Every NFL team had to deal with the constraints that the lockout put on them in the off season. The “no contact with the front office, coaches, team trainers, and team doctors” rule was applied to all 32 teams in the league. However, there were some teams that looked to be hit harder than others with this rule.
Seven teams hired new head coaches in the off season. With that comes changes in assistant coaches, schemes, and player personnel.
“The tough part about coming here was we had no off season, so you didn’t even get to walk through the weight room and watch how they worked in the weight room or in the conditioning program,” John Fox explained. “It wasn’t just X’s and O’s and schemes and all that, it’s just knowing guys makeup, knowing what buttons to push, knowing how they react, what kind of competitors they are. When you don’t have them in competitive situations, those are hard to figure out.”
It sounds like the lockout would put those new head coaches at a disadvantage, but of those seven teams who made the change at the top, just two have losing records (Carolina: 3-8, Cleveland: 4-7). Under Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers have the second best record in the league at 9-2. Hue Jackson has the Oakland Raiders sitting atop the AFC West at 7-4. Jason Garrett has the Dallas Cowboys in the thick of the NFC East race with a 7-4 record, and Mike Munchak of the Tennessee Titans has led his team to an above .500 record despite not having much to work with.
Among the list of coaches who are succeeding with a new team after a very limited off season is none other than John Fox. After starting 1-4, he has helped guide the Broncos to a 5-1 record since.
“I think there were some growing pains with that early,” Fox said. “I’m not talking about just for me. I’m talking about our whole staff. I think we’re just getting more familiar with each other.”
The first five weeks of the season were a tryout of sorts. Kyle Orton got cut, the 4-3 defense had to get used to their new and more aggressive scheme, and the offensive line had to get used to their new blocking/protection scheme. Fox and his coaching staff made changes on the fly and now the Broncos sit in second place in the AFC West.
The Broncos will be going for their fifth straight win on Sunday, a feat that they have not accomplished since the 1998 season.
The lockout may not have had as much an effect on the new coaches as we had anticipated. Success is all about the ability to adapt to change, and this year in the NFL, change has been the beauty of the beast.