Breakdown: 2015 Offensive Coaching Changes
Mike Clay examines the impact of each offseason coaching change on the offensive side of the ball.
Breakdown: 2015 Offensive Coaching Changes
After watching the same offensive scheme for several years, it’s rarely easy to erase that from our memory when evaluating the fantasy prospects of players after a coaching change. A fine example is New York, where run-heavy Rex Ryan is out and balanced Chan Gailey and his spread offense are in. Down below is an examination of each of the 12 offseason coaching changes on the offensive side of the ball, as well as, the fantasy impact of each move.
Jets Offensive Coordinator – Chan Gailey
After years of run-heavy football under defensive-minded Rex Ryan, the Jets will operate a balanced offense under new coordinator Chan Gailey this season. Gailey has been around the block, coaching at the NFL and collegiate level since 1974. His recent NFL experience includes a year as the Chiefs offense coordinator in 2008 and a three-year stint as the Bills head coach from 2010-12. Gailey operates a spread offense and a look at his time with Buffalo can help us understand what to expect from the New York offense.
Gailey had his third wide receiver on the field 85 percent of the time in Buffalo. The league-wide average was 61 percent and, although that rate rose to 70 percent in 2014, 85 percent would’ve been the league’s fourth-highest mark. The Jets acquired Brandon Marshall during the offseason, which suggests he’ll join Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Jace Amaro and a tailback in the team’s base offense package. Gailey’s Buffalo offenses weren’t overly productive, but they were also short playmakers and pedestrian Ryan Fitzpatrick handled 94 percent of the quarterback snaps. Interestingly, the Bills scored exactly 24 passing touchdowns and averaged 7.0 yards per aimed throw during each of Gailey’s three seasons. Fitzpatrick was fantasy’s No. 17 scoring quarterback in 2010 (in 13 games), 12th in 2011, and 17th in 2012.
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s tailbacks benefited from Gailey’s presence. Led by Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the unit averaged 4.8 yards per carry and handled 20 percent of the team’s targets. A boost in targets for tailbacks and wide receivers came at the expense of the tight end position, but Scott Chandler was the team’s primary tight end during most of Gailey’s tenure. New York’s underwhelming quarterback situation remains a concern, but Marshall, Decker and Amaro shouldn’t have much trouble racking up a significant number of targets this season. Although he will remain busy on early downs and at the goal line, Chris Ivory’s limitations as a receiver will cost him valuable opportunities in this offense.
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Broncos Head Coach – Gary Kubiak
Fired after eight years as the head coach in Houston, Kubiak latched on as Baltimore’s offense coordinator last season. Saying he worked wonders would be an understatement. The Baltimore offense scored 43 touchdowns (seventh most in the league) after managing 26 the previous season. Ravens tailbacks averaged 3.0 yards per carry and scored six rushing touchdowns in 2013. Those marks vaulted to 4.8 and 14, respectively. After putting up a 19:22 TD:INT mark and finishing 19th among quarterbacks in fantasy points in 2013, Joe Flacco enjoyed a 27:12 mark and finished 13th last season.
The league-wide trend is heavier usage of the No. 3 wide receiver, but Kubiak has not followed suit. Kubiak kept a fullback or second tight end extremely busy during his time in both Houston and Baltimore. Denver had its third wide receiver on the field for 80 percent of its passing plays last season. That was fifth-highest in the league. Baltimore ranked 30th at 53 percent. This is potentially bad news for emerging Cody Latimer and makes him a less appealing mid-round selection. Kubiak may adjust his scheme a bit, but there’s no doubt Latimer takes a hit as a result of the coaching change. Owen Daniels, on the other hand, is a borderline TE1 option.
Kubiak has called a run heavy game over the past five seasons, but Flacco and Matt Schaub handled most of the team’s dropbacks. With Peyton Manning under center, expect a balanced attack, but Denver does figure to be on the run-heavy side of the league thanks to plenty of second-half leads. It should be clear by now, but Kubiak’s arrival is good news for lead back C.J. Anderson, who makes for an intriguing pick early in the second round of fantasy drafts.
