The Schottey Six: Top NFL Coordinators of 2009
The National Football League is built around high-priced characters.
When a team wins, the head coach takes a lot of the credit and the general manager, owner, and various star players take the rest. When things go poorly, those same people take the blame.
However, an NFL franchise is an intricate system where even 20 or more guys can comprise a coaching staff which works together to develop a team.
After head coaches, offensive and defensive Coordinators shoulder the biggest brunt of the load.
CBSSports.com is rightfully showcasing Mike Nolan and Gregg Williams this week to highlight the two coaches' value to their respective clubs. Both manage defenses which have surprised everyone and have put their teams in contention.
So while we can all agree that Nolan and Williams deserve top honors, The Schottey Six is going to look at six other guys ranking the value of the top three offensive and defensive coordinators who have contributed to their team's success this season.
3) Brian VanGorder (Defensive Coordinator—Atlanta Falcons)
If someone is asking, "Who is this guy?" don't worry—this guy is a virtual unknown in NFL circles.
Brian VanGorder is the immensely talented DC of the Atlanta Falcons. He was brought in with Bobby Petrino's staff as a linebackers coach and promoted after Mike Zimmer left for the Cincinnati Bengals.
VanGorder has proved to be a fine replacement and led this team into the rare air of being one of the NFL's top defenses—with little help from the 2009 draft class.
The 15.8 points per game given up by the Falcons is fifth best in the NFL.
Atlanta is a building team whose offense is still ahead of its defense in terms of talent. With Brian VanGorder at the helm, that may not be the case for long.
2) Larry Coyer (Defensive Coordinator—Indianapolis Colts)
The Indianapolis Colts are currently allowing opponents only 14.2 points per game—tied with the Giants for second best in the NFL behind Denver.
Seriously, when can't Peyton Manning and this offense score 14 points in a game?
Coach Coyer is engineering this defensive shutdown with an unlikely cast of characters—Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, and Marlin Jackson have all been inactive at times this season.
Coyer was brought in because of his familiarity with the Tampa Two, but has been forced to blitz more, knowing the famous zone isn't as stout with rookies over the top.
1) Mike Zimmer (Defensive Coordinator—Cincinnati Bengals)
Mike Zimmer knows defense after having spent 30 years in coaching (20 as a defensive coordinator).
Zimmer started his NFL career under Barry Switzer and survived numerous head coaching changes in Dallas—altering his scheme to suit the whims of various new coaches.
When Bill Parcels became head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Mike Zimmer had no familiarity with the 3-4 defense but led his team to second in the NFL with 16.2 points allowed per game.
Not bad for a former college quarterback.
Sadly, Mike Zimmer's wife, Vikki, passed away this past week. She did not live long enough to see her husband get the recognition he so greatly deserves.
Although Zimmer has always been one of the better coordinators in the league, his name is finally being whispered and rumored as head coaching material. The 53-year old will be on a lot of NFL and college "short-lists" next spring.
3) Marty Mornhinweg (Offensive Coordinator—Philadelphia Eagles)
It is easy to be an offensive coordinator when Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are all flying around the field.
Kevin Kolb and LeSean McCoy are another story.
Take into account a banged up Kevin Curtis, who was supposed to be this team's second receiver, and you have a great excuse for a poor season offensively.
Philly is ranked second in scoring with over 30-points per game.
Marty Mornhinweg has apparently learned that it's easy to score when you have the ball, no matter where the wind is blowing.
2) Kevin Gilbride (Offensive Coordinator—New York Giants)
Kevin Gilbride has been the offensive coordinator for five NFL teams and spent one season as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
2009 was supposed to be one of his most challenging years in the league.
With Derrick Ward and Plaxico Burress gone, the Giants were counting on new defensive acquisitions to help keep games close.
Instead, the passing game has improved and Gilbride has acclimated young players into an offense which is scoring 30-points per game.
One can assume that Gilbride is pretty happy he didn't end up coaching the Oakland Raiders this year.
1) Cam Cameron (Offensive Coordinator—Baltimore Ravens)
Someone needs to sit Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco in a room together and explain to them that the Baltimore Ravens are a defensive team.
If the Ravens continue to throw for almost 250 yards per game and score nearly 28 points each time they take the field, fans will start to believe they've wandered into the wrong stadium.
In 2007, the year before Cameron took over the offense, Baltimore only scored over 30 points once. Since then, they have eclipsed that total eight times including three in a row to being this season.
Cam Cameron is a huge part of Baltimore's recent success and his presence has helped to alleviate the loss of Rex Ryan and the aging of that defense.
Six Coordinators Who May Be Looking for Other Work Soon
Jeff Davidson/Ron Meeks (OC/DC—Carolina Panthers)—Neither of these men have had much to do with Carolina's horrific 2009 season, but neither did much to stop it either. Davidson has led the Panthers, a run first team, to pass far too much this season. Meeks has foolishly installed a Tampa Two defense in a division which has spent years scouting it.
Alex Van Pelt (OC—Buffalo Bills)— Alex Van Pelt is a good young quarterbacks coach, but his fate was sealed when Turk Schonert was fired to begin the 2009 season. Van Pelt wasn't ready to run this offense and he'll be gone with the rest of Jauron's staff.
Brian Daboll (OC—Cleveland Browns)—As a bright young coach in the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Daboll should have known to turn down the Cleveland job. Although Daboll may be given a longer leash because of his age and the youth on that roster, he will probably find himself demoted or sharing duties with another offensive specialist soon.
Frank Bush (DC—Houston Texans)— Since expansion, the Houston Texas have drafted nine times and selected six defensive players in the first round and three in the second. Bush as been with the Texans for three years and the Texans have finished among the bottom of the league in total defense each year.
Stan Kwan (STC—Detroit Lions)— If it weren't for Jason Hanson, the Detroit Lions wouldn't have special teams. Among Detroit's glaring myriad of problems is a complete lack of punt and kick coverage and almost no return game. Kwan took over for longtime mentor Chuck Priefer who left Kwan with stellar special teams units.
Michael Schottey is a Detroit Lions Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and the producer and host of The Average Joe Sports Show on 860AM KNUJ (New Ulm, MN). He is also an NFL Analyst and Senior Writer for DraftTek.com.