Who is the best head coach in the NFC East?
By: Ladarius Brown
Looking at this division, you have a mixed bag of head coaching experience. Two head coaches have coached in a Super Bowl, one who is entering year two, and one who is a rookie head coach. That being said, here are my rankings of the head coaches in the NFC East.
4. Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles
I am a believer in the importance of making the right first impression. If you are an Eagles fan, his introductory press conference made an impression for sure. Biggest takeaway: systems. Speaking of systems, I am curious to see what Sirianni brings to this Eagles team. He was the Colts’ offensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Frank Reich. One of the things that the Colts were good at offensively under Sirianni was scoring on their drives.
In two of his years, the Colts scored on over 40% of their drives. In 2020, the Eagles were 31st in the league, scoring on just 27.9% of their offensive drives. It helped that Sirianni had some great running backs in Marlin Mack and Jonathan Taylor on the roster in Indy. In Philly, he has a pair of good running backs in Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Given the state of their offense, the Eagles’ run game is the x-factor.
Their pass game got better with drafting wide receiver DeVonta Smith of Alabama in the 1st round of this year’s draft. Smith joins wide receivers Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham as weapons for 2nd-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts will enter into the season knowing he will the guy under center after Wentz was shipped to the Colts.
Sirianni and the coaching staff have the task of molding Hurts and there is a lot of talent to Hurts. Seeing Brian Johnson as the quarterbacks coach is an assurance in my estimation that Hurts has the right guy molding him. Johnson worked with now Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask while at the University of Florida. Hurts will pick up the “system” sooner rather than later.
3. Joe Judge, New York Giants
In his 1st year, Judge led the Giants to a 6-10 record, good for 2nd place last year. Their defense under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham finished in the top 15. The offense, however, was next to last in the league at 31st. This year, the Giants upgraded on the offensive side of the ball, signing wide receiver Kenny Golladay from the Lions and Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings. It is clear to Judge and everyone in the Giants organization that quarterback Daniel Jones has to take that leap in year three. If he does not, the gavel will drop on Judge.
The Giants have fired the previous two coaches, Pat Shurmur and Ben McAdoo, after two years. One way Judge can get the 3rd year in the Big Apple is if the 2018 AP ROTY Saquon Barkley is healthy. Barkley suffered a torn ACL in his right knee along with the MCL and meniscus damage. There is a chance we will see him in the backfield come Week 1 versus the Broncos. Working under Belichick from 2012-2019 & Saban at Alabama from 2009-2011, Judge has learned under the greatest coach in NFL & college football over the last decade.
Plus, the special teams improved as well. Kicker Graham Gano went 31/32 (96.9%) in 2020. Being a special teams coordinator under Belichick, Judge knows how important this aspect of the game is. If Daniel Jones can be that guy and Barkley is 100%, the Giants could sneak up on some teams. However, the jury is still out on Judge’s squad.
2. Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team (WFT)
Before I talk about Ron Rivera the coach, let me briefly talk about Ron Rivera the man. He beat cancer after being diagnosed in August 2020 with squamous-cell cancer detected in a lymph node. He still coached and his team won the division last year. You did not have to be a fan of the Washington Football Team to love his journey. Shifting back to coaching, Riverboat Ron is turning this team around. Statistically speaking, the WFT had the 2nd best defense in the league and defensive end Chase Young won defensive ROTY. Rivera’s defense allowed the 3rd fewest 1st downs (289) and 6th in 3rd down efficiency (37.5).
As for the offense, they ranked 30th in the league and finished 28th in rushing yards per attempt (4.03). They started three quarterbacks: Alex Smith & Dwyane Haskins (six games) and Kyle Allen (four games). Combined, they had 16 passing touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This offseason, they re-signed quarterback Taylor Heinicke and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick will likely serve as the bridge quarterback to either Heinicke or Allen since they did not draft one this year. Their run game with running back Antonio Gibson was a bright spot on this offense. He had 795 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, which was tied for 7th in 2020.
The question mark for me is their offensive line. They allowed 50 sacks, which was tied for the 2nd most in the NFL. Signing left tackle Charles Leno Jr. after the Bears released him and drafting tackle Samuel Cosmi of Texas in the 2nd round were ways to shore up the line. The question is can FitzMagic finds its way into the nation’s capital?
- Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys
Despite last season, McCarthy is atop this list mainly for his time with the Packers. He has a 17-26 in his last three seasons as a head coach. In his first season as the Cowboys head coach, he lost his franchise quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 5 at home versus the Giants to a dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle. Throw in a slew of other injuries and it was a down year in Big D. I almost forgot: the defense was bad…I mean bad.
The Cowboys allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and finished 31st in the league in run defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan switched the scheme from the 4-3 to a hybrid. Needless to say, Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was let go after the last season. They made a run towards the end of last season as the defense had 12 takeaways in the last four games after getting just 11 in the first 12. Last year, Dan Quinn was fired by the Falcons after Week 5, he was hired as the Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator in the offseason. He was the defensive coordinator in Seattle as they had the No. 1 defense in 2013.
If McCarthy and the Cowboys expect to compete in this division and be a possible Super Bowl contender, Quinn has to turn this defense around this year. The last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl, Michael Jordan came out of retirement. If the Cowboys make it back to the Super Bowl, will HOF wide receiver Michael Irvin come out of retirement?