EARTH CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: New head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams addresses the media during a press conference at the Russell Training Center on January 17, 2012 in Earth City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
There were seven open NFL coaching jobs this season and all have now been filled. Which teams made the best, and worst, hires?
There were seven NFL coaches who lost their jobs this season. All those vacancies have now been filled, which means it's time to subjectively decide which teams are the winners and losers from this process.
We took a look at all the coaching hires and graded each of them on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the best). You should also keep in mind that nobody truly knows whether these hires will work out. If we did, Bill Belichick would still be coaching the Browns.
With that said, our list of the top coaching hires this year...
1. Jeff Fisher (St. Louis Rams)
He was the big fish this year, for sure. Fisher's hire is all about experience. He was the head coach of the Tennessee Titans back when they were called the Houston Oilers (1994-2010). His time in the league allowed him to make some friends, like Gregg Williams (defensive coordinator) and Dave McGinnis (assistant head coach). He's been in the league long enough to know enough coaches that he can assemble a good coaching staff, which is something younger coaches struggle with.
He's a steady coach who has demonstrated he is capable of bringing a program to respectability for an extended period of time, as he did that in Tennessee for a decade-and-a-half. For a team that's won 10 games in the last three years and will be rumored (again and again) to be moving to Los Angeles, being steady is a good thing.They needed a true leader to right the ship, an experienced guy that shows them how to set a foundation for continued success.
And, frankly, they needed to excite their fan base. This is a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2003 which is something that will ruin a fan base. Fisher spent a lot of time deciding between St. Louis and Miami, which means he feels like he can make something out of the Rams. I trust that he can. Grade: 8.5
2. Romeo Crennel (Kansas City Chiefs)
I'm a Chiefs fan so I had to look around to make sure I wasn't being a homer here (I'm not -- SI.com ranks Crennel No. 1 on their coaching hires). The Chiefs fired Todd Haley in December and Crennel was the interim coach for the final three games. The Chiefs went 2-1 in that stretch with the only loss coming in overtime (which would have put them in the playoffs). The players know him well as he's been the defensive coordinator since the start of the 2010 season and GM Scott Pioli has known him for a couple decades, and won Super Bowls with him.
Continuity is the key word with Crennel, though. He's been in charge of a defense that's been in the top 12 in the last two seasons and some think are on the verge of breaking out. Crennel will be the Chiefs defensive coordinator, too, and that tells me the progress of the Chiefs defense now and down the line had a lot to do with this hire.
I don't think Crennel will be coaching the Chiefs very long -- he's the second oldest coach in the league and has just a three-year contract -- but he's the guy who makes the most sense right now in a division that's has no favorite right now. Grade: 7
3. Joe Phibin (Miami Dolphins)
An interesting hire. The Dolphins say their No. 1 priority right now is finding a quarterback and Philbin comes from a place that had a pretty good one. Philbin is the Packers former offensive coordinator and he's fielded plenty of successful offenses.
And on the topic of quarterback, Philbin also comes from a place that may have one available. Packers QB Matt Flynn is hitting the free agent market and after his 400-plus yard performance in Week 17, he's becoming a hot commodity.
If the Dolphins can lure Flynn to Miami, then this hire looks better. Grade: 7
4. Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts)
Pagano, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, sits right in the middle of the pack. He was the second to last coaching hire this offseason and he brings a defensive mindset to a team that's been all about offense for the last 13 years.
Ideally the way this works is Pagano fixes the Colts defense while picking up an offensive coordinator to handle the development of Andrew Luck. That's how it works in an ideal world. In reality, the Colts simply do not have the personnel to play the type of defense Pagano runs so Colts fans should be patient. It could work out. It's just going to take a couple of years. Grade: 6.5
5. Dennis Allen (Oakland Raiders)
This is a tough hire to gauge because Allen made such a quick move up the coaching ladder. Last year at this time, he was coaching defensive backs. Now he's the head coach of an NFL team.
Defensively, Allen has a lot to work with. That sounds strange coming from a team that just had the 29th ranked defense but the Raiders aren't that far off on that side of the ball. And Allen comes from the Broncos where he manned a defense that was a big part of their rise to the division crown this season.
Allen is a bit of an unknown but he enters a division that, as he knows, is very winnable. Grade: 5
6. Mike Mularkey (Jacksonville Jaguars)
I never really understood how the NFL coach hiring process works -- why does (or doesn't) a good offensive coordinator make a good head coach? -- but let's keep things simple with the Mularkey hire in Jacksonville. He just left Atlanta to take this job and Falcons fans at The Falcoholic and SB Nation Atlanta weren't very upset when he left. In fact, some were kinda glad he did.
That's not a good sign, right? That the fans of your coach's former team would've paid his way out of town? It's not proof that this is a bad hire but it does make you raise your eyebrows.
This will be Mularkey's second run as a head coach after his previous stop in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005 (14-18 through two seasons). Grade: 5
7. Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
This is less about Schiano and more about the Bucs lack of a vision. They never seemed to know exactly what they wanted (at least from an outsiders perspective). From Rob Chudzinski to Marty Schottenheimer to Chip Kelly and now to Schiano, I never quite understood what the Bucs were looking for.
Maybe they found the right guy in Schiano. He built a miserable Rutgers program into one that consistently competed for Bowl appearances (and went 5-1 in those games). There's something to be said for someone who can build up a program like that.
But, for now, we don't know what Schiano can do in the NFL. He's the biggest unknown in this year's hiring class so he sits at the bottom. Grade: 4