Bills Offensive Coordinator – Greg Roman
After four years operating a run-heavy offense under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, Roman joins up with Rex Ryan in Buffalo. Both the Jets (under Ryan) and the 49ers (under Roman) have been extremely run heavy over the past few seasons, and we shouldn’t expect that to change in Buffalo. That’s especially the case when you consider the team’s offseason personnel moves. Buffalo acquired feature back LeSean McCoy, fullback Jerome Felton, tight end Charles Clay and multidimensional Percy Harvin, while adding only placeholder options Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Coupled with a strong defense, this is a team built to run the football early and often.
As you might have imagined, a lot of running has led to plenty of fullback and tight end usage by both coaches. The Jets ranked 28th and the 49ers 25th in three-plus wide receiver sets on pass plays last season. That’s been a trend for both coaches over the past half-decade, which is bad news for the fantasy prospects of third-year wide receiver Robert Woods. Third in line at the position, behind Sammy Watkins and Harvin, Woods’ snap total is going to take a hit this season. He’s an uninspiring late-round flier in this offense.
Running backs have struggled to find targets under both Roman and Ryan. This suggests that we shouldn’t expect much of an uptick in targets for McCoy. That’s especially the case with Fred Jackson, who is obviously in for a big dip in touches, expected to be involved on passing downs.
Falcons Offensive Coordinator – Kyle Shanahan
Coordinating since 2008, Shanahan has had stints with Houston (2008-09), Washington (2010-13) and Cleveland (2014). It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, as he helped Matt Schaub (2009) and Robert Griffin (2012) to strong seasons (both finished fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy points those years), but he hasn’t had much success otherwise. Shanahan’s offenses have averaged 2.2 touchdowns per game, which is below the 2.4 league average. He’s called a run-heavy game the past three years, but that was with Griffin and Brian Hoyer handling most of the snaps at quarterback. He leaned more heavily on the pass earlier on, which is something we may see again with Matt Ryan now at the controls. He’s also said he’ll run an up-tempo offense in Atlanta. Of course, the Falcons have operated one of the league’s pass-heaviest offenses over the past few seasons, so it’s fair to project a downtick in throws for Ryan the season.
Shanahan has been fairly balanced when it comes to personnel usage, but he doesn’t use his running backs in the passing game very often. That’s especially been the case the past three seasons, with wide receivers benefiting at the running backs expense. This is certainly good news for Julio Jones and Roddy White, but takes some steam out of the Devonta Freeman hype train.
Bears Offensive Coordinator – Adam Gase
After two years running Denver’s offense, Gase followed John Fox to Chicago during the offseason. Gase called a pass-heavy game during both seasons in Denver, but his offenses showed up fairly balanced in the box score thanks to a hefty amount of second-half leads. Denver also ran a ton of plays and scored touchdowns at will, but it’s no secret that Peyton Manning was a significant factor in both departments.
Gase had his third wide receiver on the field on 80 percent of the team’s pass plays during both seasons with Denver. Only Green Bay and Miami had a higher mark during the two-year span. Assuming Gase will utilize a similar strategy in Chicago, the team figures to add to its wide receiver stable after shipping Brandon Marshall to New York. As it stands, Alshon Jeffrey and Marquess Wilson are the team’s top outside receivers, with Eddie Royal manning the slot.
Under Gase, Denver’s target distribution shows slightly below average running back and tight end usage and a solid boost in looks for wide receivers. Although they’re sure to remain heavily involved, Martellus Bennett (90 receptions) and Matt Forte (102) are unlikely to match their receiving numbers from 2014.
Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator – Dirk Koetter
After a five-year stint as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator, Koetter spent the past three seasons running Atlanta’s offense. Interestingly, both Jacksonville and Atlanta averaged 2.8 offensive touchdowns per game in Koetter’s first season with the team, but failed to match that mark during the remainder of his tenure. Koetter leaned on the run during a majority of his time with Jacksonville, but switched gears completely under Mike Smith in Atlanta. He called pass a hefty 67 percent of the time with Atlanta.
