Raiders fire DC Ken Norton Jr.: A+ Grade
The Raiders became the second AFC West team to fire a coordinator this week. Unlike the Broncos with Mike McCoy, Oakland's decision to can Ken Norton Jr. made a ton of sense.
Norton was completely outmatched as a defensive coordinator. Despite having Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, the Raiders ranked dead last in sacks. They also failed to intercept a single pass this season. That's a record, by the way. They're the first team in league history to go 11 weeks without a pick. Amazing.
The Raiders deserve an A+ for firing Norton. Replacing him is John Pagano, who should be an upgrade. As defensive coordinator of the Chargers in 2012-16, here were his ranks in yards allowed: 9, 23, 9, 20, 16. Not bad - especially considering that the Raiders are 26th right now.
Broncos fire OC Mike McCoy: C Grade
Really? This is Denver's response to losing to the Bengals? What was Mike McCoy supposed to do with the crap John Elway gave him?
I don't know if many offensive coordinators could've done much with Brock Osweiler or Trevor Siemian playing behind a sub-par offensive line. Granted, Mike McCoy has never turned water into wine with the pedestrian quarterbacks he's coached over the years as a coordinator, though he did do a decent job with Tim Tebow in 2011. He was overmatched as a head coach, but he never struck me as a bad offensive coordinator. I considered him average, but that's what I'd say about his replacement, Bill Musgrave.
This firing is Elway making McCoy into a scapegoat, which I don't like. Elway should take responsibility for failing to find a proper successor for Peyton Manning rather than firing someone who barely had anything to do with the team's 3-7 record. I won't give this firing an "F," or anything, as the Broncos can do better with McCoy in the long term, but I don't know if Musgrave is the answer either.
Bengals fire OC Ken Zampese: A Grade
Though I don't believe in such practices, someone apparently had to fall on the sword for the Bengals' embarrassing loss on national TV to the Texans. That man was Ken Zampese, whose offense has scored a whopping nine points through two home games.
Zampese is a good quarterbacks coach, as he helped develop Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. However, he was way in over his head as a coordinator. He didn't seem to understand how to use Joe Mixon, and A.J. Green didn't get enough touches. It wasn't all his fault, as Cincinnati's offensive line is terrible, but firing Zampese seems like it just had to be done.
Broncos extend GM John Elway: B- Grade
It's unclear exactly how much John Elway will make, but his new 5-year deal with the Broncos will, according to Adam Schefter, make him the highest-paid general manager in the NFL.
I don't think Elway should make more money than any other general manager, as there are several who are better than him. Elway has made some great decisions during his tenure, but his recent drafting has been pretty weak. Since 2013, Elway has selected the following players in the first three rounds:
Sylvester Williams (bust)
Montee Ball (bust)
Kayvon Webster (no longer on team)
Bradley Roby (solid pick)
Cody Latimer (bust)
Michael Schofield (bust)
Shane Ray (solid pick)
Ty Sambrailo (bust)
Jeff Heuerman (bust)
Paxton Lynch (struggled as a rookie)
Adam Gotsis (struggled as a rookie)
Justin Simmons (showed some promise as a rookie)
These are all of his picks in the past five years, save for the 2017 NFL Draft. As you can see, Elway's bust rate is quite high. Roby and Ray are quality picks, but they were chosen in the first round. Again, Elway has done some other great things, but he shouldn't be the highest-paid general manager in the league, so I'm going to give this a B-.
Panthers hire GM Marty Hurney: YORK Grade
I give out Millen grades to atrocious moves made by general managers. An owner who makes a dumb mistake like this one gets a "York," as bringing back Marty Hurney is akin to building a stadium two hours away from the fan base and then running a top-five head coach out of town.
Hurney absolutely destroyed the Panthers prior to his firing in October 2012. He made some great draft picks, but most of his selections in the first three rounds were all busts. In fact, from 2009 to 2011, Cam Newton was the only non-bust he picked in the first three rounds of each draft.
Hurney's worst decisions came via his contracts, which put the Panthers in cap purgatory by the time he was fired. He gave DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart a combined $81 million with $43.5 million in guarantees when they were on the team together. He also handed injury-prone Jon Beason $51.3 million with $25 million guaranteed. He basically was like a teenage girl at the mall with her rich daddy's credit card. I never thought he'd be back in the NFL as a general manager, yet here we are. Unreal.
Panther fans can expect some horrible contracts in the coming months. He'll surely give the aging Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis tons of money, which will hurt Carolina in the long run. With so many great general manager candidates available, it's absolutely irresponsible of the Panthers to re-hire Hurney.
Panthers fire GM Dave Gettleman: C Grade
Dave Gettleman's firing is surprising, to say the least. Gettleman did a solid job of drafting players, obtaining great talents like Kawann Short, James Bradberry and Trai Turner on Day 2. Sure, he whiffed on some early-round choices - notably Star Lotulelei and Devin Funchess - but who hasn't? Gettleman's one true gaff was screwing up the Josh Norman situation, but that wasn't all bad, as he used some of that money to re-sign other key players. During his 4-year tenure, Gettleman's Panthers went 40-23-1.
The Panthers have reportedly parted ways with Gettleman because of his refusal to re-sign Greg Olsen. Gettleman was probably correct in that regard, as Olsen turns 33 after this season. Giving contracts to players in their mid-30s is seldom a good idea, so this is something the Panthers may regret.
I'm giving this decision a "C." I don't like it very much, but there could be a silver lining in that the Panthers could obtain someone better. Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reported that Seattle's Trent Kirchner could be up for the job, and if so, that would be an outstanding hire.
Chiefs hire GM Brett Veach: B+ Grade
The Chiefs weren't expected to fire John Dorsey, but this move was more predictable. The Kansas City Star's Terez Paylor reported that Brett Veach was expected to be named Kansas City's new general manager, and that's exactly what happened.
Veach is a fine hiring. To be more precise, the Chiefs actually promoted Veach, as he was the co-director of player personnel. Veach has worked with Andy Reid for many years; he was once a top scout for the Eagles, so it's nice that the two have an extensive relationship.
In a vacuum, I'd say there were better candidates to be Kansas City's general manager. However, that doesn't matter in this instance because Reid is the one making all of the personnel decisions. Veach will handle the finances and contracts, much like Dorsey did.
Chiefs fire GM John Dorsey: B- Grade
This firing is a bit surprising, as the Chiefs moved up 17 spots for a quarterback two months ago. The only explanation I can come up with, besides something scandalous, is that John Dorsey and Andy Reid disagreed on Patrick Mahomes. If so, Reid would've been the one in favor of Mahomes. He has been given an extension, which I'll grade once the financial details are released.
Dorsey's dismissal doesn't really mean all that much, however. Reid was the one who was making the ultimate decisions anyway. Dorsey simply helped in the process, and it seemed as though he was doing a good job. Thus, the firing is odd, but not terrible, or anything.
As I said, I don't think the entire story is out yet, so I'll re-grade this if there are more details. For now, a nondescript B- seems appropriate, as this probably won't have any sort of impact on Kansas City.
Browns hire Ryan Grigson: C Grade
Ryan Grigson was the failed general manager of the Colts. He was fired in January, but he has found new employment five months after his dismissal. Grigson was brought in to be the Senior Personnel Executive.
Grigson did numerous terrible things in Indianapolis, and if the Browns begin signing overrated players for big-money deals, we'll know who's responsible. Grigson, fortunately, won't have input in that sort of decision-making. He'll help with his scouting experience, though that didn't do much for the Colts, who would've gone 3-13 each season had Andrew Luck not fallen into his lap.
Some Facebook posters were wondering why this wasn't an "F," so I thought I'd address that. Grigson had done enough good things prior to Indianapolis that allowed him to get hired by the Colts as general manager, so my thinking was that he could contribute in similar fashion with the Browns. That said, I'm not too optimistic, as you can tell by my "C" grade.
Bills hire GM Brandon Beane: B+ Grade
E-mailer David S. pointed out that I had not graded Buffalo's general manager hire, so my apologies for not doing getting to it until now. Better late than never, I guess.
This seems like a solid move to me. Brandon Beane was a respected personnel man in Carolina, and he has worked with head coach Sean McDermott in the past, so the familiarity and chemistry between the two men should help the team transition into this new regime. I also like Beane's philosophy as far as signing free agents is concerned. Beane doesn't believe in mostly avoiding free agents like the Packers, but believes that splash signings, like the ones the Jaguars typically make, aren't good for developing a roster. Thus, it's unlikely that the Bills will make a move like signing Mario Williams to a big deal.
I like this hire, so a B+ seems in order. I think there were better candidates available for the Bills, but this move seems like it could certainly pan out.
Bills fire GM Doug Whaley: A Grade
Terry Pegula's tenure as owner of the Bills has been quite dubious to start. He's meddled too much and had sketchy secret meetings with players or various members of his organization. He also appeared to completely screw up with Tyrod Taylor, though he was saved when the Bills were able to retain their quarterback somehow.
Finally, however, Pegula has done something right, as he fired general manager Doug Whaley on Sunday morning.
Whaley struggled as the Bills' decision-maker. He was responsible for burning a first-round pick on E.J. Manuel, and many of his early draft choices are either off the team or still unproven. I won't talk about the 2016 NFL Draft class yet, but many of his first- and second-day selections have been busts. He's selected bad players like Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Cyrus Kouandjio early in the draft. He's also made some poor trades and handed out bad contracts on top of that.
The Bills did the right thing by letting go of Whaley. However, I have no faith that Pegula will be competent enough to find a proper replacement.
Redskins fire GM Scot McCloughan: F Grade
The Redskins are a dumpster fire right now. Scot McCloughan wasn't with the team at the combine; Chris Cooley has been leaking information about McCloughan dealing with possible alcoholism; the Kirk Cousins drama is getting uglier by the day; and the Redskins have made some utterly embarrassing moves in free agency thus far, as you can see in the NFL Free Agent Signing Grades page.
This is a tough grade to make because no one outside of the organization knows everything that's going on, but one thing we do know is that McCloughan is a great talent evaluator. He had done a great job of getting the Redskins to a playoff-caliber level. Things are now falling apart, with the Redskins losing good players, acquiring overpaid ones, and getting trade requests from Cousins. The Redskins looked like they were in great shape two years ago, but now they're devolving into one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Again, if McCloughan is dealing with alcoholism, that's very unfortunate, and I wouldn't blame Washington for firing him as a result. However, the Redskins have handled this very poorly, failing to be transparent in any sort of way and looking utterly clueless in the process, all while leaking information in an unprofessional manner.
Redskins extend HC Jay Gruden: A- Grade
It's about time the Redskins have had some stability. Under Daniel Snyder's watch, the team has gone through countless coaches. Eight, in fact, since 1999. No coach had been with the Redskins for more than four seasons under Snyder, but it appears as though that won't be the case anymore, as Jay Gruden, entering his fourth year in Washington, has been extended though 2020.
