What Have We Learned About NFL's New Coaches Already?

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IMay 16, 2013

What Have We Learned About NFL's New Coaches Already?

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    For every new NFL head coach that has success in his initial season with a new team, there are a few others who fail to live up to the higher expectations and standards of their new organizations. 

    There is a reason why a team like the Oakland Raiders have had more head coaches in the past decade than the Pittsburgh Steelers have had since 1969. It's all about continuity and sustained success. 

    No new head coach can come in and resemble the atmosphere of his predecessor and expect to have success out of the gate. At the very least, it's very rare. Instead, he must bring in his own philosophy, scheme, environment and personality. 

    That's what all eight new head coaches around the NFL plan to do this season and have already begun during this early part of the new league year. 

    Here is a look at what we have learned about each of these new head coaches around the NFL. 

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

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    Bruce Arians will attempt to bring the mentality of both the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers with him to the desert.

    He isn't coming to Arizona expecting the club to take on a defeatist or rebuilding attitude. Arians indicated as much back in April (via ESPN). 

    We’re reloading, not rebuilding. We refused to use that word in Indianapolis last year with 37 players turned over on the roster. Robert Mathis said, 'I ain’t got time to rebuild.' We were in the playoffs. There is no rebuilding going on. We are just plugging in new faces and different faces. This team is not very far off.

    Arians doesn't believe that his team is going to sit there and take a beating from other "more talented" teams within the division. He has gotten to this point in his career by understanding what he is facing—an uphill battle in the NFC West. That being said, Arians isn't about to give off any negative energy with his new team. 

    Does Arizona stand a chance of finishing outside of the cellar in the NFC West? Probably not. However, Arians isn't going to call it a rebuilding process for the franchise. 

    One concrete thing that Arians plans on doing in Arizona this season is to play Larry Fitzgerald more in the slot and move him around (via azcardinals.com). 

    The Pro Bowl receiver has been a victim of lackluster quarterbacks and offensive line play in Arizona over the past few seasons, but is among the most talented pass catchers in the entire league. 

    If rookie Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford can provide necessary protection from the interior of the line, new quarterback Carson Palmer may be able to have a bounce-back season with the Cardinals. 

    After all, Arians worked wonders with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis this past season and was Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2011 with Ben Roethlisberger under center. He fully understands how to get the most out of his quarterbacks and help them progress, no matter what stage of their careers. 

    I am pretty sure this was a huge selling point for the Cardinals when they contacted Oakland about the possibility of acquiring Palmer. 

    It will be interesting to see what Arians is able to do with an Arizona offense that struggled a great deal in 2012. He will run different sets, rely on the running game more and create an aura of flexibility when it comes to its receiving group. 

    Personally, I am looking for a breakout campaign from second-year wide receiver Michael Floyd and a return to dominance from Fitzgerald. 

    Of course, this all depends on the play of Arizona's previously dormant offensive line. If Palmer can get the necessary protection to find his weapons down the field, the Cardinals could be looking at a surprising season in the desert.

Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills

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    Some people fail to recognize that Doug Marrone was the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints from 2006 to 2008. That stretch represented Drew Brees' first three seasons with the Saints. 

    While Sean Payton was calling the shots in New Orleans during that span, it still goes to show you that Marrone understands what it means to be a key cog on an important offense; at least from a coaching perspective. 

    Before taking over the Buffalo Bills' sideline, Doug Marrone was the offensive line coach for the New York Jets when Chad Pennington was under center.

    Say what you want about Pennington's injury-riddled career, he was about as fundamentally sound as they come. 

    This leads me to believe that trading back into the first round to select EJ Manuel was not a Buffalo mistake. Marrone wanted his own quarterback to groom in Buffalo and believed the Florida State product was his best option. 

    As someone who worked with both Brees and Pennington, the former Syracuse head coach knows full well Manuel needs to improve (via NFL.com):

    I didn't think he'd come in here and be the polished guy that you have... You're learning a new system. You're learning new coaches. You're getting a feel for yourself. I try to look at the players and just say, 'OK,' here's where they are. Here's how they are on the field

    Former general manager Buddy Nix, who was still in that role during April's draft, seemed to have been on the way out for some time. I am not sure how much of a role he played on draft day (via ESPN).

    While assistant general manager Doug Whaley may have played an important role in the selection of Manuel, I believed that Marrone hand-picked his guy. 

    Marrone had success in turning around a Syracuse football program that had failed to make a bowl appearance in each of the four seasons prior to his arrival. With Marrone relying on Ryan Nassib at quarterback throughout his tenure, the Orangemen reached two bowl games in four seasons. 

