Fantasy Football Strategy - Coaching Carousel 2011
By Bob Harris, Footballdiehards.com
Round and round and round she goes, where she stops. ...Well, we now know exactly where this year’s coaching carousel stopped. In terms of head coaching changes we saw six newcomers brought on board and pair of interim coaches lose the interim portion of their titles. You’ll find all those changes outlined below -- along with the key assistants joining the new head men.
With that out of the way, let’s get busy. ...
The Panthers made Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera the fourth head coach in franchise history on Jan. 11. The two sides reportedly agreed on a four-year, $11 million contract.
Rivera directed the NFL's top-ranked defense last season in San Diego. He has interviewed for eight head-coaching jobs over the past five years, including six after the 2006 season, when he was defensive coordinator of the Bears in the Super Bowl.
Each of the Panthers' three previous head coaches were former defensive coordinators: Dom Capers, George Seifert and John Fox.
A second-round draft choice by Chicago in 1984, Rivera spent his nine-year playing career with the Bears including having played for the Super Bowl-winning team in 1985. He had his only career touchdown that season when he returned a fumble for a score.
He developed into a starting linebacker and served on the Bears' broadcast team for a Chicago TV station before going into coaching in 1997.
In introducing him, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said Rivera's stint as a former NFL player gave the two men a common bond.
Rivera's 14-year coaching career includes stops in Philadelphia, Chicago and San Diego. As the Bears' coordinator in 2004-06, his defenses ranked among the top 5 in the NFL.
He was San Diego's inside linebackers coach before Chargers coach Norv Turner fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell midway through the 2008 season and promoted Rivera. In Rivera's first full season running San Diego's 3-4 defense in 2009, the Chargers finished 16th in the league in total defense and 11th against the pass.
The Chargers were first in the NFL last season in total defense (271.6 yards allowed a game) and pass defense (177.8 yards) and ranked 10th in points allowed at 20.1 per game.
Asked about his defensive philosophy, Rivera said: "We want to be an attacking, aggressive style of defense. ... We are a 4-3 defense, the personnel is set up for that."
Though the Panthers' focus has been on defensive coordinators, Richardson said officials would have a stronger voice in the direction of the offense than with previous hires. The Panthers had the NFL's worst offense this season, finishing with franchise lows in nearly every major category.
Asked specifically about the offense, Rivera said he was looking for balance, aggression and innovation -- "We want to be able to adapt our offense to who we're playing."
That being the case, Rivera's choice of assistants -- especially offensive assistants -- was critical. The consensus is he did well.
Coordinators and key assistants: Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski; defensive coordinator Sean McDermott; special teams coordinator Brian Murphy
Chudzinski was Rivera's first choice for OC. The 42-year-old assistant has had a stint as coordinator with the Browns (2007-08, where he followed former Panthers OC Jeff Davidson). In 2007, Cleveland was eighth in the league in scoring, with QB Derek Anderson throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns (with 19 interceptions). Considered an innovator during his run with the Browns, Chudzinski will need to be that and more in order to get the most out of Carolina's passing attack. ... Also of interest: Mike Shula comes on board as QBs coach. Shula spent the past four seasons with the Jaguars in the same position. He will have the important job of helping mold No. 1 pick Cam Newton into the team's QB of the future. Rod Graves takes over for Richard Williamson as WRs coach. Graves spent four years with the Titans after stints with the Bills, Browns and Lions. Before jumping to the NFL, he spent 18 years as an assistant at the University of Utah. One of his pupils in Salt Lake City during that run was Panthers WR Steve Smith. It remains to be seen if Smith will remain in Carolina this season or not. John Settle takes over for the venerable Jim Skipper as the team's RBs coach. ... Fired in Philadelphia after only two years as the Eagles DC, McDermott will have the same title in Carolina although he'll be taking a step down in responsibility. Rivera has said he'll run the defense, so McDermott may not even be calling plays. But the two men are familiar with each other from the time they shared together under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia. Former Panthers DC Ron Meeks will stay in Carolina as secondary coach. ... Murphy replaces previous special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.
The Cleveland Browns hired St. Louis' offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on Jan. 13, ending a search for their fifth head coach since 1999 that began when Eric Mangini was fired on Jan. 3 after his second 5-11 season.
Shurmur was the first candidate interviewed by Browns president Mike Holmgren.
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers reminded readers, Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel and Mangini each failed in trying to build a consistent winner in Cleveland’s expansion era. Now, it’s Shurmur’s turn.
The 45-year-old, whose uncle, Fritz Shurmur, worked under Holmgren in Green Bay, will take over a team that has made just one playoff appearance in 13 years.
Although he promised a “wide” coaching search, Holmgren is only known to have met with Shurmur, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Interviews with potential candidates Jon Gruden and John Fox never got past an exploratory phone call.
Shurmur emerged as the front-runner almost immediately and no one caught him.
He has deep connections with Cleveland’s front office as he spent eight years working with Browns general manager Tom Heckert. Shurmur never worked directly with Holmgren, but he learned the West Coast offense under Andy Reid, one of Holmgren’s closest friends.
