How Firing of Head Coach Changes Landscape for These 7 Franchises
The total approach of a team's philosophy shifts when a head coaching change occurs.
Just before the New Year, we saw seven NFL teams—which is almost 25 percent of the league—fire its head coach.
Interestingly enough, there is much disparity between the coaches' overall resumes and how their 2012 season's panned out. The Philadelphia Eagles were led by Andy Reid from 1999 through this season.
He was then let go by the Eagles, per Vaughn Johnson of Philly.com, and the franchise is looking elsewhere for the first time since the 20th century. On the contrary, we'll also see some teams who have made multiple changes during that same span.
As a result, the future landscapes for each team vary across pro football's spectrum.
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Since Kurt Warner retired, the Arizona Cardinals have been spiraling downward.
The end result after just three years removed from their most recent postseason appearance, Arizona has gone just 18-30.
So, it was no surprise to see Ken Whisenhunt get fired according to ESPN.com.
Arizona needs to find a coach such as Andy Reid or Jon Gruden that can develop players quicker.
Now, filling the shoes of Warner is certainly no easy task. But considering how painful it was to watch Cardinals quarterbacks the past few seasons, Larry Fitzgerald deserves so much better.
On the bright side, Arizona does field a solid defense with room to improve. The coverage ranked No. 5, allowed only a 54.3 completion percentage and picked off 22 passes.
Competing in a tough division, though, Arizona is still a few years away from becoming playoff contenders.
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In three short years, Chan Gailey managed only 16 wins for the Buffalo Bills.
To no one's surprise from the Bills' official Twitter feed:
Chan Gailey has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Buffalo #Bills— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) December 31, 2012
Buffalo, though, still has every reason to possess hope for 2013.
Obviously, change was needed, but the Bills have the younger talent to develop into a playoff contender. C.J. Spiller is one of the NFL's most explosive running backs, so the ground game is taken care of.
Getting a consistent quarterback is the ultimate priority.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had games where he would toss for 350 yards with four touchdowns and four picks. He would also have games with a 70-plus completion percentage, but still throw a costly interception.
Given the defense's struggles against the run, Buffalo could not overcome turnovers. Ironically, five of the Bills' six wins in 2012 came when Fitzpatrick didn't throw a pick.
Needing to utilize a run-heavy attack and play defense, a coach such as Lovie Smith would fit well. Include a quarterback and Buffalo will be in the postseason mix next fall.
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Getting 10 wins in a season significantly increases the odds of making the postseason in pro football.
In two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Pat Shurmur failed to combine for 10 wins: 9-23.
Cleveland's future, however, provides greater promise than at first glance. The offense should bring in players to build around Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.
The defense has a solid pass rush and possesses the knack for generating turnovers. Landing a standout cornerback early in the draft will improve the pass defense and the front seven will dominate even more.
As for a coach, anyone that brings a traditional and simple approach to the game will do. When a team is so young across the board, there's no need for a complexion of play-calls.
Just run the ball, set up play-action and stop the run on defense.
The Seattle Seahawks are a prime example with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson under center. Cleveland can be similar, because the personnel does exist.
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Despite 10 wins in 2012, the Chicago Bears parted ways with Lovie Smith.
The epitaph for Lovie Smith's tenure as head coach of the Bears could read, "He couldn't fix the offense."
For all the good things Smith did in his nine years in Chicago, his undoing was his inability to take care of the side of the ball in which he had no background.
After all, Chicago did kickoff 2012's first half by going 7-1.
Unfortunately, a big part of that was courtesy of a defense that forced an insane number of turnovers—and scored in the process.
The Bears were carried by the defense and didn't get any help from the passing offense in a pass-heavy league. Turnovers are tough enough to force in general, so surviving weekly on them proved to cost Chicago in the second half.
Given the defensive veteran leadership and experience, Chicago can still shut opponents down.
Jay Cutler, though, is surrounded with arguably more talent than he has ever had. Without question does the pass protection need to improve, but an offensive-minded coach such as Andy Reid would take the Bears to another level.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Romeo Crennel getting fired, according to ESPN.com, was arguably the most foreseeable occurrence as the 2012 season began to unfold.
Finishing at an abysmal 2-14, the Kansas City Chiefs aren't really that far away from turning things around.
The rushing attack was consistent all season, so Jamaal Charles in the backfield will help the transition of a rookie quarterback. That is where K.C. must look this draft, even if it decides to trade down out of the No. 1 spot.
Defensively, the Chiefs must find a way to stuff the run at the point of attack.
Eric Berry and the pass defense ranked No. 12 and allowed only a 60.1 completion percentage. Therefore, upgrading the front seven to assist Derrick Johnson will result in an improved 2013.
Andy Reid would obviously be a solid option to fix the offense, but Lovie Smith would certainly help solve the defense. Either way, K.C. isn't wrong by going with an offensive or defensive-minded coach, regardless of who it is.
That's the only benefit of being at the bottom, because improving is the lone direction to go.
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The past two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles have been extremely disappointing.
And that's putting nicely.
With Super Bowl expectations entering each season, Philly's complete set of talent surely had postseason contention at the very least. Instead, a record of 12-20 to close out Andy Reid's tenure results in a new direction.
One major question: Is Nick Foles the long-term answer?
Well, the young signal-caller needs a full season of development and time to build chemistry with the offense. Not to mention the Eagles have to fix the horrendous offensive line.
Defensively, there's just no excuse for only 30 sacks and eight interceptions. Not when there's Pro Bowl talent in guys such as Trent Cole and Nnamdi Asomugha with a slew of talented rookies in Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry.
Philadelphia needs a coach that will challenge them from the get-go.
And if there's a coach who challenges his players, it's Jon Gruden. Per Dan Pompei of the National Football Post and Chicago Tribune:
People around the NFL who know are convinced Jon Gruden is coming back to coaching this year, provided the right situation presents itself. I’ve been told Gruden feels he needs to come back now if he’s ever going to do it. The right situation for Gruden very well could be in Philadelphia. People close to him think he has a good chance of landing there.
San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers are in dire straits and have been since the 2010 NFL season.
San Diego's future, though, doesn't appear bright.
Quarterback Philip Rivers continues to turn the ball over and the running game is inconsistent at best.
Even when receiving solid pass protection, Rivers cost the Chargers. The offensive line desperately needs to improve as well. The defense on the other hand, failed to force turnovers and in turn, gave up 28 passing touchdowns.
A complete overhaul is not required, but getting Rivers a stronger line and a true No. 1 receiver will make for a faster turnaround. The absence of Vincent Jackson was evident in 2012, so focusing up front and at receiver in the draft will only help.
The Bolts also must remain with an offensive head coach, and Andy Reid or Jon Gruden would be the best in terms of experience. The defense clearly needs to get better, but the offense has to develop more consistent ball control for an efficient balance.
Failing to do so will drop San Diego even further next season.