The St. Louis Rams were not directly impacted by the NFL coaching carousel that spun in spectacular fashion this year as 8 teams now have different head coaches heading into the offseason, but some of the changes will impact the Rams and their division rivals. Of course the Rams snagged the biggest coaching prize of last years offseason in Jeff Fisher, and Fisher quickly reminded Rams fans what good coaching looks like. The Rams are still in the market for a defensive coordinator since they have made it clear that Greg Williams doesn’t figure into their plans anymore. The decision to move on from Williams coupled with the Dallas Cowboys firing of Rob Ryan has put the Rams into the media coverage as rumors have been flying regarding the potential for Ryan to fill the DC role. Early reports were that Ryan had been hired by the Rams, but those quickly proved to be false and while Ryan did meet with the Rams for an interview nothing much has been heard on the defensive coordinator front since. The Rams other coordinator position appeared likely to become vacant as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars interviewed Brian Schottenheimer for their head coaching position. In the end the Jaguars selected the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley to be their new head coach which is good news for Rams fans. The San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman may have been a candidate for some teams, but their run to the Super Bowl likely kept teams unwilling to wait for the 49ers season to end to move forward with other candidates. The Arizona Cardinals of course hired a new head coach after firing Ken Wisenhunt, so lets take a closer look at how the coaching carousel affected the three NFC West teams not headed to the Super Bowl.
St. Louis Rams. The St. Louis Rams will have escaped from the coaching changes relatively unscathed, as they already had a vacant defensive coordinator position and Schottenheimer was once again passed over for the head coaching job in Jacksonville. While it is bad news for Schotty it is great news for the Rams and their young franchise quarterback Sam Bradford, who had a different coordinator in each of his 3 seasons in the NFL and could really benefit from some consistency. While some have scratched their heads over Schotty’s play calling at times there is no doubt that being in the same offensive system with the same coordinator can help Bradford come closer to realizing his potential. The lack of a defensive coordinator stood out to me at times this season and very well may have cost the Rams 1 or 2 wins. I am not that familiar with defensive coordinator candidates in the NFL, but Jeff Fisher has been in the NFL a very long time and I am sure he has a handful of people on his radar that the general public has never heard of who would be very capable of handling the job.
Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks appeared to be on the verge of losing both their offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching positions this year, but only Gus Bradley has moved on from the Seahawks after accepting Jacksonville’s head coaching position. Bradley made for an obvious head coaching candidate after the Seahawks finished the season with the NFL’s number one scoring defense. It is still surprising that the defensive coordinator would be moving on when the NFL trend has been to hire offensive minded coaches this year (7 of the 8 coaches hired were offensive coordinators or “offensive minded” head coaches) and not the offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who oversaw the development of surprise rookie standout Russell Wilson. There were countless times this season while watching a Seahawks game (I get to watch every Seahawks game since they are the “local” team) where I caught myself saying “What a great play call”, and I have never seen so many wide open receivers on a consistent basis at the NFL level, I have to imagine Bevell deserves quite a bit of credit for Wilson’s stunning progression this season. The good news for Rams fans is that the Seahawks won a playoff game and that will probably buy Pete Carroll a few more years with the Seahawks which leaves the coaching advantage squarely with the Rams. The Rams were one fumble recovery and/or average safety play from Craig Dahl away from going undefeated in the NFC West this season with the 3rd most talented roster (and even that is fairly debatable) and the coaching advantage was never more evident than against the Seahawks.
Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals of course had the biggest shakeup in the division as they fired head coach Ken Wisenhunt and went on a very long coaching search before finally snagging Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Unless you have been living under a rock during this season you know Arians filled in as the interim head coach for the Colts while Chuck Pagano was fighting leukemia posting a very respectable 9-3 record during his 12 game stint. The hiring of Arians instead of Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton lead to a complete shakeup of coaching staff in Arizona, and without Horton calling the shots for the defensive side of the ball it is hard to imagine the Cardinals defense will be as effective as it was this season. Of course the offense couldn’t get much worse, and with Arians coming in as an offensive minded guy certainly the Cardinals offense should bounce back towards respectability in the 2013 season. Arians has also brought with him a some high profile assistants in Tom Moore (former Colts offensive coordinator for Peyton Manning), Todd Bowles (Eagles defensive coordinator from Oct. 16th through end of season) and Harold Goodwin. Moore will serve as the assistant head coach, Bowles will be the defensive coordinator and Goodwin will serve as the offensive coordinator although it is anticipated that Arians will be calling the plays. It will be interesting to see how this group sets about rebuilding the Cardinals, but as long as they have a little bit better luck on the injury front this team is talented enough to play good football and make a push towards the playoffs in 2012.