Ken Whisenhunt - From Pittsburgh OC to Arizona HC
The 44 year old coaching import from Pittsburgh becomes the latest face on the seemingly perpetual Cardinals coaching carousel. Bill Bidwell, hoping to tap into the Steelers fountain of consistent, organizational success, believes the architect behind the Steelers Super Bowl XL-winning offense will be the appropriate conductor of a young and talented group of Cardinals' skill position players. Recently-deposed head coach Denny Green failed to deliver on a mandate to make the playoffs and the burden will now shift to the rookie head coach to slake the thirst of an increasingly anxious fan-base paying "new stadium" ticket prices.
After a non-descript, nine season NFL career as a part-time tight end and blocking back with the Falcons, Redskins and Jets, Whisenhunt began his coaching career at Vanderbilt University, mentoring the tight ends, H-backs and special teams from 1995 to '96 before returning to the NFL in 1997 to coach tight ends for the Baltimore Ravens. He then bounced around with brief stops in Cleveland and New York (Jets) before landing in Pittsburgh in 2001, starting with the tight ends before taking over the offensive coordinator role in 2004 when Mike Mularkey left to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
While in Pittsburgh, Whisenhunt played a key role in the development of rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger, helping the first year signal-caller earn Offensive Rookie of the Year, while setting an NFL record of wins in his first 13 career starts. Another notable facet of the Whisenhunt coaching brand was his ability to continue the tradition of flashy trick plays started by Mike Mularkey, but in a more complementary role blended with his run-first approach. Case in point, his timely wide receiver reverse pass against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, helped the Steelers take command of the game, and later, turned Antwan Randle El into one of the more sought-after free agents that off season.
Whisenhunt is expected to have a positive impact on the Cardinals key fantasy player's, specifically Edgerrin James, who got off to a rough start in his first season in Arizona last year, but started to shows signs of an awakening toward the end of 2006. Whisenhunt's signature offense is built around running the ball, and if the long-struggling Cardinals offensive line can right itself this year, despite the loss of OT Leonard Davis to free agency (Dallas), James will be the primary beneficiary. Though James lead role will be fortified, a 35-40 carry-a game offensive plan has been discussed, which would also increase the role of Marcel Shipp, James' backup, as well as third down back J.J. Arrington. Anquan Boldin, who played quarterback in high school and part-time at Florida State, is in line to inherit the "Antwan Randle El" role in the Whisenhunt attack, boosting his fantasy stock even further with the promise of a handful of touchdown passes and run's to add to his already-impressive number one fantasy receiver statistics.
Todd Haley - From Dallas WR Coach to Arizona OC
Haley joins the Whisenhunt-led Arizona staff after leaving the Dallas Cowboys, where he acted as the passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach for Bill Parcells from 2004 to 2006. Prior to his three year stint in Dallas, the 10-year veteran coached the Chicago Bears receiving corps from 2001 to 2003 and the New York Jets from 1997-2000, where he acted as assistant offensive coordinator under Charlie Weis as part of Bill Parcells' staff.
Haley's experience in handling premier receivers, such as Terrell Owens, Laveranues Coles, Keyshawn Johnson, Marty Booker and Terry Glenn make him a suitable fit to help raise the game of the Cardinals top notch receiving duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Bobby Petrino - From University of Louisville HC to Atlanta HC
After several topsy-turvy seasons, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves at an organizational crossroads pitting young, defensive-minded Jim Mora against inconsistent and frustrated, franchise quarterback Michael Vick. With so much salary cap space tied to Vick, owner Arthur Blank made the more expedient choice in letting Mora go and hiring the quarterback-friendly Bobby Petrino away from the University of Louisville with a five year, $24 million contract.
Petrino's 23 year coaching career began at tiny Carroll College in Montana in 1983 as a graduate assistant before moving to Weber State University to coach the quarterbacks under then head coach Mike Price. He returned to his alma mater in 1985, and in each of his two seasons as offensive coordinator, Carroll College had the top offense in NAIA football.
After returning to Weber State for three seasons, Petrino made his way to the University of Idaho and became the offensive coordinator under head coach John L. Smith before becoming the quarterbacks coach at Arizona State in 1992, which saw him become the central figure in the development of future All-American and newly-retired NFLer Jake Plummer. A one-season stop at Nevada preceded another tour of duty under John L. Smith at Utah State for three season's (1995-97) before following Smith to Louisville in 1998. Offensive coordinator Petrino orchestrated the Cardinals top ranked unit in scoring and total offense in Division 1A before dipping his toe in the NFL waters for the first time as quarterbacks coach, and eventually offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1999 to 2001, during which time then-Jaguars head coach stated that Petrino was "the best play-caller I've ever been around."
