Head coaches always get the brunt of the blame in the NFL, but coordinators are just as liable. Which ones need a productive season in 2014?
Jim Haslett – DC – Washington Redskins
It came as a slight surprise that Jim Haslett was retained as defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins when Jay Gruden took over as head coach. The prevailing belief is the unit suffered less from bad coaching and more from injuries and limited talent. Hopes are high he can turn things around if both are rectified. If they aren’t, Gruden will do what he chose not to when he took over.
Mel Tucker – DC – Chicago Bears
Perhaps the only other surprise survivor of the coaching cuts after last season was Mel Tucker. In his first season with the Chicago Bears he inherited a unit that was ranked 5th overall in 2012. By the end of 2013, it had completely tanked to 30th, ranking dead last in rush defense and sacks. Instead of starting fresh with somebody new, head coach Marc Trestman believed a better solution was to give Tucker more scheme control than he had last season when he was asked to run the classic system Lovie Smith had employed to such great effect for years. Together with some staff changes and upgrades along the roster, early NFL predictions hint of a Bears rebound to credibility in 2014. If they don’t though, Tucker may not survive the axe twice.
Brian Schottenheimer – OC – St. Louis Rams
After enjoying some success in New York with the Jets, Brian Schottenheimer was lured to the St. Louis Rams in hopes of turning around their offensive fortunes. It’s safe to say through two seasons that has not happened. Despite considerable upgrades in talent the Rams offense has not placed higher than 23rd overall under Schottenheimer and it sunk to 30th last season. Part of that can be attributed to the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford, but it doesn’t excuse responsibility from the offensive coordinator. After another productive off-season, St. Louis has high expectations. Failure will not be met lightly.
Greg Olson – OC – Oakland Raiders
One can say the effort put forth by Greg Olson his first year as offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders was commendable. Despite so much turnover at quarterback and running back, he managed to field a group that finished 23rd in 2013. The source of mounting pressure for him isn’t so much failure as it is heightened hopes. With a new quarterback in Matt Schaub and a talent influx at every position group, it rests with Olson to improve on what he started a year ago. The Raiders want to win very badly and have shown little patience for coaches who can’t get it done.
Danny Crossman – ST – Buffalo Bills
Special teams is a third of the game in the NFL, no matter what old school enthusiasts might say. Teams that excel at it tend to win while others that don’t simply make life harder on themselves. That was certainly the case for the Buffalo Bills. At times they looked like a team that could win in 2013 but were regularly hampered by their special teams. For the season they ranked 32nd and 23rd in kick and punt returning while their kick and punt coverage units both ranked 28th respectively. That is not good by any stretch of the imagination, and the responsibility for fixing it fall squarely on the shoulders of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. He will have some leeway with it being his second year, but another underwhelming campaign like last season may compel the Bills to seek an upgrade.