The Vikings are one of the rarities in the NFL in that they have all of their key coaching staff returning for the 2013 season. Coaching changes happen constantly because when a team fails, the staff gets fired. When they’re too successful, other teams raid the coaching staff. It’s just a way of life in the NFL.
With each coaching change comes a new philosophy and direction. Here is a look at the coaching changes that are going to impact the 32 NFL teams this season. Some teams have no changes. Some have critical changes at coordinator, but little else. Some have cleaned house. Here are the changes that have impacted the other 31 NFL teams, starting with the AFC today.
Buffalo Bills – After being a trendy pick to succeed in 2012, Chan Gailey and his staff were imploded and the Bills are starting over. The team brought in head coach Doug Marrone, who spent the last four years as head coach of Syracuse but does have NFL experience, including offensive coordinator of the Saints from 2006-08 and offensive line coach for Jets from 2002-05. Marrone brought four members of his Syracuse staff – Nathaniel Hackett (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Tyrone Wheatley (running backs), Greg Adkins (tight ends) and Donnie Henderson (defensive backs). Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine comes to Buffalo after being the DC the last four years with the Jets, along with defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and linebackers coach Jim O’Neill, who spent the last three years as defensive backs coach with the Jets. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman has been in that role for eight years – five with Carolina and the last three with Detroit. Offensive line coach Pat Morris is entering his 16th season, which has included stints in San Francisco, Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard spent 2012 in that position with Washington.
Miami Dolphins – Technically the Dolphins don’t have any changes in the second season with Joe Philbin as the head coach. The only change was an internal promotion. When he took the job, Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman served as the de facto quarterbacks coach. Zac Taylor, who was brought in as the assistant QBs coach when Philbin assembled his staff in 2012, was promoted to the position of quarterbacks coach.
New England Patriots – The last two years, Bill Belichick served as his own defensive coordinator. That will change this year. He promoted safeties coach Matt Patricia to defensive coordinator. There was defensive coaching juggling done beyond naming a DC. Josh Boyer went from being defensive backs coach to just cornerbacks, defensive assistant Brian Flores was promoted to safeties coach, Pepper Johnson was moved from coaching defensive line to linebackers, and Patrick Graham was shifted from linebackers to the D-line. One interesting signing was the hiring of Steve Belichick (the coach’s son) as a coaching assistant. Apparently even a genius like Belichick can’t do the job by himself.
New York Jets – Rex Ryan survived the coaching purge on both sides of the ball, but the same couldn’t be said for his support staff – including all three coordinators. After spending the last 10 years in Philadelphia with Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg was hired as the new offensive coordinator. On the offensive side, the team brought in tight ends coach Steve Hagen, who held the same position the last four years in Cleveland. QB coach David Lee has been a quarterbacks coach for Miami and Buffalo, making his third stop in the AFC East. Mike Delvin moved from tight ends coach to the offensive line. On the defensive side, Dennis Thurman was promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. He was replaced as the D-backs coach by former NFL safety Tim McDonald, marking his first NFL or college coaching job. The biggest defensive hiring was bringing in former Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to coach linebackers. Even special teams weren’t unscathed by the changes, as Ben Kotwica was promoted to special teams coordinator after the firing of Mike Westhoff. Somehow Ryan and his tough talking ways helped him avoid the hammer of firings, but the Jets cleaned house of assistants. Another bad season for Ryan and he may join his fellow coaches on the temporary unemployment line.
Baltimore Ravens – Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was cut loose late in the 2012 season and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell took over and helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl. He returns as the full-time OC. Former Philadelphia assistant Juan Castillo was the only new outside hire, being brought in as run-game coordinator.
Cincinnati Bengals – No coaching changes.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns cleaned house throughout the coaching staff, starting at the top. Rod Chudzinski comes to Cleveland after nine years in the NFL, the last two as offensive coordinator in Carolina. The changes on the offensive side of ball include offensive coordinator Norv Turner, former San Diego head coach. Chudzinski and Turner will handle the role of being quarterbacks coach. Turner’s support staff will include running backs coach John Settle, wide receivers coach Scott Turner, both of whom spent the last two years with Chudzinski in Carolina, and Jon Embree, a 20-year coaching veteran who spent the last two as the head coach at the University of Colorado. The only offensive position coach who survived the purge was OL coach George Warhop. On the defensive side, 19-year coaching veteran Ray Horton was named defensive coordinator, after spending the last two years as DC in Arizona. He will be joined by defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who spent the last three years as the D-line coach in Jacksonville, outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, a former Vikings coach who has 19 seasons of coaching experience, inside linebackers coach Ken Flajole, a 36-year coaching veteran, most recently with New Orleans Saints, and defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi, an 18-year veteran who spent the last two seasons in the same position with Arizona. There are changes-a-plenty in Cleveland, but this isn’t the first rodeo for the coaching staff.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers only had one change on the coaching staff. O-line coach Sean Kugler left to become the head coach at UTEP. He was replaced by Jack Bicknell Jr., a coach with extensive O-line experience – most recently at Kansas City. The Steelers have a long history of loyalty to their coaching staff and that hasn’t changed – whether they have been a playoff team or not.
