In the world of sports, change is always constant. Unless your name is Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, or Mike Tomlin, job security at the head coach position is tight. And when owners start making changes, the head coaches are often the first to go. This offseason, we only had five head coaching changes. That is actually two less than two years ago. But being a new head coach on a new team is as hard of a job as it gets. This is why experienced head coaches often fair better in their second attempt at the job. With that said, here is how each new NFL head coach will perform in 2020.
How Each New NFL Head Coach Will Perform In 2020
Carolina Panthers: Matt Rhule
In the case of the Carolina Panthers, it’s apparent that 2020 is a rebuilding year. In my NFC South Team By Team Breakdown, I went into detail on the mass exodus of talent that the Panthers lost from a year ago. Although they did lose a lot, “program builder” Matt Rhule still has some talented pieces to work with year one. Obviously, it starts with the all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has enough talent and durability to carry the load offensively. But D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson are also legit threats Rhule and new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will have at their disposal.
Sadly for Panthers fans, many question marks come after that. The offensive line looks like a question mark. And the defense is filled with seven rookies and an abundance of young players with big shoes to fill. In 2020, the Panthers won’t compete for a playoff birth, but Rhule will earn his stripes and enter 2021 with a better idea of who his players of the future are.
Cleveland Browns: Kevin Stefanski
After a 2019 offseason which saw the Cleveland Browns be the splashiest team in the league, the Browns had a quieter one in 2020. Don’t let that get you confused though. The Browns spent the last few months getting better. In free agency, Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper were their splash additions. Head coach Kevin Stefanski is an offensive mind who excelled with running back Dalvin Cook a year ago. Now, he inherits arguably the best running back duo in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The defense revamped the safety position, adding steal Grant Delpit in the draft to start alongside hard hitter Karl Joseph. And with stars such as Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward in-place, the Browns roster looks impressive.
At the end of the day though, the quarterback needs to play well for the team to succeed. Third-year starter Baker Mayfield is reportedly working hard to ensure his season isn’t a letdown like last year. Last year, Mayfield threw 21 picks and never looked like the rookie version we saw. If Mayfield turns the corner, there’s no reason the Browns can’t push for a playoff berth.
Dallas Cowboys: Mike McCarthy
The Dallas Cowboys are one of three teams in the NFC East who’ve changed head coaches. But the Cowboys remain the team with the best Super Bowl odds in the division. In 2019 the Cowboys showed efficiency on offense that was off the charts. But head coaching issues, along with questionable playcalling, were what plagued the team more than anything. With the addition of Mike McCarthy, the hope in Dallas is that the talent can take over and win now. The potential for the Cowboys to have one of the best offenses in the NFL is certainly visible thanks to the star power they possess.
Their front seven is the best of any team in the division. The linebacker trio of Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, and Leighton Vander Esch have shown what they can do. And the defensive line is deep and filled with big names. Even if rookie Trevon Diggs struggles to replace Byron Jones, the depth at the position runs strong as well. In McCarthy’s first year, the expectations are high. How we view his legacy could be drastically different pending on his results this season.
New York Giants: Joe Judge
When figuring out how each new NFL head coach will perform, both Joe Judge and his New York Giants are the biggest mystery. Considering Judge was a special teams coordinator before this gig, it’s hard to say how much better he will make the team individually. But the roster in New York has pieces that are promising. Much like in Carolina, they too have a potential all-pro back in Saquon Barkley. And Barkley will look to come back strong after injuries nagged on his 2019 season. The front office took tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall to help bolster the offensive line. And Daniel Jones enters year number two with the same offensive weapons a year ago.
On offense, the continuity runs strong which bodes well for progress. On defense, there are new pieces that are going to have to adjust. Again, like in Carolina, the defense has a ton of young players. But, by adding veterans Kyle Fackrell, Blake Martinez, and James Bradberry, the Giants are allowing their young players time to make mistakes and get better. In 2020, don’t expect the Giants to skyrocket from their placement last year. But it would be foolish to doubt them making progress on both sides of the ball.
Washington Redskins: Ron Rivera
Finally, the Washington Redskins are another team with potential. Ron Rivera is the perfect coach to bring the best out of his young players. The offense rides on the development of second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins. In his rookie year, Haskins didn’t look ready for the light to be shone on him. He will rely heavily on last year’s rookie sensation Terry McLaurin as a pass-catcher and a ridiculously deep backfield led by Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of talent at receiver and tight end, so Rivera will have to rely more on his defense in his first year.
The majority of the attention towards their defense will go to the first-round pick Chase Young. And rightfully so, but the entire defensive line should be a concern for opposing teams. If they can stay healthy and productive, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Ryan Kerrigan can accompany Young in being a very good defensive front. Veterans Sean Davis and Kendall Fuller can play quality snaps, while Thomas Davis can be a superb locker room presence. This is an audition year for a lot of Washington players, so in year one expect growing pains. But for the first time since the Robert Griffin III days, there is hope in the nation’s capital.
New NFL Head Coaches Are In For A Challenge Like No Other
As if coaching a roster of 52 players and dealing with the media wasn’t enough, being a new NFL head coach this year has a unique challenge due to the circumstances of the world. COVID-19 has required coaches to virtually talk with players and fellow coaches. Teams with more continuity will have less trouble than ones with less. How the coaches continue to handle operations will be a factor in who succeeds and who fails.
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