After the coach firings come the coach hirings. Here are my initial thoughts on the new men in charge
Doug Pederson — Eagles
Owner Jeffrey Lurie was clear in his criteria when dismissing Chip Kelly a week before the season ended: he wanted a coach that would be collaborative and communicative, reacting to what he just experienced with Chip Kelly’s disdainful treatment of Lurie confidante and VP Howie Roseman. Pederson, with history at the Eagles and a protégé of Andy Reid, will certainly be easy to work with. It is interesting that, three years after he left the team, Andy Reid is (again) exerting influence with the Eagles.
I have known Doug for 15 years, back to when I was vice president of the Packers and he was our amiable, reliable and football-savvy backup quarterback. He was not only Brett Favre’s understudy (who never played); he was his best friend, his golf (scratch) and hunting partner, and his eyes and ears on the sideline. Doug was with Brett when we learned of Brett’s father’s passing; he handed Brett the phone to hear the news from wife Deanna. Doug’s presence on the team was good for Brett and good for the Packers.
In negotiating player contracts, few were as enjoyable as the ones I did with Doug. For a few years there, at some point during the spring we would decide to bring back Doug as our backup, often because more established quarterbacks would not come to Green Bay (they knew Brett never got hurt and they had no chance to play). I would then call up Doug, who acted as his own agent, and tell him we wanted another one-year deal. He would think about it for a minute, then say, “Cool, let’s go!” We would work out a contract within a few minutes and he’d head north from Louisiana.
I cannot imagine anyone not liking Doug Pederson, although he has never walked in the shoes of an NFL head coach. I fully expect Roseman to step into the role of the “bad guy” with players on tough decisions, similar to the combination that served the Eagles well with former president Joe Banner and Reid.
Ben McAdoo — Giants
Ben was hired to join Mike McCarthy’s staff in Green Bay in 2006 as our tight ends coach. That job is certainly not one that draws attention, but Ben caught my eye even in that limited role. He had a nice way of dealing with players; a calm and measured demeanor even with emotional players such as Jermichael Finley. Ben was also curious about learning all aspects of the football operation, asking me questions about the salary cap, player contracts and disciplinary options. It is nice to see Ben’s ascension, a good thing happening to a good guy.
Chip Kelly — 49ers
As readers of this space know, I have been an unabashed fan of Kelly and chalk up much of criticism about him to dinosaur-like thinking such as “we don’t do things like that around here!” Kelly just spent three years winning 26 games with Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford as his quarterbacks. Assuming Kelly is a fan of Colin Kaepernick—and that he does not pursue Bradford in free agency—Kaepernick must feel like Christmas morning every day. And regardless what you think of Kelly, the 49ers just became interesting and relevant again.
Hue Jackson — Browns
Jackson obviously made it clear to the new management that he was open and interested in accepting analytics into his coaching methods; time will tell if that acceptance wanes at some point. Jackson said no decision had been made about the future of Johnny Manziel in Cleveland, but that topic had to be question number one or two in the interview process and the Browns knew what they wanted the answer to be. I am not saying Manziel is gone; I am saying Jackson and the Browns know exactly what they are doing with Manziel.
Dirk Koetter — Bucs
I may be way off, but this seemed like a reactive hiring rather than a proactive one. There does not appear to be any evidence that the Bucs were going to promote Koetter from offensive coordinator to head coach before reports of Koetter drawing interest elsewhere on the head coaching market. Lovie Smith appears to be a casualty in the chase for Koetter.
Adam Gase — Dolphins
Owner Stephen Ross loves taking big swings and being first in line. The Dolphins were first to sign the NFL’s top free agent twice in recent years (Mike Wallace, Ndamokung Suh) and now won the race to sign this year’s hottest coaching free agent. Gase had his choice of positions, giving him and agent Jimmy Sexton extraordinary leverage. We will see if Gase can lead the Dolphins to being more than a team that forever seems to be “a year away.”