2019 Fantasy Football: Head Coaching Changes and Impact

The first thing that happens every off-season in the fantasy football world tends to not get the attention it deserves; coaching changes. Different coaches impact players on their new teams in several different ways, whether that be positively or negatively. So let’s take a quick look at the new head coaches heading into the 2019 season and how they will impact the fantasy outlooks for their players and, more importantly, your fantasy teams.

ARIZONA CARDINALS 

OUT: Steve Wilks

IN: Kliff Kingsbury (Former Texas Tech Head Coach)

HIS STAFF: DC Vance Joseph; ST Jeff Rodgers

What Does it Mean?: Ok, I know Kingsbury was officially the USC OC when he was brought on by the Cardinals in early January, but he never coached a game in Southern Cal so his coaching experience ends in Texas Tech where he was the head coach from 2013-2018. He had just 2 winning seasons in six chances as the Red Raiders leader (8-5 in 2013 and 7-6 in 2015) appearing in 3 bowl games (1-2 record) and hitting the AP top 25 in three seasons (a high of 10th in 2013, 24th in 2017, and 25th in 2018). He coached current Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes from 2014-2016 (where Mahomes threw for 11,252 yards, 93TDs, and just 29INTs while adding 845 yards and 22 scores on the ground), as well as current Texans WR Keke Coutee (159 grabs for 2,424 yards and 17TDs in 30 games), Dolphins Wr Jakeem Grant, and Raiders RB Deandre Washington. Kingsbury has some work to do with a Cardinals team that finished dead last in the NFL in 2017 (3-13) but there are pieces for him to use offensively. Running back David Johnson is still one of the top young backs in the game (6th in rushing yards, 7th in rushing TDs, 11th in receptions and yards among backs), while QB Josh Rosen finished 3rd among rookie signal-callers in passing yards (2,278) and touchdown passes (11). Larry Fitzgerald is another year older but provides stability at the position while teaching the younger members of the corps such as Christian Kirk (3 games with a score and 4 with at least 70 yards in 7 starts in 2017) how to be the professional on the field like he is. There is a lot of work to be done in the desert, but Kingsbury has some pieces to work with to start moving Arizona up in the NFC West and a few guys who could contribute on your fantasy team (watch out for Josh Rosen if Kingsbury can get this offense looking like Texas Tech and turning Rosen into a poor man’s Mahomes).

CINCINNATI BENGALS

OUT: Marvin Lewis

IN: Zac Taylor (Former Rams QB Coach)

HIS STAFF: OC Brian Callahan; DC (Vacant); ST Darrin Simmons

What Does it Mean?: We all saw how poorly the Rams offense played in Super Bowl 53 against the Patriots, and Jared Goff’s playoff performance (712 yards, 1TD, 2INTs in 3 games) wasn’t anything to make you stand up and cheer but that doesn’t mean Taylor is a bad choice for the Bengals. Let’s look at Goff’s performance this past year as a whole (Taylor’s first season as Rams QB coach) vs his 2017 stats. In 2017 Goff threw for 3,809 yards with 28TDs and 7INTs on 478 attempts. He also rushed for 51 yards and a score giving him 255 points and a final ranking at QB12. In 2018 we saw Goff’s passing yards increase by 879 (4,688 passing yards ranked him 4th in that category) while he threw an additional 4 touchdowns (32) with a few more picks (12) and he doubled his rushing stats to 108 yards and 2TDs. That all adds up to 304 points (just two behind Aaron Rodgers) and a QB7 ranking or in plain English a better fantasy season for you. Taylor is now going to be pushing Andy Dalton to kick his game up but these two have already work together in the past. In 2016 Taylor was the OC and QB coach in Cincinnati. That year we saw Andy Dalton hit 4,000 yards for just the 2nd time in his career (and he hasn’t reached it since) as well as being a top 10 fantasy QB for just the 2nd time in 8 seasons. Dalton also had his 2nd best completion percentage (64.7) and his 2nd fewest interceptions in a season (8). 2016 saw Dalton hit those numbers with A.J. Green playing just 10 games, Tyler Eifert in just 8, and Tyler Boyd was a rookie. I’m not saying the Bengals offense is on the same level as the Rams heading into 2019, but A.J. Green is better than any wide out Taylor had Goff throwing to in Los Angeles, Eifert or Kroft or Uzomah or whoever may be playing tight end is better than the duo of Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee of the Rams, and the combo of Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard in the backfield give plenty of options to work with there, not to mention the emergence of Tyler Boyd. Don’t look at Taylor for what happened in the Super Bowl, instead remember how much he improved Goff from 2017 to 2018 and remember how well Taylor and Dalton worked together in the past. The Bengals offense will be one of the best in the NFL in 2019 and you can get a great deal on Dalton at the QB position and he should be the most improved player on the Cincy O with Taylor now at the head of the table. 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

OUT: Hue Jackson (Fired after week 8)

IN: Freddie Kitchens (Promoted from OC)

HIS STAFF: OC Todd Monken; DC Steve Wilks; ST Mike Priefer

What Does it Mean?: Is Kitchens the best hire for a young and upcoming Browns squad? Possibly; that’s a question I can’t full answer. He’s a young, relatively unknown with a huge opportunity in front of him. The Browns looked like a legitimate football team this year, finishing 7-8-1 (their best record since going 10-6 in 2007). The offense in Cleveland looks pretty complete as far as skill positions go with Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku to mention a few. After the firing of Hue Jackson this offense really caught fire, going for 24+ points in 5 of the final 8 games of the year; they only passed 24 points once in their first 8 in 2018. If this offensive unit can take another step forward together in 2019, you can expect big, big things from your Browns fantasy players (they finished top 14 in rushing yards, rushing scores, passing yards, and passing scores) this season. They won’t go as high as other names because, well, they are playing for Cleveland, but let your league mates blunders become your treasures. 