Having stability in a franchise is crucial, and the Redskins' inability to do so has been the reason why they haven't had much success with Snyder as the owner. That's why they deserve such a good grade for extending Gruden. Granted, Gruden isn't the best head coach, but he has gone 17-14-1 with the Redskins the past two years. That may not sound great, but Washington had just one winning season prior to Gruden's hiring since 2007.
I'm giving this an A-. There's still a slight chance that Gruden isn't the answer, which is why this isn't a full "A," but letting Gruden go and hiring someone else would just keep the Redskins encircling their coaching loop of ineptitude.
49ers hire DC Robert Saleh: C Grade
The 49ers have a head coach who is new to the job entirely, so one would think that he'd obtain coordinators with experience. That is not the case, as Kyle Shanahan has brought in Robert Saleh to be his defensive coordinator.
Saleh has no coordinating experience, and he's actually just been a positional coach since 2014. Before that, he was a quality control coach for the Texans and Seahawks. It's fair to question whether the 38-year-old Saleh is ready for the job. Perhaps he is, but he doesn't have the resume to say that he is. Saleh has his work cut out for him, as San Francisco's defense is horrific. Someone with more experience would have issues turning things around, so it's hard to imagine Saleh doing it.
I'm going to grade this as a "C." It's not a promising hire, but I won't say it'll be a sure-fire failure.
Raiders extend HC Jack Del Rio (4 years): A Grade
Jack Del Rio was somehow one of the lowest-paid head coaches in the NFL, so he's getting a very well-deserved raise with this new 4-year deal.
It's impossible not to give this an "A" grade. Del Rio has done a great job with the Raiders thus far. In the three years prior to Del Rio's arrival, Oakland was just 11-37. The Raiders have gone 19-13 with him, including a 12-4 finish in 2016. They probably would've advance deep into the playoffs had Derek Carr not gotten hurt.
Stability is important in the NFL, and the Raiders' struggles weren't surprising, considering that they've had 10 head coaches since they traded Jon Gruden after the 2001 campaign. Del Rio being around for at least four more seasons will definitely provide Oakland with the stability it has needed for 15 years.
Falcons hire DC Marquand Manuel: B+ Grade
This isn't technically a hire; Marquand Manuel was promoted after being Atlanta's secondary coach. He'll now serve as the defensive coordinator, replacing the recently fired Richard Smith.
Manuel seems like a good replacement for Smith. He's never been a coordinator before, so it would be difficult to grade this in the "A" range. However, Manuel has worked extensively with Dan Quinn in Seattle and obviously Atlanta, which is important because Quinn called the defensive plays down the stretch in 2016. Manuel should be able to gel much better with Quinn than Smith did. It's also worth noting that Manuel developed his defensive backs extremely well; the Falcons didn't skip a bit after losing Desmond Trufant because Jalen Collins made great strides. Thus, it seems as though Manuel is very worthy of this new role.
Falcons fire DC Richard Smith: A Grade
People have made a big deal about the Falcons firing their defensive coordinator, as they've let go of Richard Smith. Atlanta blew a huge lead in the Super Bowl, but Smith getting axed had nothing to do with that.
Dan Quinn reportedly had a big conflict with Smith during the season, and he actually took over defensive play-calling duties. I assume the Falcons didn't fire Smith during the season because they didn't want a distraction, so he probably would've been let go had Atlanta beaten New England. With that in mind, I'll grade this as an "A," as there was no reason to keep Smith around.
Rams hire OC Matt LaFleur: B+ Grade
Jared Goff was an utter failure in his rookie campaign, so the Rams had to do as much as possible this offseason to salvage his career. They hired Greg Olson to be the quarterbacks coach, which was a terrific move. This decision is a positive one as well.
Matt LaFleur has never been an offensive coordinator at the professional level, but he's been in the NFL for a while now. He's been the quarterbacks coach for the Redskins and Falcons, developing Kirk Cousins and improving Matt Ryan. LaFleur, 35, is considered a promising, young coaching prospect. I'm willing to give this a B+, and I even considered an A-.
Falcons hire OC Steve Sarkisian: C- Grade
We interrupt this live 2017 NFL Mock Draft update to bring you a grade for the Falcons hiring Steve Sarkisian to replace the San Francisco-bound Kyle Shanahan.
I can't say I like this hire very much. I'm not willing to dismiss it completely and call it an utter failure, but if I were the Falcons, I would have gone in another direction. Sarkisian has never called an offensive play in the NFL, and he actually has just one season of professional experience, as he was Oakland's quarterbacks coach in 2004. Sarkisian eventually went on to be the head coach of Washington and USC. He was just mediocre with the Huskies, and then he was dismissed from USC because of alcohol problems. The Trojans were just 3-2 in 2015 when Sarkisian's contract was terminated.
Sarkisian joined Alabama's coaching staff last year, and he coordinated the Tide in the national championship when Lane Kiffin was dismissed. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled in the one game Sarkisian play-called.
It seems as though Sarkisian is a big downgrade from Shanahan, so I have to question this hire. There were better options available.
49ers hire HC Kyle Shanahan: A- Grade
I could have graded this weeks ago, but I wanted to wait until it was official. The worst kept secret in the NFL was that Kyle Shanahan would be San Francisco's new head coach, and they were finally able to hire him today.
I don't see any issues with this move. Shanahan goofed in the Super Bowl by not running the ball with a fourth-quarter lead to set up an imperative field goal, but he's done a great job overall as an offensive coordinator over the years. He's learned from great coaches, including Jon Gruden, and of course, his father. He's been a coordinator since 2008, so he's ready to take the reins of a franchise.
It's unclear if Shanahan will be a good head coach, but he's definitely a promising hire. It'll be imperative for owner Jed York to be patient for a change. York has fired coaches very eagerly, but that's not a recipe for success. Shanahan projects to be light years better than Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, but he'll need at least four years to turn things around because the 49ers are an absolute mess.
Jets hire OC John Morton: B+ Grade
I was actually about to grade this hire yesterday, but the 49ers decided to make the worst general manager hires of the decade, so I got distracted. My apologies.
As for the hiring of John Morton, I was hoping this was actually former Detroit Lions wide receiver Johnnie Morton, whom Matt Millen once called the six-letter F-bomb. Millen, of course, was the last TV analyst hired to be a general manager, and now we've come full circle.
This John Morton was a receivers coach for the past six years, spending the previous two with the Saints. He helped develop Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Michael Thomas, so he was obviously good at his job. Whether or not he can be successful as an offensive coordinator in the NFL remains to be seen, though he held that post at USC in 2009-10. Morton seems to be qualified though, so this hiring does make sense. I'll give the Jets a B+ for it.
49ers hire GM John Lynch: JED YORK IS THE WORST OWNER OF ALL TIME Grade
The 49ers have hired John Lynch to be their general manager. John Lynch. The color analyst for FOX. The guy who used to play safety for the Broncos and Buccaneers and then went right into the broadcasting booth. The guy with absolutely no scouting or personnel decision-making experience. That John Lynch.
I actually had to check the date to see if it was April Fools' Day. I can't believe this hire. The last time an NFL team brought in a TV analyst to be a general manager, the Lions hired Matt Millen, and we saw how that worked out.
The 49ers interviewed plenty of people who could've done a great job as the general manager. And yet, they failed to bring in any of them, opting for someone completely unqualified for the job instead. Lynch is a smart guy who is obviously very knowledgeable about football, but he's not capable of being an NFL general manager; not without any sort of experience.
This is completely embarrassing. With this hire, Jed York has established himself as the worst owner of all time in any sport. It's quite the accomplishment. York should throw himself a parade and hire more people to tell him how cool he is and what a great job he's doing. That seems to be the only thing he's good at.
Colts hire GM Chris Ballard: B+ Grade
Chris Ballard was the Chiefs' director of personnel and a long-time scout. He's well thought of in NFL circles, so this seems like a good hire for the Colts. It's rare that Jim Irsay makes a good decision, but this appears to be one.
I'm not giving the Colts an "A" for this decision because Indianapolis would've been better served hiring one of the Seattle guys who were interviewed. That said, it's not completely clear that they even wanted to work for someone as crazy as Irsay. Either way, bringing in Ballard feels like a positive move overall, so I'll give the Colts a B+.
Redskins hire DC Greg Manusky: C+ Grade
This technically isn't a hire, as Greg Manusky was Washington's linebackers coach last year. Previously, he had been Indianapolis' defensive coordinator. His defenses were 26th, 20th, 11th and 26th in yardage, though he didn't have very much to work with, thanks to Ryan Grigson's incompetence. Manusky was the one to fall on the sword following Indianapolis' 8-8 2015 campaign, but he has become a defensive coordinator again.
Manusky isn't a bad coordinator, but I don't know how much of an upgrade he is over Joe Barry. It's an improvement, but it's really not much of a disparity. This has to be very frustrating for Redskin supporters, as the front office should've been able to bring in someone better. They interviewed Gus Bradley, but lost out on him to the Chargers.
I think a C+ is fine for this move. Promoting Manusky isn't a horrible decision, but it's definitely mildly disappointing.
Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson: A+ Grade
It was announced two weeks ago that Ryan Grigson would be retained. The decision was so inexplicable that I gave it a "IRSAY $50M IN CASH FOR HOOKERS" grade (in other words, an "F.") Well, it appears as though Jim Irsay's bender has ended, as he has finally opted to do something sensible, relieving Grigson of his duties.
Grigson has been one of the worst general managers in the NFL over the past few years. If it weren't for Andrew Luck, who fell into Grigson's lap, the Colts would be a 3-13 team every year. Grigson has been a colossal failure, as he hasn't been able to surround Luck with enough talent to keep the Colts atop a weak division. Indianapolis' next general manager will be better, if only by default.
Chargers hire DC Gus Bradley: A- Grade
Gus Bradley proved to be overmatched as a head coach in Jacksonville, but he's done well as a defensive coordinator in the past. He took over a Seattle defense that was ranked 30th in yardage in 2008. In his four seasons as coordinator for the Seahawks, they improved to 24th, then 27th, then ninth, and then fourth. An influx in talent definitely helped, but Bradley certainly was instrumental in establishing Seattle's stop unit as one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Bradley won't have to worry about not having talent in Los Angeles. The Chargers have plenty of it with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward, Brandon Mebane and some young, promising linebackers. Bradley should do well in his new job, so I like this hire.
Bills hire OC Rick Dennison: C+ Grade
This hiring is the epitome of average, and the stats back that up. Rick Dennison was a coordinator for four years in Houston, and in those seasons, his team finished 29th, fourth, ninth and 24th in total offense as far as yardage is concerned, resulting in an average of 16.5. In Denver, his offenses were 16th and 27th. Dennison oversaw the collapse of the Texans in 2013, when they went 2-14. His quarterback, Matt Schaub, turned into a pick-six machine under his watch.
