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Who are the best and worst head coaches in the NFC East in 2020?

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The draft is done, the free agents have been signed, the coaches have met their players. Now there’s not much to do but wait for training camp. While we wait, it seemed like it might be fun to evaluate and rank the NFC East position-by-position.

Last off-season, Hogs Haven published articles that focused on ranking position groups in an effort to identify what the division would look like in 2019. This year, we’re going to do it again, and we’re including a look at the coaches this season.


Click here to see all the Ranking the NFC East articles


NFC East Coching overview

The 2020 season represents a year of tumultuous change in the NFC East. As the 2019 season came to an end, there were dramatic changes for three of the four franchises in the division.

The Redskins were first to the party, firing Jay Gruden after Week 5 of the regular season and replacing him with interim head coach Bill Callahan, who was, himself, sent packing in January. The Redskins didn’t merely dump the coaching staff, though. As a New Year’s present to Redskins fans everywhere, Dan Snyder announced that team President Bruce Allen had been fired after a decade of disappointment and embarrassment on and off the football field; with it came a complete organizational shake up that leaves the Redskins a very different franchise than they were a year ago.

The Giants also fired their head coach, though GM Dave Gettleman was retained. New Head Coach Joe Judge becomes the fifth man since the start of the 2015 season to lead the once-proud Giants organization. It’s hard to believe that it was just five years ago that Tom Coughlin was the head coach in New York. The G-men have only one winning season in the past seven, and are looking for some badly needed answers.

The Cowboys didn’t fire their head coach; they just let Jason Garrett’s contract run out. There was an uncomfortably long stretch in early January that felt a bit like a death watch for a terminally ill patient — with awkward daily reports from Jane Slater trying to explain why Jerry & Stephen Jones were locked up for hours of private talks with Garrett... reports that seemed to ask more questions than they answered. The end of the discomfort came, not with an announcement about Garrett’s status, but with an announcement that his replacement had been hired.

Only the Philadelphia Eagles head coach emerged unscathed, by virtue of the Eagles having won the NFC East title. They managed a 9-7 overall record, going 4-4 against non-division opponents, and then got bounced from the playoff in the first round.

The coaches

Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

Pederson enters his 5th season at the helm of the Eagles as the guy with the most experience as an NFC Head Coach, but not necessarily the guy with the most head coaching experience. He’s not even the only one of the four in the division to have won a Lombardi trophy as a head coach, though he is certainly the most recent to win a Super Bowl.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

After a seeming lifetime of Andy Reid in Philly, Jeffrey Lurie seemed to “win” the Chip Kelly sweepstakes in 2013. It took Kelly just three short seasons to emasculate Howie Roseman and dismantle the Eagles roster. Jeff Lurie, realizing his horrible mistake, fired Kelly, and went back to his comfort zone by restoring much of Roseman’s power, and hiring long-time Eagles & Andy Reid assistant coach Doug Pederson (who had also played quarterback for the Eagles in 1999) to take over the HC job four years ago.

Pederson’s first season as a head coach in 2016 was rough — not unusual for newly hired coaches trying to rebuild wounded franchises — but Pederson didn’t disgrace himself. In his sophomore campaign in 2017, his team won the super bowl despite losing Darren Sproles, Jason Peters and Carson Wentz to season-ending injuries.

2018 started off rough for the Pederson-coached Eagles, who were 4-6 after ten games; however, the team played well down the stretch, winning 5 out of 6 (including two victories over the injury-depleted ‘Skins) to take second-place in the division with a 9-7 record. They got to the playoffs as a wildcard team, where they beat the Chicago Bears, but ultimately lost to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round.

As mentioned above, Pederson’s 2019 division winning team was a fairly unimpressive group that had fewer bad games than the other four teams in the division, “winning” the NFC East almost by default — somebody had to.

Pederson’s four-year head coaching career has been mixed, with records of 7-9, 13-3, 9-7, 9-7 finishing 4th, 1st, 2nd and 1st in the division, but winning a super bowl in 2017, and going 1-2 in the playoffs since. So far, his tenure has seen more success than failure, but for Philly fans, the incredible 2017 championship season is starting to fade into the distance in the rearview mirror.

Looking ahead to 2020, Pederson appears to be facing the challenge of accomplishing a lot with probably the weakest roster he has had to start a season in his tenure. Now that Carson Wentz is no longer on a rookie contract, Howie Roseman’s “quarterback factory” is approaching a crossroads, and a poor season from Philly in a weak division could see fans begin to get restless. If Pederson can muster the troops to another division title, however, he may set himself up for an Andy Reid-like tenure with the Eagles, as the owner has shown a propensity to reward success with loyalty.

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys

The other super bowl winning head coach in the division is in Dallas. Mike McCarthy won Super Bowl XLV, following the 2010 season, which was the pinnacle of McCarthy’s 12+ season tenure in Green Bay (he was fired mid-season in 2018). In all, McCarthy posted a 125-77-2 record as the Packer’s top guy, winning 6 division titles and compiling a 10-8 record in the playoffs.

He has already cemented his legacy as a successful NFL head coach.

But the shine started to dim for McCarthy as his team went 11-16-1 in the ‘17 and ‘18 seasons. He and Aaron Rodgers seemed to have a deeply antagonistic relationship; there were increasing numbers of reports that McCarthy had lost the respect of the players generally as well as the Packers front office, and it was clear that, on the field, the Packers had an unimaginative offensive philosophy. People started saying out loud that the game had passed McCarthy by.

