2021 NFL Coaching Changes

It's that time again to dive into the NFL coaching changes and highlight the head coaches and offensive coordinator movement and how it affects fantasy. This year we have seven new head coaches and a total of 13 new offensive coordinators. Let’s breakdown each team starting with the head coaches, share their past experience, the 2020 offensive production and the fantasy implications.

Atlanta Falcons

Head Coach: Arthur Smith — replacing Dan Quinn & Raheem Morris

  • Tennessee Titans– Offensive Coordinator (2019-2020)

Offensive Coordinator: Dave Ragone — replacing Dirk Koetter

  • Chicago Bears QB Coach & Passing Game Coordinator (2016-2020)

There should be some caution with Smith and he could easily be out the door in a couple of years with an aging core of players in Atlanta. How much does Julio Jones and Matt Ryan have left in the tank? The big fix for Smith will be the dysfunctional Atlanta run game which sputtered down the stretch with Todd Gurley II. His offenses in Tennessee relied on efficiency, zone-run schemes, and play-action passing. Ryan Tannehill, despite being 30th in total pass attempts, had the 4th most play-action dropbacks in the NFL. On the other hand, Matt Ryan had the most dropbacks in NFL but ranked 16th in Play-Action rate.

Detroit Lions

Head Coach: Dan Campbell replacing Matt Patricia

  • New Orleans Saints – Assistant head coach/Tight-Ends coach (2016-2020)

  • Miami Dolphins– Interim Head Coach (2015)

Offensive Coordinator: Anthony Lynn — replacing Darrell Bevell

  • Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach (2017-2020)

Matt Patricia seemed doomed from the start of the season and he was ousted after Week 12 finishing his tenure in Detroit with a .314 winning percentage and the stench of a failed former Patriots coach. This defense was bullied all season long allowing the most points per game (32.4) including the most passing AND rushing TDs allowed… which is a hard feat to accomplish. The Lions are now in complete rebuild mode with a new coach Dan Campbell who seems bent on wanting to kick his opponents in the “kneecaps” by running the ball. This tough guy approach is something that won’t work for too long especially if you’re losing by 21. Matthew Stafford had his moments but after battling through nagging injuries for most of the year, the team agreed to mutually part ways with the gutty veteran by trading him to the Rams in exchange for a boatload of picks and fellow former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. Perhaps the most disappointing player in 2020 was the absence of impending free agent Kenny Golladay, who played in only five games. The Lions could franchise tag him at $16.4 million but this team is going nowhere. If you want some positivity, De’Andre Swift looks like the first dynamic back in Detroit worth hyping up since Barry Sanders and a top-15 RB for fantasy given his pass-catching pedigree. But apart from Swift and T.J. Hockenson, who will be on this team in 2021?

Jacksonville Jaguars

Head Coach: Urban Meyer — replacing Doug Marrone

  • College- 17 Years, Ohio State (2012-2018), Florida (2005-2010), Utah (2003-2004), Bowling Green (2001-2002)

Offensive Coordinator: Darrell Bevell — replacing Jay Gruden

  • Detroit Lions– Offensive Coordinator (2019-2020)

  • Seattle Seahawks– Offensive Coordinator (2011-2017)

  • Minnesota Vikings– Offensive Coordinator (2006-2010)

Urban Meyer takes over as head coach bringing a winning mentality everywhere he coached at the collegiate level. Trevor Lawrence finds himself in a situation where he can be effective early on with Darrell Bevell showing that he’s adapting his playcalling style based on the talent in front of him, rather than a set scheme. D.J. Chark Jr hopefully gets a re-do in 2021. Meyer has always utilized versatile WRs (think Percy Harvin) all over the field and Laviska Shenault Jr. fits that bill. James Robinson had the greatest season ever for an undrafted free-agent as the RB4 before missing the final two games. The Jaguars still need a complete makeover on defense so expect much of their Day 2 and 3 draft picks to focus on the defensive side of the ball.

