NFL Assistant Coach Changes: Josh McDaniels Leads List Of Best Assistant Hires
Every year in the NFL, the head coaching changes get all of the publicity, but most of them are delegators. The assistant coaches are generally the ones who work directly with the players and call the plays on Sundays.
This past off-season, the Bears hired Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and Mike Tice to coach the offensive line. After some early-season difficulties, the Bears offense has produced over the second half of the season and they are in the NFC Title game.
This list is going to take a look at the top five coaches who have the potential to produce similar results with their new teams next year.
Most of them, like Martz and Tice, are one-time head coaches who are going back to being assistant coaches and are driven to hopefully get themselves positioned for new head coaching jobs down the road.
5. Tom Cable: Seahawks Offensive Line Coach/Assistant Head Coach
While on one hand I disapprove of Pete Carroll's decision to fire Jeremy Bates, it was an even bigger affront that Al Davis fired Tom Cable. Cable got the Raiders to 8-8 and went 6-0 in the division but still got the ax from Al.
Al Davis cited the incident with Randy Hanson's jaw being broken and a lawsuit brought on by Cable's ex-girlfriend as why Hanson was fired, but that is all off-the-field issues. On the field, Cable took care of business and the Raiders played hard for him.
In their eight losses the Raiders lost by double digits just three times. In the other five games they were within a touchdown of tying the game.
They also lost all four games they played against the powerhouse AFC South, so I expect them to improve next year against the AFC East. This team was a team that was still on the rise when Cable was fired.
The Oakland offense wasn't lighting up the world last season, but by the end of the year they had developed as an offense that played to the strength of the team, it's speed.
The Seattle offense was decent last year given its talent, but I expect Cable to have them playing better this year. He'll find a way to develop a the offensive line to get a proper running game in Seattle, who couldn't get it going despite having three solid backs.
4. Mike Singletary: Vikings Linebacker Coach/Assistant Head Coach
Mike Singletary is joining former teammate Leslie Frazier in Minnesota and it is a great spot for him. Singletary was a bit over his head in his first head coaching position in San Francisco and it showed.
The team had the talent to win that division, but Singletary's inability to choose a quarterback is one of the many things that undermined the team's chances.
In Minnesota, Singletary will be able to flourish. He's going back to being a linebackers coach, where he is a proven commodity. Not only is he a legendary linebacker himself, but he has a proven track record.
He coached Ray Lewis for a year in 2003 and then went to San Fran, where he was the linebackers coach from 2004-2008 and helped develop Patrick Willis into the one of the best middle linebackers in the game
He'll also be the assistant head coach, which should help their whole team. He wasn't the best at making the decisions required of a head coach, but that will Frazier's job now with the Vikings.
Singletary will get to instead be the emotional leader and motivator. In San Francisco, he got noted bad-attitude guy Vernon Davis to play hard, and I expect him to get the same out of his players in Minnesota.
3. Rob Ryan: Cowboys Defensive Coordinator
Rob Ryan is the one guy on this list who hasn't already been a head coach, but his time isn't that far off. He has had defensive coordinator jobs in Oakland and Cleveland before getting his most recent job with the Cowboys.
He probably should have been named head coach in Cleveland this off-season, but with Holmgren in charge, you can't be surprised they hired an offensive guy.
When Rob gets his chance at being a head coach, it is going to be in part because of his brother Rex. Rob is similar to Rex in that he is an in your face style guy and that is a turn off to general managers and owners.
However, if the Jets can get past the Steelers and win the Super Bowl, expect Rob to get a head coaching job next year. The NFL is a copycat league, so if Rex wins it all, expect a team to try and hire the other Ryan boy.
In Dallas, Rob Ryan is going into a cushy job. Their defense wasn't great statistically last season, but the talent that made it a top defense the years before is still there.
The Cowboys as a team weren't playing hard at the beginning of the season and losing Wade Phillips in mid-season hurt the Cowboys defense severely.
