4 min read

New Coordinators At Disadvantage If Players Skip OTAs

With the NFL Players Association recommending that its members not show up for in-person offseason training activities, there are a host of resulting issues. Last week, Joe Banner wrote about the greater potential for injuries. And while all 32 NFL teams must deal with players skipping out on OTAs, it is not a level playing field.

Not having a full complement of players at the facility will be a bigger concern for teams that are entering the 2021 season with new offensive or defensive coordinators.

“I think it would impact them greatly,” said veteran offensive coach Jim Bob Cooter, who was most recently the Jets running backs coach in 2109-2020. “If I were a first-year coordinator right now and I was trying to install an offense during this portion of the yearly calendar, it would be really important to me.

"Not just for teaching – because you’re gonna have your meetings over Zoom or however they end up doing it – but just getting out, executing the plays, lining up. Some of the stuff nobody thinks about. Just going through the cadence, and the linemen hearing the cadence and everybody getting off at the same time. Those things are huge.”

There are 19 teams that have at least one new coordinator, including seven – the teams with new head coaches – that have new hires at both offensive and defensive coordinator.

Each situation is different. In San Francisco, for example, there won’t be much “new” about new offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel. He’s been with the team since 2017 and has worked with head coach Kyle Shanahan for 13 years. On the other hand, former 49ers OC Mike LaFleur will be starting from scratch in his new role with the Jets.

“If you’re putting in a brand new scheme, starting from scratch, it puts a first-year coordinator at a pretty big disadvantage,” said Cooter.

Cooter was the Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks coach in 2015 when he was elevated to offensive coordinator in midseason. Even though he had half a season as OC under his belt, Cooter said it was the spring of 2016 when he really put in new terminology and worked on bigger changes. “That time was so valuable for me,” he said, noting things would have been that much harder to do with poor player attendance.

“It puts you behind a little when you get to training camp."

According to veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the concern isn’t so much teaching new concepts as it is getting a feel for what the players are learning.

“Some teaching can be done without players being at your facility,” Phillips said. “But it is hard to get feedback as to how they're grasping your teaching if they are not present -- just to be able to walk through calls and alignments is important.”

The challenge, Phillips said, is for new coordinators to teach and install their new schemes in a condensed time frame. Knowing that less can be accomplished during OTAs, that puts more importance on being as efficient as possible at training camp.

“Can you start in training camp with your system and put it all in and have it taught well by the season start?” said Phillips. “That is a big task for young coordinators, especially with very complicated schemes.”

Assuming teams with new coordinators might be at a disadvantage when the season begins, it will be interesting to see the Week 1 results. Looking at the schedule, there are two games in Week 1 that feature a team with two new coordinators facing a team with no new coordinators: Chargers at Washington and Jets at Carolina. Will the home teams have an added advantage in those games? We’ll see.

Here’s a rundown of the new offensive and defensive coordinators for 2021:

Team New Offensive Coordinator New Defensive Coordinator
Atlanta Falcons Dave Rangone Dean Pees
Chicago Bears Sean Desai
Dallas Cowboys Dan Quinn
Detroit Lions Anthony Lynn Aaron Glenn
Green Bay Packers Joe Barry
Houston Texans Lovie Smith
Indianapolis Colts Marcus Brady
Jacksonville Jaguars Darrell Bevell Joe Cullen
Las Vegas Raiders Gus Bradley
Los Angeles Chargers Joe Lombardi Renaldo Hill
Los Angeles Rams Raheem Morris
Miami Dolphins Studesville/Godfrey
Minnesota Vikings Klint Kubiak
New York Jets Mike LaFleur Jeff Ulbrich
Philadelpjhia Eagles Shane Steichen Jonathan Gannon
Pittsburgh Steelers Matt Canada
San Francisco 49ers Mike McDaniel DeMeco Ryans
Seattle Seahawks Shane Waldrron
Tennessee Titans Todd Downing