Jets’ Sanchez, Coaching Changes Among NFL’s Top Story Lines


Jul 13, 2009

The NFL offseason is winding down as training camp draws closer with each moment. Over the next three days, I’ll count down the 15 biggest story lines across the league since the Steelers won the Super Bowl back on Feb. 1.

15. Coaching changes
The head coaching carousel spins every offseason, and that will never change. It was especially busy last winter, though, with nine coaching changes and two others getting outright control after serving as interim coaches in 2008.

Josh McDaniels (plenty more on him later in the list) replaced Mike Shanahan in Denver; Raheem Morris took over for Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay; Todd Haley replaced Herm Edwards in Kansas City; Jim Mora succeeded Mike Holmgren in Seattle; Steve Spagnuolo took over for Jim Haslett in St. Louis; Rex Ryan replaced Eric Mangini as the New York Jets’ head coach; Mangini inexplicably got a second chance and replaced Romeo Crennel in Cleveland; Jim Schwartz has the pleasure of cleaning up Rod Marinelli’s mess in Detroit (to be fair, it wasn’t all Marinelli’s fault); and Jim Caldwell has the daunting task of succeeding Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. Additionally, Tom Cable (Oakland) and Mike Singletary (San Francisco) had the interim tags removed from their titles.

Suddenly, Norv Turner is the longest-tenured coach in the AFC West, and that is likely only because of last season’s epic collapse of the Denver Broncos, which helped thrust the Chargers into the postseason with an 8-8 record.

Aside from Holmgren and Dungy, who both retired, the coaching changes were fairly warranted. The firings of Shanahan and Gruden were controversial, but not completely out of line.

There has been an interesting dynamic in the league’s philosophy toward coaches in recent years, as some teams are looking in the direction of younger coaches who can grow with the organization and stay in that position for a lengthy period. It has worked in Pittsburgh with Mike Tomlin, and we’ll find out soon if it will also work in Tampa Bay and Denver.

But with the minimal life expectancy of the league’s coaches as a result of owners’ impatience to suffer through rebuilding periods, it’ll be tough for the younger, inexperienced newbies to learn on the job. I’m guessing it’s just a cycle — or maybe even a fad — because that philosophy is bound to fail more often than not.

14. Changes in Detroit
Aside from hiring Schwartz, who has a great résumé, the Lions are moving forward to their first full season without team president Matt Millen, an unmitigated disaster if there ever was one. They’ve also landed a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford, who is the headliner of Detroit’s very strong draft class. I’m not saying they’re this year’s Atlanta Falcons, but the worst is definitely over in Detroit.

13. Developing story lines
We haven’t heard the last of three ongoing story lines. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress is still a free agent, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll land a contract until he knows his legal fate. Plus, commissioner Roger Goodell still has some decisions to make with New York’s least successful gunslinger.

And what will happen with Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin? Will they finally break down and trade him, or should they suck it up and keep the ageless Kurt Warner happy? Unless Boldin holds out, the Cards need him in town.

Also, this quarterback battle in Oakland between the always-efficient Jeff Garcia and the never-reliable JaMarcus Russell is sure to ruffle some feathers. Garcia should be the starter, but Al Davis wouldn’t ever admit he was wrong about Russell, would he?

12. Chief overhaul
Similar to the offseason in Detroit, the Kansas City Chiefs changed faces at their three most integral positions of power. Scott Pioli was hired to run their football operations and he hired former Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley to be the head coach. Soon after, the Chiefs acquired quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel from the Patriots, and Kansas City’s next generation was in place.

Haley was a hot name after he had a brilliant postseason with Arizona, but his leadership abilities have been questioned by current and former players, according to multiple reports. While there is a nice amount of talent in place in Kansas City, Haley’s attitude as he adjusts to his first head coaching gig will determine the team’s turnaround.

11. Jets take Sanchez
Go figure, the Jets made a first-round draft pick and didn’t get booed out of the state by their fans. Draft gurus from coast to coast have widely varying opinions of Mark Sanchez’s talent and pro potential, and his career will already be under a more intense type of scrutiny because he’s in New York. He’ll either grow into a giant hero or get chased out of town with more ruthlessness than Isiah Thomas.

Check back Tuesday and Wednesday for the top 10 story lines of the NFL offseason so far.

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