Haley, Fichtner among intriguing new coaches
Head coaching changes get the most attention, and new guys normally decide who their coordinators will be.
For 2018, most offensive coordinator alterations came from incumbent coaches.
Some former coordinators moved up: Matt Nagy from Kansas City to Chicago, Pat Shurmur from Minnesota to the New York Giants. Some OCs were canned: Pittsburgh’s Todd Haley, who landed in Cleveland; Mike Shula, going from the Panthers to the Giants. Others are returning to familiar ground: Joe Philbin in Green Bay, Greg Olson in Oakland.
Many simply got promoted.
Here are six intriguing new offensive coordinators:
Todd Haley, Cleveland — A former head coach with the Chiefs who spent the past six seasons in a love/hate relationship with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Haley faces a whole new set of challenges with the Browns.
Sure, he and Roethlisberger often quarreled, but they also won lots of games with a potent, dynamic attack. If you have a short memory, let us fill you in: Cleveland has won a single game, in total, over the past two seasons. Its offense has ranged from anemic to putrid.
So Haley steps in with the charge of grooming (or pushing rapidly) the first overall draft pick, Baker Mayfield, as the starting quarterback. The head man in Cleveland, Hue Jackson, also has a background on offense and some ideas of his own on how to move the ball. Of course, Jackson also has that 1-31 record.
“That is what appealed to me — the challenge and the people I was going to be working alongside of,” Haley said when hired.
Best of luck, Todd.
Norv Turner, Carolina — One of the most successful OCs in NFL history — not so much as a head coach, with a 114-122-1 record — Turner tries to re-establish Cam Newton as an elite passer. Newton remains a dangerous runner and creator, but he’s never developed the fundamentals to be a true pocket passer, and as he gets later into his career, the 2015 league MVP needs those basics in his repertoire.
Turner has been an effective QB whisperer for decades, going back to helping Troy Aikman become a Hall of Famer. Turner has a strong relationship with Panthers coach Ron Rivera, and will get lots of leeway in running the offense, particularly in resurrecting the deep passing game.
“I think Cam gets that Norv is here to help,” Rivera said.
John DeFilippo, Minnesota — DeFilippo moves from the Eagles, where he masterfully helped Carson Wentz reach prominence, then was of immeasurable aid for Nick Foles in the Super Bowl run. DeFilippo was handed an expensive bauble, too.
The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history after discarding their three quarterbacks of 2018, including Case Keenum, who helped Minnesota reach the conference title game. With short-term 2018 sensation Dalvin Cook returning to the backfield, a solid and deep receiving group and a strong line, expectations in the Twin Cities are for the Vikes to take that next huge step.
“He’s been a great communicator, and I love his passion for the game,” Cousins said of DeFilippo.
Joe Philbin, Green Bay — From 2007-11, with the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers a part of it, Philbin was the Packers OC. The team’s success, including a Super Bowl title, got him the head job in Miami, where he went 24-28.
Following two seasons working in Indianapolis with the offensive line, Philbin Part 2 begins on the tundra.
Rodgers has been somewhat vocal about changes in Green Bay that didn’t quite meet his approval. So the symbiosis between A-Rod and Philbin will be critical.
“Change can be really good ... any time you’re in a situation where you’ve had the same type of things going on for a number of years, it’s nice to change it up in some positions, yeah,” Rodgers said.
Matt LaFleur, Tennessee — LaFleur rapidly has gone from QB coach in Atlanta — Matt Ryan had his MVP season with LaFleur on hand two years ago — to overseeing the Rams’ offensive turnaround. Having such success with Jared Goff and Todd Gurley in LA, he heads to Nashville, where the passing game has been dormant.
If Marcus Mariota is to become a franchise quarterback, it must happen soon. LaFleur doesn’t have a lot to work with in Music City, but he didn’t seem to in SoCal either. And unlike with the Rams, where coach Sean McVay called many plays, the offense is LaFleur’s baby now.
“This is something when you get into the coaching profession, you’re always looking for the next step,” LaFleur said.
Randy Fichtner, Pittsburgh — Roethlisberger should have a more peaceful co-existence with Fichtner, and the offensive tempo figures to speed up.
This should be the best attack in the AFC, anchored by RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. Fichtner needs to ensure it is close to the top given the question marks on defense.
“He knows what we do well,” Brown said. “He knows some things we can work on and some things that [we can do] better. But we’re in great hands with him.”