Original Post: February 16, 2016
This year, there are seven new head coaches, the same number as the last two years. However, for the first time in a long while, all seven hires have offensive backgrounds and five of the hires are first-time head coaches. Overall, plenty of fresh blood filled the top open jobs around the league this year, so we need to get to know some of these new coaches. However, “continuity” will be a running theme through quite a few of the write-ups as teams opted to promote from within for many of their hires to keep their systems similar.
In this article, we analyze every new head coach and coordinator hire in the NFL, as we try to get a grasp on what these teams may look like in 2016, especially for fantasy purposes. In all, 13 teams made at least one head coach or coordinator change, so as always there is plenty of turnover in the league.
Note: After the draft and the bulk of the 2016 free agency activity, we’ll revisit this article and update it to include more insight on overall offenses and defenses and specific players.
- Head Coach: John Fox (holdover)
- Offensive Coordinator: Dowell Loggains
- Defensive Coordinator: Vic Fangio (holdover)
About Loggains: With Adam Gase taking the HC job in Miami, QB Jay Cutler will have his sixth offensive coordinator in eight seasons next season. YIKES! At least the Bears decided to keep it in house to keep some continuity by hiring Loggains. When it became clear at the end of the 2015 that Gase was going to get a head coaching job, Cutler went out of his way to publicly praise his QB coach. HC John Fox said that the Bears will use the same offensive system in 2016 as they did in 2015 under Gase. “As I mentioned at the end of the season, our systems are in place,” Fox said in a statement. “We will always look to evolve because the NFL is fluid and adapting is key to good coaching.” Loggains served as the Bear QB coach in 2015, guiding Cutler to one of his best seasons. Cutler threw his fewest career INTs (11) in a season in which he appeared in at least 11 games, and his 7.58 YPA and 64.4% completion percentage were the second-best averages of his career. The Chicago Sun-Times believes Loggains will be an extension of Gase, playing to the strengths of Cutler by using an up-tempo style and using roll-outs. Loggains brings eight years of NFL coaching experience, including 21 games as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee under Mike Munchak from 2012-13. Loggains will clearly take over a better offense than he did when he took over as the Titan OC with five games left in the 2012 season. In his only full season as an OC in 2013, the Titans finished 19th in points and 22nd in yards, but the Titans did have six new starters and Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Locker leading the offense. The Bears had terrible luck with their injuries last season, so Loggains should have much better weapons at his disposal in his second stint as an OC, especially at WR with Kevin White and likely Alshon Jeffery. However, Loggains won’t be working with RB Matt Forte as the team has already informed him that they are moving on, leaving Jeremy Langford to likely be the top back. Cutler is obviously the top beneficiary from the move to promote Loggains, but Langford should be pretty busy next season if they are going to run a similar offense, as the Bears ran the ball on 45.7% of their offensive plays last season.
- Head Coach: Marvin Lewis (holdover)
- Offensive Coordinator: Ken Zampese
- Defensive Coordinator: Paul Guenther (holdover)
About Zampese: Zampese has patiently waited for his chance to lead this Bengal offense and his time has finally come. He’s spent the last 13 years in the organization as the QB coach – developing Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton in that time – and saw two different offensive coordinators (Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson) hired in front of him. Zampese has been the eyes in the press box for Gruden and Lewis the last five seasons. HC Marvin Lewis wanted to keep the continuity going in the offense going into 2016 after Dalton took a major step forward in his fifth season, and Zampese is certainly deserving of a chance to run the offense. The Bengals finished 7th in yards per play (5.7) and total points (419) under Jackson, who left to become the Browns HC. Dalton set career-highs in completion rate (66.2%) and YPA (8.4), and he threw just 7 INTs in 13 games before breaking his throwing thumb. Zampese will be charged with keeping that momentum going forward, as he’ll call plays for the first time in his NFL career. He broke into the NFL in 1998 and Mike Martz highly-recommended Zampese to Lewis back in 2003. His father Ernie Zampese was a longtime NFL offensive assistant, working in San Diego during the Air Coryell days of the late 1970s and early 1980s and winning a Super Bowl as the OC for the 1995 Dallas Cowboys. The younger Zampese intends to keep the structure pretty much the same in terms of the playbook and verbiage to keep Dalton and the rest of the offense comfortable. Dalton showed more control of the offense at the line of scrimmage in 2015, which helped the offense to new levels. “Coach Jackson set a great foundation for us,” Zampese said. “We’ll take it from here and move forward using those same principles of physicality, toughness, energy, enthusiasm, passion, and playing fast.” Zampese obviously got his start with the Greatest Show in Turf, but Zampese saw Dalton at his best when they didn’t force feed the ball into A.J. Green and when they ran the ball on a consistent basis with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The Bengals are keeping Dalton and Green in the system that they’ve mastered, which should keep this unit as one of the top offenses in the league.
