Studs & Duds - Early 2020 NFL Organizational Changes

Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, the NFL's second-most ominous day, "Black Monday" came and went, leaving carnage in its wake across many of the NFL's 32 franchises. 

It wasn't the ugliest firing spree the league has seen in recent memory — and several candidates for dismissal were ultimately spared. "Black Monday" brought change that was needed, change that wasn't and no change where it would have been best.

Now a week removed, many openings have been filled. Others apparently won't be filled for months. Here are the Studs & Duds of the NFL's early 2020 organizational changes.

STUD: Washington firing Bruce Allen, hiring Ron Rivera

The circus that is Bruce Allen's tenure in Washington as Daniel Snyder's right-hand man has been well documented. And now, finally, it is over. Allen's prickly demeanor didn't produce anything other than a growing divide between Washington's players and executives — and so he had to go.

And taking the place of Jay Gruden as the head coach? About as good of a bridge as you could possibly find between management and players: Ron Rivera. Rivera's tenure in Carolina ended abruptly thanks in part to consecutive seasons hindered by Cam Newton injuries and a 12-16 run between 2018 and 2019.

But Ron Rivera is as well regarded as a coach and leader that you could possibly hope to find on the open market. A two-time winner of the AP NFL Coach of the Year award (2013, 2015), Rivera is one of just 11 NFL coaches to win the award more than once since the first season it was awarded back in 1957.

DUD: Washington opting not to fill their GM vacancy until after the 2020 NFL Draft

But Washington's offseason hasn't come up completely roses just yet. Washington still has the vacancy at general manager — and ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the team currently doesn't plan to fill the void until after the 2020 NFL Draft. It's not as uncommon of a move as it used to be, but Washington would still ideally be able to fill the position before free agency. Why?

It isn't necessarily centered around the NFL Draft — as Washington has as easy of a pick as possible with the #2 overall pick. And Rivera appears poised to have plenty of input on what kinds of players are brought into the program, so from that perspective, Rivera will get scheme fit players. That's fine.

But what about free agency? What about brokering contract extensions and building up the roster via free-agent spending? Who calls those shots now — and how can we be certain that the contracts handed out will fit in line with whoever steps into the general manager role after the draft? You can't. And the risk you run is the situation we've seen play out in New York — where the Jets opted to hire a new coach, make management changes after the draft and subsequently have an undesired contract on the books in RB Le'Veon Bell. Depending on who you ask, Jets new general manager Joe Douglas may be looking to offload Bell after just one season — and $35 million in guaranteed cash committed to Bell.

That's not good business. Washington will need to toe the line to avoid wasteful spending.

STUD: Cleveland firing head coach Freddie Kitchens

If you ever needed a reminder of how important coaching is in the NFL, please remember that the superbly talented Cleveland Browns won 6 games this year. The Browns were a media favorite this summer with their star power on both sides of the football, but this team simply couldn't get out of their own way. They played sloppy, undisciplined and underachieved on a weekly basis.

The only thing worse than making a mistake is refusing to admit it and double down. The Browns avoided that after weeks of debate on what Kitchens' future would be.

DUD: Cleveland's subsequent hiring process

The aftermath for Cleveland? Frustrating. The reports indicate that Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta will play a prominent role in the Browns' future at the bidding of team owner Jimmy Haslam. And no one should take exception to the Browns' desire to get involved back in analytics, which is where DePodesta's background lies.

But does this team have any direction at all? Owner Jimmy Haslam pulled the plug on an analytics-based team approach back in 2017 when the team fired Sashi Brown just two seasons into the team's dramatic "Moneyball" style team-building approach. In the aftermath of firing Brown, Haslam swung the pendulum about as far the other way as humanly possible, hiring "old school football guy" John Dorsey to take the reins. And now, two seasons later, Haslam has swung the pendulum back to the analytics side of the fence.

Who are you Cleveland? Who do you want your team to be, Mr. Haslam? Until you decide — and stay committed to it for more than 24 months — you'll always be swimming upstream towards success.

STUDS: Teams who opt not to interview Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels is one of the hot names on the coaching market — but why? McDaniels is renowned for his work in New England with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. So right off the bat, we're looking at questionable success outside of the friendly confines of Foxborough.

But are we all forgetting McDaniels' backstory? McDaniels was given total control of the Denver Broncos as the team's head coach a decade ago and lasted less than two full seasons, highlighted by a 4-game losing streak to end 2009 and miss the playoffs and then a 3-9 record before being relieved of his duties in 2010.

"That was a decade ago!"

You're right, it was. But the shenanigans around McDaniels sprung up as recently as 2018 when McDaniels reached a verbal commitment to leave New England for the second time to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Except McDaniels changed his mind less than 24 hours before his introductory press conference. After at least one assistant coach had already signed a contract to coach the Colts under McDaniels.

Tack on the struggles of the Patriots offense this season (whether that be personnel related or not) and it's hard to get really excited about McDaniels as a leader of an organization. And yet he's got teams (Cleveland, Carolina and the New York Giants) lining up to request interviews. Hard pass. 

Written By:

Kyle Crabbs

Director of Content

Director of Content & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Former NDT Scouting Overlord.

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