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New NFL Head Coach Fantasy Breakdown: Can Jim Harbaugh Unlock Justin Herbert?

Dr. Roto gives his take on the real-life and fantasy football implications of this offseason’s new head coach hirings.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: Newly appointed head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Los Angeles Chargers speaks to the media during a press conference at YouTube Theater on February 01, 2024 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The 2024 NFL head coaching carousel has officially ended. While it was surprising that great coaches like Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel did not find jobs, there are seven teams that found new men to lead their franchises. Interestingly enough, two of the perceived top candidates (Ben Johnson and Bobby Slowik) decided to remain with the Lions and Texans, respectively, to build on this past year’s success. I respect that and feel that both Detroit and Houston have excellent chances to be two of the top offenses in football next season.

Let’s take a closer look here at some of the newest hires and see how they will affect their teams in both fantasy football and reality.

Los Angeles Chargers: Jim Harbaugh

If there was one coach to get this offseason, it was Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has succeeded at every stop in his career, including winning a national championship with the University of Michigan this past season. He’s going to bring toughness and discipline to a Chargers team that has lacked that over the past few seasons. The Chargers have a lot of terrific players, including Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. They feel like they’re very close to making an impact in the playoffs. If I were going to bet on a team to make the AFC Championship Game at good odds right now, I think the Chargers are a smart bet.

Grade: A

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Seattle Seahawks: Mike MacDonald

I really love the hiring of MacDonald. You always learn so much from current players as they know the coaches better than anyone. Both Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith spoke very highly of MacDonald. Not only did they talk about how great a coach he is, but they also talked about how great a person he is. That speaks volumes to me about what he’s going to be able to do in Seattle. Seattle is in a very tough division where they must go up against two of the best offensive minds in the league in Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay four times during the season. MacDonald showed that he was able to make Baltimore’s defense elite, and I expect that he will make Seattle’s defense elite as well.

Grade: A

Washington Commanders: Dan Quinn

If you asked me about hiring Dan Quinn in late November, I would have told you that this was a terrific hire. However, after watching Dallas’s defense look horrible against Green Bay in the playoffs, it makes me wonder if Quinn is the right choice. It certainly feels like Washington was hoping to hire Ben Johnson, and when he decided to stay with the Lions, they had to regroup quickly and go to the next guy on their list. Quinn is a player’s coach who had success in Atlanta and he knows the Cowboys intimately after coaching there for years, but this doesn’t feel like an inspiring hire.

Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons: Raheem Morris

A lot of people, including myself, thought that Atlanta would hire Bill Belichick to be their next head coach, but Atlanta chose to go in a different direction. My guess is that they thought that Belichick only has another two or three years left in him, and by hiring Raheem Morris, they have a coach who’s capable of leading them for the next decade. Morris struggled in his first go-round as head coach, but sometimes we need to fail before we can succeed. He has the respect of all of his players and fellow coaches and I think his hiring of Zac Robinson as offensive coordinator will help a lot.  Morris will find a way to take this young talented team and make them a division winner next season.

Grade: B+

Carolina Panthers: Dave Canales

I honestly think that Frank Reich was the worst hire of last season. Canales has been a magician with quarterbacks in his last two stops. He made Geno Smith better two years ago, and he certainly made Baker Mayfield better last season. He’s a young, innovative offensive mind who will give Bryce Young the best chance to be successful. What they’re going to need to do, though, is have better skill players around Young and work on their offensive line, because the first overall pick had no time to throw. Canales is going to need time to overhaul the roster. If David Tepper can be patient here, it could pay off in the end.

Grade: B (could go to an A in three years)

Las Vegas Raiders: Antonio Pierce

I am ecstatic about this hire for the Raiders, but less so for fantasy football managers. If you watched any of the Raiders games at the end of the last season, they played very tough defense, but they ran the ball excessively. I think that’s going to be the offense that Pierce wants to employ so they can minimize mistakes and maximize toughness. What this does is potentially renders players like Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers as lesser fantasy threats, which could be a major issue.

Grade: B+ in reality; B- for fantasy

Tennessee Titans: Brian Callahan

Tennessee has struggled to be inventive on offense for years. With a new quarterback in Will Levis and with Derrick Henry likely leaving, bringing in Callahan makes a lot of sense, as he is an offensive innovator who has worked wonders with Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. I would expect Tennessee to draft another running back to complement Tyjae Spears, and they will draft another receiver to complement DeAndre Hopkins. If they can do that, Callahan will be able to coach them up, and the Titans will have a young, exciting offense to watch.

Grade: B