The Bills could've hired someone better than Dennison. They even interviewed superior candidates for the job. Thus, this is a pretty uninspiring hire.
I'm not giving this too low of a grade, however, because the Bills are getting someone who has previously coached Tyrod Taylor, which is a plus. Perhaps this is an olive branch to Taylor, which is needed after inept owner Terry Pegula screwed things up with his quarterback at the end of the year.
Jaguars hire OC Nathaniel Hackett: C+ Grade
The Jaguars foolishly fired Greg Olson and replaced him with Nathaniel Hackett after a blowout loss on a Thursday night. The Jaguars, prior to that move, had been averaging a disappointing 19.9 points per game. They predictably got worse with Hackett, however, as they saw their scoring average dip to 17.3 over the next seven contests. They had a 38-point outburst against the Titans, but Tennessee clearly mailed that game in after playing a series of tough games, and once they lost Marcus Mariota to an injury, the effort level really fell off.
It seems like the Jaguars always do the wrong thing, so I thought they were going to hire Chip Kelly for sure. That would've been a disaster. I'm not a fan of keeping Hackett either, but he's a better alternative than Kelly, who interviewed with the team. Hence, the C+. Ultimately, however, it doesn't matter, because Bortles has no aspirations of being a great NFL quarterback, preferring to party his life away instead.
Raiders fire DC Bill Musgrave: D Grade
The Raiders didn't technically fire Bill Musgrave; they simply didn't renew his contract. Going with Musgrave over Greg Olson was a big downgrade, but Musgrave still did a good job of coordinating Oakland, as the team finished second in points last year. Thus, it's a big strange that the Raiders have decided not to retain him.
I don't like this at all. It's not like Musgrave was the best offensive coordinator of all time, or anything, but he worked well with Derek Carr and should've been retained. It's always dicey to switch up offensive coordinators on young quarterbacks, and the Raiders have now done it twice to Carr. That's not a good recipe for success. Carr will be just fine because he's a great quarterback, but I just don't like this sort of strategy.
Bills hire DC Leslie Frazier: A Grade
This hiring snuck by me yesterday, as I somehow missed it. Good thing it wasn't anything horrible, as I would've been upset to delay a Millen grade.
Hiring Leslie Frazier to be the team's defensive coordinator is a smart move. He has plenty of experience; he was head coach for the Vikings for three years, and he was defensive coordinator for three different teams for eight total seasons. In those eight years, his defenses finished with the following rankings in yardage: 28, 19, 20, 6, 6, 8, 25, 10.
As you can see, his defenses have been top 10 four times. The 28th ranking was when he took over for the Bengals in 2003, and that team barely had any talent on its roster. The 25th ranking was his first year with the Buccaneers, and he improved them to 10th the following season.
In other words, Frazier has done a very good job of either improving bad defenses or maintaining great ones over his career, so I have no issues giving this hire an "A" grade.
Rams hire DC Wade Phillips: A+ Grade
Wow. What a great hire! The Rams won't score any points with Jared Goof, but they'll hardly permit any either. Maybe they can go 0-0-16 with all 0-0 ties.
Phillips is one of the top defensive coordinators in NFL history. He'll have a ton of talent to work with in Los Angeles, so the Rams figure to have a dominant defense. They should've been great last year, but they surrendered too many scores in the fourth quarter because of Gregg Williams' incompetence. That won't happen under Phillips' watch.
Chargers hire HC Anthony Lynn: B Grade
Anthony Lynn was considered a rising star as a potential head coach, as he did a very good job with Buffalo's offense after taking over for the fired Greg Roman. Thus, it was no surprise that the Chargers hired him to replace Mike McCoy.
I like that Lynn plans on keeping offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt around, as changing the offense was not what Los Angeles needed. That's definitely a positive aspect to this hiring, as a trademark of a good coach is one who adapts his system to the personnel. On the flip side, the Bills quit on Lynn in the one game in which he was head coach following Rex Ryan's firing. Granted, there was some Tyrod Taylor drama, but it was discouraging that Buffalo put zero effort into that contest.
I think a "B" sounds about right. Lynn could certainly work out, but I'm a bit concerned that his former players didn't fight for him.
Rams hire HC Sean McVay: C- Grade
The worst thing you can do to a bad situation is overreact by going the other way too much. That's exactly what the Rams are doing with this hire. They've employed Jeff Fisher for far too long, as Fisher was a tired coach with no new ideas. In fact, he was so bad that it appeared as though he was intentionally trying to sabotage the Rams. By 2016, he was so worn out that he didn't bother watching film, as evidenced by his press conference in which he said Danny Woodhead was a play-maker for the Patriots. The Rams fired Fisher, and so they went from an old coach to the youngest one ever. Sean McVay, former offensive coordinator for the Redskins, turns 31 in a couple of weeks.
I think this is a mistake. While McVay certainly has more upside than Fisher, it's unlikely that he'll get some of the Ram veterans to listen to him. Some are about as old as he is; some even older. The Rams are comprised of a bunch of lazy players who need to be motivated, and I'm not sure they'll be willing to listen to someone in their age group.
The one positive about McVay is his brilliant offensive mind. It'll be nice to have someone who, unlike Fisher, is actually innovative, but the problem is that it probably won't matter. Jared Goof is a lost cause. Everyone, including some in the Rams' organization, had Carson Wentz ranked ahead of Goof. I'm sure McVay will get the most out of him, and Goof won't be a complete abomination, but sometimes, a quarterback is an unsalvageable sunk cost, and that's what the Rams have. Then again, the Rams are an unsalvageable sunk cost themselves, so all of this is probably irrelevant.
Broncos hire OC Mike McCoy: A Grade
I don't like what Vance Joseph is doing as far as his defensive coordinator is concerned, but he's definitely making a great decision on the other side of the ball. He needed to bring in someone who could develop Paxton Lynch, and Mike McCoy can certainly be that person.
McCoy didn't work out as the Chargers' coach, but he did a great job coordinatoring the Broncos from 2009 to 2012. McCoy has often gotten the most out of his quarterbacks, so he'll be able to coach up the raw Lynch and perhaps get him ready to play well by the 2017 opener. I like this hire a lot, and I think it definitely deserves an "A."
Broncos hire HC Vance Joseph: C Grade
Unlike Sean McDermott, Vance Joseph doesn't have much experience as a defensive coordinator. He was a coordinator for just one year in Miami, serving as a defensive backs coach for the 49ers, Texans and Bengals before that. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll be a bad coach, or anything. We've seen positional coaches turn into great head coaches before. Andy Reid is someone who comes to mind.
I was on board with the Joseph hire until I learned that he wasn't going to retain Wade Phillips. That doesn't make any sense to me. Phillips is one of the best defensive coordinators of all time, and the Broncos will be worse without him. I understand that Joseph and Phillips' defensive styles may clash, but then why hire Joseph in the first place? The Broncos should've brought in someone who could work with Phillips.
I'm giving this a "C," but I thought about a C- or D+. Even though Joseph is making a big mistake, this hire could work out.
Bills hire HC Sean McDermott: B+ Grade
Sean McDermott will be a boring coach compared to Rex Ryan, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. McDermott, formerly defensive coordinator of the Eagles and Panthers, has learned under Andy Reid and Ron Rivera, so he should be ready for the job. I have no issues with this hire.
It can be difficult to grade the hiring of a first-time head coach, as it's unclear if McDermott will be able to both inspire his team to play at a 100-percent level each week and also be able to manage a game effectively. What we do know is that McDermott plans on switching the Bills back to a 4-3 defense. I'm usually not a fan of coaches changing up schemes, but Ryan was the one who did that first. The Bills had plenty of success in Jim Schwartz's 4-3, but Ryan changed to a 3-4 for some reason, and it just didn't work out.
Because McDermott is off to a good start, I'm willing to give this a B+ instead of the standard "B" handed out to unknown first-year coaches.
Jaguars extend GM David Caldwell: CRIED DURING STREEP'S SPEECH BUT ONLY BECAUSE DRUGS RAN OUT IRSAY Grade
Why? Why would the Jaguars do this? David Caldwell is one of the worst general managers in the NFL. He's made some quality moves at times, but the horrible blunders he's been guilty of have set the franchise back so many years.
Here's Caldwell's hit list:
- Reached for Blake Bortles No. 3 overall over Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins.
- Selected Luke Joeckel No. 2 overall instead of Lane Johnson.
- Drafted Dante Fowler No. 3 overall instead of Amari Cooper, Leonard Williams and Vic Beasley.
- Gave Allen Hurns a 4-year, $40 million extension.
- Signed an injured Kelvin Beachum to a 5-year, $40 million contract.
- Signed a regChris Ivory to a 5-year, $32 million deal (WTF!?!??!?!?)
- Gave Jared Odrick a 5-year, $42.5 million contract.
- Paid Julius Thomas $46 million over five years.
- Signed Davon House to a 4-year, $25 million deal.
- Inked Dan Skuta to a 5-year, $20.5 million contract.
I could keep going, but my fingers are tired. You get the point. Caldwell should've been fired; not extended for two years. This is a clear indication that the Jaguars have no idea what they're doing, so owner Shahid Khan is getting an "F" (Irsay) grade for this extension.
Jaguars hire HC Doug Marrone: C- Grade
If the Jaguars wanted to hire a new head coach who has previously quit on teams and recently undermined people he worked for, then they found the right man for the job. Congrats, Jacksonville!
This is a pretty uninspiring hire. Marrone did a terrible job as Jacksonville's offensive line coach - the blockers the Jaguars acquired somehow got worse under Marrone's tutelage - and Marrone spent the entire year undermining Gus Bradley, and he was a negative presence around the team.
I'm not giving this an "D" or worse because Marrone did a fairly decent job in Buffalo. Then again, he quit on the Bills, so I'm not sure how much the Jaguars can trust him.
Browns fire DC Ray Horton, hire DC Gregg Williams: D Grade
The Browns weren't getting rid of Hue Jackson after one year, so the insane, homoclitic policy of having someone fall on the sword went to Ray Horton, who has been replaced by Gregg Williams.
I find it asinine that Cleveland is blaming Horton for this past season. The Browns had tons of injuries on defense; they lost Desmond Bryant before the year began, then Jordan Poyer missed extensive action, and Joe Haden was constantly banged up and not truly himself. In the prior offseason, the Browns also let go of some mega talents, including Karlos Dansby and Tashaun Gipson. How was Horton, or any defensive coordinator, supposed to thrive under those conditions?
Horton isn't a great coordinator by any means, but he's not bad either. His defensive rankings in terms of yards in his five years prior to 2016 were 18th, 12th, 25th, 27th and 12th. That's not horrible. It could be better, but Horton isn't getting a fair deal here.
