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New Coaches in New Places - Who Will Succeed?


Some things in the NFL never change. Tom Brady is going to take the Patriots to a division title and a first-round playoff bye. At least one wide receiver will become such a diva he will be traded from his team (maybe two!). And of course, the Raiders will stink as long as they continue to employ Jon Gruden.

On the other hand, some things are always changing. Not the least of which is the title of Head Coach for a handful of teams. Whether it be two or, like this season, eight, there will be change.

Looking at the new coaches in 2019 it is easy to see some who will not find success in year one. But who are those who will find a modicum of success? At least success as relative to the current form of the franchise. Taking a look at the new crop of head coaches this season, there are a few new guys making the leap to the big chair while others are retreads. Either way, we can look at them all and find a few which should find success and keep their fan bases from jumping ship, packing it in or flying away.

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Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First, he said he would only leave the booth to coach the Browns. Then when the hammer fell on Dirk Koetter, he changed his tone and said he would love the Buccaneers job. Well, he got the Bucs job and now he will need to prove he can do something with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and company.

The likely departure of Adam Humphries to free agency is going to hurt but the ascension of Chris Godwin will take care of the missing production and the team will find a replacement for DeSean Jackson in some way. The passing offense should not miss a beat. The running game, on the other hand, needs to take a major step forward if any success is coming to the gulf coast of Florida this season.

Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones Jr. were complete duds in 2018. The run game never developed and neither player was able to take hold of the job. We know from Arians track record in Arizona he loves to use the pass-catching running back and bringing in his protégé Byron Leftwich to run his offense, this should be the case again. This means a bigger role for Barber in the offense behind Winston and could make him a possible top 24 play at the position.

We also know what Arians can do for quarterbacks resurrecting the dwindling career of Carson Palmer during his time in the desert. With a younger and more talented quarterback in Jameis Winston, this should continue.

Based on both Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2018, the duo would have been the quarterback six for fantasy and on a per game basis, Winston was the quarterback nine from Week six on. This should only increase as Arians gets a chance to work with him this offseason and round him into the form Tampa Bay was hoping for when drafting him number one overall.

The biggest hindrance to the success of the Buccaneers will be the division. With the Saints looking to remain an NFC favorite and the Falcons and Panthers ready to try to join them at the top it will be difficult for the record to show much improvement. But when it comes to fantasy goodness, there will be plenty to go around. In the passing game and yes, even the run game this coming season.

 

Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers

All-Time Great at quarterback? Check. All-Pro wide receiver? Got that too. Running game? Solid. All the pieces are there for Green Bay to return to the playoffs after a two-season hiatus. Aaron Rodgers is still the elite quarterback he has been for almost a decade and Davante Adams has taken his place alongside the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown as an elite NFL receiver with his 2018 season of 111 receptions, 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns. With Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, the run game is good enough to win with if not explosive and along the pass attack will provide just enough to do so.

Either through the draft or in free agency, the Packers should be able to upgrade a defense which lacked playmakers in the first season of the Mike Pettine era. If they can acquire another cornerback, the defense will vastly improve and should be good enough to keep them in games allowing Rodgers to get the team to double-digit wins in the NFC.

Head coach Matt LaFleur will have a lot to prove after one season as offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans, a season which saw the team finish as the 27th ranked offense in the league. This may seem bad, and it is, but he was dealing with a season-ending injury to Delaney Walker, a season full of nagging ailments to Marcus Mariota and the inability to figure out which running back to use until late in the season. Add to this the anemic receiving game of Cory Davis and no one else and it would have been hard for any \one, even Sean McVay to finish much higher than the 27 ranking he achieved.

The main reason for optimism though truly lies on the right arm of Rodgers. His talent and leadership make up for a lot. Including a first-year coach and behind Adams, an unproven receiving group. If J'mon Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling can improve in their second seasons and Geronimo Allison can come back from injury to contribute, the Packers could again win the NFC North. This is what the fans in Green Bay are expecting and this is what they will need to see in the first year of LaFleur’s tenure. Especially if the other option is watching the Chicago Bears win it again.

Aaron Rodgers is going to return to the top five at the quarterback position after his own one year drop down to number six. This will, in turn, keep Adams top five at the receiver position and if LaFleur uses the running backs correctly, Aaron Jones should finish as a top-15 running back. This will make all Packers fans happy and more importantly fantasy owners happy.

 

Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

The new man making waves in Arizona, Kliff Kingsbury will bring his college air raid attack to the NFL after a six-year tenure at Texas Tech and a one-week tenure at USC.

Learning under pass-game guru Mike Leach, Kingsbury will do great things for his quarterback. Whether this remains to be Josh Rosen or if they draft Kyler Murray is yet to be seen but either way, they should have a much better season than 2018.

Not only will the passing game get better making this a great season to grab a value in Larry Fitzgerald, the run game will also improve. David Johnson should be used more in the role he was meant to be used. Johnson could have a resurgence to his 2016 form in which he had 1,239 rush yards and 16 touchdowns on 293 rushes along with 879 yards and four touchdowns on 80 receptions. These elite numbers are what was expected in 2017 before his arm injury and numbers which could have been attained last season if not for the ineptness of Mike McCoy and his scheme.

The offense under Josh Rosen, a pocket quarterback and not much of a run threat, will look much different than if the Cardinals draft the far more athletically gifted Murray at number one overall. With Rosen, the offensive line, a detriment last season, will again be challenged to hold up and provide protection to allow the offense to come. If Murray is the guy, the stress on the line will be lessened as he will provide elusiveness and the ability to make the offense come to him.

Either way, the diminished value of Johnson, Fitzgerald and even Christian Kirk should be on full display in 2019 as Kingsbury brings life to Arizona with a new offense and new energy. An energy which was lacking in 2018 after the departure of Bruce Arians.

 

Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

Probably the most likely to succeed was also the least likely to actually get a head job in the NFL. Not glamorous or polished, Kitchens is a coach. Not a performer or a media darling.

After taking over the offensive coordinator duties following the dismissal of Todd Haley and Hugh Jackson, Kitchens built a rapport with Baker Mayfield. A rapport which led Mayfield to be the best statistical rookie quarterback in NFL history. With 27 touchdown passes in just over 13 games, Mayfield finally looks like a quarterback the Browns can build a franchise around and get back to relevance inside the division and the AFC for a long time.

Behind Mayfield, as well as fellow rookie Nick Chubb, the Browns finished one-win shy of a .500 record and were in the playoff hunt until the very end. Adding Kareem Hunt for most likely the second half of 2019 and a hopeful second season explosion from Antonio Callaway and Jarvis Landry, the offense is loaded. With the loss of Antonio Brown from Pittsburgh, it can be argued Cleveland could have the most talented offense in the division and quite possibly, the AFC. Well, right up there with the Chiefs anyway.

If Kitchens keeps working, his magic and David Njoku has the third-year breakout which is the stereotype for tight ends the offense could be unstoppable in the division. If Miles Garrett and company can even be a mid-level defense, expect the Browns to make the playoffs and, hot take. Maybe even get a first-round bye. I am just saying. Who expected the Bears to be so good in 2018?

Could some of the other new coaches succeed in 2019? Yes, of course. Adam Gase could become a good coach with the Jets. Zac Taylor might even become a good coach in Cincinnati. But the above mentioned are the most likely to have long tenures in their new cities. Even if Taylor doesn’t succeed, he will still be with the Bengals for what? 15 years? Give or take.

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