Sean Pendergast

2022 NFL Head Coach Hiring Report Card: What Grade Do Texans Get for Lovie Smith?

What's the grade on the Texans' hire of Lovie Smith as head coach?
What's the grade on the Texans' hire of Lovie Smith as head coach? Photo by Eric Sauseda
After what Texans GM Nick Caserio says was an exhaustive, inclusive search for a head football coach for the Houston Texans, and after the Saints promoted their DC Dennis Allen to head coach, all nine head coach openings this hiring cycle have now been filled. So, we now go through the fool's errand — but a FUN fool's errand! — of grading the hires before any of them have coached a game.

WARNING: I will come off sounding very confident in my grades below, but I dole these grades out knowing full well that the main purpose for this post, once you are done reading it today, will be to have it dredged up three years from now to tell me what an idiot I was for, say,  giving Doug Pederson an A- (SPOILER ALERT!).

So let's do this, in the order in which they were hired, here is my report card for the NFL head coaching class of 2022:

DENVER BRONCOS: Nathaniel Hackett
LAST JOB:
Packers offensive coordinator
THE SKINNY: Hackett is an Aaron Rodgers favorite from his time in Green Bay, which is not an easy thing to become. Rodgers can be moody! However, Hackett can raise his grade to a clear "A" if he can somehow help facilitate a Rodgers trade to the Broncos.
GRADE: B

CHICAGO BEARS: Matt Eberflus
LAST JOB: Colts defensive coordinator
THE SKINNY: This was the only hire in the cycle that wasn't either (a) an offensive coach, or (b) an internal promotion, which is curious considering the most important player in the building is second year QB Justin Fields. Eberflus has a real energy about him, so they key will be how he hires for his offensive staff.
GRADE: B-

NEW YORK GIANTS: Brian Daboll
LAST JOB: Bills offensive coordinator
THE SKINNY: Of all the candidates hired by other teams, Daboll is the one that would have been the most fun to cover here. He has a very affable, playful personality. He also happens to be a very good offensive coach, who constructed the perfect offense for Josh Allen these last few years in Buffalo. Daboll may find it tougher to do that with Daniel Jones.
GRADE: B+

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: Josh McDaniels
LAST JOB: Patriots offensive coordinator
THE SKINNY: Four years after leaving the Colts at the altar, McDaniels gets another shot at being a head coach. He failed miserably in Denver in 2009 and 2010, but he says he's learned from that experience, and he values people more now. Whatever. We shall see.
GRADE: C+

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Kevin O’Connell
LAST JOB: Rams offensive coordinator
THE SKINNY: O'Connell is the latest apple off the Josh McCown tree. Like Zac Taylor and Matt LaFleur before him, O'Connell was never a play caller for McVay, but he has leadership traits that the Vikings seem to like.
GRADE: B

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Doug Pederson
LAST JOB: Eagles head coach (fired after 2020)
THE SKINNY: Urban Meyer flamed out in Jacksonville after 13 games last season, for a VARIETY of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was his complete inability to handle losing, which we should have seen coming. Meyer lost more games in three months than he did in seven seasons at Ohio State. Literally. Doug Pederson, an experienced Super Bowl winner, will handle the ebbs and flows of winning and losing much better than Meyer did.
GRADE: A-

MIAMI DOLPHINS: Mike McDaniel
LAST JOB: 49ers offensive coordinator
THE SKINNY: Another OC without play calling duties off of a fertile coaching tree, like O'Connell, McDaniel brings a quirky energy to the Dolphins, where his main assignment will be somehow getting Tua Tagovailoa to look like the 5th overall pick in the draft, which he was just two years ago.
GRADE: B-

HOUSTON TEXANS: Lovie Smith
LAST JOB: Texans defensive coordinator (promoted to HC)
THE SKINNY: The two positives with Smith — he FEELS like a real NFL head coach, which sadly matters after a year of David Culley, and he has mountains of head coaching experience. Beyond that, it's more about the players the Texans go get than it is anything Smith is able to do.
GRADE: C+

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Dennis Allen
LAST JOB: Saints defensive coordinator (promoted to HC)
THE SKINNY: The final job to open up was the final one to get filled, as shortly after the Texans hired Smith, the Saints promoted Allen. The big question here is "Does Allen's promotion mean that we could see a Sean Payton return next year, with Allen resuming his DC role?"
GRADE: C-

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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