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Ranking The 6 New NFL Head Coaches For The 2017 Season

Kyle Shanahan

(Brett Davis/USA Today)

Take a look at the 6 new NFL head coaches entering the 2017 season. Which NFL franchise made the best hire? (Brett Davis USA Today)

Following the conclusion of Super Bowl 51, the 49ers were able to officially hire Kyle Shanahan as their new head coach. Now that every NFL team has found a head coach for the 2017 season, it’s time to rank each one. Did every team make the right hire to lead their franchise?

  1. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)

Speaking of Shanahan, the 49ers hired the most qualified assistant on the market. San Fran did have to wait until after the Super Bowl to hire their guy but sometimes patience is rewarded. In an offensive-minded league, Shanahan fits the mold as a brilliant play caller. Shanahan’s offense is predicated on his zone running scheme that opens up the play-action passing game.  27 percent of Atlanta’s offensive snaps were play-action passes which were the most in the NFL. The Falcons lead the NFL in points per game (33.8) for a reason and it wasn’t because of Dan Quinn who runs the defense. Let’s take a closer look at what makes Kyle Shanahan so special.

Shanahan loves athletic offensive lineman who can move in space. When his linemen can attack the 2nd level of the defense that’s when his running game is most effective (NFL)
This is a typical Shanahan zone run play where the running back makes a cut back in the hole while the lineman is already attacking the downhill safety (NFL)

Now this play baits the guy circled in red to make a choice. Go after the back or attack the quarterback? If he goes after the back, Freeman will go outside of the tackle and pick up a nice gain as you can see there’s a lot of room on the right side of the screen. If the player circled in red goes after the quarterback, the running back is assigned to cut up the field and hit the hole. You can see why this running style makes Shanahan’s play-action pass look so flawless.

Shanahan has taken average backs like Steve Slaton and Alfred Morris and turned them into All Pro’s. His father Mike Shanahan did the same thing for many years in Denver. Remember guys like Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell? That was all because of the Shanahan system. The day he leaves Atlanta, I can promise you that Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman won’t be nearly as productive next season. Freeman, a 4th round pick, and Coleman, a 3rd round pick, were more of a product of this system rather than immediate stars.

The challenge for Shanahan will now be building a roster. San Fran not only needs a quarterback but they also have a pretty barren roster. The one piece he does have, Carlos Hyde truly isn’t a good fit for his running game either. Quick, one cut backs are the best fits in this offense.  Trust me don’t take much stock into the Falcons choking away the Super Bowl, Shanahan’s a genius.

2. Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)

To be frank the gap between Kyle Shanahan and the next best hire is similar to the gap between Michael Strahan’s front two teeth. Shanahan is head and shoulders the best candidate as teams will likely regret not waiting for him. I’ll give John Elway the benefit of the doubt here to put Joseph as the 2nd best hire this offseason. For starters, I think losing defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is going to be devastating to a Broncos defense that won a Super Bowl just one year ago because of that fabulous defense. The best case scenario for Joseph is that he can replicate himself to be a sort of Mike Tomlin clone. Like Tomlin, Joseph’s forte is in the secondary. He worked wonders this year with a rejuvenated Byron Maxwell and development of converted wide receiver Tony Lippett. In 2016 Joseph spent the year as the Dolphins defensive coordinator where Miami ranked 29th in yards allowed per game (382.6) and 18th in points allowed (23.8). Another reason why Joseph and Tomlin are similar is that their defenses are very predictable. As I mentioned in an earlier article, Tomlin’s defense illustrates a zone blitz scheme that leaves that middle of the field wide open. Joseph’s ugly defense does the exact same thing.

Baltimore opens in a 4 wide set. Miami’s corners play off coverage and get ready to sit back in their zone (NFL)
Vance Joseph plays a Tampa 2 style of defense where the linebackers drop back into coverage or send them on a fire blitz (NFL)
The problem with that is the linebackers often time don’t cover anyone if you can manipulate the routes correctly. The middle of the field is always wide open (NFL)

I’ll never understand this hire. The good news for Denver is they have filled out the offensive staff very nicely with Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave. McCoy was Denver’s OC when Peyton Manning had his record breaking season. Musgrave spent the 2016 season as Oakland’s OC and groomed Derek Carr quite nicely. The best case scenario for Denver is to hope the positive culture wins out. Over time that will erode because Joseph frankly isn’t a good football coach.

3. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)

Talk about a risk vs. reward proposition. LA just hired the youngest coach ever which hasn’t worked very well in the past for teams hiring young assistants. Take a look at the list of youngest coaches ever at the time they were hired.

  • Lane Kiffin – 31 years, 8 months (5-15 record)
  • Harland Svare – 31 years, 11 months (21-48 record)
  • John Michelosen – 32 years, 2 months (20-26-2 record)
  • Raheem Morris – 32 years, 4 months (17-31 record)
  • David Shula – 32 years, 7 months (19-52 record)
  • Josh McDaniels – 32 years, 8 months (11-17 record)

Hiring a coach before he is ready has proven to be a disastrous mistake. McDaniels even recently admitted that he was not ready for a head coaching job back in 2009. Not only is McVay probably not ready, but he is also unproven. Sure he called the plays in Washington but head coach Jay Gruden runs the offense and is regarded highly in that area. Gruden does speak highly of McVay so maybe it will turn out okay but I doubt it considering he is stuck with Jared Goff for the foreseeable future. The true savior to this hire was the acquisition of Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator which will tremendously help their defense. Outside of that, I would be shocked if this turns out well for the Rams.

4. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)

McDermott has some potential being an Andy Reid disciple but the fit is odd considering Buffalo needed an offensive minded coach. McDermott takes after former Eagles DC Jim Johnson and the wide 9, 4-3 defense. McDermott was tasked with managing the Panthers defense for the past 6 seasons. Carolina’s defense reached its pinnacle last year when they capped off a 15-1 season losing in the Super Bowl. The Bills do have a really nice roster but have virtually no cap space. I’m anxious to see how Buffalo’s offense will respond with Rick Dennison who used to coach under Gary Kubiak for many years. He is a really smart head coach but the upside is probably really limited. I always question how good a coordinator is when his head coach operates on the same side of the ball.

5. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Firing a head coach that failed in a different place usually isn’t a very smart plan. Marrone is a mediocre 16-18 as an NFL head coach spending 2 years as the Bills head coach in 2013-2014. Morrone is an offensive line guru but doesn’t have a strong suit in calling plays which are a bit worrisome. Typically line coaches preach toughness, not smarts. Frankly, I don’t know what Jacksonville is doing. Especially with the hire of Tom Coughlin. Hiring a 70-year-old to mess around with coaching and personnel seems bizarre. Marrone probably will last 2 years, the promoted interim coaches usually don’t last long.

6. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)

I think the Chargers were a bit more concerned with winning the press conference instead of just trying to win games. Literally hours after the LA Rams hired Sean McVay, the new LA Chargers hired Anthony Lynn. Clearly, the Chargers are dysfunctional because they thought it was a good idea to hire a running back coach to lead their organization. I’m not kidding either I seriously couldn’t even make that up if I tried. Some teams simply don’t get it. Lynn was a halfback coach from 2003 to the beginning of 2016. Lynn was promoted twice in the same season by the Bills to offensive coordinator and then interim head coach. That should never happen if your team is winning. Lynn’s dumb luck got him the head coaching job but this one has trainwreck written all over it. He is going to bring the ground and pound to LA. The bad news is the Chargers have the worst offensive line in football. Good luck with this one LA, don’t be surprised if Lynn isn’t fired very quickly.

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