Two shocking twists to the coaching merry-go-round have made it more of a merry-go-obtuse triangle.
We’ll start up north in Indianapolis. Chuck Pagano managed to parlay a disastrous and dysfunctional season, and feuding with micromanaging overlord Ryan Grigson, into a contract extension by ever-imbibing Colts owner Robert Irsay. I’ll speculate that Irsay has Manning-regret, and didn’t want to let go of someone else whom he thinks highly and come to regret it. Or perhaps he didn’t want to see Pagano back in Indy as the coach of an AFC South rival, beating the snot out of his Colts. A fly on the wall says there was an all-out come-to-Jesus Bloody Christ airing of grievances between Pagano and Grigson that would re-inflate the Hindenberg before the ink was dry on that extension and Kumbaya was sung by all.
It’s been hard living in the Big Easy over the last two seasons for Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees on the downslope of his career, and the defense has encroached on futility that is historic. This team is primed for rebuilding. Yet Payton is going to try and squeeze one more year out of Brees and make a playoff push. Reloading the roster won’t be easy, as existing contracts–including Brees’s whale of a cap number in 2016 at $19.75 million–are eating up almost all the cap space that could be used to rebuild the defense. This team is an ideal purge-and-rebuild project, which makes Sean Payton staying in New Orleans somewhat surprising. The Saints roster is an over-ripe apple that is stinking up the Superdome, and rather than trying to make pies from rotten fruit, this a franchise should be looking to clear-cut the apple orchard and plant a fresh crop.
“I’m still coaching! YEAH!”
With Pagano and Payton, two coaching commodities that would gain plenty of interest, now off the market, let’s take a look at who is available, and where they might end up. There are currently coaching vacancies in Cleveland, Miami, Philadelphia, New York (Giants), San Francisco, Tennessee, and, as I write this, Tampa Bay, with Lovie Smith being shown the door.
There’s several quality candidates in a deep pool of names. In no particular order, Adam Gase, Hue Jackson, Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, Todd Haley, Bob McAdoo, Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott are assistant coach names being thrown around, with Gase seeming to be the prize acquisition. Mike Shanahan is always in the mix this time of year, and Chip Kelly, Tom Coughlin, and, now, Lovie Smith are all seeking employment. And surely there will be some surprise names enter the fold before the coach hiring frenzie is over.
Cleveland Browns: This is a franchise lost at sea. Browns owner and CEO Jimmy Haslam isn’t sure what he wants this team to be, and is outsourcing the team’s identity by hiring unorthodox idea-man Paul DePodesta, the New York Baseball Mets’ executive as “Chief Strategy Officer.” The first strategy should be establishing a culture of winning in Cleveland, and I can’t think of a better candidate to get this team on solid footing and lay the foundation than Tom Coughlin. Coughlin may not be the long term fixture at coach given his age, but, like the Parcells did in New England, turning around a dismal franchise in the 1990s, this could be Coughlin’s last hurrah to add a feather in the cap to a likely Hall of Fame legacy.
Miami Dolphins: Stephen Ross may be the most delusional owner in the NFL. Somehow this franchise resembles bad reality TV more than it does a functional football organization. Mike Tannenbaum, of failed New York Jets GM lore, has politicked his way from consultant last season to being the most powerful voice in the front office. He has Stephen Ross’s ear, which ended up being the end of general manager Dennis Hickey. It may not matter who this team hires as coach, as the likely expectation will be a commitment to Ryan Tannehill at QB, who the Dolphins “rewarded” with a grotesque extension last season. As Miko Grimes so eloquently tweeted, “How many people does Ryan Tannehill have to get fired before you realize he’s the problem.” Ideally, this situation is for a yes-boy coach that’s compliant to the boomings of Tannenbaum and that management knows won’t be hired anywhere else. Jim Tomsula’s available. However, this team needs someone that will instill discipline and fire in this team, and has worked with a intractable quarterback before. The weapons are there for Tannehill to succeed if he was coached up. The ideal fit is Todd Haley. He’s a good coach that has learned from his failures in Kansas City and build a powder keg offense in Pittsburgh. There’s talent in Miami to work with to mold that same kind of consistency. However, the Dolphins are always chasing the hottest name on the market, so Ross will throw enough money at Adam Gase to make him the man.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jeff Lurie may try to hire the un-Chip Kelly with his next coach. He may be on tilt after the disaster that’s transpired in Philly the last couple of seasons, and be reaching for someone that’s too close to home. Current Eagles running backs coach and beloved former player Duce Staley, as well as Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson have been interviewed, two former players and current coaches with Eagles roots that make it seem like Lurie is looking to swerve back to the Andy Reid years. Adam Gase is yet again the hot name Lurie is taken with at the moment. Gase would be a good fit in Philadelphia, and may also mean the Sam Bradford era continues. One thing that we can probably count on is Lurie is not going to reach far for this hire. He’s going to play tight and attempt to restore this franchise to the consistency it knew under Andy Reid. Ideal fit: Doug Pederson.
To be continued in Coaching Speculations: Part II