NFL New Head Coach Rankings for the 2021 Season
NFL New Head Coach Rankings for the 2021 season: The cycle for 2021 NFL head coach hires cycle was busy — including a major hire by the Jacksonville Jaguars of former Ohio State star head coach Urban Meyer.
With a total of seven jobs open, we knew there was going to be a lot of movement. Some of the top candidates thrown out all season long did find jobs, while some of the more recent hirings have been puzzling, to say the least.
Here are my thoughts on the six coaches hired so far and how I rank them from 6-1. (Sorry, Houston Texans, we’ll get to you when you decide to hire one,)
NFL New Head Coach Rankings for the 2021 Season
6. Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions
Dan Campbell has had a strange path to becoming an NFL head coach. Campbell finished his playing career in 2008 with the Lions and then became a coaching assistant with the Miami Dolphins. He then served as the tight end coach from 2011-2015 before joining the Saints. Campbell coached with the Saints from 2016-2020, serving in the same role.
Campbell has no experience calling plays or even designing an offense. But the appeal to the Lions was that he’s not Matt Patricia.
Campbell is a football guy through and through, and his toughness and leadership are what attracted the front office to him. So far, he has said all of the right things in the media, and he is a coach that players will love to play for.
However, can he find ways to out scheme opponents on both sides of the ball? That’s where we have our doubts, as it’s just not something he’s had to do yet in his coaching career.
He received a six-year deal from the Lions, so the front office will give him time to turn things around. But of the six candidates hired this year, his resume and coaching chops leave a lot to be desired.
5. Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars
This club needed a splash, and the Jaguars certainly got one in Urban Meyer. One of the greatest college coaches ever, Meyer will now get the chance to show that he can win in the NFL. But can he turn around the Jaguars, who are devoid of talent on both sides of the ball and only have a few playoff wins this century?
The biggest question surrounding Meyer will be his offensive scheme. While it hasn’t been announced yet, Darrell Bevell appears to be the favorite to call plays. That is somewhat concerning after just middling success this decade as an offensive coordinator. His scheme requires elite quarterback play and doesn’t help young quarterbacks all that much.
Because Meyer is more a “culture” coach than a mastermind on one side of the ball, his coordinator hires will always be critical. He’s going to need to get those hires right in order to have success in Jacksonville. Meyer could be a massive success in the NFL, but color me skeptical that he will be great right away with the Jaguars.
4. Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
One of the most surprising, out-of-nowhere hirings that we had during this head coaching cycle was Brandon Staley.
A few days before the hiring was officially announced, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll appeared to have the job. With the work that he’s done with Josh Allen this season, that seemed like a perfect fit with up-and-coming star Justin Herbert.
However, the Chargers went in a different direction, hiring Staley away from the Los Angeles Rams.
Staley is just 38 years old and has been a coordinator in the NFL for only one season. However, he was impressive during that one year, leading the Rams to be the No. 1-ranked defense in both scoring and yards allowed.
But how much of a factor was that he had two All-Pros on his roster in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey? Certainly, that will make life easier on just about any coach. On the bright side, Staley’s aggressive blitz calls and ability to disguise coverages made that defense special.
The Chargers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but their defense just hasn’t been good enough over the last few years. If Herbert can continue to make strides on offense and Staley can coach up the defense, it’s not hard to see why this hiring might work out.
3. Robert Saleh, New York Jets
This is one that we don’t love as much as the rest of the national media. Robert Saleh made his name as the fiery defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers when they made their run to the Super Bowl during the 2019-2020 season.
However, his defense played at an elite level when he had multiple top-15 picks on the unit, including two top-six selections in Nick Bosa (lost for the 2020 season to injury in Week 2) and DeForest Buckner (now with the Indianapolis Colts). That season appears to be a blip on the radar as the 49ers finished 25th, 28th and 17th in points allowed per game in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Having said that, Saleh has been praised for his leadership, passion, and no-nonsense attitude. That is undoubtedly something the Jets need after their debacle with Adam Gase. Saleh should instill toughness and speed to a team that desperately lacks it.
Unfortunately, Saleh will be judged as a coach by how he fixes the revolving door at quarterback for the Jets. He did bring over Mike LaFleur from the 49ers, who will serve as the offensive coordinator. That does inspire some confidence as he was impressive as the passing game coordinator in San Francisco.
Saleh isn’t the worst option for the Jets, but there were other offensive minds out there that made more sense given their current problems.
2. Arthur Smith, Atlanta Falcons
One of the most recent trends in the NFL has been to find young play-callers who can help maximize an offense’s potential.
No offensive coordinator has done a better job of doing that over the last two years than Arthur Smith.
After being named the offensive coordinator in Tennessee in 2019, Smith transformed the Titans into a top-10 offense in both seasons and saved Ryan Tannehill‘s career. With a combination of play-action and deep shots down the field, the Titans turned into one of the league’s most difficult offenses to stop.
After being hired by the Falcons, Smith will now get a new challenge as he looks to extend Matt Ryan and Julio Jones‘ primes. This is already an offense with a ton of talent (hello, Calvin Ridley), but the offense just hasn’t been quite as dynamic or consistent as it should have been over the last two years.
Smith should get Ryan back to playing at an elite level relatively quickly. But the biggest task will be how to fix Atlanta’s defense. If he can figure that out, look for Smith to have a ton of success in the NFL right away.
1. Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles
Of all the available jobs, the Eagles might have been the least attractive job out there. When you combine their salary cap situation, impatient front office and quarterback situation, that’s not the most desirable job.
However, the Eagles landed arguably the best young coaching candidate in the NFL in Nick Sirianni.
Over the last three seasons, Sirianni was the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator. During his time with the Colts, he saw the team rotate in multiple different quarterbacks, including three straight new quarterbacks in Week 1. And yet, the Colts remained relevant and had one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Sirianni is just 39 years old, but he’s experienced and has been working under Frank Reich for several years now. He’s become a specialist in working with quarterbacks to improve their footwork and technique.
That is something the Eagles need as they look to rebuild Carson Wentz from the ground up. Don’t be surprised if Sirianni gets Wentz back to playing good football, which should translate into wins sooner rather than later.
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