Having the head coach as a coordinator


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One story that will continue to develop around here as we get closer to the season will involve the “coordinator-less” look of the coaching staff.

We’ll assume Bill O’Brien is de facto offensive coordinator. And to this point Bill Belichick has been acting as defensive coordinator, running the defensive meetings as one in that position does.

So is that a big deal? This won’t be the last time we look at this. But I thought it’d be worth taking a look at how other teams have done with the HFC running one side of the ball or the other.

It can be tricky identifying what is what when it comes to this subject, since every staff has different dynamics on it. But I felt like I could come up with eight nine teams where the head coach was calling the plays, and handled a lot of “coordinator duties”. Here’s how the units run by those coaches did:

Arizona offense (Ken Whisenhunt): 14th
Chicago defense (Lovie Smith): 17th*
Dallas defense (Wade Phillips): 9th
Denver offense (Josh McDaniels): 15th
Green Bay offense (Mike McCarthy): 6th
Kansas City offense (Todd Haley): 25th
New Orleans offense (Sean Payton): 1st
Jets defense (Rex Ryan): 1st
San Diego offense (Norv Turner): 10th

(* — Thanks to my old colleague Todd Archer for bringing Smith up after seeing this list)

All those situations were different, of course. Haley ran the Chiefs offense after parting ways with OC Chan Gailey in September, just before the season, and has since ceded that control to Charlie Weis. Whisenhunt took over play-calling duties with Arizona after Haley’s departure. For Ryan and Payton, it’s just the way they chose to do it, while Phillips shook up his staff’s power structure after 2008 ended poorly for Dallas.

But look at that group — Six playoff teams, five divisional-round qualifiers, two conference finalists, and the Super Bowl champion. Clearly, it’s doable.


The key? Well, listen to Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo, who now says he wished he’d done it the way Phillips did it last year when he was a head coach.

Campo says the important thing is not just having confidence in the guy on the other side of the ball, but the whole staff.

“You have to be in charge of the game management as well as what’s going on defensively,” Campo said. “Part of it goes to the confidence you have in the offensive coordinator to be able to do things. But the other part is, you have to have the confidence in your assistants so when they come to the sidelines, that the assistant coaches are going over the adjustments and you don’t have to be there every second talking about what’s going on.

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“Then you can do it, and that’s what (Phillips) has here. He’s got guys that have an awful lot of experience on both sides of the ball and he can make his calls and still game-manage.”

So that puts plenty on O’Brien’s plate (remember Phillips has Jason Garrett; McDaniels had Mike Nolan last year; Payton has Gregg Williams; and Ryan has Brian Schottenheimer), but also position coaches Pepper Johnson, Matt Patricia, Corwin Brown and Josh Boyer to run the sideline while Belichick is “head coaching” when the defense isn’t on the field.

We’ll have more on this in the days to come, and most certainly keep an eye on that staff dynamic at OTAs tomorrow.