A brief, but highly effective stop at Auburn in 2002 as offensive coordinator was the warm-up act for Petrino finally claiming his first head coaching assignment of his career in 2003, at the University of Louisville, which would allow him a national stage to make the college football world take note of his offensive wizardry. Indeed, Petrino's successful three year run as the Cardinals head man was dotted with repeated flirtations with big-time schools, LSU and Auburn, and the NFL's Oakland Raiders before flying the coop for Atlanta's Dirty Birds, despite the University of Louisville's valiant effort to keep him from leaving with a 10-year, $25.5 million extension signed in July of 2006.
Obviously, team owner Arthur Blank is banking on the addition of Petrino to maximize the return on his substantial financial stake in spotty franchise quarterback Michael Vick, which could lead to Vick becoming a valuable fantasy commodity that can be had in the later rounds of 2007 fantasy drafts. Don't make him a No.1 quarterback, but getting him as your backup with decent to strong upside will be the way to approach him under the guidance of Petrino. A promising ripple effect should occur for other Falcon fantasy hopefuls, Jerious Norwood, Alge Crumpler and the aging Warrick Dunn. The ex-college coach will be worth every cent of his $24 million dollar, five year contract if he can shake the underwhelming Atlanta receiving corps to a respectable production level, with Michael Jenkins likely to be the primary beneficiary.
Hue Jackson - From Cincinnati WR Coach to Atlanta OC
Jackson brings a wealth of experience on the offensive side of the ball to the newly-formed Petrino staff, particularly on the quarterback and receiver development end.
A former quarterback at the University of Pacific (1987-89), Jackson broke into the professional coaching ranks in 1991 with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football, overseeing the running backs, wide receivers and special teams. Jackson shifted back to the college ranks in 1992, becoming an assistant coach at Arizona State (1992-95) followed by a one year stop as the offensive coordinator at the University of California before assuming the same title at the University of Southern California for four seasons (1997-2000), during which time he played a key role in the recruitment and early development of quarterback Carson Palmer, who would later become the No.1 overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft.
Jackson joined Steve Spurrier's staff in Washington, D.C. in 2001, first becoming the running backs coach before ascending to offensive coordinator in 2003. After Spurrier's resignation in 1994, Jackson was recruited by Marvin Lewis, a former colleague with the Redskins, to join his new staff in Cincinnati as the wide receivers coach, where Jackson played an integral role in making Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzedah one of the most productive receiving tandems in Bengals history.
Jackson will most assuredly be tasked with trying to duplicate his success with Cincinnati's receivers in Atlanta, where he will inherit a far less-productive group of pass-catcher's-highlighted by a pair of woefully-underachieving first round picks, Michael Jenkins (2004) and Roddy White (2005). The free agent addition of the feisty, but graying, veteran pass-catcher Joe Horn should provide a locker room aid for Jackson's efforts as an example of consistent, playmaking that works hard every snap and has an insatiable desire to win.
Rick Neuheisel - Promoted to OC From QB Coach
After deeming it necessary to take over the offensive play-calling controls of the Ravens offense resulting from an uninspiring start to the 2006 campaign under good friend, Jim Fassel, Brian Billick decided to relinquish offensive control once again, this time promoting second year Ravens quarterback coach Rick Neuheisel into the role of offensive coordinator.
Neuhesiel's impressive coaching resume is filled with offensive achievements, particularly his stellar work with quarterbacks. Before helping current Baltimore backup Kyle Boller improve his home record to 13-4 (.765 winning percentage) while producing the highest passer percentage in Ravens history (59.6%), Neuheisel mentored future NFL Hallof Famer Troy Aikman as a graduate assistant on the UCLA staff in 1988.
The fifteen year veteran coach also boasts of eight years of head coaching experience at the Division 1-A level, registering an overall record of 66-30, including a Rose Bowl victory with the Washington Huskies in 2000.
The former UCLA quarterback's offensive-minded background makes him a logical choice to take the Baltimore play-calling duties back from Billick, and he will have some considerable weapons at his control, including Steve McNair, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and new franchise running back Willis McGahee, whom the Ravens acquired this past off-season for three draft picks. McGahee's addition should provide a higher level of consistency in the ground game than in prior seasons with the oft-injured Jamal Lewis leading the charge. With the dual addition of Neuheisel and McGahee to the Ravens offense, expect a trickle down effect on the fantasy football expectations of McNair, Heap and Mark Clayton.
Jeff Davidson - From Cleveland Assistant HC to Carolina OC
The former Ohio State Buckeye and four-year NFL veteran compiled 11 years in the professional coaching ranks before accepting the job of Offensive Coordinator for the Carolina Panthers this past January, replacing the previously dismissed Dan Henning.
