Think it’s hard being a rookie at training camp? Try being a new coach. Seven NFL teams hit camp this week under the direction of some fresh meat. And you don’t have to be an expert to know it’s a hard knock life for the newbies, on and off the field.
Instead of being treated like NFL royalty, the coaches get kicked around almost immediately by the local sporting press. Instead of waving signs of support, the fans are sizing them up, trying to see almost instantly what tricks they’ve got up their sleeves. No doubt about it, training camp for a new coach can be about as awkward as the first day of school for a high school substitute teacher who called the honor roll with his fly down.
Here’s a look at just some of what the new team leaders are up against.
Oakland Raiders – Lane Kiffin replaces Art Shell. Kiffin is the youngest coach ever in the NFL. Will GM (as in “General Maniac”) Al Davis suck all of the life out of young Kiffin’s career the way he has sucked all of the success out of his once viable franchise? Or will the youth and exuberance of Kiffin and his new quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, overcome the dark rule of Al and deliver victory once again to the beleaguered Raider nation?
Prediction: Al’s evil spell of ego, age and flawed judgment are impenetrable and Kiffin will go the way of Bill Callahan.
Dallas Cowboys – Wade Phillips replaces Bill Parcells. Few fans outside of Dallas expected Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells to be a match made in heaven but the Big Tuna got flaky much sooner than anticipated. Phillips brings a more mellow approach to coaching that just might help him manage the demands of his irksome boss, the high expectations of Dallas fans and that problematic motor mouth in the locker room known as T.O. If he can juggle all of that, then Phillips should be able to take advantage of the talent he inherits on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Bum’s boy puts together a winning season and in the NFC that’s usually enough to get you to the postseason.
San Diego Chargers – Norv Turner replaces Marty Schottenheimer. Turner is in the unenviable position of taking over a team that had a 14-2 record in 2006, the league’s best. Do we honestly believe someone named “Norv” with a record of 58-82-1 as a head coach has it in him to keep the Chargers, well, charged?
Prediction: Chargers GM A.J. Smith will be singing an Urkel-esque “Did I do that?” when San Diego finishes the season 8-8.
Miami Dolphins – Cam Cameron replaces Nick Saban. Ah Nick, we hardly knew ye as an unsuccessful NFL coach before you slunk away to the cozy, cash-laden environs of Alabama football. Cameron comes from San Diego where he was a very successful offensive coordinator and very sought after as a head coaching candidate coming off that 14-2 season. He is taking over a team that does not have the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson to power their offense. Both the offense and defense need the addition of some young playmakers for the Dolphins to keep up with the Patriots and the Jets.
Prediction: Miami fans are going to be bitter about Saban for at least a couple of years as they wait for the Dolphins to become competitive again in the AFC East.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin replaces Bill Cowher. Steelers’ owner, Dan Rooney, is following the recipe that’s made the team successful in the past: hire a young guy with a strong defensive background just like previous coaches Chuck Noll and Cowher. Tomlin takes over a team wanting to prove that their 8-8 record last season was a fluke and that they are still a contender for future Super Bowl rings.
Prediction: Steelers fans will wave their Terrible Towels deep into the playoffs.
Arizona Cardinals – Ken Whisenhunt replaces Dennis Green. The Cardinals are out to prove they “aren’t who we thought they were” and Ken Whisenhunt may just be the guy to help them do it. He arrives from Pittsburgh hoping to work some magic on this downtrodden franchise. He brings with him Russ Grimm who carries some powerful mojo in the form of four Super Bowl rings that he earned as a player and as an assistant coach. They have a lot of weapons to work with on an offense that features Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. And they are playing in a division that doesn’t have a team poised to dominate this season.
Prediction: The Cardinals soar past the Seahawks to win the NFC West.
Atlanta Falcons – Bobby Petrino replaces J.L. Mora. To quote a much more infamous Mora…”Playoffs? Playoffs?!” Petrino shopped himself around quite a bit the last few years trying to escape the University of Louisville. He’s probably missing Louisville now that he’s stepped into a little dog mess in the ATL. There is an upside to his predicament, though. If Petrino can coach the team to a winning season without Michael Vick, he will be a hero. And if he ends up with a losing season, he’s got a really good excuse.
Prediction: The Falcons have no dog in the hunt without Vick and pick top 10 in next year’s draft. And to prove there’s no hard feelings, Hollywood Horn is more than welcome to attend our Super Bowl Party in Arizona as we watch the Saints kick some AFC tail!
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