“I have the utmost respect for Coach Holmgren and Tom Heckert, and I am impressed with the direction in which they have this franchise going,” Shurmur said. “I have known Tom for most of my pro coaching career, and while we were in Philadelphia, he and I developed an outstanding relationship.
“I am looking forward to this challenge and can’t wait to get started in helping to build the Browns back to one of the elite teams in the NFL.”
When Holmgren began his first coaching search as an NFL executive, he promised head coaching experience would not be a requirement for Mangini’s successor. He kept his word.
“Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession,” Holmgren said. “I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record of success as an assistant coach in this league.
“Most importantly, I feel as though he possesses the necessary qualities which make him the right man to lead our football team.”
Shurmur has a knack for developing young quarterbacks, and the Browns have a promising one in Colt McCoy.
This season, Shurmur helped Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford live up to being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Bradford set rookie records for completions and attempts. He also led St. Louis to a 7-9 record—they were 1-15 a year earlier — while throwing for 3,512 yards.
Before joining the Rams, Shurmur spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia, eight of them working with Heckert. Shurmur coached the club’s tight ends and then their quarterbacks, turning a raw Donovan McNabb into one of the game’s best all-around quarterbacks.
One of Holmgren’s goals was to find a coach who could help groom McCoy, who showed great promise after being thrown into the starter’s role last season.
Coordinators and key assistants: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron; special teams coordinator Chris Tabor
With Shurmur serving as his own OC, Jauron is certain to have considerable autonomy. Formerly HC of the Bears and Bills, Jauron is jumping from Philly, where he was believed to be a candidate to run the team's defense, to Cleveland. The Browns are expected to shift from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front with Jauron replacing Rob Ryan. ... Tabor replaces Brad Seely as special teams coordinator. Worth noting: Seely was widely considered to be a major factor in the Browns special teams success in recent seasons. ... The team also added Mark Whipple as QBs coach and Mike Wilson as WRs coach. In his four seasons as an NFL assistant coach, Whipple has been a member of teams that have made three playoff appearances, claimed one division title and advanced to one Super Bowl, capturing Super Bowl XL.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones formally introduced Jason Garrett as the eighth head coach in franchise history on Jan. 6. The announcement that Garrett had the interim title removed came four days after the Cowboys completed one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
As Dallas Morning News staffer David Moore reminded readers, the Cowboys released head coach Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start and turned to Garrett on an interim basis. The players responded to his message and disciplined approach and rebounded with a 5-3 record. The Cowboys’ three losses under Garrett were by a combined total of seven points.
Garrett is the first person in franchise history to work his way up through the ranks. He has been a backup quarterback, an offensive coordinator and now head coach of the Cowboys.
The move comes as no surprise.
Garrett was the favorite to land this job when Jones turned to him in November. But Jones’ faith in Garrett's promise goes back even further when the Cowboys owner decided to install him as the team's offensive coordinator in 2007 before he hired Phillips as head coach.
That faith has now come full circle.
Coordinators and key assistants: Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan
Ryan, previously the Browns DC, agreed to run the Cowboys' defense. It may wind up being a nice fit for both sides. If nothing else, the Cowboys get continuity on defense. Ryan has experience running an attacking 3-4 defense and there is more talent in Dallas than he had in Cleveland. ... Also: Garrett, who will continue to serve as his own OC, is confident that new WRs coach Jimmy Robinson will prove to be a good influence on Dez Bryant. "He's a very experienced football coach, and he's coached a lot of different kinds of guys," Garrett said of Robinson, who spent the past five seasons with the Green Bay Packers working with the likes of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. "He's coached star players, he's coached role players. He's coached young guys, he's coached old guys. And they seem to respond to him. He's demanding. He's a very good technician." Robinson replaces Ray Sherman.
As the Associated Press reported it, "The Denver Broncos hired former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox on Jan. 13 to resurrect a downtrodden team."
Fox’s contract wasn’t renewed by the Panthers following an NFL-worst 2-14 season. He replaces Josh McDaniels, who was fired Dec. 6 amid the Broncos’ worst slide in four decades and the embarrassing Spygate II videotaping scandal.
The 55-year-old Fox went 78-74 including playoffs in nine seasons at Carolina. The Panthers were coming off a 1-15 season when he took over in 2002 and led them to a 7-9 mark in his first year before guiding them to the Super Bowl in his second season.
Denver is coming off a franchise-worst 4-12 season.
The team’s new executive vice president of football operations John Elway wrote on Twitter in announcing the hiring that Fox “is a dynamic and proven leader who will energize our entire organization.”
"I am very thankful to Pat Bowlen and John Elway for giving me the opportunity," Fox said, "to coach a football team with such a proud tradition. The Broncos have a culture of winning, and I am excited to continue that legacy."
Fox was selected after the Broncos had narrowed their finalists list to Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
"I can't wait to get to work, pushing our players to be the best they can be and representing this community as head coach of the Broncos," Fox said.
