2018 NFL coaching changes: Arizona Cardinals

2018 NFL coaching changes: Arizona Cardinals

Coaching Change

2018 NFL coaching changes: Arizona Cardinals

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Head Coach: Steve Wilks

The Cardinals turn the page after five years of head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. The duo managed three straight 10+ seasons including a loss in the Conference Championship in 2015 after a franchise record 13-3 season. But the last two years both contained eight losses and Arians retired.

Wilks was with the Panthers for the last six years. He primarily acted as the defensive backs coach and graduated to being the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator in 2017. His forte is obviously defense and as a first-time head coach will rely on Mike McCoy to handle the offense.

Offensive Coordinator: Mike McCoy

McCoy helped run the Broncos offense from 2009 through 2012, then became the San Diego Chargers head coach from 2013 until 2016 and then returned to Denver last year as the coordinator again. McCoy was released on November 20 after the Broncos logged their sixth straight loss. He gets another chance with the Cardinals who will be in a total rebuild.

McCoy was attractive not only for his lengthy offensive resume’, but also because he has been a head coach for four years. He was chosen because of the rapport that he immediately had with Wilks in the interview and that matters with a new head coach trying to control all three aspects of the game.

His primary task will be putting together a new playbook for an entirely revamped scheme. McCoy worked with both Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in quarterback-focused offenses in the past that still offered balance with committee backfields.

While in San Diego, McCoy did not call the plays as head coach. There was only one back who topped 1,000 yards in his four years (Ryan Mathews – 285-1,255-6 in 2013). Otherwise, it was a committee approach using various backs. Melvin Gordon spent two seasons under McCoy and had a breakout second year that just fell short of 1,000 rushing yards.  Philip Rivers was good for around 4,500 passing yards per season, but his stats weren’t much different than they had been for his entire career.

McCoy flopped as the Broncos offensive coordinator last year but it’s fair to note that he had only Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian under center. The Denver defense also took a step backward last year as well.

In his first stint there, McCoy enjoyed the effect of Peyton Manning. His final offense there featured two 1,000-yard wideouts (Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas). He also employed a committee backfield with Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno taking turns as the primary back. In 2011, his passing game was handled by Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow with predictable results. His offenses have been far more productive with a strong quarterback, not unlike most teams.

Bottom Line

McCoy is willing to have a workhorse back. David Johnson returns from his wrist injury. Unlike a lower body or a shoulder issue, there should be no lingering effects for the star running back. He’s a major plus for McCoy’s new offense and will continue to shoulder a heavy load.

The passing game is the question mark. The Cardinals had no quarterbacks under contract for McCoy when he was hired. His offenses were far less potent without Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers. The Cardinals are likely to revamp their wide receivers this year along with hoping to squeeze one more season out of  Larry Fitzgerald who turns 36 years old. The starting quarterback will be the most critical success factor.

The tight ends did well for him in San Diego but only because Antonio Gates was already there. McCoy had little use for tight ends while in Denver. Julius Thomas had just one catch in his first two years under McCoy. In the two seasons after McCoy left, he scored 24 touchdowns. The Cardinals have never featured the position much and there’s no reason to expect that to change with McCoy there.

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