Ryan runs more exotic blitz packages than Phillips did, but the concepts are still the same.
They both try to confuse the opposing offense with who is coming on the blitz, so I expect the Cowboys to have similar success with Ryan there now as they did over the last few years with Wade Phillips.
2. Wade Phillips: Texans Defensive Coordinator
Speaking of Wade Phillips, he is taking over as coordinator for the worst defense in the league. The Texans were embarrassing on defense last year.
They were in the bottom five in points per game and total defense and last in the league against the pass, letting up 4280 passing yards.
That, along with just 13 interceptions, helped opposing quarterbacks achieve a passer rating of over 100 against them, the only team in the league to do so.
Fortunately for Wade, they can't be that bad again. The worst passing defense in the league in '09 was the Lions and without any high-profile acquisitions in the secondary, they improved to 17th this year.
You could expect similar regression to the mean for the Texans in 2011 even without any new players. Luckily, the Texans offense is one of the best in the league, so they can afford to spend draft picks and money this off-season to improve the defensive side of the ball.
The defense is expected to shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 under Phillips and I think it should work well. Like any team making the switch, they need to get a pure nose tackle, but they have other pieces that can fit in the 3-4.
Mario Williams is a freakish athlete and Phillips will line him up all over the formation like he would with DeMarcus Ware in Dallas and make offenses account for him.
In the secondary, people expect changes across the board, but I expect to see a similar line-up next year.
Glover Quin, Brice McCain and Kareem Jackson have all been in the league for less than three years so I doubt they'll be replaced so soon. That's why they hired Phillips, to not have to replace their young players.
Phillips will likely bring either Alan Ball or Gerald Sensabough, a pair of free agents from Dallas, into Houston to play safety along with Bernard Pollard.
Don't expect to see too many new faces in the secondary, but expect to see a much higher performance level this year under Wade's coaching.
1. Josh McDaniels: Rams Offensive Coordinator
Josh McDaniels failed as a head coach because he was hired too soon.
He rubbed some people the wrong way and did things that hurt his opinion with the fans. There was lots of trading of draft picks that didn't amount to much.
He also received heat for trading away Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn after Hillis was blowing up this season, though no one complained about it when it happened. That said, he sure didn't fail because of his ability as an offensive coordinator.
The Broncos' loss is going to be the Rams' gain here. McDaniels has proven to be great with quarterbacks. In New England, he helped develop Matt Cassel when Brady was out for the year in 2008.
When he got to Denver, McDaniels traded away Jay Cutler and received a pair of first round picks along with Kyle Orton in return. Josh got the best out of Orton, getting him to post career bests in yardage and touchdowns in his first season in Denver.
Orton was on pace to eclipse those career bests this year when a rib injury led to the Broncos starting quarterback of the future, Tim Tebow. Tebow looked great in the three games that he started, showing the same will to win that worked in college carried to the pro game.
Tebow was available for the Broncos to draft because of the flexibility that Chicago's extra first-round pick provided them in the 2010 Draft. Unfortunately, McDaniels had already been fired and wasn't there to get credit.
The Rams and McDaniels are a great match for each other. For McDaniels, seeing how a different head coach than Belicheck runs a team should help make him a more rounded coaching candidate.
For the Rams, they already have a proven young quarterback on the team and McDaniels should do wonders for his development. Expect the Rams offense to be much more open next year and start to look similar to that of the Patriots.
Sam Bradford's strength his his ability to spread the ball around, just like Brady. Bradford threw for over 3,500 yards last year without having a single 1,000-yard receiver. Steven Jackson is Green-Ellis and Woodhead rolled into one guy who can both grind out yards as a power back and still be a great receiver.
You also can't sleep on Danny Amendola, who is Wes Welker-Lite. With McDaniels in place, I expect to see Bradford break 4,000 yards next year and for the Rams offense to be elite by 2012...If McDaniels hasn't been hired elsewhere already.