- Head Coach: Hue Jackson
- Associate Head Coach (Offense): Pep Hamilton
- Defensive Coordinator: Ray Horton
About Jackson: Jackson was seen as one of the top HC candidates, and he surprised some with how quickly he took the Browns job, becoming the eighth Browns HC since the franchise’s return in 1999. Jackson wanted a head coaching gig again after the Raiders fired him after just one season when he went 8-8 in 2011, which was actually the franchise’s best record since 2002. The organization was in major turmoil that year after owner Al Davis died during the season, and his son Mark Davis eventually hired GM Reggie McKenzie, who wanted to hire his own coach. Jackson spent the last four years with the Bengals, including the last two years as the OC, and he knows the AFC North well. Hue is a four-time OC (Redskins 2003, Falcons 2007, Raiders 2010, Bengals 2014-15) and he didn’t technically hire an offensive coordinator, instead naming Pep Hamilton as an associate head coach for the offense. Jackson will call plays like he did in his first coaching job with the Raiders, but he could eventually handoff the duties to Hamilton. Andy Dalton took a major step forward last season under Jackson, and the Bengals finished 7th in yards per play (5.7) and total points (419). Dalton set career-highs in completion rate (66.2%) and YPA (8.4), and he threw just 7 INTs in 13 games before breaking his throwing thumb. They also had a balanced attack, ranking 15th in passing yards (245.2) and 13th in rushing yards (112.8). Johnny Manziel will obviously not be back with the organization in 2016, and Jackson could have his choice at QB with the #2 overall pick, if he wants to go that direction, between Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Dalton certainly showed progress under Jackson the last few years, so there’s some hope that Hue can actually develop a franchise QB for an organization that hasn’t had one since coming back to Cleveland in 1999. Jackson’s RBs will be active as receivers, from Michael Bush in 2011 to Giovani Bernard the last two years, so Duke Johnson better get ready. We could also see a 2-RB system under Jackson once again, with Isaiah Crowell filling the Jeremy Hill power-back role and Duke stepping into Bernard’s passing-back role. WR Josh Gordon has recently applied for reinstatement after sitting out the entire 2016 season, and this offense really needs him. Jackson has maximized the talent of WRs like Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and A.J. Green in the past. Jackson would love to get his hands on Gordon, and he also wants to keep Travis Benjamin around, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a play for his one of his favorite players Marvin Jones. If Jackson can find the right QB this off-season and Gordon gets reinstated, there’s reason for some hope for this offense next season.
About Hamilton: Hamilton gets an interesting title – associate head coach of offense – but HC Hue Jackson will call plays to start his tenure in Cleveland. Jackson conceded he could eventually handoff the duties off to Hamilton but only after Pep is properly groomed and ready to take control of the offense. Jackson hopes to revive Hamilton’s career like Marvin Lewis did for Hue after he was fired as the Oakland HC back in 2011. Hamilton served as the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis with QB Andrew Luck from 2013 until he was fired eight games into the 2015 season. The Colts had one of best offenses in 2014, but they had major struggles in 2015 mainly because of Luck’s injuries and O-line struggles. Hamilton has also worked with Jay Cutler and Alex Smith in previous stops as a QB coach for the Bears in 2007-09 and for the 49ers in 2006. The Browns have the #2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, and Hamilton’s main focus this summer could be preparing a potential rookie QB to play this season.
About Horton: He’s back! Horton is returning as the team’s defensive coordinator after holding the same position in 2013 under Rob Chudzinski. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Horton is actually still under the Browns payroll for 2016 from his original stint as DC. He took over the Titan defense the last two seasons, and the group showed improvements last season, especially with their front seven, but their secondary did fall apart at the end of the year. This season will be his fourth stint as a DC in the last six years – Cardinals 2011-12, Browns 2013, Titans 2014-15. Horton wasn’t pleased with how he basically got passed over for the Titans head coaching job, and the Titans recently promoted his longtime mentor Dick LeBeau to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. Horton runs a 3-4 scheme, which is the same as former Browns HC Mike Pettine’s base scheme. Horton helped the Browns go from 23rd in total defense to ninth in his one season. They also had 40 sacks in 2013, their most in a season since 2001, and the Browns had just 29 sacks last year (28th in the league). Horton loved Barkevious Mingo when they took him #6 overall in 2013, and he’ll see if he can prevent Mingo from being yet another Browns draft bust. He also needs to get Paul Kruger going again after his sack total dipped from 11 in 2014 to just 2.5 in 2015.
- Head Coach: Chuck Pagano (holdover)
- Offensive Coordinator: Rob Chudzinski (holdover)
- Defensive Coordinator: Ted Monachino
About Monachino: Colt HC Chuck Pagano turned to an old friend to fill their open DC job, and it could be an indication that Pagano will take a more active role with the defense going forward. Monachino spent two years under Pagano when he was the DC in Baltimore from 2010-11. He brings 11 seasons of NFL experience to Indianapolis, including the last six seasons with the Ravens as a linebackers coach, working with players like Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Elvis Dumervil. The Colts have a reputation for lacking some toughness on defense, and they are quite old on that side of the ball with eight starters over the age of 30 from last season. They ranked 25th in points allowed (25.5) and in yards per game (379.1) in 2015. Monachino will be tasked with getting Pagano’s current 3-4 defense to start resembling some of their old Ravens 3-4 defenses of the past, with strong edge pass rushes and press coverage on the outside. “Ted is very familiar with our scheme,” Pagano said in a statement. “He is a great motivator and is extremely respected by the players he has coached.” Monachino said his top priority this off-season is to improve their pass rush around an aging Robert Mathis, as Bjoern Werner and Trent Cole have been major disappointments.
- Head Coach: Gus Bradley (holdover)
- Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson (holdover)
- Defensive Coordinator: Todd Wash
About Wash: Wash has been confused for HC Gus Bradley on game broadcasts in the past because they look quite a bit a like. The confusion will continue next year as Bradley promoted Wash to defensive coordinator from defensive line coach to replace Bob Babich, whose defense allowed the second-most points in the NFL. Wash followed Bradley to Jacksonville from Seattle for the 2013 season, and they also worked on the same staffs at North Dakota State and for the Buccaneers. Wash also served as the running-game coordinator last season, and the Jags finished a respectable 15th in yards allowed (1748). He’ll have his hands full trying to fix Jaguar pass defense and pass rush. The Jags finished 29th pass yards allowed (4273), 31st in scoring defense (448 points), and they had only 9 INTs. They Jags couldn’t get off the field without blitzing, which Bradley doesn’t like to do too much in his scheme. They also haven’t hit with some of their picks in the secondary, as high picks like CB Dwayne Gratz and SS Jonathan Cyprien have disappointed. Wash is clearly more familiar with Bradley’s philosophy and scheme than the outside candidates considered for the job, and Bradley didn’t have much outside interest as he could be a lame-duck coach if they struggle again in 2016. Wash is expected to use a more diverse pressure scheme and to be more aggressive in coverage, which would be a change compared to their propensity to use a lot of zone looks to prevent big plays.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Head Coach: Andy Reid (holdover)
- Co-Offensive Coordinators: Brad Childress and Matt Nagy
- Defensive Coordinator: Bob Sutton (holdover)
About Childress and Nagy: HC Andy Reid kept it in house with his promotions of Childress and Nagy to co-offensive coordinators after the departure of Doug Pederson to Philadelphia. Reid wanted to maintain continuity and stability, and Reid said the individual duties haven’t been divvied up yet. Nagy, who is just 37, has served as the QB coach the last three seasons after following Reid from Philadelphia. Childress spent the last three seasons as a special-projects and spread-game analyst in Kansas City, but he was the OC under Reid in Philly from 2002-05 and the QB coach from 1999-2001. Reid, like he always has, called the majority of the plays while Childress was in Philadelphia. His time under Reid helped him to become the HC in Minnesota from 2006-10, where he compiled a 39-35 record. He most recently served as an OC under Pat Shurmur in Cleveland for the 2012 season. Reid occasionally granted Pederson play-calling duties during the 2015 season, but Reid still ran the daily installation meetings and was very hands-on. That will continue in 2016, as Reid will still call plays and run the daily gameplan installation meetings, but Nagy and Childress will have input. Childress will stay up in the box while Nagy will be on the sideline and be the voice in the QBs headset. Even with some changes at coordinator, the Chiefs are unlikely to deviate much from what they’ve done the first three years in Reid’s West Coast offense. Reid is still in complete control of this offense, while Childress and Nagy will have bigger profiles now in title only.
- Head Coach: Adam Gase
- Offensive Coordinators: Clyde Christensen
- Defensive Coordinator: Vance Joseph
About Gase: Gase is one of the top young, up-and-coming offensive gurus in the league, and the Dolphins gave an awful lot of power to the youngest head coach in the league. Gase will have control of the 53-man roster, which is a lot of responsibility for someone who will turn just 38 in March. Gase is a disciple of Nick Saban at both Michigan State and LSU, and he hopes to have more success than Saban ever did in Miami. His work with quarterbacks was the biggest reason he got the job in Miami. He’s worked with an all-timer in Peyton Manning and he got the best out of Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler in recent years. The Dolphins were most impressed with Gase’s work to revive Cutler’s stagnant career last season, improving his efficiency and cutting down on his interceptions. Cutler threw his fewest career INTs (11) in a season in which he appeared in at least 11 games. Gase also kept a fading Manning afloat and got the most out of a very limited passer in Tebow during his Denver days. The Dolphins invested $96 million into Ryan Tannehill, and he regressed last season for the first time in his fourth-year career. Gase will be expected to work his magic again with Tannehill, getting him back on track to be the team’s franchise QB. Manning had a high level of respect for Gase in Denver because of his flexibility, preparation, and gameplans. He has regularly put his offenses in good spots to succeed, and he’ll once again be handling the play-calling. He likes to spread teams out horizontally and vertically, and he learned his deep passing game from coaching under Mike Martz in both Detroit and San Francisco. If Tannehill can improve on his shaky deep passing, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills should benefit from a better vertical passing attack. The two talented young outside WRs were underutilized for most of the 2015 season, with most targets being funneled underneath to Jarvis Landry. That’s not to say Landry won’t be heavily involved still, as he should be the main beneficiary of Gase’s creative screen game. Taking a quick look, we can’t help but see some similarities between these Dolphin WRs and Gase’s old Bronco WRs. Parker brings Demaryius Thomas’ size, while Stills has Emmanuel Sanders speed, and Landry is a better version of Wes Welker out of the slot. Lamar Miller is a free agent, and we’d understand why he’d want to leave after being criminally underutilized during his four seasons with the Dolphins. However, Gase’s offenses have ranked 11th (Broncos), 12th (Broncos), and 6th (Bears) in rushing attempts the last three years. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have ranked 29th, 22nd, and 32nd in rushing attempts in that same time. Gase will pay more attention to the run than his predecessors, and his presence could keep Miller around. He has also used multiple backs in all three of those seasons, so Jay Ajayi will also be more involved in his second season.
About Christensen: Adam Gase will be the youngest head coach in the league next season at the age of 38, so it made sense that they brought in Christensen, 60, to bring some extra experience to this offensive coaching staff behind Gase. Christensen spent the last 14 years with the Colts, working with Peyton Manning and then Andrew Luck since 2002. He served as the WR coach before being promoted to OC in 2010-11, and he was the QB coach from 2012-15. Christensen’s next project will be to maximize the potential of Ryan Tannehill after his lackluster fourth season, which was filled with plenty of tumult with their changing coaching situations. Christensen also worked as the OC in Tampa in 2001 before following Tony Dungy to Indianapolis, so he comes to Miami with plenty of experience. As expected, Gase will call plays and Christensen will be in more of a support role, helping to craft weekly gameplans with the HC and working closely with Tannehill to get the most out of him. The Dolphins scored 20+ points just three times last season, and they finished 26th in yards per game and 27th in points per game, so there is plenty of room for improvement.
About Joseph: Joseph has been in demand since last season when Gary Kubiak and the Broncos wanted to hire him as their defensive coordinator. However, the Bengals and owner Mike Brown blocked the Broncos from hiring him since he was still under contract. Joseph worked with Adam Gase for one season as assistants in San Francisco, and he’s been a DB coach since 2006 with the 49ers (2006/10), the Texans (2011-13), and most recently with the Bengals (2014-15). Joseph coached one of the best secondaries in the league the last two years, and he now needs to fix one of the worst. He got strong performances out of Adam Jones and Reggie Nelson, and the Bengals had 41 INTs and allowed only 36 TD passes the last two years. Meanwhile, the Dolphins finished 25th in yards allowed (6019), 19th in points allowed (389), 21st in passing yards allowed (4000), and 28th in rushing yards allowed (2019). Joseph will run a 4-3 defense, which isn’t a surprise coming from the Bengals and working under Marvin Lewis. The 4-3 scheme also better suits their high-priced DT Ndamukong Suh, and Joseph has already said he has some ideas on how to get Suh more one-on-one opportunities to help him make more plays next season. The Dolphins want to lock up Olivier Vernon this off-season, and they need to especially improve their secondary.
New York Giants
- Head Coach: Ben McAdoo
- Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sullivan
- Defensive Coordinator: Steve Spagnuolo (holdover)
About McAdoo: The Giants have been floundering in mediocrity under Tom Coughlin since their Super Bowl victory in 2011, but the organization didn’t look far to find his successor. The offense, specifically QB Eli Manning, flourished the last two seasons under the 38-year-old McAdoo, but it certainly wasn’t a given that Manning would succeed in this up-tempo, West Coast attack when McAdoo first came over from Green Bay. Manning was facing the first major upheaval of his NFL career going into 2014, after playing under Kevin Gilbride since 2007. He was going from a vertical passing game to a West Coast system under McAdoo that focused on quick decisions, accuracy, and footwork. Well, the switch revived Manning’s somewhat stagnant career and jumpstarted this entire offense the last two years. It didn’t hurt that WR Odell Beckham was a perfect for the offense, but Victor Cruz also looked like a nice fit but played just 6 games the last two seasons. The Giants will continue to run McAdoo’s offense and he called every play the last two years. He said he’ll be actively involved in the offense but no determination has been made on if he or Mike Sullivan – who was promoted to OC from QB coach – will call the plays. We’d lean toward McAdoo calling the plays once again because Sullivan will be in just his second season coaching in a West Coast system. McAdoo does need to do a better job of picking his RBs and sticking with a better rotation, as he seemed to have no rhyme or reason to his use of Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, and Orleans Darkwa last season. McAdoo, a former TE coach in Green Bay, has done a good job maximizing two UDFA TEs Will Tye and Larry Donnell the last two seasons, and he’s used them well in the red zone with 10 TDs in that time. But in the end, the decision to promote McAdoo all came down to Manning. Manning will be 35 years old this season and doesn’t want to waste another season trying to learn a new system. “I enjoy this offense, I enjoy working with Coach McAdoo,” Manning said. “I’m excited about that staying the same.” The results don’t lie either, as this has easily been the best two-year stretch of Manning’s career.
About Sullivan: New HC Ben McAdoo decided to promote Sullivan to offensive coordinator to keep continuity with the offense, rather than bring in former Miami HC and his old boss from Green Bay, Joe Philbin. Sullivan certainly has plenty of experience of his own, serving under Tom Coughlin from his start in 2004 through 2011, working with WRs and then moving to QBs in 2010. He also served as the Buccaneers OC from 2012-13 before coming back to the Giants in 2014 as the QB coach. Under Sullivan, Eli Manning set a career high with 35 TDs last season, and Eli had perhaps his best season under Sullivan when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011, which obviously helped him to get his gig with the Buccaneers. Sullivan didn’t have any experience in a West Coast offense until he returned to the Giants last season and worked under McAdoo. This is still McAdoo’s offense and he called every play the last two seasons. McAdoo said he’ll be actively involved in the offense but no determination has been made on if he’ll call the plays or Sullivan will call plays. We’d lean toward McAdoo calling the plays once again, at least early in 2016.
- Head Coach: Doug Pederson
- Offensive Coordinator: Frank Reich
- Defensive Coordinator: Jim Schwartz
About Pederson: Getting the gist of the Eagles’ coaching search, it became readily apparent that the Eagles viewed getting rid of Chip Kelly more important than the guy they actually brought in. And reading into Jeffrey Lurie’s much-publicized “emotional intelligence” quip after firing Kelly, getting someone who was the opposite of Kelly personality-wise was perhaps tops on the Eagles’ list. Enter Pederson, a 14-year NFL QB (mostly backup, occasional starter) who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons, the last three as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator under Andy Reid. A familiar face to Eagles’ fans, Pederson was the club’s bridge QB in 1999 to Donovan McNabb, essentially “coaching” the rookie then, and he spent the final four years of Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia on the coaching staff, the last two as QB coach. The question now becomes what Pederson’s offense will look like. Of his own admission, Pederson didn’t call a ton of plays in Kansas City, only seeing part-time work in 2015 (including the Chiefs’ ill-fated drive late in the playoffs against New England this year, which took way too long). But it’s fair to assume Pederson’s offense will look a lot like Reid’s. Pederson played under and coached under Reid, after all. In Kansas City, Pederson’s offenses put a major focus on limiting turnovers. In Pederson’s three years with the Chiefs, Kansas City ranked 2nd, 4th, and 2nd in fewest turnovers in the entire league. Compare that to Kelly’s Eagles, who ranked 4th in Kelly’s first year, but then fell to 32nd and 29th the last two. Of course, Pederson’s offenses have been far more methodical: Kelly’s Eagles were 12th in the NFL in plays run in 2013, then 1st in 2014 and 2nd in 2015. By comparison, Pederson’s Chiefs ranked 13th in 2013, then 29th and 26th the last two years. Kelly’s M.O. was always tempo, while Pederson comes from a background of getting the right play in, even if the defense has a chance to substitute/regroup. Clearly, the Eagles are going with the opposite philosophy here. In terms of how Pederson will use the Eagles’ personnel, we likely still need to wait for the off-season to take shape. But we already have some hints. The Eagles have signed both of their TEs, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, to contract extensions. The Chiefs heavily employed 2-TE sets in Pederson’s time there, and the Eagles’ activity regarding their TEs shows their hand here. Also, how will this affect Jordan Matthews? Matthews played almost exclusively out of the slot under Kelly, but if Pederson employs as many 2-TE sets as we expect, can Matthews “win” frequently outside? Pederson’s offenses also ran the ball very well in Kansas City. He’s keeping OL coach Jeff Stoutland and RB coach Duce Staley around from the Kelly tenure, so will the Eagles keep the same blocking scheme (ostensibly meaning they’ll move on from DeMarco Murray)? And what of Sam Bradford, about whom Pederson has spoken fondly, but carefully, this off-season? Although Pederson has announced he will call the plays, fact is we don’t know a ton about Pederson’s coaching style, and it’s going to be hard to formulate a really good picture of him at least until the Eagles make their off-season moves.
Frank Reich: Joining Pederson in Philly, Reich gives the Eagles a ton of QB experience on their staff. Both Pederson and Reich played in the NFL for 14 years, mostly as backups, and have spent less time coaching. Reich has been in the NFL coaching since 2008, and has three years as a QB coach (two with Peyton Manning in Indy), including spending one as QB coach in San Diego before taking over as offensive coordinator the last two seasons, before being fired. He also mixed in as a WR coach in Arizona in between. Reich called the plays in San Diego the last two years, to mixed results; the Chargers went from 18th in yards and 17th in points in 2014 to 9th in yards but 26th in points in 2015. The last two years, Reich has dealt with awful run games in San Diego, perhaps through no fault of his own. The offensive line has been a major issue, and the Chargers didn’t get what they paid for in Melvin Gordon’s rookie season. In Reich’s two years as Charger OC, San Diego ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively, in yards per rush, a stark contrast from Pederson’s numbers in Kansas City. Is it strictly a case of personnel available? Regardless, Reich has a richer history of working with elite QBs, based on his time with Manning in Indy and Philip Rivers in San Diego, the last two years having to work with Rivers through serious injury issues at the skill positions. And though he’s only called plays for two years, he offers more experience in that department than Pederson (who will call the plays in Philly). Reich also has experience running faster-tempo attacks, dating back to his time with the Bills, playing in the “K-Gun” no-huddle offense, to his work with audible-heavy Rivers in San Diego. More of the downfield complement to Pederson’s West Coast roots, Reich will provide balance to the Eagles’ offense, likely working closely with the QBs and WRs based on his history coaching both positions.
About Schwartz: By the numbers, Schwartz has a really difficult job to do. Over the last three years under Chip Kelly and Billy Davis, The Eagles ranked 29th, 28th, and 30th in defensive yards allowed, respectively. But keep in mind that over those three seasons, the Eagles ranked 1st, 2nd, and 1st in defensive plays run per game, a direct effect of Kelly’s all-tempo offensive attack. What Schwartz actually has in Philly is a ton of talent, especially in the front seven. The Eagles spent big money this off-season signing DE Vinny Curry to an extension. They signed Brandon Graham last year. Star DT Fletcher Cox should be next, and perhaps Bennie Logan to follow. The Eagles have the talent for Schwartz to use his preferred 4-3 attack, a move the Eagles’ players seem to be welcoming. And while Eagle fans may cringe about Schwartz using the “Wide-9” defensive alignment, the Eagles have more talent at LB than they had the last time they used the format in 2012, notably rising star Jordan Hicks. At this point, anything they get from Kiko Alonso would be a bonus, though Schwartz has noted he liked Alonso a lot from his lone season in Buffalo before losing Alonso to injury. Schwartz has a history of improving defenses, taking the Bills from 10th to 4th in his lone season (including a league-leading 52 sacks), and taking a Lions’ defense that finished 32nd in his first year as coach in 2009 to as high as 13th overall in 2012, though he had far less success defensively as a head coach than as a coordinator (he coached top-10 defenses in 2007 and 2008, his final two seasons in Tennessee, as well). Schwartz’s defenses are built around the line and the pass rush (without using a ton of blitz), and he has plenty to work with in that department, though the Eagles also have some talent at LB and in the secondary. It’s not a great defense and the Eagles lack depth, but don’t be surprised if Schwartz manages a top-half unit in the league this year.
