All seven of the NFL head coaching vacancies have now been filled. There are still some assistant head coaching positions that are left open. There have been some notable assistants hired to the staffs of some teams. A number of former head coaches have found a second life as a coordinator or assistant somewhere.
Often times the assistant coaches don't get the credit that they deserve. They have to do just as much work as the head coach, the only difference being that assistants are generally focused on one specific area of the team, while the head coach deals with all aspects.
But ask any of the four teams remaining in the postseason how valuable the assistant coaches are to the team and the weekly game planning. In fact, when new head coaching positions open up, it's often a coordinator, who hasn't had head coaching experience, that will get the job.
These assistants do a lot of the unappreciated grunt work. They study just as much as the head coaches and players do. They have to be able to bring their own knowledge to the table because it makes the team perform much better.
So who are the best assistant coaching hires this season?
What has been the most puzzling assistant coach hiring?
These are grades for the assistant coaches that have been hired so far this offseason.
On Tuesday afternoon, talks between the Rams and former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels broke down over money. Later that night, the two rekindled talks, and McDaniels was given the Rams offensive coordinator position.
This is a really strong hire for the Rams. As a head coach, Josh McDaniels was overwhelmed, and when things started spiraling out of control, he couldn’t fix them. As a coordinator, he seems more suited to play up what his strengths are.
He knows how to work with a young, inexperienced quarterback and make them feel comfortable (see: Matt Cassel in 2008).
The Rams offense, with the exception of Sam Bradford, was bad last year. They have to improve a lot of positions, but at least with McDaniels tutoring Bradford, their future at quarterback is very bright.
As a head coach, Mike Singletary had everything that a fan loves. He was very frank and candid about his team. He had fire and passion that would bleed out into the way that he coached. The problem was it didn’t work in the San Francisco locker room for some reason.
A big part of that could be because the team didn’t have a stable quarterback, but stories about how he lost the locker room were also being bantered about.
He gets to go back to being an assistant coach, where he really thrived with Baltimore and San Francisco for years. Plus, he is reunited with his former teammate Leslie Frazier.
While his voice as a head coach didn’t quite resonate with his team, he seems to have something as a coordinator/assistant coach. He will make an impact on the Vikings coaching staff.
Brian Daboll moves to Miami after two years as the Cleveland offensive coordinator. It’s unclear why he was able to make a lateral move, but some guys just interview really well and can keep the same title that they held, despite not having the performance to show for it.
Part of the problem in Cleveland is lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but taking that into consideration, he was never very effective in calling a game.
Daboll is still young enough to make an improvement, and this Dolphins team has some talent that has underachieved the last couple of years.
If he can get Chad Henne to live up to his potential, then he will have done his job. If he coaches and game plans like he did in Cleveland, he won’t be around very long.
Since the Cleveland Browns have come back into the NFL in 1999, they haven’t developed a quarterback. Derek Anderson had a good year in 2007, but he was a one-hit wonder. Kelly Holcomb looked good in 2002, but he fell apart like the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl after that.
Enter Bill Musgrave, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
In Atlanta, Musgrave never had the flash and style of a team like New England or Indianapolis, but his offense always played smart, efficient football. He was a big part of the development and tutelage of Matt Ryan in his four years in the NFL.
The Browns will have to determine who their quarterback of the future is going to be, whether it’s Colt McCoy or someone else. Whomever the Browns decide on, Musgrave will be a key part in the development of him. Don’t underestimate this move for the Browns.
UPDATE: Musgrave has taken the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator position.
There's No Picture Of Greg, So You Get To Look At Luck
When Jim Harbaugh was hired as San Francisco’s head coach earlier this month, it was widely believed that he would bring a number of coaches from his Stanford staff with him. He did just that, hiring Greg Roman and Vic Fangio to run the offense and defense.
Roman has 13 years of NFL experience behind him. In addition to that experience, he was the man behind the Stanford offense the last few years. In 2009, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Last year, quarterback Andrew Luck finished second in the Hesiman voting.
