While this is a little late to the game, we’re going to examine the new NFL coaches and the affect they will have on their teams next season and beyond. These teams are the Cleveland Browns – Pat Shurmur; Tennessee Titans – Mike Munchak; Denver Broncos; John Fox; Dallas Cowboys – Jason Garrett; Minnesota Vikings – Leslie Frazier; Carolina Panthers – Ron Riviera; San Francisco 49ers – Jim Harbaugh.
Based off of the current teams as they are’s states, we’ll examine what to expect next season and then their overall impact on their teams. We’ll try to be as empirical as possible. However, this is going to be largely guessing and opinions because 1) we’re not experts (yet) and 2) this site is based off of opinions. Let’s be real.
Cleveland Browns: Pat Shurmur
Shurmur became a hot prospect this off season after seeing the Rams offense turn itself around. Sam Bradford turned into a budding star without having a #1 or even a #2 receiver. That was his first year with the Rams and he even was able to turn around Stephen Jackson and bring him back into the top running backs of the NFL question. Before that, he had spent time with the Eagles helping to shape a team that would make the NFC Championship game more than any other team during the 2000’s.
Next season he’ll be tasked with turning Colt McCoy onto the path of the elite quarterback and somehow find a receiving threat from the no-names they currently have. He inherits Peyton Hillis, the surprise and steal of 2010. He spent his first few picks working on upgrading the defensive line as they switch to a traditional 4-3 defense and adding a hopeful big name receiver. However, it remains to be seen if it will work in their favor.
Shurmur is make or break for Mike Holmgren. I think that Shurmur won’t be a bad coach, but I don’t think he’ll be the coach that finally turns Cleveland into a true playoff contender. The Browns will surge next season pulling out a 9-7 record and high hopes in a tough division. But the next season, they’ll fail to improve on that. Shurmur will get 5 total years and will mass no more than 10 wins and 1 playoff victory before getting replaced.
Tennessee Titans: Mike Munchak
Munchak has forever and always been a coach for the Titans, even when they were the Houston Oilers. He’s been their offensive line for the past 14 seasons. He’s a little under the radar mainly because O-line coaches don’t get much attention, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things. The good news: he’s been with the team for 14 years so he knows the current personnel and their tendencies.
He inherits a team that might be in the most shambles out of all of them currently listed. He has a running back who is spectacular but might spend a good amount of time holding out and who likes to talk. His best receiver spends more time in the court room than judges or lawyers (and also in the training room). They have huge question marks as to who will be under center. And his top defenders have image problems or are about ready to bolt to another team.
But this team is only 2 years removed from a 14-2. Hopes are high now that they’ve moved on from the Vince Young era. They’re looking to get back to the days when Steve McNair was under center and they were playing for the Super Bowl. But the team has been mired in mediocrity for too long, even with that 14-2 record. I don’t foresee Munchak being able to fully change the culture there. Next season they will be contending for the #1 pick in the draft. The seasons after, they will still be contending for the #1 pick in the draft. The Titans needed a full shock change, and Munchak won’t be able to do that. He’ll last 3 season.
Denver Broncos: John Fox
Fox made his name taking the Carolina Panthers and putting them on the map with stout defenses and off the back of a quarterback most wouldn’t consider better than middle of the road. A bit of a pitfall: he oversaw a 2-14 team last year as the head coach. He loves the fundamentals of football: defense, defense, defense and ground and pound. He’s old school. But he’s been successful.
He joins a team that has had so much trouble on defense they could have signed people off the street and performed better. They had a huge identity crisis as for the first time in forever the Broncos couldn’t figure out how to run the ball. Kyle Orton put up massive QB numbers and from 8 years of mediocrity to terrible-ness, Brandon Lloyd emerged. They are a team with only three assured positions, LT (Ryan Clady), RG (Chris Kuper) and LCB (Champ Bailey). The rest of the team will be up for evaluation. Oh yeah, they also have Tim Tebow, who played well at the end of the season.
John Fox may be too conservative. He will be tasked with molding a non-traditional QB into an NFL ready QB. He’ll have to change the mindset on defense (easy comings for Fox). But Denver is fickle. They don’t deal with failure for too long. And Fox isn’t a coach who can take a team to a Super Bowl. He’ll be gone after 3 seasons, even though in one of those seasons, the Broncos will make the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett
Technically, he was the head coach for part of last year on an interim level. But now he has the full title. He’s a rook at the head coaching role, but he was long rumored to replace Wade Phillips even before Phillips got too far onto the hot seat. He’s an offensive genius and helped a team with a bad offensive line and an injured star QB make a little bit of an end-of-season surge. He specializes in QB’s and is one of the main reasons why Tony Romo went from prized developmental no-name prospect to a household name. Seriously, other than people in Illinois, who’s heard of the Eastern Illinois Panthers?
