The Check-down Check-up (2021): Head Coaching Hires Edition

With a whopping seven head coach openings this offseason, the NFL coaching carousel has been in full swing since the events of this year’s Black Monday. And with the season now over, the Check-Down Check-Up Confidence Index needs a new gig. I figured I would do the confidence meter a favor and hook it up with some offseason work, starting with a piece detailing every head coaching hire. A reminder that everything seven or above is a check up, everything four or below is a check down, and anything between those fours and sevens is a “check back next week.” Let’s get started.

Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Smith

Yeah, I’ll be honest, I don’t really see the appeal on this one. There’s definitely things to like on Smith’s resume, namely that he helped to resurrect Ryan Tannehill’s career and helping Tennessee reach the AFC Championship last season. It’s not that I question Smith’s coaching chops, but more that I’m not sure how well his scheme will work without the Titans’ roster. The Falcons know they aren’t also getting Derrick Henry, right? This one is going to need some patience as Smith attempts to build Atlanta’s roster in his image.

Verdict: 5.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Detroit Lions: Dan Campbell

The Lions went with an under the radar candidate who has been mentioned around the NFL for the past couple of seasons. Dan Campbell, in any other year, would be the most physically imposing candidate of this coaching cycle, but Robert Saleh takes that cake this season. Campbell feels almost like an anti-Matt Patricia. Instead of relying on any scheme or resting on the laurels of past successes like Patricia often did, Campbell clearly wants to get the best and most physical play out of his guys, no matter what the situation. Learning from Sean Payton also helps, as I’d expect Campbell to poach at least parts of Payton’s playbook. I might be in the minority, but I dig this hire for Detroit.

Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Up

Houston Texans: David Culley

I don’t like this hire at all. In terms of having a prayer to keep Deshaun Watson in Houston, it felt like Eric Bieniemy or bust. This is, decidedly, not Eric Bieniemy. One of my fellow BroSports writers, Ryan Smith, put it like this: “the Texans are committed to being the new worst team in football.” And frankly, this feels like a move you make if you’re trying to prove him right. Hiring the passing game coordinator of a team like Baltimore, whose offensive attack is very clearly predicated on running the ball, seems like a bad move. So go ahead and wave goodbye to Deshaun Watson, and just remember: you did this to yourselves, Houston.

Verdict: 2.5/10, Check Down

Jacksonville Jaguars: Urban Meyer

Wow, I’m really not a fan of this one. Jacksonville had at worst the second most appealing coaching job this year, and this almost feels like a waste. There are so many younger guys who would have loved to be in this situation, maybe a college coach like Matt Campbell, or a hot young coordinator like Brian Daboll. Instead, the Jaguars forked over the money for Urban Meyer, who in his opening press conference looked totally uninterested. At least the Jags will be getting Trevor Lawrence in the draft, who might actually be good enough to overcome this. Or hey, maybe it’ll work. But for now, I’m doubtful.

Verdict: 3.5/10, Check Down

Los Angeles Chargers: Brandon Staley

The Chargers were linked to Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll so closely that I had his section of this article already written up. Instead, Los Angeles chose to poach from the other Los Angeles team, hiring Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who was coaching at division three John Carroll University just five years ago. I might not know a whole lot about Staley, but his meteoric rise over the past half-decade says one thing loud and clear: Staley is a prodigy who, if nothing else, is going to learn terrifyingly quickly.

Verdict: 7/10, Check Up

New York Jets: Robert Saleh

This is my personal favorite coaching hire of this cycle, I absolutely love this for the New York Jets. We as fans tend to throw around the term, “changing the culture” way more often than we should, but Saleh genuinely feels like a culture-changer. As the complete and total opposite of Adam Gase, Saleh will cleanse the filth currently covering the Jets, and even if it takes a couple of years, should be able to turn New York into a real contender. I think Saleh could stay with the Jets for over a decade, and that stability is exactly what they need.

Verdict: 9/10, Check Up

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Sirianni

After a flirtatious few days with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Eagles opted for Colts assistant Nick Sirianni. The 39 year old continues the influx of coaches and executives who got their start in Ohio. Sirianni began coaching at Mount Union and IUP before jumping to the NFL in 2009. As an undesirable job for this coaching cycle, Sirianni seems like the best Philly could have possibly done. Sirianni is next in the “hot young offensive coordinator” line of head coaches. It looks like he might have needed a year or two before he was truly ready, but the Eagles would rather be too early than too late.

Verdict: 6.25/10, Check Back Next Week

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