5 may fly high in coach

Jul 27, 2004 5:55 AM

Football season is just around the corner and there are changes each year that sports bettors need to examine carefully. This week I’ll look at some of the changes on the sidelines.

Is there any doubt that competent coaching is essential in pro football? Bill Parcells has dramatically turned around the four NFL franchises he’s been with. Jimmy Johnson went 48-24 against the spread in his last four seasons with the Cowboys (two Super Bowl titles). Bill Belichick has won two of the last three Super Bowls, outfoxing opponents with imaginative game plans. The Patriots were 17-2 SU and 14-4-1 ATS last season.

The Cowboys were 10-6 SU and 9-6-1 ATS in Parcells’ debut season last fall at Dallas. This shouldn’t surprise anyone: In Parcells’ last 10 years as a head coach with four different teams he is 102-69 SU and 97-68-6 ATS. It’s easy to see why NFL owners are constantly searching for a great sideline general to run the show. Several teams will have a different look this fall with head coaching changes.

Washington: Redskins football legend Joe Gibbs rides out of the sunset to try and rescue the ”˜Skins. For rabid fans, it’s as if Moses has returned from retirement to lead them back to the Promised Land. The 63-year old coach left the game after the 1992 season, but Gibbs has a formula and feels he can be successful again. After all, football fundamentals are still the same and he’s an excellent communicator and innovator.

The Redskins have been to the playoffs only once since he left. Washington fans will see a very different team on the field this fall. That can only be a good thing when you realize the Skins were just 3-5 SU, 1-5-2 ATS at home last season under Steve Spurrier.

NY Giants: The Giants lacked discipline in 2003 and were a great go-against at 4-12 SU, 3-12-1 ATS. Their lazy, disinterested play cost coach Jim Fassel his job. To combat this problem, the Giants brought in Tom Coughlin, an old military man. You won’t see lazy play from Giants this fall. Either they will go all out for Coughlin or get fired.

While the players might not be happy with the hard-driving Coughlin, he appears to be a good fit for a team that lacked order and interest. The most interesting dynamic to watch will be how the demanding Coughlin is able to interact with his mild mannered quarterbacks in veteran Kurt Warner and pampered, laid back rookie Eli Manning.

Arizona: Something’s gotta give! Head Coach Dennis Green will run the ship after eight playoff appearances and a 97-62 record in 10 seasons with Minnesota. He takes over a Cardinals team that has had 14 of 15 losing seasons in Arizona since moving from St. Louis in 1988.

Green has a very good offensive mind and has been able to get the most out of many different quarterbacks. He gets to do the same with QB Josh McCown and a pair of terrific wide outs in rookie WR Larry Fitzgerald and Rookie of the Year WR Anquan Boldin. After averaging 16.6 points per game at home where they were 6-2 "under" the total, Green and the Cardinals hope an upgraded passing attack increases attendance.

Chicago: The defensive Monsters of the Midway might return for Chicago under new coach Lovie Smith. "Tough, hard-nosed football, that’s what Chicago football is all about," Smith said when hired. Smith knows defense, having worked in Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy and as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis the past three seasons.

The Rams had one of the NFL’s worst defenses when Smith arrived, allowing 471 points in 2000. In his first season the Rams had the league’s third-best defense on the way to the Super Bowl. The Rams led the NFL with 46 takeaways last season. Smith appears to be building a speedy defense first, with LB Brian Urlacher and their first two picks in the draft, NT Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson. The Bears were 6-2 "under" the total on the road in 2003.

Oakland: Al Davis, and old AFL man, prefers a pass-happy offense to defense. So he went quick-fix with his "D," bringing in aging veterans Warren Sapp and Ted Washington and shored up the offense through the draft and with new coach Norv Turner.

Turner has a gunslinger reputation, which attracted Davis. He was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys when they won Super Bowls with QB Troy Aikman and in 1999, as head coach of the Redskins, Turner’s team was second in the NFL offensively and third in scoring. Perhaps he can help stave off retirement for aging QB Rich Gannon and WR Jerry Rice.