New Coaches Most Likely to Succeed
Linehan was #3, only because the top two inherited teams with winning records. Worth a read.....
With 10 new coaches, five in each conference, the NFL will have a fresh look about it this fall. Last season, there were only three new coaches and only Miami’s Nick Saban had a winning record. Cleveland’s Romeo Crennel and San Francisco’s Mike Nolan suffered growing pains.
Since new coaches usually take over losing clubs, it’s tough for rookies to make an immediate impact. In 1999, Dick Vermeil left a Super Bowl team for Mike Martz in St. Louis. Earlier, Jimmy Johnson left one for Barry Switzer in Dallas and Bill Walsh left one for George Seifert in San Francisco, but those are exceptions. For one thing, the money is too good these days for coaches to walk out on top.
Vermeil left the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs to Herm Edwards this year, and only Edwards and Minnesota’s Brad Childress have the luxury of taking over winning programs. Under fired Mike Tice, the Vikings were 9-7, a forgotten fact amid the distractions of a forgettable season.
So Edwards and Childress are easy choices as rookie coaches most likely to succeed in 2006. Here’s the ranking:
1. Edwards, Chiefs: He takes over the league’s No. 1 offense, featuring solid quarterback Trent Green and a potential superstar in running back Larry Johnson. In one of the more remarkable performances in recent years, Johnson led the AFC in rushing with 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns while starting only nine games.
Edwards is a defensive coach who should put his stamp on a unit that still needs significant improvement to contend in the AFC West. But the offense doesn’t even have to be as good in order to make a Super Bowl run. Edwards’ problem is the AFC West, where Denver and San Diego live.
2. Childress, Vikings: Unlike Edwards, Childress gets to play in the weak NFC North, where he joins fellow rookie coaches Mike McCarthy in Green Bay and Rod Marinelli in Detroit. They are all chasing third-year veteran and NFL coach-of-the-year Lovie Smith in Chicago.
Childress thought he had the dream job of all the new coaches when he had franchise quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Then he found out Culpepper’s me-first attitude reminded him more of Terrell Owens than Donovan McNabb and wasted no time unloading the talented signal-caller.
Fortunately, Childress still has Brad Johnson under center, and the wily Johnson could be a better fit in adapting to the new offense. He’s 38, so the future is now, but the NFC North is a good place for old quarterbacks to shine.
3. Scott Linehan, Rams: He takes over a 6-10 team in the weak NFC West, where Seattle was the only winner. If quarterback Marc Bulger can stay healthy, Linehan has plenty of offensive weapons to make a dent in the standings.
Ex-Saints coach Jim Haslett has a more daunting task of revamping the 30th-ranked defense. Adding defensive tackle La’Roi Glover and linebacker Will Witherspoon will help on a unit that needs more than that.
Not only do the Rams get to play in the NFC West, they also drew the NFC North. But they also face the tough AFC West, so a winning record would be an admirable feat.
4. Marinelli, Lions: Coaching problems generally parallel quarterback problems. Marinelli hired Martz to create a quarterback in Detroit, where Joey Harrington failed.
Martz has Jon Kitna, Josh McCown and young Dan Orlovsky to work with, not much until you recall that it was Martz who turned free agent Arena League product Kurt Warner into a two-time MVP and made Bulger into more than a journeyman.
Marinelli is working hard on changing the culture of losing. The talent is better than the record. At least that’s what a lot of people say. In the NFC North, turnarounds are easier than in other divisions.
5. McCarthy, Packers: Not every new coach has a quarterback problem. Or do they? If McCarthy can control Brett Favre’s tendency to try to win games by himself, this team could surprise.
On the other hand, the offense and defense look like rebuilding jobs despite the presence of Favre. A lot depends on the return of running back Ahman Green to pre-injury form. Rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk could change the whole defense by himself.
The Packers do not have an overwhelming schedule. Half their games are against teams that also have brand new head coaches, so McCarthy starts out on even footing.
6. Sean Payton, Saints: At least in Drew Brees and rookie Reggie Bush, former offensive coordinator Payton has the best new quarterback-running back combination of all his first-year peers. He also gets injured running back Deuce McAllister back, which will make Payton work overtime on his drawing board.
If Brees’ shoulder problems are behind him, this team could make things interesting, but the NFC South is just too tough to expect the Saints to make dramatic inroads this season. Anything close to .500 would make Payton a coach-of-the-year candidate.
Bush will improve the running offense, but the defense must figure out how to stop the run.
7. Gary Kubiak, Texans: At 2-14, the Texans have more room than others for improvement. They also play in the AFC South, a tad weaker than the AFC East or AFC West. It is more than coincidence that new AFC coaches will have a tougher time than new NFC coaches. The AFC simply has more competition.
The decision to pass up Bush in favor of defensive end Mario Williams puts Kubiak on the hottest seat among first-year coaches. He has to prove he can turn David Carr into a better quarterback, starting by figuring out ways to keep him upright.
The offense ranked 30th and the defense 31st, so Williams will have to be awfully good to make an impact amid a roster of unknowns.
8. Dick Jauron, Bills: Jauron must emphasize running and defense because he has running back Willis McGahee and still doesn’t know whether he has a quarterback among J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb and Craig Nall. He also lost the team’s leading receiver, Eric Moulds, to Houston.
General manager Marv Levy’s first five draft picks were on defense, and Jauron knows what he’s doing on defense. He also gets to play against the familiar NFC North, where he coached in Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay.
But the schedule gods have Jauron starting his tenure on the road at New England and at Miami, no way to instill confidence.
9. Eric Mangini, Jets: Mangini and the young Jets’ staff and administration appear to have a bright future. But without a proven, healthy quarterback, the future doesn’t look to be now.
Mangini would like to evolve to a 3-4 defense, and the offense eventually has to quit relying on Curtis Martin to bail it out. With a schedule that starts out at Tennessee, New England, at Buffalo, Indianapolis, at Jacksonville, Miami, it will be difficult for Mangini to come out of the box fast.
10. Art Shell, Raiders: Hired to rekindle the pride and poise of the past, Shell will find a team that is a shell of its former self. It is hard to argue Saints castoff quarterback Aaron Brooks will be more effective than Kerry Collins, unless Brooks figures out a way to follow Randy Moss’ advice and just throw it up.
The Raiders play in the only AFC division against three other teams with winning records, so Shell’s job starts uphill. Fortunately, the schedule-makers have Baltimore, Cleveland, San Francisco and Arizona in the first seven weeks, but after that, the Raiders might be favored only twice.