January is my favorite month on the NFL calendar. The playoffs are simply the best.
And for many teams that miss the playoffs, there is hope in coaching changes. Many fan bases should be inspired!
Or, sadly for some, a lost season and a questionable hire sends you back into hibernation for a long slumber of pain.
Here's how I see the head-coach hires this January, ranked in order of most to least inspiring:
1) Cleveland Browns: Hue Jackson
Cleveland fans should be very excited about the future.
That's not a misprint.
I love the Hue Jackson hire. He's been a fantastic and well-respected assistant for a long time. Over the last two seasons in Cincinnati, he did a brilliant job calling the plays and maximizing Andy Dalton. Hue's work in Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington and during the first go-around as an assistant in Cincy drew rave reviews from those who played for him. And he did a fine job leading Oakland to an 8-8 record as head man in 2011, guiding the Raiders during the tumultuous time of Al Davis' passing. The Carson Palmer deal was his downfall. He's learned. (And to his credit, Palmer looks pretty darn good now that he's healthy and surrounded by some talent.)
Jackson's hiring seals the deal on a fascinating approach in Cleveland. Jackson is a pure football guy. To me, that's a fine complement to the outside-the-box, analytics-based front-office appointments of Sashi Brown and the incredibly bright Paul DePodesta, the Major League Baseball "Moneyball" savant who was brought in from the Mets to give the Browns the structure they desperately need.
Plus, I love that Jackson scooped up Ray Horton as his defensive coordinator.
This is a far cry from the days when Sal Paolantonio was reporting that a homeless man helped influence Jimmy Haslam's selection of Johnny Manziel. Oh, and speaking of Manziel, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reports that the quarterback won't be a part of Jackson's Browns.
2) San Francisco 49ers: Chip Kelly
Chip Kelly can coach. He went 26-21 in Philly. It was Chip Kelly The General Manager who induced Kelly's ouster. But in three years, Chip won 10 games twice. Don't minimize that.
Kelly's pairing with the 49ers is a pretty fantastic marriage of need. San Francisco owner Jed York needed to right the historic wrong of parting ways with the amazing Jim Harbaugh and replacing him with the overmatched Jim Tomsula (who, honestly, got the job because he was there and would play nice in the sandbox). York sacrificed wins for harmony. But that's the point: There is no harmony without wins. York knew the result was terrible, firing Tomsula after one disappointing season. He wanted to restore the proud franchise's credibility. And hey, Chip Kelly's offense is ideal for Colin Kaepernick, who will be the best quarterback Kelly's coached in the pros. Everyone can get their reputation back!
General manager Trent Baalke will pick the players, and I believe what Kelly said at Wednesday's press conference: "Trent has control of the 53, and I'm real comfortable with that. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't."
This is a major step in the right direction, for everyone involved.
Chip Kelly -- genius! Jed York ... genius?
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dirk Koetter
The Bucs' bright spot this last season was Jameis Winston -- and Koetter did a great job of coaching him up. Koetter is a natural leader and well-respected in football circles. His choice of Mike Smith as the defensive coordinator was a strong one.
And I love the fact that general manager Jason Licht now has full control of personnel. He's excellent.
Lovie's firing was addition by subtraction. And the replacements make this development even more ideal.
4) Miami Dolphins: Adam Gase
I really like the Gase hiring. Mike Tannenbaum was smart to pounce on the 37-year-old. Gase has been a hot coaching candidate for a couple of years now. He just worked wonders with Jay Cutler in Chicago this past season and is a major upgrade over Joe Philbin in Miami.
5) New York Giants: Ben McAdoo
So, let me get this straight: Talent-poor Big Blue missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year and made the Hall of Fame coach (Tom Coughlin) the scapegoat?
McAdoo, the play caller who had some questionable moments (see: Cowboys loss), got promoted. The Giants apparently are keeping the defensive coordinator of a unit that ranked dead last. And most shockingly, New York has retained general manager Jerry Reese despite a paper-thin roster filled with bad draft picks and free agency moves. Reese is the real issue with the Giants.
Remember when Big Blue acted like an elite organization?
If the G-Men felt the need to make changes, well, then they should've executed a cleansing from top to bottom. Instead, they put lipstick on a pig.
6) Philadelphia Eagles: Doug Pederson
To think, the Eagles fired Kelly before Week 17 to get a jump on the process -- and ended up with their third choice behind Coughlin and McAdoo (don't listen to the spin).
7) Tennessee Titans: Mike Mularkey
Forget the epic finish of Packers-Cardinals on Saturday night. When I woke up early Sunday morning, there was another NFL story where I had to wipe my eyes and ask if it was all a dream.
That, of course, being the Titans removing the interim tag and hiring Mike Mularkey as their full-time coach.
Were the Titans inspired by his 2-7 mark after replacing Ken Whisenhunt in November? Or was it the two-win season Mularkey logged in a one-and-done tenure with Jacksonville back in 2012? Do they remember when Mularkey's Bills lost to Pittsburgh's backups in Week 17 of the 2004 season, an unforgivable defeat that kept Buffalo out of the playoffs?
A third head-coaching crack for Mularkey?!
The process was slow. The result was odd and uninspiring. And the Titans reclaimed their status as the NFL's most innocuous team.