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Assistant coaches that will be key this year- from Scouts In


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Updated: June 20, 2005, 1:36 PM ET

Chow's offense will help McNairScouts Inc.

The most anonymous job in the NFL might be that of assistant coach. While players and head coaches grab the headlines, it's the assistant coaches who usually do most of the teaching and planning for games. We have picked seven coaches, five of whom are in new locales, who will have major roles in the success of their teams in 2005.

Hudson Houck, Miami

Offensive line coach

HouckA year ago, Houck was in San Diego, coming off a horrible 2003 season with the Chargers and entering the last year of his contract as part of a lame-duck coaching staff. He then molded a ragtag unit with five new starters none of them first-round picks into a cohesive group. A year later, he is in Miami and is one of the highest-paid assistants in the NFL.

Houck is part of the new staff organized by Dolphins head coach Nick Saban, who hired him to turn one of the worst units in the NFL into an effective offensive line. Houck did it in San Diego, and he can do it in Miami.

First and foremost, Houck is a teacher. He has an extensive college coaching background, which is a big factor in his ability to mold young guys. He is a genuinely good guy with a nonconfrontational style and steady personality. His players trust him and believe in him.

He will have a lot of work to do in putting together the Dolphins' line, but the five guys he puts on the field won't look like the group from a year ago that gave up 52 sacks. Expect the improvement to be dramatic.

Norm Chow, Tennessee

Offensive coordinator

ChowChow was long overdue for a big-time NFL job after a long college career and a reputation as one of the most innovative offensive minds in the history of college football. This guy makes QBs into stars, and the happiest guy in Tennessee should be Steve McNair.

Chow's offense will look complicated, with a lot of movements, shifts and different formations, but it's all designed to create favorable matchups. Chow also loves to utilize his running back in a variety of alignments. But the reads for McNair will be simplified, and there will be a lot of short-to-intermediate passes with max-protection schemes.

As a result, look for McNair to get hit a lot less than a year ago and complete a higher percentage of his passes in Chow's system.

Mike Heimerdinger, N.Y. Jets

Offensive coordinator

The opening that brought Chow to Tennessee was created when Heimerdinger jumped to the Jets.

New York's offense needed a fresh start. The aggressive, attacking attitude of the team's defense wasn't matched on the offensive side of the ball. The Jets' passing attack rarely stretched the field, and its methodical approach didn't seem to work against the elite AFC teams.

That will change in 2005, as the offense will attack with a lot of vertical routes, and the tandem of quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receiver Laveranues Cole could be lethal. Heimerdinger believes that stretching defenses in the passing game also will open up the run game for Curtis Martin. The opposition will be hard-pressed to cheat, jump routes or load up in the box.

The big plays and creative play calls are there if Pennington's surgically repaired shoulder can hold up for an entire season.

Tim Brewster, Denver

Tight ends coach

Tight ends coaches are not exactly household names, but Brewster is developing a reputation in the league as an excellent teacher. As a former college tight end himself, he understands the position and has great individual rapport with his players. He left the Chargers after developing prized pupil Antonio Gates, an undrafted player with a basketball background, into a Pro Bowler. Gates caught 81 passes and scored 13 touchdowns last season.

Brewster, a technician who demands perfection, now inherits promising pass-catching tight end Jeb Putzier. The Broncos' organization obviously thought enough of Putzier's potential to match a lucrative offer from the Jets, who tried to sign him as a restricted free agent this offseason. Putzier might not be quite the athlete Gates is, but look for Brewster to increase Putzier's productivity from the 36 catches he made a year ago to something in the 60-70 range in 2005.

Remember, Shannon Sharpe caught 62 passes (for 770 yards and eight touchdowns) in this offense in 2003 and 61 passes (for 686 yards and three TDs) in 2002. The Broncos' offense relies heavily on the tight end, and coach Mike Shanahan is hoping Brewster can turn Putzier into a Sharpe-like weapon this year.

Carl Smith, Jacksonville

Offensive coordinator

A year ago, Smith was quarterbacks coach at USC and was grooming quarterback Matt Leinart for what proved to be a Heisman Trophy season. Now he is making the jump to NFL offensive coordinator, though he's not without NFL experience. Jaguars' coach Jack Del Rio knows what Smith can do from their days together on the staff of the New Orleans Saints.

Under former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, Jaguars receivers ran mostly short routes and quarterback Byron Leftwich rolled out of the pocket a lot. The attack also underused running back Fred Taylor. Under Smith, the Jags will feature a more vertical passing attack, with 6-foot-6 Leftwich sitting in the pocket where he belongs. Leftwich has a big arm and two young receivers with speed Reggie Williams and Matt Jones who should be able to catch the deep ball.

If the Jags can implement a legitimate vertical passing game, they will see fewer eight-man defensive fronts, which should open up good running lanes for Taylor. This will be a much more explosive offense in 2005.

Jim Fassel, Baltimore

Offensive coordinator

FasselNobody doubts Fassel's ability to teach offense. Last year, he worked with QB Kyle Boller as a consultant for the Ravens. This year, it will be his show.

Although head coach Brian Billick has a great offensive background and reputation, early reports say he is letting Fassel run the offense with little interference.

Fassel's offense likely will throw the ball more, especially on first and second down, to break away from the predictable pattern of the past few seasons. Fassel will try to keep defenses off balance and create favorable matchups with more exotic formations and plenty of movement before the snap. But his biggest contribution to the offense will come on Sundays when he calls the plays.

Eric Mangini, New England

Defensive coordinator

Mangini inherits a talented defense full of experienced players with great work habits and leadership. Still, filling Romeo Crennel's shoes is a big job.

Mangini moves from coaching the secondary to running the entire defense. Although he is young (34 years old), he has been with head coach Bill Belichick for nearly 10 years and knows this defense well. Don't look for many major changes in 2005 the Patriots might play more 4-3 fronts than a year ago because of their great defensive line depth and remember that Belichick is a defensive coach at heart and still will be heavily involved. But Mangini is well-respected on this team, and guys will play hard for him.

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the tandem of quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receiver Laveranues Coles could be lethal.

{from last year}

the tandem of quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receiver Justin McCareins could be lethal.

{from 2003}

the tandem of quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receiver Curtis Conway could be lethal.

#-o

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Mike Heimerdinger, N.Y. Jets

Offensive coordinator

That will change in 2005, as the offense will attack with a lot of vertical routes, and the tandem of quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receiver Laveranues Cole could be lethal. Heimerdinger believes that stretching defenses in the passing game also will open up the run game for Curtis Martin. The opposition will be hard-pressed to cheat, jump routes or load up in the box.

This gets my vote as the funniest piece written during the offseason.

Does this Bozo realize that PennyBoy is the QB? #-o

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