Coaching Carousel 2020
As with every year in the NFL, teams that struggle search for answers. Many of those searches end up being in the head coaching department. Makes sense right? Leadership is a huge deal when the entire workforce is composed of millionaires at the top of their field. And it has to be a daunting thought for an organization when deciding who is going to be the guy to lead their respective franchises into the next year or multiple years. In the fast paced world of NFL front office decisions, it is vital to hit on this choice and hit early. The alternative is another 2-3 years of struggles and then repeating the same process over again.
This year is no different. With teams like the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlanta Falcons being mathematically eliminated so early compared to teams like Philadelphia, they do get a head start on their search. Even if that head start is behind closed doors and just at the research level of prospective candidates, there is a clear advantage there. And that is no more clear than teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills. Eric Bieniemy and Brian Daboll are two of the candidates that have the highest ceilings of the many candidates that have done preliminary interviews with multiple teams, but because they are still in the fight, they are not able to participate in second round, in person interviews as Covid protocols in the NFL are very stringent, and rightfully so. You can’t have a coach flying across the country to unknown circumstances then come back and rejoin the team to press on. The question is, does that hurt candidates like Bieniemy and Daboll? Does it hurt teams that may have selected their guy over those guys to get the hire complete? It is all one big chess game and if you ask me, that chess game is fascinating and that’s why this time of year is my favorite time of year for football.
Let’s look at some of the recent hires around the league. Robert Saleh has snagged the New York Jets job and as a Jets fan myself, I couldn’t be happier. I am surprised though, because all rumors throughout the season were circulating around Greg Roman due to the Joe Douglas Baltimore connection, and Wink Martidale more recently for the same reasons. Neither one even got an interview. Joe Douglas maybe squashing those “I hire my buddies” rumors? Possibly. More likely, I believe that Joe Douglas truly wants to build the right team with the right pieces in the right places and Robert Saleh most likely had an instant connection with Joe D. Phenomenal hire. Robert Saleh was able to keep an injury ridden defense in the top 5 of most defensive categories. He did that with backups and practice squad call ups. That is a giant green check mark on his resume. Not to mention, Robert Saleh is the first Islamic head coach in NFL history, keeping with the New York Jets history of bringing in minority people to lead our team.
Jacksonville managed to lure Urban Meyer out of retirement to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars. I don’t know how I feel about this hire. This feels like a splash hire to shake things up, but Meyer, through his fault or not, has had health issues and essentially quit on his last 2 head coaching positions. I’m not taking a stance on the why, I am reporting the facts to you. Is that what the struggling Jaguars need? A long term question mark as head coach? This will go one of two ways. Either this is the home run hire of the decade, or this will implode horrifically in the face of the Jags and let’s be honest, if the latter happens, it will be the fans that suffer most. And as a Jets fan, I am a legitimate authority on abused fanbases.
With open jobs being filled, nearly every other day, And as I am writing this, Dan Campbell is now the new head coach of the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia is reportedly signing Nick Sirianni as their next HC. There are still a couple names that have been spoken of as the top names for any open job this year. Two names that everyone said will be able to choose their landing spot. That every team will offer the position. Those names are Eric Bieniemy and Brian Daboll. Both of those guys are still getting ready to fight it out in the AFC Championship game this weekend, so the question is, in the Covid year of the NFL and the travel restrictions imposed on teams with the Covid protocols in place, does that hurt a good coaching candidate for still being alive in the playoffs? Falcons job filled. Jets job filled. Lions job filled. Jags job filled. Chargers hire Brandon Staley Tuesday and now the Eagles job is filled too. All of a sudden, there are now more big name candidates than jobs left. It looks like Houston is the last job available. Will Daboll and Bieniemy be left on the outside looking in?
The bigger story, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention all of the facts here, is Eric Bieniemy’s past. We all know his personal history with legal and domestic issues. Could that be a determining factor in teams maybe not wanting to take the chance? He has been passed over for several years on many openings. His football resume is top tier. No questioning that. He comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, so what is the issue if it logically couldn’t be his football acumen? Unfortunately, I have looked at this scenario in every conceivable way, and the only conclusion I am willing to speak of as I do not know the specifics on Bieniemy’s history, is that it doesn’t appear to be a football decision to pass on him for these teams. I will highlight that these issues are very deep in his past and he has not experienced any legal issues in many years. And I will also say I believe in innocence until guilt is proven.
Daboll may want to pull his name from consideration at this point. Houston is not a good landing spot. Anyone considering the Houston job has no idea if they will have Watson under center, they have negative cap space, no first OR second round picks this year, so Houston is essentially asking a new coach, just starting their head coaching career, to step in and punt on season one. Daboll would be smart to stick with Buffalo, pad the resume a bit and see what openings pop up next year.
The coaching carousel is always a wild ride and 2020 has not disappointed in that respect. I think in a normal season, playoff team candidates aren’t really being held back, but I do think it hurt this year. But such is life. It is rarely fair. My condolences to Houston Texans fans. This fix is going to take a while guys, and I’ve been there. Keep your heads up. Jets are finally looking strong going into free agency. Falcons I think are hit or miss with Arthur Smith. Mainly because it is their defense that is coughing up games left and right, and Smith is the offensive mind. I can’t speak to the Chargers, Lions, or Eagles choices too much without more research, but trust the process guys and gals. At the end of the day, these guys do this stuff for a living and they are at the top level of their fields so they must know a little something right? Right Houston??
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