The team could certainly use a steady, experienced hand at the helm.
Indeed, as Denver Post staffer Mike Klis suggested, Fox's experience also could help balance the relative inexperience of Elway and general manager Brian Xanders at top executive positions.
Coordinators and key assistants: Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen; special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers
With Fox on board, it came as no surprise when the team retained OC Mike McCoy, who previously worked with Fox for seven seasons in Carolina. That move offers Fantasy owners a degree of continuity they might not otherwise have expected from the coaching change. And given Fox's conservative nature, it would seem to bode extremely well for a rushing attack that's likely to be led by somebody other than Knowshon Moreno, who doesn't seem to have what it takes to play a featured role. Eric Studesville returns to his role of RBs coach after being named interim HC for the final four games of last season. His experience will also be valuable in getting the ground game on track. ... Also worth noting, Adam Gase goes from coaching Denver's wide receivers to coaching the team's quarterbacks. Gase previously tutored Pro Bowlers Brandon Marshall in 2009 and Brandon Lloyd in 2010. ... Meanwhile, Fox will turn to Allen to fix the league's worst defense. Allen, who replaces Don Martindale, served as New Orleans' secondary coach the past five seasons. The Broncos originally offered the job to former Seattle and Atlanta HC Jim Mora, who turned them down. The Broncos also added DBs coach Ron Milus and LBs coach Richard Smith to their staff. Both position coaches worked with Fox in Carolina. Their veteran presence will benefit Allen, who has not been a coordinator before. ... Fox also hired Rodgers, who was his special teams coordinator with the Panthers last year, to fill that same role in Denver. Rodgers replaces Mike Priefer.
The Vikings announced Jan. 3 that they'd removed the interim tag from Leslie Frazier’s title. Frazier took over on Nov. 22 when Brad Childress was fired, and the Vikings went 3-3 under the 51-year-old after a 3-7 start.
The defensive coordinator under Childress and a former cornerback for the Bears, Frazier drew positive reviews from the players for his steady approach. They’ve pushed for him to get the job on a permanent basis, after many of them grew frustrated with Childress and his rigid style.
Frazier is the eighth coach in the franchise’s 50-year history.
“Our players and entire organization have great respect for Leslie,” owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement released by the team. “He has a vast knowledge of the game, both as a former player and as a coach, and he has a terrific way with those who play for him and work with him.”
As the Associated Press recounted it, already mired in a mess of a season that started with a Super Bowl-or-bust goal, the Vikings lost quarterback Brett Favre to a shoulder injury on Dec. 5. Then, the roof of their domed stadium collapsed a week later; they had back-to-back home games moved; and their scheduled Dec. 26 game at Philadelphia was pushed back two days by a snowstorm.
“He’s a great leader. He’s a player’s coach, and he’s somebody people would like playing for,” wide receiver Percy Harvin told the AP before the news became official.
Childress hired Frazier to run the defense in 2007 after Mike Tomlin left to become Pittsburgh’s coach and later appointed him assistant head coach. Frazier has interviewed for seven coaching vacancies over the past three years.
Frazier has been coaching in the NFL since 1999. He’s been an assistant with Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The native of Columbus, Mo. played at Alcorn State and broke in with the Bears in 1981.
Coordinators and key assistants: Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave; defensive coordinator Fred Pagac; special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
Frazier hired Musgrave to replace Darrell Bevell at offensive coordinator. Musgrave, a former NFL QB, has experience both in the West Coast system and as an offensive coordinator. He served in that role with the Philadelphia Eagles (1998), Carolina Panthers (2000), University of Virginia (2001-02) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-04). He has served as Falcons QBs coach since 2006 and helped develop QB Matt Ryan. The Minneapolis Star Tribune suggests his background working with QBs was probably appealing to Frazier. The Vikings subsequently drafted Christian Ponder, who could be forced into the starting lineup this season. Craig Johnson replaces Kevin Rogers as QBs coach. James Saxon replaces Eric Bieniemy as RBs coach. Saxon has spent the past three seasons with the Dolphins and seven years before that with the Chiefs. He also played in the NFL with the Chiefs, Dolphins and Eagles over eight seasons. Former Panthers OC Jeff Davidson joins the staff as offensive line coach. ... Frazier will have much more familiarity with the defensive staff, where most of the group from last season remains intact, including Pagac as DC. The one notable addition is Hall of Famer Mike Singletary, who will coach LBs and serve as a special assistant to Frazier. Singletary and Frazier have been close friends for more than two decades, dating to their playing days with the Chicago Bears. ... Priefer replaces Brian Murphy as the team's special teams coordinator.
The Raiders announced Hue Jackson as their new head coach on Jan. 17. Owner Al Davis spoke about the 45-year-old Jackson: “The fire in Hue will set a flame that will burn for a long time in the hearts and minds of the Raider football team and the Raider Nation.”
