Handicapping the New NFL Coaches
by Trevor Whenham - 8/15/2013
There are eight new head coaches in the NFL this year — fully a quarter of the league. Bettors face a tough challenge with new coaches. Sometimes they can make the changes needed to significantly improve the team out of the gate. Other times they have to make bigger changes before finding success, or they are never destined to find it at all.
By looking at the coaching situations as training camps proceed, though, you can start to make an educated guess of what will happen. If you are right and the betting public is less accurate then you could find some pleasant value.
Here’s a look at each of the eight new coaching situations as they currently stand:
Arizona Cardinals — Bruce Arians
There is a surprising amount of buzz building around the Cardinals this summer. I hope it only grows. It is easy to respect Arians, and he is going to dramatically improve both the schemes and the mindset of this team. He won’t be able to do enough early on to overcome a truly horrifying schedule, though. In the eight weeks before their bye they travel to play St. Louis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and San Francisco and host Detroit, Carolina, Seattle and Atlanta. All eight teams have playoff potential, and that just seems like too much for Arians to overcome because of how much he needs to fix with this team. In the short term this team will fail to meet growing expectations.
Buffalo Bills — Doug Marrone
In the longer term, I am bullish about the hiring of Marrone — the best decision the team has made in a while. I also am growing to like the surprising choice of E.J. Manuel at the draft this year. It looks like Manuel is going to win the starting job out of the gate if he can stay healthy, though, and it is for precisely that reason that I am not optimistic about the early part of the Marrone era. There will be growing pains as new coach and new QB try to find their comfort zones.
Chicago Bears — Marc Trestman
As a Canadian, I have seen a lot more of Trestman recently than most of you. He was the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL before taking this job. He was the best coach in that league by such a wide margin. Before that he had accumulated serious experience south of the border. The knocks against him — he is inexperienced, he is out of his depth, he is a poor communicator — are just plain ridiculous. Trestman is an excellent offensive mind, and he runs a tight ship. He is burdened with Jay Cutler as his quarterback, but he is going to be ready from the outset and will provide surprising value early on for bettors.
Cleveland Browns — Rob Chudzinski
Cleveland is making sound moves, and this hiring qualifies as such. Their odd draft strategy this year, though — stockpiling picks for next year instead of adding much-needed talent this year — is a clear sign that they know they are in for a long climb out of the ditch they find themselves in. Chudzinski could win in the long term, but I don’t expect him to in the short term. The good news is that the team doesn’t play their first truly elite opponent until Green Bay in Week 7. Still, there are enough potholes for this team to struggle before that.
Jacksonville Jaguars — Gus Bradley
Bradley is a good hire and a good coach. In order to be excited about him out of the gate, though, I was looking for two things. First, I wanted him to take some sort of bold action to get Justin Blackmon in line and let the team know who is boss. Hasn’t really happened. Then I wanted him to take a stance on the QB situation. I think Henne is a better option than Gabbert, but not by a whole lot. Bradley needed to pick his guy and run with him. However, by letting it linger like he has he’s created unnecessary uncertainty for a team that certainly doesn’t need it. This is not going to be a very good team, and they will prove that early and often.
Kansas City Chiefs — Andy Reid
I am very bullish on Reid in Kansas City, and that starts right away since at least seven of his first nine games are very winnable. Reid and Alex Smith are a very good pairing. The biggest issues this team has had lately haven’t been about talent as much as injuries and a horrible mindset. Reid can’t solve the former, but he is doing wonders with the latter. There is a strong core of talent, and Smith is a good fit for getting the most from it. The Chiefs have a very good chance of entering their Week 10 bye as one of the bigger surprises in the league.
Philadelphia Eagles — Chip Kelly
Over the long term I think hiring Kelly was a risk worth taking. In the short term, though, it could get ugly. There are so many factors working against early success. His giant ego will have to be contained, and he’ll have to realize that he doesn’t know nearly as much in the NFL as it seemed he did in college. Coaches who have successfully made the transition — and there are far fewer than those who have failed — have found a massive dose of humility in a hurry. He doesn’t have an ideal quarterback for what he wants to do — or at least not one that he seems completely comfortable with. He has to assess his personnel and start to change it to a group he can work with, and he has to adjust to how his system can fit in the NFL. And he has a tough early schedule with potential playoff teams in 10 of the first 11 weeks before the bye.
San Diego Chargers — Mike McCoy
I really don’t know how to assess the Chargers under McCoy. The coach has one massive thing going for him here — he’s not Norv Turner. The core of the team is largely the same, though, so it remains to be seen how much lasting damage Turner did with his acceptance of mediocrity and how quickly McCoy can undo it. I questioned when he was hired whether he was the right guy to contrast the mess of Turner, and so far he hasn’t done enough to convince me he is. The Chargers are a team I will sit back and patiently watch before taking a stance on.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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