Grading the NFL Coaching Hires: Browns, 49ers hit home runs

Coaching season has now come to a close -- Philly announced the hire of Doug Pederson on Monday, filling the last of the seven vacancies. 

Consistency was a major theme with multiple teams surprisingly standing pat. The Colts kept Chuck Pagano, the Saints kept Sean Payton and the Lions kept Jim Caldwell.

Multiple teams also simply promoted their coordinators or brought back someone they're familiar with. Not exactly a wild offseason in terms of coaching.

But still largely impressive moves from the teams needing coaches. We grade them out all below, being especially impressed with the work done in Cleveland, San Francisco and Miami.

Jackson was a major score for Cleveland. (USATSI)

  Cleveland Browns

Fired: Mike Pettine

Hired: Hue Jackson

What we think: We can cast all kinds of aspersions on the future of the Browns' front office being handed over to a lawyer and a baseball stats guy. But give credit to Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta -- and by president Alec Scheiner -- for going out and getting their No. 1 target in Jackson. Jackson’s an aggressive play caller and the type of coach who will inspire his players, not to mention apparently a sneaky fan of analytics! Jackson went 8-8 in his only year as head coach of the Raiders in 2011. It looks like one of the more impressive coaching jobs considering how Oakland fared the next few years. More so than any other Browns hire, Jackson feels like the type of guy who could turn the tide in Cleveland. 

Grade: A+


  Miami Dolphins

Fired: Joe Philbin, Dan Campbell

Hired: Adam Gase

What we think: The Dolphins under Stephen Ross perennially dominate the offseason and lose actual football games. The hiring of wunderkind offensive coordinator Adam Gase -- just 37 -- and doing so in quick fashion should net success at both stops. Gase was a quarterbacks coach who helped Tim Tebow win a playoff game, worked closely with Peyton Manning and helped Jay Cutler achieve the most efficient season of his career in 2015. His work with the Broncos and Bears merited a promotion to a head-coaching gig and if he can elevate Ryan Tannehill’s play, the Dolphins might actually win on the field too. 

Grade: A


 San Francisco 49ers

Fired: Jim Tomsula

Hired: Chip Kelly

What we think: Go big or go home. The 49ers settled last season for Jim Tomsula after chasing off Jim Harbaugh. They didn’t settle this year and after an awkward initial press conference, Jed York acted swiftly to score Kelly on the rebound after the ex-Eagles coach was exiled from Philadelphia following three seasons and 26 wins. Kelly won’t worry about being a GM in San Francisco and inherits a situation with upside at the quarterback position. Resurrecting Colin Kaepernick is a possibility, Blaine Gabbert could be a fit in his system (SERIOUSLY) and the No. 6 pick could end up netting them Paxton Lynch or Jared Goff. Carlos Hyde could be a strong fit in Kelly’s scheme. 

Grade: A


  Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fired: Lovie Smith

Hired: Dirk Koetter

What we think: Grading the Buccaneers hire of Dirk Koetter really depends on how you feel about Lovie Smith. Smith’s players loved him as a head coach, but there are concerns about how he would develop Jameis Winston if Koetter ended up leaving for another coaching gig. Did you see what happened to Matt Ryan without Koetter? His stats were essentially the same but his performance was way below his standards. Giving Winston some consistency and ensuring you hold onto your offensive coordinator is worth the cost of losing a coach with only eight wins in two seasons. Additionally it gives full personnel power to GM Jason Licht, who’s shown a serious ability to pick up quality players in the draft. 

Grade: B


  New York Giants

Fired: Tom Coughlin

Hired: Ben McAdoo

What we think: Similar situation to Tampa Bay, where you run off the veteran coach in order to ensure the offensive coordinator doesn’t bolt. Eli Manning’s been at his best in the two years under Ben McAdoo, but the 38-year-old OC is unproven as a head man. And he’s inheriting the same roster two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Coughlin had when he missed the playoffs. McAdoo feels like a good hire and has the pedigree to succeed. But there will be a bright light shone on him with the departure of Coughlin and he’s going to need Jerry Reese to step up his game in order to make this work. Slightly lower grade because of who was sent packing.

Grade: B-


  Philadelphia Eagles

Fired: Chip Kelly

Hired: Doug Pederson

What we think: Pederson was the final coach made official on Monday afternoon with the Eagles announcing his hire shortly after the Chiefs were eliminated. Not an ideal way to see Pederson right before he bolted for Philly -- the Chiefs offense was a snail stuck in molasses during the final stretch of the Patriots game. Pederson’s gotten a lot out of a little with Alex Smith and crew, making Smith a mistake-free quarterback and high-end game manager. But it’s weird to run off Reid -- who can still clearly coach -- only to bring in Chip Kelly and run him off after one bad season and then bring back a Reid assistant right? Just keep Reid in the first place, especially with Pederson now having to use Kelly’s players. Doesn’t help for the Eagles to get rebuffed by Coughlin and McAdoo either. 

Grade: C+


  Tennessee Titans

Fired: Ken Whisenhunt

Hired: Mike Mularkey

What we think: This is easily the most uninspiring hire of the offseason. It's not remotely close. Mularkey is 18-39 as a head coach and was fired by both the Bills and Jaguars. Surely this was a move designed to setup a potential franchise sale, but even if it was, it ignores the Titans having a franchise quarterback on the roster in Marcus Mariota. Wasting his early career is tantamount negligence and the Titans having anything outside of a third-straight, top-five pick next season would be a small miracle. 

Grade: F

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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