Los Angeles Chargers

Head Coach: Brandon Staley — replacing Anthony Lynn

  • Los Angeles Rams– Defensive Coordinator (2020)

  • Denver Broncos– LB Coach (2019)

  • Chicago Bears– LB Coach (2017-2018)

Offensive Coordinator: Joe Lombardi — replacing Shane Steichen

  • New Orleans Saints– QB Coach (2016-2020)

  • Detroit Lions– Offensive Coordinator (2014-2015)

  • New Orleans Saints– QB Coach (2009-2013)

Among the various coaching changes, this one might be the best real football move as the Chargers always have had a talented bunch especially on the defensive side of the ball. Staley is hoping that his core of studs (Derwin James and Joey Bosa) can stay healthy enough to make a run in the AFC. He has a young QB in Justin Herbert who put together arguably the best rookie season ever at the position. The big question mark is Joe Lombardi. Early interviews mentioned playing “up-tempo” but there is some concern that this offense, at least for fantasy, might take a step back in 2021 due to the team as a whole being more competitive. When Lombardi was Detroit’s OC, his teams ranked 4th & 12th in pass attempts.

New York Jets

Head Coach: Robert Saleh — replacing Adam Gase

  • San Francisco 49ers- Defensive Coordinator (2017-2020)

Offensive Coordinator: Mike LaFleur — replacing Dowell Loggains

  • San Francisco 49ers– Passing Game Coordinator (2017-2020)

Everyone loves Saleh and his players rave about his intensity and tactical acumen as a defensive coach. He brings a solid winning pedigree to the Jets, who must clean off the stench of the Adam Gase years. LaFleur is from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree and like his brother, he has years of experiencing running effective offensive systems. If the run game concepts translate across the country in New York and the Jets draft someone valuable at the RB position, it could potentially bring some fantasy value. This team needs a complete offensive makeover as you can see across the board how bad they were in 2020. Is Sam Darnold the QB or do the Jets take a youngster at #2 overall?

Philadelphia Eagles

Head Coach: Nick Sirianni — replacing Doug Pederson

  • Indianapolis Colts– Offensive Coordinator (2018-2020)

  • San Diego Chargers- QB/WR Coach (2013-2017)

Offensive Coordinator: Shane Steichen — Eagles did not have an OC in 2020

  • Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Coordinator (2020)

  • Los Angeles Chargers QB Coach (2017-2019)

The Eagles tried to get as close a thing to Frank Reich so Sirianni is a great consolation. Steichen also has success last year with not being afraid to utilize downfield concepts with rookie Justin Herbert/ Sirianni said he picked Steichen due to his success with the young QB which hopefully can translate to Jalen Hurts if he’s the starter. Nevertheless, this team needs to add some playmakers in the draft and free agency to make that viable. Overall, the Eagles are in store for a bounce-back, at least for fantasy, in 2021.

Houston Texans

Head Coach: David Culley — replacing Bill O’Brien & Romeo Crennel

  • Baltimore Ravens– Assistant head coach, wide receivers coach & passing game coordinator (2019-2020)

  • Coaching in the NFL since 1994 (TB, PIT, PHI, KC, BUF, BAL)

Culley is the oldest (65 years old) first-time head coach in NFL history. He finds himself in easily the worst situation in the NFL: a QB who doesn’t want to play for them, the face of the franchise out the door, almost no draft capital, and very little talent on both sides of the ball. Culley’s resume as the Ravens passing game was mocked for conservative play-calling in playoffs. He also presided in Kansas City when the Chiefs famously had ZERO WR TDs(!) for an entire season. Andy Reid approves of him so perhaps we shouldn’t rush too much to judgment. But this has all the makings of a rough 2021 season for the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Coordinator: Marcus Brady — replacing Nick Sirianni

  • Indianapolis Colts– Quarterbacks coach (2019-20) & assistant quarterbacks coach (2018)

We can expect much of the same in Indianapolis with Frank Reich ultimately calling the shots. For all the shade thrown Philip Rivers‘ way, the offense was efficient in 2020. The offensive line is elite and with newly acquired Carson Wentz at the helm., the Colts can be in the playoff picture again despite a few makeovers. RB Jonathan Taylor was on fire over the last two months and looks like a surefire 1st round pick in 2021 fantasy drafts. The biggest question mark is possibly restocking both outside WR spots.

