Over the Summer, numerous NFL teams made wholesale changes to their playing staff, and such changes attracted a lot of media coverage. Six NFL teams also hired new Head Coaches, and analysts are already attempting to predict how these men will shape their new teams.
Changes that often go under the radar in the NFL, are changes in coordinator, and there were numerous this summer. Many coordinators last year underwhelmed with the talent at their disposal, and front offices opted to replace them with more accomplished minds. Below is a list of the coordinator who will make the biggest impact on their new teams.
Mike McCoy (Offensive Coordinator- Denver Broncos)- Mike McCoy was a hapless NFL Coach, who simply annoyed Chargers fans throughout his time there. His style of coaching was conservative, and his playbook was largely bland despite a variety of exciting receivers who offer different things to a coordinator. Many found it bizarre that McCoy was a self-proclaimed offensive coach, who rarely went for it on fourth down despite having a power back, and a quarterback who thrives in the quick snap game in Phil Rivers.
McCoy the Head Coach was simply terrible, but many are forgetting that before he joined the Chargers, he was an outstanding coordinator in Denver. In McCoy first two years in Denver, he led Kyle Orton to back to back career years, and he posted a 41:21 TD-Int ratio in his two years as a Bronco. Before uniting with McCoy, Orton had struggled with turnovers in Chicago, and McCoy simplified the system in order to get the best out of him.
After Orton’s departure, McCoy built an offence around the legs of Tim Tebow as the former Florida signal caller was a limited passer, and the result was a playoff win against the much fancied Pittsburgh Steelers. McCoy showed flexibility as a coordinator throughout his career, and this is what makes his failure in San Diego that much more troubling.
Denver’s offence last year was a complete and utter disaster, and this was despite having a good offensive mind in Gary Kubiak. The downfall for Kubiak was that he leaned heavily on his zone-run game, but the Broncos offensive line simply did not get enough push. McCoy will probably try to run a more simple pass offence, and this makes him a good fit with Trevor Siemian, who actually performed well under pressure last season. McCoy has a variety of offensive knowledge, and he should make the Broncos offence competent, which will be good enough to help them compete due to their generationally talented defence.
Wade Phillips (Defensive Coordinator- Los Angeles Rams)
Wade Phillips is seen as the best coordinator in the NFL by many, as he single handedly built the Broncos defence that rattled Tom Brady in 2016, and led the Broncos to a Super Bowl win no one expected them to get.
The Rams defence was well coached under Gregg Williams, but Williams’ shortcoming was that he did not maximise Aaron Donald. Donald really should be one of the most destructive players in the League, but Williams’ blitzed a lot which minimised the chance for Donald to go to work in one on one situations. Wade Phillips will build the defence around Aaron Donald, which should make it more deadly than it was last season. Phillips does not solely run a 3-4 defence, but he will probably use more of these concepts than Gregg Williams, who ran an all out attack 4-3 defence for the Rams.
Donald will likely play as the nose in Phillips’ scheme, and he will be flanked by Michael Brockers and Ethan Westbrooks, although it would not be unexpected to see him rotate his odd front regularly. Donald will overwhelm guards inside, and Phillips will likely design plays specifically to get Donald isolated against guards, who will not be able to cope with his sheer athleticism.
The Rams defence was not the problem last year, but Williams did not maximise the individuals at his disposal, and the constant blitzing was actually un-necessary, because the Rams had the talent and depth up front to get pressure in a four-man rush. Phillips will not rely on the blitz in the way Williams did, and this should allow Donald to showcase his individual talent. Phillips does not yet have the corners he needs as he runs a lot of man coverage, but the front seven is talented enough to mask these issues for a year. Sean McVay’s best move was no doubt adding Wade Phillips to his staff, as he is the best in the business.
Gus Bradley (Defensive Coordinator- Los Angeles Chargers)
Gus Bradley was a dismal Head Coach, but he is a talented defensive mind who will probably fare better with his ‘players coach’ mentality as a coordinator, than he did as a Head Coach.
The Chargers defence was actually relatively good last season as it ranked 8th in DVOA, but Bradley will likely come in and simplify the scheme. He will abolish a lot of the 3-4 principles favoured by John Pagano, and run a more uniform 4-3 defence with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram as the defensive ends. This is arguably the most deadly pass rushing duo in the NFL outside of Houston, so the Chargers defence could be really good next season.
In Seattle, Bradley ran a lot of zone coverage, but he will likely employ man concepts as the Chargers have a great pair of cover corners in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. The Chargers did not add a first round safety like many expected, but Gus Bradley will hopefully be able to get some production out of Rayshawn Jenkins and Desmond King.
Bradley’s scheme is simple, and when you have talent, this is a good thing. Pagano’s defence was good, but Bradley’s is much more simple and this should add an element of consistency to the Chargers that was missing for much of last season. His players will essentially line up and play in the way the Seattle Seahawks players do, and this could allow the Chargers to focus on improving their offence, which was chronic last season.
Bradley was loved by his players in Jacksonville despite the dismal results, and an upbeat locker room is something that is needed in order to challenge for a Super Bowl. The Chargers are not as far away from contending as people think as they have a hall of fame QB, a good running game, and they added an amazing defensive coordinator. Bradley will have an impact on this team from day one.
John Pagano (Assistant Head Coach- Oakland Raiders)- Strictly speaking, Pagano is not a coordinator, but it is quite obvious what is happening in Oakland. Ken Norton has been the coordinator for the last two years, and in that time, Oakland’s defence has been underwhelming. He was given the benefit of the doubt in 2015, but last summer they spent heavily to bring the likes of Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson onboard, and Norton could still not deliver results. The Raiders were notably terrible in nickel situations as Norton opted for the Seattle scheme in obvious passing downs, but the Raiders gave up too many touchdowns.
John Pagano was recruited as the Assistant Head Coach who oversees defence, and this is probably the writing on the wall for Ken Norton. Norton is popular in Oakland so they did not want to just dismiss him, but it would not be surprising to see Pagano take more and more control of the team as the season progresses, unless Norton produces an instant turnaround.
Pagano runs a hybrid system, with elements of both 3-4 and 4-3 defences, which makes a lot of sense for Oakland’s personnel. Khalil Mack is the most versatile defensive player in football, and moving him around into different spots might be the best way to make sure that the rest of the front seven is maximised. Pagano’s scheme is complex, and will take a while to implement, which is probably why Jack Del Rio brought him in now, as opposed to after they inevitably fire Ken Norton.
Some may be concerned by the fact that Pagano’s defences in San Diego generally ranked towards the bottom of the League in yards and points allowed, but this was really because he rarely had talented players. The Chargers let a lot of key players leave in the Norv Turner era, and Pagano was really starved of talent as the Chargers front offence spent high picks on offensive players. Pagano is creative, and he seeks to attack a teams weakness, which is something Oakland have struggled with.
Oakland’s defence was too simple last year, and the result was that they were disastrous against the pass. Pagano has a knack for mixing up and disguising his coverages, and he has used man and zone concepts as a coordinator, which makes him a good fit with the likes of Sean Smith and Gareon Conley. This unpredictability is something that should improve the Raiders defence from day one, and for a team with one more year of Derek Carr on a rookie deal, this will be much welcomed.
One thing Pagano could help the Raiders with right away is disguising coverages, something the Raiders didn't do enough last year. pic.twitter.com/mL6oQ7XKY8
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) January 27, 2017