Bradley’s Buzz: The NFL’s youth movement, coaching-wise, continues apace

New Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald (speaking at his introductory press conference Thursday) is a graduate of Centennial High in Roswell and began his coaching career at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

New Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald (speaking at his introductory press conference Thursday) is a graduate of Centennial High in Roswell and began his coaching career at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Seven NFL teams have new head coaches – eight if you count the Raiders, who deleted the “interim” from Antonio Pierce’s job description. Six of the eight aren’t yet 50. Three haven’t hit 40. Take away Jim Harbaugh, who’s 60, and the average age of these hires is 42.

Harbaugh, who wasn’t out of a job, landed a new one. Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel, who have winning records as NFL coaches, found no team willing to hire them. The last HC hired was Dan Quinn, who might have remained defensive coordinator in Dallas had Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who’s 37, not removed himself from consideration.

Mike Macdonald of Roswell did his first coaching at Athens’ Cedar Shoals High while studying finance at UGA. Mark Richt hired him as a grad assistant. Macdonald has since been defensive coordinator for both Harbaughs. At 36, he’s the Seahawks’ head coach. The man he replaces – Pete Carroll – is twice his age.

The Titans hired Brian Callahan, who’s 39. He was Zac Taylor’s offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. The Panthers hired Dave Canales, who’s 42 and who was OC for one season in Tampa Bay; 15 years ago, he was assistant strength coach at USC. The Patriots replaced Belichick, 71, with Jerod Mayo, 37.

If the past month had a theme, it was that age – or, more precisely, the lack thereof – matters. Hiring Belichick would have been a splash move; it would also have left an organization facing another search two/three years hence. Who wants that, especially when fresher faces are winning big?

The Rams hired Sean McVay, Marist grad, as head coach at 30. He has taken them to two Super Bowls, winning one. The 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan at 37. He has taken them to two Super Bowls. French cinema had its Nouvelle Vague – “new wave” – of Truffaut and Godard. The NFL has McVay and Shahanan.

The Packers hired Matt LaFleur, who apprenticed under both, at 39. Green Bay has made the playoffs four times in five years. The Bengals hired Taylor, a McVay acolyte, at 37. Cincinnati has reached two AFC championship games and a Super Bowl. The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, a Shanahan disciple, at 38. Miami has made the playoffs two years running.

The Falcons were bent on hiring someone who’d been an NFL head coach, something they hadn’t done over 21 years of Arthur Blank’s stewardship. They hired Raheem Morris, who’s 47 – but he was 32 when he was named Tampa Bay’s HC. In the years since, he worked as McVay’s DC in L.A. and receivers coach when Shanahan was OC and Quinn HC in Flowery Branch.

Quinn is 53, second-oldest among these HC hires. This marked the third year running he’d interviewed for jobs. That he stayed in Dallas as DC led many to speculate that he was Jerry Jones’ unofficial coach-in-waiting, but Mike McCarthy remains in place. (To be fair, the Cowboys are 36-15 over the past three years.)

That Seattle interviewed Quinn but chose Macdonald tells us something. Quinn was Carroll’s defensive coordinator when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Maybe the sight of LaFleur’s Packers stacking 48 points on DQ’s defenders in the wild card round gave the Seattle folks pause. Or maybe they said, “Let’s try a younger guy. Everybody else is doing it..”

Not that Washington D.C. is a bad place to land. The Commanders hold the draft’s No. 2 pick. They’re under new ownership. (They also play the Cowboys twice a year, which should be fun.) There was a time when Quinn seemed the league’s next great coach, and even his lowest moment – you know the one – came on a Sunday when his team trailed only after the final play of overtime.

The remainder of his Falcons tenure saw diminishing returns, but how many available coaches led even one team to a Super Bowl? (In this window, three: Belichick, Harbaugh, Quinn.) It will be fascinating to see how DQ fares in D.C., where the NFL is the biggest game in town.

The NFL’s biggest game is a week away. Shanahan’s 49ers are in it. This marks the fifth Super Bowl in six years that will feature someone hired as head coach before his 40th birthday. (The Rams-Bengals convocation featured two.) And here’s where us old folks say, “Thank goodness for Andy Reid.”

But wait! Know how old Reid was when the Eagles made him an NFL head coach? Forty. So maybe this go-with-youth thing is, shall we say, old hat.

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