NFL: The Best and Worst Coordinators of 2008

Pigskin HeavenCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2008

Typically, each NFL team has one defensive coordinator and one offensive coordinator.  In general, these two men are just a step below the head coach and, in many cases, are hired directly by the current head coach they work with.

The responsibilities of a coordinator can vary but usually include:  managing/coaching players, assisting in personnel selection, game planning, play calling, and managing assistant coaches underneath the coordinator position.

Ultimately, each coordinator is responsible for how their individual "units" perform on the field.  So, who has done their jobs this year and who hasn’t?  Here are the five best and five worst coordinator performances of this 2008 season.

Worst Coordinators of 2008

Tom Moore, Offensive Coordinator, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts organization has spent a lot of money retaining the Colts players on the offensive side of the ball over the last few off-seasons.

Yes, they’re getting older, but are they really that old?  Taking Marvin Harrison out of the equation, the Colts were supposed to have a great wide receiver tandem in Wayne and the young Anthony Gonzalez.

Wayne is now receiving most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up more opportunities for Gonzalez and tight end Dallas Clark, but it’s just not happening.  Peyton Manning himself hasn’t put up numbers this pedestrian-like since the 2001 season. 

Joseph Addai has missed some playing time but the running game doesn’t appear any better even when he’s on the field.  The offensive line is failing to open the holes they once did and this line no longer strikes fear into opposing defenses.

So, what’s the problem?

In general, this team seems confused too often, both on and off the field.  Much of the blame can be tied to Tony Dungy possibly losing his focus, but Tom Moore is failing to grow this offense and his players. 

None, absolutely zero, of his offensive players have progressed this season.  At best, you could pick out a handful of the Colts offensive players that have at least remained constant in their performances on the field.  The rest of them have actually regressed. 

This falls on coaching and Tom Moore is not doing a good job of coaching this year.  Which means the question needs to be asked: Is he just coasting at this point?

Gunther Cunningham, Defensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

For those of you who have not had the "privilege" of watching Gunther Cunningham’s defense this year, consider yourself lucky.  They are only fun to watch if you appreciate watching players who can’t fight off blocks, can’t read plays, and can’t tackle.

The Chiefs organization has spent most of their high draft picks over the past several years on the defensive side of the ball.  The Chiefs defense is loaded with first and second round picks and they don’t appear to have a grasp on the fundamentals of this game.

Derrick Johnson, who should be the veteran leader of this unit, has failed to show leadership on or off the field.  Their young safeties, Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard, have taken a huge step backwards this season.  The Chiefs front seven is so bad that the Chiefs are threatening the NFL record books this season with only six sacks recorded in their first 12 games.

This defense doesn’t know how, or are simply choosing not to execute the fundamentals of the game.  Cunningham is not doing a good job of coaching this season and it’s been many seasons since you could say he has done a good job.

Rob Chudzinski, Offensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns

With possibly the highest paid offensive line in the game, two quarterbacks who were supposedly “starting QB material”, a previous 2000-yard running back, one of the best tight ends in the game, and one of the most explosive young wide receivers in the sport, the Cleveland Browns offense is a mess. 

How bad has this team, and particularly this offense, been coached this year.

Chudzinski isn’t alone in the “bad coaching” of this team.  Pretty much everyone on staff starting with Romeo Crennel and going down the line receives an F this year but Chudzinski’s failures with his players wins the award.

This entire offense has reverted back to 2006 form.  There have been QB demotions, accusations of players quitting during games, and even disparaging remarks about the cleanliness of the Browns facilities.  It truly is a circus in Cleveland this year and the offensive woes are at center ring.

Al Saunders, Offensive Coordinator, St. Louis Rams

Really?  I thought Saunders was an offensive guru.  Does the offense have the amount of talent they had eight years ago?  No, but it’s not as if the cupboard is completely bare either.  Torry Holt, Marc Bulger and Orlando Pace are in their early 30’s and Steven Jackson is 25. 

They have a mixture of veterans and younger players and they should be much better than they have been showing on the field.

The quarterbacks have been running for their lives all year and Trent Green can’t survive another concussion.  Their offense has produced a paltry 13 touchdowns all season long.  I’m not a mathematician, but I’m quite sure that one touchdown a game isn’t going to cut it in this league.

This offense looks uninspired and too many three-and-outs are putting their defense in some bad situations.  Al Saunders received a lot of credit for the offensive successes when he worked with Dick Vermeil.

However, what has Saunders ever done without Vermeil?

John Marshall, Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

This defense is loaded with talent.

The Seahawks have invested a lot of money on this side of the ball over the past few years in players like Julian Peterson, Deon Grant, Brian Russell, Marcus Trufant, and Patrick Kerney.  They’ve been dinged up a little on the defensive side but there is enough talent on this roster to compensate for an injury here or there.