The Cardinal offense finished ninth in the country in scoring offense last year with over 40 points per game.
The 49ers have to find a quarterback somewhere if they want to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2002, but with Roman behind the offensive attack, they will be much better prepared going into games.
Another Stanford assistant who is joining Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, Vic Fangio will be ahead of his fellow coordinator, Greg Roman, since the 49ers strength is in their defense. They have all-pro linebacker Patrick Willis leading a very solid group defensively.
Fangio has worked in the NFL for 25 years; his last job was as the Ravens linebackers coach in 2009. He coached a number of teams that were either very young on defense or not very talented, and that skewed some of his numbers.
In 2010 with Stanford, Fangio made the Cardinal into one of the top defenses in all of college football. The team finished 10th in the country in points per game (17.4) and was dominant against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
For the first time since he was Carolina’s defensive coordinator in the mid-90s, he will have a talented unit that can execute his game plans and do so effectively.
You may have heard of Rob’s brother, Rex. Rob has the same kind of fire and flash that Rex has, and he will look to turn around a disappointing Dallas defense in 2011. Ryan previously served as the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator for two years.
Under Ryan’s guidance, the Browns finished 22nd in the NFL in yards allowed in 2010. That’s not a very impressive figure, but there was a lot of good development from players, like first-round pick Joe Haden, and they did have moments of brilliance.
The Cowboys defense was very disappointing in 2010, finishing 23rd in yards allowed. They have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but seemed to get in their own way. Rob Ryan will have to get to the players and make them feel comfortable playing in his scheme.
The talent is there to do it, it’s just a question of execution.
One of Ron Rivera’s first acts as head coach of the Carolina Panthers was to name former San Diego Chargers tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski his offensive coordinator.
Chudzinski doesn’t have an extremely lengthy resume, but the work that he has done has been very impressive. He was the tight ends coach at the University of Miami from 1996-2003 when guys like Jeremy Shockey, Bubba Franks and Kellen Winslow, Jr. were there and on the All-American team.
After moving to the NFL in 2004, Chudzinski became the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator in 2007. That season, the Browns shocked a lot of people by winning 10 games, and quarterback Derek Anderson had a career year, throwing for 29 touchdowns and 3787 yards.
The man known as “Chud” will have to help guide the Panthers offense, in particular Jimmy Clausen or Matt Moore, into the future. Given his track record, you can’t put it past him.
Despite that 41-point outburst against New Orleans in the Wild Card playoff round, Seattle’s offense was pretty atrocious in 2010. They didn’t have a single game in which a player ran for 100 yards in the regular season. Their quarterback situation is a mess, just like their offensive line.
Darrell Bevell has been the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator since 2006. The results have been mixed. His best job was in 2009 when the offense was led by Brett Favre, and they got to within one game of the Super Bowl.
That was the first year that he had a reliable quarterback. Even before that, the offense was efficient enough to get them to the playoffs in 2008, the year before Favre got there.
The personnel on the offensive side of the ball is probably going to undergo some significant changes this offseason, giving Bevell some new toys to play with. It will be up to him to get the most out of the players.
Greg Manusky previously coached for the San Francisco 49ers defense from 2007-10. When Jim Harbaugh was brought in, he was not retained.
It didn’t take Manusky long to land on his feet, as he landed in San Diego, taking over the No. 1 ranked defense in football in 2010. It’s hard for a coordinator to go to a better spot than the team that was, at least statistically, the best defense in football.
In San Francisco, his defensive schemes weren’t always effective. That may have been a product of personnel or his coaching philosophy. The defense in San Francisco was just so inconsistent that it’s difficult to tell who was to blame, perhaps everyone.
We will find out how good he is as a coordinator with the Chargers in 2011. They have the talent and the credentials to be great, it’s just a question of whether or not Manusky can make them great.