Jackson has 25 years of coaching experience in college and professional football and has been an offensive coordinator at both levels. He replaces Tom Cable, who was let go after the season when the team didn't pick up the final two years of his option.
Jackson was brought in to fix the Raiders' offense last season. With Jackson calling the plays and Jason Campbell starting at quarterback for a majority of the season, the Raiders improved to 8-8. More importantly, led by a breakout season from running back Darren McFadden and big plays from rookie receiver Jacoby Ford, the Raiders finished sixth in the league in scoring with 410 points. That more than doubled the previous year’s scoring total and was the sixth-most points scored in a season in franchise history.
Under Jackson’s guidance, the Raiders also finished fifth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL in total offense (354.6 yards per game) and second in the NFL and AFC in rushing (155.9 yards per game).
Coordinators and key assistants: Offensive coordinator Al Saunders; defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan
In one of his first moves, Hue Jackson named long-time NFL assistant, Saunders, widely respected for his offensive prowess, as his OC -- although Jackson will continue to call the shots. ... Bresnahan, the Raiders DC when the team won three straight AFC Western Division titles and played in Super Bowl XXXVII, returns to that capacity, replacing John Marshall. Bresnahan coached Raiders defensive backs (1998-99), then became defensive coordinator for the team (2000-03). Under Bresnahan in 2002, when Oakland represented the AFC in the Super Bowl, the Raiders defense ranked among the league leaders in least points allowed per game, least rushing yards per attempt and fewest rushing yards allowed per game. ...The Raiders also hired Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson to coach their cornerbacks. Woodson ended his 17-year career with the Raiders, spending two seasons in Oakland. He lives in the Bay Area and had been working as an NFL Network analyst.
San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh agreed to a five-year deal to become head coach of the 49ers on Jan. 7. He decided to make the jump to the pros even though San Francisco has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and Orange Bowl MVP quarterback Andrew Luck decided to remain at Stanford for another season.
Harbaugh long admired the late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, one of his mentors, and how Walsh made the successful leap from Stanford to the 49ers.
Now, he must turn around a once-proud franchise that is desperate to become a contender again right away. The 49ers were picked to win the NFC West last season, then began 0-5 for their worst start since losing seven straight to begin a 2-14 season in 1979—Walsh’s first year as coach.
Niners team president and CEO Jed York said when Mike Singletary was fired that money would be no object in finding the team’s next coach. He promoted vice president of player personnel Trent Baalke to general manager, then they worked together to make their push for Harbaugh.
With a $25 million contract it's logical to believe Harbaugh will have major input on personnel decisions, despite Baalke's promotion.
The 47-year-old Harbaugh went 58-27 overall as a college coach and 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford. He took over a 1-11 team when he was hired in December 2006 and quickly turned the program back into a winner and bowl contender. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 the next, then improved to 8-5 and earned a Sun Bowl berth in 2009—the school’s first bowl appearance since 2001.
Harbaugh was the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach from 2002-03 before spending three seasons as head coach at the University of San Diego.
Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback whose brother, John Harbaugh, coaches the Ravens.
Jim Harbaugh, a college star at Michigan, played 15 seasons in the NFL for the Bears, Colts, Ravens, Chargers and Panthers. A first-round draft pick taken 26th overall by Chicago in 1987, Harbaugh completed 2,305 of 3,918 passes for 26,288 career yards and 129 touchdowns in the NFL. He also ran for 18 TDs.
Is he ready to make the leap from college to pro?
According to ESPN college football analyst and former NFL quarterback Brock Huard, who worked two Stanford games this past season and followed the Pac-10 closely even before his days as a quarterback at the University of Washington in the 1990s, the answer is yes.
"I think hiring Jim Harbaugh is a home run in every way for the 49ers," Huard said.
Asked about Harbaugh's offensive scheme, Huard replied, "Harbaugh likes the power run game, be physical, hit you in the mouth. The 49ers drafted two big linemen and they have a sledgehammer back when healthy. Many of the pieces schematically are in hand, unlike what he would have encountered at Michigan or other places.
"San Francisco will fit him really well personnel-wise, minus the quarterback."
Huard also extolled Harbaugh's understanding of the Xs and Os.
"One of his graduate assistants is a guy I played with in Indy, Aaron Moorehead, the receiver," Huard explained. "He said that they were doing things at the college level that a) you never imagined you could do at the NFL level and b) his depth of knowledge on Xs and Os is incredible."
A rival college coach told Huard his team studied Stanford's running game and charted running plays from 30 different personnel groups and formations.
