Black Monday marks the official start of the silly season in the NFL. Although 12 teams are still playing, all 32 of them are looking to next year.
Coaching changes, free agency and the draft all have a major impact on fantasy football futures.
As of now, six teams are looking for new head coaches. It’s hard to know what this means for each teams’ defensive philosophies until the new staffs are assembled, but it’s fun to guess.
Denver: Mike Shanahan’s dismissal is not only deliriously good news to anyone who ever owned a Broncos running back. It also means the Denver defense has nowhere to go but up.
Shanahan hung on so long because he is and remains an offensive genius. He built up a young powerhouse offense through the draft, which only needs a steady RB to remain a force in the league for years to come.
Why he took the opposite approach on defense, stocking up on overpriced free agents, is beyond me. The first half of the season, Denver seemed to follow the Loyola Marymount philosophy of letting the other team score as quickly as possible so they could get the ball back and score more. That didn’t work out so well.
Very few things worked on defense. Last year’s star DE Elvis Dumervil regressed. Their linebacking corps, built around D.J. Williams and Nate Webster, was productive until they both went down with injuries. Even after they came back, nothing seemed to work for them. The Broncos secondary coverage was full of holes from day one.
Expect the Broncos to be aggressive in both free agency and the draft to improve their defense. Very few jobs are safe. Dumervil played most of the season with a broken hand and no help, so he is the rock they must build around.
At LB, rookie Wesley Woodyard showed enough that he’s definitely a keeper. I expect they’ll also want to have Williams back at full strength but may be happy to let Webster leave through free agency. They have some big name DBs in Champ Bailey and Dre Bly on the payroll but any of them could be draft day trade bait. Note that with Shanahan gone, trading with the Raiders becomes possible again.
New York Jets: I came to the conclusion that Eric Mangini and his whole staff had to go when I saw how horribly they mismanaged rookie Vernon Gholston. They drafted a guy with supreme talent but who didn’t fit in with their defensive scheme. Not a single coach there could figure out what to do with him.
How to use the players they already have will probably be a strong consideration in who gets the job. There is no doubt the Jets are loaded with talent on defense. Come to think of it, Gholston is just one example of the inherent failure of Mangini’s style. In coachspeak, they insisted on running a 3-4 scheme while steadily acquiring 4-3 personnel.
I like Steve Spagnuolo for the Jets job. He’d know what to do with Gholston and wouldn’t be afraid to send Abram Elam and Darrelle Revis after the quarterback early and often.
They’ll have to add more players at the line in the draft, but the next coach of the Jets could very well instantly improve the stock of several young up and coming IDPs already on that team.
Cleveland: It may seem strange that the sad sack Browns have the most talked about coaching vacancy, but...
By Sean Haugh
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