Stability is a common theme among the NFL's most successful franchises. It seems simple on paper. Hire a good head coach, surround him with the necessary talent and avoid major turnover at the top. Unfortunately, not every franchise can implement this strategy and enjoy an extended run of excellence such as the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have done. That's why every new head coaching hire is so important. It is the team's hope that this next guy is the guy to lead them for the long-term.
So which teams made the best offseason coaching hires?
1. Chicago Bears: John Fox
I don't think any pairing will fit as well as this one (at least, until Dan Quinn is in Atlanta). Despite all of the criticism aimed at quarterback Jay Cutler, it is Chicago's defense that is the true weak spot of the team. Fox will be sure to improve that side of the ball in his first year with the Bears. The Denver Broncos finished in the top three in yards allowed in two of the last three seasons with Fox at the helm. Of course, Chicago will need an infusion of talent before any significant progress is made.
Also helping Fox is the cadre of qualified coaches he is bringing along with him. Vic Fangio spent the last few years in San Francisco crafting a dangerous defense while Adam Gase worked with Peyton Manning to create an offensive juggernaut in Denver. For a team that isn't on the cusp of contending, I don't think anyone made better personnel decisions than the Bears this offseason.
2. Denver Broncos: Gary Kubiak
At first glance, the move to oust Fox and hire Kubiak didn't make much sense. Why replace a coach for failing in the postseason with another coach whose career playoff record is just 2-2? But the more I think about it, the more I think this move was made with an eye towards the future. One thing Kubiak has always done well is squeeze production out of quarterbacks who aren't necessarily top tier. He enjoyed three winning seasons with Matt Schaub as his starter in Houston and also guided Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense to a playoff berth this past year as offensive coordinator. Denver knows that Manning is on the fence regarding his NFL future, so perhaps Kubiak's hiring was an acknowledgement of the future for the Broncos.
Additionally, Kubiak's familiarity and comfort with Broncos GM John Elway is a good base for a working relationship. The only thing that remains to be seen is if he will be held to the same Super Bowl or bust standards as his predecessor.
3. Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn (Pending)
Quinn is not permitted by league rules to officially agree to a deal with the Falcons until after the Super Bowl. But at this point, it is almost assured that he will be Atlanta's next head coach. I wrote about why Quinn is such a good fit for the Falcons before. Atlanta, like Chicago, is in desperate need of defensive upgrades. Luckily, the Seahawks have finished with the league's top-ranked defense in the two years Quinn has been their coordinator.
Quinn's major struggle will be finding quality coordinators to join him so late in the offseason. Regardless, his football mind has been lauded by NFL people across the league, and the Falcons will be lucky to have him righting the ship.