Oh, and let me touch on Williams, who was just hired. He is terrible replacement. He has no idea what he's doing, as he does nothing but blitz recklessly. His defense is constantly undisciplined, surrendering tons of yardage on screens and draws as a result. The fact that he struggled this year with one of the top defensive lines in football just shows how incompetent he is. The Browns are making a clear downgrade by going to Williams, but I guess that fits the overall theme with the direction this franchise is headed.
Colts retain HC Chuck Pagano, GM Ryan Grigson: IRSAY $50M IN CASH FOR HOOKERS Grade
This is obviously an "F," and I think we've now trended into a territory where we can call bizarre ownership moves Irsay grades. That's how bad this decision is.
I recently suggested on the picks podcast that Jim Irsay hadn't made a move on Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano because he was on a bender and wasn't capable of thinking clearly. Well, he might still be on one because retaining both men makes absolutely no sense. Grigson is one of the worst general managers in the NFL. He's been guilty of signing countless flops in free agency; his draft bust list is very extensive; and he has neglected to protect Andrew Luck all of these years. Pagano, meanwhile, is often outmatched. He seems like a nice guy, but he's not cut out to be a head coach in the NFL.
Indianapolis fans have to feel very frustrated about this. They've watched as both the Titans and Texans have passed them in the division, making AFC South victories no longer a sure thing. Luck will once again be asked to do everything himself, and that sounds like another 8-8 campaign to me.
Redskins fire DC Joe Barry: B Grade
Several Redskins defensive assistants were let go as well. Heads apparently had to roll in the wake of the Redskins' late-season collapse, so even though Kirk Cousins threw a back-breaking interception in what was effectively a 13-10 loss, the defense is taking all the blame.
That said, I'm not taken aback by this firing. The two years prior to Joe Barry being hired as defensive coordinator, the Redskins were 18th and 20th in defense. They were 28th in both seasons under Barry.
Still, the question must be asked if Barry was truly at fault. While he definitely deserves some of the blame, the actual talent available on defense needs to be mentioned as well. The team was devoid of talent on the defensive line, outside of Chris Baker. The inside linebackers were mostly terrible. The secondary took a hit when DeAngelo Hall suffered an injury in 2016. It would've been difficult for any coordinator to field a good defense under those circumstances. But even with that said, Washington can do better than Barry, so I support this move.
Chargers fire HC Mike McCoy: A- Grade
I definitely agree with this firing. The Chargers seemingly found new ways to lose games every week this year. They had one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, but it was something new each game. San Diego should've gone 10-6, or perhaps even better, but late-game blunders ruined any chance of that happening. McCoy, finishing 27-37 as San Diego's head coach, was certainly to blame.
That said, I feel pretty bad for McCoy. That's because the Chargers have suffered so many injuries during his tenure. It always seems like there's a long list of players on injured reserve, and this year was no different. It even started on kickoff weekend, when Keenan Allen was lost for the season. The offensive line, meanwhile, has always been an issue, as Philip Rivers' pass protection has been terrible as a result of so many blockers being banged up.
With that in mind, I'm not giving this firing an A+. It was still a necessary move, but I think it's worth an A- grade. Either way, San Diego will do better with its next coach.
49ers fire HC Chip Kelly: A+ Grade
The 49ers have made so many completely idiotic decisions over the years. Getting rid of Jim Harbaugh is atop the list, as is building a stadium two hours outside of the city of San Francisco. Hiring Chip Kelly definitely has to be up there.
At the very least, the 49ers have admitted their mistake and are willing to make amends for it, according to an Adam Schefter report. Then again, the decision to hire Kelly should've never happened in the first place. Kelly demonstrated in Philadelphia that he has no grasp of basic NFL fundamentals. He couldn't relate to his players at all, and when he was given control of his roster with the Eagles, he depleted all talent from it, believing that he could win with his scheme. NFL coaches who have lived by that philosophy have all failed, and Kelly's inability to recognize that is one of many reasons it was obvious that he couldn't cut it in the pros.
It's unclear what Kelly will do next, but he obviously has a spot in college football. He was foolish for not re-taking the Oregon job when it was available to him, but I'm sure he'll find some other 1-A program willing to take him on. I'll be shocked if another NFL franchise gives him a head-coaching gig, though I'm hoping that'll happen so I can come up with a fancy York grade for that hiring.
Update: Kelly has officially been fired. This is a great move. The 49ers need to move forward with a real NFL head coach as they revive their dead franchise. It would be nice if Jed York locked himself inside a room so that he didn't make any more poor decisions, but unfortunately for San Francisco fans, that's not very realistic.
49ers to fire GM Trent Baalke: A++ Grade
I don't think I've ever given an A++ grade for a coach hiring or firing, but this certainly warrants one. Trent Baalke has finally been axed as the 49ers' general manager, per a Jay Glazer report.
I can't believe it's finally happened. Baalke, along with Jed York, destroyed the 49ers' once-great franchise. Baalke got rid of Jim Harbaugh because he couldn't get along with a top-five NFL head coach. He followed that up by hiring "yes man" Jim Tomsula as a replacement, and he predictably proved to be a disaster. Baalke then brought in Chip Kelly, who was a proven failure as an NFL head coach. Kelly had already shown that he didn't understand simple NFL concepts, so hiring him was an insanely stupid decision.
Baalke's personnel moves were also very questionable. He managed to nail some draft picks, but he whiffed on plenty of selections, including A.J. Jenkins (first round, 2012), LaMichael James (second round, 2012), Tank Carradine (second round, 2013), and so on. He overpaid for some players - why are Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek getting a combined $50 million? - and made horrible moves in free agency, signing Zane Beadles, Reggie Bush (4 years, $16 million!) and Torrey Smith (5 years, $40 million!!!!).
I could list more examples, but the 1 p.m. NFL games are about to start. The point is that the remaining 49er fans should be absolutely thrilled that Baalke is finally gone. Hopefully their next general manager doesn't fire a top NFL head coach because of ego concerns.
Bills fire HC Rex Ryan: A Grade
The Bills apparently don't respect one of the NFL's great holidays in Black Monday, as they've decided to fire Rex Ryan prior to Week 17. Rob Ryan has been relieved of his duties as well. It's still unclear what his duties were exactly, but we do know that he won't be doing them anymore.
Rex Ryan has a terrific defensive mind, but he is not a good head coach. We've seen enough proof of that. He had some great, early success with the Jets, but his team regressed each year. Some of that was bad personnel decision-making, so he deserved a second chance in Buffalo. He squandered it, however, thanks to many coaching blunders. Sure, the team played hard for him, but that can only go so far. Ryan's errors were far too costly, and his game plans were far too ineffective.
It's hard to imagine Rex Ryan taking a job as a defensive coordinator anytime soon, so I could see him being a TV analyst and doing a good job in that regard. As for Rob Ryan, I doubt anyone will want him as a defensive coordinator, or whatever he was doing in Buffalo. I think the likeliest course of action for Rob Ryan is him finding a job as a pirate through Monster.com.
Jaguars fire HC Gus Bradley: A Grade
Gus Bradley was expected to be fired at the end of the season, but Jacksonville's owner decided that enough was enough after the Jaguars blew yet another game. They were up 13-5 at the end of the first half, but Tom Savage torched Bradley's defense, mounting a comeback in what would end up being Bradley's final game.
Bradley finishes 14-48 as head coach of the Jaguars. That's obviously horrible. Bill Belichick could go 0-16 for the next 17 years, and he would still have a better winning percentage than Bradley. I don't actually know if that's true or not, but it sounds about right. (Update: Despite the joke, I was way off! Belichick could actually go 0-16 for the next 41 years and have a better winning percentage. Thanks to @LateRoundQB for this.)
Bradley is obviously not a good head coach. His team was a no-show in some games this year, and after one of them, Bradley tried to make offensive coordinator Greg Olson the scapegoat even though Olson happened to be the best coach on the staff. The firing made no difference, and it actually made Blake Bortles regress.
Firing Bradley is obviously the right move. However, I'm giving this an "A" instead of an A+ because general manager David Caldwell's incompetence didn't give Bradley much of a chance. I'll get into it more when Caldwell is inevitably fired, but his decision to select Blake Bortles at No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft instead of Khalil Mack has absolutely crushed this franchise. No coach ever had a chance with Bortles, who doesn't care about his professional career whatsoever. Still, Bradley had to go.
Rams fire HC Jeff Fisher: A+ Grade
The Rams recently extended Jeff Fisher for two years, and I criticized them heavily for it (just scroll down a bit to see that grade). However, I have to commend them for recognizing that that Fisher is a sunk cost. They've unquestionably made the right move by firing him.
Like VHSes, walkmen and N64s, relics of the past that were once valuable but have become completely worthless and irrelevant, Fisher once coached very well in a previous era when it was possible to win with his style. Fisher had great success with the Titans, coming one yard shy of winning the Super Bowl, but he has gotten progressively worse each year. Fisher has still been coaching like it's 1999, and that doesn't work anymore. Fisher ultimately became known as Commander .500 on this Web site for owning a .500 record each year, but he hasn't even been able to reach that mark with the Rams. In fact, he's had a losing season each year in St. Louis and Los Angeles. Fisher, in his five years with the Rams, has gone 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 and 4-9.
If that wasn't bad enough, Fisher insulted Rams great Eric Dickerson. He also botched the Jared Goff pick and trade, which very well could end up being the worst draft deal in NFL history. Other members of the Rams organization wanted to pick Carson Wentz, but Fisher insisted on Goff. Then, Fisher killed Goff's confidence by demoting him behind Sean Mannion. Fisher was completely clueless as ever.
This is an obvious A+ grade. Fisher is washed up and has no new ideas. Perhaps he can be a decent analyst, but it's likely that his coaching days are over.
Rams extend HC Jeff Fisher: YORK Grade
I can't believe I'm writing about a Jeff Fisher extension. I just can't. What did he do to earn a new contract? Is Rams ownership that impressed with his 7-9 seasons? Fisher isn't even on pace to go 7-9 this year, meaning he won't even reach his own established level of mediocrity. That's just sad.
There are no financial implications available, but I don't care what they are. This could be a 2-year, 99-cent deal, and it would still be awful. Fisher, in his five years in St. Louis or Los Angeles, has gone 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 and 4-7. He hasn't achieved one .500 campaign yet. Fisher used to be great, but he now coaches like it's 1995. He wants to win via running the ball and playing defense, which is a formula that only wins if a team has an absolutely elite stop unit like Denver in 2015. It doesn't work otherwise, and it's no surprise that Fisher hasn't avoided a single losing season in Fisher's tenure.
