EXCITEMENT ABOUNDS AS NEW COACHES TAKE OVER
August 10, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
This season, seven NFL teams – Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington – welcome new head coaches. Ranging from coaches already boasting Super Bowl appearances as NFL head coaches – JIM CALDWELL of the Lions, LOVIE SMITH of the Buccaneers and KEN WHISENHUNT of the Titans – to those entering their first season with the title, each has unique experiences to share with his new organization, players and fans.
CLEVELAND BROWNS HEAD COACH MIKE PETTINE:
The Cleveland Browns named Pettine head coach on January 23. Pettine joins the Browns after spending 2013 as the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and the 2009-12 seasons as the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets. During his season in Buffalo, Pettine oversaw a defense that set a franchise record with 57 sacks, second-most in the NFL in 2013 after finishing tied for 18th in the league with 36 in 2012. Buffalo was the only team to have three players record double-digits sacks.
“Mike is the epitome of what we want the Browns to be – tough, aggressive and innovative – with a blue-collar, team-first mentality,” says Browns owner JIMMY HASLAM. “He knows what’s necessary to beat teams in the AFC North and has repeatedly shown the ability to lead his players to consistent improvement and success.”
During his four years with New York, the Jets’ defense ranked first in the NFL in opponent’s passer rating (71.0), completion percentage (52.6) and passing yards per game (186.3). The Jets’ defense yielded the second-fewest yards per game (294.8) and allowed just nine 100- yard receiving games from 2009-2012, the fewest in the league.
The 47-year old Doylestown, Pennsylvania native was a two-year letterman as a free safety at Virginia, where he graduated with a degree in economics. His father, Mike, Sr., was the head coach for 33 years at Central Bucks West High School in Pennsylvania where Pettine earned all-state honors as a quarterback and defensive back.
DETROIT LIONS HEAD COACH JIM CALDWELL:
Caldwell became the Lions’ 26th head coach in franchise history on January 14. The 59-year old Beloit, Wisconsin native spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens (2012-13). Caldwell, who was originally the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator with just three weeks to play in the 2012 season and helped lead Baltimore to the AFC North crown and a win in Super Bowl XLVII.
Before joining the Ravens, Caldwell coached the previous 10 seasons (2002-11) with the Indianapolis Colts, including three as head coach (2009-11). He led the team to a Super Bowl XLIV berth as Indianapolis’ head coach during the 2009 season.
“We had a profile of the ideal candidate, and Jim fits that,” says Lions general manager MARTIN MAYHEW. “A leader of men, Jim Caldwell is certainly that. Coming to the organization and bringing confidence and credibility, Jim has that. He has experience with quarterbacks. All of that was important to us and Jim brings it.”
Prior to his NFL career, Caldwell was the head coach at Wake Forest (1993-2000) and an assistant at Penn State (1986-1992), Louisville (1985), Colorado (1982-84), Northwestern (1981) and Southern Illinois (1978-1980).
HOUSTON TEXANS HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN:
With 21 years of NFL and collegiate coaching experience, O’Brien returns to the NFL after serving as the head coach at Penn State University from 2012-13. O’Brien, the third head coach in Texans history, helped lead the New England Patriots to a pair of Super Bowl berths, rising from offensive assistant his first season to wide receivers coach in 2008 and then quarterbacks coach from 2009-10 and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2011. That season, the Patriots ranked third in the NFL in scoring, second in total offense and advanced to Super Bowl XLVI.
“Intelligence, innovation and flexibility,” says Texans general manager RICK SMITH on the traits that make a head coach successful. “That was what we were looking for and what we found in Bill O’Brien. He also represents accountability and toughness. We are excited to welcome him to the Houston Texans.”
O’Brien began his coaching career at Brown in 1993 as the tight ends coach before coaching inside linebackers in 1994. He joined the Georgia Tech staff in 1995 and was promoted to running backs coach in 1998, when the Yellow Jackets won the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference title and Gator Bowl against Notre Dame. He became the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2001, and then assistant head coach in 2002. He coached running backs at Maryland from 2003-04 before serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke from 2005-06.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS HEAD COACH MIKE ZIMMER:
After directing a Cincinnati Bengals defense that ranked second in the NFL with 139 sacks (46.3 per season) since 2011, Zimmer was named the ninth head coach in club history on January 15. Prior to spending the past six seasons as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator, Zimmer held full-time duties as the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons (2007) and Dallas Cowboys (2000-06).
Vikings president MARK WILF is confident that Zimmer’s experience in winning organizations will strengthen the entire franchise. “Mike Zimmer is a tremendous football coach,” says Wilf. “He is a tremendous person. He is sincere, down to earth, no-nonsense and direct. He is intense on the football field, and respectful inside and outside the building. He will represent the Vikings organization very well. Most importantly, he has been a leader and winner at every stop in the NFL. Vikings fans will love Coach Zimmer.”
A Peoria, Illinois native, Zimmer played quarterback and linebacker at Illinois State before coaching collegiately at Missouri (1979-1980), Weber State (1981-88) and Washington State (1989-1993).
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH:
Smith returns to the Buccaneers as the 10th head coach in club history. Prior to serving as the Chicago Bears (2004-12) head coach and the St. Louis Rams (2001-03) defensive coordinator for a combined 12 seasons, Smith was the linebackers coach in Tampa Bay from 1996-2000.
“It is an exciting time for the Buccaneers organization, and the entire Tampa Bay community, as we welcome back Lovie Smith,” says Buccaneers co-chairman BRYAN GLAZER. “Lovie is an accomplished and very well-respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career. We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead this team into this new era of Buccaneers football.”
During his time in Chicago, Smith guided the Bears to an 81-63 (.563) regular-season record, while going 3-3 in the postseason. He led the Bears to three division crowns, two NFC Championship Game appearances and the 2006 NFC title, which propelled Chicago to its first Super Bowl appearance in 21 years. Smith left Chicago ranked third all-time in coaching victories, behind only Pro Football Hall of Famers GEORGE HALAS and MIKE DITKA.
Smith played linebacker and safety at Tulsa (1976-79), earning two-time All-America and three-time All-Missouri Conference honors.
TENNESSEE TITANS HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT:
When the Tennessee Titans selected Whisenhunt to be the 17th head coach in franchise history, the club acquired a man whose professional coaching career spans 17 NFL seasons. Whisenhunt, who served as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2007-12, ventured east to acquire the top position in Tennessee after spending a season as the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator (2013).
As a first-time head coach with the Cardinals, Whisenhunt won a franchise-record 49 games during his six seasons. In 2008 (9-7 record) and 2009 (10-6), he led the club to back-to-back NFC West titles. The 2008 team fielded the fourth-best offense in the NFL, set a team record with 427 points, won the franchise’s first NFC Championship and clinched the club’s first Super Bowl berth.
Prior to joining the Cardinals, Whisenhunt spent the previous six seasons as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first three as tight ends coach and the last three as offensive coordinator.
Whisenhunt became the offensive coordinator in 2004 and helped rookie quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER set an NFL record with wins in his first 13 career starts. In 2005, the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Whisenhunt also coached at the NFL level with the New York Jets (tight ends, 2000), Cleveland Browns (special teams, 1999) and Baltimore Ravens (tight ends, 1997-98).
“Time and time again, it came back to Ken,” says Titans president and CEO TOMMY SMITH on the team’s coaching search. “I’ve always said we were looking for someone who’s intelligent, who understood and wanted to play the type of football that we want to play here, which is hard-nosed. I certainly have an intelligent man here who is well-versed in all aspects of the game, and the fact that he’s going to be the play-caller and lead this organization delights me.”
WASHINGTON REDSKINS HEAD COACH JAY GRUDEN:
After three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals (2011-13), Gruden joins the Redskins as the 29th head coach in club history.
The Bengals made three consecutive playoff appearances and earned the AFC North title in 2013 during Gruden’s time in Cincinnati. He also spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an offensive assistant from 2002-08, helping the team to its first championship in Super Bowl
“If you look at his résumé, it’s broad, it’s deep,” says Redskins president and general manager BRUCE ALLEN on why the team tabbed Gruden as its next head coach. “He’s done every job in football. He has a credible résumé. His passion is contagious. He’s a great people person and he’s always been that.”
The younger brother of Super Bowl-winning head coach and current ESPN analyst JON GRUDEN, Jay Gruden is one of the most celebrated individuals in Arena Football League history, having won six combined league championships – four as a quarterback and two as a head coach. He was named the 1992 AFL Most Valuable Player and was honored with induction into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1999.