By Kevin York
All the open NFL head coaching jobs have been filled now. Just to recap, here are the new faces in their new places:
- Arizona Cardinals – Bruce Arians (former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator)
- Buffalo Bills – Doug Marrone (former Syracuse University head coach)
- Chicago Bears – Marc Trestman (former Montreal Alouettes head coach)
- Cleveland Browns – Rob Chudzinski (former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator)
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Gus Bradley (former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator)
- Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid (former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator)
- Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly (former University of Oregon head coach)
- San Diego Chargers – Mike McCoy (former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator)
This year there seemed to be a higher than usual number of college head coaches considered for an NFL head coaching job. Kelly and Marrone were of course ultimately hired, but Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly were also considered by at least one team.
It didn’t seem like there were as many NFL assistant coaches considered this year. Aside from the three men listed above who previously served as coordinators, there were only a few NFL assistants that frequently surfaced as candidates: Ray Horton (former Cardinals defensive coordinator, now Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator), Jay Gruden (Bengals offensive coordinator) and Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator). All three of those men are certainly deserving, but I feel like there are three current NFL assistants that were really overlooked in the interview process.
Vic Fangio, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator
When Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the 49ers and Fangio took over the defense, he had a good amount of talent to work with, but he put all those pieces together and guided the unit to the top of the league. In both years under Fangio, most would say San Francisco’s defense has been one of the top three in the league and all the statistical categories would back that up.
Additionally, Fangio figured out ways to incorporate players such as Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner who were cast offs from previous teams. People saw those guys as talented yet underperforming, which is why San Francisco was able to get them on the cheap. Fangio figured out ways to incorporate them into his defense and hide some of their flaws. He’s done such a stellar job of this that Rogers and Whitner have received some undue credit for their performance in these last two years. The scheme and personnel management talent that Fangio has shown are important skills for a head coach to possess.
Winston Moss, Green Bay Packers Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach
The former NFL linebacker has been an assistant coach since 1998 and has steadily risen through the ranks until he became assistant head coach of the Packers in 2007. He’s been seen as a talented assistant for some time and I actually thought he’d get more consideration for a head job by now.
Moss has coached Green Bay’s inside linebackers since he joined the team as an assistant in 2006. What he’s done is create one of the deepest positions on the team. Actually, probably the deepest besides wide receiver. Look at the unit this year. The starting inside linebackers were supposed to be A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. Then Bishop got hurt and D.J. Smith moved into his spot. Then Smith got hurt and Brad Jones moved into his spot. Yes, a third string player ended up starting for most of the season – and did well. Moss also worked Robert Francois into his rotation and to a lesser degree, young developing players Jamari Lattimore and Terrell Manning. He’s shown a keen ability to develop young talent, a must have skill for an NFL head coach.
Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator
What Roman has done in San Francisco is pretty remarkable. He took Alex Smith, a quarterback that was pretty much left for dead, and turned him into a Pro Bowler. No previous San Francisco offensive coordinator, except Norv Turner, had ever been able to get even consistent game management from Smith and Roman makes the guy a league leader in passing efficiency and QBR. Head coach Jim Harbaugh gets all the credit for revitalizing Smith, but Roman deserves just as much credit, if not more.
What’s possibly even more impressive is that Roman shifted the offense, in mid-season, to tailor it more for Colin Kaepernick’s skills and comfort level after Harbaugh made a quarterback switch following Smith’s concussion. The result? An offense that became dynamic and explosive. It didn’t miss a beat and improved in most areas. That’s the kind of work I’d look for in a head coach.