Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 12:10 AM
There's no doubt about it: The AFC champion Baltimore Ravens and NFC champion San Francisco 49ers sure hit the jackpot when it came to their respective hires at head coach in recent years.
The Ravens' choice of one-time/long-time Philadelphia Eagles special teams guru John Harbaugh - following a disheartening 5-11 season in 2007 - raised more than a few eyebrows but yet the older of the Harbaugh brothers has been steady, sturdy and terrific with Baltimore playing in its first Super Bowl for him (the franchise's first since 2000, of course) and note the 12 post-season games the past five years that features an 8-4 SU (straight-up) and 8-4 ATS (against the spread) mark.
Whether John Harbaugh wins Super Bowl XLVII or not next Sunday, February 3rd in New Orleans the fact of the matter is he deserves an "A+" as an NFL head coach ... agree?
On the flip side, there's little brother Jim who burst upon the NFL coaching scene prior to the 2011 campaign and all he's done is set the pro gridiron world ablaze with back-to-back appearances in the NFC Championship Game and this time he's gone that one step further into a spot on the sidelines on Super Sunday.
The former Stanford boss-man is a collective 27-8-1 SU in his two seasons on the job - note that Jim Harbaugh is an electric 22-12-2 ATS the past two years - and so he's getting an "A+" here from yours truly at Jim Sez ... got it?
Okay, so now that we've established the fact that both Harbaugh brothers are top-of-the-line head coaches in this league where they play for pay, let's take a few moments to examine all the recent NFL head coaching hires made the past three or four weeks.
Here's how we see the recent stream of changing hires in "grade" form:
ARIZONA - Bruce Arians
The fact that Arians did such a splendid job "filling in" for Indianapolis Colts first-year coach Chuck Pagano surely catapulted his personal stock in/around the NFL and the Arians resume also features a nice stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers as offensive coordinator under Mike Tomlin but keep in mind that Arians is 60 years old, won't always have the emotions stirring as did the 2012 Colts and you get the sense that this Arizona Cardinals franchise will languish for the foreseeable future.
The Cards have won only one playoff game since that lone Super Bowl appearance back in the 2008 season and - while Arians is well-respected in the league - count us among the folks that would have preferred a younger hire and maybe someone that would have been part of the Rooney Rule.
We know the Louisville Cardinals inked head coach Charlie Strong to an extension right before the team's Sugar Bowl upset win against Florida but he would have been a great hire here as Strong could have shaped this young/active defense into one of the NFL's best units and than turned over offensive play-calling to some other young mind.
BUFFALO - Doug Marrone
Sorry, but we just don't get this one either.
The one-time Syracuse Orange boss-man registered a dead-even 25-25 SU mark in his four years with the upstate New York team and won a pair of Pinstripe Bowls ... big deal!
Yet, he was the apparent apple of the eye of both Cleveland and Buffalo before the Bills pounced and made 'em their newest head coach - think he'll work out better than Chan Gailey or Dick Jauron or Mike Mularkey or Gregg Williams? We don't either!
Marrone has NFL ties in his past but this downtrodden NFC East franchise would have fared better by hiring younger - why not a shot for San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, for instance? - and so we can't "give our blessing" here.
CHICAGO - Marc Trestman
The former head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of Canadian Football League fame is considered an "out of the box" choice plus Trestman has a solid NFL background even if he has not been a part of the league's scene for the past several years.
Overall, not a bad choice but consider the fact Chicago would have been wise (says us!) to give Lovie Smith at least one more year on the job after his club cranked out a 10-6 season and so this is probably a change that should not have been made in the first place.
Trestman's gonna live or die in Chitown based on how he communicates with oft-surly QB Jay Cutler and we say it's even-money the two have some "relationship" problems even before we get to October and that's important because Cutler - whether or not the Bears fans like it, he's the face of the franchise - liked Lovie and that really mattered.
Grade: B- (if it had to happen!)
CLEVELAND - Rob Chudzinski
Let's see: The Browns offense ranked 24th in the league while averaging just 18.9 points per game and there's a 29-year-old quarterback on board that must win now (see Brandon Weeden). So, enter Chudzinski who spent the past two years with a very different quarterback in moody Cam Newton in Carolina - but we like this hire better than most because Chudzinski is young (he's 44) and he had to deal with a lot of crazy happenings with Newton and Company and that toughened 'em up for this bigger stage here.
The former Browns' tight end coach (see 2004) was also Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2007-08 and he's ready to make his mark in this league as a head coach and we applaud this move even though the general consensus is that naming Chudzinski was an "uninspired choice" when you consider most folks thought the Browns and their new ownership group would not be happy unless it was Alabama's Nick Saban or maybe former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly landing the job.
JACKSONVILLE - Gus Bradley
Maybe the down-in-the-dumps Jaguars needed to hire a real rah-rah guy but you have to express some doubts here only because Bradley served as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator the past four years but the last three came under head coach Pete Carroll ... and isn't he really the defensive whiz of that NFC West team?
Let's face it: Just getting rid of one-and-done boss Mike Mularkey was the right move by the Jags (an awful hire in the first place and than a 2-14 season cemented that notion) but we're not sure Bradley's a major step in the right direction and it might have been a bit more worldly for Jacksonville to tap the aforementioned Roman or perhaps New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
KANSAS CITY - Andy Reid
The Chiefs - and we understand their dilemma - had to get an established coaching name in place after all the nightmares that surrounded their just-completed 2-14 season and so Reid made sense from that standpoint - but we stay with a consistent theme here and would have preferred a young man at the helm.
Keep in mind the Chiefs will be getting the numero uno choice in the next NFL Draft and someone from the college ranks might have given this franchise the energetic push in the right direction after years of Romeo Crennel, Todd Haley, Herm Edwards and Dick Vermeil (see zero playoff wins the past 18 seasons).
Reid spent 14 mostly solid/successful seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and he'll win in KC but this choice was a bit "too safe" for us.
PHILADELPHIA - Chip Kelly
From the looks of things, the former Oregon Ducks' boss-man is not exactly the most decisive guy in the neighborhood and not exactly the most trust-worthy figure either but he should get Eagles Nation energized even if he winds up going with QB Nick Foles for the 2013 season.
Kelly's no-huddle, fast-break offense has been making its way into the league the past couple of years and causing major headaches for NFL defenses (and defensive coordinators) and so it won't be long before he spices up things in Rocky Balboa's home town and gets the Birds back into the playoff picture.
Would we have necessarily hired Kelly after all his hemming-and-hawing with Tampa Bay last year? Probably not but give us a choice in Philly for 2013 and beyond - the old, tired Reid or the trumped-up Kelly - and we admit snagging the latter without any hesitation.
SAN DIEGO - Mike McCoy
Norv Turner's replacement with the SD Chargers was born on April Fools Day - but no fooling around that McCoy (most recently the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos) was the single-hottest head coaching commodity the past few weeks with as many as five NFL teams all seeking his employ but the Bolts won out mainly because he has California roots and because QB Philip Rivers gives him the best chance at winning right away.
One thing we didn't like about this hiring is that we truly believe McCoy was "distracted" in the days leading up to Broncos' playoff loss to Baltimore plus he really played it too conservative in the cold with QB Peyton Manning in that 38-35 twin-OT loss. Good hire? Yes. Great hire? We say no.
NOTE: More Super Bowl 47 coverage plus NCAA and NBA notes/previews too all this week right here in Jim Sez!