NFL head coaches can have a tremendous impact on a team’s players. So far in the NFL offseason, 7 teams have changed coaches. This article discusses and projects the likely impact those coaches are going to have on players.
I won’t get into the statistical impact each coach might have. In my thinking, that is pure speculation in which a prognosticator takes last year’s numbers and adjusts them up-or-down, depending on their evualuation of the situation.
Instead, I review each coach’s past and discuss why I think they’ll have a positive or negative impact on the offensive players on their team. A look at their career highlights shows each has their skins on the wall, though some are a bit more mysterious than others. This is a year with no real superstar head coach hiring. The hiring with the biggest name (Chip Kelly) is also the one I question the most. Others will disagree with that assessment, but I stand by my opinion.
As for the rest, experts and fans alike are going to complain the new HCs are either retreads or entirely obscure. That is not always a bad thing. All of them have significant NFL experience as coordinators, which I think is a better decision than hiring a hotshot college football coach. The skill set to recruit 18-year olds and coordinate them is not the same skill set that taking 20- and 30-something professional athletes and preparing them for the grind of pro football. I prefer when teams hire solid assistants, so this review reflects that bias. When John Harbaugh was hired by the Baltimore Ravens to be their head coach in 2008, he was laughed at, because he had been a special teams coach for the previous 10 seasons. A year prior to that, high-profile college hirings like Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino had failed miserably in the pros. While that’s one case, I’m only saying there is less adjustment for a career assistant in the NFL — if they have the temperament to be a leader of men.
The Impact of 7 New NFL Coaches
It’s a sign of the NFL’s new focus on offense that all 7 of the new coaches hired came from the offensive side of the ball. These things go in cycles, but seldom does every single hiring involve such laser-guided focus. Franchises know they can be entertaining, even if they don’t make the playoffs. Each team is trying to either fine-tune their offensive talent or develop them into star players. A few (Browns, Niners) are trying to find any anwers they can.
- Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
- Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins
- Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
- Ben McAdoo, New York Giants
- Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
- Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans
3 NFL Coaches Retained by Their Teams
Meanwhile, three coaches were rumored to be finished or “on the hot seat”, but have been retained. Each of these coaches appears to have weathered the storm of fan frustration and front office concerns. They get one more year with their NFL franchise, but begin next season on the hot seat.
- Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
- Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
- Chuck Pagano, Indianpolis Colts
The seven new coaches should get a honeymoon period, but they also inherit bad situations, by and large. The Browns and Titans are changing their coaches perennially, while the Bucs, Dolphins, and Giants have disappointed for a number of years now. The Eagles and Niners were good very recently, but bottomed-out in 2015. In all seven cases, the franchises hope their purge of the last regime fixes all their problems. Let’s analyze and see if the new blood is good blood.
Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
– Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Coordinator in 2014 and 2015.
– Oakland Raiders Head Coach in 2011 (8-8)
– Oakland Raiders Offensive Coordinator in 2010
– Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator in 2007
– Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator in 2003
– USC Trojans Offensive Coordinator from 1997-2000
Hue Jackson is a respected offensive mind in the NFL. He has been the offensive coordinator for 4 different franchises. This past season, he was the OC for the rejuvenation of the Bengals’ offense under Andy Dalton. In all, Hue Jackson has been hired or retained to coordinate offense by Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, Tom Cable, and Marvin Lewis. He also has coached positions under Marty Schottenheimer, John Harbaugh, Emmitt Thomas, and Marvin Lewis.
Hue Jackson has helped in the development of Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Chad Johnson (Ochocinco), and T. J. Houshmandzadeh. Players like Stephen Davis, Chad Johnson, and Houshmandzadeh had their best years in his offenses. Hue Jackson is thought to have people skills, too. For example, he is said to have recruited Carson Palmer to USC, who was the cornerstone of Pete Carroll’s success in Los Angeles (Palmer’s success made it easier to recruit the National Championship players).
