Meet the 5 (Young) Rookie Coaches of the NFL
The NFL is a league known for rapid turnover in coaching ranks. Most teams want results quickly when it comes to making the playoffs and having a shot at the Super Bowl. It should come as no surprise then that there are five teams trying out rookie head coaches this season, each with their own set of expectations as to what constitutes a successful season.
Aside from them all being new to the top sideline job, the thing they have in common is that they’re all relatively young by coaching standards: all are under 50, and two of them are younger than some of the players they’re leading. Whether this focus on youth and knowledge instead of experience pans out remains to be seen, but it should at least prove interesting for the teams taking on the experiments.
Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are in the midst of a weird transition period. Their player roster remains relatively unchanged, but their venue, hometown and leader have all changed. Anthony Lynn got his start as a player for the divisional rival Denver Broncos, and he made his bones as an assistant coach their as well. At 48 he is the oldest rookie head coach on this list, and has had success over the past few seasons as the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator. But the Bills’ loss is the Chargers’ gain as Lynn’s confident style and ability to gain the trust of his players quickly should help this perennial also-ran team compete in what appears to be the toughest division in the league.
Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams
The other team returning to the City of Angels is also trying out a new boss. But Sean McVay is at the other end of the age spectrum: at age 31 he is not only the youngest player on this list but the youngest head coach in the history of the league. Don’t mistake youth for lack of know-how, however, as he has been an assistant coach since 2008, first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then with Washington following a brief stint in the United Football League (UFL). Under his tutelage, Kirk Cousins became a solid quarterback and Washington experienced success on offense. With veteran head coach Wade Phillips at the defensive helm able to mentor McVay, this may be among the shrewdest hires on the list.
Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan boasts a pedigree which goes beyond just his assistant coaching experience. He is the son and protege of legendary coach Mike Shanahan, and has served under other big names like Jon Gruden and Gary Kubiak. At 37, he is also younger than a few of his players but has a proven track record of getting the best out of his offense. He is in for an uphill battle in San francisco, however, as the team is among the lowest ranked going into the 2017 season. Expectations are a bit lower here than for other coaches, but make no mistake, getting this once-proud organization back into the winning column is a must for Shanahan if he wants to shake the nepotism label once and for all.
Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are an organization whose name has become synonymous with mediocrity. Having let Anthony Lynn go after he interimed for a week last season, they looked south and grabbed up McDermott, whose last posting as the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinated helped them get to the Super Bowl. Although they lost that game to the Denver Broncos and their vaunted defense, McDermott’s defensive mind escaped most of the blame. Buffalo has the lowest standards of any in this group, hoping mostly that the 44-year-old McDermott is able to provide stability to an organization which has been anything but stable in recent seasons.
Vance Joseph – Denver Broncos
Vance Joseph has somehow simultaneously gotten the hardest and easiest posting of all of the new coaches. Expectations are high in Denver, just two years removed from back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, having won the second one. By all accounts, he is poised to simply ride the train and keep it from derailing. But anything less than getting deep into the playoffs will be deemed a failure here. Joseph is a defensive-minded guy and the Broncos already boast one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the league, which makes this hire a bit of a head-scratcher. However, he has a knack for getting both players and the front office behind him, evidenced when past scandals surfaced and the team rallied to defend him. At 44, he has more experience as an assistant both at the collegiate and the professional levels than most of the others on this list, which bolsters his odds of being the most likely to succeed of this group.