Sean Pendergast

NFL Head Coach Report Card: Houston Texans Win!

DeMeco Ryans is the best head coaching hire of this cycle, and it's not even close.
DeMeco Ryans is the best head coaching hire of this cycle, and it's not even close. Screen grab from YouTube
On Tuesday afternoon, the Arizona Cardinals announced they would be hiring Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their next head coach. Gannon himself announced it on the team's social media outlets with the gusto and verve that only a nondescript defensive coordinator could:
Yay Cardinals.

And with that, the book is now closed on the head coach hiring cycle for the NFL's 2023 offseason, a head coaching cycle that saw far less turnover than previous ones, and we know this first hand, because the Texans have been involved in the last THREE head coaching cycles.

Come next season, the period between the final regular season game and the first week of February is going to feel so empty, because I have a sneaking suspicion that DeMeco Ryans might make it to a second season, unlike David Culley and Lovie Smith before him. Hopefully, we are distracted by playoff football, that would be something! For now, let's do the report card on all five hires, in ascending order off letter grade:

5. SEAN PAYTON, Denver Broncos
I'm sure many of you reading this are like "Really, Sean? The only head coach in this cycle to win a Super Bowl is the worst hire of the five?" To which I say "Yeah! Did I stutter?!"  Look, the Broncos had to give up to high draft picks for the right to make Payton wildly overpaid, likely north of $20 million per year. His main task is fixing the most overpaid PLAYER in the league, Russell Wilson. Do we even know if Payton REALLY wants to coach, or does he just want to get paid? GRADE: C-

4. JONATHAN GANNON, Philadelphia Eagles
Gannon was statistically a very solid defensive coordinator in Philadelphia, and his former boss, Nick Sirianni, swears by him. I don't hold against him Kansas City's steamrolling of his defense in the second half of the Super Bowl. Gannon's fate in Arizona will be decided by who he hires as an offensive coordinator to repair the broken and injured (and overpaid) Kyler Murray. GRADE: B-

3. FRANK REICH, Carolina Panthers
Reich's undoing in Indianapolis as the head coach after five seasons wasn't his inability to coach, it was vouching for QB Carson Wentz back in 2021, a disastrous decision on his part. As Wentz squandered a playoff chance at the end of that season, owner Jim Irsay lost trust in Reich, and Matt Ryan's horrific 2022 season was the last straw. For the Panthers, this is a good, solid hire of a guy with ties to the organization. Reich was the franchise's first ever starting QB in 1995. GRADE: B

2. SHANE STEICHEN, Indianapolis Colts
While I love clowning Irsay, because he is just so easy to make fun of, I think he made a sensible hire here. Steichen has a great history in developing young quarterbacks, with Justin Herbert in Los Angeles and Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. The Colts have made no secret that they plan on drafting a young QB for Steichen to groom, and he seems to be the right guy to do that. GRADE: B+

1. DeMECO RYANS, Houston Texans
I think all you need to do is go back and read any of the posts we've had about the Ryans hire, and you'll figure out quickly why this is such a great get for the Texans. Hometown hero, top assistant coach in football, respected former player — it lines up perfectly for the Texans. GRADE: A

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast