Raymond Summerlin

Offseason Low Down

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The Coaching Carousel: NFC

Monday, February 6, 2017

With Kyle Shanahan officially hired in San Francisco and the Colts and 49ers locking down their new general managers, the coaching carousel is finished spinning outside of a few assistants. Still, six teams have new head coaches, two have new general managers, and many others have made significant changes to their coaching staffs. With all of that upheaval, it is worth taking a look at the organizational structure of every team in the NFC.

The AFC rundown can be found here.

Last Update: 4 p.m. EST 2/8/2017

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New Organization
San Francisco 49ers
In a lesson on how not to run an organization, the 49ers allowed a middling at best general manager, Trent Baalke, run a great head coach, Jim Harbaugh, out of town and then compounded the mistake by letting that general manager make two more coaching hires. One of those coaches could have been Adam Gase, but Baalke’s ego got in the way. The 49ers ended up with Jim Tomsula that year, and then fired him to get Chip Kelly, who was fired himself shortly after Baalke.

Two one-and-done coaches later, the 49ers found themselves on the market for a completely new organization while owning one of the worst rosters in football, which was not an enviable position for one of the most decorated franchises in NFL history. Still, they may have ended up getting the best coach of the bunch after it was all said and done. 

After Patriots OC Josh McDaniels and Seahawks assistant head coach/OL coach Tom Cable took themselves out of the running, it was clear Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan would be the 49ers' next coach, and it became official after the Super Bowl. Perhaps the best offensive mind in the game, Shanahan will have to prove he can also lead an entire team while taking on a fairly large role in the front office and, reportedly, calling the plays. Many other quality coordinators have failed when faced with a similar situation, but a six-year deal ensures he will be given a long leash to figure it out.

There was still work to do in the front office, however, and San Francisco finished up there the weekend before the Super Bowl with the surprise hire of former NFL safety and FOX color commentator John Lynch. Lynch is likely headed to the Hall of Fame at some point -- he was a finalist this year -- but he has zero personnel experience and zero experience on the business side of an organization.

We saw a similar decision by the Lions to hire Matt Millen end disastrously, and this is certainly a questionable call by the 49ers. Shanahan will take on a big role in the personnel department, but new VP of player personnel Adam Peters, assistant GM Tom Gamble, and chief contract negotiator Paraag Marathe will also be important voices for the inexperienced general manager.

It is also important to note Shanahan is a first-time head coach with no experience on the defensive side of the ball. He likely wanted an experienced defensive coordinator to run that side of the ball, but that was impossible when he took over late in the cycle. The 49ers settled for former Jaguars LBs coach Robert Saleh, who has little experience and is faced with the tough task of turning around one of 2016's worst defenses. 

GM John Lynch
This is a questionable hire, but it points to a big role for Shanahan in the front office 
HC & OC Kyle Shanahan:
One of the best offensive minds in the game, but taking on a much bigger role in his first job
DC Robert Saleh:
Not an ideal hire for a rookie, offensive-minded coach and is faced with a massive task

New Coach
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams became the first organization to start their coaching search when they made the long-overdue decision to fire Jeff Fisher in early December. Fisher is the picture of mediocrity, a human excuse machine, and reportedly did not get along with GM Les Snead, who seems to have won out in the end as he will stay on as general manager. 

The Rams cast a wide net in their coaching search and ultimately ended up with former Redskins OC Sean McVay. A massive departure from Fisher, McVay is a 30-year-old offensive wiz who did great work with Kirk Cousins in Washington. His hiring certainly had a lot to do with the development of Jared Goff, and it is likely McVay will have a positive impact on the 2016 No. 1 pick. That said, the track record of extremely young coaches is mixed at best. This is a home-run swing by the Rams, but it is a hack they likely needed to take.  

The good news is McVay will have some quality coaching experience to draw from on his staff after the Rams nabbed former Broncos DC Wade Phillips to run their defense. Phillips is perhaps the best coordinator in the league, and the former head coach's ability to help out the rookie McVay is an added bonus. Traditionally a 3-4 guy, Phillips might have to fit some square pegs in round holes early on, but every scheme is a nickel base these days anyway. 

The Falcons' hiring Steve Sarkisian to replace Kyle Shanahan opened up the door for the rams to nab former QBs coach Matt LaFleur as their offensive coordinator. An up-and-comer, LaFleur could follow a similar path to the one McVay did in Washington, helping gameplan for an offensive-minded head coach before taking over the play-calling duties after a season or two. 

GM Les Snead:
It was not a given he would return, but being in the room for the coaching interviews suggested he had a good shot
HC Sean McVay:
You maybe have heard he is the youngest head coach in NFL history
OC Matt LaFleur
An up-and-comer who should see his role grow in the coming years 
DC Wade Phillips:
Perhaps the best coordinator in the league and an experienced coach for McVay to work with

In Limbo
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are among the most stable franchises in the league, but there are rumors the front office could experience a shake-up with long-time general manager Ted Thompson stepping aside to allow up-and-coming director of football operations Eliot Wolf to take over the reins. The move would be an effort to keep Wolf, who was a strong candidate with the 49ers, has interviewed with the Colts, and is certain to get a general manager job somewhere in the near future, although he did just sign a new contract. There also have been rumors coach Mike McCarthy is "fed up" with Thompson’s almost neurotic refusal to bolster the roster through free agency, although he loosened those constraints somewhat last offseason. All of those factors make this rumor one worth considering, but it is still just a rumor at this point, one made less viable by Wolf's decision to sign a new contract.

