Coach worth $$$

Jul 8, 2003 4:34 AM

Football season is just around the corner and there are changes sports bettors need to examine carefully. This week we’ll examine the new coaches.

Coaching is such a key to winning football. A lot of people thought Al Davis fleeced Tampa Bay out of a slew of first-round draft picks for Jon Gruden a year ago. After the 48-21 smacking Bucs put on the Raiders in the Super Bowl, who do you suppose had the last laugh?

A great coach is worth his weight in gold. The blueprints for building a winning football program involve upgrades in coaching, defense and offense. That’s the pattern followed by two-time Super Bowl champion coaches Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson.

Several teams this fall will have a different look because of coaching changes.

Cowboys: Dallas hasn’t been the same since Johnson was forced out of town by egomaniacal owner Jerry Jones. After floundering around with Chan Gailey and Dave Campo, Jones appears to have figured out how important coaching is. So he went right to the top and courted 61-year old Parcells out of retirement. In 15 seasons as an NFL head coach, Parcells is 149-106-1.

The last team Parcells came out of retirement for was the 1997 Jets, whom he took from 1-15 to 9-7. A year later the Jets went 12-4 and made it to the AFC title game. His resume is impressive and he brings order, discipline and hard work to the table, not to mention winning.

The Tuna can begin the renovation project with defense, where the Cowboys ranked a respectable 17th in the NFL. Dallas was 15th against the run (20.5 ppg allowed), good enough for Jones to retain defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

The offense needs a makeover (13.5 ppg), so Parcells brought in one of his guys. Maurice Carthon was offensive coordinator under Parcells at both New England and the New York Jets.

Jaguars: Jack Del Rio, at age 40, is a breath of fresh air to an organization that seemed to suffer burnout under disciplinarian Tom Coughlin. Del Rio who turned heads last season as Carolina’s defensive coordinator, turning a No. 31-ranked defense to second last year behind the Bucs.

The Jags were No. 19 defensively last season and awful (No. 27) against the run. With Del Rio as coach, Bill Musgrave was added to run the offense. Musgrave was the offensive coordinator for Virginia, which averaged just over 27 points per game behind QB Matt Schaub. The new coaching staff can work with veteran Mark Brunell and top pick Byron Leftwich at QB, along with weapons like RB Fred Taylor and WR Jimmy Smith.

Bengals: Cincinnati may have to retire the "Bungals jokes" with Marvin Lewis now in charge. Last year, Lewis was the defensive coordinator for a Washington defense that ranked fifth in the NFL. Lewis has a Super Bowl ring from the 2000 season when he ran the outstanding Baltimore defense. He should help the situation at Cincinnati, which surrendered a league-worst 28.5 ppg.

Lewis retained offense coordinator Bob Bratkowski, even tough the Bengals were No. 18 in scoring. Jon Kitna, who took over at QB in Week 5, may have saved Bratkowski’s job. With Kitna in charge, Cincy’s offense averaged 357 yards and would have ranked eighth had those numbers been for 16 games. The Bengals also had a big draft, grabbing Heisman winning QB Carson Palmer with the No. 1 pick.

Lions: Steve Mariucci likes aggressive offenses, so expect more points from a unit that ranked No. 28 out of 32 teams. The former 49ers coach has a talented young QB in Joey Harrington and speedy rookie WR Charles Rogers, the No. 2 pick in the draft. Mariucci has helped groom QBs Brett Favre and Jeff Garcia into stars and would love to add Harrington to that impressive resume.

The last three seasons in San Francisco, Mariucci’s teams averaged 24.2, 25.6 and 22.9 ppg. The last two seasons under Marty Mornhinweg, the Lions averaged 16.9 and 19.1 ppg. An improved offense will raise fan interest and perhaps reverse a trend that saw the Lions drop four games by a three points or less in 2002. Defense has never been Mariucci’s bag, so the OVER may be a good play.