Hue Jackson’s two years in Cincinnati show a real contrast in styles, highlighting Jackson’s flexibility. When he became the team’s OC in 2014, he was characterized as a run-first coach. That proved to be the case, with Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard carrying the main load on offense for the Bengals’ playoff team. AJ Green’s injury that year dictated some of the RB focus, but it was clear Hue Jackson wanted to take pressure off the often-criticized Andy Dalton. The 2015 season was a reversal, as Dalton and Green become one of the league’s best combos (again). Andy Dalton was having a career year until he was injured tackling a Steelers defender on an interception.
It might be said that Hue Jackson has moved around a lot, so perhaps he wears out his welcome. Yet he also is respected by the profession and has been rehired before. Also, a study of those situations shows he moved on because of bad luck in his landing spots, such as being hired by Atlanta right after the Michael Vick mess or being hired in Oakland at any time during the Dark Age of the Al Davis era. The worst that can be said about Hue Jackson is he either has bad luck, or he makes poor choices in his team choices…which brings us to the Cleveland Browns.
Hue Jackson has the chops to be a successful head coach. Unless he is one of these types who is a brilliant coordinator, but a bad head coach (Norv Turner, Wade Phillips), then he should have attained the requisite skills and experience to be a good NFL head coach at this point. This is a good hiring by Cleveland, from the point of view.
The question is whether the Cleveland Browns can be successful with anyone at head coach. They hire and fire coaches so often, someone like Hue Jackson needs success in his first 2 seasons, or else he’s likely to be out the door. The Browns have some talent on both sides of the ball, with their offensive line and defensive backfields as standout units. They have options at running back, while Gary Barnidge was a breakout candidate in 2015. Josh Gordon returns in 2016, if he can avoid boneheaded decisions.
What Hue Jackson Does for Browns Players:
This team needs a franchise quarterback. With a franchise like this, nothing is going to create lasting stability and success like a solid quarterback. The front office needs to waive Johnny Manziel and draft the future at the position. Whether that player exists in their draft in the form of Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch is another matter. Think about the Bengals until they got Carson Palmer — they were awful every single year. Palmer didn’t make them winners, but he made them fantasy worthy. The Browns need a quarterback who does what Carson Palmer (and Andy Dalton) did for the Bengals. They might not get Brady or Manning in the draft, but they need consistently good play from the QB position.
If the Browns hit on one of those players, then Hue Jackson could turn around the franchise. If they miss on their 1st round QB pick, then he’s going to struggle and be fired in two to three seasons. And if the Browns select a cornerback or safety instead of the franchise quarterback they need, then they’re simply crazy and the franchise is broken. I wish Hue Jackson luck. This is a good hire for the Browns. Whether it’s a good decision by Hue Jackson to go to this dysfunctional franchise is another matter entirely.
I am not going to bet on the Cleveland Browns: not in real world situations and not in fantasy football. I like Hue Jackson a lot. He’s an offensive mind coaching a squad with some talent. But the Browns Front Office finds ways to screw things up. Until they draft a true franchise quarterback (Romo level, not Brady level), I won’t bet on them to be good.
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator in 2015.
– Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator from 2012 to 2014.
– Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Coordinator from 2007 to 2011.
– Arizona State Head Coach from 2001 to 2006.
– Boise State Head Coach from 1998 to 2000.
Dirk Koetter has been the OC for 3 different teams, while he had fairly successful stints at head coach of two college programs. Koetter has shown versatility in his playcalling. For example, the Arizona State Sun Devils were known as a vertical passing attack when he coached the team for 6 seasons, while the Atlanta Falcons were a pass-first team in his 3 years coaching Matt Ryan. At the same time, when Koetter was the Jags’ OC for 5 seasons, the team finished in that span as the cumulative #3 rushing team in the NFL. Maurice Jones-Drew was a fantasy stud under Koetter.
His year with the Tampa Bay Bucs might have been up-and-down, but the team’s offense was generally competent, while the defense let down the team and Lovie Smith. Koetter took over an awful offense, juvenated Doug Martin’s career, and coached Jameis Winston to a successful, if spotty, rookie season. It was on the strength of that season that Koetter won the Bucs’ head coaching position.