Davidson's coaching chops were cut with the tight ends and offensive line, highlighted early by his mentorship of New England standout tight end, Ben Coates, in 1997. At the end of that season, Davidson was elevated to Assistant Offensive Line Coach, where he remained for four seasons (1998-2001). From 2002-2004, he multi-tasked, overseeing duties as both the Patriots' Tight Ends and Assistant Offensive Line coach, which resulted in his tight ends accumulating 66 receptions for six touchdowns during the season and his offensive line not allowing a sack in the first three postseason games, both considered key ingredients in New England's triumph in Super Bowl XXVIII.
In 2005, Davidson left New England to follow coaching-buddy Romeo Crennel to Cleveland to become the Browns Offensive Line coach. In late October of the 2006 season, he was called upon to step into the Offensive Coordinator's role after Maurice Carthon was unable to get the Browns offense to play at a satisfactory level.
After interviewing for the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator role this past off season, Davidson was highly recommended to Panthers head coach John Fox by Charlie Weis, whom Davidson had grown close to during their days in New England together. His subsequent hiring by Fox indicates the Panthers willingness to continue to infuse a heavy dose of the running game and creative use of the tight end position in their 2007 offensive attack. From a fantasy perspective, the addition of Davidson does not eradicate the fog of the dreaded running back committee that currently resides in the Carolina backfield between DeShaun Foster, DeAngelo Williams and Nick Goings. A renewed emphasis on the tight end position, which has waned yearly since the salad days of Wesley Walls, saw the Panthers use a fifth round draft pick on TE/H-Back Dante Rosario (Oregon) to increase the competition for returning veterans Mike Seidman, Michael Gaines and Jeff King.
Rob Chudzinsk - From San Diego TE Coach to Cleveland OC
The Toledo, Ohio native returns to his northeast Ohio home base for a second stint with the Cleveland Browns, this time as the Offensive Coordinator, after having previously served as the tight ends coach under former head coach Butch Davis and then offensive coordinator for five games with interim head coach Terry Robiskie in 2004.
Chudzinski coaching resume is built upon his work with top shelf tight ends, primarily from his five years as tight ends coach at the University of Miami from 1996- 2000, where he was responsible for the development of a pair of Hurricane All Americans, Bubba Franks (1999) and Jeremy Shockey (2001). He would later assume the Hurricanes offensive coordinator role from 2001 to 2003, highlighted by two Championship Game appearances, as well as working extensively with future Browns 2004 first round pick (No.6 overall), tight end Kellen Winslow II.
Prior to his Cleveland sequel, "Chud" served as the San Diego Chargers tight ends coach from 2005-06, where he oversaw the development of arguably the top tight end in the game today, Antonio Gates. Gates made the Pro Bowl both years, leading the Chargers in all receiving categories in 2006 with 71 receptions for 924 yards (13.0 avg) and nine touchdowns.
Chudzinski's installation as offensive coordinator, with his tight end-heavy background, combined with Kellen Winslow's gradual return to health and increased production over the last two seasons, should bump K2 up fantasy draft boards this Summer, as the brash, outspoken tight end might finally have fate take his side for the first time in his professional career.
Wade Phillips - From San Diego DC to Dallas HC
After Bill Parcell's not-so-surprising resignation, the Dallas Cowboys, seeking to build on the momentum of last season's NFC playoffs appearance, hired 31 year NFL coaching veteran, and a native son of Texas, Wade Phillips, to become only the seventh head coach in the storied history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Phillips longstanding success on the defensive side of the ball, in combination with his considerable amount of head coaching experience (48-42 career record from stops in New Orleans, Denver, Buffalo and Atlanta), made him Jerry Jones first choice to continue the organization's upward climb within the NFC.
The former University of Houston linebacker has displayed a knack for producing instant success when first arriving to a new team, as the last six teams that he has joined as either the defensive coordinator or head coach have made the playoffs in his first season with the organization. With all six of those teams, not one of them was coming off of a winning season prior to his arrival. Indeed, in his 18 years as a defensive coordinator or head coach, only four season's had non-winning conclusions.
For the past three seasons as the Chargers defensive coordinator, Phillips orchestrated a steady rise up the league rankings for total defense from 18th in 2004 to 10th in 2006, with his 2005 run defense claiming the top spot in the league by allowing a mere 84.3 yards per game on the ground. The 2006 defensive crew lead the league in sacks, with 61, second-most in club history. This is an area of the Cowboys defense that was sorely lacking under Bill Parcells Texas tenure and you can be sure that Jerry Jones wants to see Phillips infuse his QB pressure magic in young Dallas defenders, DeMarcus Ware and Bobby Carpenter.
Indeed, Phillips track record of facilitating sack masters, from San Diego's Shawne Merriman last year (led the NFL in sacks with 17 despite missing four games due to suspension) to Buffalo's Bryce Paup's league MVP effort in 1996 (17.5 sacks) under Phillips as the Bills defensive coordinator (1995-97) bodes well for DeMarcus Ware's value in fantasy leagues featuring Individual Defensive Players (IDP) in their lineups, as well as the Cowboys defense/special teams unit overall.
Jason Garrett - From Miami QB Coach to Dallas OC
Jason Garrett returns to the team that he spent seven seasons as a backup quarterback, this time as the offensive coordinator under new head coach Wade Phillips. Garrett collected three Super Bowl rings (1993, 1994 and 1996) as Troy Aikman's backup during the Cowboys dynastic decade of the ‘90's, before stints with the New York Giants (2000-2003) and Miami Dolphins (2004). The former Princeton Tiger signal-caller served as a player/coach with the Dolphins, holding down the quarterbacks coach position as well as the fourth string, emergency quarterback role.
Garrett will also have his brother, John, join him in Dallas as the tight ends coach after spending the last three seasons as the wide receivers coach at the University of Virginia.
It remains to be seen what type of imprint the young coach will have on the Cowboys offense, perhaps his years as a backup QB in Norv Turner's offense will have an influence on the 2007 Cowboys. Most likely, Assistant Head Coach Tony Sparano, the offensive line/ running game coordinator, will also have a say in the game plan.
Don't expect Garrett's installation as offensive coordinator to have a significant impact on the Cowboys primary fantasy contributor's, Terrell Owens, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Marion Barber, as he is inexperienced and will need time to grow into his new role.
Brian Stewart - From SD Secondary Coach to Dallas DC
The six year coaching veteran followed Wade Phillips to Dallas after serving as his secondary coach in San Diego the last three years. In 2006, Stewart oversaw a vastly improved secondary that helped contribute to the Chargers fourth overall finish in total defense. Prior to working with Phillips in San Diego, Stewart coached the Houston Texans secondary for two seasons after gaining valuable experience in training camp stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins through the League's Minority Coaching Fellowship program.
Before jumping to the NFL, Stewart spent the 2001 season coaching the defensive backs at Syracuse University under current Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach, Paul Pasqualoni. His familiarity with Phillips attack-style 3-4 defense should ensure a smooth transition for Cowboys personnel to the new playbook.
Joe Philbin - Promoted to OC From OL Coach
Joe Philbin, a coaching veteran of 23 years, replaces Jeff Jagodzinski, who left to takeover the head coaching job at Boston College, as the Packers offensive coordinator. Like Jagodzinski, the bulk of Philbin's recent coaching experience revolves around the offensive line (2003) and tight end positions (2004-05).
Entering his fifth year with Green Bay, Philbin has already won the trust of head coach Mike McCarthy, having successfully implemented a new zone-blocking scheme into the Packers offense in 2005 while assimilating three rookies into the starting offensive line rotation. Before entering the NFL, he spent the previous four seasons (1999-2002) at the University of Iowa as the offensive line coach. His offensive line in 2002 was one of the nation's best, averaging 214.2 rushing yards per game and his blocking pupils would flood the NFL in the next few seasons as Eric Steinbach (2nd Round-Cincinnati), Bruce Nelson (2nd Round-Carolina) and Ben Sobieski (5th Round-Buffalo) would be drafted in 2003, and Robert Gallery would become the second overall pick (Oakland) in the 2004 Draft. Prior to his Iowa tenure, Philbin, as offensive coordinator/ offensive line coach at Harvard, would mentor future Pro Bowl center Matt Birk (Vikings) on a Crimson offense that would set 15 new records in 1997.
Philbin taking the baton from Jagodzinski assures Mike McCarthy, and fantasy owners of Green Bay running backs, that the rushing offense will continue to improve around Brett Favre and make the Green Bay offense become similar to Denver's, where whoever is plugged into the running back slot, whether it be returning veteran Vernand Morency or 2007 second round pick RB Brandon Jackson from Nebraska, is assured of a minimum 800-1,000 yards and 6-9 scores, functional numbers for running back depth on your fantasy squad.
Mike Sherman - Promoted to OC / Assistant HC
The former Green Bay Packers executive vice president, general manager and head coach begins his second season in Houston taking over the role of offensive coordinator after spending his first year in Texas as the Assistant Head Coach/ Offense, where he acted primarily as a running game consultant for the Texans.
Sherman is well suited to takeover the offensive reins, having previously guided the Packers to five winning seasons as head coach, including NFC North division titles from 2002-2004, crafting a winning percentage .663 (53-27), second only to coaching icon Vince Lombardi in Packers history. His skill set and experience, gleaned from his time spent as an offensive line coach both for Texas A&M (1989-93 and '95-'97) , Green Bay in 1998 and offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks in '99, make Sherman a qualified choice for the job.
His work with the Texans ground game last year produced much-needed improvement, averaging 122.6 yards per game over the last 11 contests of the season, while also helping Ron Dayne rush for 429 yards in the month of December, the highest amount for any single month in his lackluster pro career, despite three opening day starters, tackles Charles Spencer and Zach Wiegert and center Mike Flanagan finishing the year on Injured Reserve.
The seasoned coach will be relied upon to customize the Texans offense around new quarterback Matt Schaub (Falcons) and free agent RB import Ahman Green, who previously played under Sherman in green Bay, while hopefully boosting the Texans revamped offensive line with the free agency acquisition of LT Jordan Black.
Dirk Koetter - From Arizona State HC to Jacksonville OC
Koetter brings a wealth of offensive coaching talent, particularly in the passing game, to a Jaguars team whose aerial woes over the last few seasons, riddled by inconsistency at the quarterback position, are well-chronicled. There might not be two parties in more need of each other this past off season than the Jaguars offense and the brilliant, but beleaguered offensive mind of Koetter, the former head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils.
After compiling a 26-10 record as head coach at Boise State that included two consecutive bowl appearances, two conference championships and Big West Coach of the Year honors, Koetter moved on to Arizona State where he led the Sun Devils to four Bowl games in six seasons and engineered one of the nation's best collegiate passing attacks, ranking in the top 20 passing offenses in the country in five of his six seasons, averaging nearly 30 points per game. Current NFLers Andrew Walter (QB-Oakland) and Derek Hagan (WR-Miami) and expected first day pick for the 2007 Draft, tight end Zac Miller, were all products of the Koetter school of offense.
Last season's Sun Devil meltdown, arguably prompted by Koetter's controversial, last-minute decision to bench established senior quarterback Sam Keller for sophomore Rudy Carpenter, who had performed admirably at the end of the 2005 season when Keller went down to injury, ultimately led to his departure to the NFL ranks and into the welcoming arms of Jack Del Rio.
The arrival of Koetter's high-octane passing game plan will provide the final smoking gun for Jacksonville to find out if Byron Leftwich is indeed a franchise NFL quarterback and at the very least, should provide a boost in the fantasy stock of receivers Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford, as well as emerging backfield star Maurice Jones-Drew.
Cam Cameron - From San Diego OC to Miami HC
Former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron became the seventh head coach in Miami Dolphins history this past January after the Dolphins were left in the lurch by Nick Saban who returned to his personal college football comfort zone, the SEC, to takeover the University of Alabama football program, despite repeated denials that he was even interested in the job.
Saban's unexpected and untimely bolt from south Florida left the once-proud organization scrambling for a replacement at a time in the calendar year when many of the most qualified candidates were already off the board, presenting a first-time head coaching opportunity for the highly accomplished offensive coordinator from San Diego. Cameron spent the last five seasons directing the Chargers potent attack, resulting in last season's performance that saw the Chargers lead the NFL in scoring after previously finishing third and fifth in that category in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Top fantasy football players Ladainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees (Saints) spent their formative years in the NFL under Cameron's guidance.
The first few year's of Cameron's playing and coaching career were influenced by several coaching icons, including Bobby Knight, who Cameron played basketball for at Indiana University while being mentored in the Fall by Hoosiers head football coach Lee Corso. The former two-sport star would then spend the next ten years serving under the late, great Bo Schembechler, where he was responsible for tutoring future NFL household names, Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Amani Toomer, Derrick Alexander and Heisman Trophy-winner Desmond Howard, as the quarterbacks and receivers coach.
Cameron would step up to the NFL ranks in 1994, becoming the Washington Redskins QB coach for two years, helping Gus Frerotte to his only Pro Bowl appearance in 1997 and playing a key role in the development of future Pro Bowler Trent Green. After an unsuccessful return to his alma mater as head coach, compiling an 18-37 record at Indiana University, the veteran coach returned to the NFL as the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator from 2002 to 2006, fashioning one of the NFL's most exciting offenses over the next few seasons as he infused the talents of LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates to spawn numerous Pro Bowls and scoring records amongst that group.
His body of work did not go unnoticed amongst the NFL teams seeking a new head coach over the next few seasons as Cameron would earn interview opportunities with the Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons before landing the head coaching job in Miami after the 2006 season.
