Dynasty football has a never-ending off-season but one with several particular key points of impact – the change in head coaches, the impact of free agency, the NFL Draft and then finally OTAs, training camp and pre-season. It’s been a hectic start to the 2013 season as eight head coaching changes quickly occurred (an epic Black Monday of head coach terminations), plus several other coordinator changes. Dynasty Warehouse presents the highlights below (offense only), and will be incorporating the changes into our 2013 dynasty and redraft rankings.
HEAD COACH: Bruce Arians (offensive coordinator / interim head coach for the Colts in 2012)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Harold Goodwin (offensive line coach for the Colts in 2012)
SUMMARY: Bruce Arians (60) is probably best known for doing an admirable job this past season as the interim head coach for the Indianapolis Colts while Chuck Pagano underwent the initial stages of Leukemia treatment and recovery. Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record (the wins are the most by an interim head coach in NFL history). Arians takes over for Ken Whisenhut who leaves Arizona with a record of 45-51 over six seasons. While sub-500, Whisenhut had one of the more successful coaching stints in Arizona Cardinals’ history (including taking the 9-7 Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008). Arians’ expertise is definitely on the offensive side of the ball where he’s held numerous positions (including QB coach, RB coach, receiver coach, TE coach and offensive coordinator). Arizona has cleaned the deck, firing all of its holdout coaches except for the TE coach and their strength and conditioning coach. At offensive coordinator, Arians brought over Harold Goodwin with him from Indianapolis (Goodwin was the Colts’ o-line coach last year). At age 60, Arians is easily the oldest of this year’s crop of new head coaches.
FANTASY IMPACT: Job number one for Arians is to get a competent QB. Collectively, the motley crew of Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and John Skelton had a 63.1 QB-rating with a dismal TD:INT ratio (just 11 TDs to 21 INTs) while taking on 58 sacks. Beanie Wells could also be on his way out and if so the team could be looking for a new RB as well, or hope that Ryan Williams can return from a second-straight season-ending injury. Expect there to be a lot of changes in Arizona. The team has its full complement of rookie picks, including the 7th overall pick. Any change has to be good news for Larry Fitzgerald. Arians worked wonders for Reggie Wayne last year in Indianapolis and Fitzgerald should play a similar role in the offense with an opportunity to get additional touches out of the slot. Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd have the chance to form one of the better 1-2 WR punches in the NFL if Arians can maximize their talent. Over the last nine games last year, Floyd averaged 4.1 receptions and 52 yards per game (a full-season pace for 66 receptions and 840 yards).
HEAD COACH: Doug Marrone (head coach for Syracuse University in 2012)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Nathaniel Hackett (offensive coordinator for Syracuse University in 2012)
SUMMARY: Like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills are one of two teams to fill their head coaching vacancy via the college coach route. Enter one Doug Marrone (48). He’s certainly a bit of a gamble with only four years of head coaching experience, the last four seasons at Syracuse University. Prior to that, Marrone spent three seasons as the OC for the Saints (2006-2008) and before that, most of his background had been as OL coach. There is some risk with an unknown coach, not to mention Marrone is filling many roles on his staff with his Syracuse coaches, including OC Nathaniel Hackett. One notable exception is Marrone has brought on two former Giants, Tyrone Wheatley to coach the running back and Ike Hilliard to coach the receivers. Marrone takes over after three losing seasons under Chan Gailey. The Bills haven’t had a winning season since 2004 when they were directed by Drew Bledsoe.
FANTASY IMPACT: On paper, adding Doug Marrone should mean good things for C.J. Spiller, complementing Marrone’s playing and coaching background on the offensive line. Additionally, OL coach Pat Morris has directed three different NFL squads to a rushing title over his career. With Fred Jackson set to be 32-years-old in the 2013 season, the transition to Spiller as the focal point of the Bills’ offense ought to be job number one for Marrone. The major off-season decision Marrone will have is whether or not to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. Fitzpatrick is in the middle of a 6-year, $59M contract extension signed in October 2011. With a $3M roster bonus in this season and next, Fitzpatrick is essentially now at over $7M per season which is a bit of a premium given his performance. Fitzpatrick has started every game the last two seasons for the Bills averaging 3,616 passing yards per season with a 24:20 TD/INT ratio. Expect Buffalo to draft a QB in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft this year. Buffalo also needs to address WR in the draft. They haven’t spent a high draft pick since busting on James Hardy in the 2nd round in 2008 and their WR corps shows the results. Since 2008 they’ve added just Marcus Easley in the 4th (2010) and T.J. Graham in the 3rd (2012). Steve Johnson is competent at the 1B WR role and has been consistent but he’s likely capped at around 79 receptions and 1,041 yards, his three-year average which he has essentially put up exactly over the last three seasons. The Bills are also in dire need of a tight end. Scott Chandler was a below average talent and tore his ACL in Week 16.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Shula (quarterback coach for the Carolina Panthers in 2012)
SUMMARY: After a 14 year gap, Mike Shula (47) gets his second NFL offensive coordinator position (his first one coming with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1990s). Shula was head coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2003-2006 where he compiled a 26-23 record before being fired. Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski who was offered the head coaching job for the Cleveland Browns. Shula will be overseeing an NFL offense for the first time in 14 years.
