“Who Are These F’ing Guys?” – New NFL Head Coaches
By Ha Kung Wong
“Who are these f’ing guys?”
That’s one of my favorite lines from the movie “Major League”. Wait, you say you haven’t seen that movie? Well, shame on you, I expect you watch it later, but for the time being, here’s the snippet from the film that I’m referring to.
I just improved your day two-fold by showing you that scene. You’re welcome.
The point is that there are lots of new head coaches now in place across the NFL, but unlike players on the field, many of them aren’t household names. Sure, Jon Gruden is, but he’s the exception rather than the rule. So I don’t blame you if you looked at the list and said to yourself “who is this f’ing guy?” Well, we took a shot at discussing them in our newest podcast, but I can answer that for you in summary fashion. Why? Because I know how busy you are.
Let’s take a look at all the new NFL head coaches around the league and get a quick snapshot of who they are. Again, you’re welcome. That’s just the type of guy I am.
Frank Reich (“RIKE”)
Who is Frank Reich?
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) February 11, 2018
Contract: 5-year contract
Frank Reich, a former quarterback, began his coaching career in 2006 as an intern with the Colts and eventually was promoted to coach the quarterbacks and wide receivers until 2012, when he left to become the wide receivers coach for the Cardinals. In 2013, he was hired by the Chargers as their quarterbacks coach and became the team’s offensive coordinator the following year, before joining the Eagles in 2016. Most recently, he was in part responsible for the Eagles first ever Super Bowl win with backup quarterback Nick Foles under center.
After the whole Josh McDaniels fiasco, the Colts decided just to go to the other sideline of Super Bowl LII, and grab the offensive coordinator from the Eagles. But McDaniels has a much longer track record than Reich, and we all know that Doug Pederson calls most, if not all, the offensive plays. It remains to be seen whether Andrew Luck gets back to the field healthy and whether Reich can mold the offense into an effective unit after an incredibly disappointing year.
Matt Nagy (“NEH-gee”)
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 8, 2018
Matt Nagy has spent the last five seasons in Kansas City, first as quarterbacks coach before being the offensive coordinator in 2016. Under Nagy, the Chiefs progressively improved in points scored from 13th in 2016 to sixth in 2017. The Chiefs also saw improvement in yards gained, moving from 27th in 2015 all the way to fifth in 2017.
After three years of John Fox leading the team to the cellar, the Bears decided to move on to the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator as a head coach. Former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich will be Nagy’s offensive coordinator and Vic Fangio got a three-year deal to remain defensive coordinator.
Note that Andy Reid has always called his own offensive plays, but ceded control to Nagy after starting 6-5. Nagy didn’t disappoint, increasing scoring by 18 points a game and leading the Chiefs to a 4-1 finish.
Nagy himself was also a quarterback back at the University of Delaware and in the Arena Football League from 2002 to 2008. After that stint, he actually became a real estate agent around Chicago before becoming a coaching intern in Philadelphia around a year later, and working his way up the ranks.
What this means to me is that the Bears are ALL IN on Mitchell Trubisky. Hiring not only an offensive minded head coach, but also one who focuses on the quarterback position demonstrates that their either going to get a jump from Trubisky in year two (hopefully with the help of some additional WR and TE weapons), or their all going down together in a flaming heap.
"They ain't seen nothing yet, man."
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) January 10, 2018
Contract: 10-year, $100 million contract
Jon Gruden had previously been the head coach of the Raiders from 1998 to 2001 and the Buccaneers from 2002 to 2008. In his first year with the Buccaneers, he won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, actually beating the Raiders, who had traded him to Tampa Bay the previous offseason. At the time, Gruden, aged 39 years, 5 months and 9 days, was the youngest head coach ever to win a Super Bowl.
After being the worst kept secret ever, the Oakland Raiders finally named Jon Gruden their new head coach. The Raiders also hired offensive coordinator Greg Olson and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
Before returning to coaching this year, everyone knows Gruden has been an analyst for ESPN (Gruden’s QB Camp) and Monday Night Football and has done numerous commercials for Corona (“the Gruden Hotline”), Dunkin Donuts, Bridgestone and even Hooters (which was particularly strange).
