Coaching Changes in the NFL: Fantasy Football Analysis
Ken Whisenhunt replaces Mike Munchak, Jason Michael replaces Dowell Loggains
Mike Munchak needed to go. I always thought he was the worst head coaching hire in the last few years. An offensive line coach for most of his career, Munchak and Jake Locker just didn’t create any excitement in Tennessee over the last few years. Dowell Loggains, the offensive play caller, was heavily scrutinized as a conservative coach that didn’t help the team win on offense. While Jake Locker had limitations, his play style, in my opinion, calls for an aggressive attack. Ken Whisenhunt will be calling plays for the Titans. Michael is a newcomer to the coordinator role. He formerly served as the quarterbacks coach for the 49ers and tight ends coach for the Chargers. I will focus on Whisenhunt here as he will provide the biggest fantasy impact.
Whisenhunt was an above average coach for the Arizona Cardinals. He made it to the Superbowl with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin. He recently helped bring life to the San Diego Chargers offense, helping Mike McCoy improve it from 31st to 5th, and rejuvenating Ryan Mathews and Philip Rivers. Keenan Allen also enjoyed a strong rookie year. Jake Locker is no Philip Rivers, and certainly not a Kurt Warner, but Whisenhunt should find a way to help him out nonetheless. Whisenhunt’s philosophy has evolved with each team, but most recently has focused around high percentage passes as well as a tough run game, something that could provide huge dividends for the Titans skill players. Locker has struggled with accuracy his entire career, but he is not afraid to sling the ball. If Whisenhunt is able to work his offense around quick throws that result in a higher completion percentage, the offense should see a significant improvement. If Jake Locker can stay mobile after his foot injury, he could be in for one of his best years. The biggest beneficiaries of Whisenhunt will be Kendall Wright and Bishop Sankey. Wright won’t function in the same way as Keenan Allen, but he is an all around receiver that should be a force as a volume pass catcher this year. Sankey should also thrive as both a pass catcher and sometimes even early down runner. Think a better Danny Woodhead of last year. Delanie Walker will probably not see any more opportunities, but Justin Hunter is someone to monitor in fantasy circles. The Titans will most likely be airing the ball out with a rather questionable defense.
Result: Locker SLIGHT UP, Kendall Wright UP, Sankey UP
Gary Kubiak replaces Jim Caldwell
The main point to look at here is how Gary Kubiak will change the Ravens system. With the signing of Owen Daniels, it further proves that Kubiak will focus on the tight ends as the focal point of his offense. In Kubiaks system, one of the tight ends tends to stay in and block while the other is used on a route. Both Daniels and Pitta are excellent pass catchers, and should see ample time each running routes, Pitta more than Daniels. I am not a fan of this addition, however. While Pitta should be seen as a mid-round tight end because of Kubiaks hire, everyone else will be questionable. The Ravens are going to miss Caldwell. Ray Rice’s career seems to be derailed, and I don’t think the hip was the main issue. Kubiak is great with running backs. He helped the likes of Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis and Arian Foster, but Rice is of a different style than all of these backs. Both Rice and Pierce struggled with zone blocking last year, the system that will be used by Kubiak. I doubt Kubiak will be willing to take advantage of Rice or Pierce’s strengths, and they could be in for another long season unless they are able turn themselves around on their own. Torrey and Steve Smith will probably be fantasy factors, Torrey more than Steve. However, there is not much evidence to show that either will receive any sort of boost from Kubiak. Neither are comparable to Andre Johnson during Kubiak’s tenure in Texas, and while his Denver teams did boast some strong receivers like Rod Smith, a lot of the credit should be placed on John Elway.
Result: Pitta UP, Running game NO IMPROVEMENT
New York Giants
Ben McAdoo replaces Kevin Gilbride
Kevin Gilbride was once a good offensive coordinator, but last year was just downright awful. Eli Manning was embarrassing, the receivers were lost, Victor Cruz was used incorrectly, and drives ended prematurely thanks to horrible play calling. Gilbride had to go, and for the sake of the Giants, anything will be an improvement over what happened last year.
