October 19, 2010

The Real NFL Dream Job?

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As the quote from the popular early-2000s movie goes: “I’ve never seen an assistant coach’s name in the paper after a loss.”That may be true Denzel. Yet, more and more frequently, NFL assistants have been receiving praise for success with their perspective units. Another recent trend amidst the football coaching ranks? Some of the most successful current coordinators are not only former head coaches, but particularly those who had fallen from grace in spectacular fashion.This column has previously lauded the turnaround in Kansas City, the brilliant organizational decisions of GM Scott Pioli and President Denny Thum and the sudden emergence of the Chiefs as a legitimate AFC contender. At 3-2, the Chiefs’ only two losses on the year came at the hands of the Colts and the high-throttle Texans. With a soft schedule coming up, Kansas City could easily be 9-3 when it travels to AFC West foe San Diego on Dec. 12. After several years of piling up high draft picks and excellent talent, and after cleaning-house in the front office, the Chiefs added the final two pieces to the puzzle this season: former head coaches Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel.Although he had a strong first two seasons at the helm for Notre Dame, Weiss not only failed to rejuvenate a legendary program desperate for national contention, he practically drove it into the ground. After Weiss was replaced by Brian Kelly this December, Todd Haley called up his former boss from when the now-Chiefs head coach was the then-low level Jets offensive assistant in New York.After an embarrassing tenure as Browns head coach –– only one winning season in four, with zero trips the playoffs –– defensive guru Romeo Crennel was out of football for a year when he received a similar call. Once signed as the Chiefs’ new defensive coordinator, the former offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and VP of player personnel from the Patriot’s championship years were under one roof in KC.Thus far, the reunion has been as successful as it has been serendipitous. Weiss’ offense leads the NFL in rushing yards and Crennel’s trademark tough, physical defense is No. 5 in the league in stopping the run. They’ve scored less than 19 points only once and have given up more than two touchdowns also only once. Most importantly, for the first time in a long time, the Chiefs are first in the AFC West.Perhaps no coach in recent NFL history enjoyed a more futile and unsuccessful stint as head honcho than former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron, however. With a successful track record as an offensive assistant, Cameron was hired by Miami prior to the 2007 season. After being abandoned by Nick Saban (who ripped up his NFL contract to return to the college football ranks), the Dolphins brass figured it could only do better with the hiring of Cameron. Instead, the Dolphins posted a historically bad season in ’07, going 1-15.Following his much anticipated firing and the organizational overhaul in Miami, Cameron was hired by the Baltimore Ravens as offensive coordinator. A team known for stout defense (and not much else), the Ravens had a new head coach and a young quarterback who a year before played for a different bird –– the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. Since his hiring however, Cameron has led an offensive revolution in the Mid-Atlantic. Joe Flacco has emerged as one of the league’s best young passers and fellow ’08 acquisition Ray Rice is one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL.    The trend can be seen throughout the league. Despite some lapses in blocking schemes, former Rams head coach Mike Martz is helping lead a productive offensive unit in Chicago and perhaps for the first time in club history, diversifying the historically historic and traditionally traditional Bears playbook with Jay Cutler and pass-catching back Matt Forte. Another once-fired Rams head coach, Scott Linehan, is now leading the Detroit Lions as offensive coordinator. While the rebuilding process in Motown is far from over, the Lions are No. 6 in the league in passing and have scored at least 24 points all but once this season. 2004-05 Bills head coach Mike Mularkey has helped coach Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and the young Atlanta offense into a formidable unit as their coordinator since 2008. Among the defensive coordinator ranks, former head coaches Mike Nolan, Perry Fewell (interim in Buffalo), Jim Haslett, Rob Marinelli and Dom Capers have all enjoyed success and notoriety one notch below the head coaching spot.    It may be the case that most all NFL coaches at some level seek that coveted head coaching position and the limelight of the newspaper headlines. But, if you can’t make the newspaper for losing a game as head coach, you might as well make it for helping win one as a respected assistant.

Original Author: Holden Steinhauer