There will be a change on the coaching staff, with associate head coach Tom Clements parting ways with the team after his contract expired. Clements was the primary play-caller for most of 2015, but he was stripped of those duties after a disastrous showing by the offense. McCarthy said Clements will "move on to some other interests." Apparently not moving on is DC Dom Capers, a fact which will not excite the majority of Packers fans. 

GM Ted Thompson:
Stay tuned
HC Mike McCarthy:
Great quarterback play can mask a lot of ills including an offensive coach either unwilling or unable to adjust
OC Edgar Bennett:
McCarthy calls the plays, but Bennett is a quality coach who should get a look from teams in need of a head coach at some point
DC Dom Capers:
An annual scapegoat, he did a fine job keeping the defense competitive under a mountain of injuries

New Coordinator

Atlanta Falcons
It took a while, but Kyle Shanahan was finally named as the 49ers head coach, opening up the coordinator position in Atlanta, and the Falcons immediately made two shocking moves.

The first was to fill Shanahan's old position, prying Steve Sarkisian away from the same job at Alabama. Sark does not have any experience calling plays in the NFL, but he comes from the same coaching tree as Dan Quinn, the pair reportedly knows each other well, and he runs a similar passing offense to Shanahan. While the move was out of left field, it makes a lot of sense.

The second shock was the surprise firings of DC Richard Smith and DL coach Brian Cox. The defense was clearly on the rise over the second half of the season, and the unit did an outstanding job in the Super Bowl before running out of gas because of the sheer number of plays they faced.

The firings suggest there was something going on behind the scenes between former Seahawks DC Quinn and the defensive staff. With that in mind, a promotion from within for someone Quinn is comfortable with makes sense, and DBs coach Marquand Manuel's name has already come up. Manuel was a candidate for DC jobs during the 2016 cycle. 

GM Thomas Dimitroff:
With the help of Scott Pioli, Dimitroff has put together several quality drafts in a row and made one of the best low-key moves of free agency by signing Alex Mack
HC Dan Quinn:
After last season’s collapse, he likely needed to finish the job this season in order to keep his, and that is exactly what he did
OC Steve Sarkisian

DC Open:


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Carolina Panthers
Dave Gettleman made some noise about the offense in his post-season press conference, but Mike Shula is almost certainly safe. Sean McDermott was never going to be fired, either, but he did finally land a head coaching job, taking over for Rex Ryan in Buffalo.

The Panthers were understandably prepared for McDermott to leave, and they immediately promoted secondary and assistant head coach Steve Wilks to the coordinator job. The in-house replacement should mean continuity for what has been one of the most consistent defenses in the league year to year. 

GM Dave Gettleman:
May have misjudged Josh Norman’s value and needs to do better on the offensive line, but remains one of the best in the business
HC Ron Rivera:
Let-down years have become a concerning trend, but at least next year should be one of the rebound efforts
OC Mike Shula:
Offense looked out of sorts most of the year and Cam Newton had a down season, so he needs to find some answers this offseason
DC Steve Wilks:
Has been with Rivera for over a decade and with the Panthers for five seasons

Washington Redskins
Sean McVay was a hot name this cycle, and he ended up landing a lead job with the Rams. With McVay gone, the Redskins promoted from within, tabbing QB coach Matt Cavanaugh as the new offensive coordinator. Cavanaugh has not coordinated an offense since 2004 in Baltimore, so Jay Gruden should take on a big role and play-calling duties again. 

In a move that was not at all a surprise, Joe Barry and all of his defensive staff including former Giants DC Perry Fewell were fired the Thursday following Week 17. A large contingent of the fan base had been clamoring for him to be dismissed, and the results back up that sentiment. Despite more talent this year in the secondary, Barry’s defense finished 28th in total defense and 19th in points allowed. For an organization which should be looking to make the next step, it was time to try something new on defense.

After interviewing a disappointing list outside of former Jaguars coach and new Chargers DC Gus Bradley for the position, Washington settled on former OLBs coach Greg Manusky to run the defense. Manusky has nine years of experience as an NFL coordinator, but all of his units have been middling at best, and it was even worse than that during his four years with the Colts. He is an uninspiring hire.
GM Scot McCloughan:
Josh Norman fell into his lap, but there remain big holes to fill on defense, especially in the front seven
HC Jay Gruden:
The collapse with a playoff berth in reach is a red flag, but his offense is one of the best schemed in the league
OC Matt Cavanaugh:
Has not coordinated an offense since 2004 with the Ravens
DC Greg Manusky:
Has coached a top-12 defense once in nine years but a top-20 unit in six, basically the definition of mediocre

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