This will get an "F." Since it's the owner's decision, it'll be a York instead of a Millen. Stan Kroenke has once again proven himself to be utterly incompetent; first, moving a team to a city where people don't care about professional football, and now extending a coach who hasn't even been medicore in a very long time. Kroenke proved that he doesn't care about his team winning at all by moving to Los Angeles, so this extension, in hindsight, shouldn't have been surprising in the slightest.
Falcons extend GM Thomas Dimitroff: B- Grade
Only in the NFL can you be close to fired and then extended in a span of eight months. Thomas Dimitroff was on the hot seat entering the offseason, but the Falcons have improved and established themselves as the top team in their division.
Dimitroff hasn't been completely flawless lately. For example, his second-round pick from 2015 on Jalen Collins looks like a waste (though it's too early to completely call him a bust), and he goofed by overpaying Mohamed Sanu. However, Dimitroff has been sharp otherwise. His other recent top selections - Vic Beasley, Tevin Coleman, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Austin Hooper - have all been successful thus far, and Grady Jarrett was a steal in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Signing Alex Mack away from the Browns was also a terrific move.
I'm fine with this extension, but I don't think it's a great move, as forgiving Dimitroff for all of his past mistakes based on just nine games seems like it could backfire. That said, I'm not opposed to this either. Dimitroff had some bad years, but it appears as though he has changed his strategy in terms of only acquiring completely clean players, and it has paid off.
Vikings accept resignation of OC Norv Turner: B- Grade
Norv Turner announced his resignation as offensive coordinator of the Vikings on Tuesday morning. It's unclear if this was his own decision, or if the organization forced him into doing so. I could see Turner doing the honorable thing and just walking away because he wasn't doing a good job, or perhaps Minnesota's front office recognized that it needed to go in a new direction.
Turner's play-calling wasn't effective, as it's been somewhat predictable and a bit nonsensical. I can't get three straight Matt Asiata runs out of my head during one of the Vikings' three-and-out sequences Monday night. To be fair though, Turner didn't have much to work with. Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson were both lost for the year, while the two tackles are the worst duo at their position in the NFL. I feel like most play-callers would struggle to post more than 10 points per game under those conditions.
I don't love or hate this potential firing. Pat Shurmur will take over, and he might have some new ideas that could work. Or, perhaps, there will be no effect, and the Vikings will continue to score 10 points per game.
Jaguars fire OC Greg Olson: MILLEN-YORK Grade
This might just be the dumbest thing I've ever seen. And I've been covering the NFL for 17 years, and I've seen very many stupid things.
So, let me get this straight: Jacksonville's general manager was incompetent enough to spend the No. 2 overall pick on a tackle who can't block; draft a quarterback who cares more about partying than studying film and improving as an NFL player; and pay big money on a running back who was benched in favor Bilal Powell at the end of last season, and now he's blaming someone else for his own follies? And it's not the head coach, whom the players absolutely quit on versus the Titans, as shown by their lack of energy when it came to tackling?
Greg Olson is one of the top offensive coordinators in the NFL, and aside from Blaine Gabbert, who has proven to be a lost cause, he has gotten the most out of every quarterback he has coached. He took Josh Freeman to a Pro Bowl, for crying out loud. Bortles regressed, sure, but that was his own fault. Bortles doesn't care about being a great NFL signal-caller; he doesn't put the appropriate work into his craft, and that's why both his mechanics and the mental aspect of his game have worsened.
The Jaguars are an absolute joke, and it starts at the top, where Shad Khan has already been proven to be too meddlesome by personally attending meetings and forfeiting valuable home games. He needs to step down as owner if he cares about the Jaguars. That, or he needs to fire general manager David Caldwell, who has proven to be an absolutely atrocious personnel decision-maker. Caldwell spent $32 million on Chris Ivory this offseason. $32 million! How has he not been fired yet? And what about Gus Bradley, whom the players aren't putting forth any effort for?
If you want to know why Jacksonville hasn't made the playoffs since 2007, this sort of ridiculous decision-making is exactly the problem.
Ravens fire OC Marc Trestman: B+ Grade
The clear loser in this firing, aside from obviously Marc Trestman himself, was me, as I was planning on saying some jokes on the podcast this week about how Trestman needs to be exiled back to Canada. Alas, it was never meant to be.
This firing had to be done. None of what Trestman did during the year really made sense. He abandoned the run way too soon in some games, allowing him to be out-coached by miles in most matchups. His refusal to get Justin Forsett (or really, any other decent pass-catching back) involved in the passing game was also very questionable, especially when considering the state of Baltimore's offensive line, which has struggled in the wake of Ronnie Stanley's injury.
My only issue here is that the Ravens probably should have waited until the bye (Week 8) to fire Trestman, as it would've given replacement Marty Mornhinweg some time to take over and work with Joe Flacco to prepare for the next opponent. Even the Bills fired Greg Roman on an extra-rest week. It seems a little irresponsible to do it so soon, and I'm not sure how much of an upgrade Mornhinweg will be anyway. Still, this was a move that had to be done, so I can't grade it poorly.
Bills fire OC Greg Roman: YORK Grade
To be clear, Millen is the "F" grade for free agent signings, while YORK is the "F" grade for the hiring and firing of NFL coaches and general managers. This is obviously named after Jed York, the completely incompetent owner of the 49ers, who can't seem to do anything right.
The Bills are getting a YORK for this move. First of all, I've never been a fan of having someone fall on the sword following a defeat. That's such a homoclitic way of thinking. Unless an individual sucks so much at his job that he absolutely needs to go right away, firing someone for the sake of firing someone is just dumb, and it's a sign that an organization is completely overwhelmed and has no idea what it's doing. It seems like owner Terry Pegula's fingerprints are all over this, which is a horrible sign for the future of the Bills. Meddlesome owners seldom win, and Pegula has established himself as a meddlesome owner.
Second, I wouldn't say Roman sucks at his job. I don't think he's a great offensive coordinator, or anything, but it's not his fault the Bills lost to the Jets. His offense didn't surrender 37 points to pedestrian quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. That was Rob Ryan's fault. If anyone should've been fired, it should have been Rob Ryan, who has been a proven failure. Granted, Rob Ryan doesn't have much to work with because the Bills are missing lots of defensive personnel, but he has sucked at his other jobs, and his schemes simply don't work.
Roman is just the first man to fall. I fully anticipate both Ryans being axed as well by the end of the year. It just makes no sense to get rid of Roman, who isn't near the top of the list for those responsible for the loss to Buffalo.
Update: Despite Buffalo's winning streak, I still stand by this grade. The offense wasn't the problem in the 0-2 start, and the owner's meddling is troubling.
Bengals extend HC Marvin Lewis (1 year): A Grade
Marvin Lewis' contract was set to expire after 2016, so the Bengals wisely extended him one more season in order to remove his lame-duck status. This almost had to be done, as teams with lame-duck coaches often end up disappointing because of impending uncertainty.
And yes, keeping Lewis around is in Cincinnati's best interest. Those foolish enough to point to Lewis' lack of success in the playoffs need to realize how much of a train wreck this franchise was prior to his arrival. Also, Lewis has constantly gotten the most out of his team despite having pedestrian production at the quarterback position. It's a minor miracle he keeps reaching the postseason with Andy Dalton.
Saints extend HC Sean Payton (5 years, $45 million): A- Grade
There have been reports that Sean Payton would be coaching elsewhere sometime in the near future, but those can finally be put to rest in the wake of this 5-year extension. Payton will continue to coach New Orleans for quite a while, in what will be a final attempt to have Drew Brees lead the team to a second Super Bowl victory.
Payton was once regarded as one of the top coaches in the NFL. The bloom is off the rose now, as the Saints have missed the playoffs over the past two seasons, finishing 7-9 in consecutive campaigns. However, Payton doesn't deserve much blame, as the front office is responsible for giving him barely anything to work with defensively, all while the talented play-makers around Brees have mostly disappeared. When someone named Willie Snead becomes the team's No. 2 receiver, you know something is terribly wrong.
I think this deserves a high grade. I don't know of any coach available who could do a better job for the Saints than Payton. In fact, we saw what Brees looked like without Payton when he compiled his worst completion percentage (63.0) by far during the one season in which Payton was suspended.
49ers fire DC Eric Mangini: C- Grade
I guess this one was predictable, given that the 49ers were interviewing (and failing to hire) defensive coordinator candidates.
Still, it doesn't make much sense. While the 49ers were 29th in defensive net yardage last year, they were 18th in points allowed, which isn't all that bad considering the severe lack of talent on their roster. Eric Mangini did the best he could, but San Francisco had to fire him for some reason. I'm not sure why, but maybe Mangini declined an invitation to Jed York's birthday party, or perhaps Chip Kelly wanted to be the "smartest" guy in the room. Ladies and gentlemen, the San Francisco 49ers.
49ers fail to hire DC Mike Vrabel: LOL Grade
I thought this would be a fun grade to post heading into the weekend. If you haven't heard, Mike Vrabel, an up-and-coming coaching star, who currently happens to be the Texans' linebackers coach, was offered a job as San Francisco's defensive coordinator. And he turned it down.
If that doesn't speak volumes about the 49ers' incompetence and futility, I don't know what does. Another NFL team offered a coach a promotion and better pay, yet he declined. And you know what? It was the absolute correct decision. Vrabel will have better opportunities in the future, and working for a trust-fund moron of an owner, an ego-maniacal general manager who screws everything up, and a head coach who doesn't understand NFL concepts would have been career suicide.
I can't really give this a real grade and have it make much sense, so I think just LOL'ing at the 49ers seems appropriate.
Jaguars extend HC Gus Bradley: B+ Grade
Extending a coach for one year may not seem significant, but Gus Bradley was entering his contract season. We've seen players quit on lame-duck coaches on countless occasions over the years. This will ensure that the Jaguars will know that barring a horrific 2016 campaign, Bradley will probably be back the following season, so they'll continue to play hard for him.
Bradley doesn't strike me as the most brilliant coach, but his players almost always give 100 percent for him. In fact, I can only recall one game in which they didn't try hard, and that was the Saints game in Week 16 when they were eliminated mere minutes prior to kickoff.
Bradley hasn't possessed the best talent, so it's far from his fault that Jacksonville hasn't been in the playoffs under his watch. I feel like he's done well considering what he's had to work with, so I like this mini-extension.
Browns hire DC Ray Horton: A Grade
The Browns are very familiar with Ray Horton, who was their defensive coordinator in 2013. He accepted the same job the following year once the team hired a new head coach, and as it turns out, getting rid of him proved to be a huge mistake; their defensive rankings tanked after he left.
Horton has been the defensive coordinator for three teams. Here were the rankings in terms of net yardage each season:
As you can see, Horton has bolstered every defense he has coached and ultimately improved them to rank in the top 12 of yardage. He's one of the league's better defensive coordinators, making this an outstanding hire.
