The coordinators for the Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia Eagles both landed first-time head coaching gigs 48 hours after their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon replaced Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona on Tuesday and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was hired in Indianapolis, succeeding interim head coach Jeff Saturday.
That completes this year’s protracted hiring cycle that featured just five openings.
First-timer DeMeco Ryans was hired by the Houston Texans and Sean Payton (Denver) and Frank Reich (Carolina) both were hired for their second head coaching jobs. Payton had stepped down in New Orleans a year ago before spending last season in the broadcast booth and Reich was fired by the Colts in October when their season started to unravel.
Payton succeeds Nathaniel Hackett, who became just the fifth head coach in NFL history not to make it through his first NFL season when he was fired in December. Hackett landed in New York as the Jets’ offensive coordinator.
Hackett’s college buddy, Ejiro Evero, who did a stellar job as Denver’s defensive coordinator, interviewed for all five head coach openings. When he didn’t land any of them, he sought out of his contract with the Broncos so he could start fresh as the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator.
Left out again was Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who has now been interviewed 16 times by 15 teams over the last five hiring cycles.
Bieniemy won his second ring with Andy Reid on Sunday when Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 38-35 come-from-behind victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl 57.
Bieniemy has been instrumental in the Chiefs’ success but he’s also been overshadowed by Reid, a master play designer and play caller who is among the most successful head coaches in league history.
Reid has long hoped for Bieniemy to get his shot as a head coach, saying recently, “Eric Bieniemy has been tremendous for us and I think tremendous for the National Football League. I’m hoping he has an opportunity to go somewhere and do his thing where he can run the show and be Eric Bieniemy.”
Bieniemy, who was among more than a dozen candidates for the Colts’ head coaching job, might need to get out of Reid’s shadow and gain full control of an offense to change his chronic runner-up status.
The Washington Commanders have requested permission to speak with him about their vacant offensive coordinator job.
Saturday was a stunning midseason hire as interim head coach in Indianapolis because he had no coaching experience at any level. He was considered for the permanent position, but the Colts decided to make Steichen the league’s third 37-year-old head coach instead.
“We felt Shane had a lot of that offensive magic that can be hard to find, knowing we’re going to have a young quarterback to develop,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “He had a presence and boy did it come through. Also his mind, thinking multiple things at once, disseminating those things quickly, I think he has a special mind for football.”
Steichen’s resume includes working with Philip Rivers and helping to mentor Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts.
“Right now, I’m a little emotional because this is a big day for me and my family,” Steichen said. “We want to get a lot of things done here and we’ve got to grind it every single day.”
The Colts have had almost as much instability at head coach and under center as have the Broncos, who have had a different starting quarterback every opener since 2016 and are on their fifth head coach since winning Super Bowl 50 seven years ago.
The Colts now have their fourth head coach since 2017 and are likely to have a new starting QB for the seventh straight season as most draft analysts expect them to select a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
“He (Ballard) likes picks, although the Alabama guy doesn’t look bad,” Irsay said, referring to Bryce Young.
Steichen takes over a team that went 4-12-1 and used three starting quarterbacks, two play-callers and two head coaches last year.
“I’m a gut-feeling guy especially on game day as a play-caller,” Steichen said. “We’re going to be aggressive, but my philosophy on offense is we’re going to throw to score points and run to win. That may look different from week to week; flow is going to dictate that.”
Gannon, 40, takes over an Arizona team that went 4-13.
His smothering defenses piled up sacks the last two seasons but his resume took a bit of a hit in the Super Bowl when the Eagles coughed up a double-digit halftime lead and couldn’t stop a limping Mahomes from leading the Chiefs to scores on all four of their second-half drives.
That didn’t faze Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill, who is trying to find a leader who can help the franchise win its first NFL championship since 1947. Helping in that cause is the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Unlike Steichen, Gannon doesn’t need a quarterback even though Kyler Murray is expected to miss the start of next season as he recovers from a torn right ACL.
Gannon inherits a defense spearheaded by Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker and young linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. Arizona also is potentially looking at a roster overhaul with roughly 30 unrestricted free agents and the retirement of three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt.
With the head coaching positions all filled, the league turns its attention to the annual quarterback carousel – Derek Carr hit the open market Tuesday with his release from the Las Vegas Raiders – and several teams are looking for a replacement or an upgrade at the position,
Tom Brady called it a career last month, insisting he means it this time. Jimmy Garoppolo won’t be back in San Francisco and there’s always speculation about Aaron Rodgers moving on from Green Bay. And there’s Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Kentucky’s Will Levis leading a deep class of college QBs.
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