Take a look at part one of the NFL new head coaches word association series here. Now, it is time for part two.
Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers)- Odd- LaFleur is another bright young offensive mind. He played a part in turning around the Rams offense as coordinator two years ago and made a far less talented Titans offense passable in the same role last year. The issue is fit.
Reading between the lines, it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than Aaron Rodgers ran Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike McCarthy out of Green Bay last year. To have Rodgers in the greatest of all-time conversation is insane, but he is a future Hall of Famer.
Given what happened with McCarthy, what is to stop Rodgers from walking all over a rookie head coach like LaFleur? Nothing, especially if the season gets off to a bad start. Another proven head coach with a track record of winning was the only thing that would have made sense for this job.
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos)- Contrarian- This is the only word for this hire. The vast majority of the eight openings went to young offensive guys. However, John Elway and the Broncos hired a 60-year-old first-time head coach who has never been an assistant on the offensive side of the ball.
Fangio’s Bears defense was the key to that franchise’s turnaround last year. He has been employed as a defensive assistant in the NFL or college football every year since 1986. That means he knows what he is doing and deserves this chance, but Denver’s issues are mostly on offense. The Broncos zigged when the rest of the league zagged. Sometimes that works, sometimes it does not. This will be a fascinating hire to watch play out in comparison to the others.
Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Bucs)- Massive- Poor play and off-field choices have marked the first part of Jameis Winston’s career as Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback. He has to be running out of chances.
As an assistant, Arians had a hand in the early careers of Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. As a head coach, Arians helped resurrect the Colts franchise following Manning’s departure and got Arizona to the NFC title game. The 66-year-old is exceptional at what he does. If he can’t get and keep Winston moving in the right direction, no one can.
Arians has also brought in former Jets head coach Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator. Bowles never had much to work with in New York, but his teams were rarely terrible. He has been coaching in the NFL since 2000 and has a strong defensive background. He is a wise hire to start to fix a Bucs defense that was historically bad last year.
Drew Brees is not going to play forever. No one knows what to expect each year from Carolina and Atlanta. With the hiring of Arians, the Bucs could rule the NFC South within two years.
Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins) Desperate- The Dolphins are clearly out of ideas as far as competing with the Patriots in the AFC East. Considering New England has failed to win the division just once since 2003, it is tough to blame them.
Still hiring one of Bill Belichick’s assistants to run the whole show has rarely worked out for teams. Flores, in particular, called plays for a Patriots defense that wasn’t anything outstanding, with the sizeable exception of the postseason last year. Unfortunately for Miami, Flores is not bringing Tom Brady with him and New England’s dynasty is not built on some magic transferable pixy dust.