Let’s take a look at that year. When he came to the Bucs, all the buzz had the team letting Doug Martin go in the offseason. Koetter studied the game film and thought Martin was better than he would have expected — the offensive line had let him down most of the time. Thus, Koetter decided to build his offense around Doug Martin, who reverted to his form from his rookie season. He also made Charles Sims into a factor in the offense.
Meanwhile, the team was playing under a new quarterback, Jameis Winston. Winston had the kind of rookie year you might expect playing for a team that had the #1 overall pick the year before. People assumed he might come out with a better or more efficient rookie season, because he had Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans as his main targets. But Winston was described at one point as an “interception machine”. Fantasy owners should remember Peyton Manning led the NFL in interceptions his rookie season with 29. While Winston probably had better talent around him, the Bucs Defense assured he was behind most of the time. You should expect improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.
Hiring Dirk Koetter almost had to happen for the Bucs. If they were going to fire Lovie Smith, then the Koetter hiring was the best way to assure continuity for their young passer. Jameis Winston should improve in his second season, if he shows the capacity for hard work and learning that most reporters suggests he has. People raved about Jameis Winston coming out of their NFL Combine interviews. I tend to be leery of people who say all the right things while taking boneheaded actions, but I didn’t interview the kid, so you have to go on what was reported.
The question marks surrounding Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are more concerning. Mike Evans took a step back in 2015, while ASJ had trouble staying on the field. Both players’ disappointing seasons can be attributed to injuries, though, so owners should take heart, so long as they don’t think the injuries will become a pattern. Mike Evans is a free agent and might leave in the offseason. If so, Donteea Dye or Kenny Bell might have a chance to start and should be monitored in the offseason. Koetter’s retention mantains continuity for them, which is good for whatever chances they have.
What Dirk Koetter Does for Tampa’s Players:
The Buccaneers’ fortunes are tied to those of Jameis Winston. If you liked what you saw in 2015 or saw enough good to project major growth for the #1 pick, then Dirk Koetter and the Bucs Offense should be strong in fantasy football in 2016. If you think Winston will be a failed NFL quarterback, then Dirk Koetter’s career is likely to be bad and short with the Bucs.
It’s my guess the Buccaneers are going to improve under Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter. Winston will cut down on the turnovers, throw the ball more consistently, and become a more consistant fantasy football producer. You have to remember have set the rookie record for touchdowns by a quarterback. That shows huge potential. Bring that kind of result more often and the Bucs will be fine. Doug Martin should be a top-tier fantasy RB. Charles Sims should be a valuable fantasy asset: maybe not Danny Woodhead numbers, but an RB you would want on your team. Mike Evans ascends to become a top receiver in the NFL in his 3rd year. Austin Seferian-Jenkins becomes a Top 10 tight end with high upside any given week.
Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins
– Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator in 2015
– Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator in 2013 and 2014
– Denver Broncos Quarterbacks Coach in 2011 and 2012
Adam Gase did a remarkable thing in Chicago last season. He breathed new life in Jay Cutler’s career, despite Cutler losing Brandon Marshall in free agency and Alshon Jeffrey to injury for much of the year. The 2015 Chicago Bears had the earmarks of a team near the bottom of the NFL’s pecking order. And they dealt with adversity during the season. Even when Alshon Jeffrey returned to action (periodically) late in the season, the Bears Offense dealt with injuries to Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. Despite the injuries and defections, Jay Cutler was good most weeks. I was impressed.
The previous two seasons, Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator of a powerhouse offense in Denver. With Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, (earlier) Eric Decker, and Wes Welker, of course the team was going to have a high-powered offense. Still, it has to translate to the field, and Adam Gase was a good translator of talent to production. Peyton Manning’s age and injuries limited production in the last month of the regular season and the playoffs in 2014, but nobody is laying that at Gase’s door. The year before, the Broncos were embarrassed in the Super Bowl, but many fine coaches have had that happen to them.
