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Analysis: Rookie coaches need more time for job evaluations

Rookie head coaches usually inherit losing teams and are tasked with quickly building a winning culture in the NFL.

If they don’t get it done fast enough, it’s onto the next coach.

There’s no patience in sports, but judging guys before the midpoint of their first season is unfair.

Only one of the NFL’s seven first-year coaches has a winning record. Brandon Staley is off to a 4-2 start with the Los Angeles Chargers. It helps that he took over a team that finished 7-9 last year and already had a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert.

Arthur Smith is 3-3 with the Atlanta Falcons, including three wins in the last four games. He has Matt Ryan, who looks like his old self after a rough start.

The five other rookie coaches are 5-28 combined. If owners listened to media and fans, some of these guys wouldn’t last through their first season.

Some people called for Urban Meyer to lose his job before he even stepped on a sideline with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was criticized for hiring former Iowa assistant coach Chris Doyle and giving Tim Tebow an opportunity to resume his football career at a new position. Doyle resigned and Tebow was cut.

Meyer needed six tries to get his first win. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering the Jaguars (1-5) won only one game last season and had one winning season in the previous 13 years.

Meyer has Trevor Lawrence and little more. It’s doubtful he’ll ever match the success he had in college and he may not pan out in the pros, but Meyer deserves time to get things right — assuming he wants to stay in Jacksonville.

Dan Campbell was ripped right after his introductory news conference in Detroit. The former NFL tight end avoided coach-speak — “we’re going to bite a kneecap off” — in an emotionally charged virtual session that left critics debating his ability to lead the team.

Winning over the locker room is easier than winning games. The Lions are 0-7, though two losses came on long field goals as time expired, including Justin Tucker’s record-setting 66-yarder.

The Lions have had 13 double-digit loss seasons since 2001 and only one playoff victory since winning the NFL title in 1957. That track record of futility isn’t Campbell’s fault.

No one expected much from David Culley in Houston. The Texans (1-6) rebuild really starts when Deshaun Watson is traded.

Hope for Jets fans under Robert Saleh and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has turned into more frustration. New York is 1-5, Wilson is injured and the team appears certain to miss the playoffs for the 11th straight season, the NFL’s longest active drought. But they’re smart enough to be patient with Saleh in the Big Apple.

No coach has faced the fire so far quite like Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni. He takes even more heat for his wordy responses to questions than he does for his questionable playcalling.

They wanted him out after his first news conference when he seemed nervous and rambled. They blasted him when he talked about playing rock-paper-scissors with prospects before the draft. The condemnation reached Kotitian levels — nobody in Philly was criticized more than former Eagles coach Rich Kotite — this week when Sirianni told reporters he used a flower analogy in a message to his 2-5 team.

“The results aren’t there right now, but what’s going on here is that there’s growth under the soil,” Sirianni said. “I put a picture of a flower up, and it’s coming through the ground, and the roots are growing out. The roots are continuing to grow out. Everybody wants to see results. Shoot, nobody wants to see results more than us, right? We want to see results, too. But it’s really important that the foundation is being built and that the roots are growing out.

“And the only way the roots grow out every single day and they grow stronger and they grow better is if we all water, we all fertilize, we all do our part, each individual, each individual coach, each individual player, everybody in the building, that we do our part to water to make sure that, when it does pop out, it really pops out and it grows.”

If Staley made that comparison in Los Angeles, he would’ve been lauded for his insightful perspective. But that doesn’t work in fickle Philly. Not unless Sirianni wins. It won’t be easy with a roster bereft of talent due to several poor drafts over the past decade.

Sirianni may ultimately pay the price for the front office’s failures, but neither he nor any of the rookie coaches can be fairly evaluated after six or seven games.


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at and his work can be found at


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