    For his part, Nassib excelled in Marrone's variation of the West Coast system. He threw 48 touchdowns with only 19 interceptions and completed over 62 percent of his passes in his final two seasons at Syracuse. Overall, Nassib saw his touchdown numbers and quarterback rating improve each season in college. 

    Marrone will look to groom the talented Manuel the same way in upstate New York. It's definitely going to be a maturation process for Manuel, who is still about as raw as a rookie quarterback can be in the National Football League. 

    I liken this "relationship" to the one that Jim Harbaugh built with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Kaepernick had that deer-in-the-headlights look to him as late as last August, but continued to work with San Francisco's coaching staff to fix certain mechanical flaws. We all saw how that ended up turning out. 

    I envision that this is what Marrone is looking to do with Manuel. If so, his track record at Syracuse might just enable it to happen. 

Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears

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    Each of the Chicago Bears last three head coaches, dating back to the great Mike Ditka in the early 1990's, have been defensive minded.

    That has led them to field some pretty lackluster offensive units while remaining above average on the defensive side of the ball. 

    That all changed when Chicago announced Marc Trestman as its new head coach earlier this offseason. One of Trestman's first jobs in the NFL was as the quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay in 1987, the season after the Bucs traded Steve Young to San Francisco. 

    Trestman worked with Steve DeBerg and Vinny Testaverde, not exactly two top-notch quarterbacks, that season. 

    The veteran head coach then went full circle and was San Francisco's offensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996 with Young under center. That was where he made his name known in the NFL. San Francisco finished first in scoring offense in 1995 and second in the same category the following season (via Pro Football Reference). 

    To make a long story short, Trestman is a guy with a long history of success running offenses and passing games in the NFL. 

    Trestman was one of the primary reasons that Rich Gannon went from veteran journeyman to MVP and Super Bowl quarterback with the Oakland Raiders back in 2002.

    As the Raiders quarterback coach, Trestman oversaw a season that went down in the record books. Gannon led the league in completions, attempts and yards  (via Pro Football Reference) while guiding Oakland to the AFC championship. 

    Will he be able to do the same thing with Jay Cutler, whose career seems to have topped out at this point? 

    Speaking about Cutler's mechanics, Trestman had the following to say (via The Chicago Tribune): 

    I know he has the ability to have precision mechanics, high-level mechanics,” Trestman said. “At times he has them, at times he doesn’t. But that would be for anybody in the league. There are times when you do it the way you want to do it. There are times when you want to get the ball up a little more. Your footwork can be cleaner

    If you have watched even one game of Cutler's career, you know that he has struggled with mechanics since joining the NFL in 2006. For the most part, Cutler has gotten away with below-average mechanics, but imagine if he was actually able to refine them. 

    Again, I look back at Gannon, whose were noticeable, even when Trestman oversaw him in Minnesota back in the early 1990's. Once the coach was able to work with his pupil later in his career, Gannon started to provide better mechanics and took  off. 

    Chicago and Trestman are hoping that the same thing rings true this upcoming season. 

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns

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    Prior to what had to be considered a down season with the Carolina Panthers in 2012, Rob Chudzinski was considered one of the hottest assistant coaches in the National Football League. 

    In June of 2011, ESPN ranked Chudzinski as the No. 8 up-and-coming assistant coach in the league. This was before he was able to groom Cam Newton into a great rookie quarterback that fall. 

    Despite struggles in terms of Newton maturing as a quarterback and Carolina failing to take the next step towards playoff contention, Chudzinski was still sought after as an assistant coach following the 2012 season. 

    In no small part due to his ability to groom young quarterbacks, Cleveland made the decision to bring Chudzinski on as its new head coach immediately after last season came to a conclusion. 

    That being said, the Browns didn't follow suit by giving Chudzinski an opportunity to draft his own quarterback last month. Instead, he will be asked to work with a combination of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden. 

    Neither possess the talent that we have seen from Newton over the last two seasons, but that doesn't seem to phase Chudzinski. 

    First, it's all about creating competition in training camp. The new head coach has gone on record indicating that Weeden isn't set in stone as the Browns starting quarterback this upcoming season (via NFL.com): 

    I expect both of these guys to compete...I don't know any other way. Anybody that's on a team is competing from my standpoint. We want to put these guys in a situation, give them every chance to succeed and we'll see how that all plays out. I'm hoping that the best man wins the job and that he gives us a chance to win.

    This might not be as much of an indictment of Weeden as it is of Chudzinski refusing to take a pie-in-the-sky approach. He understands that Cleveland spent a first-round pick on Weeden in 2012, but he isn't ready to just hand the job over to the inexperienced quarterback. 

