Raymond Summerlin

Offseason Low Down

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The Coaching Carousel: NFC

Monday, January 22, 2018

With teams wanting to get a quick jump on the coaching search and fates seemingly decided weeks in advance, Black Monday has really turned into Black Sunday Night and in some cases Black Week 13. The end result is the same no matter when it happens, however, and that means there will be seven teams with new head coaches and four with new general managers heading into in 2018. With all of that upheaval, it is worth taking a look at the coaching searches so far and the organizational structure of every team in the NFC.

The AFC rundown can be found here.

Last Update: 02/12/2018

Make sure to bookmark the Rotoworld News Page for up to the second breaking news. I also occasionally tweet about football @RMSummerlin. 

New Organization
Carolina Panthers
As if the ownership situation was not bad enough, the Panthers are out another defensive coordinator with Steve Wilks taking the lead job in Arizona, they fired long-time OC Mike Shula following their loss in the Wild Card round, and it looks like they will have to find a new general manager. 

The Shula firing was justified, but he has worked closely with Cam Newton since the quarterback entered the league, first as a quarterbacks coach and then as the offensive coordinator. After losing last offseason to shoulder surgery, Newton will now have to spend this one learning a new offense.

The search for a Shula's replacement did not take long. Norv Turner emerged immediately as a candidate, and he was hired two days after Shula was shown the door. Turner has inarguably been a good coordinator, but his offenses struggled both in Cleveland and Minnesota. More importantly, he is not the kind of forward-thinking hire the Panthers should have been looking for after canning Shula. It may work out because Cam can paper over a lot of cracks, but this is a disappointing hire. 

Interim GM Marty Hurney seemed like the favorite to land the permanent job, but an accusation of harassment by his ex-wife and a subsequent paid leave have made it extremely unlikely he sticks around. Carolina will interview Bills assistant director of college scouting Lake Dawson, Texans VP of player personnel Jimmy Raye III, and 49ers senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew for the opening. 

In better continuity news, Ron Rivera signed a two-year extension just after the season, and the Panthers did not have to look far for a new defensive coordinator, promoting DL coach Eric Washington. Carolina also promoted Chase Blackburn to special teams coordinator. Ex-Michigan coach Brady Hoke was added to the staff as the DL coach.  

GM Open:

HC Ron Rivera:
Kept his on-off cycle intact with an 11-win season this year, earning an extension
OC Norv Turner: 
A great coordinator in his time, Turner has not had much success his last two stops
DC Eric Washington:
Has coached Carolina's defensive line for the last seven seasons

Green Bay Packers
As it turns out, rumors last January about Ted Thompson moving on were just a year too soon. Thompson will remain with the organization as a senior adviser to football operations, but he will no longer be the general manager, a job he had held since 2005. 

The Packers had plenty of in-house candidates to replace Thompson, and they eventually settled on Brian Gutekunst, who previously was the director of player personnel. Despite getting the job, Gutekunst will have to share duties somewhat with Russ Ball, who was promoted to EVP of football operations and will continue to handle contract negotiations and the salary cap. Gutekunst will have control over personnel decisions, however, and will answer directly to CEO Mark Murphy.

With Gutekunst and Ball now in charge, there was always a chance the Packers' other candidates would jump ship, and that is exactly what Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf have done. Both took jobs with the Browns under ex-Packers personnel man John Dorsey. 

Thompson moving on was just the start of wide-spread changes, with both DC Dom Capers and OC Edgar Bennett getting the ax. Frankly, it is more surprising Capers was allowed to stick around the last few years than it is to see him fired, but Bennett’s release feels like scapegoating considering Mike McCarthy calls the plays and runs the show on offense.

Green Bay had solid in-house candidates in LBs coach Winston Moss, CBs coach Joe Whitt Jr., and safeties coach Darren Perry, but they decided to go with ex-Browns coach Mike Pettine as their defensive coordinator. Pettine has the stain of the Browns on him, although his 10-22 record looks Belichickian compared to what Hue Jackson has done, but he coached good defenses in both New York and Buffalo.  

On offense, Green Bay settled on ex-Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, which is not a surprise considering he coached the offense from 2007-11 before heading to Miami. As always, this should remain the McCarthy show. 

GM Brian Gutekunst:
Beat out several quality candidates for the job 
HC Mike McCarthy:
Losing one of the best quarterbacks of all time is not an easy thing to come back from, but Green Bay’s struggles on offense without Aaron Rodgers this season do not speak well of McCarthy
OC Joe Philbin: 
At the very least he is a familiar face McCarthy should feel comfortable with
DC Mike Pettine:
 Rex Ryan gets a lot of credit for his success in New York, but Pettine coached a solid defense in Buffalo

New York Giants
The Giants had to reset the organization following a tumultuous season both on the field and in the locker room, and they got things started early by canning both GM Jerry Reese and HC Ben McAdoo in early December. It would be difficult to call the moves anything but justified.

With Reese out the door early, the Giants were able to get an early jump on the general manager search, and they settled on ex-Panthers GM Dave Gettleman in late December. Gettleman made his bones with the Giants before joining the Panthers, and he built a quality roster in Carolina despite his frequent, contract-related run-ins with veteran players. He is a good hire for a team which has to draft better moving forward.

Gettleman’s first order of business was finding a coach, and he tabbed Vikings OC Pat Shurmur for the job. As most runs with the Browns are, Shurmur had a rocky two seasons in Cleveland, but he has worked wonders with the Vikings' offense the last two seasons. He is expected to call his own plays.  

Shurmur's first hire was a good one, nabbing ex-Cardinals DC James Bettcher to run his defense. His unit gave up some points in 2017, but Arizona finished inside the top-six in yards allowed each of his three seasons in charge including three straight top-ten finishes against the run.

The second one was less exciting. Ex-Panthers OC Mike Shula was brought in for the same job in New York, although he will have much less to do under offensive-minded Shurmur. Shula will also coach the quarterbacks. 

GM Dave Gettleman:
Panthers were 40-23-1 with a Super Bowl appearances during his four years in charge, and he built the roster which went 11-5 this season
HC Pat Shurmur:
Rehabbed his image with impressive showings in Philadelphia and Minnesota
OC Mike Shula:
Not an exciting hire, but this is Shurmur's offense
DC James Bettcher:
Helmed a top-ten unit each of his three seasons coordinating Arizona's defense

New Coach
Arizona Cardinals
It is not often a coach “deciding to step down” is actually the coach’s decision, but that seems to be the case for Bruce Arians. Despite back-to-back disappointing seasons, the Cardinals seemingly would have been happy with Arians returning next year, but the 65-year-old coach is stepping away after dealing with multiple health issues over the last several seasons including kidney cancer.

Arians’ departure is just the start for the Cardinals, who have already seen Carson Palmer join Arians in retirement and could watch Larry Fitzgerald do the same. With serious long-term questions on offense, especially at quarterback, this sets up as a crossroads offseason for Arizona.

GM Steve Keim first had to find a new coach, and an exhaustive search finally landed on Panthers DC Steve Wilks. Wilks only has one year of coordinating experience, but he was Carolina's assistant head coach before that and has seemed to be on the head coaching track for a couple years. 

Wilks will bring Panthers LBs coach Al Holcomb with him as defensive coordinator, and he tabbed ex-Broncos OC Mike McCoy to coordinate the offense. McCoy is the more important of the two hires considering Wilks' defensive background. He does not move the needle much, but he is an experienced option Wilks should be able to trust on the other side of the ball.  

It will not be a completely new staff in Arizona, however, with QBs coach Byron Leftwich staying on in the same job.  

GM Steve Keim:
He continues to draft well, but not addressing the quarterback position last offseason looms as a massive mistake
HC Steve Wilks: Defense should continue to be a strength, but there are questions to answer on offense
OC Mike McCoy:
Mid-season firing in Denver was unfair considering the quarterback situation, but that spot may not be any better in Arizona
DC Al Holcomb:
Coached the linebackers in Carolina for the last five seasons

Chicago Bears
Perhaps the least surprising firing of the season, John Fox was marked for the ax almost from the opening snap, and he did not help his cause with several embarrassing missteps including a challenge which turned a first-and-goal for his own team into a turnover. The defense did over-perform under Fox, but that had much more to do with the work of DC Vic Fangio.

Chicago was linked with all the usual suspects in their coach search, but they quickly settled on Chiefs OC Matt Nagy to lead the team moving forward. Kansas City's offense took off after Nagy was given play-calling duties late in the season, and the coach was reportedly high on Mitchell Trubisky heading into last year's draft, a fact which certainly played a role in this hiring.

In a good start to his tenure, Nagy was able to retain Fangio despite him drawing interest from the Packers. With Nagy calling his own plays, Fangio should have the defense basically to himself, which is only good news for Chicago. 

Chicago also made a good hire at offensive coordinator, landing former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich. Nagy should run the show on offense, but Helfrich is a good offensive mind who will play a big role in Trubisky's development. Nagy also brought in Brad Childress, who he co-OCed with in Kansas City, as an offensive consultant. Chicago has upgraded their coaching staff as much as any team this January. 

GM Ryan Pace:
Has done a good job adding talent and just landed a two-year extension, but this coaching decision will likely determine his legacy
HC Matt Nagy: 
The playoff exit left much to be desired, but Kansas City's offense took off when he started calling the plays
OC Mark Helfrich:
Chip Kelly's offensive coordinator before taking over the lead job at Oregon 
DC Vic Fangio:
One of the better coordinators in the league, Chicago’s defense has over-performed his three years in charge

Detroit Lions
On the hot seat almost from the day Bob Quinn was named general manager, Caldwell saved his job last year by sneaking into the playoffs despite a late-season collapse, but he was not able to repeat the feat this year. Considering the recent history of the franchise, Caldwell’s 36-28 record with two playoff berths in four seasons is a good showing, but the team was mired in mediocrity over his final three seasons with seemingly no idea how to get over the hump, making this a justifiable change.

Unlike the Colts, patience paid off for the Lions. They had to wait until after the Super Bowl, but they ended up landing Patriots DC Matt Patricia to be their new head coach. The Belichick pipeline does not contain many success stories, but Patricia is a smart guy who Quinn should feel comfortable with after the pair worked together in New England. Hiring Patricia will also allow the Lions to keep around OC Jim Bob Cooter, something which should make Matthew Stafford happy. 

With Patricia coming in, Austin jumped ship to the Bengals to coordinate their defense. He will be replaced by ex-Boston College DL coach Paul Pasqualoni, who gave Patricia his first coaching job way back in 2001.  

GM Bob Quinn:
He has drafted pretty well, and now he gets a shot to pick his coach
HC Matt Patricia: 
New England's defense finished inside the top-ten of scoring allowed each of his six seasons in charge 
OC Jim Bob Cooter:
Respected around the league, the Lions will keep him around despite the new coach
DC Paul Pasqualoni:
Patricia will almost certainly run the show

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Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
Email :Raymond Summerlin

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