These changes seem to happen daily when the season ends. Here is a recap of 12 franchises listed in alphabetical order that have had some major changes that you should keep an eye on heading into the offseason.
1) Buffalo Bills - They hired a new head coach in Chan Gailey. ESPN analyst and former New England Patriot LB, Tedy Bruschi said that he does not think the hiring of Gailey is worrying anyone in the AFC East. I would have to agree. In Dallas, he was only 18-14 and 0-2 in the playoffs. In six years with Georgia Tech, he was just 44-33. He was picked up by the Chiefs to be their offensive coordinator only to be fired two weeks before the 2009 season. The Bills figured that he was the best man for the job, even though he was one of these candidates that came out of nowhere.
It just does not leave me very optimistic. GM Buddy Nix said they wanted an offensive coordinator with NFL head coaching experience to come in and turn around this offense. That makes some sense to me considering their struggles on offense in recent years, but you cannot tell me that Gailey was the most qualified person for the job. This seems like a hire out of motivation to keep coaching salaries low in the event of a 2011 lockout more than it does about bringing a winning team to Buffalo in 2010. Gailey has been above average wherever he has gone, but in an AFC East with Bill Belichick running the Patriots and Rex Ryan running the Jets; above average is going to be third or fourth in the AFC East most years.
2) Chicago Bears - The Bears released offensive coordinator Ron Turner at the end of the season and after a search that took a lot of twists, turns and rejections; they hired Mike Martz to turn around this offense. In my opinion, this is an absolutely terrible hire. Martz is a good coach and could be a good fit in the right system. The problem is the Bears are not that type of team. Martz is known for playing a four-wide receiver wide open attack. How is that going to work in December in the Chicago cold? Martz needs a dome or warm climate to build a successful passing offense, not 50 mph winds with snow and Arctic air blowing off Lake Michigan. Furthermore, head coach Lovie Smith is more of a three yards and a cloud of dust type coach. He favors ball control and defense over a wide open attack. While an offensive coordinator does not have to mirror his head coach, they have to be on the same wavelength and the same football universe. These two seem like polar opposites.
The other thing I do not like is that you have guys like former Rams RB Marshall Faulk, QB Kurt Warner and GM Charlie Armey saying that they have concerns about how QB Jay Cutler and Martz will mix. All of them agree that it is going to be a challenge for them to be on the same page early. Whether you like Cutler or hate him, the Bears are tied to him until 2013. If this move does not work out, Smith is probably gone and with him would be Martz. That means another offensive coordinator for Cutler and starting back at square one. While you do not want the inmates running the asylum, you also want your franchise quarterback to be comfortable with the coach that is calling the plays. This is a high-risk high-reward hire. I think it has a high probability of ending badly.
The Bears are also in the market for a defensive coordinator. They have not filled that position at the time of this article; we will update that once the Bears resolve it. If they handle that hiring like they did the offensive coordinator, we should have an answer in May or June.
3) Cleveland Browns - They hired a new President in former Green Bay and Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren, which should finally bring some stability to this unstable franchise. I think Holmgren made the right call to keep current head coach Eric Mangini. Mangini had a terrible 1-11 start, but won his last four games and kept the team playing hard the whole year. With a lockout looming it did not make sense to fire him and bring in a completely new staff that might have only one year before a lock out.If Mangini fails this year, Holmgren can fire him and will have until after the potential lockout to put a new staff in place. Furthermore, Holmgren is not going to let Mangini play musical quarterbacks and take rookies on a bus ride and fine players for not paying for a hotel bottle of water. Mangini is a good coach that has problems handling NFL players, which is something Holmgren is very good at handling. This has the potential to work, but no matter how the chemistry develops, this team is going to need a lot more talent to compete in the AFC North.
4) Denver Broncos - The Broncos parted ways with defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, which was somewhat surprising seeing the Broncos improved from 30th in points allowed to seventh in points allowed in only one season. Nolan was brought into Denver to change the defense. He succeeded, but he is now working for the Miami Dolphins. It just seems like more of the same, chaos and Josh McDaniels not getting along with players and now coaches. As of the writing of this article no new faces have emerged in Denver, we will update the article when there is some progress there.