In the 2012 season, Adam Gase helped Peyton Manning integrate with the Broncos Offense. He did well enough that he was promoted to offensive coordinator, a sign the detail-oriented Manning like him. His most impressive season might have been 2011, when Adam Gase was the quarterbacks coach on the Broncos team which Tim Tebow led to the playoffs. While Tebow had a bad statistical year, he made enough big plays and protected the ball well enough that the Broncos’ strong defense powered the team to a playoff spot (and a win), despite a 1-4 start under Kyle Orton. Say what you will, but Tim Tebow can’t make a final cut on an NFL roster since, but he took a team to the playoffs in 2011. Adam Gase helped him do that, however it happened.
Adam Gase didn’t do much before that. He was an offensive assistant, scouting assistant, and recruiting assistant prior to 2007, while doing works with quarterbacks and receivers after 2007.
The scouting report on Adam Gase is he helps quarterbacks, a lot. He helps elite quarterbacks, talented-yet-mistake prone quarterbacks, and quarterbacks on the margins of being an NFL passer. He is an all-purpose quarterback guru, even if he is a bit green as a head coach candidate at 37. While there is some fear he’ll be in over his head with the Dolphins (pardon the pun), fans can see why the Dolphins hired Adam Gase. He is in Miami to turn around Ryan Tannehill’s career.
Tannehill has to be maddening for Miami Dolphins fans. He’s been the Dolphins undoubted starter since being drafted in 2012. Tannehill’s had his moments, but he’s been a disaster at other times. Many Fins fans have given up on the guy, but it looks like the Dolphins brass hasn’t. And this is not the first quarterback guru the Dolphins have hired to fix this situation.
What Adam Gase Does for Dolphins’ Players:
I predict more of the same from Ryan Tannehill and case. Jarvis Landry will be elite, while Davante Parker will have his uses. I would feel more confident about this hiring if Adam Gase had been hired as the offensive coordinator. He has a proven track record of helping quarterbacks improve and shore up their weaknesses. The Ryan Tannehill project would be a challenge, but the past has shown Adam Gase would make him better. The problem with Adam Gase as head coach is he’ll be devoting much of his time to the big picture: media relations, overseeing the coaches, player relations, and front office politics. He won’t be able to spend 24/7 coaching up Ryan Tannehill. In this way, the Peter Principle has been the doom of many NFL assistants suddenly promoted.
The Dolphins have talent on offense. Jarvis Landry, Davante Parker, and Kenny Stills have some talent. Jordan Cameron has done some things in the NFL. The team are going to lose Lamar Miller in free agency (most likely), but they had Jay Ajayi and an NFL Draft to address the situation. Even Ryan Tannehill has flashed. He recorded a perfect Quarterback Rating in the October game versus the Houston Texans this year, one of 64 times that’s happened in NFL history. But he’s remarkably inconsistent and inaccurate at times.
In these situations, I go back to the Tony Romo analysis. Romo could get a team to the Super Bowl, if the team around him was elite. He is not the type of quarterback which transforms a mere playoff contender into a Super Bowl champion. Ryan Tannehill might not be on Romo’s level, but the same kind of analysis applies. The Dolphins front office isn’t good enough to build the kind of team around Ryan Tannehill to make him successful. Barring Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier working miracles, I don’t see that happening.
Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
– Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach from 2013 to 2015.
– Oregon Ducks Head Coach from 2009 to 2012.
– Oregon Ducks Offensive Coordinator in 2007 and 2008.
– New Hampshire Wildcats Offensive Coordinator from 1999 to 2006.
Those who read this website already know my thoughts on Chip Kelly. When he was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles with a game left to play in December, it did not surprise me a bit. Given his history of rancor and finger-pointing, he was not going to take a bit of responsibility for what happened in Philadelphia, which led to a toxic atmosphere. After he was fired, I assumed Chip Kelly would slink back to college football, where he could recruit talented players who would listen to his commandments and execute his orders. I expected he would be a success there, based on his inventive offensive concepts, and in recruiting do well, because of his big time reputation, swagger, and superficial charm.
