Rookie Coaches with the best chance to win in 2012
Every year coaches come and go in the NFL, and while some struggle as a Head Coach others transition well. Since 2008, rookie Head Coaches have seen success in their first year and 2012 will be no different. Three first year coaches took their teams to the playoffs in 2008, Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons, Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins and John Harbaugh who led the Baltimore Ravens to the AFC Championship game in his first season. In 2009, Rex Ryan followed the Baltimore Ravens model and took the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game in his first season as Head Coach. Pete Carrol did the same thing with the Seahawks in 2010, and now we look ahead to the 2012 Head Coach Rookie class.
This year we have six new coaches among the NFL who will look to duplicate the success of past coaches and more recently Jim Harbaugh who followed in his brother’s footsteps by taking the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship game in his first year. I don’t know if the NFL is becoming easier and easier to coach in but it’s not supposed to be this easy for new Head Coaches. In fact I would think it would be harder because now coaches have to win now other wise they are canned after only a couple seasons. No longer do coaches have that time to build a team, it’s either win now or be fired.
Instead of telling you just one coach who has the best chance to succeed, I’m going to rank the rookie coaches from worst shot to best chance at winning in 2012. Believe me, 2012 isn’t going to be any different, I expect one of these coaches to take their team to the playoffs in 2012 and quite possibly two of them may do so.
6. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: Poor Chuck, the Colts dumped nearly everyone on the team and decided to go straight to rebuilding. Andrew Luck is the new centerpiece of the Colts with Peyton Manning now in Denver, but the Colts do not have a favorable schedule and I see at best the Colts a three to five win team. Also they are installing a new 3-4 defense after being a 4-3 defense for years under Bill Polian and we all know that it takes time to change defensive systems and get the players in piece to fit that system. This was a close one between Pagano and Fisher but I Pagano gets the nod for not having the worst chance to succeed in 2012.
5. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams: I almost put Jeff Fisher last but I think Fisher’s previous coaching experience gives him an edge over Pagano. Fisher took a year off after being fired as the Tennessee Titans coach but this time he is back and is taking upon himself to rebuild the Rams. Many coaches have tried but have failed, many GMs have tried and failed. Hopefully the combination of Les Snead and Jeff Fisher is what the Rams need but it may take a couple years before Fisher gets the team he needs to compete in the NFC West.
4. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin is ranked here due to the fact that he is coaching the AFC East. He is here due to the fact that he may be starting a rookie quarterback against a Patriots and Jets team that just improved their defense in the off-season. Did I mention that Buffalo signed Mario Williams? Yeah this is not going to end well for Philbin no matter who the starting quarterback is. Philbin may find success next year or a couple years later but not this year.
3. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders: I would liked to have ranked Allen as the coach with the second best chance of winning, I really did. The AFC West was so open last year that he did have a great shot at winning now but I just can’t. The Denver Broncos signed some guy named Peyton Manning and killed any hopes for Dennis Allen to win this season. Peyton Manning makes Denver a Super Bowl Contender and will give sole possession of the AFC West to the Broncos for the next five years. Is Carson Palmer washed up, can he still be a good quarterback in the NFL? It will be a tough battle for Allen facing Manning and Phillip Rivers twice a year but as open as the AFC West was, he still has a chance to pull it off.
2. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars: I have Mularkey ranked second because Jacksonville does have a good solid defense, but mostly for what they did in the draft. Mularkey comes from Atlanta where they pulled a trade to get Julio Jones, and not surprisingly the Jaguars traded up to get Justin Blackmon. Blackmon may find himself in trouble off the field but if he can stay out of trouble, he will be a fantastic target for Blaine Gabbert. They added a pass rushing DE in Andre Branch who should contribute well in his rookie season. Jacksonville is going to be one of the teams people will expect to draft Matt Barkley but the Jaguars will surprise people and contend for a wild card spot in the AFC.
1. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Remember, I took a lot into consideration for this including the division they are in. So you have to wonder why I give Schiano the best chance to win considering Tampa is located in the NFC South. No I didn’t forget about Atlanta or New Orleans but the style of play that Schiano is aiming for, we may not see Drew Brees or Matt Ryan on the field much. He is looking to build Tampa through the old style, ground and pound attack. Tampa spent big in the off-season getting Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson, while adding Mark Barron to cover Ryan and Brees. Adding Doug Martin to compliment LeGarrett Blount was another solid move as he looks to pound the rock play keep away. Tampa is my surprise pick for this season and my pick to make the playoffs in 2012.