Coaching in football, more than in any other sport, is essential to a team’s success. The Harbaugh brothers are flying high on different coasts, one going to three straight NFC title games and the other winning the Super Bowl (over the other brother, no less). New York fans have called for Tom Coughlin’s ouster a few times over the last six years, but he has helped deliver two Super Bowl titles, while Bill Belichick has had one losing season (his first, 2000) since taking over the Patriots, taking them to five Super Bowls. In the NBA, any team that has Lebron, or a trio of Duncan/Parker/Ginobili, for instance, would be a very good team, and likely a dominant one. In baseball, a team is essentially only as good as its 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 for a moment 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 off this weekend, here are some teams that made coaching changes to try and upgrade weak areas. Lions: After underachieving and playing sloppy football under Jim Schwartz, Detroit has a new coach in Jim Caldwell. The mild mannered Caldwell won a Super Bowl two years ago as offensive coordinator with the Ravens. He has been a head coach before, too, taking the Colts to the Super Bowl, a loss to the Saints. He started 14-0 with the Colts, then got fired after a 2-14 campaign sans Peyton Manning. For the record, he does not have an impressive college resume, going 12-52 in conference play as head coach at Wake Forest. Browns: The revolving door in Cleveland continues! Toledo native Rob Chudzinski has brought in last year, then fired, so Mike Pettine steps in. He was the Bills defensive coordinator. He was not even on the Browns’ original list of candidates, but emerged as others either took themselves out of consideration or were hired elsewhere. He walks into a tornado.
The Browns were embarrassed by candidates who kept turning them down and he’ll have to deal in August with the Johnny Manziel media circus. At least he inherits a team with some good young talent. The offense was 11th in the NFL in passing with third-year WR Josh Gordon (1,646 yards, 18.9 ypc). Cleveland found a QB in 28-year old Brian Hoyer (5 TDs, 3 picks) who led them to a 3-0 run before blowing out his knee, a former Tom Brady backup. And the defense made huge strides, 8th in pass yards allowed, 18th against the run. The Browns have gone 31-15-2 under the total the last three years. Will that trend continue? Vikings: Minnesota shifts gears with the hiring of Mike Zimmer. He was the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator. At first glance you wonder what is going on here. The Bengals? A team that flames out every postseason? Who wants anyone from that coaching tree? On the other hand, Zimmer is a respected and successful coordinator.
The Bengals have been great on defense and he did a similar turnaround with the Dallas Cowboys defense from 2000 through ’06. Zimmer was interviewed for several head coaching positions in recent years, but his blunt style was at odds with owners and GMs looking for diplomats and skilled media handlers. Bill Belichick has boring, blunt press conferences, but no one questions his coaching ability. Zimmer was DC for the Falcons when Bobby Petrino jumped ship in 2007and had this to say: “Petrino came in and resigned and said he would talk to us all at a later date. He’s a gutless [bleep]. You can quote that.” Wow!
The Vikings might not win just yet, but don’t expect sugar-coated press conferences from this new coach. Bucs: The NFC North is moving south! That is, former Bears coach Lovie Smith is the new coach in Tampa Bay and brings former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier in as defensive coordinator. Despite some train-wreck numbers last year (32nd in passing, 22nd in rushing), there is actually talent to build with. QB Mike Glennon was forced into a tough situation and played well with 19 TDs, 9 picks and the draft adds Texas A&M WR Mike Evans and TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (Washington), two of the top 38 picks selected in May. Smith knows defense and inherits a talented young front line that has been battling injuries. He turns the offense over to former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who has a terrific record of developing QBs. This team lost to the Saints by 2, at the Jets by 1, won at the Lions as a +7 dog and lost to the eventual champion Seahawks 27-24 – on the road!
Written by Jim Feist of VegasTopDogs.com