When it comes to new head coaches in the NFL, no one really knows who is going to hit and who is destined to return to the lower levels of the profession.
Reporters can make educated guesses, however, based on their past experience and what’s worked in this league in the past.
For instance, Doug Pederson is earmarked for Philadelphia once Kansas City’s season ends but rumors of the ex-quarterback’s potential staff hires indicates the soon-to-be, first-time head coach knows what he doesn’t know.
Pederson is believed to be looking at former head coaches Jim Schwartz and Mike Pettine as potential defensive coordinators, while he may bring along Brad Childress from the Chiefs or keep Pat Shurmur in Philadelphia for the offensive side of the ball, again two former head coaches.
Conversely, up the turnpike and North Jersey, new coach Ben McAdoo mulled bringing in Joe Philbin to help with the offense but it couldn’t have gotten all that serious because the ex-Dolphins mentor ended up in Indianapolis as the offensive line coach.
McAdoo also stayed the course of defense by bringing back Steve Spagnuolo, an ex-head coach in St. Louis yes but also a guy whose piloted some of the worst defenses in recent memory during stints in New Orleans and with the Giant last season.
Neither plan guarantees success or assures failure but if forced to bet, it’s pretty clear which side of those railroad tracks you should build on.
Hue Jackson is a little different, the crown jewel of this year’s so-called “hot candidates” and a guy who already has experience as an NFL coach in Oakland as well as the reputation as an inventive offensive mind.
The new Cleveland Browns coach, though, sent the wrong kind of signal when chatting on Sirius XM NFL radio about his plans for offensive coordinator.
“Right now in my mind, I don’t really plan on having an offensive coordinator, because I want to reserve that right to call plays,” Jackson said in his radio interview. “That’s something that’s gotten me this job, so it’s something that you’re an expert at. You want to continue to work at that and keep that in your pocket so you can use it to help your team.”
No one is saying that Jackson shouldn’t call the plays in Cleveland but steering away from the traditional title of coordinator is a risky step.
Titles are just that in football and aren’t necessarily indicative of power in any particular organization. Many offensive-minded head coaches like to call their own plays but still have the coordinator on hand to do some of the heavy lifting during the week while the head coach deals with some of the ancillary things that pile up as the face of the franchise.
Jackson will assuredly have that type of worker on his staff and has already interviewed former Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and would like to bring in Minnesota running backs coach Kirby Wilson with the ginned-up title of “running game coordinator.”
“Everything is set if they approve it,” John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes minority hiring in the NFL, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “That’s the guy Cleveland wants. Kirby would coordinator their running game, and it would put Kirby in a position to move up the line (in coaching).”
Not placing the OC tag, however, on Wilson, Hamilton or anyone else for that matter, not only harms that particular coach, who is actually performing the role without credit, perhaps more importantly, it opens a window into Jackson’s DNA as a coach.
One that reveals ego and hubris, not the best equation to predict success.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season every day at 4:05 ET on ESPN South Jersey, on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the Sports Bash on ESPN South Jersey.
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