Mike McCarthy did not coach in 2019.

At the start of this year, when he made it clear that he was a candidate for head coaching jobs in 2020, he spoke loudly and publicly about having spent his year off from coaching in the film room studying what teams are doing, and talking to analytics experts in order to make sure he was completely up-to-date. He declared himself refreshed in body, mind and spirit and ready to resume his winning ways.

Dallas Cowboys Introduce Head Coach Mike McCarthy Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Jerry and Stephen Jones identified McCarthy as the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s easy to imagine a lot of pressure being placed on McCarthy. Jerry Jones is 77 years old and in charge of roster construction in Dallas. He certainly wants, in short order, to add a Lombardi Trophy to the shelf space he has had set aside since 1996.

Ron Rivera, Washington Redskins

Like Pederson and McCarthy, Ron Rivera earned a super bowl ring. Rivera’s came as a player — he was a linebacker for the Bears in Super Bowl XX following the 1985 season. (Pederson also has a super bowl ring from his time as a player — Super Bowl XXXI, with the Packers following the ‘96 season).

Like McCarthy, Ron Rivera has had one head coaching job prior to 2020; that came with the Carolina Panthers, where he compiled a 76-63-1 record. The best of year of his Carolina tenure came in 2015 when the team reached the super bowl, but lost to the Broncos.

Rivera comes from a military family and believes in discipline, but combines that with a reputation as a “player’s coach”. He seems to do that by setting strict expectations, but also taking a keen interest in players as individuals and stressing the importance of healthy family values off the football field that extend to a sense of camaraderie and team on the field.

In Washington, Rivera has been given full control over the franchise in what owner Dan Snyder refers to as a “coach-centric system”. This is a very different situation from Rivera’s situation in Carolina, where he was asked to work at various times with Marty Hurney, Brandon Beane, and Dave Gettleman. Rivera’s approach to being the final say (bar owner Dan Snyder) in all things Redskins will be interesting to watch. Just a couple of weeks ago, Rivera addressed himself to the learning curve he is going through as the single voice of the Redskins, as he starts to understand that he can’t talk just to players and coaches, but has to “talk to the entire organization” as the public face of the Redskins. “It is something that I have to get used to,” he added.

2020 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Rivera has stated openly that his highest priority is to establish a culture change for a franchise that has known a quarter century of loss and embarrassment both on and off the field, after being a model franchise throughout the 1980s and into the early 90s.

A defensive-minded coach, he hired the equally-experienced Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator and tapped young Scott Turner (son of Norv Turner) as his offensive coordinator, saying that the coaching of the team will be an all-inclusive effort involving the entire coaching staff and front office.

Expectations across the board seem to be very low for the Redskins in 2020, with most observers predicting a two-horse race for the division title between Dallas and Philly this season. It seems like a low-pressure situation for Rivera in 2020, but the pressure should mount quickly on the coach, who promised in his introductory press conference that neither he nor Dan Snyder had the patience for a five-year re-building plan.

Joe Judge, New York Giants

Judge seems to be the odd-man-out in the NFC East in many ways. First of all, he is the only true “rookie” head coach, having been hired after 3 college coaching stints and an 8-year tenure with the Patriots, primarily working with Special Teams.

Judge is one of the few head coaches in the NFL to come to the job with a special teams background rather than either the offensive or defensive sides of the ball. A number of observers believe that working as a Special Teams coordinator is good training for a head coaching job since the ST guy is the only coordinator who deals with all the players on the team.

Judge does come with the stigma that has grown around former Patriots assistant coaches, who, on the whole, have not been very successful as NFL head coaches. A popular theory is that the Belichickian way works for the Dark Lord himself, but not for lesser mortals who seek to emulate his style.

The New York market is notoriously difficult for both coaches and players, as the spotlight is bright and the media coverage is both unrelenting and unforgiving. Ben McAdoo looked uncomfortable and Pat Shurmer looked incompetent. In truth, Tom Coughlin is the last Giants head coach to appear confident and successful standing behind the microphone at press conferences, and by the end, the NY media had managed to portray even the two-time super bowl winning coach as being overmatched by the demands of the job. In his early press conferences, however, Judge has appeared professional and capable. We will have to wait a bit to find out what he and his team look like when they take the field.

New York Giants Introduce New Head Coach Joe Judge Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Judge takes over a team that is without Eli Manning for the first time in this millennium, which should uncomplicate his job slightly. There is likely to be more pressure on GM Gettleman than on Judge if the Giants struggle in 2020. The team has appeared to be flailing around for answers since firing Coughlin, and they desperately need at least a few seasons of competence and stability from Judge. With Daniel Jones at QB, Saquon Barkley at RB, a solid incoming draft class and limited expectations from fans, Judge appears to have the time and tools he needs to establish himself in the role.

Poll

Who is the BEST head coach in the NFC East?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Doug Pederson
    (363 votes)
  • 10%
    Mike McCarthy
    (107 votes)
  • 51%
    Ron Rivera
    (518 votes)
  • 2%
    Joe Judge
    (21 votes)
1009 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the WORST head coach in the NFC East?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Doug Pederson
    (14 votes)
  • 20%
    Mike McCarthy
    (157 votes)
  • 4%
    Ron Rivera
    (32 votes)
  • 73%
    Joe Judge
    (565 votes)
768 votes total Vote Now