Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden during rookie minicamp at the Raiders practice facility.

USA Today Sports Images

Silverman: Gruden, Patricia May Face Most Pressure Among First-Year Coaches

Steve Silverman
June 19, 2018 - 9:18 am

As the 2017 NFL season came to an end, Black Monday meant that seven NFL head coaches received their walking papers.

There’s nothing new about this concept, because NFL teams have just 16 opportunities to prove themselves all season. When teams fail to meet expectations, management is often anxious about making changes in the hope that it will bring about a reversal of fortune.

Sometimes those changes are warranted and well thought out, and other times they are wrong-headed and lead to even greater failure.

Jon Gruden is the leader of this year’s class, and he earned his bones in earlier stints with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gruden led the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory over his former team, and now he is back with the Raiders after a long run in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth.

As a result of his stature and fame, there is more pressure on Gruden than any of the other six new head coaches.

Gruden was given a 10-year, $100-million contract, and it will be up to Gruden to deliver a playoff team. While the play of the defense may be somewhat questionable, the offense led by Derek Carr has a chance to be dynamic. Gruden, one of the best offensive minds in the game, should give the Raiders one of the top-four offenses in the game.

If he doesn’t, Gruden may wish he never left the booth.

Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

The longtime defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots is finally getting his chance to lead his own team.

He is certain to take on many of Bill Belichick’s characteristics, and this appears to be a perfect marriage. Matthew Stafford is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and the Lions have shown the ability to move up and down the field with ease.

However, their defense has often lacked the singleness of purpose and the overall efficiency of a championship team. Patricia was with the Patriots for 14 years and he was a part of three Super Bowl teams.

He will never accept the mediocrity that the Lions have been known for since their last title in 1957.

Pat Shurmur, New York Giants

The Minnesota Vikings had one of the most efficient and explosive offenses in the league in 2017, and they won the NFC North.

One of the primary reasons for that was Shurmur’s ability to deliver a brilliant season from journeyman Case Keenum. The Giants saw how consistent the Vikings were, and they decided to bring Shurmur in as head coach with the idea that he will get wideout Odell Beckham Jr. back on-track, and breathe life into an offense with Eli Manning at the helm.

Shurmur had a 9-23 record in two years as head coach with the Cleveland Browns, and now he gets his chance to lead a far more dangerous offense that will include a star rookie running back in Saquon Barkley.

Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

In many ways, Nagy has a chance to have more success than any other first-year head coach this season.

That’s because the Bears are coming from such a brutal place with four consecutive double-digit loss seasons.  Wins have been scarce for a team that has not been the Monsters of the Midway for many years. If Nagy can provide the hint of respectability by getting close to the .500 mark, he has a chance to become incredibly popular.

Nagy comes to Chicago with the reputation of an offensive innovator, and early reports out of OTA’s is that his players are enthused by his creativity and willingness to make football enjoyable for them.

No matter what kind of gameplan Nagy comes up with, the key for Chicago is the play of second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who must start to display consistency and big-play ability.

Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

Reich may have less talent to work with than any head coach in the league. That should give him a free pass in his first year, but the return of a healthy Andrew Luck could change that.

Luck has finally started to throw the ball in his offseason work, but that does not me he will be under center when the Colts start their season. If he plays and the offensive line can protect him, Reich is creative enough to build some decent offensive sets. If not, the Colts may have a hard time winning more than three games.

Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals

Wilks earned his position as a head coach because he had an excellent track record as a defensive coordinator with the hard-hitting Carolina Panthers.

However, his success in his first head-coaching season will likely be determined by the play of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Deemed the quarterback most ready to play during draft season, Rosen must come out firing and impress offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. He either has to beat out Sam Bradford or wait for him to get injured.

One of those two scenarios will happen, and if Rosen is not intimidated, Wilks will make a name for himself.

Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

There’s nearly as much pressure on Vrabel as there is on Gruden. The Titans were a playoff team last year and pulled out a postseason road victory over the Chiefs before succumbing to the Patriots. Vrabel must institute discipline and confidence to this team, because the Titans lacked consistency in big games.

Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur has to get the most out of Marcus Mariota, and his ability in that area will play a key role in determining whether Vrabel will be a success or not.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy