Before we go into the coaching changes for 2019, I wanted to talk about yesterday.
Just to be clear, I’m not referring to the day that was 24-hours ago, or even an ambiguous timeframe that was prior to this moment. I am speaking about the 1965 Beatles’ song “Yesterday.”
Speaking of which, to call it a Beatles song is actually a paradox since no other member but Paul McCartney plays on the recording. Plus it was written solely by McCartney despite what the liner notes and credits say. But I digress.
According to various sources, it is one of the most widely covered songs in history. One reference which cited the Guinness Book of Records threw out the staggering total of 7 million covers. That’s a lot of yesterdays. Other sources seemed more realistic mentioning covers numbering into the thousands.
Among the famous artists who tried to recreate this historic masterpiece, we find a wide range of notables such as Joan Baez, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, En Vogue, Boyz II Men, and even Daffy Duck.
To purists, there is no substitute for the original. It’s already great. But to those attempting to cover it, their version of “Yesterday” can help make them great today.
Each year the NFL welcomes in a new “day” by introducing the league to a few new coaching staffs. Many of these coaches have gone through a grooming process – grooming that includes gaining experience through a particular coaching tree and then paying your dues as position coaches. This grooming can take years for a coach to be elevated. Even decades.
To some NFL teams, that way of thinking was yesterday. More is expected from rookie NFL coaches. Over the history of the NFL, a handful of rookie head coaches have made their mark.
If we go back to yesterday (a random period of time, that is), some rookie head coaches inherited some notable, decent teams which, in the opinion of some, may cast a shadow on their inaugural accomplishments.
For instance, George Seifert inherited a Super Bowl winning Niners team complete with a HOF QB in 1989. Across the Bay, legendary coach and future broadcaster, John Madden was handed a 12-game winning Raiders team in 1969 from the season before.
Not all rookie coaches were that fortunate.
- In 1992, San Diego’s Bobby Ross inherited a last place (fifth place) Chargers team yet bolted to a first place finish (11-5).
- Likewise in 2006, New Orleans’ Sean Payton inherited a last place Saints team yet breezed to a first place finish (10-6) losing in the conference championship.
- Then in 2011, San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh took a former 6-10 team and struck gold, taking them to the conference championship (13-3) in his rookie campaign.
- A very young Sean McVay was tasked with turning around a “Goffle” (G + awful) 4-12 Rams team in 2017 and guided them to the Wild Card playoffs (11-5) in his first season.
- Even more recently, the Chicago Bears have finished last in 4 consecutive seasons until rookie coach Matt Nagy took them to a 12-4 first place season in 2018.
- Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson needed only 2 seasons to advance the Eagles and win a Super Bowl in 2017.
The NFL has taken note.
In one season, these coaches have turned losing teams into winners. Or to quote the Beatles, “yesterday came suddenly.” Because these types of turnarounds have happened more frequently in recent seasons, the hope is that a new breed of rookie NFL coaches can duplicate these masterful seasons just as quickly.
In 2018, NFL teams hired 7 new head coaches and 18 new offensive coordinators.
For 2019, there are 8 new NFL head coaches and 16 new offensive coordinators.
This is my annual preview of the new NFL coaches. Let’s look at their history to see if we will echo McCartney’s lyric: “Now it looks like they’re here to stay.”
- New HC Kliff Kingsbury – was Texas Tech HC.
- New OC Tom Clements – was assistant GB HC in 2015-16.
Clements has 5 years’ experience as OC for Buffalo and Green Bay. He did well when the talent was there and struggled when it wasn’t. It’s worth noting that in both locations, his teams ranked an average of 9 in points scored.
I’d lean on the side of caution when drafting any Cardinals players.
- New OC Dirk Koetter – was TB HC the last 3 seasons.
In the last 7 seasons, Koetter’s offenses have finished in the top 10 for yardage five times. Sadly, his offenses had finished in the bottom half of the league for points scored. That said, returning to the Falcons may help his numbers, where he had his best tenure in both yards gained and points scored rankings in a pass-heavy offense.
- New OC Greg Roman – was Ravens TE coach.
Roman has 6 seasons as OC for the Niners and Bills. His rankings are respectable, and it looks like he favors establishing the run game since his rushing yards were top 5 in all but one of those 6 seasons.
The primary RB in the Ravens offense, which may be Gus Edwards, could be in for tremendous usage.
- New HC Zac Taylor – was Rams QB coach.
- New OC Brian Callahan – was Raiders QB coach.
It appears that Callahan is OC in title only since Taylor has gone on record that he’ll call his own plays. Taylor’s last venture as OC was with the 2015 Dolphins where he ranked 26 and 27 in yards and points scored, respectively. His weapons in Cincy are arguably better, but perhaps, not that much better.
- New HC Freddie Kitchens – served as OC from week 9 in 2018.
- New OC Todd Monken – was TB OC.
Monken will be OC in title only since Kitchens confirmed he will call his own plays. Once Kitchens took over as interim OC last year in week 9, Baker Mayfield’s passing numbers improved, and the offense averaged nearly 24 points per game.
Based on this small sample size, there could be some rescue-worthy sleeper candidates from the dawg pound.
- New OC Kellen Moore – was Cowboys QB coach.
It would have been nice if his last name was synonymous with how much coordinator experience that he has – Moore (more). Unfortunately, he has zero, zip, none. For a team already ranking in the bottom half of the league in yards and points (22), I don’t see this going well except for the constant feeding of Ezekiel Elliott.
