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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Any Of These Seven Lucky?

    One year after there were 8 head coaching changes from the start of the previous season, 7 teams will have new sideline leaders in 2012. This year’s ‘class” of new hires is a mix of familiar faces and new men on the job. So which of these 7 have the most challenging road ahead?

    Chuck Pagano (Colts): So much uncertainty in Indianapolis with the status of QB Peyton Manning up in the air. But regardless of who’s playing quarterback, this team needs to perform better on the defensive side of the ball and the presence of Pagano and new coordinator Greg Manusky should certainly help. Besides the loss of Manning in 2011, injuries to LB Gary Brackett and S Melvin Bullitt proved to be devastating. Still, the team continued to play hard as evidenced by the late-season wins over the Titans and Texans following that 0-13 start and a few tweaks here by new general manager Ryan Grigson and it doesn’t take long to bounce back in this league…

    Mike Mularkey (Jaguars): The well-traveled Mularkey makes his second go-round as a head coach (Bills from 2004-05) and comes off a four-year stint as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He will try and revive a Jacksonville squad that played more than respectable defense in 2011 but had major problems putting points on the board. And he hopes to do with second-year QB Blaine Gabbert what he helped do with QB Matt Ryan in 4 seasons in Atlanta. But other than RB Maurice Jones-Drew, the offensive cupboard is somewhat bare here and the organization must do its best to add a few weapons…

    Romeo Crennel (Chiefs): The one-time Browns’ head coach took over for Todd Haley for the final 3 games in 2011 and the Chiefs handed the Packers their lone regular-season loss of the season and beat the Broncos in Denver in the season finale. Crennel will continue to handle the defense while Brian Daboll takes over at offensive coordinator. Despite near season-long injuries to S Eric Berry, RB Jamaal Charles and QB Matt Cassel, Kansas City (7-9) finished just one game out of first place in the jumbled AFC West, and this club did win 10 games and a division title in 2010…

    Joe Philbin (Dolphins): Once upon a time, the Dolphins were 11-5 and the AFC East champions in 2008. But it’s been all downhill since and despite a 6-3 finish following a 0-7 start last season, Tony Sparano (now the Jets’ offensive coordinator) didn’t last the season. Enter Philbin, Green Bay’s former offensive coordinator and a part of a Packers’ team last season that scored the second-most points in a season (560) in NFL history. Defense doesn’t appear to be a problem as only 5 teams in the league gave up fewer points a year ago and despite winning just 6 games, the Dolphins were on the plus-side of the ledger in point differential. But it will be interesting to see where this team is headed at quarterback, where veteran QB Matt Moore showed well after a slow starting in replacing injured QB Chad Henne…

    Dennis Allen (Raiders): Another season and another change at the top for the Silver and Black, although to be fair it’s an entirely new story in Oakland these days with general manager Reggie McKenzie. Allen is late of the division rival Broncos, whose defense made strides one season after the team gave up the most yards and points in the league in 2010. With QB Carson Palmer able to enjoy a normal offseason and training camp, much more will be expected from him this season. But Allen and new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver must tighten up a unit that knows how to rush the passer but was far too inconsistent elsewhere. And updating the talent base won’t be easy considering a lack of draft choices in April…


    Jeff Fisher (Rams): It was Super Bowl XXXIV and Fisher’s Titans came up roughly a yard short in the Georgia Dome of possibly sending that game into overtime. Now the usually-successful head coach takes over the team that denied him that championship 13 seasons ago. Fisher’s forte has always been defense and he certainly has some tools to work with there. But this is a team that has scored fewer than 200 points in 2 of the last 3 seasons, including an NFL-low 193 points in 2011, and a priority would be somehow ensuring third-year QB Sam Bradford stays healthy this season. And contrary to some opinions, moving up in the NFC West isn’t as easy as it was just a year ago…

    Greg Schiano (Buccaneers): It was only a year ago that the Buccaneers were the best turnaround story in the league, improving by an NFL-best 7 wins from the previous season as Raheem Morris took a 3-13 squad and elevated them to 10 victories and on the brink of a playoff appearance. And when the team got off to 4-2 start in 2011, which included wins over the Falcons and Saints, the good times figured to continue. But Morris’ team never won another game following that 26-20 victory over New Orleans in Week 6 and looked ugly getting to 4-12, allowing a league-high 494 points for the season while committing 32 of their 40 turnovers during their 10-game losing streak. Enter Schiano, who put Rutgers football back on the map and now hopes that he and his team can keep pace in a division that is loaded at quarterback, including his own in Josh Freeman, who looks to rebound from a disappointing 2011…

    Comments 19 Comments
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      I think Crennell and Schiano have the best teams to work with. The Chiefs played decently at times even with the injuries. The Bucs just quit last year.
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      Continuity and consistency are two things NFL franchises believe lead to success. Romeo Crennel provides that on the defensive side of the ball for the Chiefs. He also knows what his players can do and they know what his expectations are of them. They responded to him winning 2 of their last 3 games. The AFC West is wide open....no one has separated themselves from the pack. I think the Chiefs have the cleanest path to success, the fewest roadblocks of any of the 7 mentioned.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      The Chiefs and Jaguars have the most upside if they go after Peyton Manning. I don't understand why more isn't made of that. Gabbert came cheap with the rookie scale, and Cassel can probably be placed as backup. And they have the defensive horses.

