NFL coaching changes to keep an eye on
July 25, 2017 3:00 AM
by Jim Feist
Coaching in football, more than any other sport, is essential to a team’s success.
The Harbaugh brothers were flying high on different coasts before Jim jumped to Michigan, one going to three straight NFC title games and the other winning the Super Bowl (over the other brother, no less). Bill Belichick has had one losing season (his first, 2000) since taking over the Patriots, taking them to seven Super Bowls, winning five.
In the NBA, any team that has LeBron or Kevin Durant would be a title contender. In baseball, a team is essentially only as good as the starting pitching (or payroll). Joe Torre won four World Series with the Yankees, but many forget he was run out of town after coaching the Mets and Cardinals to poor seasons.
Football is very different. There are so many players involved on the field that it requires an excellent coach and coaching staff to teach, motivate and organize into a successful unit. Think about football on-field personnel: 11 starters on offense, 11 on defense, special teams players, and even specialized personnel, such as third-and-long defensive backs or running backs used only in short yardage situations.
It takes hours of time, patience and talent to organize players into an effective group. As preseason kicks gets into gear next week, here are some teams that made coaching changes to try and upgrade weak areas.
San Francisco 49ers
When last we saw Kyle Shanahan he was answering questions about play-calling in the Super Bowl. The former Falcons offensive coordinator steps into a massive rebuilding job in San Francisco. He’ll be answering more questions about play-calling, as the 49ers have no QB.
After calling plays for Matt Ryan, Shanahan is stuck with Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and rookies Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. The 49ers beat the inept Rams twice last season and lost to everybody else. San Fran was outscored by 171 points last year, second only to the Browns.
Rex Ryan was finally thrown out of the AFC East after head coaching jobs with the Jets and Bills. New coach Sean McDermott comes over from the Panthers where he ran the defense. He inherits a Bills squad that wasn’t that bad, going 7-9 while outscored opponents by +21 points. They were also one of two teams to beat the eventual champion Patriots.
QB Tyrod Taylor (17 TDs, 6 INTs) didn’t turn the ball over and ran for 580 yards, though he did take 42 sacks. The Bills hit on some of their biggest needs in the draft with wide receiver Zay Jones, right tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Tre’Davious White. A surprise team for the Wild Card? If so the new coach would be feted all over town as the Bills haven’t been to the playoffs in 17 years.
Vance Joseph is the new coach. Who? He’s a defensive guy as an assistant with the 49ers, Texans, Bengals and the last three with the Dolphins. He also worked closely with former Denver coach Gary Kubiak in Houston and got the most out of his players in Miami. He’s an admirer of former DC Wade Phillips, who likes to bring the blitz.
It was a surprise hire, as Denver’s defense has talent while the offense needs work. In 2016 Denver’s QBs threw 20 TDs, 11 picks with 40 sacks. The Broncos carry a 9-4 run UNDER the total into the new season and look like a defensive-first team again.
Los Angeles Rams
Jeff Fisher was shown the door (about five years too late) and Sean McVay is running the Rams in their second season back in Los Angeles. McVay spent three years as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, improving QB Kirk Cousins. His reputation is as a creative play-caller. That should mean more trick plays, which will be a relief to bored Ram fans who had to suffer through a dreadful inept offense last season. Los Angeles QBs combined for 14 TDs, 20 picks, 49 sacks and 20-million boos.