San Diego Chargers
- Head Coach: Mike McCoy (holdover)
- Offensive Coordinators: Ken Whisenhunt
- Defensive Coordinator: John Pagano (holdover)
About Whisenhunt: The union between HC Mike McCoy, QB Philip Rivers, and OC Whisenhunt worked so well the first time around in 2013, and it made perfect sense for the three to reunite again for the 2016 season as they try to recapture that magic. With Whisenhunt in charge of the offense back in 2013, the Chargers finished 5th in yards per game (393.3), 4th in passing yards per game (270.5), and 13th in rushing yards per game (122.8). He parlayed that success into the Titans head coaching job in 2014, but he was fired last November after a season and a half and a pitiful 3-20 record. Whisenhunt never really catered his offense around talented rookie QB Marcus Mariota last season, and he probably should’ve never been brought back in the first place as the two didn’t seem compatible from the start. The Chargers have really struggled to run the ball consistently since Whisenhunt left, as they finished last with a 3.5 YPC average in 2015 and second to last with a 3.4 YPC average in 2014. However, the Chargers have had significant personnel issues since Whisenhunt left, and he’ll have his hands full getting the most out of disappointing 1st-round pick Melvin Gordon and this terrible O-line next season. Gordon never looked comfortable running out of the shotgun, something he rarely did at Wisconsin, and the Chargers didn’t have the pieces – O-line, fullback, blocking TEs – to run a power-running scheme. Whisenhunt’s top challenge will be to cater this Charger running game to get the most out of Gordon. Whisenhunt also said he thinks Gordon is a better receiver than he’s been given credit for coming out of Wisconsin, and Melvin sure could use any kind of help to get himself on track as a second-year player. The Chargers led the league in pass attempts last season, and Whisenhunt’s top goal will be to make this a more balanced attack. Rivers will still have plenty of control at the line of scrimmage – he’s one of the best in the league at the LOS – and this passing attack won’t be much different than we’ve seen the last few years. They’ll still use plenty of short-to-intermediate throws to get the ball out quickly behind this shaky O-line, so Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson, and potentially Antonio Gates, who is a free agent, will be quite active.
San Francisco 49ers
- Head Coach: Chip Kelly
- Offensive Coordinator: Curtis Modkins
- Defensive Coordinator: Jim O’Neil
About Kelly: Kelly has been debated incessantly, and there’s no doubt his tenure in Philadelphia didn’t live up to the promise he showed in his first year in the league. But let’s be honest, the guy is 26-22 (counting playoffs) as a head coach in the league. Certainly, guys have kept their jobs doing worse than that in three seasons. The issue in Philly appeared to be Kelly’s strained relationship with his players, plus his failed single season as the Eagles’ personnel head in 2015. Kelly will not have that personnel control in 2016, as GM Trent Baalke remains in charge. But Kelly’s opinions will certainly carry weight, especially with regards to the QB position. As of publication, Kelly has been very non-committal on Colin Kaepernick as his QB in San Francisco, despite the perception that Kaepernick would be an ideal fit for the zone read, which Kelly never really had in Philly. However, Kaepernick’s play has cratered since taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, and last year he was benched (and outplayed) by Blaine Gabbert, who can also move well enough to execute some zone reads. The decision on QB (Kap, Gabbert, or someone else) will shape all of our analysis of San Francisco this off-season. Elsewhere, the Niners need to be rebuilt. Torrey Smith gives Kelly a very good deep threat, something he lacked in Philly after cutting DeSean Jackson and letting Jeremy Maclin walk, but the Niners have little else at WR with Anquan Boldin a free agent. That’s a major position of need. At tight end, they have interesting prospects Vance McDonald and Blake Bell, but nobody proven. At RB, the Niners have Carlos Hyde coming off a serious injury, but in theory he’s a nice fit in Kelly’s zone-scheme run game, and could be due for a breakout year. But Kelly will likely want to supplement that position, in addition to rebuilding what was a bad offensive line a season ago. Last year in Philly, Kelly didn’t get much fantasy production out of his team, with only Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz finishing as higher-end options at their given positions. However, he had plenty of success in the two previous years, and if he establishes a good working relationship with Baalke, Kelly’s vision may be better enacted than when he was doing it himself. For now, we consider Hyde the biggest beneficiary of the Kelly hire, though if Kaepernick actually ends up with a chance to win the QB job, he could save his floundering career. Kelly told reporters that his tempo-based attack from Oregon and Philly will not change. But he also mentioned he was doing an “autopsy” on what went wrong with the Eagles, to try to avoid making the same mistakes (turnovers were a huge issue for Kelly the last two years, ranking 32nd in 2014 and 29th in 2015, after finishing 4th in 2013). Fortunately for Kelly, the 49ers don’t have a lot of talent he can actually part ways with, and need to be built from the ground up. He should have tabula rasa here.
About Modkins: Modkins has experience as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, working under Chan Gailey as the Bills’ OC from 2010 through 2012. In those three years, the Bills ranked 25th, 14th, and 19th in offense, respectively. However, Modkins is known as a run-game guru, and he helped improve the Bills’ run game from 27th in the league in 2011 to 13th in 2012. But he never called plays, and essentially was a glorified RB coach, which is what he was with the Lions the last three seasons (and a season each in Kansas City and Arizona before his stint in Buffalo). According to Lions’ OC Jim Bob Cooter, Modkins was essential to helping turn the Lions’ offense around in 2015 following the firing of Joe Lombardi. What’s interesting is that Chip Kelly is going with the opposite type of coordinator than he went with in Philly. When he first arrived with the Eagles, Kelly was praised for hiring Pat Shurmur as his OC to help with the NFL pass game concepts. This time around, Kelly must feel he has a great grasp of the NFL passing game, because Modkins’ entire experience in the NFL revolves around the run game. At the least, his hiring is more good news for Carlos Hyde, who should benefit from Kelly’s space-opening run attack and Modkins’ tutelage.