The big question is whether a 10 year contract makes any sense for any coach anywhere. Most coaches don’t make it past 2 or 3 years, leaving a team to continue paying out 1 or 2 years of salary for sitting at home and watching TV. Gruden is a good coach, but as Ryan Whitfield, my co-host on the podcast, mentioned, he inherited the team he brought to the Super Bowl, so let’s not go overboard. This one will be interesting to watch, as the Raiders were expected to do much better last season with Derek Carr healthy, and couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.
New York Giants
— New York Giants (@Giants) January 22, 2018
Contract: 5-year contract
Pat Shurmer has had a long ride, spending from 1999 to 2010 working up the ranks in the NFL before getting his first head coaching position with the Browns. But over two seasons, Shurmer ended 9-23 and had to move on. He became the offensive coordinator for the Eagles and moved to ultimately become the offensive coordinator for the Vikings before landing his second shot at the head coach position with the drifting New York Giants. He’s credited in part with Sam Bradford’s rookie season success as offensive coordinator of the Rams and with Case Keenum’s success last year with the Vikings.
It’s really tough to be worse than Ben McAdoo, so at least Shurmer has that going for him. He’s already committed to Eli Manning, so perhaps he can coax another season or two out of him, but the Giants are going to have to look to the future soon or risk wasting OBJ’s best years and a potentially massive rebuild. Shurmer did win Assistant Coach of the Year at the 2018 NFL Honors for his work with the Vikings.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) February 5, 2018
Matt Patricia has been defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick in New England since 2012. New England earned six Super Bowl trips while Patricia coached there, winning three of them. The Lions are one of four NFL clubs to have never reached the Super Bowl, so they’ll be looking for Patricia to bring some of that winning mojo with him.
Patricia played college football at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he earned an aeronautical engineering degree in 1996. After assistant coaching at Rensselaer, Amherst College, and Syracuse University, Patricia was hired by the Patriots in 2004 as an offensive assistant. He would also coach the Patriots’ offensive line, linebackers and safeties before being promoted to defensive coordinator.
New England ranked 11th best in points allowed in Patricia’s first year as defensive coordinator, and haven’t been out of the top 10 in the league for giving up points since.
Patricia will be tasked with turning around a Lions team that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season. Patricia has an impressive defensive pedigree, but a significant slide in 2017, particularly in Super Bowl LII has raised some questions. Plus, its yet to be seen how he influences what looks to be a burgeoning offense under Matt Stafford.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 22, 2018
Contract: 5-year contract
Mike Vrabel comes to Tennessee from Houston, where he was the Texans defensive coordinator in 2017 after coaching linebackers from 2014-16.
Mike Vrabel has had a storied career as a player, most of which was with the Patriots as a linebacker and part time tight end. In fact, in Super Bowl XXXVIII, he caught a TD from Tom Brady making him the first defensive player to score an offensive TD in the Super Bowl since William “Refrigerator” Perry did it for the Chicago Bears back in Super Bowl XX. He’s on to bigger and better things now as the Titans head coach, but he has probably the least amount of coaching experience of any of the new head coaches this offseason. He was a great player, but it would have been nice to see the Titans focus on getting the most out of franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota instead of hiring a defensive minded head coach. A lot will depend on how new offensive coordinator Matt LeFleur, formerly of the Rams, meshes with Vrabel. LeFleur, with then new head coach Sean McVay, got a lot out of Jared Goff last year with the Rams. I’m sure Titans fans are hoping he can do the same with Vrabel and Mariota.
Get to know Coach Wilks. pic.twitter.com/AGQZlb8juP
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 31, 2018
Contract: 4-year contract with a 5th year option
Wilks has spent most of his time coaching in college, from 1995 to 2005, including a stop coaching defensive backs at my beloved Notre Dame in 2004. He then went to a series of NFL teams as a defensive backs coach until he finally got his opportunity (after 5 years as the Panthers defensive backs coach) as the Panthers defensive coordinator in 2017. Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb will also follow Wilks to Arizona.
Umm..what about the offense, guys? No more Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald going into the twilight of his career, and you pick up a defensive minded coach that’s focused essentially only on defensive backs his entire career? A lot of Wilks success will depend on what quarterback he gets to head his team and how new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy adapts to his new position (after coming off being the head coach of the San Diego Chargers last year).