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2017 NFC Coordinator Carousel

WadePhillips_2017_therams.jpg

Compared to the AFC’s four, only two NFC teams (Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco) changed head coaches this offseason. Between these changes and the fact that three offensive coordinators from NFC teams were elevated to head coaches elsewhere, it left several teams with some spots to fill on their respective coaching staffs.

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Unlike the AFC, however, most of the openings among NFC teams were filled by first-year coordinators instead of veterans or former head coaches. Here’s a rundown  of all the changes:

Atlanta Falcons, Offensive Coordinator

Old: Kyle Shanahan

New: Steve Sarkisian

Sark arrives with some baggage — an ugly departure from USC and a strange one-game stint as Alabama’s offensive coordinator — but he slides into one of the best situations in the league. Atlanta just had a dominant offensive season and returns all its key pieces, but Falcons fans are welcoming the fresh start after Shanahan’s questionable play-calling during the Super Bowl collapse.

Atlanta Falcons, Defensive Coordinator

Old: Richard Smith

New: Marquand Manuel

At 37, Manuel is unseasoned after only four years as an NFL assistant. But his relatively meteoric rise has been hastened by some obvious skills as a leader and teacher. He’s made enough of an impression on Dan Quinn during their time together in Seattle and Atlanta for Quinn to hand him the reins of the defense coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Carolina Panthers, Defensive Coordinator

Old: Sean McDermott

New: Steve Wilks

The defensive backs coach in Carolina since 2012, Wilks has paid his dues in a 22-year coaching career that has included stints with eight colleges and three NFL franchises. His association with Ron Rivera goes back to 2007, when the two worked together in Chicago, and Rivera has brought Wilks along to each subsequent stop.

Los Angeles Rams, Offensive Coordinator

Old: Rob Boras

New: Matt LaFleur

Another first-time coordinator, the former Falcons quarterbacks coach parlayed the best season of Matt Ryan’s career into a job with a new regime in Los Angeles. LaFleur faces an entirely different challenge in L.A., where No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff struggled during an 0–7 audition. There’s nowhere to go but up, but the youthful enthusiasm of the 36-year-old LaFleur (and his 31-year-old boss, Sean McVay) will be tested. The top priority will be to unleash running back Todd Gurley after a sophomore slump.

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Los Angeles Rams, Defensive Coordinator

Old: Gregg Williams

New: Wade Phillips

It's only fitting that the youngest head coach in NFL history (Sean McVay, 31) hires Phillips, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the entire league. Not only is there nearly a 40-year difference in their ages (Phillips turned 70 in June), but Phillips also is entering his 39th season as a coach in the NFL and 48th overall. Denver’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, the Rams will be the eighth team he’s served in this position. He’s also 82-64 in his career as a head coach (interim and full-time) for six different teams.

San Francisco 49ers, Offensive Coordinator

Old: Curtis Modkins

New: Kyle Shanahan

Shanahan, the new boss in San Francisco, will call his own plays. Of more concern than the play calling, however, is the complete makeover at the quarterback position. Likely starter Brian Hoyer will enjoy playing for Shanahan, who has tutored quarterbacks of varying skill sets — from Robert Griffin III to Matt Ryan — to high levels of success. Shanahan will get plenty of time to prove himself.

San Francisco 49ers, Defensive Coordinator

Old: Jim O’Neil

New: Robert Saleh

Saleh’s new boss, Kyle Shanahan, says that Saleh is “as smart as anyone I’ve been around.” Saleh will need every bit of that acumen to rebuild a San Francisco defense that was last in the NFL in scoring, rushing and total defense. Saleh will try to implement his version of the Seahawks’ scheme — the difference being, he lacks the Seahawks’ personnel. Saleh, 38, is in his first NFL coordinator job, and if can succeed in San Fran, he’ll write his own ticket.

Washington Redskins, Offensive Coordinator

Old: Sean McVay

New: Matt Cavanaugh

Kirk Cousins’ position coach is now his coordinator, as Cavanaugh takes the reins of an offense that Cousins has run well under Cavanaugh’s tutelage for two record-breaking seasons. Last season, Cousins threw for a franchise-record 4,917 yards with 25 touchdowns. This is the 60-year-old Cavanaugh’s fourth coordinator job after stints in Chicago (1997-98), Baltimore (1999-2004) and Pittsburgh (2005-08).

Washington Redskins, Defensive Coordinator

Old: Joe Barry

New: Greg Manusky

While Manusky, who coached outside linebackers for Washington last season, may be a rather uninspiring hire, he does have plenty of experience. Head coach Jay Gruden was looking for fresh perspective and renewed energy on a lackluster defense, and he thinks he found it in Manusky, who also impressed the detail-oriented Gruden with his organizational skills.

(Wade Phillips photo by Jeff Lewis, courtesy of www.therams.com; Steve Sarkisian photo courtesy of www.atlantafalcons.com)