Miami Dolphins

Offensive Coordinator: Eric Studesville & George Godsey — replacing Chan Gailey

  • Eric Studesville – Miami Dolphins running backs coach and run game coordinator in 2020

  • George Godsey- Miami Dolphins TE coach (2019 & 2020)

Is this a “too many cooks” in the kitchen situation? Studs & Godsey sounds like a cop duo. Jokes aside, Chan Gailey was booted out the door because he preferred Ryan Fitzpatrick while the organization wanted to transition Tua Tagovailoa in as the starter. It was mostly disappointing for the 5th overall pick. Co-coordinators is an interesting situation as the head coach (Brian Flores) is a defensive guy so ultimately whoever is the play-caller will have to improve the Dolphins subpar passing attack as this franchise has the draft capital and the talent to knock on the door of the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Coordinator: Klint Kubiak — replacing Gary Kubiak

  • Minnesota Vikings QB Coach (2019-2020)

  • Denver Broncos Offensive Assistant & QB Coach (2016-2018)

There isn’t much analysis needed here. Could we get a more one-to-one comparison? The offense has a relatively clear target pecking order with two elite WRs, a production monster with Dalvin Cook, and likely the emergence of third-year TE Irv Smith Jr. The Kubes offense is bent on running the ball and throwing with efficiency as Kirk Cousins quietly had the best season of his career. The Vikings, with some improvement on the defensive side of the ball, look like they’re in contention for a playoff spot in 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive Coordinator: Matt Canada — replacing Randy Fichtner

  • Pittsburgh Steelers– QB Coach (2020)

It’s almost a formality at this point as Ben Roethlisberger truly runs the show. The pass attempts were probably a bit higher than they wanted because the run game was so atrocious. The Steelers were the last unbeaten team in the NFL starting 11-0 before stumbling down the stretch as the offense ran out of steam. Expect a bit more balance but who leads the backfield is still a question moving into free agency.

San Francisco 49ers

Offensive Coordinator: Mike McDaniel — HC Kyle Shanahan did not have an OC in 2020

  • San Francisco 49ers– Run Game Coordinator (2017-2020)

We know exactly what this offense is about and honestly, Kyle Shanahan is still calling the shots. Despite the massive number of injuries, the 49ers RB collective still scored the 3rd most combined fantasy points.

Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Coordinator: Shane Waldron — replacing Brian Schottenheimer

  • Los Angeles Rams– Passing Game Coordinator (2018-2020)

Waldron is likely living off the McVay musk. He’s quoted as saying there’s “’philosophical alignment’ with Pete Carroll” and Russell Wilson reportedly was in on the hiring process for Waldron and approved. Regardless, this team wants to run the ball despite Russ being an absolute game-changer. We’ll see how the rest of the offseason plays out but expect the same in Seattle.

Tennessee Titans

Offensive Coordinator: Todd Downing — replacing Arthur Smith

  • Tennessee Titans– TE coach (2019-2020)

  • Oakland Raiders Offensive Coordinator (2017)

How much of the Titans’ success is due to Arthur Smith and how much is simply from the fact that Derrick Henry is an outlier? The Tennessee offense is fixated on zone runs and play-action passing so don’t expect that to change. However, it is worth noting how Tennessee was off the charts efficient with Arthur Smith. Being 30th in pass attempts but 8th in pass TDs is hard to do. The Titans beat their win expectation by 1.9 so a couple of factors are working against them in 2021. Downing’s one-year stint as the Raiders OC didn’t go so hot as Derek Carr took a step back after an MVP-caliber 2016 season.