As NFL teams zero in on this year’s upcoming draft, we’ve gone back and taken a look at an exciting, and often daring, 2018-2019 coaching carousel.
8. Kliff Kingsbury: Arizona Cardinals
Where did this one come from? This was by far the most surprising hire of the offseason; in fact, even Kingsbury himself was surprised, having recently accepted an offensive coordinator position at USC. Kingsbury took the job with no prior NFL coaching experience. He coached at Texas Tech for six seasons, accumulating a 35-40 overall record, while going 19-35 in Big 12 play. He won just one single bowl game, the Holiday Bowl, in his first season, where he finished with his best record at 8-5. While he was Johnny Manziel’s offensive coordinator for his Heisman campaign in 2012, Kingsbury’s lack of NFL coaching experience and rather unimpressive head coaching record at Texas Tech does not seem to bode well for Arizona fans… yet.
7. Adam Gase: New York Jets
Adam Gase only coached for three seasons in Miami, where he finished with a 23-25 record. His biggest feat was getting the Dolphins back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, finishing 10-6 in his first season. He also held the offensive coordinator position in Denver in 2013 and 2014, the latter being Peyton Manning’s record-breaking season. All-in-all, this is a safe hire. Gase is experienced and has had some success, but he still needs to show that he is able to win. He will have to get some more production out of quarterback Sam Darnold in New York if he hopes to help rebuild a fledgling football team.
6. Zac Taylor: Cincinnati Bengals
This was risky, but maybe that’s a good thing. For years, the Cincinnati Bengals have run their franchise through the model of stability and familiarity. Marvin Lewis, the most egregious example of this, ended up coaching Cincinnati for 16 whole seasons without registering a single playoff win. But with the new hire of LA Rams Quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, it seems the Bengals are going a different route. Taylor oversaw Rams QB Jared Goff’s breakout season and seemingly played a pivotal role in the Rams Superbowl appearance this season. The major downside to the Bengals’ decision is the fact that Taylor is extremely inexperienced, holding a significant coaching position in LA for just a single season. Taylor’s inexperience may come back to haunt him in the eyes of the fanbase. But hey: at least it’s not Hue Jackson… right?
5. Brian Flores: Miami Dolphins
Brian Flores was a “defensive play-caller” for one year. So, how does that make him in any way qualified for a head coaching position? Well, Flores has been a scout, assistant coach, and defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots organization since 2004, which probably qualifies him to do just about any football-related job ever. Not really, but the Dolphins do see the experience under Flores’ belt. Essentially, Flores knows what he is doing, and though he has only been a coordinator for a single year, New England’s defense saw major improvements under his watch. He hopes to implement his scheme and get the Dolphins back to the postseason for the first time in three seasons.
4. Matt LaFleur: Green Bay Packers
Another Sean McVay protege, Matt LaFleur has a similar background to Zac Taylor. The only difference is, LaFleur has done a little more. Not only was he McVay’s OC in 2017, but he oversaw RG3’s electrifying rookie season in 2012 as the quarterbacks coach for Washington, as well as Matt Ryan’s MVP season in 2016 as the quarterbacks coach in Atlanta. Unfortunately for him, his offense in Tennessee this season finished 25th in the NFL which raises some concerns. Besides that, LaFleur has been highly successful at just about every NFL job that he has held. His predecessor in Green Bay registered a 125-77 career record with 10 playoff wins and a Superbowl until being fired this season. It is safe to say that failure is not tolerated in Green Bay, so LaFleur will have to start winning, and fast, if he hopes to keep this job.
3. Freddie Kitchens: Cleveland Browns
Initially, this was surprising. The Browns seemed to be clicking under Gregg Williams, winning 5 of their last 8 games. Ever since Williams took over for Hue Jackson, the Browns looked like a completely different football team. But in the modern-day NFL, everything runs through the quarterback, which makes Kitchens the ideal candidate for this job. Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator for the Browns after the firing of Hue Jackson and immediately put his scheme into place. Whatever he did, it worked. Baker Mayfield and the rest of the Browns offense saw improvements across the board and finished with a somewhat respectable 7-8-1 record. While some of this success can be attributed to Williams, it was clear that Mayfield and Kitchens were seeing eye-to-eye. The Browns front office have made it clear that they are going to build around Mayfield, and hiring Kitchens is the first step.
2. Vic Fangio: Denver Broncos
In today’s NFL, offense takes center stage. Every hire on this list, besides Flores, has some sort of offensive background. The Fangio hire by Denver takes a completely different route. Fangio has presided over some of the most successful defenses in the league over the past 12 seasons, most notably Chicago in 2018, bringing them from the 30th ranked defense to the 3rd ranked defense in total yards allowed in a span of four seasons. To add to this, in eight of the last twelve seasons, Fangio’s defenses have ranked top five in total yards allowed. He has been a successful defensive coach just about everywhere he has been, including Houston, San Francisco, Indianapolis, and Chicago. Fangio may be the most deserving of a head coaching position out of anyone on this list, as he hopes to continue his successes in Denver.
1. Bruce Arians: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is there a better guy out there? Head coaching experience, offensive mindedness, and, most importantly, success, can be attributed to Arians’ name. He is one of the most likable guys in the league and he even wears ivy caps. Arians went 49-30 during his five-year stint with Arizona, including a magical 13-3 AFC championship team in 2015 that led the NFL in offensive yards. After the 2017 season, he retired, and the Cardinals finished with a 3-13 record in his first year away from the team. His retirement was short lived, however, and after just one season away from football, Arians is back. Tampa Bay holds the second longest active postseason drought, having not made the playoffs in 11 years. Only time will tell if Bruce Arians is the guy to turn the franchise around, but as of now, Tampa made a solid decision.