Houston Texans – No coaching changes.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts lost offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who served as head coach while Chuck Pagano was going through chemotherapy and is now the new head coach of the Cardinals. The only new members of the Colts coaching staff are two coordinators. Pep Hamilton – who spent the last three years with Stanford, the final two as offensive coordinator and QB coach (where he coached Andrew Luck) – is the new offensive coordinator. The move should make the transition seamless given his familiarity with Luck. The other change was at special teams coordinator, where Tom McMahon comes over from Kansas City.
Jacksonville Jaguars – It would seem the head coach of the Jaguars is always on the hot seat. Jack Del Rio had more lives than Rasputin. Mike Mullarkey wasn’t so fortunate, as he and his staff were sent packing at the end of the 2012 season. The team looked defensively for a new head coach, hiring Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to work the same magic in Jacksonville. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch spent the last two years as offensive coordinator at the University of Miami. His support staff includes RB coach Terry Richardson, who worked with Fisch at The U, QB coach Frank Scelfo, who spent 2010-11 as the QB coach at the University of Arizona, tight ends coach Ron Middleton, who spent the last five years as the combination TE coach/special teams coordinator at Duke, and offensive line coach George Yarno, who spent the last four seasons with Detroit. On the defensive side, the Jags hired veteran coach Bob Babich as defensive coordinator. He spent the last nine years on Lovie Smith’s coaching staff in Chicago – the first six as linebackers coach and the last three as DC. He is joined by defensive line coach Todd Wash, who spent the last two years with Bradley in Seattle, and defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker, who spent the last four years as the head coach at New Mexico State. The Jaguars hit bottom last year and are looking to rise from the ashes with a new coaching staff and a new outlook.
Tennessee Titans – After just one season as head coach, Mike Munchak shook up almost his entire offensive coaching staff. In as offensive coordinator is Dowell Loggains, who was promoted from QB coach to OC after Thanksgiving last season. Wide receivers coach Dave Ragone took Loggains’ job as quarterbacks coach. The new coaches include running backs coach Sylvester Croom, is in his 22nd coaching year, his last three in St. Louis (2009-11), and Sean Jefferson, the new wide receivers coach after spending the last five years at that position with Detroit. But the biggest addition to the coaching staff is on the defensive side of the ball. Munchak brought back disgraced Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, proving that acumen and a track record can negate a year-long suspension for his role as the ringmaster of Bountygate. While his title is senior assistant, expect to see Williams’ fingerprints all over the Titans defense.
Denver Broncos – After losing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Adam Gase was promoted from QB coach to offensive coordinator and Greg Knapp was brought in as quarterbacks coach. Knapp has been a QB coach or an offensive coordinator each of the last 15 seasons and spent last season as the offensive coordinator of the division rival Raiders. When you’re successful, you lose coaches, but the Broncos did a nice job to maintain experience and continuity on the offensive coaching staff.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason in hiring deposed Eagles despot Andy Reid. Reid will be given a lot of authority within the organization and clearly is calling the shots on assembling his coaching staff. On the offensive side, he added Doug Pederson as offensive coordinator. Pederson came along with Reid, where he spent the last two seasons as QB coach in Philly. QB coach Matt Nagy spent the last two seasons as offensive quality control coach with the Eagles. The same is true for tight ends coach Tom Melvin, who spent 14 years with Reid, the last 11 years as TE coach. Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy spent the last two seasons as offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado, but is best known for being the screaming voice in the ear of Adrian Peterson. Offensive line coach Andy Heck spent the last seven seasons as Jacksonville’s O-line coach. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has 13 years of NFL coaching experience – all with Jets. D-line coach Tommy Brasher is entering his 25th year as a coach, including three tours of duty with the Eagles – the last two with Reid. Reid retained linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas because of their experience – both in the NFL and with the young Chiefs defense. Like so many of Reid’s other hires, he has a penchant to hire coaches with long-term experience with a single franchise and has shown the ability to be in it for the long haul.
Oakland Raiders – The Raiders didn’t panic and make a ton of changes with head coach Dennis Allen, but they made some significant changes. Greg Olson was brought in as the new offensive coordinator. He spent last season as assistant head coach/quarterbacks with Jacksonville. Former Miami head coach Tony Sparano was hired as assistant head coach/offensive line and veteran special teams coordinator Bobby April, who has 22 years of NFL coaching experience, including the last three in Philadelphia, also joins. The Raiders didn’t make a lot of changes, but the ones they made will bring experience to the coaching staff and give the team some veteran coaching stability.
San Diego Chargers – Despite making a head coaching change, there wasn’t a complete turnover on the Chargers staff in the post-Norv Turner era. Mike McCoy was hired away from division rival Denver to be the offensive coordinator. Almost all the changes made were on the offensive side of the ball, while the defensive staff remained largely intact. Former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt was hired as the offensive coordinator and he will be supported by several new coaches, including QB coach Frank Reich, who came with Whisenhunt from Arizona, wide receivers coach Fred Graves, a 36-year coaching veteran who spent the last two seasons with Carolina, and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, another 36-year coaching veteran who spent the last three years in Buffalo. The only change on the defense came in the secondary, where Ron Milus takes over. Milus was a coach with McCoy in Denver the last two seasons. The Chargers are looking for a clean start, but the fact the defensive coaching staff has remained largely the same is a sign that they believe they’re not in complete reclamation mode.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.