5) Green Bay Packers - John Schneider, the Director of Football Operations in Green Bay accepted an offer to become the GM in Seattle. This is one of those moves that makes few headlines now, but suddenly becomes a bigger deal in a couple years. Schneider was involved in both professional and college scouting and with as much as the Packers rely on the draft and avoid free agency under GM Ted Thompson, they cannot afford to have an average draft with the holes they have in the secondary and the offensive line if they want to be a Super Bowl contender in 2010.
6) Kansas City Chiefs - Maybe I should start calling the Kansas City Chiefs West New England. Not only did they hire former Browns head coach Romeo Crennel to head up their defense, they also hired former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis to manage the offense.Both guys were coordinators for Bill Belichick in New England and the Kansas City GM that helped bring them in is none other than former New England GM Scott Pioli.
I think it is a good fit for the Chiefs, both coaches will be upgrades over the coordinators the Chiefs had last year and neither had enough success as a head coach to make current unproven head coach Todd Haley feel threatened. You can never have enough experience and the Chiefs are a 4-12 team that added two coaches with a wealth of Super Bowl experience. I like these moves, I think they will help the team execute better in 2010.
7) Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins named Nolan (former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator) to be their defensive coordinator. I love this hire. In 2008, the Broncos were 30th in points allowed, 29th in yards allowed, 26th in passing yards allowed and 27th in rushing yards allowed. Nolan came in and helped transition a change from the 4-3 to the 3-4. All the Broncos did was improve to 12th in points allowed, seventh in yards allowed, third in passing yards allowed and 26th in rushing yards allowed.
I still do not understand why the Broncos decided to part ways, you would think they would have tried to resolve any disagreements before letting Nolan walk. I also think the Dolphins are not in as bad of shape as the Broncos were in 2008. The Dolphins were 25th in points allowed, 22nd in points allowed, 24th in passing yards allowed and 18th in rushing yards allowed. The good thing is they were ninth in points allowed 15th in yards allowed, 25th in passing yards allowed and 10th in rushing yards allowed just one season before. There is talent on this team and they already run a 3-4. Nolan is not going to have to transition a 4-3 team into a 3-4. Nolan could have a nice impact on this team and if the Dolphins defense returns to 2008 levels, the AFC East should be a three-team race.
8) New York Giants - The Giants melted down after a 5-0 start to finish 8-8 and a big reason was a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed. There are consequences when a Super Bowl contender finishes 8-8 and first year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan paid the price with his job. The Giants hired Buffalo Bills interim head coach Perry Fewell, who was not retained by the Bills after the season ended.
Fewell has been in the NFL mainly as a defensive backs coach from 1998-2005. He was hired as the Bills defensive coordinator in 2006 and held that position until taking over as the interim head coach this year. The Bills were an average defense. They only finished outside the top 20 in either yards or points allowed once, in 2007 they were 31st in yards allowed. That said, they finished inside the top 12 in yards allowed and points allowed only once, ranking 10th in points allowed in 2006. I think he has the potential to do better with more talent, but he has hardly proven that he is an elite defensive coordinator. This will be a chance for him to shine, the Giants are loaded with defensive talent but injuries, chemistry and scheme prevented them from showing better in 2009. Fewell is expected to bring this defense back to dominance in 2010.
9) Oakland Raiders - The Raiders were able to lure away Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coaches Hue Jackson to become their offensive coordinator. I like this move, because Jackson has been the quarterbacks coach for Ravens QB Joe Flacco and he responded with three playoff wins in two years. Flacco was a raw talent out of Delaware, but with the help of Jackson was able to transition into a quality NFL starter his rookie year.
