Each season there is about 7 head coaching changes in the NFL. So it may not be surprising there were 7 head coaching changes to start 2018. What is surprising is there were 18 offensive coordinator (OC) changes! Eighteen! For reference, in 2017 there were 9 OC changes.
It’s no surprise that teams that have struggled offensively are looking for a spark. The NFL is a copycat league. And the model to copy is to find the next Sean McVay (Rams) or Doug Peterson (Eagles). Right now there are 18 fan bases wondering about the future of their teams.
Fantasy owners too wonder how these changes will affect the relevant fantasy players. Time to queue up The Who classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In this epic rock song, they sing about “the change, it had to come. We knew it all along.”
Will these OC changes be an improvement?
This is my annual preview of the newest Offensive Coordinators. Let’s “meet the new boss” and see if they might be the “same as the old boss.”
- New HC: Steve Wilks – former Panthers DC.
- New OC: Mike McCoy – former Denver Broncos OC.
McCoy’s NFL experience: 9 seasons; 5 years as OC for Denver and 4 years as HC of the Chargers.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 13.1
- Average offensive scoring rank: 17.4
McCoy’s numbers are respectable and he does inherit a couple of above average weapons in the desert. Namely David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Problem is, with QB Carson Palmer announcing his retirement; McCoy may have a case of déjà vu after leaving a similar unsettled Broncos QB situation where his offense ranked 17. A healthy David Johnson could be the beneficiary of a balanced offensive game plan where McCoy called 45% rushing.
- New OC: Brian Daboll – former Alabama OC.
NFL experience: 4 seasons as OC with Cleveland (2), Miami and Kansas City.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 26.7
- Average offensive scoring rank: 28.0
Winning a National Championship with Alabama may have earned Daboll this opportunity. This is not his first rodeo in the NFL, though it is with the Bills. Sadly his offenses have been near the bottom of the NFL. While this may not inspire confidence, it is worth noting that as OC of the Chiefs and Dolphins, his rushing offenses attempted the 5th and 6th most rushing attempts respectively. This could be good news for LeSean McCoy owners. However, with the possibility of losing QB Tyrod Taylor, and the fact that McCoy is not getting younger (will be 30), this could be tough for the Bills to make a repeat trip to the playoffs.
- New OC: Norv Turner – was unemployed in 2017.
NFL experience: 26 seasons as either an OC or HC. Last gig was 2016 in Minnesota as OC.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 17.7
- Average offensive scoring rank: 14.9
His averages shown above are based on his 11 seasons as OC only. Turner’s numbers have steadily declined over time. However, in 2016, he did manage to make Sam Bradford stand out with his best completion percentage of his career while missing Adrian Peterson. Turner also got the most receptions and yards ever out of TE Kyle Rudolph in that season. Of course, we all know how Turner featured TE Antonio Gates in San Diego. If Turner stays true to form, a healthy TE Greg Olsen could have a career season.
- New HC: Matt Nagy – former Chiefs OC.
- New OC: Mark Helfrich – former Oregon HC, coordinator/QB coach.
NFL experience: None.
The understanding is that new HC Matt Nagy will be calling the Bears offense. Both Nagy and Helfrich inherit a work-in-progress with QB Mitch Trubisky. Nagy did call the plays for the 2017 Chiefs where they ranked 5th in yards and 6th in points. Exploiting RB Jordan Howard as their best playmaker could be a given. Meaning that 1400 scrimmage yards from Jordan may be a slam dunk. Helfrish by the way is credited with QB Marcus Mariota‘s success. Also if the Bears envision TE Adam Shaheen as a legitimate weapon, Nagy may be the coach to get the most out of the him bringing his own spin on Andy Reid‘s offense that features the TE like he did with Travis Kelce in KC.
- Retained OC: Bill Lazor – promoted in September from Bengals QB coach after OC Ken Zampese was fired.