In addition, the homegrown talent on this defense doesn’t seem to be progressing at all this year. 

Their offense isn’t great but the defense isn’t exactly helping them.  This defense is giving up so many long, grinding, and clock-eating drives that the Seahawks offense isn’t getting very many opportunities to score.

The word is that Jim Mora Jr. has already been given the head coaching job after this season.  Hopefully, for the Seahawks, his first order of business will be to fire Marshall.

Dishonorable Mention: Mel Tucker, Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns:  I was serious when I said everyone on the Browns coaching staff deserved an F.

Best Coordinators of 2008

Dick LeBeau, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

This guy can do it with anyone.  Year-in and year-out, it seems like the Steeler organization lets a piece or two of LeBeau’s defense go to another team. Yet, LeBeau puts it all back together at a high level every time.

Working with almost all homegrown Steeler talent, LeBeau does a masterful job of coaching his defensive players on how to do their individual jobs within his defensive scheme so that they function as a well-oiled machine.

LeBeau has made superstars out of many players in this league and the latest batch includes James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.  LeBeau typically likes to draft defensive players, have them study the game for a few years under him while playing sparingly, and then, when LeBeau feels the time is right for the player, he moves them into his defense permanently as a starter. 

And, typically, LeBeau creates another superstar.

LeBeau is amazing and I hope that he remains a coordinator forever, ala Monte Kiffin, because his defenses are a thing of beauty to watch when they’re clicking.

Doug Marrone, Offensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints

Their running game is no longer very good since McAllister lost a step.  However, what Doug Marrone is doing with the offensive passing attack is keeping the Saints competitive.

With no one to run the ball, no wide receivers that anyone has ever heard of before they went to New Orleans, and an offensive-line full of no-name lunch pail guys, Marrone has created a passing attack that takes advantage of Drew Brees’ abilities to read coverages and spread the ball around.

Ten different New Orleans Saints already have double digit catches on the season, which is best in the NFL.  The difference between what Marrone must do in New Orleans versus other pass-happy teams like, say, Arizona? 

In Arizona, they possibly have the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to call plays to be thrown to their receivers.  Marrone is coming up with game-plans and play-calling that allows Brees to use his skills and find the open man.

Perry Fewell, Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

Surprised?  Don’t be.

After being stripped of most of his defensive talent immediately after being hired in 2006, Fewell has done an amazing job of teaching all of his young defensive players how to play at a high level and his unit is the reason the Bills are still in the playoff hunt this late in the year.

I will be very interested to see how far Fewell can take this young group if they begin to get some better support from the other side of the ball.  Most of his linebackers, corners, and safeties are still very young and they will go as far as Fewell can take them and so far it’s looking good.

Kevin Gilbride, Offensive Coordinator, New York Giants

What the Giants are doing this year on offense is what is making this team so dominant.

The Giants won last year with defense.  This year, their offense is as dominant as their defense, which makes them scary.

Running an efficient, but not flashy, offense, the Giants are beating teams on the ground and through the air.  The Giants offensive line is now possibly the best in the league.  They can dominate the line of scrimmage.  Brandon Jacobs is one of the more underrated backs in the league; he runs as hard as anyone.

And the development of Eli Manning into a confident, accurate NFL quarterback who can read defenses well is a tribute to both Gilbride and Chris Palmer, the quarterbacks coach.  Eli now looks more like his brother than his brother does, go figure.                                                                            

With no “star” receivers left, after trading Jeremy Shockey and suspending Plaxico Burress for the season, the Giants receivers are getting the job done with a “receiver by committee” formula. 

We knew the Giants were good on defense heading into the season but what they’re doing on offense, with no superstars, is truly a testament to great coaching.

Dan Henning, Offensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins

With a bunch of cast-offs and no-name players, Henning has generated a productive, balanced offense that has kept the Dolphins in games all season long and currently leaves them smack in the middle of a playoff race. 

He is not only making the offense interesting and fun for the players, but it’s working.

Chad Pennington is having his best year as an NFL quarterback since 2002 and Henning is not just having him “manage” games.  The Dolphins are throwing and throwing a lot (averaging 240 yards a game through the air).  A young and revamped Dolphins offensive line is doing a fantastic job protecting Pennington and opening holes for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

As icing on the cake, Ted Ginn Jr. has made huge strides as a wide receiver this season. 

Henning has been in coaching for a long time (46 years), and 2008 is shaping up to be one of his finest seasons yet.

Honorable Mention: (tie) Steve Spagnuolo, D-coordinator, New York Giants and Monte Kiffin, D-coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Both men are doing great jobs with few superstars and remain among the best defensive minds in the game.


This is an original article by Pigskin Heaven Writer, Eric Edmundson. You can read it, more of Eric’s articles and more from the Pigskin Heaven staff, here.


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