DENVER BRONCOS

OUT: Vance Joseph

IN: Vic Fangio (Former Bears DC)

HIS STAFF: OC Rich Scangarello; DC Ed Donatell; ST Tom McMahon 

What Does it Mean?: Fangio has been in the NFL since 1986 and 33 years later he is finally getting his first head coaching opportunity. He has been a defensive coordinator in Carolina (95-98), Indianapolis (99-01), Houston (02-05), San Francisco (2011-2014), and Chicago (2015-2018) and now has a Broncos defense to work with that already has some of the most talent on that side of the ball in the league. He should turn them into one of the best defenses in the league and in turn, fantasy football. On the offensive side of the ball Rich Scangarello will be the OC in Denver, his first opportunity at that position. He spent the last two years as the 49ers quarterbacks coach working with guys like Brian Hoyer, Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, and Nick Mullens. Sounds like a ragtag group of signal callers outside of Jimmy G, but in those 32 games Scangarello helped those 4 combine for 23 games of double-digit points and 16 of those going for 15+ points. Not bad with a constant changing of QBs, not to mention the inconsistency at wide out and running back. Case Keenum isn’t at the front of anyone’s mind in the fantasy world but he is serviceable in certain situations and if Scangarello can get him to perform like we saw Beathard and Mullens (averaging just shy of 16PPG vs the 13 per game Keenum put up) last season once Jimmy G went down, than this Broncos offense can take the next step forward with it’s young core including Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, DeaSean Hamilton, and Courtland Sutton not to mention Emmanuel Sanders who will return sometime during the season. 

GREEN BAY PACKERS

OUT: Mike McCarthy (Fired after week 13)

IN: Matt LaFleur (Former Titans OC)

HIS STAFF: OC Nathaniel Hackett; DC Mike Pettine; ST (currently vacant)

What Does it Mean?: New head coach Matt LaFleur has been in the league for 10 years. He was the QB coach for the Redskins (2010-2013) and held the same position with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 & 2016. He was the OC for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 and the OC for the Titans last season; which seems like a lateral move but he was given play-calling duties in Tennessee while Sean McVay handled that in LA. While the Titans offense as a whole wasn’t stellar, or even good, in 2018 LaFleur had to deal with multiple Marcus Mariota injuries, basically no tight end (after Delanie Walker went down in week 1, rest of the Titans TEs combined for 63 catches for 750 yards and 7TDs; Walker averaged 75-875-5 in his 5 previous seasons with Tennessee), and an unstable wide receiving corps. The good news? The Titans rushing offense finished 7th in the league with Derrick Henry (his 1,059 yards on the ground ranked 7th) and Dion Lewis (his 59 receptions ranked 8th among RBs). The Packers have two very usable backs in Aaron Jones (averaged better than 4.5YPC in 9 of 11 games after returning from suspension in week 3 and rushed for over 70 yards and a score in 4 games, only Saquon Barkley (7), Chris Carson (7), Nick Chubb (5), Ezekiel Elliott (5), Todd Gurley (5), Phillip Lindsay (5), and Sony Michel (5) had more) and Jamaal Williams (caught 9 of 27 passes in final two weeks without Jones in the line up) who LaFleur could turn into a superstar tandem. Not to mention he will work with Aaron Rodgers who is the best QB he’s coached (LaFleur helped Matt Ryan reach career numbers in 2016 with a 69.9% completion rate, 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions), and Davante Adams; the best wide out he will work with as an OC or head coach. His name might not stand out like Mike McCarthy but LaFleur has made something out of virtually nothing in Tennessee and helped top-notch offenses take another step forward (Atlanta in 2016 and the Rams in 2017). Don’t sleep on LaFleur or the Packers offense in 2018 even after a disappointing 2017 for the Cheeseheads; they are still boast plenty of fantasy world talent for your squad this season. 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

OUT: Adam Gase

IN: Brian Flores (Former Patriots Linebackers Coach)