About O’Neil: O’Neil takes the 49ers’ DC job knowing one thing for sure: he’s unlikely to have a defense that puts up great numbers. In Chip Kelly’s three years in Philadelphia, Bill Davis’ defenses ranked 29th, 28th, and 30th in total yards allowed, respectively. But that was directly linked to the fact that the Eagles ranked 1st, 2nd, and 1st in total defensive plays faced in those three years. Given Kelly is expected to keep his breakneck offensive tempo, which includes both scoring fast and a lot of three-and-outs, O’Neil should expect his 49ers to be at least top-5 in total defensive plays run, regardless of the effectiveness of Kelly’s offense. For fantasy, however, O’Neil’s defense can be very successful. Kelly’s Eagles were a top-5 unit for fantasy each of the last two years, including #1 in 2014, given Kelly’s emphasis for an “attacking” defense. Under Kelly/Davis, the Eagles ranked 3rd, 6th, and 10th in takeaways in his three years. And obviously, a defense running more plays will have more opportunities for creating turnovers. Overall, O’Neil will run Kelly’s preferred 3-4 (good news, because that’s Trent Baalke’s defense of choice as well), but Niners fans aren’t likely to be excited by his resume. In two seasons as the Browns’ DC, his teams ranked 23rd and 27th in yards allowed, respectively, though they were at least 9th in points allowed in 2014. And this was despite some intriguing talent. O’Neil’s Browns were especially horrendous against the run, ranking 32nd and 30th in yards allowed the last two years. Fortunately for O’Neil, the Niners should have almost their entire defense from last year returning. Unfortunately for O’Neil, it’s a defense that finished 29th in yards allowed. The Niners are unlikely to have a good defense in 2016, but there could be fantasy value, especially if Kelly gets the special teams coached up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Head Coach: Dirk Koetter
- Co-Offensive Coordinators: Todd Monken
- Defensive Coordinator: Mike Smith
About Koetter: The Buccaneer organization is undergoing a bit of a shift in philosophy with the hiring of Koetter, as they have mostly been all about defense dating back to the days of Tony Dungy. It’s pretty clear that the organization and ownership believes that they have their franchise QB in Jameis Winston, which is the reason for the shift. They also didn’t want Koetter to bolt this off-season or next for another head coaching job, so they dismissed Lovie Smith to promote Koetter and keep the continuity in this offense. Winston joined Cam Newton and Andrew Luck as the only rookie QBs to pass for 4000 yards, and the Bucs finished fifth overall in total offense and set a franchise record with more than 6,000 yards. Koetter said they will be even more aggressive this year with Winston entering his second season. Koetter was anything but conservative during his last three seasons with the Falcons from 2012-14, giving the reins to QB Matt Ryan to throw the ball all over the field to Julio Jones and Roddy White. Koetter’s “Four Verticals” scheme features mostly one-back, shotgun formations, and spreading out defenses with four receivers attacking upfield. But Koetter showed his flexibility with a young QB and a stud RB in Doug Martin, using a more balanced attack in his first year. Koetter also leaned on a run-heavy attack with Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville from 2007-11. Koetter will continue to be the offensive play-caller and kept most of his offensive coaching staff, but he did bring in Todd Monken to be his OC. They worked together in Jacksonville and they share the same philosophy that 20+-yard plays are the key to their attack, which is great news for Mike Evans. Monken’s top priority is to eliminate Evans’ drops from last season, which plagued him and the entire offense at times. Koetter has already said they won’t release V-Jax this off-season with such a poor free-agent pool at WR. “Vincent is the glue of our passing game,” Koetter told the Tampa Bay Times. “When I came here a year ago, I thought Vincent was very similar to Roddy White when I first went to Atlanta — a do-everything receiver. (He) can go deep, can go across the middle, can go inside and block, you can move him around.” Koetter did a great job featuring a power rushing attack with Martin and a vertical passing attack last year, which fit Winston perfectly. Koetter was also a big believer in Martin – who is a free agent – last training camp and let him carry the load, so there’s mutual interest on both sides to keep the partnership going into the future.
About Monken: Koetter turned to an old friend to fill his offensive coordinator role. Monken was the receivers coach in Jacksonville from 2007-10 when Koetter was the Jaguars offensive coordinator. Monken had been the head coach at Southern Miss the last three years, leading a turnaround of the program that culminated in a bowl game appearance in 2015. However, he couldn’t pass of the opportunity to work with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans in an up-and-coming offense with Koetter. It comes as no surprise that Koetter will once again call the offensive plays in 2016, but Monken will help to organize the attack each week. They both share the same vertical-passing philosophy, aiming for 20+-yard plays to key to their attack, and Monken’s Southern Miss team led the NCAA in 20+-yard gains with 109. In addition to his OC duties, Monken’s biggest impact will likely be felt with his work as the team’s receivers coach. “Todd also happens to be a terrific receivers coach with a proven track record of helping his players reach their true potential,” Koetter said. Monken has already said one of his top priorities is to eliminate Evans’ drops from last season, which plagued him and the entire offense at times.
About Smith: Smith and Dirk Koetter are in for a role reversal this season. Smith and Koetter worked together as coordinators in Jacksonville during the 2007 season before Smith eventually hired Koetter to be his OC in Atlanta from 2010-14. Now Smith will serve under his friend Koetter in Tampa this season. Smith went 66-46 and led the Falcons to four playoff appearances in seven years (2008-14) before sitting out the 2015 season. Smith said he’s looking forward to working with DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David, and the Bucs certainly have some talent up front, but they have some work to do in the secondary. The Buccaneer defense went into a tailspin to end the year after a 6-6 start, giving up 30 points per game in their final four contests. The Buccaneers finished 10th in yards allowed (5446) but the managed to allow the 26th most points (417). They also showed no discipline under old HC Lovie Smith, as they were the most penalized team in franchise history with 1195 total yards lost, second only to the Bills in 2015. Smith’s Falcon teams had a reputation for their discipline, and they were annually among the least penalized teams when Smith and Koetter were together in Atlanta. The Falcons certainly weren’t known for their defenses during Smith’s tenure, but they also invested more heavily in their offenses during that time. The Bucs are likely to remain a 4-3 base defense under Smith, but he plans on being flexible and multiple depending on what opposing offenses are doing.
