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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
As spins on the coaching carousel have gone, this one has been pretty tame. Only the Redskins and Seahawks have fired coaches since the end of the season, and both hired replacements quickly, with Washington wasting no time zeroing in on Mike Shanahan and Seattle hiring Pete Carroll just three days after firing Jim Mora. The Bills, who fired head coach Dick Jauron in November, finally hired Chan Gailey as a permanent replacement after being rebuffed by several big-name coaching prospects.
In many ways, the most compelling story line of the offseason to date has been the firings that didn't happen. The Browns were widely expected to let Eric Mangini go after one turbulent season in Cleveland, but he was given a reprieve by new team president Mike Holmgren. The Jaguars' Jack Del Rio kept his job after speculation arose that he might replace Carroll at USC. The Panthers kept John Fox, who's entering the final year of his contract. The Bears retained Lovie Smith, who has failed to lead Chicago to the playoffs the past three years.
For this NFList, with the help of league insiders, we take a closer look at the three teams (in alphabetical order) that have changed coaches since the beginning of the 2009 season, breaking down the pros and cons of all three jobs. Respondents participated on condition of anonymity.
Pros: They have some building blocks on both sides of the ball. They are equipped to employ a ball-control attack on offense, with RBs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch a solid 1-2 tandem. "Fred Jackson, that guy is a hell of a back," said one assistant who had to game-plan against the Bills' offense this season. The defense is strong vs. the pass. Rookie FS Jairus Byrd tied for the league lead in interceptions with nine and was voted to the Pro Bowl. Also, the Bills are traditionally strong on special teams.
Cons: The Bills are capable of stretching the field, but neither quarterback, Trent Edwards nor Ryan Fitzpatrick, played particularly well last season. "They've got to get their QB situation squared away," one respondent said. The defense, while stingy against passing attacks, was absolutely gashed by the run in 2009. Then, there is the matter of the Bills' competition within their division. The Patriots have had their number in recent years, and the Jets and Dolphins finished ahead of them in the standings.
Pros: The NFC West is not filled with powerhouses, and a quick turnaround isn't out of the realm of possibility in Carroll's first season in charge of the Seahawks. "They're in the easiest division," said one panelist who saw the NFC West up close in 2009. Only the Cardinals finished with a winning record, and they would be significantly weakened if QB Kurt Warner were to retire. The Seahawks have playmakers on both sides of the ball, with RB Justin Forsett and LB Aaron Curry intriguing talents.
Cons: Carroll praised QB Matt Hasselbeck in his introductory press conference as head coach, but the Seahawks will have to start thinking about a replacement for their longtime starter, who turns 35 in September. Hasselbeck struggled late in the season, throwing 10 interceptions in his final four starts. Also, Hasselbeck didn't get much help from his offensive line, and his WR corps didn't play particularly well, either. The Seahawks have plenty of concerns on the other side of the ball, too.
Pros: One respondent called the Redskins "the most talent-rich" of the teams that have changed coaches. Clearly, Shanahan inherits a loaded defense. DT Albert Haynesworth can dominate. OLB Brian Orakpo was a pass-rushing standout as a rookie, and MLB London Fletcher remains among the more productive players at his position. The secondary doesn't lack for capable players, either. The Redskins' offense is behind the defense, but there's some good skill-position talent on hand.
Cons: Like the other teams on this list, there's a big question about the QB situation. Jason Campbell showed considerable toughness and threw for a career-high 3,618 yards and 20 TDs in 2009, but it's unclear whether Shanahan will commit to him for the long term. Whoever the starting quarterback is, the Redskins' offensive line needs a lot of work. And, of course, there is the matter of working for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who's far from patient.
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