The Raiders need to do something with QB JaMarcus Russell. As it is, they cannot afford to play him and they cannot afford to cut him. In 2007, he signed a six-year contract worth $68 million with $31.5 million guaranteed. If they cut him, they are on the hook for the remainder of the guaranteed money. If they keep him, it would be ideal if they could play him. I think Russell will ultimately prove to be a bust, but the Raiders have to try something and Jackson will hopefully have a positive affect on Russell and get that experiment moving in the right direction.
10) Pittsburgh Steelers - This team is similar to the Giants. They won the Super Bowl in 2009 and were expected to contend in 2010. They finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Heads rolled for that failure; special teams coach Bob Ligashesky was one of them. The Steelers allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns, tying the 1998 Minnesota Vikings for the most permitted by any team since 1994. They ranked 30th in kickoff coverage and 24th in punt return coverage. The Steelers also fired offensive line coach Larry Zierlein. The Steelers ranked 19th in rushing yards gained, 20th in rushing touchdowns, 16th in rushing yards per attempt and Roethlisberger was sacked 50 times, which led the league.
The Steelers have already hired their replacements. Al Everest was hired to be the special teams coach. Everest has been an NFL special teams coach for 13 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (1996-99), New Orleans Saints (2000-05) and San Francisco 49ers (2007-09). Sean Kugler was hired as their offensive line coach. Kugler was the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Boise State in 2006 before joining the Buffalo Bills in 2007 as their assistant offensive line coach. He was promoted to offensive line coach in 2008, but fired after the 2009 season when the Bills fired their entire coaching staff.
I like these new hires. It shows the other coaches and players that failure will not be tolerated. The Steelers looked like a team that was content with their success over the last four years. I think a combination of these new coaches and some new players will bring back an intensity that the Steelers lacked in 2009.
11) Seattle Seahawks - There is a completely new show in Seattle this year. Schneider comes over from the Packers and takes over as the GM. Pete Carroll has left USC to become the head coach. Contrary to popular belief, Carroll was not a disaster as a NFL head coach. This is not South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier or Alabama head coach Nick Saben; guys that can win 10 games per year in college, but struggled to have winning seasons in the NFL. Carroll was 33-31 in four NFL seasons. His teams qualified for the playoffs twice, winning the NFC East in 1997. He was 1-2 in the playoffs.
Carroll also served as a defensive coordinator in the NFL win the New York Jets from 1990-1993 and with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995-1996. He helped build a Jets defense into a unit that was sixth in points allowed and eighth in yards allowed in 1993; the main reason he was chosen to lead the Jets in 1994. The 49ers were a top ten defense in both points allowed and yards allowed in 1995 and 1996, including the No. 1 yardage defense in 1995. That landed him the job in New England. Unfortunately for him, he was replaced by Bill Parcells in New York and Bill Belichick in New England. There are not many guys that are going to hold onto their jobs if those guys are in the market. Carroll has had success as both a coordinator and a head coach in the NFL and he knows what it takes to win at that level. I think it is a good fit and with two first round picks, Carroll should be in a good position to bring this team back in the right direction.
12) Washington Redskins - I think this is more of a case where the Redskins found a great coach, but I am not sure Mike Shanahan found a good organization. Daniel Snyder has owned this team since 1999. The Redskins are now on their seventh head coach. Five different quarterbacks have led the team in passing yards. They have hired guys with solid histories as coordinators, college head coaches and NFL head coaches. Yet, they have made the playoffs in only three seasons, winning the NFC only once in 1999. They have a playoff record of 2-3 and have never advanced out of the Divisional Round. Head coaches, quarterbacks and other players have changed, however, the one constant in the equation has been Snyder and his ability to waste millions of dollars in free agency on old players, bad players or a combination of the two.
Shanahan brings credibility to this organization, as does new GM Bruce Allen. You have to wonder if these gentlemen will be able to succeed where so many previous coaches have failed. The division is brutal with three other big spenders in the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins have the most holes of any of these NFC East organizations and it will be interesting to see how long it takes them to build this team back to respectability.
As more changes happen, we will continue to update you on them. Right now, these are the 12 most significant moves of the offseason.
By Derek Lofland, NFL director at Football Maniaxs