When the Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, set out to find their new head coach, they clearly wanted something different. Something that couldn't be found in the standard pool of NFL assistants. Something that would solve their team's immediate problems. They wanted a coach who had been a head coach. They wanted someone who had success and was not going to have to learn on the job.
At first, their long search led them to Oregon's Chip Kelly, which would have been a great hire. When Kelly decided to stay in college, the Bucs kept looking for a man with similar qualifications, eventually ending up with Rutgers' Greg Schiano. To me, this hire makes sense. The Bucs need a tough guy. They need a man with some swagger. They need a coach who is not going to let the players run the team. And most of all, they need a coach that the organization could totally commit to.
Smith: Judging recent hires
After a flurry of new hires around the NFL, Jason Smith breaks down the good, the bad and the mind-boggling. More ...
Schiano will have a slight learning curve in terms of understanding the pro game and learning the talent level that it takes to be successful, but in reality this should not take him long. One of the benefits of hiring college coaches is that they have an existing philosophy in every area of the game, from players to scheme to coaches. This foundation helps them quickly set up their program. With the right staff, Schiano will be ready to compete at the highest level.
Sometimes when owners hire inexpensive young coaches, it can send a message to the players that there is a substitute teacher running the class. This could be a short-term decision if the coach does not get off to a good start. There is little margin for error when making this kind of choice. I am all for hiring good, young coaches, but there has to be a significant investment into the coach -- not necessarily just on the monetary side, but more so in the willingness to endure the tough times. This cannot be a trial period. Going young is great, as long as the players know the coach is going to be around for some time, that it's clear the ownership is all in.
What about all the other new hires? It's easy to say everyone is fully committed at the start, but are they really? Let's examine.
St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher
Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel
When the Chiefs hired Crennel as their head coach, everyone was happy, from the front office to the players. Crennel certainly won't have as long a leash as Fisher -- he'll have to show significant progress in the next two years. He does have the full support of the front office at the outset, though, so the players know he is in charge. The key hire for Crennel will be who he chooses to become his offensive coordinator. Will it be Jim Zorn from the current staff or former Dolphins coordinator Brian Daboll?
Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin
After trying to get a big name, the Dolphins settled for the Packers offensive coordinator. Philbin has a huge challenge on his hands, as the fan base is frustrated and expects to win quickly. It'd certainly be a step in the right direction if Philbin can successfully address the quarterback position. Ultimately, Philbin will have to start fast and prove to the front office and ownership that he is the right man. A bad start will create doubt. Stephen Ross is definitely an owner who wants to win now.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey
Mularkey is close friends with general manager Gene Smith, and both will be attached at the hip as they try to turn the Jaguars around. Their success will be determined based on the play of first-round pick Blaine Gabbert. If Gabbert plays well, expect Smith and Mularkey to be around a while. But if Gabbert struggles over the next two years, then expect more changes in Jacksonville.
Debate: Oakland's Mr. Right?
Oakland Raiders: Dennis Allen
New GM Reggie McKenzie went against conventional Raider wisdom by choosing a defensive coach to head up the team. Allen comes highly recommended, even though he has only been a coordinator for one year and is now the youngest head coach in the league. But he is impressive and has a command of his players. The Raiders must be patient with Allen and think long-term as he grows into the job. It will take Allen time to learn on the job, but if the Raiders give a chance, he could be their coach for the next 10 years.
Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano
The Colts are undergoing wholesale changes, from the front office to the coaching staff to the quarterback. Like Allen, Pagano earned the top job after just one season as a coordinator (for the Ravens). Similarly, Pagano is a talented coach who will require some time to grow into the job. But with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and a likely influx of youth on the roster, the level of expectation for the Colts is not very high immediately, allowing Pagano some time to build. It appears the Colts are willing to go all in with this decision.