Every year, an average of seven new NFL head coaches are hired. The 2018 offseason was no different, as seven teams moved on from their former leaders. Opinions on some of the new hires are mixed, but there is a sense of optimism around them all. What could the records of these coaches look like in their first seasons with their new teams?
7. Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts
For a moment, Colts fans thought they were getting Patriots OC Josh McDaniels as their new head coach. McDaniels accepted the position, and some of his choices for assistants were already hired. But then, McDaniels changed his mind and spurned the franchise, leaving the Colts to go with their second option, Eagles OC Frank Reich.
Reich’s work with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, combined with his Super Bowl victory, made him an attractive candidate. He steps into a volatile situation in Indy. Andrew Luck’s status remains unknown, and his ability to play will make or break the season. If he is healthy, the Colts will be a playoff contender. If he is not, another year of Jacoby Brissett will likely net another top-10 pick.
After a trade with the New York Jets, the Colts moved from the third pick to the sixth. Barkley will be the popular pick, but the smarter option would be Chubb, if he is available. A linebacker (Smith or Edmunds) is another possibility, as is guard Quenton Nelson.
The Colts’ season depends on Luck. His health will have ramifications for not only the Colts, but the rest of the NFL.
Record prediction: 4-12
6. Pat Shurmur, New York Giants
In 2011, the Cleveland Browns hired former St. Louis Rams OC Pat Shurmur as their head coach. He went 10-23 in his two seasons on the job, and after he was fired, took the Philadelphia Eagles’ OC position before holding the same spot with the Minnesota Vikings.
Now, Shurmur gets a second chance as an NFL head coach, this time tasked with leading the New York Giants through a transition phase. The Giants finished 3-13 this past season due to a combination of injuries and dysfunction. Legendary QB Eli Manning is 37, and New York could be looking to draft his replacement this year. Stalwart DE Jason Pierre-Paul has already been traded, and rumors have been swirling about the possibility of star WR Odell Beckham Jr. being dealt.
With the second overall pick, the Giants have plenty of options. They will have their choice of the three top QBs that Cleveland does not take, and could select Manning’s successor. Saquon Barkley would give them an elite running back for the first time since Tiki Barber. DE Bradley Chubb would be a great replacement for Pierre-Paul.
The Giants could also trade their pick to a team in need of a QB, recouping a hefty sum. Whatever the Giants do will have ramifications for the rest of the draft on all teams.
Shurmur is in a tough situation. It will be interesting to see how the brash and obnoxious New York media treats his dull and soft-spoken demeanor.
Record prediction: 5-11
5. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
Nagy spent 2017 as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator after a few years as an offensive assistant for the team. After going 14-34 in three seasons under John Fox, Chicago needed a fresh face with some offensive creativity. The 39-year-old Nagy fits the bill.
His 2017 Chiefs ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense, averaging 375 yards while scoring 25.9 points per game. Nagy was also able to develop Kareem Hunt from an under-the-radar third-round pick into a Pro Bowler and Rookie of the Year finalist. He put up 1,782 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns while leading the NFL in rushing.
The Bears went 5-11 last year, but there is reason to be encouraged for this season. Young QB Mitchell Trubisky had an impressive rookie season despite sitting for the first few weeks and then not throwing the ball much due to their gameplans. He should improve even more with a full offseason under the tutelage of Nagy, and he looks like a true franchise quarterback.
Running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen form a solid one-two punch and should be heavily involved once again this year. In free agency, the Bears added Super Bowl hero Trey Burton and former Jacksonville Pro Bowl receiver Allen Robinson. Trubisky will have weapons to throw to, and the Bears’ offense should be much better than 2017.
Defensively, the Bears have a young and impressive group. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos form one of the best tandems in the NFL. Solid free agent addition Aaron Lynch fills a big hole on the defense, and keeping Prince Amukamara was important for the secondary.
In the draft, the Bears hold the 8th and 39th overall selections in the first two rounds. They will most likely look at defense, with Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds being options at the linebacker position.
While the Bears have made some improvements, they are still coming off of a 5-11 season with a young QB who could struggle in year two.
Record prediction: 7-9
4. Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals
After leading the Carolina Panthers’ feisty defense for a long time, Wilks moves on to Arizona to rebuild the Cardinals. QB Carson Palmer is now retired, replaced by Sam Bradford. RB David Johnson is recovered from his wrist injury and should be back to playing at an all-pro level.
The Cardinals own the 15th overall pick and could be looking to move up for a QB, namely Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. If they decide to hold off on a signal caller, a linebacker or defensive back would be a good selection.
The NFC West is not the division it used to be. The Rams seem to be the favorites, but if Bradford can remain healthy, the Cardinals should be able to challenge for at least second in the division.
Record prediction: 8-8
1(t). Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
In 2002, one of the strangest occurrences in NFL history took place. Coming off a 10-6 season, the Oakland Raiders traded head coach Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for two 1st-round and three 2nd-round picks. Ironically, the two teams faced off against each other in the 2002 Super Bowl, with Gruden’s Buccaneers coming out victorious.
Over 15 years later, after an extended stint as Monday Night Football’s broadcast analyst, Gruden is back in Oakland. The Raiders finished just 6-10 in 2017, falling short of high expectations after going 12-4 the year before.
One of the main reasons for their struggles were a lack of offensive creativity. Former head coach Jack Del Rio is known as a defense-first coach, and offensive coordinator Todd Downing was let go. Despite having players such as Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch, Micheal Crabtree, Amari Cooper, and a great offensive line, Oakland ranked 17th in the NFL in total yards with 5,185 and scored just 18.8 points per game.
Gruden is touted as an offensive genius, and if any team needs that, it’s the Raiders. Gruden has already made a big impact on the team’s culture, replacing Crabtree with former Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson and cutting outspoken punter Marquette King.
The Raiders own the tenth overall selection in the draft, and will most likely be looking for defensive help. Smith, Edmunds, and defensive backs such as Denzel Ward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Derwin James are all good options.
The Raiders play in a solid division, and their performance will depend on the QB play of Denver’s Case Keenum and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. The Raiders will have a good chance to win the division if Gruden can bring a spark.
Record prediction: 10-6
1(t). Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
After two straight 9-7 finishes, the Titans parted ways with head coach Mike Mularkey and brought on former Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. Vrabel is well-liked by his former players and should be a good fit for Tennessee. The Titans’ offense will once again be commandeered by Marcus Mariota, and a run-heavy scheme should remain.
The AFC South should be one of the best divisions in the NFL, with the Titans competing against the AFC Championship runner-up Jaguars, the Houston Texans (who were on a role while Deshaun Watson was healthy), and the Indianapolis Colts, who hope to get star QB Andrew Luck back healthy.
Tennessee holds the 25th pick and could be looking to bolster their pass rush, whether from the edge or the interior. Taven Bryan, Maurice Hurst, and Marcus Davenport are possibilities.
Vrabel was a surprise choice as head coach and will have an opportunity to prove himself. Thankfully for him, he already has the hardest part down: a franchise QB.
Record prediction: 10-6
1(t). Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions
The other Patriots coordinator actually kept his word. Patricia will attempt to improve an already solid Detroit defense. The offense, lead by Matthew Stafford, can score points, but it really needs its RBs to step up in order to be successful. Perhaps free agent addition LeGarrette Blount will help with that.
The Lions have the 20th pick in the draft. A pass rusher like Davenport, Bryan, or Hurst would be ideal, but Detroit could look to fix its RB situation for good, taking LSU’s Derrius Guice.
The Lions were in the playoff hunt for much of the season, and by filling a few holes, they could return to that stage.
Record prediction: 10-6