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The 5 O’Clock Club: Grading all 7 head coaching hires of 2018

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: New York Giants-Pat Shurmur Press Conference Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions Introduce Matt Patricia Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

There are 7 new (or secondhand) head coaches in the NFL in 2018

Frank Schwab recently wrote an article grading the seven head coaching hires made this off season. Here are his grades, from worst to best:


Tennessee Titans: Mike Vrabel

Vrabel is better known to football fans than Wilks or Nagy because he played 14 years in the NFL, eight with the Patriots. But coaching wise, he’s the greenest of the lot. Vrabel spent three seasons as a position coach at Ohio State, three seasons as a linebackers coach with the Houston Texans and one season as defensive coordinator with the Texans. Then he became a head coach.

Vrabel’s reputation as a player clearly put him on a faster track to a head-coaching job. And he quickly earned respect around the NFL as a coach. He’s considered a good leader, and that will come in handy.


Arizona Cardinals: Steve Wilks

He was defensive coordinator for only one season with the Carolina Panthers, though he did a good job with that unit. He had 12 seasons as an assistant and is highly regarded around the league. He spent the last three seasons as Ron Rivera’s assistant head coach, and Rivera is one of the best coaches in the game.

Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia

There hasn’t been a successful head coach to come out of New England since Belichick got there. Patricia is well versed in the Patriot Way, having been there since 2004. It’s also the only NFL team he has ever been with. Ideally you’d like to see a new head coach draw on ideas from multiple successful coaches, but if you’re going to be an assistant for just one coach, Belichick is a good one.It has been said often that Patricia is a rocket scientist, and clearly he’s a sharp guy. We’ll know soon enough if his success running the Patriots defense was due to Belichick or he has his own chops. Watching the Patriots defense get out-coached in Super Bowl LII won’t create extra optimism among Detroit fans


Chicago Bears: Matt Nagy

He comes from the noted Andy Reid coaching tree and had a short stint as Chiefs offensive coordinator, like Pederson. He is fairly young (39 years old) and brought creative wrinkles to the Chiefs offense, so in those ways he fits the McVay mold. His hire of former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich as offensive coordinator showed that Nagy will bring new ideas to the job.


Indianapolis Colts: Frank Reich

Reich didn’t call plays for the Eagles, but Pederson didn’t call plays for the Chiefs and turned out OK. Reich deserves a share of credit for how well the Eagles offense improved through last season, before and after Carson Wentz’s injury. If Reich takes some of the aggressive ideas from Pederson and uses them with the Colts, Indianapolis might look back on McDaniels’ decision as the best thing that happened to them.

New York Giants: Pat Shurmur

Shurmur’s 9-23 record with the Browns in 2011-12 can’t be ignored, but we can excuse it because it came with the Browns. They’re 15-65 since firing Shurmur, so it’s not like the failures there were all his fault.

Shurmur quickly rehabilitated his career, first as offensive coordinator of the Eagles, then as coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. He did a great job in both spots. He turned Nick Foles into a Pro Bowler in 2013, long before Foles shocked the world by becoming a Super Bowl MVP, then guided the Vikings to a great season despite losing quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Dalvin Cook early in the season.


Oakland Raiders: Jon Gruden

Gruden’s last playoff win was Super Bowl XXXVII, 16 years ago. His final six seasons with the Buccaneers produced a 45-51 record. Gruden hasn’t coached since 2008. He has been in the game as a commentator, but it’s not the same as coaching. There are reasons to be wary.All that said, the Raiders couldn’t have done better. Gruden was the white whale of coaching searches for years, for good reason. He was highly successful with the Raiders and Buccaneers. He has a Super Bowl ring, and you won’t find another available coach who can say that. Gruden re-energizes the Raiders after a bad season, he should be good for Derek Carr’s development, and he’s a perfect face of the franchise for their eventual move to Las Vegas.


When we look back five years from now, which team will have had the most success from 2018 to 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    (28 votes)
  • 5%
    (19 votes)
  • 15%
    (53 votes)
  • 10%
    (37 votes)
  • 18%
    (63 votes)
  • 13%
    (48 votes)
  • 28%
    (97 votes)
345 votes total Vote Now


Which team made the worst hiring decision this off season?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Titans - Mike Vrabel
    (57 votes)
  • 11%
    Cardinals - Steve Wilks
    (33 votes)
  • 18%
    Lions - Matt Patricia
    (51 votes)
  • 10%
    Bears - Matt Nagy
    (29 votes)
  • 6%
    Colts - Frank Reich
    (17 votes)
  • 12%
    Giants - Pat Shurmer
    (36 votes)
  • 19%
    Raiders - Jon Gruden
    (54 votes)
277 votes total Vote Now