Hell's Kitchen: 5 NFL coordinators feeling the heat

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 23, 2012



By Kevin Braig
Coaching critic at the QuantCoach
(@quantcoach)

After the 2011 lockout and before the start of the 2011 season, the QuantCoach — the Cold Hard Football Facts’ Anton Ego of coaching criticism — reviewed five NFL coordinators who needed to develop signature dishes that would please even the most demanding pigskin palates.
 
In Ratatouille, Ego claimed that he didn’t just like food, he loved it. And if he didn’t love it he didn’t swallow.  Likewise, the QuantCoach loves football recipes, particularly those devised by master chefs such as Lombardi, Walsh and Belichick.  If the QuantCoach doesn’t love a football recipe, he spits out the coach who devised it like a 9-year-old cat gagging up a hair ball.
 
In 2011, the QuantCoach had to endure some refunding. But he also relished some wonderful recipes that were conjured up by some chefs that other critics had left for dead.
 
In particular, Wade Philips — who the QuantCoach forecast in the pre-season as the likely “comeback coach of the year” — greatly pleased the palate by devising recipes so delicious the Houston Texans’ defense improved from a road-side burger joint to a fine Texas steakhouse. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Falcons’ sous-chef Mike Mularkey parlayed his offensive recipes into the chef de cuisine position in the Jacksonville kitchen.
 
On the other hand, San Diego head coach Norv Turner found Greg Manusky’s defensive cooking so wretched that he sacked the coordinator after just one season in the kitchen and replaced him with Chargers’ linebacker chef de partie John Pagano. However, new Indianapolis chef de cuisine Chuck Pagano — John’s brother and the top defensive assistant in the NFL in Baltimore in 2011—brought in Manusky to serve as the Colts’ new defensive sous-chef.

Like the restaurant business, the NFL frequently is a family business.
 
Redskins’ offensive assistant Kyle Shanahan could not do much with rancid quarterback ingredients (Rex Grossman and John Beck). With first-round draft pick Robert Griffin III now under center, he will not get a pass this year if Café Washington is not one the hottest restaurants in the NFL. If the Redskins’ continue to generate kitchen waste (turnovers) at an alarming rate, owner Dan Snyder — who knows a thing or two about fine dining — undoubtedly will force his chef de cuisine to can Kyle. 

It won’t matter that the chef is Kyle’s daddy, Mike Shanahan.
 
But the sous-chef under the most fire going into the 2012 season is the same one that the QuantCoach put at the top of the list last year.

1.  Juan Castillo – Philadelphia defensive coordinator.  Prior to 2011, the Eagles’ front office brought in bushels of defensive talent in pass rushers Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins and defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. 

When Philadelphia underachieved, finished 8-8, and missed the playoffs, the pressure on head coach Andy Reid to fire Castillo was so intense that rumors circulated that Reid was given an ultimatum to eject Castillo from the kitchen or lose his chef de cuisine job in Philadelphia. Despite the rumors, both Castillo and Reid are back

Again, the Eagles’ front office has added excellent new ingredients on defense in rookie pass rushers Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry.  But where Philadelphia really needed an upgrade was at linebacker.  Anybody who saw New York quarterback Eli Manning torch the Eagles’ linebackers with touchdown passes to Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants’ 29-16 win in Philadelphia in Week 3 knew that fresh ingredients were needed in this area. With that in mind, the Eagles brass traded for Houston linebacker DeMeco Ryans and drafted California linebacker Mychal Kendricks in the second round. 

Even Anton Ego could not criticize Castillo for the 38 turnovers that Michael Vick and the Philadelphia offense spilled all over the field last year.  But if Castillo’s defensive recipes are not much improved this year, not even Reid will be able to save Castillo’s spot in the kitchen for another year.

2.  Todd Haley – Pittsburgh offensive coordinator. As Arizona’s offensive coordinator, Haley came up with the recipes that Kurt Warner cooked to get the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.  As the Chiefs’ head coach, however, Haley was stuck with the much blander Matt Cassel as his quarterback ingredient. 

Moreover, his Kansas City kitchen had more turmoil than a wild-west saloon, as Haley seemed to be constantly duking it out with somebody or throwing someone (usually someone affiliated with general manager Scott Pioli) through the swinging doors.  Now charged with drawing up head coach Mike Tomlin’s offensive recipes, Haley has a zesty quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger in the Warner mold.  But the real doubt that Haley must put to rest is that he cannot work in a kitchen without making a lot of CRASHING SOUNDS!

3.  Pete Carmichael – New Orleans offensive coordinator. When Saints’ chef de cuisine Sean Payton got taken out by some Saints and Buccaneers bursting in through the sideline out door last year, New Orleans’ offensive gumbo not only didn’t lose any zang, it kicked it up a notch under Carmichael. 

BAM!! 

Carmichael and quarterback Drew Brees hit Indianapolis in the next game with 62 points. Lagasse himself could not have done it any better at Emeril’s Delmonico. Now, with Payton suspended for the season for his role in Bounty-gate (the pay-for-pain, not paper towel, scandal) and New Orleans’ kitchen in utter turmoil, the Saints need Carmichael to again be the quicker-picker-upper. 

If he is up to the task, look for “Pete’s Place” to open in some other city before the start of the 2013 season.

4.  Tony Sparano – New York Jets offensive coordinator. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could bring a brand new culinary style to New York City. But it appears that Sparano, the chef in the Miami kitchen the last two years, is going to try. Call it Christian-Mex. 

Sparano will try to combine newly acquired quarterback Tim Tebow — a unique ingredient indeed — with incumbent Mark Sanchez. Look for Sparano to mix Tebow and some of David Lee’s old Wildcat recipes into the Sanchez-Santonio Holmes stew that turned on New York’s 2011 offensive sous-chef, Brian Schottenheimer. 

It’s a combination of ingredients that has never before been tried and will be closely scrutinized, particularly if Sanchez harfs up a few interceptions early in the year.

5.  Mel Tucker – Jacksonville defensive coordinator. While the smell coming from the Jaguars’ moldy offense last year kept all but the heartiest souls from investigating the Jacksonville Inn in 2011, that stench hid the fact that defensive sous-chef Tucker had developed a fairly appetizing defensive menu using mostly inexpensive ingredients. 

Tucker’s offerings were particularly tasty when they featured pea-sized defensive end John Chick (255 pounds) that Jacksonville harvested from a remote field in Saskatchewan where Chick was the 2009 CFL Defensive Player of the Year.


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