HIS STAFF: OC Chad O’Shea; DC Patrick Graham; ST Danny Crossman

What Does it Mean?: Flores has only coached, at any level, in New England. He’s been with the Patriots since 2004 working his way up from an assistant scout to the team’s linebackers coach from 2016-2018. He helped shut down the Rams offense (a top 12 offense in NFL history) holding them to just 3 points in the Super Bowl. Flores knows the AFC East extremely well, and we may see a bigger impact on offensive players on opposing teams more so than the Dolphins offense. Flores knows Brady and maybe that means the Fins can make the Pats look foolish … ok, sorry, got a little over my head there. But on the offensive side of the ball Flores brought in Chad O’Shea as his offensive coordinator to help your fantasy players. O’Shea worked with Flores in New England as the team’s wide receivers coach from 2009-2018, as well as working as an offensive assistant in Minnesota for 3 seasons prior to his Patriots stint. O’Shea worked with guys like Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, and Wes Welker so I can imagine the passing game in Miami would be his priority and guys like Kenny Still and DeVante Parker should see an uptick in production but perhaps the guy who will benefit the most is Danny Amendola. He worked with O’Shea in New England from 2013-2017 and he could quickly emerge as the teams top wide out because of it. While I don’t expect the Dolphins offense to become one of the NFL’s best, they should be improved and stashing some of these wide outs could pay dividends. 

NEW YORK JETS

OUT: Todd Bowles

IN: Adam Gase (Former Dolphins Head Coach)

HIS STAFF: OC Dowell Loggains; DC Gregg Williams; ST Brant Boyer

What Does it Mean?: Gase had his first opportunity to be a head coach in Miami from 2016-2018 and it went not great. After two phenomenal seasons as the Broncos OC (offense was 1st in yards and points in 2013 and 4th in points and 2nd in yards in 2014) he went to Chicago as OC in 2015 (ranking 21st in points and 23rd in yards) before having 3 below average years in Miami (24th in yards and 17th in points in 2016, 25th in yards and 28th in points in 2017, and 31st in yards and 26th in points in 2018). Gase didn’t have the best talent to work with in Miami; Ryan Tannehill couldn’t stay healthy, there was a revolving door at running back including Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams, Frank Gore, and Kalen Ballage, and a group of tight ends that averaged 3 catches per game over those three years which is pathetic. On the plus side we saw Jarvis Landry have two seasons of 90+ catches, including a career-high 112 grabs in 2017 to go along with a career-high 9 scores (which was more than his 2015 and 2016 seasons combined). I think Gase has more to work with in New York as Sam Darnold has shown a boatload of potential as a rookie and the trio of Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, and Elijah McGuire all contributed last year. However, the guy I am really keeping my eye on is Robbie Anderson. Anderson closed out the year with 17+ points in three of the Jets final four games including two 20-point performances. He’s averaged 103 targets the last two seasons as the team’s WR1 and if Landry’s average of 146 targets in his two seasons with Gase and Loggains at the helm say anything, that means Anderson could be in for a big, big year as a value pick that could take your 2019 team over the top.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

OUT: Dirk Koetter; DC 

IN: Bruce Arians

HIS STAFF: OC Byron Leftwich; DC Todd Bowles; ST Keith Armstrong

What Does it Mean?: Arians decided to come back to coach again after leaving the Arizona Cardinals after the 2017 season. There were some interesting jobs out there in the NFL, and the Buccaneers job may have been the most intriguing option. Tampa has one of the best wide outs in the league in Mike Evans, arguably the best duo at tight end in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, some other nice pieces in DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries and a stable of running backs including Ronald Jones; who didn’t show up much his rookie season in 2018 but expect that to change as his career moves forward. However, the most important position in all of sports, the quarterback, is being manned by Jameis Winston and the signing of Arians speaks volumes of what he thinks he can do with Winston. Arians has been a coach at every skill position in the NFL; running backs coach in Kansas City from 89-92, tight ends coach for the Saints in 96, quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis from 98-2000, and finally coached Steelers wide receivers from 04-06. Arians was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland (01-03), Pittsburgh  (07-11), and Indianapolis (2012 where he was also the interim head coach) not to mention his head coaching experience in Arizona from 2013-2017. The point is his experience in the NFL (25 years) is a huge advantage for him helping Winston and this Tampa offense reach the next level, because when you’ve coached the likes of Ben Roethlisberger (who had his first three seasons of 20+ touchdowns including his first 30+ score year as well as his first 4,000 yard season), Peyton Manning (who set the rookie passing touchdown record with 26 in 1998; broken this past season by Baker Mayfield’s 27), Andrew Luck (who became the first rookie QB in NFL history with 4,100+ yards and 23+ scores), and Carson Palmer (who had his best statistical season in 2015). All I know is Jameis Winston has shown flashes in the past (over 4,000 yards and at least 22 passing scores in the two seasons has played all 16), the weapons on the field he has to work with are some of the best in the league and now he has a coach who has made some of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen in the last 25 years reach career and NFL records so the Buccaneers offense should see a significant boost in 2019 and Winston could be the sleeper QB of the fantasy season. 

Coordinator Changes

ATLANTA FALCONS

OUT: OC Steve Sarkisian, DC Marquand Manuel, ST Keith Armstrong

IN: OC Dirk Koetter; DC Dan Quinn (also HC); ST Ben Kotwica

CHICAGO BEARS

OUT: DC Vic Fangio 

IN: DC Chuck Pagano 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

OUT: DC Bob Sutton

IN: DC Steve Spagnuolo

TENNESSEE TITANS

OUT: OC Matt LaFleur 

IN: OC Arthur Smith

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