Coordinators and key assistants: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman; defensive coordinator Vic Fangio; special teams coordinator Brad Seely
Roman was Stanford's associate head coach and was as responsible as anyone -- including Harbaugh -- for the Cardinal's offensive success and creativity. Roman, who replaces Mike Johnson, has extensive NFL experience, having been an assistant for Carolina, Houston and Baltimore. ... Fangio, 52, who served as an NFL DC for 11 seasons with three different teams, will take on that same role in San Francisco, replacing Greg Manusky. Fangio held that same title under Harbuagh at Stanford and was instrumental in the Cardinal's success. ... Keeping their jobs from Singletary's staff are OL coach Mike Solari, RBs coach Tom Rathman and DL coach Jim Tomsula. Bobby Engram, a veteran NFL wide receiver well-versed in the West Coast Offense, was hired as an offensive assistant coach. ... Seely makes the move from Cleveland where he led one of the league's top-ranked special teams units the past two seasons. He's regarded as one of the foremost strategists when it comes to that area and he'll provide an instant upgrade. Seely replaces Kurt Schottenheimer.
Mike Munchak was named the new head coach of the Titans on Feb. 7. He was the favorite all along in the wake of Jeff Fisher's departure after 16 full seasons.
Munchak, 50, won out over Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Long a favorite of owner Bud Adams as both a player and a coach, Munchak carved out a Hall of Fame career with the franchise after being the Houston Oilers' first-round pick in 1982. He played 12 seasons for the Oilers and was a nine time Pro Bowl selection. Munchak was inducted into Canton in 2001, and his jersey has been retired by the team. He is the franchise's first former player to assume the duties of head coach.
"This is a special day for this franchise as one of our former players takes over the team as the head coach," Adams said in a statement. "Mike has been successful at everything he has been associated with at our franchise, and I have no reason to believe that he won't be successful as our head coach. He earned Hall of Fame distinction as a player, and yearly he has been one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. He understands where we have been and knows where we need to go."
As TitansInsider.com's Terry McCormick noted, since retiring as a player after the 1993 season, Munchak has developed into one of the NFL's top offensive line coaches and is well respected throughout the organization and the league.
But Munchak has his work cut out for him to restore a Titans franchise that fell to 6-10 this past season under Fisher, losing eight of its final nine games.
Coordinators and key assistants: Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer; defensive coordinator Jerry Gray
The Titans not only collapsed at the end of the 2010 season, but Munchak is replacing a good portion of the staff -- including OC Mike Heimerdinger, DC Chuck Cecil, RBs coach Craig Johnson, WRs coach Fred Graves, and of course, Munchak had to replace himself. The good news? Munchak was able to land another legendary Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews to replace himself. ... Palmer, who served as Cleveland’s head coach during their first two expansion seasons (1999-2000), was most recently the head coach of the Hartford Colonials in the UFL last year. He has also spent time with the Giants, Cowboys, Texans, Jaguars and Patriots during his professional career. The coach earned acclaim for being the QB coach for the Giants from 2007-09, helping guide Eli Manning to a Super Bowl title. For all the praise Palmer received for his work with Manning, he received as much blame for his inability to make premier NFL QBs out of Tim Couch and David Carr, two other top picks he worked closely with. Jake Locker will be his next project. Jim Skipper will coach the running backs. Skipper spent the past nine seasons coaching running back with the Panthers, including 2009 when both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart became the first duo of teammates to each rush for more than 1,000 yards. Williams finished third in the NFL with a franchise-record 1,515 yards rushing in 2008. Munchak says he thinks Skipper has the ability to take Chris Johnson's game to a new level. Former Louisville QB Dave Ragone takes over for Graves as receivers coach. Ragone was the QB coach in Hartford last year under Palmer. ... Gray was hired away from the University of Texas to become Tennessee's defensive coordinator. A two-time All-American at Texas, Gray was a four-time Pro Bowl pick during his nine NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He started his coaching career with the then-Tennessee Oilers in 1997 as defensive quality control assistant when Munchak was promoted to offensive line coach. Gray was promoted to secondary coach in 1999 and 2000. Samari Rolle and Blaine Bishop earned Pro Bowl honors in 2000 when the Titans ranked first in the NFL in fewest yards passing and total yards allowed. He left in 2001 with Gregg Williams for Buffalo as defensive coordinator through 2005. His defenses in 2003 and 2004 ranked second in the NFL in each season for yards allowed. Both defenses ranked in the top 10 in points allowed. In 2004, the Bills led the NFL with 39 takeaways and were fifth in red zone defense. He coached the secondary in Washington between 2006 and 2009 before moving to Seattle for the 2010 season. Gray played with Munchak during the 1992 season for the then-Houston Oilers.
OTHER KEY COORDINATOR AND ASSISTANT CHANGES
Offensive coordinator Mike Miller; defensive coordinator Ray Horton
Miller was promoted from WRs coach to passing game coordinator in 2009 after OC Todd Haley departed to become the HC of the Chiefs. Miller has been credited with helping bring along the WRs in Arizona, including Steve Breaston. That could be good news for young WRs Andre Roberts and Stephen Williams. The promotion could also be a sign that HC Ken Whisenhunt will again limit his role somewhat calling plays on offense (as he did by relinquishing those duties to Todd Haley midway through the 2007 season; the Cardinals reached the Super Bowl the next season). ... Whisenhunt fired defensive coordinator Bill Davis, secondary coach Donnie Henderson and assistant defensive backs coach Rick Court right after the team’s 6-10 season. Horton, who was working as Pittsburgh’s secondary coach before joining the Cardinals, will keep Arizona’s primary 3-4 defense intact and look for ways to improve the team’s pass rush. Horton, 50, has coached in the NFL 17 years. Most of them have been under Dick LeBeau. Look for the Cardinals to emulate LeBeau's units. Horton is Whisenhunt’s third DC since 2008.