FANTASY IMPACT: The internal promotion of Mike Shula likely means a relative status quo for the offense and Shula has stated that the offense will resemble Rob Chudzinski’s, but will not be identical. On the one hand, you can make the case that this is good news for Cam Newton as he will have relative stability from last season. However, you certainly can make the case that some new perspectives and creative ideas on how to maximize Cam’s unique talents offers more appeal and Shula’s track record really isn’t all that great (to be fair, the last time around was with Trent Dilfer and Shaun King directing his Tampa Bay offense, and its been 14 years). Newton is talented enough that offensive coordinator may not matter a ton, but the Panthers are likely to have more of a traditional rushing attack under Shula similar to the Warrick Dunn / Mike Alstott attack he had at Tampa. Adding Shula likely means a positive bump for both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams (although Williams future with the club is still TBD as he is set to make $5.25 in 2013 – by comparison, Stewart will make just $1M although he has performance incentives as well; note that Stewart’s new contract signed in August 2012 calls for a $9M option bonus in 2014). Stewart underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in early January.
HEAD COACH: Marc Trestman (head coach for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL in 2012)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR / OL COACH: Aaron Kromer (offensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2012 and interim coach during Weeks 1-6)
SUMMARY: After failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year (and making the playoffs just one time over the last six seasons), the Lovie Smith era with the Chicago Bears comes to an end after nine years. In a somewhat unorthodox signing, the Bears turn to the North to the CFL for its’ next head coach: Marc Trestman (57). At first glance it may seem like a leap to make the jump from the CFL to the NFL but Trestman has had a tremendous amount of NFL experience dating back to the mid-1980s. Trestman got his first head coaching opportunity with the Alouettes in 2008. While there though, Trestman was extremely successful, winning two Grey Cup championships and being named coach of the year one season. Trestman brings a creative approach to the offensive side of the ball and is generally regarded as one of the premier QB coaches.
FANTASY IMPACT: In theory this should be a great move for Jay Cutler who, at age 30, should be entering his prime of his career historically speaking over the next two seasons. In various roles, Marc Trestman helped direct several QBs to career seasons including Scott Mitchell in Detroit in 1997, Jake Plummer in Arizona in 1998 and Rich Gannon’s MVP season in 2002 with Oakland. While it’s debatable how much upside there really is, there’s nowhere to go but up for Cutler after three fantasy-poor seasons and the lack of offensive prowess is specifically one of the issues that Marc Trestman was brought in to fix. In his first season with the Bears in 2009, Cutler had a solid 3,666 passing yards and a career-best 27 TDs, but since then Cutler has averaged a very meager 2,875 passing yards with just 18 passing TDs per season. It’s also a good bet that Trestman will work to hasten Alshon Jeffrey’s role in the offense. With no 3rd round pick (part of the Brandon Marshall trade) it will be interesting to see what Chicago does with their 1st and 2nd round picks but bringing in Trestman likely means more parts for the offense with those picks, with tight end being a particular need. Matt Forte should remain busy in the Trestman/Kromer offense. Forte (27) is still near the prime of his career and entering the second year of a new 4-year, $32M deal signed before the 2012 season.