      The Raiders coach has a big decision to make: Carson Palmer or Jason Campbell. Jason Campbell outperformed Palmer, and should be recovered from his injury. The new adminstration could simply cut bait and blame Hue Jackson.

      The Phins have to make a move at QB. They haven't spent a first round pick on QB in the last 30 years. The last 2 times they did, they got a HoF QB (Griese and Marino). But spending a 2nd round pick for the last 8 years has netted them the Chads, John Beck and old Culpepper. They either go for Flynn or they go for broke and take RGIII. They need exitement or effective QB play.

      Fischer will have 3 years to rebuild his program, but I would definitely invest on a strength and conditioning coach and a new medical staff. Too many injuries last year. I'd look at the turf as well.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Seems to me that the Raiders were a few blown defensive plays away from a pretty good season. With the margin as narrow as it is in the NFL, if the new regime can tighten things up, this team could be successful.

      iwatt, having watched Campbell for a number of years, I'm not convinced he has the head to be a successful NFL QB. Something's off in his decision making. Palmer has a weaker arm and throws picks, but of the two is a better reader of the game.

      The Chiefs have offensive line problems to solve. Not a good place to have issues. Also, I mistrust optimism when it's generated by a late-season surge under a new coach. Often, it's not a good indicator of a team's actual ability. So color me skeptical about KC.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      iwatt, having watched Campbell for a number of years, I'm not convinced he has the head to be a successful NFL QB. Something's off in his decision making. Palmer has a weaker arm and throws picks, but of the two is a better reader of the game.
      I've always felt that Cambell got a raw deal. I'm not saying he's going to the HoF, but he finally had more than a year with the smae OC, and he was putting up pretty good numbers in Oakland's play action offense. He was defintely better than Palmer at throwing the long ball, which is what Oakland is built to run. Campbell is a better version of Alex Smith (way to many offensive systems in his career). If they go with a competition at QB, Campbell will come up ahead. And nobody could have succeeded in Washington with the offensive line he had.

      The Chiefs have a good Head office. The coaching thing is probably a red flag, you are correct. And I think they have the picks to shore up the OL.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      My optimism about KC is that they have good players but were decimated by injuries. They still played well at times.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by vancemeek View Post
      My optimism about KC is that they have good players but were decimated by injuries. They still played well at times.
      and had a crappy head coach.

      Romeo wasn't very good on his first tour in Cleveland, but he might have learned and be competent from now on. I'm not holding my breath, but KC has a lot of talent, a lot of cap space, a rabid fan base that makes home field advantage meaningful. And they play in the craptastic AFC west.
    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      Fischer probably won't have a good year this year with the Rams, but I expect that he will stay the longest of all the coaches and slowly rebuild the Rams. A lot of his success will be based on how durable Bradford can be during his stay. I think of all the coaches and teams, the Chefs perform the best in 2012.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      There would be a tidy symmetry to Crennel succeeding like Evil Bill, after failing at the Browns, and working with Pioli. I'm rooting against it mostly because I find Pioli to be such a disagreeable turd. Also, picking a coach because he's popular with the players never feels right.
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Tough for me to judge who's going to have the toughest road. Too many factors at play. Fisher will get some rope to work with. Mularkey may not. Crenell gets back 3 of his best players, and plays in a weak division, but "playing hard" for coach, is much tougher to replicate over a full 16 games rather than his interim period.

      Schiano has a good bit of talent and tons of cap space, but how much will the glazers let him spend. Add to that, a lot of his assistants were the second option due to being blocked from interviewing the guy he targeted.

      Philbin inherits a good d, but a horrible o with no starter at qb. He also got stuck with second options for his staff.

      I have no worldly idea what to think about Allen in Oakland. I don't know what to think about that situation. No al Davis. They will probably approach things like the norm now, but its tough wrapping my mind around that. It's been al's way my entire lifetime. plus the raiders have no cap room.

      Also very tough to see what pagano will do in indy. No polians, and likely no manning. It's been a long time since we could say that. Add to that Freeney and Wayne are free agents, bullitt and bracket are coming off injuries, and luck is the likely pick. This is a full strip down and rebuild. He gets some rope.

      I'd like to say mularkey or schiano have the toughest road. Both need to capture the fan base and sell tickets with wins. That drives more criticism than normal or necessary. That said people are more skeptical of retreads and college coaches.

      Most of these teams have a boatload of cap money to use. Until they use it as they see fit, and have their drafts, I can't be definitive in my opinion...
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Certainly Pagano with the Colts. He has to try to salvage a team that is still in the recent era of their 2009 Super Bowl season. Peyton Manning or Luck or RGIII are there for the taking of the Colts. There will be a new Offensive Coordinator for Peyton or for the Colts to sync in with possibly new receivers as Reggie Wayne maybe onto another team. The team has a new venue in Downtown Indy that needs supporting with Great Football. One Man not playing at all last season is deemed the key reason to failures in 2011 & now we have a New Head Coach who is new to the NFL Head Coaching ranks who has to clean it all up on his watch.