After the massive trouble caused in Philadelphia, I did not expect an NFL team to hire Chip Kelly as head coach. For one thing, any General Manager had to know that Chip Kelly would try to usurp control of player decisions at the first sign of success. Thus, it seemed odd to me that Trent Baalke hired Chip Kelly, because he’s essentially turned on a time bomb in the 49ers headquarters. He’ll have to deal with an egomaniac who is adept at taking credit for whatever successes happen on the field, but is equally adept at placing blame on anyone but himself when things go wrong. After seizing control of the GM position, he actually blamed the lawyers for the bad personnel decisions in Philly last year! That’s insane, people.
That being said, Chip Kelly is a smart football guy who has impressed the top coaches in the league with his Xs and Os. Chip Kelly is going to be devoted heart-and-soul to proving his critics wrong, while he has a whole new cast of players who don’t know his tactics and are tired of losing, meaning they’ll listen to whatever advice he gives in Year 1. The Niners are going to play a 4th-place schedule and, like most NFL teams, have talent on the roster. They’ll have another free agent period and NFL Draft to add to the talent base. Best of all, Chip Kelly won’t be anywhere near the personnel decisions, so he won’t be able to fill up the roster with whichever big name players happen to be available at any given time — system be damned.
I predict Chip Kelly will improve the team’s 5-11 record. In this NFL, if you get anywhere near .500, you should be in the wildcard talks until sometime in December. Thus, the Niners are primed for a superficial turnaround in 2016. Even if they don’t, there’s a 1-year grace period with most NFL franchises. Year 2 is when the trouble will start.
What Chip Kelly Does for Niners’ Players:
I’ll surprise longtime readers of this blog and say I expect Chip Kelly to have a largely positive impact on player stats in 2016. In 2017 and beyond, look out.
Chip Kelly is either going to have Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, or a rookie draftee as his quarterback. As much as people talk about Kaepernick being waived, he would represent so much dead money on the salary cap (if waived), I don’t know that the team will be able to do it. I think they’re stuck with Kaepernick one more year, so he’ll get his chance at redemption under Chip Kelly. I predict the Niners will have an open competition, and who knows whom emerges. This player might have his moments, but won’t be a startable fantasy asset most weeks.
Carlos Hyde’s numbers could suffer. He’ll have games where he’s gold, but Chip Kelly likes having 2 or 3 running backs, it seems. Expect to see one of these players become a factor: Mike Davis, Shaun Draughn, Jarryd Hayne, or DeJuan Harris. The Niners might bring in a third option, or even draft a RB high. Carlos Hyde’s position is not safe. As for the RBs I just listed, if you want a sleeper candidate, try Mike Davis. The former 4th rounder out of South Carolina looked good in training camp, but spent most of the year on the Practice Squad. I’ll do a write-up of him as the season gets closer.
After 2016, expect several veterans to get shipped out. They’ll have their reputation disparaged as troublemakers and thugs. One or more will talk about Chip Kelly’s inaccessability and need for control. Race relations might become an issue. Especially if the year went badly, the toxicity will start to seep into the franchise.
In the long term, this is a bad hiring for San Francisco 49ers. I can feel it in my bones. You might not believe me, but let’s let this situation play out. Trent Baalke will come to regret hiring Chip Kelly, because he bites the hand that feeds him. Most 49ers players will come to hate their new coach, because he has a personal agenda beyond simply winning and losing on the field. Long story short: you might find value in a 2016 redraft league, but beware adding Niners players as keepers in dynasty leagues. Mark my word.
Ben McAdoo, New York Giants
– New York Giants Offensive Coordinator in 2014 and 2015.
– Green Bay Packers Quarterbacks Coach in 2012 and 2013.
– Green Bay Packers Tight Ends Coach from 2006 to 2011.
– San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line Coach in 2005.
– New Orleans Saints Offensive Quality Control Coordinator in 2004.