Eagles hire OC Frank Reich: C+ Grade
This is Frank Reich's second stint as an offensive coordinator, as he got fired after "failing" with the Chargers in 2014 and 2015. I put that word in quotes because the Chargers were so banged up both years that he never really had a chance.
It's pretty difficult to grade this, so I'm just going to give it a "C+." That's because Reich isn't actually going to call the plays; he'll just help with the game planning as Doug Pederson tells his quarterback what to do.
Eagles hire DC Jim Schwartz: B+ Grade
I wasn't crazy about the Doug Pederson hire, but I like this move to bring in Jim Schwartz to be the team's new defensive coordinator. Schwartz, at the very least, will be a big upgrade over the pedestrian Billy Davis.
Schwartz has plenty of experience as a defensive coordinator. He held the job in Tennessee for eight years and then did so again in Buffalo during the 2014 campaign. Schwartz has coordinated a top-12 NFL defense in terms of net yardage in five of his nine seasons, including three top-seven finishes. His 2014 Bills were actually fourth in net yardage, but he was asked to move on because Rex Ryan was hired, and the two couldn't work together.
The Eagles will be moving back to the 4-3 under Schwartz. I'm usually against scheme changes, but Philadelphia's shift to the 3-4 under Davis and Chip Kelly never made any sense to me because they didn't have the personnel for it, and it was yet another example of Kelly not understanding the simple NFL concept of talent trumping scheme. Thus, transitioning to the 4-3 again should be easy.
Titans hire OC Terry Robiskie: D Grade
Terry Robiskie has been a long-time wide receivers coach who spent time as an offensive coordinator with two teams: the Raiders (1989-92) and Browns (2004). So, how did he do in those stints? Chronologically, here were his offensive rankings in terms of net yardage: 19th, 19th, 23rd, 23rd, 28th.
Yeah, not good. Robiskie is a respected coach around the league, but given that he has failed twice as an offensive coordinator, it's only logical to expect that he'll struggle a third time. He's a 61-year-old who probably doesn't have any new ideas, so it's fair to question yet another coaching move by the Titans.
Titans retain HC Mike Mularkey: MILLEN Grade
I don't understand this at all. Why do the Titans want to keep Mularkey on as the head coach? Mularkey had miserable stints in both Buffalo and Jacksonville. How bad was he? He's 18-39 on his career, but if you exclude his first season with the Bills, a year packed with fluky victories on numerous special-teams touchdowns, he's just 9-32 as a head coach. Calling him a retread would be an insult to retread coaches.
I thought about giving this a "D" instead of a Millen because of continuity. However, the Titans are just going to have to fire Mularkey in a year or two anyway, so I don't think continuity means all that much in this instance.
Buccaneers hire DC Mike Smith: A Grade
I'm a big fan of this hiring. Mike Smith was a failed head coach for the Falcons, but he thrived as the defensive coordinator for the Jaguars. He coached Jacksonville from 2003 to 2007, and the team finished sixth, 11th, sixth, second and 12th in defensive yardage in those five seasons. After Smith left, the Jaguars fell to 17th, then 23rd, then 28th in that same category. They just completely regressed after Smith took the job in Atlanta.
I think Smith will be able to revitalize Tampa's defense, abandoning Lovie Smith's outdated schemes. This hiring also makes sense for another reason, and that would be the fact that Mike Smith worked with Dirk Koetter when the two were with the Falcons.
Lions hire GM Bob Quinn, retain HC Jim Caldwell: B+ Grade
I was waiting on the Bob Quinn grade because I wanted to see what he would do with Jim Caldwell. It turns out that Quinn has decided to keep Caldwell as his head coach.
I like that move a lot. Caldwell did a great job of rallying the team in the second half of the season, and they played hard for him in each game, save for the post-Hail Mary trip to St. Louis. Caldwell, along with new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, had something great going to close out the year, as the team was determined to build momentum going into 2016. Firing Caldwell and nullifying all of that would have been a big mistake.
As for Quinn, he's the former director of pro scouting for New England, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he'll be successful. We've seen plenty of people leave the Patriots and fail. It can be pretty easy to look smart when working with Bill Belichick, after all. However, Quinn is off to a good start, so Detroit fans should be optimistic, for now.
Buccaneers promote Dirk Koetter to head coach: B- Grade
The fact that the Buccaneers fired Lovie Smith in order to keep Dirk Koetter around wasn't exactly the best-kept secret in the NFL. It's unclear why the Glazers spent more than a week durdling around doing nothing, but they finally made it official Thursday evening.
Koetter was a head coach at Boise State and Arizona State, though he failed at the latter school. Hiring a head coach when he couldn't even win at Arizona State is quite dubious, but the Buccaneers didn't want to let him get away because of the great work he did with Jameis Winston last season. Winston expressed desire to continue working with Koetter, and he could've only done that with Koetter as his head coach, given that other teams showed interest in hiring him away.
For that reason, I can't give this a low grade. However, as I said, Koetter's failure at Arizona State is a bit ominous. Some men are just meant to be coordinators, and that could be the case with Koetter.
Eagles hire HC Doug Pederson: C- Grade
The Eagles don't look very good right now. They whiffed on their first three choices - Adam Gase, Ben McAdoo, Tom Coughlin - as all three coaches walked away from the organization, which looked desperate to hire each of them. Philadelphia, as a consequence, had to settle for Doug Pederson, whom the fans ran out of town back in 1999 when Andy Reid stubbornly started him over Donovan McNabb.
This hire could work, but it's very easy to be skeptical. First of all, Pederson wasn't even Philadelphia's third choice, so how much faith could the front office have in him? Second, Pederson has no head-coaching experience, aside from his 4-year stint at Calvary Baptist Academy. It'll be argued that he did a great job coordinating the Chiefs, but Kansas City's winning streak was obviously a farce, as they barely squeaked by poor opponents each week.
I'm giving this a C-. That seems appropriate. It's not a failure because Pederson is an upgrade over Chip Kelly, since he actually understands NFL concepts. However, Philadelphia fans have to be discouraged by this hire.
49ers hire HC Chip Kelly: YORK Grade
Unreal. Only the 49ers would make such a stupid hire. This literally is a "YORK" grade.
Chip Kelly single-handedly destroyed the Eagles. He didn't understand that talent trumps scheme in the NFL, and he couldn't relate to any of his players. Had he taken some time off and learned actual pro concepts, perhaps he'd stand a chance at his second gig.
But not right away. Kelly is a disastrous hire made by a capsizing franchise in complete disarray. I don't see how he can possibly turn things around. It's a good thing that he won't have much of a say in personnel moves, but it won't matter. I'm sure Kelly will try to resurrect Colin Kaepernick's career, but that won't work because Kaepernick has no aspirations to study film or improve the mental part of his game. Kelly will probably be fired in two to three years.
Giants promote OC Ben McAdoo to head coach: A- Grade
Ben McAdoo has never been a head coach on any level, and it's always difficult to predict how first-time head coaches will fare. Thus, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't grade this as high as an A-.
However, these are not normal circumstances. McAdoo was highly pursued by other teams, including the rival Eagles, so it was imperative to keep him. As the Giants' offensive coordinator, McAdoo has gotten the most out of Eli Manning. Losing McAdoo could've set Manning back in the latter stages of Manning's career, which could have been disastrous. Manning has been at his best recently, so keeping McAdoo was a great move.
Titans hire GM Jon Robinson, to retain HC Mike Mularkey: D Grade
The Titans had better candidates for general manager than Jon Robinson, but they apparently settled on him because he was willing to stick with Mike Mularkey as his head coach.
Uhh... what? It feels like this is April Fool's Day, and I'm reading some spoof article. Why in the world would the Titans want to keep Mularkey on as the head coach? Mularkey failed in both Buffalo and Jacksonville, making him the very definition of a retread. He's 18-39 on his career, but if you exclude his first season with the Bills, a year packed with fluky victories on numerous special-teams touchdowns, he's just 9-32 as a head coach. Wow.
The only reason this isn't an "F" - or a "York" - is because of continuity. However, that doesn't mean all that much when the coach has a proven terrible track record.
Chargers hire OC Ken Whisenhunt: A- Grade
Ken Whisenhunt has been a poor head coach over the past several seasons, but he has a proven track record as an offensive coordinator, making this a very strong hire.
Whisenhunt actually coached in San Diego before. He was the offensive coordinator in 2013, and the team's offense ranked fifth after being 31st the year before. Whisenhunt also coordinated the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory in the Ben Roethlisberger era, earning him the head-coaching gig in Arizona. He could be just what Philip Rivers needs - aside from some offensive line help - to make one more charge deep into the playoffs.
Browns hire HC Hue Jackson: B+ Grade
You'd think that a dysfunctional organization like the Browns wouldn't be able to get their man, but that's exactly what they did, landing Hue Jackson.
Jackson appears most qualified for the job. He's a great offensive mind, having effectively coached up all the quarterbacks who have learned under him, including Andy Dalton, who had his best season prior to getting hurt, and A.J. McCarron, who looked pretty competent for a backup. He also did a good job in Oakland, going 8-8 in his one season before oddly getting fired. Having a .500 record with the Raiders is like winning the Super Bowl, so I don't know what that was all about.
At any rate, Jackson told the media that the Browns made him "feel comfortable." That's odd, given that the owner is a meddlesome crook who could easily fire Jackson in two years. That's pretty much why I can't give this an "A." It appears to be a good move, but because the Browns did it, you almost have to feel skeptical.
Bills hire "DC" Rob Ryan: D Grade
I was hesitant to write up a grade for this move because it wasn't clear what Rob Ryan's role was going to be. He was named a "defensive assistant," so I thought it was possible that Rex Ryan was just giving his brother a job because he couldn't find one. After all, who would want to hire a failed defensive coordinator who looks like a drunken pirate?
However, things became clear Tuesday morning when it was announced that Rob would run the defense, along with Rex, so in a sense Rob is the team's new defensive coordinator. This is obviously disastrous. Rob has been one of the worst coordinators in the NFL over the past decade. He has failed almost everywhere he has been, as his confusing schemes prompted the Saints to devolve from a top-10 defense into the league's worst stop unit.
The only reason this is a "D" instead of an "F" is because Rob tends to have some success in his first year. Rex was given an ultimatum - reach the playoffs or be fired - so perhaps he recognizes Rob's ability to coach up a team in his first year before all hell breaks loose. It's possible that Rex is banking on Rob getting a job elsewhere next offseason - or, at the very least, join the Jolly Roger to search for buried treasure.
Bengals retain HC Marvin Lewis: A Grade
Adam Schefter has reported that the Bengals won't be firing Marvin Lewis this offseason, so might as well grade it, right?
