Grading First-Year Head Coaches From The 2020 NFL Season

Grading First-Year Head Coaches From The 2020 NFL Season
Credit: Sports Illustrated

In the NFL and for every sport, head coaches every offseason are let go, and new head coaches are brought to replace those fired every year. Here are the five first-year head coaches in the NFL and how they did.

Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

Grade: A+ 

Kevin Stefanski was in a class of his own throughout this season. Stefanski completely revamped the coaching staff and took a 6-10 Browns team and entirely made a 180. The Browns finished the season 11-5, punching themselves a playoff ticket for the first time since 2002. Many people coming into this season wondered if Baker Mayfield was the answer at quarterback due to his low level of play in 2019. Stefanski completely changed Mayfield into the quarterback everybody expected him to be coming out of the 2018 draft.

During this season, the Browns had the best offensive line and arguably two top 15 running backs. That duo containing Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is arguably the best one-two punch in the entire league. Coach Stefanski walks out of this season with the Coach Of The Year Award. It is safe to say that the Cleveland Browns have found their coach for the future. 

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

Grade: C

Matt Rhule, first-year head coach coming from Baylor, didn’t have quite the best year out of the group of first-year head coaches. Finishing the season with a 5-11 record, the Panthers are among the few teams whose records don’t tell the whole story. The Panthers lost an astounding eight games on final drives over this past season. Although the Panthers didn’t win as many games as they would’ve liked, Rhule did have some bright spots.

Carolina’s defense made the most notable change compared to last season, and only drafting defensive players in the draft might have been a reason for that. The Panthers allowed 29.4 points a game last season, which was the second-highest in the league compared to this year, whereas they only allowed 25 points per game, dropping to 15th in the league. Matt Rhule’s Panthers showed fight and good things to come.

Joe Judge, New York Giants

Grade: B

In his first year of coaching for the New York Giants, Joe Judge did something the past two coaches could not do. Despite a 1-5 start to the season and star player and young running back Saquon Barkley having a season-ending injury in week two, Judge managed to keep everybody with him in the locker room. Judge had his entire 53 man roster fighting week in and week out up until the clock hit zero in their week 17 game against Dallas.

Starting from his first press conference up until his last game, Judge showed that he was about character and giving it your all every time you touched the field. Although Judge was an unknown hire when first receiving the job, he is well known throughout the league. Although finishing the season 6-10, Judge showed significant signs of being a head coach long term. 

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys 

Grade: C- 

After sitting out a year after parting ways with Green Bay, Mike McCarthy as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys arguably were hit the worst when it came to the injury bug. Dallas lost star quarterback Dak Prescott and star tackles Tyron Smith and La’eL Collins early on. McCarthy was questioned by many throughout the season due to bad game management and bad game calls. He seemed to be entirely too aggressive and too passive at the wrong times.

In week 17 versus the Giants, McCarthy decided not to challenge the call on a catch by Dante Pettis. That ended up putting the Giants in field goal range, extending the lead causing them to lose. McCarthy was too aggressive during the Thanksgiving game against the Football Team, making a poor call. For instance, McCarthy called a fake punt run by their punter on fourth and ten on their 24-yard line. 

Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team

Grade: A- 

Ron Rivera is the epitome of the word grit from what he showed over this season. Ron Rivera, throughout the season, was going through cancer and still managing to coach every game. On top of dealing with cancer, Rivera had to go through four quarterback changes.

Despite a 2-7 start, Washington still found themselves right in the division toward the end of the season. Rivera and the Football Team ended up finishing with a 7-9 record winning the NFC East. Rivera took Tom Brady and the now Superbowl winning Buccaneers down to the wire in the first round of the playoffs. That was with a fourth-string quarterback in Taylor Heinicke. Ron Rivera showed he still has time and is a great head coach for Washington.



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