HEAD COACH: Rob Chudzinski (offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers in 2012)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Norv Turner (head coach for the San Diego Chargers in 2012)
SUMMARY: After another successful season directing Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers offense, Rob Chudzinski (44) gets his first crack at being an NFL head coach. Chudzinski is a native of Ohio and returns to the Cleveland Browns where he was the tight end coach from 2004-2006 and promoted to offensive coordinator for the Browns in 2007-2008. Chudzinski hasn’t served under elite coaches for what it’s worth, however, having worked under Romeo Crennel, Butch Davis and Ron Riveria. The extreme makeover for the Browns’ coaching staff also includes Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, with the two reportedly negotiating collectively to join the Browns in their respective roles. Turner has been an NFL coach since 1985 and has been an NFL offensive coordinator or NFL head coach since 1991, including three different head coaching opportunities (Washington Redskins for seven seasons, the Oakland Raiders for two seasons and the San Diego Chargers for six seasons). Turner has a career record of 114-122-1 as a head coach (and holds the NFL record for the most games coached with a losing record). Chudzinski previously worked under Turner at San Diego as a TE coach.
FANTASY IMPACT: The upgrade in coaching for the Browns has the potential for huge fantasy impact. In particular, Trent Richardson has a legitimate chance to be as good as any fantasy RB in the game next season. Anchored by Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, the Browns have one of the league’s best O-lines and Norv Turner has a long track record of directing his RBs to have monster fantasy seasons. Emmitt Smith, Ricky Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson all won rushing crowns with Turner calling the shots. A more competent and creative offensive game plan should also mean good things for all the Browns’ receivers. Josh Gordon exploded for 800 yards as a rookie with a 16.1 YPC average. Pending QB play, Gordon has a legitimate chance to be a Top 10 WR down the road. Greg Little may be more of a possession receiver, but entering his third season Little has a chance to improve his game as well. Little came into the NFL with minimal experience as a receiver in college but has plenty of raw talent. Little led WRs with 27 bench reps of 225 lbs at the 2010 Combine and posted a 40.5″ vertical, 3rd best among WRs. The other major sleeper candidate for the Browns offense is TE Jordan Cameron. Both Chudzinski and Turner have a long track record of turning their TEs into stars and heavily utilizing the TE position in their offense. Chudzinski played TE in college and was a TE positional coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator. Cameron was raw coming into the league but he is a unique athlete. Cameron was the lone tight end at the 2010 Combine to place in the top five of all seven tests, ranking 1st or 2nd in five of the seven. As it can be with any complete change in coaching, the starting QB position will need to be evaluated. However, the Browns just spent a 1st round pick on Brandon Weeden and Norv Turner should be able to improve his performance and Weeden finished 2012 relatively strong, completing 63% of his passes over the final five games.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Adam Gase (quarterback coach for the Denver Broncos in 2012)
SUMMARY: Mike McCoy’s head coaching offer in San Diego left an opening at offensive coordinator and the team filled it from within, promoting QB coach Adam Gase. It’s a good sign on his coaching skill set that Peyton Manning no doubt signed off on his promotion. Gase was originally hired by Denver as the receiver coach before becoming the team’s QB coach.
FANTASY IMPACT: It’s hard to see much of any impact here other than the overall continuity bodes well for more fantasy football good times. Peyton Manning set the Broncos’ single-season record last year for completions (400), passing yards (4,659), completion percentage (68.6%), touchdowns (37) and passer rating (105.8).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Pep Hamilton (offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for Stanford University in 2012)
SUMMARY: With Bruce Arians having accepted the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job, the Colts bring in Andrew Luck’s former offensive coordinator at Stanford University. Pep Hamilton joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford in 2010 as a WR coach. When Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, OC David Shaw was promoted to Stanford’s head coach and Hamilton was promoted to offensive coordinator.
FANTASY IMPACT: As if you needed any reason to be bullish on QB Andrew Luck, adding Hamilton obviously brings a lot of familiarity for Luck and prevents him from having to learn a new offense or adjust to a new coach. TE Coby Fleener deserves some boost in projections on the signing as Hamilton was his receivers coach initially and then directed Fleener to a 10-TD season in 2011 as the coordinator at Stanford. Hamilton runs a West Coast offense with a power running game. The short passing attack could be good news for both Fleener and TE Dwayne Allen. The power running game plans would be great news for Vick Ballard. His 2013 ranking will depend on who Indianapolis brings in at running back (and they certainly can’t rely on Donald Brown or Delone Carter as even their backup). Ballard wasn’t incredible as a rookie but he was solid down the stretch and finished as the #18 RB from Week 7 on. He was a workhorse down the stretch with Indianapolis feeding him the ball 84 times in the final four games.
That covers the first half of the coaching changes that have happened in the NFL so far this offseason. Tune in tomorrow for the second half and learn more about what this information can mean for your fantasy squads.