NFL offensive coordinators may be even more important for fantasy football prognostication than a team’s head coach. In our coaching changes series, we have discussed offensive coordinator changes for the following teams:
- Buffalo Bills
- Denver Broncos
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Los Angeles Rams
- Los Angeles Chargers
- San Francisco 49ers
Three teams did not change head coaches but were met with turnover at the OC spot.
Offensive architect Kyle Shanahan defected for a top job in San Francisco, which led to Atlanta hiring Steve Sarkisian as his replacement. The former USC and Washington coach spent exactly one game — a losing effort in an otherwise sparkling season — as Alabama’s offensive coordinator before joining the Falcons.
Bizarre. Laughable. Inexplicable.
All of those adjectives have been thrown around regarding the move, but fantasy gamers hope “regrettable” doesn’t also apply. Naturally, a drop-off in production is expected after a prolific season like the Falcons’ 2016 showing, but this one could go so far south Atlanta will look like the Arctic.
Sarkisian has an affinity for a power-blocking scheme in the ground game, which is wholly contrary to this offensive line’s build and the attributes of the backfield’s personnel. This could be the single biggest issue for fantasy games.
No team in the NFL utilized play-action passing more effectively than the Falcons in 2016, which may be jeopardized in favor of run-pass options out of shotgun and pistol formations. No-huddle offenses are a tenet of Sarkisian’s offensive schemes; Matt Ryan won’t have any trouble in this area.
The one thing we have no way of forecasting is how much Sarkisian’s offensive philosophy will change from the collegiate ranks to the pros. According to head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons intend to incorporate Sark into their offensive goals and not make the players adjust to his ways. The eventual outcome is probably blended.
Fantasy impact: Running backs should regress. The passing game may remain stable based on sheer talent.
New York Jets
John Morton comes over from the New Orleans Saints to call the offensive shots for the Jets. He was the wide receivers coach for Sean Payton’s squad the past two seasons, and Morton’s most recent prior coaching experience came with Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers. He also coached for the Oakland Raiders and at USC.
Morton inherits a rebuild lacking apparent talent at almost every position. The Jets have no clear answer at quarterback, and the receiving corps is in dire need of a true No. 1.
The biggest difference from retired OC Chan Gailey’s system to what Morton figures to install is the reliance on a more balanced system from a personnel perspective. The Jets ran a whopping 337 plays with four-wide sets, while the Saints fielded just 27 of the like in 2016, according to ESPN. New Orleans operated out of a three-wide base with a primary tight end in the passing game, something virtually unheard of in the Gailey days.
Surviving the rebuild is arguably the biggest issue at hand here. This one will take time, which may not be on the side of this coaching regime. Expectations for fantasy progress in 2017 must be kept in check.
Fantasy impact: The entire offense will struggle, but a tight end could emerge.
The loss of offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Los Angeles Rams opened the door for Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh’s promotion to OC. Unfortunately for him, it will be in name only as head coach Jay Gruden will assume the play-calling duties.
Cavanaugh has served as Washington’s QBs coach since 2015 and possesses 23 years of coaching experience, including eight years as an offensive coordinator with Chicago (1997-98) and Baltimore (1999-2004). He will have influence in the game-planning chores, just as Gruden did last year.
For whatever it is worth, Cavanaugh’s NFL offenses never wowed. He wasn’t exactly fortunate enough to work with an elite NFL passer, though. Or even a decent one. Quarterbacks Kyle Boller, Elvis Grbac, Anthony Wright, Chris Redman, Jeff Blake, Trent Dilfer, Stoney Case, Scott Mitchell and Tony Banks marred his time with Baltimore. He coached primarily Erik Kramer in Chicago. Ravens running back Jamal Lewis arguably highlighted his stable of skill players.
Cavanaugh’s NFL offenses averaged finishes of 21st in yards generated, 19th in points scored, and 20th in turnovers permitted — not exactly an inspiring body of work.
Gruden will bring little change to the system in place of the past two years. He called plays from 2011-13 with the Cincinnati Bengals before becoming Washington’s head honcho. His systems finished 10th, 17th and 8th, respectively, in rushing attempts during that time. The passing game improved each year in production and attempts, going from 20th to 12th from start to finish during his time in Cincy. He also called the plays in his first season in Washington.
Fantasy impact: Running backs stand the best chance at improving, while the passing game should take a step back, regardless to the OC change.