With the 2020 season now past the halfway point, we are seeing a fairly clear picture of the shape of each NFL team. Fans and GMs alike have had time now to assess how their new offseason additions have fared over the course of the first nine weeks of the season. There are nine offensive coordinators who were hired prior to the 2020 season. Half a season should be enough to assess the changes these coaches have implemented.
Despite offseason turmoil and unpredictability, the impact these coaches have had on their new offenses has been largely positive. While the roles of these nine coaches vary from team to team, it is safe to say that a significant part of the successes or failures of the offense can be attributed to the offensive coordinators.
The above chart shows the of the scoring and yards per game differentials from 2019 to 2020, and it illustrates the effectiveness some of these new hires have had. Seven of the nine new offensive coordinator hires have brought improvements both in terms of yards per game and points per game.
Chan Gailey and the Miami Dolphins have been one of the most improved teams in the NFL this year and it’s showing up on the scoreboard. The Dolphins are averaging 27.8 points per game this year, up from 19.1 last year. This is due to improvement in a number of key categories, such as red-zone efficiency and scoring percentage. Last year the Dolphins scored a touchdown on 56% of red-zone possessions and that has increased to 65% this year. The Dolphins are also much improved in percent of drives ending in a score. In 2019, only 30% of Dolphins drives ended in points, which has increased to 43% this year. They have increased their scoring by over a touchdown in just a year, without a dramatic increase in yards gained per game. This efficiency that Gailey has brought to the Dolphins offense has helped the Dolphins keep their playoff hopes alive.
Another team that’s shown significant improvement is the Cleveland Browns. The hirings of OC Alex Van Pelt, head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive line Bill Callahan have totally shifted the philosophy of the Browns’ offense. This year has been all about the power run game. In the age of passing, the Browns are running the ball more often than they are throwing and doing so effectively. Their 5.0 yards per carry is fourth-best in the NFL. Also fourth-best in the NFL is their red-zone efficiency at 76%, which has improved greatly since last year. Last year scoring in the red zone was a problem at times and now has turned into one of their greatest strengths as a team. The 5 point per game increase in scoring has been executed with only a 6 yard per game increase. This is due to the emphasis they have placed on the rushing attack.
Only one of these new hires hasn’t been able to improve either the scoring or total offense. While the Giants have faced injuries on their offensive line and to star running back Saquon Barkley, Jason Garrett has not been able to cash in on the explosion of offense the rest of the league is experiencing this season. Other teams with new offensive coordinators have faced injury problems while still finding ways to produce, so this does not excuse the Giants from their lackadaisical start. The Giants are averaging under 300 yards and 20 points per game this season, and second-year quarterback Daniel Jones is actually playing worse than he did a year ago by just about every measure. The main concern in Jones’ rookie year was turnovers. This year he is averaging two turnovers per game.
These offensive coordinators are of course still very new in their roles and have been hindered by a lack of offseason. The first half of the season has been very promising, as seven of the nine new offensive coordinators have seen an increase in scoring and yardage, and the fans and front offices of these teams should be hopeful for more growth in the second half of the season and beyond.