NFL head coaches receive the bulk of the credit or the blame for a team’s fortunes, but it’s the quality of their staffs that helps separate winning franchises from the losers. FOX Sports Senior NFL Writer Alex Marvez has identified 18 coordinators (offense, defense and special teams) who are either incumbents under pressure to produce better results in 2015 or newcomers expected to make an immediate impact.
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Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians could have pursued Dick LeBeau following his departure from the Pittsburgh Steelers but he wanted to promote someone from his Arizona staff. Bettcher, who did a great job working with Arizona’s linebackers, got the nod. Bettcher is now entrusted with making sure the Cardinals play at the same high standard set by former coordinator Todd Bowles, who was hired away to become head coach of the New York Jets.
New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan
No unit tumbled more last season than Ryan’s defense, especially against the pass compared to 2013. Rather than fire Ryan, the Saints decided to give him a chance to rebound with what the front office believes is upgraded talent. New Orleans added two veteran starters (cornerback Brandon Browner and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe) and invested high draft picks on Clemson inside linebacker Stephone Anthony and Washington outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha. The return of safety Jairus Byrd (knee) and addition of ex-Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen as an advisor should help as well.
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Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler
Butler has spent the past few seasons waiting in the wings to replace Dick LeBeau. The move was finally made after the Steelers slumped in 2014. Butler must now breathe life into a unit that continued its changing of the guard this offseason with mainstays like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel no longer on the roster.
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Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle
The Dolphins dropped nine spots in the defensive yardage rankings to No. 21 last season. The drop-off was especially steep in the final four games. Miami went 3-1 and missed the playoffs while allowing an average of 35.3 points a game. The Dolphins hope two offseason moves help spur a rebound: Coyle simplifying his scheme and the free-agent addition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
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Philadelphia defensive coordinator Billy Davis
The rapid-fire style of offense deployed by Eagles head coach Chip Kelly puts Davis in a tough position. Philadelphia averaged less than 27 minutes in time of possession each of the past two seasons, which puts extra strain on the defense. Still, Davis’ 3-4 defense must fare better in 2015, especially against the deep pass. The addition of veteran defensive backs Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond should help. Kiko Alonso, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, also will be a boon to an already solid linebacker corps.
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New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
New York head coach Tom Coughlin brought Spagnuolo back in the fold hoping he could recapture the defensive magic that helped the 2007 Giants win Super Bowl 42. Spagnuolo, though, faces some major obstacles. Among them is the uncertain status of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is recovering from a right index finger amputation and fractured thumb suffered in a July 4th firework accident.
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Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase
Gase’s stock as a future head coaching candidate skyrocketed while he was working in Denver with Peyton Manning the past two seasons. Gase now faces a much tougher task trying to resuscitate the career of 32-year-old Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who struggled so badly last season that at one point he was benched.
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Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell
Nobody on the Seahawks needs to redeem themselves more for the Super Bowl 49 loss to New England than Bevell. His “Second-and-Dumb” play call at the game’s end backfired with Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler logging the game-sealing interception at the goal-line. The Seahawks did give Bevell and quarterback Russell Wilson a sorely needed receiving weapon, acquiring tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints.
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Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman
Trestman is trying to reinvent himself after being fired as Chicago’s head coach following two seasons. The bar was set high for Baltimore’s offense last season under Gary Kubiak as the Ravens set franchise records for points (409) and yards (5,838). Kubiak’s departure to become Denver’s head coach means the Ravens will be on their fourth different offensive coordinator in as many seasons. Trestman, who is considered to have one of the NFL’s most creative offensive minds, is keeping many of Kubiak’s concepts to help ease the transition.
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Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi
Lombardi, a New Orleans Saints assistant from 2007 to 2013, implemented a Sean Payton-inspired offense with mixed results in his first season with the Lions. Among the improvement goals in 2015 are a better running game (Detroit ranked No. 28 last season) and more production from tight end Eric Ebron, who caught 25 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
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St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti
The Rams have a defense that is playoff-ready. The offense must prove the same after having failed to finish above No. 21 in yardage or scoring since Jeff Fisher became head coach in 2012. With a new quarterback (Nick Foles), running back (Todd Gurley) and revamped offensive line, Cignetti has to assemble a lot of new parts into a cohesive unit.
Getty ImagesMichael Thomas
Oakland offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave
Now serving as an offensive coordinator for his fifth different team, Musgrave has experienced mixed success in his 18-year coaching career. The highlight came with Minnesota in 2012 when Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards. Musgrave is being entrusted with the development of Derek Carr, who showed the potential to become a franchise quarterback during his rookie season in 2014.
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Buffalo offensive coordinator Greg Roman
After working under Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers and at Stanford University, Roman is now running his own show offensively in Buffalo. Roman should be able to help the Bills field the type of ground-and-pound running attack that head coach Rex Ryan desires. The bigger challenge is developing a quarterback who can take advantage of the receiving talent Buffalo has assembled.
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Cincinnati defensive coordinator Paul Guenther
Guenther faced the daunting task of replacing Mike Zimmer last season in his first year running Cincinnati’s defense. The Bengals regressed across the board statistically but the unit is primed to rebound with the talent assembled by the front office. For that resurgence to occur, Cincinnati must get better pass rush from its defensive line. The 2014 Bengals posted a league-low 20 sacks.
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New York Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey
Although he hasn’t worked in the NFL since being fired as Buffalo’s head coach following the 2012 campaign, the 63-year-old Gailey was in demand as an offensive coordinator this offseason. He accepted the offer from the Jets to try and develop Geno Smith into a franchise quarterback after two uneven seasons since entering the league in 2013.
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Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau
At age 77, LeBeau didn’t want to stop coaching after a down season in Pittsburgh. LeBeau’s new challenge will be breathing life into a Titans defense that surrendered an average of 27.4 points a game last season.
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San Francisco defensive coordinator Eric Mangini
After handling San Francisco’s tight ends the past two seasons, Mangini was shifted back to his defensive roots under new head coach Jim Tomsula. Unfortunately for him, the group Mangini inherits is missing many of the pieces that gave the 49ers one of the top units during the Jim Harbaugh era. Mangini will try to make players like outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, defensive end Tank Carradine and safety Eric Reid into a new generation of difference-makers.
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Green Bay special teams coach Ron Zook
A major collapse in the final minutes of last season’s NFC Championship Game led to Packers head coach Mike McCarthy shaking up his coaching staff and changing some responsibilities. One of McCarthy’s moves was firing special teams coach Shawn Slocum and promoting Zook from his assistant’s position. Although best known from his time as the University of Florida’s head coach, Zook has an extensive background in special teams that includes a three-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996 to 1998. Zook’s biggest challenge is to make sure his team avoids the mistakes that contributed to Green Bay’s playoff demise.