Making The Grade – NFL Coaching Hires

Eric Urbanowicz
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The 2024 NFL head coaching carousel has come to an end. Barring any unforeseen changes, every team has their head coach for next season. With a mix of first timers and second chance coaches, it will be interesting to see how each team does next year.

Of course, we as fans love to speculate and give grades to the teams based on if they got it right or made a mistake. So let’s do just that: here are the initial grades for each team’s head coach choice.


Atlanta Falcons: Raheem Morris

Good news Falcons fans, Arthur Smith is gone and heading to the Pittsburgh Steelers. So of the 14 names that Atlanta brought in for at least one interview, who did they go with?

The answer is their former interim coach from 2020 who was passed over for Smith: Raheem Morris.

The former Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator has done wonders for L.A, taking them from a great defense under Wade Phillips to a dangerous one when healthy. Given that Atlanta has a good passing defense but struggled against the run, this could be a sneaky good hire by the dirty birds.

The offense is starting to come together, with a starting quarterback being the one thing they need. Realistically Morris may be the guy to get them there, especially with the division being so pass happy right now.

Grade: B


Carolina Panthers: Dave Canales

Last year the Carolina Panthers traded up for the first-overall pick in the NFL, giving a king’s ransom of picks and even a stud player (wide receiver D.J. Moore) to draft quarterback Bryce Young. The move completely backfired and cost head coach Frank Reich his job in under a year.

On the surface, hiring former Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator Dave Canales is an interesting idea. Canales helped Baker Mayfield have a career year in Tampa Bay, as well as helped Russell Wilson make the most out of his final years in Seattle. He has a knack for getting the best out of shorter quarterbacks.

With that said however, it does come at a cost. Under Canales last year, Tampa Bay finished 23rd in total yards, 17th in passing yards, 32nd in rushing yards and 20th in points scored. If you can get good quarterback play does that make up for rough numbers?

This is a boom or bust hire that has a lot that can go wrong very quickly.

Grade: C+


Las Vegas Raiders: Antonio Pierce

It’s like Deja vu all over again for Las Vegas: they fired a coach part way through the season, they see some success with their new coach, only to interview other coaches. The difference between the last time and this time is that they actually listened and decided to give their interim coach a chance.

After opting for Josh McDaniels over then interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, owner Mark Davis decided to hire Antonio Pierce as their full time head coach. Given that there was at least one key player threatening to demand a trade had they gone in another direction, Davis may have made the right choice. Choosing to continue building what they started at the end of last year shows a commitment to continuity.

Now we wait to see if it pays off.

Grade: A


Los Angeles Chargers: Jim Harbaugh

Once upon a time, Jim Harbaugh was seen as future Super Bowl winning head coach. Then the San Francisco 49ers started to tear down the team around him, leading his departure for Michigan. While it ultimately worked out for both sides, as San Francisco heads to their second Super Bowl since and Harbaugh built up the Michigan football program to the point of winning a National Championship, that what if still remained.

Enter the Los Angeles Chargers, who fired Brandon Staley during the season. With the pieces that Los Angeles has in place, both for getting pieces that Harbaugh will want and the ones he’ll want to keep, he couldn’t have gotten luckier. This situation is one that is hard to screw up, but it will ultimately come down to if they’re the right pieces for him.

Grade: A


New England Patriots: Jerod Mayo

Immediately following Bill Belichick’s departure, the New England Patriots announced the promotion of Jerod Mayo as their new head coach. Mayo, who was in the running for the Carolina Panthers’ head coaching job as well as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator job, decided to stay with New England, seemingly knowing he was next in line.

The New England Patriots are in desperate need of a makeover. While Mayo seems similar to Belichick in ways, he also seems a little more modern based off of how his linebackers played. If he models the team’s mantra under Belichick but add a modern twist, this should be a good move by New England.

The one thing that their fans won’t like hearing is that it may take some time to start it up again. This one will take time more than likely, just trust the process.

Grade: B


Seattle Seahawks: Mike Macdonald

Under Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks reached the Super Bowl twice, won it once, maintained a level of winning consistency and went through the process of a rebuild. Now he hands it off to a younger successor in Mike Macdonald. Similar to Carroll, Macdonald is defensive minded and bounced between the NFL and college football before getting a head coaching job.

While the defense may get a boost under Macdonald, it’s the offense that may become a concern. Seattle had the 20th most passing yards and the 28th most rushing yards. Depending on how Seattle structures their coaching staff, this could be a concern. Still, playing to their strength may be the safe bet.

Grade: B-


Tennessee Titans: Brian Callahan

The Tennessee Titans surprised many when they let Mike Vrabel walk in favor of former Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. The work Callahan has done with quarterback Joe Burrow, developing him from college superstar to knocking on the door of being an elite quarterback, is something that Tennessee hopes they can do with either Will Levis or if there’s a more tempting option in the draft.

His red flag comes in his ability to play call. Assuming he calls his own plays, this will be something new to him at the NFL level, as Zach Taylor called the plays for Cincinnati. Sometimes it takes young offensive coaches some time to really get their footing. It will be interesting to see what his offensive staff looks like, specifically if they go with any senior assistants on offense.

Grade: B


Washington Commanders: Dan Quinn

Dan Quinn is back as a head coach in the NFL, this time with the Washington Commanders. Fresh off of a stint where he had the Dallas Cowboys defense amongst the most dangerous in the NFL, Quinn will have his work cut out for him.

Quinn will inherit the league’s worst defense (32nd in yards allowed, 32 in passing yards allowed, 27th in rushing yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed) as well as a pretty underwhelming offense. With the expected combination of him running the defense and Eric Bieniemy running the offense, this could work well.

Now, there’s people that probably are going to ask “why didn’t they promote Bieniemy to the position?” The short answer is, Quinn has done this before. It’s easy to call Quinn a “retread” but that’s ignoring that he never had the team below second place before his final season.

With a new-ish ownership in place, they’ll want to turn this thing around fairly quickly, and someone whose made the Super Bowl three times (twice as a defensive coordinator and once as a head coach) and even winning one is a good way to do so. It will still warrant questions, but that seems like the direction they’re going. Will it work? Only time will tell but on paper, it makes sense.

Grade: B+

Eric Urbanowicz


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