Expect Cameron's arrival to have an immediate positive fantasy impact on the Dolphins quarterback position, whether it be veteran holdover Daunte Culpepper, 2007 second round pick John Beck (BYU) or Trent Green, should the Dolphins and Chiefs finally consummate their long-rumored trade. His drafting of Ohio State speedster Ted Ginn with the number nine overall pick, though widely rejected by Dolphins nation on draft day, could serve to open the other side of the field for veteran Chris Chambers and Cameron's past proclivity of utilizing his primary running back as a pass-catcher could stop the bleeding on Ronnie Brown's sagging fantasy value, should he log close to a 16 game schedule.
New York Giants
Kevin Gilbride - Promoted to New York OC From Offensive Assistant
After spending the previous three seasons as the Giants quarterback's coach, Kevin Gilbride was promoted to full time offensive coordinator after assuming play-calling duties from former New York Giants OC John Hufnagel right before the 2006 regular season finale against the Redskins. In a game the Giants had to win just to have a shot at an NFC playoff berth, Gilbride's offense gained 355 yards (261 rushing) and scored 34 points- the second highest single game total last year. Gilbride would make the offensive calls again the following week in New York's 23-20 loss to Philadelphia in the opening round of the NFC playoffs.
The 33 year coaching veteran has a wealth of experience on the offensive side of the ball, particularly with quarterbacks and has previously served as offensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers (1990-93), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995-96), Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-00) and Buffalo Bills (2002-03) before his current tenure with the Giants.
His last two seasons as the Giants quarterbacks coach has been recognized as a key ingredient in the development of New York's would be franchise quarterback, Eli Manning. In Manning's first full season as a starter (2005), he threw 557 passes, third-highest total in the league and second-highest in team history (Kerry Collins threw 568 in 2001). Manning also constructed top ten finishes in completions (294- ninth overall) and passing yards (3,762- fifth overall) and his 24 touchdown passes were the most by a Giants quarterback since Fran Tarkenton tossed 29 in 1967. In 2006, Manning completed 301 of 522 pass attempts, becoming only the second quarterback in franchise history to exceed 300 completions in a single season (Kerry Collins accomplished the feat in 2002, 2001 and 2000).
Count on Gilbride's continued work with Manning to create a growing fantasy dividend in 2007, as the fourth year vet will be placed into the primary role of the offense while the running game transitions from retired franchise back Tiki Barber to a two-headed, power-oriented solution of Brandon Jacobs and free agent import Reuben Droughns. Early reports out of mini camp have 2007 second round pick WR Steve Smith (USC) looking impressive and validating the Giants brass' faith in his early round selection. Smith's presence could prove vital for the Giants passing game as the season matures, as Manning has longed for a solid third option after Burress and Shockey. Smith will begin in the third receiver role, while also spelling aging Amani Toomer, who will enter his 12th season in 2007.
Lane Kiffin - From USC OC to Oakland HC
Raiders owner Al Davis continued his penchant of rolling the dice with young and climbing head coaches in their thirties when he tabbed former University of Southern California offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to become the 16th head coach of the Oakland Raiders. In making the 31-year old Kiffin the youngest head coach in NFL history, Davis stayed true to himself after providing head man opportunities in previous seasons to young, thirty-something upstarts, John Madden, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, all eventual Super Bowl winners, with Madden being the lone coach out of the three to garner a championship for the Silver & Black.
Despite his youth, Kiffin possesses the NFL pedigree (father, Monte is the longtime defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and coaching track record (six seasons at the University of Southern California as the tight ends, wide receivers and eventually, the offensive coordinator of one of the nation's most storied collegiate football programs) to justify Al Davis' administrative leap of faith.
During his stay with the Trojans, Kiffin was an integral part of an offense that produced two Heisman Trophy winners (Matt Leinart in 2004, Reggie Bush in 2005), back-to-back national championships in 2003 and 2004 and ranked in the top six nationally in every offensive category in 2005, including No.1 in total offense (579.8 yards per game) and second overall in scoring (49.1 points per game).
Kiffin blends a power running attack with a passing game that throws to all three levels: short, medium and downfield, making him a true friend to fantasy owners who wind up with Oakland skill position players, the biggest hurdle being rookie quarterback, Jamarcus Russell, dealing with the inevitable first year learning curve, which will invariably create a scoring drag on the rest of the offense. Lamont Jordan, should he stay out of Kiffin's doghouse, stands the most to gain as the incumbent at running back, which Kiffin will surely rely upon as he nurtures his rookie signal-caller along at an appropriate pace.
Greg Knapp - From Atlanta OC to Oakland OC
The Long Beach, California native returns home after serving four seasons under Jim Mora, Jr. as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator from 2003-2006, joining new Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin's staff in the same capacity.
