Previous coach: Mike Smith (67-49)
Projected new coach: Rex Ryan (Previous with NYJ)
The Falcons over the last two years have gone from being a Super Bowl contender to a middling team that disappoints too often. In 2012, Atlanta came within one game of the Super Bowl. Since then, Mike Smith’s Falcons went 11-21, missing the playoffs two straight seasons. This team has all sorts of offensive weapons but desperately lacks an identity on defense. The offensive line needs work too but there is some young blood there. Enter Rex Ryan. The former Jets coach may have seen a steady decline in performance over the last three years with New York, but almost all of the struggles were on offense. Ryan would have a lot of improvements to make. The Falcons defense ranked last in yards allowed per game and 27th in scoring defense as well. Atlanta also tied for second to last in sacks. Ryan is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. Tasking him with fixing Atlanta’s defense is the best solution Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank will find.
San Francisco 49ers
Previous coach: Jim Harbaugh (44-19)
Projected new coach: Adam Gase (Currently with DEN)
Unlike Atlanta, the defense was never the problem in San Francisco. It was the dysfunctional offense. Many witnessed the 49ers miserable up and down season. Through it all, the 49ers showed that its defense might be the deepest in the entire league. San Francisco lost several defensive starters to injuries and suspensions over the course of the season yet still ranked in the top 5 for yards allowed and the top 10 for points allowed. The offense however was anemic. The unit ranked 20th in yards per game and 25th in points per game. Colin Kaepernick looked lost at times and Frank Gore finally showed signs of aging. Michael Crabtree was not as reliable as he once was making Anquan Boldin the only true weapon. The offense needs a lot of help and that is where Adam Gase comes in. Gase has spent the last two years as Denver’s offensive coordinator helping Peyton Manning run his record setting attack. Gase has proven his versatility and understanding this year with his ability to change the Broncos gameplan as needed from week to week. He will have some molding to do with Kaepernick but the potential is there. Gase is also inventive enough to deploy Kaepernick’s running abilities in a way similar to Russell Wilson, truly utilizing the dual threat quarterback. Gase will garner a lot of attention from teams but I think he will ultimately choose San Francisco.
New York Jets
Previous coach: Rex Ryan (46-50)
Projected new coach: Josh McDaniels (Currently with NE)
The Jets are in full rebuild. Owner Woody Johnson fired both his coach and GM making this hard to call right now as to the coach will be without a GM in place. New York looked poised to become an AFC power in 2011, but then the wheels fell off and the team has not fully recovered since. Part of that is due to Rex Ryan’s inability to coach the offensive side of the ball. The other is the obvious lack of talent that the Jets have on that same side of the ball. The Jets began building a better foundation this year with the additions of Percy Harvin and Eric Decker but neither has been enough to turn the offense around. That is where Josh McDaniels comes in. McDaniels has spent the last three years coaching division rival New England’s offense. The Patriots may have Tom Brady but McDaniels has played a large part in designing the offense he runs. McDaniels also has head coaching experience from his time in Denver. He would likely be assigned the task of trying to salvage Geno Smith’s career with likely a rookie developing behind the scenes as well as retooling the offense around him. New York’s defense is still in good shape following the Ryan era but needs some work in the secondary. McDaniels would have his work cut out for him. It would certainly take some time as well to turn the Jets around but McDaniels is the right man for the job.
Previous coach: Dennis Allen/Tony Sporano (went 3-13 this season)
Projected new coach: Dan Quinn (Currently with SEA)
The Oakland Raiders seem to have more fresh starts than anyone else in the NFL, but this one is has a little bit of promise. The Raiders have two pieces, quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Kahlil Mack, to build around for the 2015 season. This team needs a ton of help on both sides of the ball. It is going to be more than a one season project. Oakland would have a decent amount of money to play with in free agency and a high draft pick meaning Dan Quinn can go to work on the Oakland roster. Quinn, over the past two years, has coached one of the greatest defenses of all time in Seattle and that pedigree will be something GM Reggie McKenzie hopes he can carry over to the Bay Area. Oakland has a couple of other young players in D.J. Hayden and Latavius Murray who have shown some promise but the Raiders will need to get rid the aging veterans McKenzie and Dennis Allen brought in last year as stop gaps. They did not pay off and Quinn will want a fresh start. In a division where Phillip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles rule, Quinn would have a tall task in making sure the Raiders’ defense is ready to compete.
Previous coach: Marc Trestman (13-19)
New coach: Frank Reich (Currently with SD)
The Bears are another team that completely cleaned house this offseason. The Chicago brass decided to fire head coach Marc Trestman, general manager Phil Emory and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. This team will be looking all to pretend the Trestman era never happened. The Bears, in many ways, are stuck with Jay Cutler as their quarterback so it is time to bring in a man who has worked with Phillip Rivers over the last two years and made him look like an MVP candidate at times, Frank Reich. Reich is a former NFL quarterback, which bodes well for helping Cutler. He managed to keep San Diego’s offense afloat despite losing this year, Ryan Mathews, Danny Woohead and Ronnie Brown at running back this season. Keenan Allen also fell into a deep sophomore slump. However, the Bears have a ton of offensive talent and need someone to generate some production out of them. The defense struggled as well but the return of Charles Tillman and Lamaar Houston as well as continual development of a young linebacking core could make the defense much better next season. This team has a lot of work to do if it wants to avoid being one of the most disappointing in recent NFL history. Reich should be ready to get the job done.