Eight new coaches are set to take over the reins of NFL teams next season. Which ones will have the most immediate impact?
As first-year head coaches, only Don McCafferty (Baltimore Colts, 1971), George Seifert (San Francisco 49ers, 1990) and Jon Gruden (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2003) led their teams to a Super Bowl title in their first year at the helm.
Three out of 47 is not exactly good odds for the new lot pegged to captain these NFL ships – most of which are already in the process of sinking.
Still, some of these would-be clipboard carriers are heading to better than average situations, where a single player or scheme change could be the difference between another top-five draft pick or a potential playoff push.
Here are the top five new head coaches who could have success right away in 2013.
5. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs: I would have felt more confident in Andy Reid’s ability to turn this team around if 8-8 could still win you the AFC West, like in 2011. That being said, Reid could have ended up in worse situations – yes, I’m talking about you Cleveland.
After a two-win season, Kansas City Chiefs’ fans actually do have some things to be excited about heading into next season.
Jamaal Charles rebounded from a knee injury to rank fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,509 yards, and their passing defense finished, a very respectable, 12th in the league. Being able to run the ball on offense and stop the pass on defense are two things every team wishes they could do well, so the Chiefs are already off to a running start.
The first problem Reid will have to face is the quarterback situation. Matt Cassel showed glimpses of brilliance in New England, but has just 16 touchdowns to 21 interceptions over his last two seasons in KC.
It is no secret Andy Reid is a pass-first, pass-second, alright let’s pepper in a run, type of head coach. Getting a reliable signal-caller is crucial if the Chiefs hope to master the one-year turnaround.
Lucky for them, they played just bad enough in 2012 to earn the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Unlucky for them, there is no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III anywhere to be found.
Unless they manage to dump the pick for a veteran or two, KC will likely end up with Texas A&M offensive lineman, Luke Joeckel, as their consolation prize – a nice piece to help build an offense around, but still not the same as a franchise quarterback.
4. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles: Pro Bowl quarterback, Pro Bowl running back, corners, linemen…check, check, check and check. The Philadelphia Eagles built their “dream team” to compete for a title right away, yet this dog proved he wouldn’t hunt (sorry Michael Vick).
Ending 13 seasons ensconced as the head man in Philly, Andy Reid was unceremoniously shown the door when the Eagles finished 4-12. Sure he did make it to five NFC Championship games during his tenure, but to the fans who booed Santa Claus, that’s just a clever way of saying he never won the big one.
Never fear, Chip Kelly is here to save the day with his magical offensive playbook and a coaching resume that is most notably highlighted by the number of costume changes his Oregon Ducks made during his time in Eugene.
We’ve been promised a show with Kelly leading the charge to revolutionize the way offense is played in the NFL. Whether we’ll see steak, or just hear the sizzle is yet to be determined, but Kelly has plenty of powerful pieces to play with in 2013.
Michael Vick could be interesting in a Chip Kelly offense, but he could just as easily be out the door like Andy Reid. Either way, LeSean “Shady” McCoy is still in the backfield, and DeSean “Spike it at the one” Jackson still lines up on the outside.
For a team that finished 9th in offense and 15th in defense in 2012, a more equitable distribution of play-calling could be all they need to take them over the top – that and a defensive coordinator who, you know, is actually a defensive coordinator.
3. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals: Nothing like a 14-game internship to spruce up that resume, eh Bruce?
Arians took over the Indianapolis Colts when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2012.
With the help of rookie Andrew Luck leading the offense, Arians guided the Colts to the playoffs, and earned himself the new head coaching position in the desert.
Arians takes over a team which was 5-11 last season, but who started the year 4-0. With special players, such as Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington, the Arizona Cardinals finished the season 12th in total defense. The problem was they also finished dead-last in total offense.
The combination of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton at quarterback proved laughably ineffective, as they combined for only 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions all season long.
And without a gun-slinger who could consistently get him the ball, Larry Fitzgerald was left waving his arms in the air down field, as he tallied his worst statistical season as a professional with just 798 yards receiving.
As the offensive coordinator-slash-acting head coach in Indy last season, Arians helped Andrew Luck pass for 4,374 yards and Reggie Wayne accumulate 1,355 yards receiving. With a respectable defense already in place, Arians turning around the Arizona offense could lead to an even more competitive NFC West division in 2013.
2. Ken Wisenhunt, San Diego Chargers: The San Diego Underachievers…oops, I mean Chargers, finally got want they have wanted for so long: Norv Turner to be fired. After six seasons on the hot seat, and countless run-ins with GM A.J. Smith, Turner was relieved of his duties in favor of the recently ousted Arizona Cardinals head coach, Ken Whisenhunt.
Whisenhunt was the offensive guru who helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl in 2006. Wiz translated that success into a head coaching job in Arizona where he went 4-2 in the playoffs, got them to a Super Bowl and racked up a 27-21 record in his first three seasons. Yet in his last three years, the Cards were 18-30 with zero playoff appearances. So what happened?
The short answer is that Kurt Warner retired after those first three seasons. It’s hard to remain an offensive genius if your quarterbacks are Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. But now Whisenhunt has Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates at his disposal.
Even with all those weapons, Whisenhunt’s job now is to turn around a team who ranked 31st in the NFL in total offense in 2012. With the 9th ranked defense in football, there is no excuse for the San Diego Chargers to have a repeat of their 7-9 season in 2013.
1. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears: After letting Lovie Smith depart the Windy City with an 81-63 career record, the Bears completely changed philosophies – and leagues – when they pulled the offensive-minded Marc Trestman from the CFL to become the new man in charge at Halas Hall.
The Bears wanted someone with a winning pedigree, and since Mike Ditka wasn’t about to walk back through that door, GM Phil Emery opted for the head coach of the 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup champion Montreal Allouettes.
Trestman joins a Bears’ team that started the 2012 season 7-1 before completely folding up shop en route to a 2-6 second-half collapse, and subsequently having their playoff invitation being lost in the mail. Good news for Trestman is that he has star players at nearly every position a head coach needs a star player at in order to be successful in the NFL.
Brandon Marshall is coming off of a 1,508-yard season, Matt Forte racked up another 1,000+ yard campaign on the ground, both Chicago corners are Pro Bowl starters and Jay Cutler has all the tools an NFL quarterback needs to win.
Now for the bad news: the Bears’ offensive line is about as easy to break through as a group of 5th graders playing red rover. The Bears’ offensive line has allowed Cutler to be pile-driven into the dirt 148 times in just four seasons in a Chicago uniform.
The being said, a quick spit-shine to the offensive line could turn the Chicago Bears from a playoff no-show to Super Bowl contender in just one season.