Knapp boasts 21 years of coaching experience, counting 12 seasons in the NFL. After coaching nine running backs and receivers for nine seasons at his alma mater, Sacramento State University, Knapp jumped to the professional ranks in 1995, starting as quality control assistant, then climbing his way to quarterbacks coach in 1998, and finally, offensive coordinator in 2001 for the San Francisco 49ers. In his first year as offensive coordinator, Knapp produced five Pro Bowlers, finished second in the league in rushing and was fourth overall in total offense. Two more top ten total offense finishes would follow in 2002 (eighth) and 2003 (fifth), while also setting an NFL record in 2002 for a 16 game season with a 52.3 % third down conversion rate.
In his 12 years in the NFL, Knapp has seen his quarterbacks go to the Pro Bowl nine times, Steve Young in 1997 & 1998, Jeff Garcia from 2000 to 2002 and Michael Vick in 2004 & 2005. Clearly this track record of quarterback excellence makes Knapp a wise choice to insure the Raiders get the most out of their investment in 2007 No.1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell. As Kiffin will be heavily involved in the Raiders offensive blueprint, Knapp will likely serve as a glorified QB coach in an offensive coordinator's clothing, which will be equally important to both the Oakland franchise and future fantasy owners.
Mike Tomlin - From Minnesota DC to Pittsburgh HC
After helping the Vikings finish the 2006 season eighth overall in total defense, including the top ranked unit against the run, the NFL's youngest defensive coordinator (at 33 years old) became the second youngest head coach in any of the big four sports (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) in North America when the Pittsburgh Steelers named the 34-year old Tomlin as the first African-American head coach in their storied history in January of 2007, also making him the tenth African American head coach in league annals.
Pittsburgh seeks to keep it's longstanding "defense-first" identity in tact with the selection of Tomlin, a young coach who has already packed a wealth of defensive coaching experience in his six previous NFL seasons. He began his coaching career in 1995 as the wide receivers coach at Virginia Military Institute and made several more steps up the coaching ladder in the following years, including stops at Arkansas State (as wide receivers, then defensive backs coach from 1997-1998) and University of Cincinnati (defensive backs coach from 1999-2000) before landing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 as the defensive backs coach.
Once in Tampa, Tomlin was fortunate enough to learn under some of the brightest defensive minds in pro football, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli in his five seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Buccaneers. During that tenure, Tomlin learned the nuances of the Tampa 2 - an evolution of the Cover 2 defense made famous by the Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense orchestrated by defensive coordinator Bud Carson in the seventies. Under Tomlin's watch, the Buccaneers secondary grew into a top-ranked unit that became an integral piece of their eventual Super Bowl Championship in 2002. His defensive backfield unit was ranked first in the NFL in pass defense, averaging just 155.6 yards per game through the air, led the NFL with 31 interceptions and held opposing quarterbacks to a 48.4 rating and just 10 touchdown throws. In Super Bowl XXXVII, Tomlin's secondary recorded four of Oakland QB Rich Gannon's five interceptions and produced the game's MVP, safety Dexter Jackson (two first half picks).
Tomlin's secondary units would continue to maintain residence at the top of the league's defensive rankings through the 2005 season, laying the foundation for his next vertical move, becoming the NFL's youngest defensive coordinator (age 33) for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Steelers new head coach used his first draft in Pittsburgh to strengthen a defense that had slipped to ninth overall in 2006 after finishing fourth in 2005 and capturing Super Bowl XL, selecting LB Lawrence Timmons (Florida State) with the 15th overall pick and LB-DE LaMarr Woodley from Michigan with their second round pick, the 46th overall choice in the 2007 Draft. He would continue to emphasize defense and special teams, selecting Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda in the fourth round and compensatory picks DE Ryan McBean from Oklahoma State (132nd overall- fourth round) and Louisville CB William Gay (170th overall-fifth round).
Bruce Arians - Promoted to OC From WR Coach
After spending the last three seasons helping Hines Ward grow into one of the top receivers in the league as the Steelers wide receivers coach, 54-year old Bruce Arians was elevated to the role of offensive coordinator under new head coach Mike Tomlin.
Arians brings a boatload of experience to his new job, having spent three seasons as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns (2001-2003), helping the 2002 Browns to score the most points in team history since 1987 while also improving virtually every offensive ranking since his arrival in 2001. Prior to Cleveland, the former Virginia Tech QB served three campaigns as the Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach from 1998 to 2000, mentoring Peyton Manning in his formative NFL years, leading to a breakout season by Manning in 2000 with 4,413 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. In addition to early career stops that included Virginia Tech (running backs) and Mississippi State (running backs/ wide receivers), Arians coached the running backs group at the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant from 1981-82 before taking the head coaching job at Temple University from 1983-1988.