QB coach Bob Bratkowski
Bratkowski was hired by the Falcons shortly after he was fired as OC of the Bengals. The move came after Musgrave was hired as OC of the Vikings. ... Before joining the Bengals in 2001, Bratkowski worked for the Steelers from 1999 to 2000 and the Seahawks from 1992 through 1998. This can't be great news for the Falcons. His predecessor, Bill Musgrave, played a key role in the development of Matt Ryan, who won the league’s rookie of the year award in 2008 and has progressed steadily since.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano; QB coach Cam Cameron (added to offensive coordinator duties)
Of great interest to Fantasy owners is the fact that Joe Flacco made no effort to hide his disappointment in the wake of Jim Zorn's firing saying, "I'm not happy about it, and they know I'm not happy about it." Flacco said he took the dismissal personally considering he threw for 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. "Usually when you fire a position coach, it's because you're not really happy with how that position did. And when I look back on my season and our season as a team, I mean, we won 13 games. I felt like I had a pretty good year and you're firing the QB coach? It's kind of an attack on me, I feel like. ..." You think Cameron might have to spend some time working on that relationship with Flacco this summer? Oh yeah. ... In a bit of a surprise, DC Greg Mattison left the team for the same position at the University of Michigan. Pagano, formerly the secondary coach, will take over as DC. “We’re excited for our defense and for Chuck, and we’re happy for Greg Mattison,” said HC John Harbaugh. It's safe to say the Ravens will continue to follow the same defensive scheme and approach under Pagano as they did under Mattison.
LB/assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt
Wannstedt returns to the NFL after spending the past six years coaching the University of Pittsburgh, where he was forced to resign earlier this year. He brings a wealth of experience after spending four-plus seasons as the Dolphins HC before being fired midway through the 2004 season. He also spent six seasons (93-98) as the Bears HC. Wannstedt is a defensive specialist and will help oversee a defense that struggled last season. The Bills’ defense was last in the NFL against the run, allowing 2,714 yards rushing -- the second-highest total in franchise history. Buffalo allowed 200 yards eight times last season. He'll work under Chan Gailey, who went 4-12 in completing his first season as the team’s HC. It’s a role reversal for the two. Wannstedt had taken over coach of the Dolphins in 2000, when he hired Gailey to be his OC. They spent two seasons together. Wannstedt the Cowboys DC when they beat Buffalo to win the Super Bowl in 1993.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden
Cincinnati hired Gruden after their Bob Bratkowski-led offense ranked 20th last season and 27th in rushing. Gruden plans to change that and stress a strong running game. "We're not going to spread out and go no-huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game," said Gruden. "I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball." That's welcome news for Cedric Benson, who's scheduled to become a free agent but wants to remain in Cincinnati. Gruden's vow to run the ball more appeals to Benson, explaining why he'd be keen to return to a franchise with two winning seasons in the last 20 years. "That's my kind of guy [Gruden]. That's my game. ..." The revamped offense could also be under the guidance of a new QB. Carson Palmer has threatened to retire if he's not traded by the Bengals. Benson, however, is confident that Gruden's unit can succeed with whoever is taking snaps from under center. "This guy [Gruden] has been (on a team) that won the Super Bowl without a great quarterback," said Benson, referring to the 2002 Bucs under Brad Johnson. Athletic WR Jerome Simpson also seems to be ideally suited to provide the kind of run-after-the-catch ability Gruden’s offense requires.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips
Phillips brings 35 years of coaching experience with him to the Texans, including the last 29 years spent as a DC or HC. In that time, Phillips has helped orchestrate 12 top-10 defensive performances and has helped lead teams to 11 playoff appearances, all of which have come since 1988. He has reached the playoffs in the first season with each of the last seven teams he has taken over as head coach or defensive coordinator. This marks the second time Phillips and Texans HC Gary Kubiak have been on the same sideline. Kubiak and Phillips’ tenures overlapped with the Broncos from 1989-91. Kubiak played for the club from 1983-91 and Phillips served as DC from 1989-92 before taking over as the franchise’s head coach from 1993-94. Phillips, 63, most recently served as HC of the Dallas from 2007 until midway through the 2010 season, compiling a 34-22 record (.607 winning pct.). Under Phillips, the Cowboys’ defense gave up an average of 329.9 yards per game to rank 10th in the NFL during his tenure. Phillips will be Kubiak's third defensive coordinator in six years, following Richard Smith and Frank Bush, both of whom were fired.