      He's a Ravens Defensive Coach; We'll see how he does as he will be compared to Marvin Lewis & Rex Ryan before him as other BAL D Coaches who flew the Ravens nest for the Big Office.
    1. ZambianBillsFan's Avatar
      Mularkey: I think Mularkey will be the first coach to get chopped off. He was in charge of a Falcons offense that went to the Metlife and only scored two points! With a high powered offense! I remember his work in Buffalo. New Owner in Jacksonville, means he won't get past week 13, if he does, he won't be back in the 2013 season.

      Fischer: To be honest, what has he done? Why is he rated so high, when he has made only 1 Superbowl appearance in 16 plus seasons, I'm not buying that he's going to all of a sudden res-erect his coaching career. It's the Rams we are talking about.

      Chuck Pagano: Over/Under is 22 games
      Romeo Crenel: Over/Under is 13 games
      Dennis Allen: Over/Under is 17 games
      Greg Schiano: Over/Under is 17 games
      Joe Philbin: Over/Under is 24 games
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Actually, Mularkey didn't score any points. That "awful" Giants defense shut out the Falcons #10 ranked offense.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by ZambianBillsFan View Post
      Fischer: To be honest, what has he done? Why is he rated so high, when he has made only 1 Superbowl appearance in 16 plus seasons, I'm not buying that he's going to all of a sudden res-erect his coaching career. It's the Rams we are talking about.
      I say you have to throw away the book on Fisher. This is the first time he'll have the loudest voice on personnel. Could go well. History says it's more likely to go tits up.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      Seems to me that the Raiders were a few blown defensive plays away from a pretty good season. With the margin as narrow as it is in the NFL, if the new regime can tighten things up, this team could be successful.

      iwatt, having watched Campbell for a number of years, I'm not convinced he has the head to be a successful NFL QB. Something's off in his decision making. Palmer has a weaker arm and throws picks, but of the two is a better reader of the game.

      The Chiefs have offensive line problems to solve. Not a good place to have issues. Also, I mistrust optimism when it's generated by a late-season surge under a new coach. Often, it's not a good indicator of a team's actual ability. So color me skeptical about KC.
      The Raiders will be interesting to watch. Al Davis had so much control over EVERYTHING in Oakland. Carson Palmer could become the QB/Offensive coordinator on offense if they give him the reigns and let him pick up the tempo.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by BuckeyeRidley View Post
      Certainly Pagano with the Colts. He has to try to salvage a team that is still in the recent era of their 2009 Super Bowl season. Peyton Manning or Luck or RGIII are there for the taking of the Colts. There will be a new Offensive Coordinator for Peyton or for the Colts to sync in with possibly new receivers as Reggie Wayne maybe onto another team. The team has a new venue in Downtown Indy that needs supporting with Great Football. One Man not playing at all last season is deemed the key reason to failures in 2011 & now we have a New Head Coach who is new to the NFL Head Coaching ranks who has to clean it all up on his watch.

      He's a Ravens Defensive Coach; We'll see how he does as he will be compared to Marvin Lewis & Rex Ryan before him as other BAL D Coaches who flew the Ravens nest for the Big Office.
      Chuck is a good guy. Ray Lewis loves him. They would text ideas back and forth all night. Chuck will give the players great latitude if they earn it. He is very much a modern day NFL coach.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris Collinsworth View Post
      The Raiders will be interesting to watch. Al Davis had so much control over EVERYTHING in Oakland. Carson Palmer could become the QB/Offensive coordinator on offense if they give him the reigns and let him pick up the tempo.
      I'm glad you wrote that, Chris. I think a lot of people look at the arm and the picks and write Palmer off.
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris Collinsworth View Post
      Chuck is a good guy. Ray Lewis loves him. They would text ideas back and forth all night. Chuck will give the players great latitude if they earn it. He is very much a modern day NFL coach.
      I can see Pagano doing that with Peyton Manning. He'll succeed with Peyton if he works with him & lets Peyton keep his control. If there's a rookie in there at QB, then that where the rubber meets the road. Now, we could get a Jimmy Johnson first season with a 1-15 record with a rookie QB or we could get a decent year with position shore-ups that give us what the team is made of for the future & a record that might be 8-8 & shock some folks. I'll say this gladly, Marvin Lewis & Rex Ryan came into their teams & turned the teams around to see successes that were mere memories before they got there. I can see Pagano succeeding but if Pagano's first season isn't a success we have to bear in mind the rebuilding effort they're doing. He will be compared to Lewis & Ryan before him; certainly he's gonna have a heavy plate to carry.
    1. RSConn5's Avatar
      Dennis Allen has the best shot to make the playoffs right away. There is no powerhouse in that division and the Raiders were probably the most talented team in that division last year anyway. If McFadden and Campbell don't go down then they more than likely would have made the playoffs last year. A lot of it depends on if Carson Palmer can come back strong.