Just when you thought the madness was over. We now bring you part two of the 'New Faces in Different Places' segment. It just seems that if you blink for one instance, an NFL team hired a new head coach. In this week alone, 3 out of the 4 vacancies were filled up. So here are this week's new faces in different places.
A little bit over 24 hours after the San Diego Chargers lost against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round, their offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, was hired by the Tennessee Titans to become their new head coach. The Titans brought in Whisenhunt less than 8 days after they fired the previous head coach, Mike Munchak. Out of all the coach hirings, this by far makes the most sense.
Whisenhunt brings an offensive knowledge that the Titans desperately needed. Besides from making his mark in San Diego for one season (turning them from 31st ranked offense to the 5th ranked offense), Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-2006. During that stretch, he helped develop young offensive talent like TE Heath Miller and QB Ben Roethlisberger, into top 15 talent. Not to mention he took a running back named Willie Parker and turned him from a running back who rushed for 186 yards in 2004 into a 1,000+ yard running back in 2005 and 2006. Titans Chris Johnson and his fantasy football owners are salivating for that.
If that doesn’t convince you that the Titans hiring Whisenhunt was a smart decision, know this. In 2007, Whisenhunt was hired by the Arizona Cardinals to become the franchise’s 39th coach. In his first year, he took the Cardinals and guided them from a 5-11 record to an 8-8. The following two years, the Cardinals had consecutive playoff berths including the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance (Super Bowl XLIII in 2008-09 season). Whisenhunt finished his 6-year tenure in Arizona with a 45-51 record in regular season play and a 4-2 record in the postseason. His 45 regular season games, 96 games total, and 49 total wins are all Cardinal franchise highs for coaches.
The next coaching vacancy to be filled up was none other than the one in the Motor City. Earlier this week, the Detroit Lions announced that they would hire former Ravens’ offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to become the franchise’s 26th head coach.
Caldwell originally broke into the NFL back in 2001 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their quarterbacks coach for Tony Dungy’s staff. He followed Dungy to the Indianapolis Colts where he took the same role but also was named assistant head coach. During Caldwell’s time in that role, QB Peyton Manning developed into one of the elite quarterbacks in NFL history. Then when Tony Dungy retired back in 2009, Caldwell was named his successor. He coached the Colts from 2009-2011. During this time he went 26-22 in the regular season and 2-2 in the playoffs, including a loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Caldwell was fired after the 2011 season, where the Colts went 2-14 and were without Peyton Manning for the year. He then was hired as the quarterbacks coach by the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 and was promoted to offensive coordinator towards the end of the season. During that same stretch, he was able to help fine tune QB Joe Flacco into becoming a Super Bowl winner when the Ravens won Super Bowl XVLII. Caldwell then served full-time as the offensive coordinator during the 2013-14 season for the Baltimore Ravens.
Now as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, Caldwell inherits both a young, talented, but undisciplined team with an on-and-off quarterback in Matthew Stafford. If Caldwell can groom Stafford the way he groomed Peyton and fine tune Joe Flacco, then this could work out for the Lions.
With the Lions’ head coaching vacancy filled, that left only two teams left: Vikings and Browns. However this past Thursday, that number dropped to one. The Minnesota Vikings announced last Thursday that former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer would become the franchise’s 9th head coach. Known and respected for his defensive knowledge and able to rally players, this hiring seems to fit Minnesota.
Prior to joining the Vikings, Zimmer broke into the NFL coaching rankings all the way back in 1994 with the Cowboys. From 1994 to 1999, Zimmer was the defensive back coach before then promoted to defensive coordinator from 2000 to 2006. Zimmer then spent one season (2007) as defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons before being hired by the Bengals for the same position.
From 2008 to 2013, Mike Zimmer coached the Bengals defense. In his first season in Cincinnati he already made an impact. In 2007, before Zimmer got there, the Bengals ranked 27th in overall defense (21st against run, 26th against pass, and 24th in scoring). In 2008, in his first season the Bengals were ranked 12th overall defense (21st against the run, 15th against the pass, 19th in scoring). After 2008 the Bengals ranked in the top 10 overall NFL defenses 4 out of the 5 seasons under Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator, included being in the top 5 in 2009 (4th overall) and in 2013 (5th overall).
If there is any concern about whether or not Zimmer is up to the task of coaching a team that was ranked dead last in scoring defense, passing defense, and second-to-last in overall defense or just in a difficult environment know is. During his time in Dallas, Zimmer worked under four different head coaches (Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells). Then in the 2007, there was the whole incident where then Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino quit on his team and abandoned them in the middle of the night to go coach at Arkansas. Finally in 2009, Zimmer’s wife, Vikki Zimmer, passed away unexpectedly but still managed to stay with the team for the rest of the season and his players rallied around him. If the Vikings needed a coach who can kick the players in the pants and get them motivated, it’s definitely Zimmer.
It just seems like those coaching vacancies are filling up faster than the Chip Kelly no-huddle offense. Now it's just the Cleveland Browns that are left without a head coach. They could wait until the end of the Conference championships if they want to get somebody who is desirable (a Josh McDaniels from the Pats or a Dan Quinn from Seattle) or dive into the college rankings to get their coach. Until then, we can just only speculate which new face will be hired as a new NFL coach.
This is Scoop Fox, signing off.
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