NFL Coaches Who Look in over Their Heads so Far in Training Camp
The 2012 NFL regular season has yet to begin, but already there are a few head coaches having a more difficult time than others in training camp so far.
The preseason is intended for installing plays and packages, experimenting with personnel and establishing unity throughout the roster, all while trying to determine the final 53-man roster.
For some head coaches, this has been easier said than done.
It's not uncommon for the train to get off track on occasion. But every step back is an important one in the NFL, especially with just a few weeks before the games start to count.
Here is a look at some head coaches that have had a tough time keeping things on track so far in training camp.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Ryan’s squad got into not one, but two pretty significant scuffles in training camp, per Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. The second one came a day after the first, even after the enigmatic head coach had already scolded the team.
Cimini described the scene as “Just another day at ‘Camp Chaos.’”
Per his report, Ryan said, “‘We had to remind guys that the enemy isn't in green and white.’” It’s not a good sign for a team that has recently struggled to be peaceful and united in the locker room. Santonio Holmes comes to mind from last season.
If this weren’t enough, the Jets are experimenting with a unique quarterback situation. The underwhelming Mark Sanchez is expected to start Week 1, but all the attention is unsurprisingly on backup Tim Tebow.
Tebow isn’t only serving as competition over Sanchez’s shoulder, either. He’s seeing reps under center in goal-line packages and is lining up on special teams too, making his role and his presence all the more buzz-worthy.
How the situation unfolds will likely have various trickle-down effects, as players try to remain neutral amidst all the endless questions.
Oh, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been lining up at wide receiver. He even claimed that he’s the second-best receiver in Jets camp, only behind Holmes.
That probably didn’t make the other receivers and offensive skill players too happy.
Rex Ryan is on the hot seat heading into 2012, and that seat has already heated up before the Jets have even played a regular season game.
Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
The Kevin Kolb experiment is turning into a disaster out in Arizona. And that’s spelling messy news for head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
After signing Kolb for six years and $63.5 million, the Cardinals have given him every chance to win the starting quarterback job. However, he just can’t seem to pull away from John Skelton.
Skelton, a former fifth-round pick out of Fordham, continues to nip at Kolb’s heels. In fact, Skelton started the team’s second preseason game against the Raiders, and the team pulled him after just three successful pass attempts. This indicates the coaching staff may have already made its decision at quarterback.
The carousel at quarterback has been ongoing for the Cardinals. Deciding on Skelton would at least be a step in the right direction.
But Whisenhunt has his hands full elsewhere, too.
Arizona’s offensive line was already a clear weak spot, and losing Brown is just another blow.
Add in the fact that, per SI.com’s Jim Trotter, starting running back Beanie Wells has “looked tentative” since coming back from knee surgery, and this offense is unraveling in various spots.
Whisenhunt will have his hands full with this unit as he attempts to make something out of a fluid situation at various positions. It could be a rough season for the Cards out West.
Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer, New Orleans Saints
It’s an unusual situation to say the least out in New Orleans, as the Saints essentially have two interim head coaches filling in for suspended head coach Sean Payton this year.
Joe Vitt is the official interim head coach, but because he is suspended for the first six games of the regular season for his involvement with the Saints’ Bounty scandal, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will be the other interim head coach to start the regular season (per ESPN.com).
Fortunately for Vitt and Kromer, they have a terrific offensive coordinator in Pete Carmichael Jr., and another head coach on the field in Drew Brees. With Carmichael calling plays and Brees at the helm on offense, any cause for concern is much less than it could be under these circumstances.
On the other hand, this whole scenario is just odd and has the potential to be disruptive to the Saints’ success. For Kromer, the first six games of 2012 will mark his first-ever head coaching gig. In addition, his coaching experience overall has been exclusively at offensive skill positions (O-line, running backs, tight ends) and as an assistant.
Defensively, the Saints finished 24th in the NFL in total defense in 2011, giving up 368.4 yards per game, 21.2 points per game and struggling to defend the pass. Having a relay team at head coach isn’t going to help shore up any of these holes.
Vitt has done well so far during the preseason, but he’ll take a back seat to Kromer once the regular season hits. Then, regardless of Kromer’s performance, Vitt will step in.
This kind of frequent change will be challenging for the Saints and has the potential to do more harm than good. Knowing that Vitt will be suspended once the games start to count somewhat negates any progress the team will have made with him at the helm, since Kromer will be yet another fresh face and a different voice come September.
Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are starting over in 2012. They have a new head coach (Joe Philbin), a new offensive coordinator (Mike Sherman), a new defensive coordinator (Kevin Coyle) and a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill that the team hopes can be the face of the franchise.
For Philbin, this marks his first experience as a head coach at any level. And it will be a tough first test.
Quarterback David Garrard was reportedly the leader for the starting quarterback job before undergoing a knee scope on Aug. 11. Now, it appears that Tannehill, who has impressed in his first two preseason games, has the edge over Matt Moore for starting duties.
If Tannehill were to win the quarterback battle, it would be an exciting storyline for Fins fans. At the same time, plugging in a rookie signal-caller involves a learning curve, especially going up against Bill Belichick twice a year.
Philbin also had to deal with the whole Chad Johnson fiasco recently. The controversial veteran wide receiver was in a prime position to headline Miami’s receiving corps; instead, he headlined the media for his domestic battery arrest.
The head coach subsequently released Johnson, which actually sparked some tension between Philbin and the players. According to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald, linebacker Karlos Dansby and cornerback Sean Smith were both unhappy with the decision to let Johnson go.
Both the Dolphins and Philbin hope the distraction blows over soon, but either way, it wasn’t a great storyline for the team heading into the regular season.
The more important progress to monitor, though, is how quickly Philbin and his new staff can form an identity in Miami. Establishing some success in the AFC East will be tough this year, so making tangible strides will be a focal point.
The receiving corps was a weak link even before Johnson’s release. Now the position is even thinner, which will make it even tougher on whoever is passing the ball.
It’s obviously impossible to judge Philbin at this point (having not coached in a regular season game), but there’s no doubt he has a tall task ahead of him in 2012.