There will be eight new faces with pleated pants, a headset and a pocket full of red flags on the NFL sidelines in 2013. It's exciting to get a new head coach, for fans, owners and the media. It's more of a mixed bag for players because new head coaches mean inevitable roster changes. All of that will be sorted out in the months ahead. For now, we can only speculate about whether or not eight new faces in new places will live up to the unmeetable expectations we've already strapped to their backs.
The last time the league went through such a massive coaching upheaval was 2009. That year 11 new head coaches were hired. Two of them, Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz, are still working, somehow. Teams went with offensive head coaches this year, as only one of the eight hires was a defensive coordinator. Only one member of the Class of 2013 can boast NFL head coaching experience, Andy Reid. If there's one thing that never changes in the NFL, it's groupthink.
Below, this year's head coaching hires, ranked for simple consumption.
1. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
When a franchise with one of the largest, most passionate fan bases in the NFL has been in the toilet for so long, they have to go big, literally. The Chiefs tried the hot young coordinator once before, with Todd Haley. They replaced him with the well-liked, friendly neighborhood candy store owner in Romeo Crennel. Reid brings a long, successful track record from Philadelphia. Reid's a proven commodity in need of a fresh start, kind of like the Chiefs.
2. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
This was the biggest surprise of the coaching moves. Not because Kelly was an unexpected candidate, but because a week before he had spurned the NFL, again, to go back to Oregon. Pundits are hung up on Kelly's read option offense, giving us excellent, insightful reactionary analysis like this piece at NFL.com from Heath Evans. Surprise, a former fullback doesn't like the read option! What's being overlooked is Kelly's ability as a program builder. He has a vision, a plan and a thoughtful approach. The Eagles are that person that goes from one long-term relationship to another, and that should work out just fine with Kelly.
3. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
This one is iffy. Trestman's background in the CFL brought out the comedian in every hack with a blog. Here's the thing -- the guy was successful in the CFL. Success anywhere, be it college or Canada, is a good sign. But, hey, if you want to go ahead and hire the Jim Moras and Bobby Petrinos of the world, go right ahead. Trestman feels like a technocrat, a guy that has already planned out his year hour-by-hour. It's the kind of structure the Bears need after winging their way through the Lovie Smith era. Oh, and don't forget that Trestman is a quarterback specialist.
4. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Hey look, a defensive guy! Bradley's track record as Seattle's defensive coordinator is untouchable. For all the praise Russell Wilson received this season, deservedly so, Bradley's defense took the Seahawks to the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. His work with rookies Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin this year speaks for itself. More importantly, the guy brings energy and excitement to a franchise that's been under heavy sedation for almost a decade. Grind up some bath salts, it's morning in Northern Florida.
5. Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
"Dude, we got Mike McCoy!," no Chargers fan ever said. That's all right, not every hire needs a parade. McCoy made Jake Delhomme and Tim Tebow look like viable NFL quarterbacks, which is kind of impressive. Offensive coordinator became an honorary title with Peyton Manning in Denver, so it was time for him to fly. Can he get some productivity out of Philip Rivers in the twilight of his career? Can he and new GM Tom Telesco find and groom Rivers' eventual replacement? At least the days of blowing a 24-point lead to the Broncos appear to be over ... maybe.
6. Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
If Doug Marrone can do for the Bills what he did for Syracuse, Andrew Cuomo might have to recognize him as upstate New York's foremost turnaround specialist. Syracuse won 10 games in the four years before Marrone took over. Under his watch, he lead the Orange to two winning seasons and a pair of bowl games. He's an energy guy as well, a notable difference from Chan Gailey radiating motivation through his half moon specs. Marrone hired a top-notch defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine, and brought his man Nathaniel Hackett from Syracuse to be the OC. It looks like a good hire, but he's got a big job ahead of him.
7. Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns
The Browns thought they had Chip Kelly. Now, you have to wonder if that was just Joe Banner trying to keep Jeff Lurie away from him. Kelly has since said the Browns were never an option for him. Cleveland hired Chud pretty quickly after being rejected by Kelly. No other NFL team, at least not publicly, was interested in Chud as a head coach. In fact, he seems a little like this year's Mike Mularkey. The Panthers were supposed to improve this season, Cam Newton's second year. They didn't. Besides a talent-poor defense, the Panthers had a confused offensive identity. Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator now, which could go either way. The best news for the Browns might be the decision to make Ray Horton the defensive coordinator, but will probably lose him to a head coaching offer soon enough.
8. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
I'm not really sure about this one. What Arians did this year as an interim for Chuck Pagano was impressive. On the other hand, a beloved head coach fighting cancer is one helluva motivating factor. Arians' Colts also had a pretty talented quarterback in Andrew Luck and a painfully easy schedule. The Bidwills are notoriously inept at running a football team (full disclosure: I'm from St. Louis) and the handling of the situation with Ray Horton was not a good way to start a new era.