- Head Coach: Mike Mularkey
- Co-Offensive Coordinators: Tery Robiskie
- Defensive Coordinator: Dick LeBeau
About Mularkey: The Titans made the most uninspiring coaching selection of the off-season by retaining interim HC Mularkey as the full-time HC for 2016. The Titans ownership said they wanted to give Marcus Mariota continuity heading into his season, and they also cited his work in helping to develop Matt Ryan while he was the OC with the Falcons. They didn’t want Mariota to start from scratch for a second time in his first two seasons. However, every Titans fan is worried that the organization is delaying Mularkey’s eventual dismissal after what could be another tough season in 2016. Mularkey has a brutal 16-32 record in his previous two stops as a HC in Buffalo (2004-05) and in Jacksonville (2012). If you include last year’s interim work, his career record is 18-39, including a staggering 4-21 mark over his last 25 games. Titans fans hope Mularkey does better with Mariota than he did with his previous two 1st-round picks J.P. Losman and Blaine Gabbert. Mularkey plans on changing up the offensive system some this off-season after deciding not to tinker too much with former coach Ken Whisenhunt’s offense in the middle of the 2015 season after Whisenhunt was fired. Mularkey envisions a simpler and faster system for the offense, making it less complicated and a little more “user-friendly” in terms of terminology for his young QB. Mularkey did have top-10 offenses twice in three seasons with the Steelers and twice in four years with the Falcons, but he is going to leave the play-calling duties to veteran Terry Robiskie. Mularkey wants to run a balanced attack and Robiskie spoke quite a bit about being physical next season. The Titans did hire one of the better OL coaches in Russ Grimm, who could help them establish a physical running game with David Cobb and Antonio Andrews. WR Dorial Green-Beckham’s progress in his second year will be key for this entire offense, but at least Mularkey actually decided to use DGB in the second half of 2015 after Whisenhunt essentially ignored the talented big WR. TE Delanie Walker’s career did take off under Mularkey’s tutelage as the TE coach the last two seasons, becoming the first Titan TE to top 1000 yards in a season. We’ll see if Mularkey can kick the rest of this offense into gear and give this dismal franchise some hope in 2016, but we’re not exactly counting on it.
About Robiskie: Apparently a major prerequisite to be hired as a Titan coordinator this off-season was NFL coaching experience. The Titans have a combined 77 years of experience between DC Dick LeBeau and OC Robiskie, including 34 years from Robiskie. He’s only spent six of those seasons as an OC, with five of them coming with the Raiders back when they were in Los Angeles from 1989-93 (he’s been around that long). He also led the Browns offense in 2004 when he also served as an interim HC at the end of the year. He also worked as an interim HC Washington in 2000, so while he’s mostly been a position coach, he does have some experience in bigger roles. Robiskie spent the last eight years as a WR coach in Atlanta, working under Mike Mularkey while he was the OC in Atlanta from 2008-11. WR Harry Douglas played seven seasons under Robiskie with the Falcons and he will be quite familiar with what Mularkey and Robiskie want to do on offense. Robiskie will call the plays and he talked quite a bit about being a physical offense after he was hired. “I have always been a big believer in just aggressive, physical, nasty football. Bloody your nose and let’s go play,” Robiskie said. The Titans did hire one of the better OL coaches in Russ Grimm, who could help them establish a physical running game with David Cobb and Antonio Andrews. The Titans finished 30th on offense last season, so they can only really go up this season. They really need to do a better job protecting their franchise QB Marcus Mariota in 2016 after he got sacked 38 times in just 12 games. Robiskie also knows they need to be more creative with how they use Mariota after he was a little underutilized as a dual-threat last year. “Marcus kind of opens the playbook up a little bit more, gives you more options. He creates more problems for the defense, so we have to take that into consideration,” Robiskie said. The Titans actually demoted Jason Michael down from OC to QB coach this off-season, so Robiskie will be Mariota’s third play-caller in two seasons, which is a terrible trend for early in his career.
About LeBeau: LeBeau, who will turn 79 next season, is still not ready to hang it up even after leaving his longtime post as the DC with the Steelers. In fact, he’ll be back in his familiar defensive coordinator spot again this year – he’ll also be an assistant head coach – after working last year an associate head coach under longtime pupil Ray Horton last year. LeBeau brings 57 years of NFL experience to the table – 14 years as a player and 43 as a coach – and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. LeBeau will of course unleash his patented zone blitzes out of his 3-4 base defenses once again next year, like the Titans did quite a bit with him in the fold last year. The Titans improved pretty much across the board defensively last season, including in total defense (12th in 2015 from 27th in 2014), rush defense (18th from 31st), and pass defense (7th from 15th). The Titan secondary did leak some oil late in the year and they gave up 30+ points five times. LeBeau previously worked with HC Mike Mularkey in Pittsburgh, a place where he spent 13 seasons as the Steeler DC (1995-96, 2004-14) and had top-five defense 10 times and the top overall defense five times. This Titan defense certainly isn’t the same conversation as some of those Steeler defenses, as they need to rework their secondary, but they do have talent up front starting with DT Jurrell Casey and OLB Brian Orakpo.
Source: Fantasy Guru
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