- New HC Vic Fangio – was Bears DC.
- New OC Rich Scangarello – was Niners QB coach.
From a fantasy angle, the 12-ranked Broncos DST may benefit most from Fangio’s experience. Newly acquired Joe Flacco may be a slight upgrade over Case Keenum, but that in itself may not add enough wins, yards, or points to an inexperienced Scangarello’s offense. An offense, mind you, that had trouble leaving the stable in 2018.
- New OC Darrell Bevell – was Seahawks OC.
Bevell has 12 years under his belt as the OC for both the Seahawks and Vikings. His average rankings for points and yards put him in the top half of the NFL. This is good news for the offensive players who get the lion’s share of touches in the Motor City.
Time to rev up the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson here.
Green Bay Packers
- New HC Matt LaFleur – was Titans OC.
- New OC Nathaniel Hackett – was Jaguars OC.
LaFleur was picked from McVay’s coaching tree and was the Titans’ play-caller last season. Despite ranking 25 in yards and 27 in points, he was promoted to be the Big Cheese in Wisconsin. LaFleur brought in Hackett who did time as the OC for Buffalo and the Jaguars, before being fired. Hackett’s offensive rankings were not much better than LaFleur’s except for an exceptional 2017. Both coaches inherit a future hall of fame QB and above average weapons.
Based on what both have shown, I hesitate in taking the leap that these two coaches will get any more out of the offense than the previous regime.
- New OC Tim Kelly – was Texans TE coach.
Head coach Bill O’Brien will likely continue to call the plays since Kelly has zero coordinating experience. Notably, O’Brien did average the eleventh-most points last season even if more fantasy owners were expecting even more from QB Deshaun Watson following an oustanding 2017 campaign.
- New OC John DeFilippo – was Vikings OC.
DeFilippo has 2 seasons on his resume. 2015 with the Browns and last season with the Vikings. It’s a shame that with Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, (as well as good field position thanks to the defense) he couldn’t do any better than rank 20 in yards and 19 in points.
The Jags’ have real concerns at QB, and the rest of the weapons don’t quite match up with what he had last season.
- New HC Brian Flores – was Patriots LB coach.
- New OC Chad O’Shea – was Patriots WR coach.
Surprising that a division rival is hoping to benefit from the Hoodie effect. O’Shea has over a dozen years of experience on the offensive side of the ball, but none of them involve play-calling. This is not good news for a Fins team who just let an experienced Adam Gase go. Although the optimist may still welcome the change to O’Shea since Gase managed to drop in the yardage rankings each of his 3 seasons as skipper.
Fantasy advice: Find another fishing spot.
- New OC Kevin Stefanski – was OC for 3 games last season.
Honorable mention goes to the Vikings’ Kevin Stefanski who took over as OC in week 15 as the interim coordinator. With a grand total of 3 games under his pelt (yes, pelt; it’s a Viking reference), he retains that title for 2019. He averaged 28 points per game. Had he kept up that scoring for all 16 games, the Vikings would have ranked 4 in points. Not so impressive were his yards per game where he averaged 274 yards which would have been a notch above last. The talent is there. But can Stefanski elevate the talent to Nordic dominance, unlike his predecessor?
New York Jets
- New HC Adam Gase – was Dolphins HC.
- New OC Dowell Loggains – was Dolphins OC.
Adam Gase has 6 years of experience. His offensive numbers had steadily declined as he went from Peyton Manning (DEN) to Jay Cutler (CHI) to Ryan Tannehill (MIA). Now he has Sam Darnold and a core of players whose best fantasy numbers include Isaiah Crowell’s 119 fantasy points (standard).
I’m cancelling all flights for everyone involved on the Jets. Fly at your own risk.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- New HC Bruce Arians – was retired.
- New OC Byron Leftwich – was Cardinals OC.
Arians has 14 years of coordinating experience. I’ve always respected him. Leftwich on the other hand has a total of 9 games as OC. Interestingly, they inherit a third-ranked yardage offense. Hate to say it, but it’s tough to maintain top 5 yardage ranking, and that’s with a steady, consistent QB, unlike Jameis Winston. I still expect decent fantasy production, but pillaging fantasy points may be lean from week to week for any other skill player not named Mike Evans.
- New OC Arthur Smith – was Titans TE coach.
Smith has absolutely no coordinator experience at any level. It took the old OC LaFleur 12 weeks to figure out to use Derrick Henry more. All Smith needs to do is hand Henry the rock. Even if he does, that still may not save this offense from titanic disappointment.
- New OC Kevin O’Connell – was Skins QB coach.
O’Connell has no coordinator experience. Jay Gruden will continue to call the offense. Sadly, the Redskins’ best player in 2018 was a 33-year old Adrian Peterson. He was also the only skill player to play all 16 games. They need help and consistency on all levels of their reservation starting with QB. So you should have your reservations drafting any Redskins.
In summary, some fan bases will be happy with their coaching changes. (i.e. Falcons, Browns, Ravens, Lions and Bucs) They’ll be singing “Oh, I believe in yesterday” for the coaching retreads that will infuse new life into their offenses.
However, the other fan bases could feel the downside of these changes and may be humming in a reminiscent way, “Now I long for yesterday.”
Head on over to Fantasy Rundown for additional off-season NFL coverage along with 2019 rankings.