There aren’t any overly-intriguing trends when it comes to the target distributions of Koetter’s offense, but he does seem to lean a bit toward getting the tailback a few extra targets out of the backfield at the expense of his wide receivers. Like Julio Jones and Roddy White in Atlanta, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans won’t struggle for targets, but this is a little bit of good news for projected passing-down back Charles Sims.
Koetter went heavy on four-wide receiver sets last season (only Arizona used more), but he had almost never used the package previously in his coordinating career. The adjustment can be attributed to the team’s underwhelming tight end unit after it lost Tony Gonzalez last offseason. Koetter has favored the ‘11’ package – one tailback, one tight end, three wide receivers – throughout his career, which suggests breakout candidate Austin Seferian-Jenkins won’t struggle to find snaps and that the team will be looking for another wide receiver in the draft.
Ravens Offensive Coordinator – Marc Trestman
After two years as the head coach in Chicago, Trestman replaces Gary Kubiak as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. Trestman had stints with eight NFL teams prior to Chicago, and spent the 2008-12 seasons as the head coach of the CFL’s Montréal Alouettes. In terms of personnel usage, Trestman didn’t give us much to get excited about while in Chicago. He was right at league average in multiple tight end sets and in the usage of three wide sets. Both he and Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh has already said that Trestman will adapt to Kubiak’s offensive scheme that was successful last season, so it’s fair to expect the team to continue leaning heavily on a second tight end and/or a fullback.
Although he was fired after only two seasons, Chicago didn’t struggled to score points under Trestman. The team averaged 2.6 offensive scores per game, which is above the 2.4 league average. Trestman leaned slightly toward the pass and 75 percent of the team’s scores were through the air, which is well above the 65 percent league average. Trestman has a reputation as a coach who likes to feed his running backs with targets, but he was only slightly above average in the category in Chicago. That may seem silly after Matt Forte caught 102 balls, but he was extremely efficient and responsible for 118 (or 94 percent) of the 125 targets to Bears tailbacks. You don’t see that very often. Forte led all tailbacks in snaps each of Trestman’s two seasons in Chicago, and although that’s certainly not bad news for Baltimore lead back Justin Forsett, he’s not quite as good as Forte and turns 30 in October.
Jaguars Offensive Coordinator – Greg Olson
Dead last in offensive scoring last season, the Jaguars unsurprisingly made a change in coordinator. In steps Olson, who has coordinated four different NFL offenses since 2004, including Oakland’s the past two seasons. Olson’s offenses have not had much success as of late. Over the past eight years, he’s averaging 1.7 touchdowns per game, which, for perspective, would’ve ranked as the league’s third-lowest mark last season. Of course, it’s slightly higher than Jacksonville’s 2014 mark of 1.5.
A look at Olson’s recent play-calling shows an attempt for balance, but lots of second-half passing as a result of deficits. His offenses have also been below average in plays per game each of his past five seasons as a coordinator. A look at target distribution under Olson shows a lot of volatility. He was heavy on tight end usage while with Tampa Bay, but those were the exact three years Kellen Winslow was a featured target in that offense. Olson was heavy on fullback usage with Oakland, but that was simply a result of Marcel Reece’s presence. The team’s wide receiver units suffered in both situations, but with Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and likely Justin Blackmon, wide receiver figures to be a strength for Jacksonville. Winslow’s usage is a bit of good news for Julius Thomas’ target numbers.
Prior to his time with Reece, Olson used plenty of the ‘11’ package on passing downs. Based on the current construction of Jacksonville’s offense, it’s fair to expect quite a bit of that in 2015. As it stands, that would mean a base offensive package that includes Thomas, Robinson, Blackmon, Lee and Denard Robinson. Of course, if Marcedes Lewis sticks on the final roster, he’s sure to force more multi-tight end packages. This would cost Lee and Hurns valuable reps.