Pending what is expected to be a more fortunate year for Big Ben's physical health, expect Arians new role to be an additional positive impact for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who has already cited an increased comfort level with new coach Mike Tomlin's compared to a more distant relationship with former Steelers head man Bill Cowher. As opposed to last year's rocky start in which he seemingly could not get out of harm's way, 2007 appears to possess a pro-Roethlisberger vibe, which could translate into a bounce-back fantasy football season for the fourth year signal caller who is just two seasons removed from a 2005 year in which he posted 2,385 passing yards and 20 touchdowns (three rushing) with only nine interceptions in eleven starts.
Norv Turner - From San Francisco OC to San Diego HC
Offensive Coordinator extraordinaire Norv Turner, benefiting from the Chargers late dismissal of then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer in mid-February of this year when most of the qualified coaching candidates were already off the board, left his OC role with the San Francisco 49ers to accept the head coach title for the San Diego Chargers.
Turner's resume is top-heavy with his accomplishments as an offensive coordinator, winning two Super Bowl rings directing the offense during the Dallas Cowboys dynasty years in the early nineties, while being widely viewed as instrumental in the development of eventual hall of famer, Cowboys QB Troy Aikman. In 2006, under Turner's guiding hand, second year quarterback Alex Smith took a quantum leap in his player growth as San Francisco's franchise QB-in-the-making, completing 58% of his passes for 2,890 yards and 16 touchdowns after passing for just 875 yards and throwing 11 interceptions with one touchdown as a rookie in 2005. He was also offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins (2002-2003) and the San Diego Chargers during LaDainian Tomlinson's rookie year in 2001, helping the rookie running back to finish as the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up with 1,236 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns and 59 receptions.
His resume as a head coach, however, leaves a lot to be desired. His first foray into the head coaching realm was with the Washington Redskins in 1994, fresh off his championship success under Jimmy Johnson with the Dallas Cowboys. Turner proceeded to go 49-59-1 record over seven seasons with Washington, making the playoffs once in 1999, where he lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round. His next head coaching opportunity would come in 2004 with the Oakland Raiders when Al Davis picked him to replace the departed Bill Callahan following the 2003 season. Turner would go on to produce a 5-11 record in 2004 and a 4-12 campaign in 2005 before being shown the door in January of 2006.
The difference between Turner taking over this Chargers team compared to his prior head coaching assignments is that he inherits a ready-made playoff team with a wealth of offensive weapons instead of a reclamation project requiring a complete overhaul, giving Turner a fighting chance to record his first head coaching success. Turner's presence will do nothing but help fantasy football stalwarts, Tomlinson, Gates, and Rivers and could ignite a breakout season from one of the Chargers two young, emerging wide outs, Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. And the San Diego defense should also maintain their high voltage attack under new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who's commandeered some of the league's stingiest defenses in year's past with Minnesota (2004-2005), the New York Jets (2001-02) and Buffalo (1995-2000).
Clarence Shelmon - Promoted to OC From RB Coach
After spending the past five seasons as the Chargers running backs coach, Shelmon was promoted to offensive coordinator by then-San Diego head coach Marty Schottenheimer this past off season, when Cam Cameron left to takeover the Dolphins head coaching job. New head coach Norv Turner has agreed to keep Shelmon in the OC role while constructing his new coaching staff.
This will be Shelmon's first opportunity at the coordinator level after 16 NFL seasons coaching running backs for the Chargers, Cowboys, Seahawks and Rams and he is expected to take an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach with the explosive Chargers offense. With Norv Turner's extensive offensive background, Shelmon's role will most likely remain limited, with his primary focus centering on the running backs, though should receive some involvement in the play-calling.
Bottom line, Tomlinson loves the guy and has publicly credited the veteran RB coach with helping him elevating his game in all areas. Keeping your franchise's best player happy will serve the Chargers, and fantasy owners well in the coming season.
Jim Hostler - Promoted to OC From QB Coach
To fill the vacancy left by the departure of Norv Turner to San Diego, the 49ers promoted two-year quarterbacks coach Jim Hostler to offensive coordinator.
Before joining San Francisco two seasons ago, Hostler mentored QB Chad Pennington, QB Vinny Testaverde, WR Santana Moss and WR Wayne Chrebet as the Jets receivers coach (2004) and quarterbacks coach (2003). He started his NFL career as an offensive assistant/ quality control coach with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2000 and then serving a similar role with the New Orleans Saints from 2001 to 2002, while also taking on the assistant wide receivers coach duties.
The change from Norv Turner to unproven Jim Hostler presents an above average chance of an adverse effect on the San Francisco offense, and subsequently, key fantasy players Frank Gore, Alex Smith, Vernon Davis and emerging Arnaz Battle. Expectations will be that Hostler minds the store and does not change a much from Turner's previous scheme.