QBs coach Ron Turner; WRs coach Frank Reich
Turner and Reich swapped coaching responsibilities over the offseason. Offensive assistant Jim Bob Cooter also was promoted to assistant to OC Clyde Christensen. ... Turner is in his second season with the Colts and he has NFL experience with QBs. He served as the Bears’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 1993-96 and offensive coordinator from 2005-09. Turner, 57, is in his 35th year of coaching and is the brother of Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers head coach. Reich, 49, has five seasons of coaching experience, all with the Colts, none with WRs. He served as an intern 2006-07, a staff assistant in 2008 and quarterbacks coach in 2009-10.
QB coach Mike Sheppard
Sheppard takes over the Jaguars new QBs coach. Sheppard coached quarterbacks previously with the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints. Over the past four seasons, Sheppard coached the Bengals' WRs. At the very least, he's accustomed to dealing with stress having coached Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Sheppard coached with Jaguars OC Dirk Koetter at Idaho State. Sheppard replaces Mike Shula, who went to the Panthers. ... Also: The Jaguars lost WRs coach Todd Monken, their initial replacement for Shula, when Monken got hired as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.
Kansas City Chiefs
Offensive coordinator Bill Muir; QB coach Jim Zorn
Opting to promote from within, the Chiefs named Muir as OC after Charlie Weis' rather sudden decision to take a similar position at Florida. Muir owns a deep coaching history that includes 33 years of NFL experience and championship roots that trace back to the offensive system currently utilized in Kansas City. Muir arrived in Kansas City two years ago after seven seasons as Tampa Bay’s OC/OL coach. The Bucs won three division crowns and a Super Bowl XXXVII championship during Muir’s tenure with the team. Muir’s hiring will enable the Chiefs to build upon and continue forward with the offensive foundation developed over HC Todd Haley’s first two seasons as HC. ... The fact that Muir will continue to serve as OL coach suggests that Haley will play a major role with the offense, a role that seems likely to include play calling. ... Meanwhile, fired by the Ravens as QBs coach, Zorn was hired to fill the same role in Kansas City. The former Seahawks QB coached Joe Flacco last season and he passed for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns, career-high totals. In 2007, Zorn tutored Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck to a franchise-record 3,966 passing yards and left Hasselbeck as that franchise’s most-efficient passer. Hasselbeck is the only Seahawks QB to pass for 3,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons since Zorn did so as a player from 1978-80. Hasselbeck also set single-season marks for completions (352), touchdowns (28) and passer rating (91.4) in 2007. In addition to his specialty in directing quarterback play, Zorn also adds more head coaching experience to Kansas City’s staff, having served as Washington’s head coach from 2008-09. During Zorn’s time in Washington, Jason Campbell posted the two best seasons of his five-year NFL career, throwing for a career-high 3,618 yards and a career-best 20 touchdowns in 2009. Unlike many of the Kansas City’s previous staff additions, Zorn and Haley have no previous ties to one another. But while the two have never coached on the same sideline, the pair does seem to carry the same vision when it comes to directing effective QB play. Matt Cassel will benefit.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi
Daboll, who was Cleveland’s OC the past two seasons, takes over for Dan Henning, who left the Dolphins after three seasons as their coordinator. Daboll takes over an offense that ranked 21st in the NFL in yardage this season. The Dolphins were next to last in the AFC in points -- behind only the Browns. The Dolphins were 30th in points scored last year (17.3 per game), and HC Tony Sparano admitted that “sometimes I felt like playing offense last year maybe once or twice was a little bit more of a job than it was fun. And I want it to be fun.” It was no coincidence that many of the team’s new offensive coaches (Daboll, Ike Hilliard, Dan Campbell) are much younger than the coaches that departed (Henning, David Lee, George DeLeone). Sparano expects a much different dynamic with the 35-year old Daboll, formerly a WRs and QBs coach with the Patriots and Jets, calling the offense. “Where [Henning] was more of a walk-around kind of guy (in practice), you will not see that with Brian Daboll,” Sparano said. “You will see Brian Daboll very much involved.” Karl Dorrell is moving from WRs coach to QBs coach (replacing Lee), and former offensive quality control coach Steve Bush is now the WRs coach. Hilliard joins Miami as an assistant WRs coach after two seasons with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League. ... Worth noting: Daboll has utilized TEs heavily in his previous coaching stops, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Anthony Fasano sees an increase in passes thrown his way in 2011. Campbell (who replaces DeLeone) could be instrumental in furthering Fasano's development, as well as a young tight end the team might acquire this offseason. ... Former assistant special teams coach Rizzi was promoted to special teams coordinator.
New England Patriots
Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien
The Patriots promoted O’Brien to OC after the team spent the past two seasons without an one, although O’Brien, who retains the quarterbacks coach title, called plays and performed many of the coordinator’s functions. The team’s last OC was Josh McDaniels, who left after the 2008 season to become HC of the Broncos. ... Brian Ferentz, who last season worked mainly with New England's tight ends while in the role of offensive assistant, is the new TE coach. Harold Nash has been promoted to the strength and conditioning coach after being an assistant to that role the past five seasons to departed coach Mike Woicik, who took the same position with the Cowboys. George Godsey, who previously had been the RB coach at Central Florida, has been brought in as an offensive assistant.
Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo
In a bit of a surprise, former OL coach Castillo takes over for Sean McDermott as DC. It’s a n unusual move for a veteran line coach, but Castillo is highly regarded. Castillo will be replaced by veteran OL coach Howard Mudd, who worked so long for the Indianapolis Colts. The Eagles interviewed three defensive backs coaches -- Dennis Allen, Jon Hoke and Joe Woods -- before going with the in-house candidate who has coached the line for the last 13 seasons. Castillo played linebacker at Texas A&I and for the San Antonio Gunslingers in the USFL, and he’s coached linebackers in the past so he has worked on that side of the ball.
San Diego Chargers
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky; special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia
Always the favorite -- according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, for his experience as a play caller and his experience with the Chargers, as well as his aggressive philosophy -- Manusky comes on board to run San Diego's defense this year. Manusky, 44, spent the past four years as the San Francisco 49ers DC, including the past two seasons actually calling plays for their 3-4 defense, the same system the Chargers run. Manusky spent 2002-06 coaching the Chargers linebackers. The Chargers wanted to retain Manusky after the 2006 season but lost him during the uncertainty before Marty Schottenheimer was fired. Manusky replaces Ron Rivera who was hired as head coach of the Panthers. ... Rich Bisaccia, former Buccaneers associate HC and special teams coordinator, agreed to become San Diego’s special teams coach after Steve Crosby was fired. Special teams blunders contributed to a 2-5 start that helped keep the Chargers out of the playoffs. The Chargers allowed four returns for touchdowns and had five punts blocked. In 2010, the Buccaneers coverage units were among the NFL’s best, allowing just 7.3 yards per punt return (7th in the NFL) and 20.7 yards per kickoff return (8th in the NFL). Tampa Bay’s kickoff return unit also was one of the league’s Top-10, averaging 24.3 yards per return (8th in the NFL), including an 89-yard touchdown return.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell; OL/assistant head coach Tom Cable
Bevell, who spent the past five seasons as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, replaces Jeremy Bates. Bevell and Cable will oversee a retooling of a Seahawks offense that ranked 28th in the league and was 31st is rushing during the 2010 season. During Bevell’s five seasons in Minnesota, the Vikings fluctuated from ranking fifth in the league in total offense (2009), to 13th (2007), to 17th (2008), to 23rd (2010 and 2006). The running game led the league in 2007 and was No. 5 in 2008. Bevell, who turned 41 this month, also has a history with Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck. Bevell was with the Green Bay Packers from 2000-05, first as an offensive assistant for three seasons and then QB coach for three seasons. Hasselbeck was in Green Bay for three seasons before being traded to the Seahawks in 2002. Seahawks general manager John Schneider also was with the Packers when Bevell was coaching there. Cable returns to focusing on the offensive line after spending parts of three seasons as HC of the Raiders, where he went 17-27. Players credited Cable with helping make the team a contender in the AFC West this season after a run of seven straight years of at least 11 losses. Now Cable’s focus is improving an offensive line that was a major problem for Bates to deal with all season. It started in training camp when OL coach Alex Gibbs abruptly retired just days before the season opener. A lack of continuity was a common theme for Seattle’s offensive line, which went through 10 different incarnations during the season. It all led to a general inability to run, which was the biggest flaw. The Seahawks averaged just 89 yards per game rushing, 31st in the league, and barely avoided being the worst running team in franchise history. If Hasselbeck returns to Seattle — he is an unrestricted free agent — he’ll be playing for his fourth offensive coordinator in four years.
St. Louis Rams
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels
As St. Louis Post-Dispatch staffer Jim Thomas reported, “It will be all Josh all the time for QB Sam Bradford.” HC Steve Spagnuolo tabbed McDaniels to serve the dual role of OC and QBs coach for the Rams in 2011. The 34-year-old McDaniels replaces Pat Shurmur, who was hired by the Browns as HC. McDaniels parlayed success as an OC with the Patriots into his first head coaching job and at age 32 was the NFL’s youngest coach in 2009. He favors the spread offense, run by Bradford in college. In McDaniels’ first season with the Broncos, Kyle Orton set career highs for pass, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and passer rating while tying his career low for interceptions. Orton’s 3,802 yards were the sixth highest for a season in Broncos history. Last season, the Broncos were seventh in the NFL in passing yards and 13th in total offense. Assuming the Rams can work
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes
The Buccaneers coaching staff suffered a serious defection with the loss of special teams coordinator and associate HC Rich Bisaccia, who signed on with the Chargers. Replacing Bisaccia will be Stukes, a Bucs veteran assistant. Last season Stukes assisted defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake. Stukes has also worked for years with Bisaccia and in 2008 Stukes was the Buccaneers assistant special teams coach. Stukes’ work is cut out for him. The team was a perennial league leader in a variety of special teams categories under Bisaccia.
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