Adam Levitan

Offseason Low Down

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Coaching Change Losers

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Last week, I hit on players whose stock is on the rise thanks to a coaching change. This week, we bang on the losers.

As you’ll see below, there are some really talented players on this list. But certain coaches and certain schemes know how to maximize that talent, and others simply don’t.

A “hindsight is 20-20” example from the 2013 season was C.J. Spiller. He went from Chan Gailey – a creative maestro at getting his explosive runners in space – to relative unknowns in Doug Marrone/Nathaniel Hackett. That duo proved to be as uncreative as it got, consistently slamming Spiller into the middle of the line.

Here are seven players whose stock has taken a hit as a result of these coaching changes:

HEAD COACHING CHANGES
Cleveland: Mike Pettine replaces Rob Chudzinski
Detroit: Jim Caldwell replaces Jim Schwartz
Houston: Bill O'Brien replaces Gary Kubiak
Minnesota: Mike Zimmer replaces Leslie Frazier
Tampa Bay: Lovie Smith replaces Greg Schiano
Tennessee: Ken Whisenhunt replaces Mike Munchak
Washington: Jay Gruden replaces Mike Shanahan

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CHANGES
Baltimore: Gary Kubiak replaces Jim Caldwell
Cleveland: Kyle Shanahan replaces Norv Turner
Cincinnati: Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden
Detroit: Joe Lombardi replaces Scott Linehan
Houston: Bill O'Brien replaces Rick Dennison
Miami: Bill Lazor replaces Mike Sherman
Minnesota: Norv Turner replaces Bill Musgrave
New York Giants: Ben McAdoo replaces Kevin Gilbride
San Diego: Frank Reich replaces Ken Whisenhunt
Tampa Bay: Jeff Tedford replaces Mike Sullivan
Tennessee: Jason Michael replaces Dowell Loggains
Washington: Sean McVay replaces Kyle Shanahan


LOSERS
1. Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
In 2013, Andy Dalton ranked 15th in completion percentage (61.9), 15th in passer rating (88.8) and threw the fifth-most interceptions in the league (20). An average at best season, right? Wrong. Dalton finished as fantasy’s No. 5 quarterback largely thanks to his offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden.

Gruden implemented an extremely pass-happy attack, allowing Dalton to attempt 586 passes (eighth in the league) while BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Gio Bernard combined for 390 runs. So even though Dalton didn’t play at a particularly high level, he racked up fantasy stats in the form of volume.

That’s going to change under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, a long-time running backs coach and proponent of the run game. I documented his history with running backs in the “Winners” version of this column, linked here.

Expect Jackson to implement a more balanced offense that highlights the most talented player in his backfield, Bernard. Dalton’s attempts per outing project to regress by 15-20 percent, and he’ll be asked to be more of game manager.

2. Reggie Bush, RB, Lions
Under passing-obsessed offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Matthew Stafford has been in the top-4 in attempts in each of the last three seasons. That includes two No. 1 rankings, highlighted by an NFL-record 727 attempts in 2012. New head coach Jim Caldwell projects to implement a more balanced attack featuring less shotgun formations and more traditional sets. That’s a good thing for the running game, but it’s not a good thing for Reggie Bush.

As a natural passing back, Bush was an ideal fit for the Linehan scheme. The Lions used short passes as an extension of the running game, leading to 3.8 catches per game and 33.4 percent of his yardage coming through the air. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, a Saints disciple, figures to use Bush in a Darren Sproles role. That’s nice and all, but it’s not a volume position. Furthermore, the emergence of Joique Bell as a guy with true starting-caliber talent will complicate things.  When Caldwell’s offense lines up in base, it will be Joique Bell pounding between the tackles.

Bush wins as a pass-catcher and in space. He’ll see less of both without Linehan.

3. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Alfred Morris is a really good NFL back. In terms of strict running, Morris was Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 running back in 2013. He was 7th in yards after contact per carry and fifth in missed tackles forced. That comes on the heels of a 2012 season that saw him rank third, eighth and third respectively in those three categories.

However, Alf is getting hit from both sides with his coaching change. First, he loses Mike Shanahan aka running back whisperer. Here’s what Shanny has done over the last couple decades with his feature back:

1992 49ers OC: Ricky Watters 206 carries, 1013 yards, 9 TDs
1993 49ers OC: Ricky Watters 208 carries, 950 yards, 10 TDs
1994 49ers OC: Ricky Watters 239 carries, 877 yards, 6 TDs
1995 Broncos HC: Terrell Davis 237 carries, 1117 yards, 7 TDs
1996 Broncos HC: Terrell Davis 345 carries, 1538 yards, 13 TDs
1997 Broncos HC: Terrell Davis 369 carries, 1750 yards, 15 TDs
1998 Broncos HC: Terrell Davis 392 carries, 2008 yards, 21 TDs
1999 Broncos HC: Olandis Gary 276 carries, 1159 yards, 7 TDs
2000 Broncos HC: Mike Anderson 297 carries, 1487 yards, 15 TDs
2001 Broncos HC: Mike Anderson 175 carries, 678 yards, 4 TDs
2002 Broncos HC: Clinton Portis 273 carries, 1508 yards, 15 TDs
2003 Broncos HC: Clinton Portis 290 carries, 1591 yards, 14 TDs
2004 Broncos HC: Reuben Droughns 275 carries, 1240 yards, 6 TDs
2005 Broncos HC: Mike Anderson 239 carries, 1014 yards, 12 TDs
2006 Broncos HC: Tatum Bell 233 carries, 1025 yards, 2 TDs
2007 Broncos HC: Travis Henry 167 carries, 691 yards, 4 TDs
2008 Broncos HC: Peyton Hillis 68 carries, 343 yards, 5 TDs
2010 Redskins HC: Ryan Torain 164 carries, 742 yards, 4 TDs
2011 Redskins HC: Roy Helu 151 carries, 640 yards, 2 TDs
2012 Redskins HC: Alfred Morris 335 carries, 1613 yards, 13 TDs
2013 Redskins HC: Alfred Morris 276 carries, 1275 yards, 7 TDs

Contrary to popular belief, Shanahan actually sticks with one runner when he finds a guy he likes. And as everyone knows, they produce. Middling talents like Bell, Droughns, Gary and Anderson become fantasy assets. Strong talents like Davis and Portis become superstars. Morris is going to take a major hit without Shanny around.

The other side of the coin is the arrival of Jay Gruden. This is a guy that believes in positional rotations, believes in throwing to win (see Dalton entry above) and doesn’t have a history with the one-cut zone-blocking scheme Morris is used to. Yes, BenJarvus Green-Ellis got 220 carries last season, but they weren’t effective runs. And Gio Bernard was the passing back, getting 170 carries and 56 receptions. That’s a role Roy Helu was underutilized in under Shanahan.

In 2014, the Redskins project to be more pass-centric, they project to use more of a rotation at running back and they won’t have ZBS masters Shanahan and Son at the helm. Morris won’t be on any of my rosters.

4. Owen Daniels, TE, Texans
In the Winners version of this column, I discussed in detail Gary Kubiak’s history with tight ends. Ever since he took over, the Texans have been a team that focuses on three things offensively: Getting Andre Johnson the ball, being a premier running team via the zone-blocking scheme and using the tight end as the No. 2 option in the passing game.

That formula led to roughly six years of sustained, consistent low-end TE1 value for Daniels. And when he broke his leg this past season, Garrett Graham stepped into the role. Proving it’s more scheme than talent, Graham set career-highs with 49 catches for 545 yards with five touchdowns in just 13 games played.

If Daniels returns to the Texans – and that’s a big if as he’s set to count $6.25 million against the cap in 2014 – he’ll find a Bob O’Brien offense that will not be as confined. O’Brien projects to run a spread offense, not one that uses the tight end as a No. 2 option.  

5. Tim Wright, TE, Bucs
When mining for tight ends, we ideally seek freakish size/speed guys, ex-basketball player types and converted wideouts. Wright fell into the last category.

The former Rutgers wideout was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted rookie, catching 54 passes for 571 yards with five touchdowns. But with ex-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano gone, Wright is a good bet to turn into a pumpkin. Coaches have favorite players they believe in, and Schiano gave Wright a chance Lovie Smith and Jeff Tedford likely wouldn’t have.

But wait, Wright showed he can play for any coach, right? Well, maybe not. Much of his production came following Mike Williams’ Week 8 hamstring tear. All five of Wright’s touchdowns and 74.2 percent of his yards were posted in Week 8 or later, when the Bucs were absolutely starved for pass-catchers and were playing in a ton of garbage time. Wright is a liability as a blocker.

Look for the Bucs to explore upgrades at tight end this offseason and leave Wright fighting for a role as a pass-catching prospect.

6. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins
There are two opposing factors at play here. First, the departure of the Shanahan & Son scheme that relentlessly targets “X” receivers. Rod Smith, Javon Walker, Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson all made their bones in this role under Mike or Kyle Shanahan. Garcon followed suit in 2013, leading the entire NFL in catches (113) and targets (184) on his way to top-14 fantasy finish among wideouts.

So why isn’t Garcon higher on this list, aka more of a loser? Because Jay Gruden is in as head coach for the Redskins. I’ve documented Guden’s allegiance to the pass game in both this column and under the Robert Griffin III entry in Winners. I fully expect RG3 to have a bounce-back year and Gruden to take a pass-centric approach, downplaying the role of Alfred Morris.

However, I also expect more of a balanced target tree than we saw in 2013. A.J. Green is a significantly more talented receiver than Garcon, and the former saw four less targets than the latter. The Redskins are going to add talent to the position with Garcon and Aldrick Robinson the only experienced and healthy wideouts on the roster.



Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan



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