I imagine the New York Giants locker room is going to have more culture shock than you would think. The team is going from 69-year old head coach to a 38-year old man in charge. That’s a 2-generation gap in the age, attitude, and reputation. Some Giants are likely to enjoy the new lease on life, while others are likely to have trouble taking Ben McAdoo seriously.
It helps he was the Giants’ offensive coordinator these past two years. He obviously has Eli Manning’s Seal of Approval. McAdoo is the only NFL offensive leader Odell Beckham Jr. has ever known. There are reasons to think Ben McAdoo represents continuity and stability. But I’m telling you, the entire ambiance in the locker room is likely to be much different in 2016.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Jerry Reese thought so. After Tom Coughlin had one of the most successful tenures of any Giants head coach from 2004 to 2015, the team pushed him out the door. Though Coughlin resigned, he was in discussions with the Eagles on a new gig within the week, so it’s obvious he wanted to continue coaching. But after two Super Bowl wins in 5 seasons, the Giants had missed the playoffs 4 straight seasons. Something had to change, and Jerry Reese was unlikely to fire himself.
The future of this franchise lies with Jerry Reese, though. He took over as General Manager in 2007 and was the GM on the 2008 and 2012 Super Bowl winners. He was Director of Player Personnel from 2004 to 2007, so he had a large hand in building the Super Bowl rosters. His drafts of the last few years have not been as impressive. He had the foresight to draft ODB, but has missed on a lot of players, too. One looks up-and-down the roster and sees average to mediocre players, with few difference makers anymore. Besides Odell Beckham, name one player drafted in the last 5 years who is a real difference maker. NFL teams need a constant influx of talent or the roster atrophies.
What Ben McAdoo Does for Giants’ Players:
Ben McAdoo assures Eli Manning and Odell Beckham of no major shakeups. They should be a solid fantasy football combo in 2016. As for the long term outlook, I don’t see this hiring really addressing the team’s needs. Eli Manning has a few more years of effective play left and he’s coming off a good year statistically, but the Giants are lacking in so many ways. Odell Beckham should only get better, but if Tom Coughlin couldn’t control ODB’s behavior, I doubt he’s going to listen to Ben McAdoo. Opposing cornerbacks know how to get Beckham off his game now. They know he’s being watched. He’ll be poked and prodded more than ever in 2016, and his anger issues are likely to surface again.
Again, the Giants won’t have a turnaround if Jerry Reese doesn’t add a lot of talent to the roster, and soon. Until then, Ben McAdoo is trying to win with the same mediocre roster that got the legendary coach pushed out of the franchise. This situation has all the earmarks of a team in slow and steady decline.
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
– Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator from 2013 to 2015.
– Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach in 2011 and 2012.
– Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Quality Control Coordinator in 2009 and 2010.
– Cavalry Baptist Academy Head Coach from 2005 to 2008.
– NFL Backup Quarterback from 1993 to 2004.
– Backed Up Brett Favre in Two Stints with Packers: 1996-98 and 2001-04.
Doug Pederson took the Jason Garrett path to NFL head coach status. He was a dependable backup quarterback who spent more than a decade in uniform, in this case with 4 different NFL teams. He has a Super Bowl championship ring from the Packers win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. He worked his way through the NFL coaching ranks, gaining a reputation for hard work and production.
Doug Pederson comes off the Andy Reid coaching tree. He was in Philadelphia as a coach from 2009 to 2012, and also as a quarterback in 1999. Thus, Jeffrey Lurie, who bought the Eagles in 1994, knows the man well. It really sounds like Jeffrey Lurie hired the Anti-Chip Kelly. Doug Pederson is a solid and dependable man who’s learned how to take a back seat and be a team player. Heck, he even was a head coach at a Christian high school. It’s obvious Jeffrey Lurie hired Doug Pederson to change the culture of the Eagles, as much as he did for his Xs-and-Ox.
That being said, Doug Pederson has shown he knows football. I actually like the idea of hiring backup QBs to coach; it’s the NFL equivalent of a Major League team hiring a utility infielder to manage. Guys on the margins of the NFL have to learn every trick and tactic to stay in the league, just like lesser baseball players have to really learn the game to stay in the majors. They can’t get by on star talent. That’s why Magic Johnson is a failure as an NBA coach, but long time bench players like Phil Jackson, Pat Reilly, and Donnie Nelson become all-time NBA coaches.
