Even before this past NFL regular season was over, the coaching carousel was set in motion as six teams wound up hiring new head coaches. In the AFC, four teams – Buffalo, Denver, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers – made changes at the top. Three of those vacancies were filled by coordinators on other teams, which in turn resulted in more movement among the coordinator ranks.
The end result? Half of the AFC teams have at least one new coordinator. Quite a few familiar faces in different places (with some just changing teams), but there’s also some guys getting their first shot at running an offense or defense. Here is a rundown on all the coordinator changes in the AFC:
Buffalo Bills, Offensive Coordinator
Old: Anthony Lynn
New: Rick Dennison
Dennison arrives after two seasons in the same position with Denver, including the Super Bowl season of 2015. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is limited as a passer, but the Bills’ status as the best rushing team in the NFL last season provides a nice starting point for a coach who likes to use the run game to set up the pass.
Buffalo Bills, Defensive Coordinator
Old: Rob Ryan
New: Leslie Frazier
Frazier enters his fourth stint as an NFL defensive coordinator after spending last season as the defensive backs coach in Baltimore. Under Frazier’s tutelage, the Ravens ranked ninth in the NFL in pass defense and had a league-leading 18 interceptions. Frazier was head coach in Minnesota from 2010-13, posting a record of 21–32–1 with one playoff berth.
Cleveland Browns, Defensive Coordinator
Old: Ray Horton
New: Gregg Williams
Williams most recently was the Rams’ defensive coordinator and should inject some attitude into a listless Browns defense. He’ll implement a transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3, which could lead to some growing pains, and he still carries personal baggage from Bountygate. Head coach Hue Jackson is putting his trust in a coordinator who didn’t do enough to keep Rams coach Jeff Fisher from getting fired.
Denver Broncos, Offensive Coordinator
Old: Rick Dennison
New: Mike McCoy
It’s a homecoming of sorts for McCoy, who was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator from 2009-12. Even during a failed tenure as Chargers head coach (one playoff appearance), McCoy displayed his offensive acumen, fielding a passing attack that ranked fourth, 10th, fourth and eighth, respectively, in his four seasons. He’ll fill a key role for first-time head coach Vance Joseph, whose specialty is defense.
Denver Broncos, Defensive Coordinator
Old: Wade Phillips
New: Joe Woods
Woods has served as defensive backs coach in Denver for two seasons, and his “No-Fly Zone” defensive backfield yielded the first All-Pro cornerback tandem in league history in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Woods’ task is to maintain rather than rebuild a Broncos defense that has ranked among the league’s best over the last three seasons.
Houston Texans, Defensive Coordinator
Old: Romeo Crennel
New: Mike Vrabel
Crennel guided the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2016, earning him a promotion of sorts to assistant head coach that cleared the way for rising star Vrabel to take the defensive reins while fending off interest in the 41-year-old from the Chargers and Redskins. Vrabel has been the Texans’ linebackers coach for the last three seasons.
Los Angeles Chargers, Defensive Coordinator
Old: John Pagano
New: Gus Bradley
Bradley went 14–48 in four seasons as Jacksonville’s head coach, but he had a relatively successful stint as the Seahawks defensive coordinator prior to his Jags tenure. He’ll implement a transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3, but he possesses the ultimate foundational piece up front in Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa.
Miami Dolphins, Defensive Coordinator
Old: Vance Joseph
New: Matt Burke
The well-traveled Burke made stops in Tennessee, Detroit and Cincinnati before landing in Miami as linebackers coach in 2016 and getting the coordinator job when Vance Joseph left to become the Broncos’ head coach. Burke has a reputation as a players’ coach, and he already possesses a comfort level in Miami. His job is cut out for him after the Dolphins allowed a franchise-worst 6,122 total yards in 2016.
New York Jets, Offensive Coordinator
Old: Chan Gailey
New: John Morton
This is Morton’s first NFL coordinator job, but he has worked under Jon Gruden, Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. Most recently, he was wide receivers coach for the Saints, where he mentored a group that included rookie Michael Thomas, who had 92 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2016. Morton inherits the last thing a rookie coordinator needs — uncertainty at quarterback.
Oakland Raiders, Offensive Coordinator
Old: Bill Musgrave
New: Todd Downing
Once the Raiders’ season ended, head coach Jack Del Rio moved quickly to promote Downing, a rising star in the coaching ranks, to offensive coordinator after a stint as quarterbacks coach. That continuity should serve both Downing and the Raiders well. His rapport with quarterback Derek Carr has already yielded big benefits for a team on the rise.