    Back in 2011, Cam Newton was the No. 1 overall pick of the Panthers. Despite an overwhelming feeling that Newton would win the starting job outright, he entered camp in a full-fledged battle for the starting gig (via ESPN). 

    While that might have been more of a public relations ploy by Carolina to create some sort of doubt that it was handing the job over to a rookie, it does go to show exactly what type of mentality Chudzinski brings with him to Cleveland. 

    After all, any thought of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III battling for starting jobs this past season was beyond ludicrous. 

    Chudzinski brought in another great quarterback guru in Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. While it hasn't been confirmed that Turner will be calling the plays for Cleveland this season, his presence on the coaching staff seems to indicate that's the direction the Browns will go. 

    Anyone who followed Pat Shurmur's short tenure as Cleveland's head coach fully understands that being a head coach in the NFL may require handing off the play-calling duties to the coordinator. 

    If that happens, Cleveland should be in a good situation to manage the game on offense and create some sort of chemistry within its coaching staff. 

Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    In going from one of the best young teams in the NFL in the Seattle Seahawks to a downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, Gus Bradley seems to have brought with him the exuberance that has made Pete Carroll such a popular figure in the Pacific Northwest.

    Obviously, a lot of this has to do with the success that Seattle has had over the past couple seasons, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

    As it relates to philosophy, Bradley is attempting to bring what he learned in Seattle with him to Florida.

    Part of this is a different practice strategy than players in Jacksonville are accustomed to (via The Seattle Times):

    Going into my eighth year, I've never been a part of anything like this," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "First day of minicamp, they're throwing everything at us: blitz period, hurry-up offense, two-minute drill, the whole kitchen sink at you the first day. ... Everybody came out here with the right attitude and we got it done.

    That is the same mentality that Bradley learned from Carroll in Seattle and it may pay dividends moving forward. 

    In terms of scheme, Bradley is also going to be looking at utilizing a multi-front 4-3 on defense. That makes it incredibly hard for opposing offenses to know what is coming prior to the snap and can cause some confusion in terms of blocking assignments. 

    That is also a necessity considering that the Jaguars finished dead last in the NFL in sacks this past season and didn't really upgrade the front seven in the draft or in free agency. 

    For Bradley, it's all about bringing together the talent that he does have and putting those players in the right situation to succeed. 

    On that note, one of Bradley's first schematic decisions as coach of the Jaguars was to move former first-round pick Tyson Alualu outside to defensive end (via ESPN). 

    The Cal product has struggled playing inside since entering the league in 2010. At 6'3" and 295 pounds, Alualu is massive for a defensive end, but Bradley's decision is based on what he saw from Red Bryant in Seattle. Bryant stands a couple of inches taller and has about 30 pounds on Aluala, but Bradley is envisioning the same type of impact player as a 5-technique defensive end.

    The idea here is to not only stuff the run on the outside, but to also open up lanes for edge-rushers. You could easily see a combination of other defensive ends dropping back into a more non-traditional 3-4 outside linebacker role in this variation of the 4-3 defense.

    The Buccaneers might also use Geno Hayes and Brandon Marshall blitzing more from the outside linebacker position. 

    As it is, Bradley has a plan and that has to be refreshing to a long-time disappointed Jaguars' fan base. 

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Say what you want about the Philadelphia Eagles' inability to win a championship under Andy Reid in his 14 seasons as their head coach.

    While that is one of the primary reasons Reid was let go, he was one of the most successful head coaches in the league during that span. 

    He instituted the West Coast Offense to fit the skill set of Donovan McNabb and then Michael Vick. In the process, Reid was able to turn McNabb into a Pro Bowl quarterback and resurrect Vick's career after his off-field issues. 

    Immediately after being hired on by Kansas City, Reid made the decision to go hard after former San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, who has had success running the West Coast Offense the past couple years with the 49ers. 

    Reid was able to get a quarterback who he had targeted for some time. 

    Reid hired former University of Nevada head coach Chris Ault as a consultant earlier this week. Ault is popular for creating the pistol offense and working with current San Francisco star Colin Kaepernick in college. 

    Bleacher Report's Christopher Hansen had the following to say about the hiring: 

    Reid has a reputation for giving his quarterbacks easy completions and the pistol has that kind of potential. It’s not far-fetched to believe that Reid will try to blend his pass-heavy West Coast offense into the pistol in 2013 with a renewed emphasis on the running game.

    It’s unclear how much we might see of the pistol in Kansas City, but it seems like we may see it quite a bit. The Chiefs now have the ultimate resource on the pistol and it would be a shame to waste it.