It’s also worth noting that Doug Marrone signed on as the team’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Marrone ran New Orleans’ offense from 2006-08 before taking over Syracuse’s head coach in 2009. He spent the last two seasons as the Bills head coach. Although Marrone won’t run the offense, it’s fair to expect some influence. He was heavy on three-wide sets in Buffalo, and was well above average in targets to his tailbacks. That led to a noticeable downtick in throws to the wide receiver.
Raiders Offensive Coordinator – Bill Musgrave
Musgrave takes over as Oakland’s offense coordinator after spending the past 16 years with seven different teams, including a brief stint with the University of Virginia. Most recently, Musgrave was the quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. His most recent coordinator post was with Minnesota from 2011-13. Although Musgrave obviously has a lengthy coaching resume, one has to wonder if Kelly rubbed off on him a bit, not unlike how Bill Lazor overhauled the Miami offense last season after spending 2013 as Kelly’s quarterbacks coach. Musgrave has said Oakland will operate an up-tempo offense, which, of course, is a staple in Philadelphia.
During his time in Minnesota, Musgrave leaned on his running game, which is no surprise considering that Adrian Peterson was on the roster. Of course, new head coach Jack Del Rio also has a lengthy resume of run-heavy football, so it’s fair to expect the same philosophy in Oakland. The presence of Musgrave and Del Rio is good news for the fantasy prospects of Latavius Murray, who is well worth a look as a RB2. Musgrave’s target distribution was relatively balanced in Minnesota, but he leaned slightly away from throwing to the tailback in favor of a few extra targets for his wide receivers.
Musgrave made heavy use of his fullback in Minnesota and will do the same with Marcel Reece in Oakland. This is obviously bad news for Oakland’s No. 3 wide receiver. Currently, Rod Streater, James Jones and Andre Holmes are competing for the top two spots, but Oakland is a strong bet to add an impact wide receiver via the draft.
49ers Offensive Coordinator – Geep Chryst
Like new head coach Jim Tomsula, Chryst was an in-house hire, having served as San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach since 2011. Prior to that, he had stints as an assistant with Arizona and Chicago, and coordinated San Diego’s offense during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. The PFF database only goes back to 2007, and we don’t really want to be drawing many conclusions from Cryst’s 15-year-old play-calling. For what it’s worth, both of his San Diego offenses struggled badly, ranking near the basement of the league in most offensive categories. That all being said, the franchise’s in-house hires suggests we should expect continuity on the offensive side of the football. With Colin Kaepernick under center, this is a team that will want to run the football. This is good news for potential breakout Carlos Hyde and certainly for Kaepernick, who is expected to be utilized more often on designed runs.
Browns Offensive Coordinator – Joe DeFilippo
DeFilippo replaces Kyle Shanahan as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator. DeFilippo has been coaching since 2000, but has primarily worked as a quarterbacks coach. This will be his first coordinator post. Cleveland did not change head coaches, so we shouldn’t expect a major offensive overall. Defensive-minded headman Mike Pettine, as well as, the team’s underwhelming quarterback situation will mean a continued effort to run the football. As has been the case for quite some time now, Cleveland figures to struggle offensively and a majority of their offensive skill position players will be safe to avoid on draft day.
Rams Offensive Coordinator – Frank Cignetti Jr.
After spending the previous three seasons as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Cignetti was promoted to the offensive coordinator post during the offseason. Cignetti has had several offensive coordinator jobs in the past, but all were at the collegiate level. He was the quality control coach in Kansas City in 1999, and coached New Orleans’ quarterbacks in 2000-01 and the San Francisco passers in 2007. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has a lengthy history of leaning heavily on the run and that something we should expect to continue this season. Nick Foles seems destined to settle in as a back-end NFL starter, which suggests this is not an offense that will score a significant number of points. However, Fisher’s resume is good news for the fantasy prospects of Tre Mason, who is a candidate to touch the ball 300 times.
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