Training camp has extra importance for teams that changed coordinators. Here are five top NFC assistants in new places facing hefty expectations:
Monte Kiffin, Cowboys DC
What’s the bigger issue: that Kiffin is 73 years old and hasn’t been an DC in the NFL since 2008, or that the Cowboys defense has been in regression the last three seasons? One of Kiffin’s top aides is line coach Rod Marinelli, the 63-year-old former head coach who teamed with Kiffin on the Buccaneers during the Jon Gruden years. It’s a partnership that has worked well, and will need to again to keep Jason Garrett off the hot seat.
Mel Tucker, Bears DC
There’s some extra pressure that comes with running Chicago’s defense, with a legacy to uphold and an offensive-minded NFL rookie head coach in Marc Trestman. Tucker won’t have Brian Urlacher either as an extra coach on the field. Tucker’s defenses in Jacksonville weren’t among the NFL’s elite, ranking sixth in yardage in 2011 but otherwise among the bottom-feeders in three other seasons, including 30th in 2012.
Pat Shurmur, Eagles OC
Shurmur is back where he broke into the professional coaching ranks, first as Philly’s tight ends coach and then as quarterbacks coach. He knows the team, though it’s no longer Andy Reid’s domain, it’s Chip Kelly’s, and the ex-Oregon coach will be doing things his way. Shurmur’s Browns teams the last two years were certainly offensively challenged, though they didn’t have half of the Eagles’ talent at the skill positions.
Harold Goodwin, Cardinals OC
Goodwin has been Bruce Arians’s right-hand man for years, serving as his offensive line coach with the Steelers and Colts while Arians directed the offense. Now Goodwin is calling the plays for Arians in Arizona. It’s his first OC job and it’s big task to fix the NFL’s last-ranked offense in 2012. He’ll need Carson Palmer and Rashad Mendenhall to stay healthy to have even a chance to succeed.
Dave Wannstedt, Buccaneers STC
Wannstedt’s done almost everything as an NFL coach except run a special teams unit. Fired as the Bills’ DC after last season, he took an unfamiliar role on Greg Schiano’s staff; Schiano was a defensive assistant on Wannstedt’s Bears teams. Wannstedt ran into problems even before camp started as kicker Connor Barth tore his Achilles’ tendon and was lost for the season. You could be a special teams coordinator for many years and not face that issue.