Once again the head coach merry-go round has been and gone. Whilst we are waiting on a couple of confirmed hirings (Miami Dolphins’ and Cincinnati Bengals’ expected hires of Brian Flores and Zac Taylor cannot be finalised until after the coaches have finished competing in the Super Bowl), we can start assessing the quality of these appointments. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve split this into three sections, starting today with the veteran head coaches who have prior experience in the role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bruce Arians (A)
The hire of B.A. by the Bucs is my favourite head coaching hire this offseason. Arians did a great job in Arizona recording double digit wins from 2013 to the 2015 season, before the bottom fell out in 2016 and 2017. I’d put that down to a lack of talent though, particularly as the Cardinals were relying on an ageing Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald on offence, whilst the current state of the roster in Glendale demonstrates the lack of quality personnel.
We all know Arians has been responsible for coaching some of the most successful and highly performing quarterbacks in the NFL of recent years such as Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. In addition to that, he helped reignite Palmer’s career in Arizona after he appeared to be a spent force as the Raiders’ quarterback.
There’s no reason to believe he can’t do the same with Jameis Winston, who has the big arm Arians loves for his vertical passing scheme, but has shown suspect decision making at times. The Bucs have great talent at the offensive skill positions including number one receiver Mike Evans, rising star Chris Godwin, as well as tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard who are big threats in the passing game.
Another coup for Tampa Bay was in getting Todd Bowles to sign on as defensive coordinator. Whilst Bowles wasn’t a success as a head coach in New York, he has a stellar record as a coordinator, having worked with Arians back in Arizona. Bowles loves to blitz, which is good news for all those additions general manager Jason Licht made last summer on the defensive line, but may cause problems for a secondary which has been a continuous issue.
This hire though, was all about the Bucs making one last roll of the dice in maximising the potential they saw in Winston when they made him the number one overall pick back in 2015. No-one can say they haven’t given him the best coach available.
New York Jets: Adam Gase (B-)
The firing of Bowles led to the inevitable and annual event of an NFL franchise seeking a quarterback whisperer to develop their young quarterback. The Jets were just one of many teams in on the quarterback guru sweepstakes this year, eventually hitching their wagon to former Miami head coach Adam Gase. Before he was hired in South Florida, Gase was seen as the coach teams would want in order to revive a moribund offense.
He’d helped Peyton Manning break NFL records in Denver and even got an effective season out of Jay Cutler in Chicago. Now, however, he’s suddenly damaged goods and the Jets have been roundly criticised for hiring a coach with a losing record from a division rival.
I, on the other hand, am much more positive than that. Re-tread head coaches tend to demonstrate much more success at their later teams (see Belichick, Bill; Carroll, Pete) and I’d like to think Gase has learnt from his mistakes he made at the Dolphins. Reports tend to indicate Gase was seen as too willing to stick with Ryan Tannehill at QB much to the chagrin of Miami players. To an extent, I can’t blame the former Broncos coordinator too much for that given that the reason he was hired was to develop Tannehill. Equally, what other options were there on the roster? Matt Moore? Jay Cutler?! (The less said about that the better.) It seems Gase was also given responsibility for the roster, which he allegedly didn’t seek out when interviewing for the ‘Fins job.
At the Jets, Gase will be able to focus on coaching, with general manager Mike Maccagnan responsible for constructing the roster. Gase was a victim of a dysfunctional franchise down in South Beach with the team signing big name players like Ndamukong Suh, who they later jettisoned, and showing a real inability to stick to a plan in terms of what the team’s identity was. Don’t get me wrong, Gase is partially to blame for that too, but the Jets are entering a period of (relative) stability with a talented young QB in Sam Darnold and young building blocks across the roster, such as safety Jamal Adams.
Gase might not have been the trendy offensive name the Jets were hoping for, but he certainly has a notable track record in enabling talented QBs to be successful, and just like Tampa, this hire was all about the QB. Also, he knows the division, and let’s face it Jets fans, he’s shown he can beat the Patriots.