Talent is the big question in Philadelphia. The team’s quarterback situation is dismal. They have young, talented receivers in Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz, but they have been inconsistent (nonexistent in Agholor’s case). A huge part of the salary cap was devoted to running backs, which is still a head scratcher. In short, the offensive talent on this team needs to be resculpted. One problem is the Sam Bradford trade. People view the trade as a wash, because neither Nick Foles nor Sam Bradford had much success. But Chip Kelly traded a 2nd-round pick alongside Nick Foles, meaning the rebuilding effort is going to be hampered.
The Eagles have one of two choices in the 1st round, as I see it: build an offensive line for Sam Bradford or draft a new quarterback. The Eagles went two whole NFL drafts without drafting a single offensive lineman, while getting rid of two longtime starters. That explains a lot. Their offensive line was simply undermanned in 2015 and the team needs to address the situation. But they also need a new QB, if one exists where they draft in the 1st round. I’m not sure if that will be the case.
One prominent online publication has the Eagles drafting North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz at the 13th spot overall. That publication says Wentz is moving up the board and could go as high as 2nd overall. That underscores the problem with the 13th pick. Any late riser at quarterback is likely to be snapped up before the 13th selection. To get the QB they would want, the Eagles likely would need to trade up a few spots — maybe a lot of spots. A few is possible, but trading into the Top 5 picks is next-to-impossible without your 2nd rounder. While the Eagles might draft a QB who falls to them, I expect they’d rather build the O-line and wait a year — or wait until the 3rd round to draft a project. Of course, they could trade back into the 2nd round. A lot could happen.
What Doug Pederson Does for Chief’s Players:
Doug Pederson was impressive as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator in 2015. Imagine this…your team is 1-5 and just lost its franchise running back. The next thing you know, Alex Smith is leading the team on a 9-game win streak. In doing so, the Chiefs were the first team in 35 years to begin the season 1-5 and make the playoffs. It’s a rare and impressive feat, last performed by the legendary Paul Brown. In his 3 years as Chiefs offensive coordinator, the team made the playoffs twice. In my mind, Doug Pederson coaches marginal talent to playoff berths. Certainly, Andy Reid gets a lot of credit, but head coaches always do, but their assistants get hired for jobs like these.
Doug Pederson is going to need time. The Eagles rebuilding process looks like a 2-year job to me. I would not expect a huge turnaround in 2016, though Pederson made Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware look like stud runners — and Knile Davis the previous season. I can see Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews having nice, productive years in 2016. Expect the Eagles to build an offense around them, which would help save the defense. Travis Kelce was a key target at times, so this could be good news for Zach Ertz. Despite that, the Eagles need time to draft a quarterback and get him up to speed. That’s likely going to take time. I would downgrade Jordan Matthews in ’16. I would upgrade Demarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Zach Ertz. Take a wait-and-see approach on quarterback.
Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans
– Tennessee Titans Interim Head Coach from November 3, 2015 to the end of the season.
– Tennessee Titans Assistant Head Coach and Tight Ends Coach in 2015.
– Tennessee Titans Tight Ends Coach in 2014.
– Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach in 2012.
– Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator from 2009 to 2011.
– Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator in 2006.
– Buffalo Bills Head Coach in 2004 and 2005.
– Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator from 2001 to 2003.
– NFL Tight End (Vikings, Steelers) from 1983 to 1991.
– Nicknamed “Inspector Gadget” for his inventive use of multi-talented Steelers players like Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle-El.
Mike Mularkey’s ascension to Titans head coach is being hailed as the worst hiring of the 2016 NFL offseason. His hiring of Terry Robiskie as offensive coordinator is being hailed as almost as bad. Mularkey largely owes his ascension to Titans head coach to the rise of Delanie Walker, who led all NFL tight ends with 94 receptions in 2015 and finished with over 1,000 yards receiving. As the Titans tight ends coach, Mularkey transformed Delanie Walker from a free agent castoff to a Pro Bowl performer in 2 seasons.
