Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Nov 2008

Smarter Stats: Ten Great Assistants

This week's FO article for the Washington Post brings up the names of ten high-quality assistant coaches, and the stats that state their cases.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 04 Nov 2008

15 comments, Last at 05 Nov 2008, 11:26pm by Yaguar


by thestar5 :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 3:57am


Okay, I know, I know, I'm whining about the Cowboys again, I'll try to be brief. But how did I know that McDaniels would be on here but Garrett wouldn't? Now I've got nothing against McDaniels, he seems good, but why him and not Jason Garrett?

You said: "What may be even more impressive is the fact that the Pats currently stand atop the AFC East despite no Tom Brady, no star running back, and a depleted offensive line. It's often that the best coaching is done when a roster has to be put together with baling wire and chewing gum. That's what McDaniels is displaying now.".

Which is true Doug, but come on, their offense is ranked 19th in DVOA, its not like McDaniels is working miracles here. The only reasons they're in first place and Dallas is in last because the AFC East sucks while the NFC East is crazy good (the three teams the Cowboys play, the Giants, Skins, and Eagles, are all better than any team in the AFC East!) and the Pats have had the 3rd easiest schedule while Dallas has had the 5th hardest. I'd guess with the Cowboys schedule the Pats would be 3-5 right now.

In conclusion, please just try to be fair to the Cowboys. Its cool if you don't like them but at least analyze them fairly. If I'm being unfair at all just let me know.

by Temo :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 12:48pm

I don't know about you, but the less writing and heralding of the virtues of Cowboys Assistants there is, the better.

by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 12:48pm

Actually, I really think that the fact that the Patriots offense has been able to at least score is a miracle in itself. Seriously, the Cowboys have a good offensive line, great wideouts, one of the best TE's in the league when healthy (which is most of the time), and a superstar running back. The Pats have only one of those, a superstar wideout. And the Cowboys have even had a good QB for most of the season.

I'll give you scheduling, but I really wouldn't consider the AFC East a pushover. Besides, Garrett is basically already the head coach. It would take a near miracle to prevent Wade from losing his job and Garrett from taking over.

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 10:29am

I omitted Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray and Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, as well. Both of these omissions also had a great deal to do with my anti-Cowboys bias -- I'm just not sure how yet.

by E :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 12:26pm

Was Steve Spagnuolo omitted because the focus was on less heralded assistants (Spagnuolo being well-known after the Super Bowl, one of the highest paid coordinators and an obvious head coaching candidate) or do you think he is not actually one of the top 10 assistants? Similar to the comments on McDaniels, I think that the ability to keep the Giants defense elite while losing Strahan, Osi and Kawika Mitchell and relying on an inexperienced defensive backfield is remarkable. In my (admittedly biased) opinion I think he belongs at the top of your list, but am open to the possibility that you see something that casual observers don't.

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 12:40pm

"Was Steve Spagnuolo omitted because the focus was on less heralded assistants?"

Yep. No other reason I can think of to omit him, especially post-Strahan/Osi. I may have underplayed how much press McDaniels gets (I honestly don't know), but the emphasis was definitely on the less-heralded guys. Consequently, coaches like Garrett and Jim Caldwell, who basically have head coaching gigs lined up, didn't really meet the criteria.

On the other hand, if Jim Mora met the criteria, and based on the performance of Seattle's secondary this year, he wouldn't make the cut. This is why everyone in Seattle wants Mora to take the Washington Huskies job.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 3:29pm

Doug, You might amend that to "every Seahawk fan wants Mora to take the UW job." I think that people who are Huskies fans first would prefer... Kiffin. Maybe someone else. I've heard a few other names thrown around.

The article left out a few graybeards, but I assume that is also part of the "unheralded" slant. Tom Moore and Dick LeBeau come to mind, guys who probably deserve HoF mention, if assistants ever got in.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 4:02pm

No, you're wrong about that. There are a huge amount of crazy Husky fans that want Mora, to the point where they are refusing to believe he won't leave the Hawks for a job with half the salary.

There are plenty of people who would be happy with Kiffin, but there isn't a website dedicated to hiring him like there is with Mora.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 8:05pm

Yikes! 6 weeks ago on the Husky boat from the tennis club to the stadium, people were speculating about Kiffin before he was even (inevitably) canned. Maybe they just assumed he'd never go cross-lake. I understand the Mora history... a dedicated website hunh? I stand corrected about fan sentiment at any rate.

by Kibbles :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 2:18pm

I saw the premise of the article and immediately bet myself a fiver that Dennison (aka "Not Alex Gibbs") would be on the list. I was a little sad that the Dennison blurb still had an Alex Gibbs reference, but good to see him get some credit. All I've remembered from every offseason is everyone predicting that THIS will be the year that Denver's running game falls apart. First it was because Gibbs left for Atlanta (nevermind that Dennison had been running the show since 2001 already). Then it was that it took two years for Gibbs' departure to be felt. Then it was that Gibbs' guys were still in place, but they were getting older. Then it was that Dennison couldn't have Gibbs' gift for developing young linemen. Meanwhile, Denver's quietly put together one of the top 5 offensive lines in the league, and the only guy on the line to have had his parenting disparaged by Alex Gibbs is Ben Hamilton, and even he came on board after Dennison took over full-time OL duties. The left tackle is a rookie, the right tackle is a second-year player, the right guard is a third-year player. Dennison is so valuable to the Broncos that Shanahan tacked on that silly "offensive coordinator" title and started naming his real offensive coordinators "assistant head coach: offense" to prevent other teams (namely: Houston) from stealing Dennison away.

by thestar5 :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 3:41pm

Fair enough. I didn't mean to say it was a bad article. I don't think McDaniels is any better than Garrett, but at least he isn't already lined up for a head coaching job.

by black president (not verified) :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 4:10pm

one name I'd throw out there is Clancy Pendergast, DC for the Cardinals and one of the brightest defensive minds in the league.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 7:04pm

Frazier will be a head coach by next year. Hopefully with the Vikings. Otherwise, Vikings ownership will have the dubious dictinction of having two concecutive defensive coordinators hired away who would have been better head coaches than the guy currently performing that role for the Vikings.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 8:07pm

Will, Isn't Frazier off the Dungy tree? I think he was Indy's DB coach for a while. That's been a pretty fruitful tree so far (considering Dungy is pretty young).

by Yaguar :: Wed, 11/05/2008 - 11:26pm

Amen on Bobby April. I would sell my soul to get him on the Colts.