    Who better to come in and help run the pistol than the guy who popularized it in college? 

    As Hansen mentioned in his article, Reid has a history of adapting his offense around the skill set of the particular quarterback running it. While Smith is no Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III, he is mobile in his own right. 

    Equally as important, the pistol offense is a bit different than the basic read-option that took the NFL by storm last season. That type of offensive set tends to focus more on the running game than the read-option. 

    Does this mean that Reid may be going away from his pass-happy offenses of yesteryear? Only time will tell. 

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

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    According to Teamrankings.com, Oregon ran an average of 82.8 plays per game under former head coach Chip Kelly in 2012. That number ranked the Ducks 11th in the nation. 

    For comparison's sake, the Philadelphia Eagles ran an average of 67.4 plays per game this past season (via Team Rankings). 

    While I understand comparing college football to the NFL doesn't make a lot of sense, the discrepancy of over 15 plays per game is alarming. 

    A lot has been made about the potential of Kelly bringing this fast-paced and high-octane offense to Philadelphia, but the rookie head coach may not be willing to adapt this offensive scheme to fit the NFL.

    According to Albert Breer at NFL.com, there was a lot of the same tendencies in Philadelphia's practices as we saw in Eugene over the past few seasons: 

    In an effort to move as fast as possible, the other 10 guys were getting signals Monday from the sideline, which should streamline the process with everyone quickly getting cues directly from the coach, as opposed to waiting for a quarterback to relay them.

    Breer continued:

    Another thing that's obvious was so much of what Kelly's doing on the practice field requires a lot of effort from the players. Getting people who buy in all the way is hugely important. It's easy now, when everything is new. Sustaining the enthusiasm over months and years will be more challenging.

    I know that's a lot of information to read in a short period of time, but let me break it down. As someone that has seen Oregon practice, it was all about high tempo, getting play after play called and being able to fully prepare for the speed of the game come Saturday. 

    Considering that Kelly is already doing this in his first set of practices with Philadelphia, it leads me to believe that he is going to have the likes of Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy prepared to hit the ground running when training camp begins during the summer. 

    As most of us who watched Oregon's offense the past few seasons know, Kelly relies a great deal on different offensive sets, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he plans on possibly using DeSean Jackson in the backfield as well as at wide receiver (via The Delaware County Daily Times). 

    With the athleticism and talent that Kelly has put on Philadelphia's offense, I wouldn't be surprised to see this unit quickly become one of the most dynamic in the NFC. 

    Think about a backfield consisting of Vick, McCoy and James Casey with Zach Ertz and/or Brent Celek lined up at tight end outside of the tackle. Then think about another formation that consists of Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson on the outside with McCoy in the slot and Bryce Brown in the backfield. 

    The options are limitless, which is why Philadelphia brought Kelly in to be its new head coach. It promises to be a fun ride. 

Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers

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    Two team in the AFC West now have former Denver Broncos assistants roaming the sidelines as their head coaches. While this isn't necessarily the Bill Walsh coaching tree, it's still mighty impressive. 

    Mike McCoy did something amazing with the Denver Broncos. He was able to transition from a Tim Tebow-led offense in 2011 to a more traditional drop-back passing game with Peyton Manning this past season. 

    Tebow and Manning: Two quarterbacks who couldn't be any more different having success in two separate offensive schemes within a two-year period. That's simply amazing. 

    Considering that McCoy was able to have success with Tebow at quarterback, it shouldn't really come as a surprise that he is setting lofty expectations for Philip Rivers in San Diego (via CNNSI):

    McCoy said he thinks Philip Rivers, who has never completed more than 66 percent of his throws in seven starting seasons, can be a 70-percent passer in his new offense. 

    According to a Sports Illustrated article by Peter King, McCoy went on to say, "I've been blown away by his anticipation and willingness to learn." 

    Some of Rivers' struggles seem to have a direct correlation with the stars who San Diego lost on offense over the past few seasons, namely Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson. 

    With a deep wide receiver group and more beef up front (D.J. Fluker anyone?), Rivers could be in a situation to succeed under McCoy's guidance in 2013. 

    According to The Associated Press, McCoy expanded on Rivers' willingness to work beyond the basics to understand the new offensive scheme (h/t CBS Sports)

    He's dying to be the very best...You love the way he works every day. He comes in, he's detailed, he's asking great questions. It's not just the basics of what he wants to know. He wants phase three of things.

    If Rivers is able to work that extra mile to pick up this new offense and turns the corner in 2013, San Diego could surprise a great deal of people. 

    At the very least, McCoy seems to have him headed in the right direction at this early point in the new league year. 


    Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.

    Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.