The detestation of Mike Mularkey is due mostly to his awful times as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills. Quarterback play can be attributed to the poor results at both stops. In 2004, the Buffalo Bills began the season 1-5, but turned the season around and finished 9-7 with Drew Bledsoe as quarterback and rookie Willis McGahee running the ball. (Note: McGahee was drafted in the 1st round in 2003, but didn’t play until 2004.) The team had a 6-game winning streak late in the season, but lost to the Steelers in Week 17 to miss the playoffs. The Bills were derided for losing to a Steelers team resting many starters, but that Week 17 game was the breakout game for Fast Willie Parker, so they had star players on the field, despite no one knowing it.
In 2005, the Bills front office pushed 2004 1st round pick J.P. Losman into the starting role. This effectively destroyed any chance Mike Mularkey had of building on the 9-7 season. The front office wanted their talented young hotshot playing, though we all know now that J.P. Losman sucked. In 2012 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, this same situation played out again. The Jags had drafted Blaine Gabbert in the 1st round of 2011 and wanted him starting games in 2012. Blaine Gabbert might eventually turn around his career in San Francisco or elsewhere, but he should not have been starting NFL games in 2012. I have a hard time blaming Mike Mularkey for the disastrous results of JP Losman in 2005 and Blaine Gabbert in 2012.
The Tennessee Titans went 2-7 with Mike Mularkey as interim head coach in 2015. That included blowout losses to the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Houston Texans. It also included losses of 6 points to the Colts, 6 points to the Jaguars, and 3 points to the Raiders. Finally, the Titans beat the Saints 34-28 in overtime, with Marcus Mariota passing for 378 yards. They also beat the Jags 42-39 with Mariota rushing for 112 yards and throwing for 268 more. 2-and-7 is never good, but the Titans were already broken when Mularkey took over. They were crushed by the playoff teams or playoff contenders, while they played tough in the games against teams closer to their quality. In other words, they did about what you would expect them to do.
Marcus Mariota had some of his best games of his rookie season once Mularkey took over as head coach. The team showed an atrocious lack of ability to block for the young quarterback, which simply has to stop. That’s why I have the Titans drafting OT Laremy Tunsel with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Titans’ #1 responsibility is to keep Marcus Mariota upright and in the ballgame. If that happens, I’m confident Mariota will progress as an NFL passer. That should make the Tennessee Titans better in time.
What Mike Mularkey Does for Titans’ Players:
Mike Mularkey is already in a better situation than he’s ever been as an NFL head coach. He has a talented young quarterback who has shown he deserves to be an NFL starter. That is a far sight better than what has presented itself at the other two stops along the way. The one season Mike Mularkey had a legitimate NFL passer (Drew Bledsoe in 2004), his team was 9-7 and one game away from an NFL playoff berth. It should be noted that was the only Bills team of the decade which had a winning record, so he “coached up” the team to get them to that point. He’s been undermined by bad front office decisions which were beyond his control.
If Mike Mularkey and an NFL Draft can improve the Titans’ offensive line, that improves the whole team. Tennessee has been trying to do that for the past half-decade without a whole lot of success. If they invest a 1st overall pick at offensive tackle, that should improve the tackle and guard situation on the left side of the ball. I see reason to believe they’ll have a decent NFL O-line at some point in the near future. Delanie Walker should continue to be a standout for another year or two (due to age). Even the much-derided running back position has some hope, since the team should have the services of David Cobb for the first time. If Dorial Green-Beckham or Kendall Wright can turn their talent into on-field production — and Marcus Mariota should help that — the Titans might become a fun team to watch, from a fantasy football perspective. It’s a long way from that to being a competitive NFL team (see the 2015 Jags), but from a fantasy football perspective, I see the Titans soon becoming one of those teams you don’t avoid like the plague on fantasy draft day (again, see the ’15 Jaguars).
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