NFL experience: 3 seasons; 2 years with Miami and 1 with the Bengals.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 24.0
- Average offensive scoring rank: 21.3
Lazor’s 2017 Bengals ranked dead last in yards. Not much better (26th) in points. Stud WR A.J. Green had his lowest yardage output in a 16-game season. And new toy rookie RB Joe Mixon (3.5 ypc) was arguably out-done by veteran Giovani Bernard (4.4 ypc). I’m really at a loss for words here. Lazor’s stats seem to be going the wrong direction. I can’t see much changing for 2018 unless Lazor gets more creative to uncage the Bengals offense.
- New OC: Todd Haley – former Steelers OC.
NFL experience: 9 years as OC; Cardinals (2), Chiefs (1), Steelers (6)
- Average offensive yardage rank: 10.7
- Average offensive scoring rank: 11.1
Haley’s numbers are impressive. I respect him and think the Steelers made a rash emotional decision by letting him go. (They did score 42 points against a stingy Jags defense.) Despite working with a 24th-ranked Browns offense, I can see Haley the most out of them by focusing on their strengths. RB Duke Johnson had nearly as many receptions as LeVeon Bell, but Duke did have more receiving yards. Then there is WR Josh Gordon who is always a threat. (Both as a receiver and as a lifetime ban candidate.) Without question the Browns need an upgrade at QB, unless DeShone Kizer turns the corner. I’m sure Haley will have his two divisional meetings versus his former Steelers circled on his calendar.
- New HC: Matt Patricia – former Patriots DC.
Retained OC: Jim Bob Cooter, has been the Lions OC for the last 3 seasons.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 18.0
- Average offensive scoring rank: 15.0
It really is a testament to what Cooter has accomplished when the head coach (Jim Caldwell) is fired and Jim-Bob still has a job. Plus it’s no secret that the Lions have been searching for the next Barry Sanders to no avail. Despite the lack of a running game (ranked last in 2017), Cooter improved to an overall offensive rank of 13. Since the Lions passed 61% of the time (which was 2nd-most in the NFL), the surprise stat is that RB Ameer Abdullah (not Theo Riddick) was targeted in the redzone most for the Lions (23.2%).
Green Bay Packers
- New OC: Joe Philbin
NFL experience: 9 seasons as either OC (Packers) or HC (Dolphins).
- Average offensive yardage rank: 5.6
- Average offensive scoring rank: 4.6
Philbin returns to Green Bay to reprise his role as OC after a 4-year failed fishing excursion in Miami as HC. His average numbers shown above reflect his previous numbers as the Packers OC. The last time he was OC (2011) the Packers scored the most points in the NFL. During that season, Aaron Rodgers threw the 2nd-most TD passes with 45. (Brees has 46.) And Jordy Nelson was targeted 96 times for 1263 yards and 15 TD. Philbin also had a nice tandem of RB in Ryan Grant and James Starks both of whom had over 550 rushing yards and over 200 receiving yards. How this plays out with the 3-headed RBBC with Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones could be new wrinkle. Some suspect that TyMo is moved off the rotation back to WR. Still using Williams and Jones equally would not help their fantasy value much.
- New HC: Frank Reich (former Eagles OC)
- New OC: Nick Sirianni (former Chargers WR coach)
NFL experience: Zero as OC.
This could be a train wreck. Reich comes in fresh from the Eagles Super Bowl 52 win. While he held the title of OC for the Eagles, it was evident that HC Doug Peterson was the offensive genius. How much of that trickled down to Reich is anyone’s guess? Reich did have experience calling plays for the Chargers back in 2014 and 2015 where he spent time on the same coaching staff as Sirianni. In his tenure in San Diego, the offense averaged a rank of 13.5 in yards and ranked 21.5 in scoring. The Colts offense was a terrible rank of 31 in 2017. Plus the train has already derailed if the rumors are true that QB Andrew Luck is still having lingering shoulder problems.
Kansas City Chiefs
- New OC: Eric Bieniemy
NFL experience: None. (Was the Colorado OC in 2011-12.)