He inherits a team with a lot of talent and probably the most star power. However, they have holes at very important spots. But the silver-lining is that while there are holes, there are prospects who could be ready to help out and a nicer free agent pool as well in case they want to play it safe. Oh, don’t forget, they have Jerry Jones, an owner/GM who refuses to see his team flounder (even though he should pass the GM duties onto someone with more football knowledge). He’ll have to ensure that Romo is the QB that can take them deep into the playoffs and figure out what is wrong with star, young wideout Dez Bryant.
Garrett is a players’ coach. And he also knows how to talk to Jerruh. He’s going to have a fairly long tenure (minimum 10 years from my point of view). The only thing that might halt his stay is if the NFC (B)EAST continues their arms race and they can’t keep up with the Giants and Eagles.
Minnesota Vikings: Leslie Frazier
Frazier is in my opinion the best coach to get a head coaching gig this year. He’s defensively focused and comes from a great lineage of mentors. He’s another HC rookie, but he received tutelage from Super Bowl winning coach Mike Tomlin and has been with winning programs his entire life. He did excellent work with the Eagles and helped make Bob Sanders into a household name when he was with the Colts.
The Vikings though are in a bit of trouble. They have a hole at a huge area in the QB department. But the good news is that they have a relatively stout offensive line and the best RB in the game in Adrian Peterson. Their defense is still stellar, but they’re aged or glassjawed at the defensive back side. He has his work cut out for him. But he has the capabilities to figure it out. He’ll have to convince Sidney Rice to stay or he’ll have to be a large part of bringing in another big, talented wide receiver to help out his rookie QB.
His fate might be tied to the success of Christian Ponder though. Ponder was considered one of the largest reaches of the draft. That with the fact that the Bears are surging and that the Packers are SB champions will make this task very difficult. However, Frazier is a bright mind and understands the intricacies. I suspect he’ll have a very long tenure in Minnesota.
Carolina Panthers: Ron Riviera
Some would say about Ron Riviera getting a head coaching job that it’s about time and well deserved. Others may not. He was instrumental in putting together the defense of the Chicago Bears when they made their Super Bowl run. And he has taken the Chargers’ defense of who-is-thats and good, but not great players into stellar defenses. He runs good schemes and knows how to bring out the best in his players.
He inherits the team with the worst record last year. And they are the team in the absolute worst shape. Their team is very young and inexperienced. They have a few bright spots and a few underrated players but not enough for a team playing on the professional level. They drafted Cam Newton to bring a different form of athleticism to the team. And let’s not make it a secret that I have large reservations about Cam Newton being able to play professionally. The order is tall, but Riviera could be the man who finds a diamond in the rough.
If Newton develops, Riviera’s job will be secure. However, if they have to spend a lot on another QB either through free agency or through the draft, Riviera will be gone quick. The Panthers’ ownership is also known for being penny pinchers. That can really mire a team too. If the Panthers fail, I don’t think it will be Riviera’s fault, but I don’t see them turning it around. And they’ll have a new coach in 5 years.
San Francisco 49ers: Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh has taken the Stanford and put them back on the football map. He developed Heisman runner-up Toby Gehrhardt and the most talked about QB prospect since Peyton Manning in Andrew Luck. He’s a QB coach and considered a rather bright mind. He has coaching in his blood as his brother Jon has turned the Raven franchise around and his dad was a coach for years.
His new team, the 49ers, haven’t been relevant since Jeff Garcia (really?) and Terrell Owens were on the squad. They are a team that has lost their identity. However, they are a team with a lot of nice pieces on both sides of the ball and they just seem to be a QB away from being a contender. That last part is the most telling. Frank Gore is a powerhouse, their offensive line is top notch and young, and they have the best linebacker in the game right now in Patrick Willis. There is no wonder why people believe this could have been a playoff team. However, they can’t seem to put that last piece in there to move them back into contendorship.
There’s something worth noting: college coaches aren’t normally successful on the NFL level. And that is what Jim has done his entire life. He’s going to have to find a QB to take this team higher. If he doesn’t do that, he’ll be out before very long. But with all of those points, Harbaugh looks like a coach, smells like a coach, sounds like a coach, he must be a coach. I think he’ll bring about the glory days of the 49ers again. Minimum 10 years with the program. Minimum.
Let’s keep in mind that these are just my personal observations. I could be very wrong about every single coach on here. Or I could be right. At least the teams that I rated their coaches rather low will hope that.
Written by Isaac Rickert, NFL Fan