewhere he doesn’t want to go. The Jets have already inquired with Green Bay and are positioning themselves as the leaders to potentially acquire him if he becomes available. There’s no secret New Yorks wants Rodgers badly. The question is if the feeling is mutual, and we’ll find out in the coming weeks. 
  • Flying under the radar, for now, is 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo. But if/when Rodgers is traded and Carr is signed, he’ll be the best quarterback available by a fair margin. Because of that, once free agency opens in mid-March Garoppolo is expected to draw significant interest from other teams as a starting option. Teams with connections to the New England or San Francisco coaching tree might even prefer him to Carr. That says as much about the dropoff to the other options available as it does the respective talents of Carr or Garoppolo, both of whom might be slightly underrated but still wouldn’t be mistaken for high-level starters. 
  • The wildcard of this entire offseason is Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. A key piece of information is coming up when the franchise tag window opens from February 21 to March 7. The Ravens are expected to tag Jackson, but it will be interesting to see if they use the exclusive or non-exclusive version. The non-exclusive would allow other teams to negotiate an offer with Jackson, with the Ravens able to either match or collect two first-round picks. The exclusive gives Baltimore sole negotiating rights but it will be more expensive, perhaps $45 million or more compared to $32.5 million on the lesser version. A trade is a possibility either way if the Ravens and Jackson remain dug in on their respective stances regarding a fully-guaranteed contract. It’s notable that Baltimore apparently didn’t definitively tell prospective offensive coordinator candidates that Jackson would be on the team in 2023. There are a couple of ways to interpret that — perhaps the team is allowing for the possibility of Jackson not signing the tag and holding out — but what is clear is that there remains a lot of uncertainty about Jackson in 2023. 
  • When the Bears clinched the No. 1 overall pick, there was a wave of discussion on analytics Twitter and sports talk shows about the merits of Chicago taking a quarterback with the pick and trading QB Justin Fields. Bears GM Ryan Poles seemed to dispel that notion pretty quickly after the season, saying they’d have to be “blown away.” And yet, multiple NFL general managers told Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post they came away from the Senior Bowl thinking Chicago would trade Fields. If true, that’d be a pretty big shakeup to the offseason quarterback carousel, as while Fields is far from a finished product, the potential he showed this past season even on a bad team was exciting. La Canfora can be hit-and-miss at times, but given the level and specificity of sources he’s citing here, it’s hard to just outright dismiss this report. But it matters more what the Bears think, not other GMs. 
  • I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of NFL retirement policy to tell you if Tom Brady filing official retirement paperwork with the NFL means a comeback is out of the question in 2023. It certainly doesn’t make me think it’s any more likely. It sheds more light on the Buccaneers’ plans for the 2023 season as they enter into the post-Brady era, however. By processing the retirement now instead of after June 1, the Buccaneers are taking on the entire $35 million in dead money left behind from their deals with Brady as opposed to splitting $11 million this year and $24 million in 2024. That means less flexibility to shore up the roster this year, but more in the future. It also means it’s less likely the Buccaneers are players for an expensive quarterback this offseason, as they already have $35 million on the books for the position from Brady alone. Several people on the beat have mentioned former second-round QB Kyle Trask will get the chance to compete to start, though he’s been unable to unseat veteran QB Blaine Gabbert as the primary backup the past couple of years. No one in Tampa Bay will admit to rebuilding but it’s unquestionably a reset year for the Bucs. 
  • Not that it’s any surprise, but a report from ESPN indicated the Texans have pretty much zeroed in on taking a quarterback with their first first-round pick at No. 2 overall and have been telling various coaching candidates that’s the plan. It’s the obvious move, but given Houston has another first-round selection at No. 12 overall, there was a possibility they could have tried to play the board, taking one of the top defensive prospects in the draft at No. 2 and trading up from No. 12 to secure their guy. The Texans also could have gone after a veteran like Garoppolo, who has strong connections to both Ryans and Caserio. They could still get a veteran quarterback as a bridge but odds are there will be a new prospective franchise passer starting for Houston in September, October at the latest. 
  • We’ve had contract-related bullets for Eagles QB Jalen Hurts for a week or two now. But after Hurts put up one of the best performances in Super Bowl history despite the loss to the Chiefs, the price is only going up. Market dynamics meant a deal worth $46 million a year would have been a steal for the Eagles. After that performance in the Super Bowl, it does not seem far-fetched to think Hurts could cross $50 million a year on his next deal with the Eagles, which almost assuredly will come sometime this offseason. The Eagles will be incentivized to get this deal done before the Bengals, Chargers and even possibly the Ravens finalize deals for their star quarterbacks. 
  • Now that the head coaching cycle has stopped spinning, expect coordinator hires to wrap up speedily with the NFL Combine fast approaching in less than two weeks. You can see all the moves that have been finalized and the others that are pending in our tracker. Some notes on the high-profile vacancies/candidates:
    • The Ravens landed Georgia OC Todd Monken, which will be a tremendous boon to Jackson if he’s playing in Baltimore next season. Monken is highly thought of both for his aggressiveness and his ability to accentuate the strengths of his personnel. As the Ravens try to modernize their passing attack, he’ll be a welcome addition. 
    • One of the biggest names available is Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, who is exploring his options outside of Kansas City and is someone the Commanders would be over the moon to land for their job. On the surface, the Washington job doesn’t look that attractive and a few other candidates have passed over it. New ownership and on-field struggles have Rivera on shaky footing if 2023 doesn’t go well, and the team has a, let’s say, unsettled quarterback situation. But Rivera and Bieniemy both come from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which shouldn’t be underestimated. And the skill position talent is strong. Though he shouldn’t have to, Bieniemy might feel like coordinating a top-ten offense away from Reid and the Chiefs is the only way he can break through and land a head coaching gig at this point. 
    • It was weird that the Broncos interviewed ESPN analyst Rex Ryan for their defensive coordinator job but teams will do some outside-the-box interviews from time to time, just to shake things up. But apparently, Ryan is the favorite to actually land the job on Payton’s staff, which is just mind-boggling. He hasn’t coached since 2016 and while he was once a highly-thought-of defensive coach, the league has changed a lot since then. This is certainly a gamble by the Broncos if it ends up happening. 

