The Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals finalized the hirings of Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon on Tuesday. All five NFL head coaching vacancies have officially been filled. The other three openings were filled by Sean Payton (Denver), DeMeco Ryans (Houston), and Frank Reich (Carolina). The process welcomed a healthy mixture of retreads (Reich and Payton) and exciting newcomers (Ryans, Steichen, and Gannon).
All five NFL franchises will attempt to shift their fortunes in a positive direction ahead of the 2023 campaign. Draft Network has followed each hiring process extremely closely. We’ve assigned a letter grade to each team for their respective hiring.
HOUSTON TEXANS: DEMECO RYANS (A-)
Texans general manager Nick Caserio finally knocked this hire out of the park after hiring back-to-back questionable one-and-done coaches in David Culley and Lovie Smith. A former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2006), Ryans returns to the franchise that made him the No. 33 overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Ryans enjoyed a stellar playing career, but his NFL coaching days carry the potential to be even more impressive. Ryans was outstanding as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, overseeing a defense that allowed NFL-lows in yards per contest (300.6) and points per game (16.3) in 2022. Ryans is ready for this opportunity and appears poised to return the Texans to relevancy after some dark years spent in the basement of the AFC South.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: FRANK REICH (B+)
I have a really good feeling about Reich in Carolina. There’s no denying that Reich was partially culpable for Indianapolis’ failure to locate a long-term solution at quarterback. In Carolina, he’ll receive an opportunity he was denied in Indianapolis: To have a say in hand-selecting a young quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Panthers currently possess the No. 9 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. They’re considered prime candidates to trade up and draft one of Bryce Young, Will Levis, or C.J. Stroud. A former quarterback himself, Reich is the ideal candidate to mold one of these young signal-callers.
The landscape of the NFC South immediately shifted this offseason when Tom Brady retired. There’s no clear-cut favorite in the division next season. Reich and the Panthers can shock the nation by winning the division in 2023.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: SHANE STEICHEN (B+)
I nearly gave the Colts an A-plus for simply not hiring Jeff Saturday. All kidding aside, owner Jim Irsay was wise to concede to general manager Chris Ballard. The Colts’ search presented circus-like vibes at times, but hiring Steichen ultimately represents a good process.
Steichen did outstanding work alongside Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. Hurts went from fringe starter to NFL MVP candidate under Steichen’s tutelage. Steichen’s resume includes impressive periods alongside Justin Herbert and Philip Rivers as well.
Steichen’s ability to develop young quarterbacks was crucial to Indianapolis’ hiring process. Irsay essentially admitted the Colts are planning to draft a quarterback in April. In addition to the clear top three, Anthony Richardson may also be an option following Steichen’s success with dual-threat quarterbacks. Steichen is the right man for the job.
DENVER BRONCOS: SEAN PAYTON (B)
Hiring Payton, a former Super Bowl-winning coach, would typically garner an A-plus rating. But Payton arrived in Denver with an expensive price tag. The Broncos traded a 2023 first-round selection and a 2024 second-round pick to the Saints in exchange for Payton and the Saints’ 2024 third-round selection. The Broncos get docked a few points for parting with premium NFL draft capital.
The Broncos are relying on Payton’s quarterback-whispering abilities to get Russell Wilson back on track (another asset they parted with big-time draft capital to get). The Broncos have all of their eggs in the Payton and Wilson baskets. That carries sizable risk.
Payton is a brilliant offensive-minded coach. If he can’t rescue Wilson, nobody can. If the Payton-Wilson partnership fails to launch, Payton’s appointment carries disastrous potential.
ARIZONA CARDINALS: JONATHAN GANNON (B-)
The Cardinals were the final NFL team to hire a coach. New general manager Monti Ossenfort waited for the conclusion of Super Bowl LVII to appoint the former Eagles defensive coordinator. Gannon has earned this opportunity, but I have worries regarding the situation he’s inheriting.
Starting quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a torn ACL midway through the 2022 campaign and may be limited to begin the 2023 season. Superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is expected to be traded. That’s a lot for a first-time head coach to deal with.
Gannon’s final showing in Philadelphia unfortunately did not go according to plan. The Chiefs racked up 38 points as Gannon’s defense failed to get a single second-half stop. Gannon is starting anew and must overcome several immediate obstacles in Arizona.
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