Firing Lewis would've been a terrible idea. I imagine incompetent franchises like the Browns and 49ers would have let him go, but the Bengals have been playoff contenders every single season for a while now, so they understand that continuity is crucial. Prior to Lewis joining the organization, the team was the laughing stock of the NFL, going 3-13 each year. Lewis has turned the program around, so even though he has yet to win a playoff game, he has done a great job.
The argument has been made that Lewis lost control of his team in Saturday night's crushing loss to the Steelers. Well, the Bengals would've won had Jeremy Hill not fumbled, and the officials were primarily responsible for that meltdown anyway. Had the referees maintained order and not been blatantly biased toward the Steelers - the Giovani Bernard hit should've been called, and how Joey Porter wasn't flagged was mystifying - things wouldn't have gotten out of control. John Parry is a terrible official, and if I were a member of the Bengals, I would've been just as angry. So, I don't blame Lewis for that.
The primary issue for Lewis is the quarterback position. Andy Dalton just doesn't have what it takes to make a deep run into the postseason. Plus, Dalton wasn't even available for Lewis this year, so it's difficult to blame a coach for losing in the playoffs as an underdog without his starting quarterback and any sort of help from the officials.
Bills extend GM Doug Whaley: C- Grade
There was a report earlier this month that said Doug Whaley would be fired if he didn't reach the playoffs next season. That, apparently, is not the case in the wake of his 4-year extension.
Yes, that's right. Four years. Four more years of Whaley, Buffalo fans!
I don't get this move. Whaley's had some hits, but he has whiffed on way too many early-round picks. E.J. Manuel, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Cyrus Kouandjio and Preston Brown were all wasted picks. Whaley was named general manager a couple of weeks after the 2013 NFL Draft (Manuel, Woods, Goodwin), but given that Buddy Nix stepped down right then, it's clear that Whaley had a big hand in that class. In fact, there was an NFL.com story that discussed that Whaley was "integral" in the Manuel selection. Whaley also brought in way too many bad-character players. It could be argued that Rex Ryan wanted this, but Whaley was the one who hired Ryan, so he's at least partly responsible.
Extending Whaley for even one year would've been dubious. But four years? Way to depress the fan base, Bills.
Dolphins hire HC Adam Gase: C+ Grade
Many are applauding this hire, but I can't say I'm too crazy about it. The notion that the Dolphins suddenly finally got it right is definitely questionable.
The obvious positive is that Adam Gase has thrived in terms of coaching up the quarterbacks he has worked with. He got the most out of Jay Cutler this year, so he'll surely improve Ryan Tannehill's game, right? Probably, but there are other factors.
Gase is only 37, as he has become the youngest coach in the NFL. The Dolphins had serious effort issues last year, quitting for stretches at a time. This was not a surprise, given that they were led by the lethargic Ndamukong Suh, who was fat and happy after signing his nine-figure contract. Will Suh listen to the unproven Gase? I have my doubts.
It's also fair to question Gase's decision-making. Why did he choose the Dolphins when there were better coaching jobs available? The franchise is run by the incompetent Stephen Ross, who is doing a great job of destroying the Dolphins. Ross cares so little about the welfare of his team that he blocked Jim Harbaugh from going there, sending him to his alma mater. I don't get why anyone would want to work for Ross, so Gase choosing Miami is pretty dubious.
Buccaneers fire HC Lovie Smith: C- Grade
The Buccaneers are a dysfunctional organization because of poor ownership, and we've set another example of that here in the wake of Lovie Smith's firing.
I don't get what Smith did wrong. The Buccaneers finished 6-10, which was well above expectations. They were 2-14 the year before and were starting a rookie quarterback the entire season. Six wins was fine. In fact, four or five victories should have been the goal.
The only reason this isn't an "F" - or a "York" - is because Smith isn't that great of a coach. He's had success in the past, but his defensive scheme is outdated. However, continuity is important, and the teams that often fire coaches seldom succeed. The Buccaneers, apparently, do not understand this.
Saints retain HC Sean Payton: A+ Grade
There was some speculation that Sean Payton would be traded for a second-round pick. Those rumors turned out not to be true, as the Saints have decided to keep Payton as their head coach.
This is a great decision. Payton is still one of the top coaches in the NFL despite the Saints' back-to-back 7-9 campaigns. New Orleans' recent failures have been the result of poor front-office management; not anything Payton has or hasn't done. Thus, it would've been foolish to get rid of him, even if it meant obtaining a second-round selection.
Colts fire DC Greg Manusky: C- Grade
Greg Manusky isn't a great defensive coordinator or anything, but I thought he did a somewhat decent job with the Colts, given what he was able to work with. His defense actually kept his team in many games this year, while the offense struggled in the wake of Andrew Luck's injuries.
I'm not a fan of an organization having someone fall on the sword, especially when it's the wrong guy. Ryan Grigson tried to blame Chuck Pagano for his incompetence, but that didn't work because Jim Irsay opted to extend Pagano. Instead, Grigson moved on to poor Manusky. Grigson should have been the one who was fired; not some defensive coordinator who had nothing but crappy, overpriced free agents at his disposal.
Jaguars fire DC Bob Babich: B Grade
Bob Babich is not a good coordinator, so I'm fine with this decision. His defense ranked 31st in scoring this past season, and Babich had previously failed in Chicago. Gus Bradley was never thrilled to have him around, so this is a move that should've been done earlier.
However, firing Babich doesn't fix the primary issue, which is the lack of defensive talent on Jacksonville's roster. Incompetent general manager David Caldwell hasn't done a good job of adding skilled players to the roster, so it generally doesn't matter who the coordinator is until Caldwell begins drafting better.
Colts extend GM Ryan Grigson: YORK Grade
It's my second-ever York grade. How exciting. And no, I'm not just taking it for a spin. The Colts truly deserve this.
Indianapolis doesn't have much talent on its roster beyond Andrew Luck; that's why the team struggled in the wake of his injury in 2015. Ryan Grigson was responsible for that, thanks to his countless wasted draft choices and horrible free-agent signings. Most of his picks haven't worked out, while some of the busts he brought in via free agency include Andre Johnson, Arthur Jones, Hakeem Nicks, D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden, Greg Toler... the list goes on and on. Most importantly, Grigson never understood the concept of protecting his quarterback. By failing to bolster the offensive line, Grigson has to take full blame for Luck being injured this season.
Giving Grigson a 3-year extension is something only a madman would do, and we do know that Jim Irsay is a madman. So that's an explanation. Unfortunately for Colts fans, they'll have to watch their franchise quarterback take big hit after big hit going forward, as Grigson can't be trusted to upgrade Luck's blocking.
Colts extend HC Chuck Pagano: B Grade
So much for Chuck Pagano being fired. Pagano was given a 4-year extension, so he'll be sticking around for a while.
Pagano doesn't strike me as a brilliant coach. In fact, he's probably just mediocre. However, I don't know if the Colts could have done better than him. It wasn't worth the risk of disrupting chemistry and continuity, which is so highly underrated to the point that some franchises like the Browns don't understand how important it is.
Pagano has done fine with the Colts, leading them deeper into the playoffs each year before this one. The 2015 campaign wasn't his fault, as Andrew Luck's injuries destroyed Indianapolis' chances. The Colts will be back as a Super Bowl contender in 2016, assuming that Luck is 100 percent.
Chargers fire OC Frank Reich: B Grade
While this move won't exactly turn around San Diego's franchise, it does seem like a decent one. Reich's offense was 26th in points scored this past season, and while a lot of that has to do with the ridiculous number of injuries the offense sustained, some of it was on the offensive coordinator.
Reich was guilty of predictable play-calling, often resorting to ineffective draw plays that even the dumbest fan could see coming from a mile away. The Chargers need to find a better offensive mind to aid Rivers as he enters the latter stages of his career.
Giants fire HC Tom Coughlin: D Grade
This is being called a resignation. In fact, Adam Schefter is reporting that Coughlin informed the front office that he would be leaving even before they told him whether they wanted him back or not.
Right. And I'm the Queen of France.
An indication that this is a lie is that Coughlin immediately told the media that he wants to continue coaching. Given that, the Giants are making a huge mistake by letting him go. Coughlin has been one of the top NFL coaches in the modern era, currently maintaining a 170-150 record in the regular season, a 12-7 mark in the playoffs, and two Super Bowl victories. Though the Giants sustained a ridiculous number of close losses this year, Coughlin has almost always gotten the most out of his team, doing great work with a roster that has never been up to par with some of the elite teams in the NFL.
The only reason this isn't an "F" is because Coughlin will turn 70 this August. However, he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down and still appears to be very sharp. The next team that hires him will be lucky to have him.
49ers retain GM Trent Baalke: YORK Grade
I've had a Millen grade for horrible general-manager moves, and now a new grade is born for incompetent ownership decisions.
It amazes me how uttery stupid Jed York is, and it's a prime example of how most trust-fund babies will usually fail in an important role. York has proven that he has absolutely no idea what he's doing. In his press conference, he admitted that he texted all the players about Jim Tomsula's firing. He also announced that he would be retaining Trent Baalke, one of the worst general managers in the NFL.
Under Baalke, San Francisco's roster has been depleted, thanks to numerous retirements and horrible moves in free agency. The draft picks haven't been bad, but Baalke has wasted money signing the likes of Torrey Smith, Reggie Bush, Darnell Dockett and Jerome Simpson, and he also tossed away a draft pick, trading it for Blaine Gabbert. Worst of all, he was mostly responsible for running Jim Harbaugh out of town, replacing a top-five NFL head coach with a pizza delivery guy.
As I wrote yesterday, if York really cares about the 49ers, he would either sell the team or hire a smart football guy to run all operations. This smart football guy would waste no time firing Baalke, so this is an obvious "F" grade. Actually, it's worse. It's a York grade.
Chargers retain HC Mike McCoy: B Grade
I have no problem with this decision. Mike McCoy is 22-26 in his three seasons with the Chargers, but nearly half of those losses came in 2015, thanks to a ridiculous amount of injuries. San Diego also dealt with numerous hurt players down the stretch in 2014, which would explain that collapse.
With that in mind, McCoy wasn't the problem. He may not be the solution, and I remain skeptical despite being high on him in the past, but McCoy still deserves a chance to prove himself. Besides, I'm sure the last thing the Chargers want to do is search for a new head coach amid a move to Los Angeles.
49ers fire HC Jim Tomsula: C Grade
So, the 49ers fired Jim Tomsula, yet they decided to keep the guy responsible for replacing Jim Harbaugh with him? How in the world does that make any sense?
Look, Tomsula is not a good head coach. He would probably make for a better pizza delivery guy, which is why this is a "C" grade. But giving him one year with absolutely nothing to work with is just dumb. Did the 49ers' front office really think that he would maintain what Harbaugh had created after nearly half the roster retired during the previous offseason? It's actually a miracle that San Francisco won five games this year. My Under 4.5, which I mentioned in the first-ever episode of the podcast, didn't hit after all.
