Head coaches are one of the most important parts of a team. After each NFL season, teams with head coaching vacancies hire new coaches to lead their franchise in the future. A coach like Bill Belichick could elevate a team into Super Bowl contenders while a coach like Adam Gase could set a franchise back for years. With how important head coaches are, it’s important that teams hit on these hires. Here’s a review of how these head coaches performed in 2020.
Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns, Record: 11-5
The Browns hired former Vikings coordinator Kevin Stefanski in hopes that he would help turn their franchise around. Stefanski led the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, where they upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Arguably the most impressive part of his first season was his work with Baker Mayfield. Mayfield looked much better in Stefanski’s play action—heavy scheme after a bad 2019 campaign. To top it off, Stefanski brought home the NFL’s Coach of the Year award over Brian Flores, Sean McDermott and other great head coaches.
Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team, Record: 7-9
Ron Rivera had a good first season in Washington. After the allegations involving the organization last offseason, they would be in desperate need of a culture change and Rivera provided just that. Remarkably, Rivera battled (and eventually defeated) cancer all while coaching. As for football, while Washington only won 7 games, they made the playoffs after clinching the NFC East crown in the NFL’s final game of the 2020 season. In the Wild Card game, although they lost, Rivera’s team put up a valiant effort against the eventual Super Bowl champions. You could even make the argument that they put up the best performance of any Tampa Bay playoff opponent on their run to becoming champs.
Joe Judge, New York Giants, Record: 6-10
The Giants hired Joe Judge, who coached under Bill Belichick in New England and Nick Saban in Alabama. In his introductory press conference, Judge set the tone for his tenure in New York with a very impressive presser. With all the internal problems New York has faced over the years, Judge wanted to implement an “old school mentality,” holding players accountable and making sure they don’t beat themselves with stupid mistakes. While Judge’s first year wasn’t filled with wins, he’s clearly changing the Giants culture. Even after starting 0-5, Judge’s Giants continued to fight and nearly even made the playoffs. It’ll be extremely interesting to see how the Giants perform in 2021 and beyond under Judge’s leadership.
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys, Record: 6-10
The Cowboys decided to hire the most accomplished HC on the market in Mike McCarthy. McCarthy’s first year was shaky to say the least. He had a number of questionable coaching decisions as the Cowboys limped to a 6-10 record. There were reports of Cowboys players who called McCarthy and the Dallas coaching staff unprepared. McCarthy also sounded off on players when they failed to defend QB Andy Dalton against a cheap shot from Washington LB Jon Bostic. Some people even speculated whether Dallas would be better with former HC Jason Garrett, who the Cowboys fired following years of mediocrity. I believe Dallas could be sneaky contenders with Dak Prescott almost definitely returning next season, but if this year was any indication, the Mike McCarthy era won’t last much longer in Dallas.
Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers, Record: 5-11
The Panthers hired former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, luring him out of the college ranks with a huge 7 year contract worth 60 million. Rhule was hired after having success in college. His ability to drastically improve multiple football programs impressed many, especially within the Panthers front office. While 5-11 seems like a bad season, Carolina wasn’t expected to contend in the NFC South with future hall of fame quarterbacks on all three division rivals. During the season, they had some impressive performances in games that shouldn’t have been close. Although Carolina didn’t have great success in Rhule’s first season, it was the first step of many to turn the franchise around.