Ben McAdoo is a first time offensive coordinator. He spent the last few seasons in Green Bay as the tight ends coach and quarterbacks coach, working with Aaron Rodgers the last 2 seasons. Not much is known from McAdoo as he has never truly had a chance to build a system in the NFL or in college. However, from recent interviews, it seems as if McAdoo will focus on the screen game, something the Giants severely missed last year. This will be hugely beneficial to Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle, and David Wilson if he’s healthy. I’m exciting to see how McAdoo can build his scheme, but for now, I’d be hesitant to rely on any Giants players until we see how things go when the preseason starts.
Result: Cruz, Randle, Wilson, Slight UP
Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden
This is a colossal downgrade for the passing offense. I’m not knocking Jackson here, but Gruden was the primary reason that Andy Dalton was effective. Without Gruden, I don’t expect Dalton to see as many opportunities, and the deep ball will most likely be much more limited under Jackson. This puts somewhat of a cap on Marvin Jones’ potential, although AJ Green will still clearly be elite. I do want to point out that Jackson did have some previous success with wide receivers Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh in a previous tenure with the Bengals as wide receivers coach, and Green and Jones have more combined talent then both of those receivers. However, I just don’t expect much from Andy Dalton without Gruden, and I expect Jackson to lean more on the run and Gio Bernard. The Bengals spent an early round pick on Jeremy Hill to possibly replace untalented BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Gio Bernard is also looking to build on his very strong rookie season. Darren McFadden had his only good season in the NFL while working under Hue Jackson’s system, and Bernard, while not as physically gifted, is a hell of a lot more talented and durable than McFadden. I expect a huge season for Bernard in both regular and PPR formats. The one knock on Jackson is his somewhat questionable red-zone decision making. He was ranked in the top 16 just once in the 5 seasons he served as a play-caller. This puts a cap on the potential of Jeremy Hill as a vulture.
Result: Everyone but AJ Green and Gio Bernard, DOWN. Gio Bernard UP
Bill Lazor replaces Mike Sherman
This is an interesting hire. Bill Lazor is a respected NFL personnel man. He recently served as the quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly for the Philadelphia Eagles. Some of the success of Nick Foles was credited to him. Lazor has limited experience in the NFL, serving mostly as an offensive assistant in previous seasons, however his tenure under Chip Kelly and Joe Gibbs should definitely provides some benefits. Mike Sherman was awful as a coordinator last year, struggling to ever get the ground game going, and never utilizing newly acquired Mike Wallace correctly.
Since Bill Lazor is a rookie in the NFL coordinator position, there is not much to be said about how he can improve the offense. Working under Chip Kelly for a year, we can expect some similar philosophies. The Eagles were a quick team that focused primarily on the run. With the acquisition of Knowshon Moreno, we can expect Lazor to follow that philosophy.. Him and Lamar Miller should be interesting fantasy selections, depending on a possible timeshare. Joe Philbin stated that Miami wants to pick up the tempo, something that may benefit the team. Lazor was also brought in as a possible mentor to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill struggled for most of last year, and is going into the final 2 years of his rookie contract. While Lazor does have a good track record with Nick Foles, it’s fair to wonder if he can do the same to Tannehill. He needs to improve his deep ball accuracy, something Foles wasn’t exactly tremendous at. I don’t see much upside for the passing game, although Mike Wallace will probably receive a decent amount of opportunities either way.
Result: Run game UP (timeshare possible), Passing game Neutral
San Diego Chargers
Frank Reich replaces Ken Whisenhunt
It was announced that Reich might be calling plays for San Diego. I question this, as Mike McCoy is such an offensive mastermind. McCoy will still have the final say during the week and also on game day. Reich was the quarterbacks coach for San Diego last year, and was one of the factors, along with Ken Whisenhunt, for the revival in Philip Rivers. Rivers has stated he has complete trust in Reich as an offensive coordinator, and the Chargers have stated that they don’t expect an extremely different approach with their offense. I believe when it’s all said and done that McCoy could be the play caller, so I don’t expect much of a change with their offense. Even if Reich does call plays, expect a heavy influence from McCoy.