Bieniemy has been a disciple of Andy Reid for a decade. Reid has been a pretty consistent play-caller in his 19 seasons as HC. Reid’s offenses have averaged a ranking in the top half of the NFL in yards (14.1) and points (11.1). QB Patrick Mahomes will take over for QB Alex Smith who traded one Indian logo for another (WSH). Unofficially, the Chiefs were the 3rd-most penalized offense and that was with a veteran under center. TE Travis Kelce, who is already a key target on offense, could be the beneficiary of an inexperienced OC and QB. Note though that Kelce ended the season in concussion protocol, his second concussion of 2017, which is a risk for more going forward. A surprise stat looking at the Chiefs offense was that behind the obvious RB Kareem Hunt (36.8%) and the aforementioned Kelce (16%), Albert Wilson was targeted third-most in the redzone (9.6%).
- New OC: Dowell Loggains – former Bears OC.
NFL experience: 3 years as OC; 1 year with the Titans and the last 2 with the Bears.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 22.3
- Average offensive scoring rank: 25.3
Loggains joins the Dolphins to assist HC Adam Gase and hopefully a healthy QB Ryan Tannehill. Looking at Loggains 3-year history as OC should make Dolphins fans nervous. Because Loggains has never coached the same QB through an entire NFL season. On the 2013 Titans, he had Jake Locker for 7 games and Ryan Fitzpatrick for the other 9 games. On the 2016 Bears, he had to juggle Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer (5 games each), then Matt Barkley (6 games). Then in 2017, the Bears handed him Mike Glennon (4 games) and ultimately the inexperienced rookie Mitch Trubisky (12 games). While Loggains’ rankings are not encouraging, it certainly can’t help to build chemistry in an offense when the QB changes so frequently. In each case however, he did have a 1000-yard RB which could be a good sign should the Fins give Kenyan Drake a shot at the starting job.
- New OC: John DeFilippo
NFL experience: 1 season as Browns OC (2015)
- Offensive yardage rank: 25
- Offensive scoring rank: 30
DeFilippo’s inaugural year as OC in Cleveland did not go well. Part of his demise was due to the failed experiment known as Johnny Manziel who started 6 games. The Browns were arguably devoid of playmakers as well. To DeFilippo’s credit, Josh McCown started 8 games and moved the offense to the tune of 263 passing yards per game. In 2015, that would have been good enough for 12th-best among QB. It also helps that he’s inheriting an offense that ranked 10 in points and 11 in yards. While I don’t normally get excited about an OC with limited experience, J.D. inherits a quality offense whose only question mark may be the starting QB. While a QB is important, it should be noted that much of DeFilippo’s experience is as QB coach.
New York Giants
- New HC: Pat Shurmur – was Vikings OC.
- New OC: Mike Shula
NFL experience: 9 years as OC (4 in Tampa and 5 in Carolina)
- Average offensive yardage rank: 22.0
- Average offensive scoring rank: 18.1
The good news is that between both Shurmer and Shula, there are 16 years of OC experience. I would also give the nod to Shurmer as the more accomplished of the pair of “Shu’s.” (Shurmer has 7 years as an OC; ranked 16.1 in yards; ranked 15.8 in points with the Rams (2), Eagles (3) and Vikes (2).) The Giants offense that Shula inherits finished with a yardage ranking of 21 last season. That could be bad news since Shula’s career numbers hover in that range. WR Odell Beckham returns and one hopes he gives the offense a giant boost. But QB Eli Manning numbers have regressed the last 3 seasons in terms of yardage, TD passes, and yards-per-catch. Shurmer/Shula could have a rough first season together.
New York Jets
- New OC: Jeremy Bates
NFL experience: 1 year as OC with Seattle in 2010.
