When the average fan lists off the greatest coaches in the history of football, 99.9% or more of that list will be head coaches. Ask an NFL insider to make the same list, you'll see a lot of head coaches, but you'll see a lot of assistant coaches as well. Head Coaches are managers. They have to know a little bit about everything. However, assistants must know everything about only a little. Do you think Jim Haslett cares about what TE is stepping up. Do you think Henry Ellard is concerned with anyone on the roster who doesn't catch a ball? But when the defense makes a big stop, or Holt and Bruce put up 100+ yards of receiving on any Sunday, who had the biggest hand in that.....Linehan or the assistants? Who's to say, but it's at least worth a nod to some of the more intriguing assistant coaches we'll face this year.
And for the record, no....I won't be covering Detroit's Mike Martz in this article. I think we already got an idea of who he is. :)
1. Clancy Pendergast - Arizona DC - Here's one for all you dreamers out there. Pendergast's, Cardinals have finished 12th and 8th in his two seasons (after finishing no better than 21st since 1994). Prior to that he was the Browns LB coach in 2003, and spent 1996-2002 with the Cowboys as DB coach. From '96 til now, he has been on a top 10 defense in all but 3 seasons. Success seems to follow Pendergast. Not bad for a guy who (and here's the kicker).......never played football higher than the high school level! He has picked up his philophy from some of the best schools of thought to be found.....Oklahoma, USC, the Cowboys, the Browns, and now in Arizona.
His style of defense will remind many of Lovie Smith. It's all about athleticism and pursuit. Mistakes are allowed, as long as you have the heart and feet to get yourself back in the play. He has surrounded his side of the ball with a group of the youngest, most athletic defenders to be had. Can he generate the same aggresive pursuit defense that he first witnessed with the Cowboys? His defenses have only gotten better with him at the helm.
2. Norv Turner - San Fran OC - Talk about paybacks....after losing his job as the HC in Oakland, niners HC picked up Norv Turner to come across the bay and be the niners OC. Does Nolan and Turner have a prior relationship? Uh yea, in fact it was Skins HC Turner who gave Nolan his big break, naming him his DC back in 1997.
Turner has never had much success as an HC. However, as an OC, Turner has looked wonderful. Most will say the success of the Cowboys in the early 90's is due to their trio of Smith, Aikman, and Irvin. But their OC Norv Turner may have had a hand in that as well. Whether it's been Dallas, Miami, San Diego, Washington, or Oakland, Turner has shown a willingness to move away from the WCO mentality around him and approach the offense with more of a verticality that would bring a grin to the Sid Gilliam's of the world. But can he bring that stretched offense to a team whose offensive threats aren't really vertical receivers? Time will tell.
3. Mike Priefer - Special Teams, Kansas City - Last year, the excitement that used to surround the Chiefs special teams just wasn't there. The Dante Hall that made everyone take notice was, less noticable. Priefer, who comes from the Jaguars then the Giants to KC, looks to change that. He has managed all around good return and coverage units in the past, and looks to improve on a disapponting '05 for the Chiefs.
4. Kurt Schottenheimer - D. Backs, Green Bay - As you all know, Schott spent last year here with us and our secondary. Yes, he had a lot of injuries to deal with, but it wasn't a stellar showing in the end. He now returns to Green Bay in the same position. In '04 with Schottenheimer as the DB coach, the Green Bay D finished 25th in the league, their worst finish since 1983. The opposing team's TD / Int. ratio was an astonishing 33 / 8. That was good enough to rank Schott's secondary as one of the worst in the land. However, with KS in St. Louis last year, the DBs snapped back and finished with a TD / Int. ratio of 22 / 10, and led the league with the fewest passing yards given up at only 2,680.
So what happens now with KS back on board?
5. Al Saunders - OC & Asst. HC, Washington - Dick Vermeil's buddy and classmate of Mike Martz at the Don Coryell Institute of Offensive Philosophy, now finds himself at yet another team with a long-time legend at the helm in Joe Gibbs. Saunders brings with him, the same style of true West Coast Offense (not the Walsh version that has hijacked the name) that he learned from Coach Coryell as an assistant in San Diego and then as the successor to Coryell himself. However, with an aging Fouts, Saunders couldn't find the same magic as Coryell in his earlier days. So Saunders signed on with the next legend in Marty Schottenheimer. He had decent success in KC, before joining up with Vermeil and helping DV and Martz put together the GSOT, even staying on a year under Martz before moving back to KC with Vermeil.
Yea, I think we are already pretty familiar with the brand of excitement the Skins should bring to town with Saunders calling the offense.