NFL teams have new head coaches going into the 2003 season,
and the astute fantasy owner takes a close look at each
club to consider what effects the change at the top might
have on the players.
So of course, I propose we do that here.
But there's more to ponder here than just the head coach.
For fantasy participants, NFL offensive coordinators
frequently have just as significant of an impact on the
QB, RBs, and receivers as the boss man.
Let's examine each of the five head coaching changes:
New Head Coach -- Marvin Lewis (replaces Dick LeBeau)
Offensive Coordinator -- Bob Bratkowski
What we can expect -- Lewis is a defensive guru, which
means it's likely that the Bengals will be stronger defensively
than in years past. But regardless of who's running the
offense, this is a franchise in constant transition,
and it's doubtful the results will be significantly altered.
RB Corey Dillon will remain the central focus of the
attack, QB Jon Kitna will be the clear No. 1 guy while
rookie top draft pick Carson Palmer is groomed at a leisurely
pace, and the Bengals will try to continue the development
of what appears to be a promising group of receivers.
Check back about this time in 2004.
New Head Coach -- Bill Parcells (replaces Dave Campo)
Offensive Coordinator -- doesn't matter
What we can expect -- Same ol' Parcells. He will be
the clear boss, on both sides of the line of scrimmage
and everywhere in between. He's always been primarily
a run-first type of coach, but the Cowboys don't presently
feature a proven back. Parcells hopes that Troy Hambrick
is that guy, and the burly former Emmitt Smith backup
could blossom here... or fold like an internet start-up.
Two young QBs, Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson, will
battle for the starting job. Hutchinson is more of a
Parcells-type leader, so he gets the nod for now. Whichever
QB emerges will have a decent cast of receivers to choose
from. It's likely that Dallas will struggle this season,
then emerge as a wild-card contender next year... so
your fantasy analysis probably should reflect that as
New Head Coach -- Steve Mariucci (replaces Marty Mornhinweg)
Offensive Coordinator -- Sherman Lewis
What we can expect -- The media guide may list Lewis
as OC, but Mariucci will be running the offense. No question
about that. This coaching change is probably the most
significant of the five from a fantasy standpoint. The
Lions' attack should be a lot better right out of the
gate, especially the passing game. Young QB Joey Harrington
is expected to eventually form a lethal bond with rookie
wideout Charles Rogers. That will take some time, however.
Detroit's running game is more questionable, with veteran
James Stewart still a bit ahead of some decent youngsters.
Ironically, Mariucci was criticized during his last few
seasons with San Francisco for being too conservative
with his play-calling. Fair or not, expect that not to
be a problem here.
New Head Coach -- Jack Del Rio (replaces Tom Coughlin)
Offensive Coordinator -- Ty Knott
What we can expect -- The hiring of Del Rio struck me
as odd, because some insiders look at him as simply a
younger version of Coughlin -- tough, defense-oriented.
However, he strikes me as a more mellow personality.
Either way, Knott is presumably in charge of the offense,
although his title of "Offensive Quality Control" sounds
more like a factory foreman than a coach. Del Rio has
professed that he will be a more aggressive strategist.
To be brutally honest, it's tough to predict the effects
here. An educated guess has the Jaguars throwing more.
Veteran QB Mark Brunell, likely in his last hurrah after
highly-touted Byron Leftwich was drafted, will again
count on veteran WR Jimmy Smith. RB Fred Taylor is as
skillfull as they come, and now it appears that he has
the ability to stay healthy as well. If so, Jacksonville's
offense should be pretty balanced, with Taylor and Smith
each putting up the numbers you might expect from All-Pro
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
New Head Coach -- Dennis Erickson (replaces Mariucci)
Offensive Coordinator -- Greg Knapp
What we can expect -- With QB Jeff Garcia and WR Terrell
Owens still ranking among the NFL's elite, the 49ers
probably won't break stride offensively. Erickson is
smart enough, and has enjoyed enough success, to know
not to fix something that isn't broken. Where his influence
might most be felt is with the running game, because
Erickson is unlikely to feel any significant loyalty
to aging Garrison Hearst... meaning that promising Kevan
Barlow might finally get to tote the rock 20-plus times
a game. That remains to be seen, however. If Mariucci's
hiring at Detroit represents the most significant alteration
of the bunch, Erickson's replacing him on the Left Coast
may turn out to be the most level switch.