NFL: Teams tap coaching fountain of youth

Max Petrunya

“Out with the old and in with the new” seems to be the fashionable statement during the offseason for NFL owners and general managers. Six teams have already changed coaches since the ’06 season ended not even five days ago with the NFL’s lackluster finish in the game that is the NFL Pro Bowl. Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher retired; Nick Saban left in the style of Rodney Dangerfield so he could go “Back to School”; Denny Green, Jim Mora and Art Shell were all fired after abysmal seasons and off-field antics. Saban left the Dolphins to take the head coaching job at Alabama. He was replaced by Cam Cameron. Shell was fired by the Raiders, who hired 31-year-old Lane Kiffin to replace him. Here is the who, what, where and why of the NFL’s latest coaching shuffle for the other five teams, including one recent vacancy that still remains unfilled.

Arizona Cardinals

Out: Dennis Green

In: Ken Whisenhunt

NFL coaching journeyman Green was fired on Jan. 1 after three underwhelming years in Arizona. Green never posted a winning season with the Cardinals and finished his tenure in Arizona with a 16-52 overall record. With regular season records of 6-10, 5-11 and 5-11, Green leaves this team of talented youngsters in the hands of former Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The 44-year-old rookie head coach comes into Arizona after an impressive two years with the Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers in which Whiz helped develop Ben Roethlisberger and led Pittsburgh to the AFC Championship and Super Bowl victory. As Whiz begins coaching for a franchise that has had only one winning season and playoff appearance since 1984, NFL analysts are anxious to see what the brilliant offensive mind can do in Arizona with talent like quarter back Matt Leinart, running back Edgerrin James, and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

Atlanta Falcons

Out: Jim Mora Jr.

In: Bobby Petrino

Mora was fired as Falcons head coach just two years after leading Atlanta to the NFC Championship in 2004. This season was followed by two disappointing seasons in 2005 and 2006, where the Falcons got off to hot starts but failed to win a spot in the NFC Playoffs. Mora finished 26-22 in his three seasons with Atlanta. Replacing him is former Louisville Cardinal Head Coach Bobby Petrino, who posted a 41-9 record with the Cardinals in his four years at Louisville, leading the school to the Big East title and its first Bowl Championship Series victory in the Orange Bowl this year. Petrino enters as a rookie NFL head coach. He left the NFL ranks in 2001 after working as quarter back coach and offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001.

Dallas Cowboys

Out: Bill Parcells

In: Wade Phillips

Parcells has retired, yet again, after losing in the NFC Playoffs this season in his fourth year with the Dallas Cowboys. After posting a 34-32 record in Dallas, Parcells will retire from NFL coaching until another multi-million dollar offer comes his way. Replacing the Big Tuna to coach “America’s Team” is coaching veteran Wade Phillips. After working as defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, Phillips enters his fifth attempt as an NFL head coach with a 48-39 overall record, including a 0-3 record in the playoffs. Phillips becomes the sixth coach of the Cowboys since 1989 and appears soft-spoken enough to let Cowboys owner Jerry Jones boss him around. Phillips enters Dallas well versed in the 3-4 defense, a scheme Parcells instituted two years ago. If Wade can help tighten the screws on the defensive side of the ball, and Tony Romo can learn how to catch, the Cowboys may win their first postseason game in 10 seasons. The Cowboys now hold the record for longest playoff game losing drought for teams that have won five Super Bowls.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Out: Bill Cowher

In: Mike Tomlin

The NFL’s longest tenured head coach, Bill Cowher, resigned as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers just one year after winning the much-deserved Super Bowl title he pursued since 1992. With one year left on his contract, the 49-year-old Cowher opted to step down after a disappointing 8-8 season where the Steelers missed the playoffs a year after winning it all. Cowher will be recognized as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. In his 15 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he posted a 149-90-1 overall regular season record, leading the Steelers to the playoffs 10 times, including six AFC title games and two Super Bowl appearances. Cowher resigned to take a break from coaching and spend more time with his family at their home in North Carolina. Filling Cowher’s enormous shoes in the steel city is Minnesota Vikings’ Defensive Coordinator Mike Tomlin. Tomlin becomes the first black head coach hired by the organization in their 74- year history. He will be the Steelers’ third coach in 38 years. After only one year as an NFL coordinator, Tomlin enters the Pittsburgh coaching position intent to keep the tradition of Steelers football alive and thriving. Physical defense and a strong run game have been the calling card of the Steelers since the 1970s, and Tomlin has no intention of changing that MO. Controversy may spark since Tomlin comes in as a coach of the 4-3 defense, the antithesis of the Steelers’ smash mouth 3-4 scheme. For now, Tomlin will retain Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau and the 3-4 scheme. With little coaching experience, little speculation can be made as to what the future holds for the men in Black and Gold.

San Diego Chargers

Out: Marty Schottenheimer

In: ????

Though many analysts discussing the Chargers’ situation may feel more like divorce lawyers than journalists, the bottom-line is that Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith never saw eye-to-eye in the four years Schottenheimer was in charge in San Diego. Despite winning 35 games in the last three seasons and taking the Chargers to the playoffs twice in that span, San Diego did not win a playoff game. Schottenheimer has been notorious for his inability to win in the clutch, never guiding a team to a Super Bowl in 21 years. Now, the spot in San Diego, one of the league’s most attractive coaching positions, is open for the taking. Ron Rivera or Norv Turner, both of whom almost got the job in Dallas, could be in line to be the next Chargers’ coach.

Sports Editor Kyle Scudilla contributed to this article.