Midterm Review: the 2019 NFL’s eight “Rookie” head coaches

Kate Arhar
Senior Sports Editor AFC North and NFC South

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8 

It’s hard to believe we are at the mid-point of the NFL season. As such, there were eight teams starting the year with brand new head coaches. Six of them are in their first head coaching position, while two have held the job before.

In the competition to see who made the best hiring decision, the clear – and only – winner at this point is the Green Bay Packers. Matt LeFleur has this team leading their division at 7-1. Now, perhaps it’s the Aaron Duo – quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Aaron Jones – who deserve some credit, but there are other teams in this group with talented players who are not even close to being .500. That means I’m giving the Packers an A on the hire. Trust me – other coaches might have found a way to screw up this team so I’ll give credit to LeFleur because he hasn’t.

Let’s take a look at the other seven teams to see how they are faring…

The Arizona Cardinals with Kliff Kingsbury got off to a rough start at 0-3-1 but have bounced back and gone 3-1 since that time. He’s done a nice job keeping this team together and managing rookie QB Kyler Murray. With the trade yesterday that brings RB Kenyan Drake over from the Dolphins, it will be interesting to see how he manages the backfield with RBs David Johnson and Duke Johnson Jr. having to share the ball with Drake. Their bye isn’t until week 12 and they face the red hot San Francisco 49ers this week, so he’s got a tough road ahead. All things considered, I’ll give him a B+.

I’m grouping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) with Bruce Arians and the Denver Broncos (2-6) with Vic Fangio in the Grade C category. Both coaches have struggled with lackluster quarterback play and injuries that have cost them wins. Bucs QB Jameis Winston may find himself benched if he doesn’t get right with more scoring and fewer turnovers. Broncos QB Joe Flacco is now injured so they are starting back up QB Brandon Allen this week.

Who?

Exactly. However, nothing really stands out to me as being bone-headed decisions that point to poor coaching.

Tampa Bay travels to Seattle to face the Seahawks this week and that will be a tough game to win. But the Broncos will be hosting the Cleveland Browns and then they have a bye week 10.

The Miami Dolphins (0-7) also get a C for their hire of Brian Flores. Everyone believes they are “tanking” for the top draft spot. They need a franchise quarterback and they’ve been through so many so far this year, even I can’t keep track. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is back and he seems to give them a little spark, but you can’t keep blowing half-time leads like they do. All that being said, if the play is to tank, far be it from me to say Flores is anything above or below average.

The New York Jest (1-6) and Adam Gase are getting a solid D as their grade. QB Sam Darnold was out a few weeks suffering from mononucleosis and an enlarged spleen. (Side Note: And before you look, “Sam Darnold’s Spleen” does have its own Twitter account. But it’s subpar in my opinion – much like the team’s performance.) However, Gase has enough coaching experience to be able to get more out of this team. They start out 0-4 then beat the Cowboys. Get blanked by the Patriots and then just play atrociously against the oh-so-average Jaguars. Come on, man!

Jets fans are never patient and it’s possible Gase’s job is in jeopardy right now…

The Cincinnati Bengals (0-8) get a D- for their hire of Zac Taylor. QB Andy Dalton has been benched for backup QB Ryan Finley. Wide receiver A.J. Green has been hurt. There are a million reasons from a personnel standpoint for why they are winless. And yet, a good coach should be able to get at least ONE at this point. They have a bye this week so that will give them a bit of time to get Finley ready.

The Cleveland Browns (2-5) and Freddie Kitchens are getting an F. Sorry, and you know they are my team, but this is just plain painful to watch. There is too much talent on this team for them to be losing the way they are. QB Baker Mayfield has 6 TDs and 12 INTs. That’s totally the wrong way to run that stat. Going for it on 4th and 16…. throwing the red flag to review plays that NEVER get overturned…. poor clock management…. perhaps going from the running backs coach to head coach was too much for Kitchens. On the bright side, they have an incredibly easy (by NFL standards) road for the last nine games and could still win their division… so there’s that bit of positivity for me to hold on to…

Browns fans are just as impatient as Jets fans at this point. There was too much pre-season hype about the possibilities for this year and they are already talking about a new head coach.

 

How do you think these new head coaches are doing? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat!

Talk NFL Football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8

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