Raymond Summerlin

Offseason Low Down

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The Coaching Carousel: AFC

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The 49ers' hire of Jim O'Neil as their defensive coordinator officially shut the coaching carousel down for 2016. There are still some positional coach openings to fill, but, for the most part, coaching staffs are set. Here is a rundown of the biggest changes across the league. 

The NFC rundown can be found here.

Last Update: 1/27/2016 4 p.m. EST

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New Organization
Cleveland Browns
The easiest information to parse from the Browns’ offseason so far was the firings of coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer. The pair reportedly had a dysfunctional relationship and led the team to a 10-22 record overall and a 3-18 mark over the final 21 games of their tenures. Letting them go makes perfect sense. Hiring Sashi Brown, a former lawyer, to essentially be the general manager and Paul DePodesta, a former baseball GM best known for his role in the book “Moneyball,” to assist him were decisions which reside considerably further outside the box.

The Browns are not finished acquiring staff, and they will bring in a vice president of player personnel to lead the scouting department. The quality of that hire will be adversely affected by Brown’s, DePodesta's and new coach Hue Jackson's control over the final roster, with teams able to deny their top candidates an interview with the Browns because the position is not a general manager job. For instance, Cleveland was denied permission to speak with Bears director of college scouting Joe Douglas because the job is considered a lateral move. Ex-Lions GM Martin Mayhew and ex-Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey interviewed for the position, and Cleveland will likely have to rely on candidates like those to fill the spot. 

More importantly, the structure of the organization means the decision-making process will be as convoluted as ever, which is saying something for Cleveland. The Browns should be lauded for thinking outside the box, but the complexity of the flowchart could bring the whole thing crashing down.

On the coaching side, Cleveland landed their man when they hired Hue Jackson. The second-most sought after candidate, Jackson is a great offensive mind who routinely gets the best of his players. In addition to coaching responsibilities, Jackson will reportedly have some control over the final roster. With Johnny Manziel reportedly out the door -- for that matter, even if he sticks around -- Jackson's first order of business will be finding a new quarterback, which could come in the form of Memphis QB Paxton Lynch or Cal QB Jared Goff with the No. 2 overall pick. If either of those quarterbacks land in Cleveland, Jackson should be trusted to get the most out of them. After many years of suffering, the Browns seem to have gotten the coaching search right this time around. 

Browns ownership had hoped to retain OC John DeFilippo, but Jackson does not plan to hire an offensive coordinator. DeFilippo has already interviewed for the coordinator job in St. Louis and the head-coaching vacancy in San Francisco before Chip Kelly was hired. He ended up as the QBs coach in Philly. Ex-Colts OC Pep Hamilton was brought in with an associate head coach/offense title. Ex-Vikings RBs coach Kirby Wilson was hired as the running-game coordinator. 

Cleveland brought in ex-Titans DC Ray Horton for the same position on their staff. Horton is a good coordinator who the Browns are still paying for his one-year stint with the team in 2013, so it makes a lot of sense to bring him back. Cleveland finished bottom six in both total defense and points allowed last season.  

GM Sashi Brown: Confirmed he has final say on the roster. A former lawyer with no known scouting background. 
HC and OC Hue Jackson:
8-8 with the Raiders in 2011, his only season as head coach. Offenses have finished top seven in rushing attempts and touchdowns each of his last four seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator and top seven in rushing yards three of those years.
DC Ray Horton
: Browns DC in 2013. Titans DC the last two seasons. Titans defense played well before injuries took hold last season. 

Tennessee Titans
After firing Ken Whisenhunt midseason, the Titans decided not to renew former GM Ruston Webster’s contract following the season. Webster had Marcus Mariota fall into his lap, but he struggled as a drafter during his time in charge, taking notable draft busts like Jake Locker, Justin Hunter and Bishop Sankey in the early rounds.

The Titans moved quickly to set up interviews in their attempt to fill the open GM spot, interviewing six people before landing on Bucs director of player personnel Jon Robinson as their new general manager. Robinson spent the last two seasons with the Bucs, but he made his name in 12 seasons with the Patriots. 

Robinson is theoretically a good hire, but ESPN's Ed Werder reports one of the reasons he emerged as the lead candidate was "his willingness to retain" interim coach Mike Mularkey on a permanent basis, and that is exactly the move the Titans ended up making. Mularkey is 4-21 in his last 25 games as a head coach and 18-39 overall. Choosing him with as many upside options as there were available is an incredibly unimaginative move, especially considering how attractive the Titans job could be to prospective coaches. Sorry Titans fans. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported one of the conditions of Mularkey's hire is he would have to bring in a new offensive coordinator, and that man is ex-Falcons WRs coach Terry Robiskie. Robiskie is a respected position coach, but he has not been a coordinator since 2004 and most of his experience came with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1989-1992. This has the look of a one-and-done staff. Ex-OC Jason Michael is staying on as QBs coach in a hope to have some consistency for Marcus Mariota

Perhaps sensing the futility on the horizon and reportedly upset with his faux interview, DC Ray Horton left for the same position with the Browns. Dick LeBeau was officially promoted to coordinator. 