It really doesn't matter whom the 49ers hire to replace Tomsula. General manager Trent Baalke is an incompetent buffoon who doesn't know how to run a team. The main culprit, however, is owner Jed York, a trust-fund idiot who has destroyed this once-proud franchise. If York really cared about the 49ers, he would either sell the organization or at least bring in a smart football person who would take over all of his team-related decision-making. York is too arrogant and too stupid to do something like that, however, so the 49ers are going to be a terrible for a very long time.
Browns fire GM Ray Farmer: A+ Grade
I was totally against the Mike Pettine firing, but this move actually makes sense. Ray Farmer has been guilty of so many poor personnel decisions that he had to be fired.
Farmer had four first-round picks in his two years as general manager. He selected Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving. Gilbert is a mega bust; Manziel is a self-destructive alcoholic; Shelton has been sub par at best; and Erving has been an abomination as a pass protector thus far. Farmer could've drafted Sammy Watkins/Odell Beckham and Teddy Bridgewater, yet he screwed up big time and set his franchise back several years.
Making matters worse, Farmer was also atrocious in free agency. He signed terrible players like Randy Starks, Ben Tate and Dwayne Bowe, all of whom have busted. Oh, and then there was that whole texting scandal that he was suspended for. Farmer absolutely had to go. There's no question about that.
Browns fire HC Mike Pettine: D Grade
Surprise, surprise, the Browns just did something stupid.
I don't understand Cleveland's thought process. The three other teams in their division have been so successful over the past decade. What do they have in common? All three have kept their head coaches since the 2008 season. The Browns, on the other hand, seem to change coaches every two years.
That's exactly how long Pettine had. Just two years. What was he supposed to do with them? How was he supposed to turn things around in such a short span, especially without anything resembling a franchise quarterback? It's ridiculous.
The Browns now have to start over. Again. And I'm sure in two years, I'll once again be writing about how the Browns have foolishly fired another coach without giving him a chance. This franchise simply doesn't get it whatsoever.
Dolphins fire GM Dennis Hickey: C Grade
When the Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey to be their general manager two years ago, Charlie Campbell reported that the Buccaneers were in the process of firing him. It wasn't a surprise that incompetent owner Stephen Ross made such a move, but it's confusing as to why Hickey is getting axed after two years.
Hickey screwed up big time by signing Ndamukong Suh to a massive contract. Suh has been very good this year, but not overly dominant. He's a horrible leader, so it's no surprise that the Dolphins have quit at times. Signing him was a predictable blunder, but Hickey nailed some draft choices, going with Ja'Wuan James and Jarvis Landry with back-to-back choices in 2014. The 2015 picks are still unknown, but Jay Ajayi has shown promise.
The Dolphins can do better than Hickey, which is why I'm not giving this an "F." However, the decision to let Hickey go after just two years when he's made some decent draft choices is puzzling. Then again, nothing Ross has done as owner of the Dolphins has made much sense. If he really cares about the Dolphins, he'd sell the team.
Eagles fire HC Chip Kelly: A+ Grade
In a disappointing and frustrating season, this is the best thing they could've done. Firing Chip Kelly is an outstanding decision.
Kelly has been a complete failure on every level. Foolishly believing he could be Bill Belichick by handling personnel duties on top of his coaching responsibilities despite barely having any pro experience, Kelly gutted the entire team. He let most of his skilled players leave, making a huge mistake in believing that scheme trumps talent. That could be the case in college, but not in the NFL. Kelly squandered all of his draft picks; surrendered a second-round choice senselessly for Sam Bradford; and overspent for overrated free agents.
Kelly's personnel moves hurt him as the coach, but he did a terrible job in the latter regard as well. His play-calling was extremely obvious, and some of Philadelphia's opponents were even calling out the plays. Kelly also failed to connect with his players, prompting several to declare that he was a racist. On top of that, Kelly lost the locker room at the end. Jason Peters took himself out of the game at the end of the Washington contest, and he was overheard saying, "I'm not getting injured for this."
The worst thing the Eagles could've done was bring back Kelly for another year. He was a sunk cost, and he would've ruined the team even more, so they did a great job of cutting their losses. They can now move forward with a normal coach who understands basic NFL concepts.
As for Kelly, all of the top college vacancies have been filled. Some are connecting him to the Titans because of Marcus Mariota, but Tennessee would be crazy to hire him. I think Kelly could sit out a year and then receive a ton of money from Texas to coach the Longhorns.
Rams fire OC Frank Cignetti: C- Grade
I'm not sure if anyone outside of St. Louis even knew who Frank Cignetti was prior to his firing. Hell, I don't know if anyone in St. Louis knew, given their turnout for home games.
I think that we can all agree, however, that Cignetti was not at fault for the Rams' offensive woes. He may not have been the solution, but what was he supposed to do with a "scoring" attack comprised of awful starters like Nick Foles, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and numerous poor offensive linemen? The only play-makers the Rams have are Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, and even the latter is limited in what he can do.
I'm giving this a C- because this is bad look for Jeff Fisher. The man known as Commander .500 is throwing people under the bus when he's mostly to blame for extending a horrible quarterback and failing to address the offensive line and receiver position.
Dolphins fire OC Bill Lazor: A Grade
I'm usually against firing coaches during non-bye weeks because it creates too much chaos within the organization and usually means that the team will lose. However, the Dolphins have no playoff aspirations, so a defeat is actually beneficial, since it'll improve their draft positioning.
With that in mind, this is a great move. Bill Lazor was as inept as they come; not only was his play-calling very predictable, but Ryan Tannehill regressed under him. Tannehill had never developed mentally, and as a result, he hasn't been allowed to call audibles. He also has no clue how to read blitzes. Perhaps Tannehill will never learn anything, but it became clear that Lazor wasn't going to be the person to teach him. Lazor needed to go as soon as possible.
Saints fire DC Rob Ryan: A Grade
It's about damn time. Rob Ryan should've been fired last offseason, and I was beginning to think that he had unflattering pictures of one of the Saints higher-ups, given how long he was able to hold on to his job despite being utterly incompetent. Well, I guess we'll find out which employee is into bestiality porn soon enough, because Ryan was finally let go.
This is an easy "A," and the only reason it's not an A+ is because the Saints waited too long. Ryan has lived off the fame of his brother and father throughout his career. He clashed with his co-workers, and his defenses were often as sloppy as his unkempt appearance. He never had any answers and could never provide any adjustments. Ryan's defense was dead last in both yards and points this year after being 31st in terms of the former in 2014. It should be a long time (forever?) until he's hired as a defensive coordinator again.
Lions fire GM Martin Mayhew, president Tom Lewand: A Grade
Martin Mayhew's tenure was very promising to start. He spent the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Matthew Stafford and then grabbed Ndamukong Suh with the second selection the following spring. Perhaps a tackle would've been the better option to protect Stafford, but there was no doubt that Suh was going to be a great player.
Unfortunately, the Lions have devolved into a horrible team, thanks to numerous poor draft picks and decisions in free agency. The following is a list of first- and second-round players who have been busts under Mayhew's watch: Brandon Pettigrew, Jahvid Best, Titus Young, Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, and Kyle Van Noy. It's disturbing that the Lions have missed on that many early-round players. The Lions were also fleeced in a trade this offseason, acquiring a lemon in Haloti Ngata from Baltimore.
Mayhew's inability to keep Suh around and protect Stafford appropriately has cost him his job, and rightfully so. Though he was much better than his kielbasa-stuffing predecessor, Mayhew was not doing a good job overall, so it was time for him to move on.
Colts fire OC Pep Hamilton: C Grade
I don't get how these teams don't understand that you shouldn't fire coaches during non-bye weeks. The Colts will have way too much adjusting to do, especially on such a short work week. They didn't have a good chance to beat the Broncos, but the probability of that has approached zero in the wake of this move.
Pep Hamilton was not a good offensive coordinator. I've never been a fan of his, as his predictable play-calling has limited Andrew Luck. However, there was no need to do it now instead of after this contest when the Colts will have off in Week 10. The offense's ineptitude this season wasn't even Hamilton's fault, as Luck has been playing with shoulder and rib injuries. Promoting Rob Chudzinski won't help unless Luck suddenly becomes healthy, so what was the hurry?
Titans fire HC Ken Whisenhunt: B Grade
There's no doubt that Ken Whisenhunt was one of the worst head coaches in the NFL. He didn't prepare well for the opposition, he made terrible in-game adjustments, and his players didn't try hard for him all the time. There were also reports that he had lost the locker room. With Tennessee, he was 2-0 in Week 1, but a hilariously bad 1-20 elsewhere. He absolutely had to go, and getting rid of him is a great move.
However, I have to question the wisdom of firing him during the season on a non-bye week. If the Titans wanted to fire him immediately to improve things right away, axing on a regular week wasn't the smartest idea, since teams letting go of their coaches in such situations have a dismal record in their first game. See what happened to the Lions, and that was just their offensive coordinator. Also, since a deep playoff run is unrealistic, why not ride the year out with Whisenhunt to ensure a better selection in the 2016 NFL Draft? Winning too many games will take Tennessee out of the running for a blue-chip player.
Lions fire OC Joe Lombardi: B+ Grade
The issue with this move wasn't whether it should've been made. Joe Lombardi's offense was so predictable that the opposition was actually calling out the team's plays before the snap. Lombardi wasn't creative at all, and Detroit's offense has been stagnant as a result.
The issue, however, is when this move should've been made. I think it's a little stupid to not only fire a coordinator during a non-bye week, but to do so when traveling to London. The Lions should've waited one week because preparing for the Chiefs will be extremely difficult now. Then again, maybe it's best for the Lions that they'll lose Sunday.
Dolphins fire HC Joe Philbin: A+ Grade
I recently said that Joe Philbin reminded me of a farmer whose crops were burning down, yet just stared at them because he didn't know what to do about it. Well, the crops are officially all gone. Philbin has been fired following a 24-28 record in three-plus seasons.
This was long overdue. Philbin was constantly overwhelmed, with Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan coaching circles around him in almost all of their matchups. But it wasn't just his inability to prepare his team or make in-game adjustments; he had zero institutional control over his team. Philbin didn't even know that Bully-gate was happening two years ago, and Ndamukong Suh was calling his own plays earlier this season. The nail in the coffin was the London contest versus the Jets that saw the Dolphins put forth zero effort to save their coach's job.
The Dolphins didn't have a strong alternative for Philbin for the rest of the year from either of the coordinator positions, so tight ends coach Dan Campbell will take over as the interim head coach. He can't possibly be worse than Philbin, so perhaps Miami will be able to salvage its once-promising season. If not, the team can just hire a better coach next spring, unless, of course, incompetent owner Stephen Ross once again blocks the hire by sending that particular person to Michigan as well.