- Offensive yardage rank: 28
- Offensive scoring rank: 23
This may be a case of déjà vu. In his lone season as the Seahawks OC he had a fading 35 year-old Matt Hasselbeck as his starting QB. Marshawn Lynch came over from the Bills after a week 4 mid-season trade, and never did have a 90-yard rushing game. Now Bates may be heading to a similar situation with the Jets. He has a 38 year-old Josh McCown at QB (whose numbers are eerily similar to Hasselbeck’s). And with Matt Forte aging and missing time, who knows if the Jets pull off a similar mid-season trade if the RB situation is not resolved in the off-season? While this may seem unimpressive, Bates helped the 7-9 Seahawks to a surprising division title in 2010. Although I can’t see that happening in the AFC East unless the Patriots plane crashes.
- New HC: Jon Gruden
- New OC: Greg Olson
NFL experience: 10 seasons as OC with Detroit (1), Rams (2), Bucs (3), Raiders (2) and Jags (2).
- Average offensive yardage rank: 22.1
- Average offensive scoring rank: 23.7
Olson returns to the Raiders where was the OC in 2013-14. He coached then rookie Derek Carr to a 4th-most passing attempts (629). This time around, I’m sure there will plenty of experience to draw on from new HC Jon Gruden. Plus he already inherits an offense that ranked 17 last season, mostly because of the pass (16th). Gruden as an analyst preaches about a balanced attack. But if the Raiders don’t strengthen the efficiency of the RB position (25th in rushing yards), Carr could see his 515 pass attempts from last season increase again. Some conclude that with Gruden at the helm, this is a given anyway.
- New OC: Mike Groh
NFL experience: None.
I’ll make this short and sweet. HC Doug Peterson calls his own plays. Now that Groh has been promoted to replace OC Frank Reich, I’m sure he’ll be a fine assistant, but the Eagles offense will still soar under Peterson.
- New OC: Randy Fichtner
NFL experience: None as OC.
Fichtner has 10 years of college OC experience at Arkansas State and Memphis. But it has been 12 years since he last called an offensive play of any kind. He was promoted from within the Steelers where he served as the QB coach. Fichtner inherits a very skilled offense that ranked 3 last season in yards and 8 in points scored. Often we will hear the correlation that when an elite player goes down, a coach knows that the next player to fill in may not have the same skill set. Therefore you shouldn’t expect the same type of results. I personally do not envision Fichtner getting the same type of results in relief of the departed Todd Haley. In fact, Fichtner may have the same growing pains as did the Falcons’ OC Steve Sarkisian who similarly never held an NFL OC position before. Sarkisian’s 2017 numbers in Atlanta were respectable, but it was still a drop-off from the previous 2016 season.
- New OC: Brian Schottenheimer
NFL experience: 9 years as OC; 6 with the Jets and 3 with the Rams.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 22.6
- Average offensive scoring rank: 18.0
I’ve seen reports where some analysts have already been very critical of this move. But Schottenheimer’s averages are a little better than some of the other OC names in this article. He last called an NFL play in 2014 with the St. Louis Rams. His QB’s then were Austin Davis and Shaun Hill. His best season was with the 2010 Jets (11-5) and QB Mark Sanchez where he leaned heavily on RB LaDanian Tomlinson. Schottenheimer already has more talented pieces to work with in Seattle, except possibly for RB.
- New HC: Mike Vrabel – former Houston DC.
- New OC: Matt LaFleur, former Rams OC.
NFL experience: 1 season as Rams OC.
- Average offensive yardage rank: 10
- Average offensive scoring rank: 1
LaFleur may have held the title as OC for the explosive Rams, but it was evident to most that it was HC Sean McVay calling the plays. While he may have learned plenty from McVay’s leadership, this will essentially be the first time ever LaFleur will call a play – in the pros or in college. NFL history for a first time OC does not favor LaFleur. Add in that LaFleur is taking over an offense that ranked 23 last season. He may have a titan hurdle to get over. Often a first-time OC tends to run a conservative offense which in this case may boost the value of RB Derrick Henry as well as the steady dependability of TE Delanie Walker.
Eighteen new OC are at minimum giving their new teams renewed hope for 2018. Or as The Who sang, to “smile and grin at the change all around.” But will they? I’m sure will hope and “pray we don’t get fooled again.”