GM Jon Robinson: With the coaching situation unsettled and the No. 1 overall pick, Robinson will have to make two huge decisions in his first three months on the job. 
HC Mike Mularkey
2-7 as interim head coach. 4-21 in last 25 games as a head coach.
OC Terry Robiskie:
Has coached all but one season in the NFL since 1982. Los Angeles Raiders offensive coordinator from 1989-1992. Last coordinator job in 2004 with Cleveland. 
DC Dick LeBeau:
Finished 12th in total defense and 27th in points allowed. Defense was better than the numbers before injuries took their toll. 

New Coach
Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins did get a new general manager in Chris Grier, but the man really calling the shots is still Mike Tannenbaum, who became the executive vice president of football operations last January after six months as a consultant for owner Stephen Ross. Tannenbaum said new coach Adam Gase would have control over the 53-man roster, but that would be a lot to put on the plate of a first-year head coach. Tannenbaum should still be the guy.

On the coaching side, Miami landed their top candidate when they signed Gase to a five-year deal the first week of the offseason. A strong offensive mind who coaxed an efficient season out of Jay Cutler and helped Peyton Manning to some of his best performances, Gase’s main task will be to elevate Ryan Tannehill from the average quarterback he is to the franchise quarterback he is paid like. It will not be an easy task, but Gase’s history suggests he is up to the challenge.

Gase has already begun to build his staff, with former Bengals DBs coach Vance Joseph brought in to coordinate the defense. Joseph was in the running for the Broncos coordinator position last cycle, but the Bengals blocked him from interviewing. With his contract up in Cincinnati, Joseph will get his chance to run a defense. Miami also brought in longtime Colts assistant Clyde Christensen at offensive coordinator. Gase will call plays, but Christensen is a good coach who will offer a veteran ear for Gase to bounce ideas off.  

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is the only assistant expected to be retained. Gase was expected to decide the future of former interim coach Dan Campbell, but Campbell made the decision to move on.  

GM Mike Tannenbaum:
May not have the title, but he is running the show. The driving force in the questionable decision to extend Ryan Tannehill to a lucrative deal with two seasons of control remaining. Jets GM from 2006-2012.
HC Adam Gase:
Will be the youngest head coach in the league, but he has three years of coordinating experience with the Broncos and Bears. Bears finished 21st in total offense and 23rd in points scored last season, but the skill positions were decimated by injuries. Led Peyton Manning to two of his best statistical seasons while with the Broncos.
OC Clyde Christensen:
Gase will call the plays, but Christensen offers a veteran ear on the offensive side. 
DC Vance Joseph:
Has been a DBs coach in the NFL for 10 seasons. Spent the last two coaching the Bengals' elite secondary. 

New Coordinator
Buffalo Bills
GM Doug Whaley got a new deal and coach Rex Ryan got a vote of confidence, but the duo could be entering their final year in Buffalo. Owner Terry Pegula reportedly gave each a playoff-or-fired ultimatum after the season. Ryan’s stay in Buffalo will be a short one if he cannot break the playoff drought.

The one point of contention was the status of DC Dennis Thurman, but that situation appears to be resolved. Rex hired twin brother Rob Ryan as the assistant head coach/defense, and while Thurman will likely keep the defensive coordinator title, Rob and Rex are expected to run the defense. Rob has a poor history as a defensive coordinator, but perhaps the Bills' talent and Rex's guidance can help him solidify the unit. 

The Bills made history by hiring Kathryn Smith, the first full-time female coach in NFL history, as quality control/special teams coach. 

GM Doug Whaley:
Held the position since 2013. Main force behind the selection of E.J. Manuel in the first round. Had several big free agent hits last offseason including Tyrod Taylor and Richie Incognito.
HC Rex Ryan
8-8 in first season with Bills. 46-50 in six seasons with the Jets.
OC Greg Roman:
Finished 13th in total offense and 12th in points scored. Offense looked electric when all of Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins were healthy.
DC Dennis Thurman:
Finished 19th in total defense and 15th in points allowed. Jim Schwartz-led defense finished 4th in both categories in 2014. Likely will be the coordinator in name only next season. 

Cincinnati Bengals
To add insult to a senseless and heartbreaking playoff loss, the Bengals lost OC Hue Jackson to the Browns head-coaching vacancy. DC Paul Guenther was also a candidate for a promotion, but it looks like he will be sticking around.

With Jackson gone, QBs coach Ken Zampese was promoted to offensive coordinator. Zampese has been the QBs coach in Cincinnati since 2003, so he has worked with Andy Dalton for the quarterback's entire career. That familiarity is likely what made Zampese the top candidate. 

In addition to Jackson, the Bengals lost DBs coach Vance Joseph, who was hired as the defensive coordinator in Miami under Adam Gase

Ex-Redskins DC Jim Haslett was brought in as the LBs coach, ex-Dolphins OC Bill Lazor was brought in to coach the quarterbacks, and ex-Dolphins DC Kevin Coyle was brought back to coach the defensive backs.   

GM Mike Brown: Brown, owner since 1991, has the title, but director of player personnel Duke Tobin appears to play a key role in the front office. Tobin has been with the organization since 1999.
HC Marvin Lewis
112-94 with seven playoff appearances in 13 seasons. 0-7 in the playoffs. Job is safe despite another playoff loss.
OC Ken Zampese:
Has been the QBs coach in Cincinnati for the entirety of Andy Dalton's career. 
DC Paul Guenther:
Finished 11th in total defense and 2nd in points scored. Defense kept the team relevant after Andy Dalton’s injury. Secondary among the best in the league.

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Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
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