Nickels & Dimes

Quick-hit thoughts and observations from around the NFL…

This is what I’m going to remember most from this past Super Bowl, along with the Eagles and Hurts going toe-to-toe with him, not the penalty. As much of a bummer as it was to see the game end on a penalty and not Hurts getting a chance to put a drive together, it was clearly a foul…

One way or another, the ref has to make a judgement call. If they let the penalty slide, they’re making a choice to impact the game same as if they decide to call a foul…

It’s hard to find edges in the NFL but I think there’s still some to be gained by leaning into being more aggressive. The Eagles went for it on fourth down twice and converted both but passed on a 4th and 3 early in the fourth quarter. They were on their own 32, and HC Nick Sirianni is right in saying 32 of 32 coaches would have punted there. But the Eagles only got four possessions in the second half and one of them was the failed Hail Mary at the end. Avoiding turning this possession into a three-and-out arguably had more value than the field position…

(As an aside, here’s the play that led the fourth down in the first place, one of a number of breakdowns in pass pro. Despite coming into the game touted with the advantage on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Eagles didn’t get the performance they needed from either the offensive or defensive line)

The lack of aggressiveness cuts both ways. Chiefs WR Kadarius Toney nearly returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown and the Chiefs scored and kicked the extra point to go up eight. However, there’s a case to be made they should have gone for two and the chance to be up nine, as that would have nearly put the game on ice with how much time was left. The upside is high compared to the downside, which is still a seven-point lead and a likely tie game even if the Eagles scored. They could go for two, but there’s more downside to that decision from Philadelphia’s perspective. It worked out in the end but something to chew on…

Speaking of Toney, the flashes from him this postseason have been electric. He has special movement ability and is strong for his size, too. The Chiefs don’t really have anyone remarkably dynamic on offense that defenses have to gameplan specifically for besides Kelce, even if they have solid role players. Toney could change that if he stays healthy and applies himself. There’s a reason the Giants were willing to give up on him after all…

Last two notes from the Super Bowl: 1) I absolutely think Mahomes would be a Hall of Famer if he never played another snap. I also don’t think it’s that controversial of a take at this point. 2) The Chiefs are about to enter their villain era. The sports world as a whole only tolerates sustained success for so long before they’re ready to see someone knocked down a peg…

I’m not saying the Bucs and Commanders are tanking because neither Rivera nor Todd Bowles can afford a losing season. But all this talk about Sam Howell and Kyle Trask as starters — and go ahead and toss the Raiders and Jarrett Stidham in there too — has me wondering if some teams are already eyeing the 2024 draft class…

It could also be teams just not wanting to overextend for Carr or Garoppolo and trusting time in the system will give the young guns an advantage over someone like Andy Dalton or Baker Mayfield

Just to expand on this, there’s certainly a case to be made for the Panthers going after a veteran. Carolina’s 6-6 record with Wilks last year shows they might not be that far away from competing, and the rest of the NFC South is ripe for the taking. But as we’ve seen, there’s risk in taking veteran quarterbacks and plugging them into new systems, and Carr has shown he’s particularly sensitive to his environment. There’s no more risk going with a rookie and probably more upside…

One of the coolest things I saw from the Super Bowl…

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