By: Mike Carr
Besides getting a high-end first round draft pick, the only exciting aspect of having a bad year for an NFL team is the possible acquisition of a new head coach. For the Falcons, Jets, and 49ers, their coaches will have no prior NFL head coaching experience.
On January 14th, the 49ers reached within their own system to hire defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, to take over the head coaching job. This is actually not the first time Tomsula has lead the 49ers. He took over for Mike Singletary in 2010 after Singletary was shown the door in the wake of the team’s 5-10 record going into the final week. He was replaced by Jim Harbaugh the following year and now he replaces Harbaugh after the now Michigan head coach was dismissed by 49ers last year. Tomsula helped San Francisco earn a 16th best defensive points per game NFL rank last year at 23.0, close to the NFL average. However, with the hiring of a defensive coach, the 49ers will need help on the offensive side of the ball where they were 25th in the league with 19.1 points scored on average last year. That is where Tomsula will need the help of Geep Chryst, the quarterback coach turned offensive coordinator. San Francisco should benefit from the emergence of Carlos Hyde, the second year running back out of Ohio State, who through two weeks has gained 211 yards from scrimmage, reaching the end zone twice. The 49ers offense under Chryst has been decent at best so far, scoring 20 and 18 points in a 1-1 start. The defense was stifling in a season opening win over Minnesota, but disappointing in a loss against Pittsburgh, giving up 43 points. How Tomsula will fare is uncertain so far as the team’s best performance is in the distant future.
Meanwhile, the New York Jets made good use of their offseason, inking Todd Bowles after the firing of longtime coach Rex Ryan. The Jets were in the market for a new head coach after a very disappointing 4-12 campaign last year. They got a good one in Todd Bowles, a highly sought-after head coaching prospect this offseason. Bowles boasts a very successful career as an assistant coach, most of which was served for the Dolphins and the Cardinals. Along with Tomsula, Bowles also served as an interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2011, posting a 2-1 record after Tony Sparano was fired. Bowles also received the honor of winning the inaugural AP Assistant Coach of the Year Award after the Cardinals only gave up 18.7 points per game with him at the controls of their defensive unit. The Jets defense didn’t give up many yards last year, however, they posted a 25.1 points given up mark, one of the worst in the league. The Jets offense needs some help as well. With Geno Smith out due to injury, the team relies on Ryan Fitzpatrick for the foreseeable future. The acquisition of veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall should help with this, though. The Jets hired former Bills offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to fill the same role for New York. The Jets are off to an impressive 2-0 start to the 2015 season, with a convincing 31-10 win over the Browns in Week 1, and a very impressive 20-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2. So far, Jets fans have to be ecstatic with Todd Bowles’s performance as they have already won half as many games as last year.
Last, but certainly not least, the Atlanta Falcons signed a new head coach for 2015 in Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn comes by way of the Seattle, where he was a coordinator for the past two years. Quinn was also in-demand as a head coaching prospect after the Seahawks had one of the best defenses in the NFL the past couple years after only allowing 14.4 points per game in 2013, and 15.9 points per game in 2014. They led the NFL in that category. Dan Quinn was a popular candidate for a couple of teams as he was considered the man for the open job in Chicago before he was inked with the Falcons. Along with two great years with Seattle, Quinn spent many years as a college assistant, mostly at Florida and Hofstra, as well as many years as an NFL assistant for the 49ers, Dolphins and Jets. Atlanta is in need of major help on the defensive side of the ball, giving up 26.1 points per game last year, one of the worst in the league. Their offense was much better last year, scoring 23.8 points per game. The Falcons hired a big name in Kyle Shanahan to be the offensive coordinator. Shanahan worked the same position for the Browns last year. Dan Quinn’s Falcons have looked impressive to start the year with two wins over the Giants and the Eagles. The Falcons new and improved defense has been solid so far, holding Eli Manning’s Giants to only 20 points, and Chip Kelly’s good Philly offense to 24 points. Only time will tell if Quinn can lead this Atlanta team to the playoffs this year.
So far, the three young coaches have proved themselves worthy of their positions. However, the season is young and Tomsula, Bowles and Quinn still have a lot to prove.