The AFC East wasn't part of the NFL's latest round of head-coaching turnover, but it did come within one bizarre, he’s-our-head-coach-oops-no-he-isn’t drama of having all four teams change offensive coordinators.
As it is, each club in the division has made a coordinator switch.
- The Buffalo Bills replaced offensive coordinator Rick Dennison with Brian Daboll.
- The New York Jets promoted quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates to replace John Morton as offensive coordinator.
- The Miami Dolphins hired former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to fill the same spot in place of Clyde Christensen, who was moved to a newly created position of director of football and player development.
- The New England Patriots are looking for a new defensive coordinator after Matt Patricia did the expected and became the head coach of the Detroit Lions. They could have been searching for a new offensive coordinator as well, but Josh McDaniels did the unexpected by suddenly backing out of an agreement to become head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
In the cases of the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, the decisions were driven by an effort to improve offensive production. For the Patriots, it was a matter of another Bill Belichick lieutenant reaping the rewards of the organization’s perennial success and getting the chance to call the shots elsewhere.
With the new OC faces come new ideas.
Under Daboll, the Bills’ running and passing attacks, which ranked sixth and 31st in the NFL in total yards, respectively, are expected to take on a different look.
The run game will incorporate more gap and power-oriented blocking, with a straightforward push being preferred more often to the wide-zone approach that Dennison brought from the coaching lineage of Mike Shanahan and Alex Gibbs, an O-line coach with whom Dennison worked on Shanahan’s staff. The Bills are also expected to utilize run-pass option (or RPO) plays that are steadily finding their way into the NFL from the college ranks and with which Daboll had success in his previous job as offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama.
In addition, Daboll will look to bring a quicker-paced passing game to the Bills, with a heavy dose of high-percentage throws on short and intermediate routes.
On the other hand, the Jets, with Bates running the league’s 28th-ranked offense in total yards last season, will have a run game that more closely resembles what the Bills did in their one year with Dennison as OC because of the history the coaches have with the wide-zone blocking scheme. In fact, Bates hired Dennison as his run-game coordinator.
Given that the Dolphins are the only AFC East team whose head coach has an offensive background, Loggains won’t have the same autonomy as the other offensive coordinators in the division. He will partner with head coach Adam Gase, who is expected to continue to call most of the plays. Loggains was the Bears’ quarterbacks coach when Gase was their offensive coordinator in 2015, and was promoted to OC after Gase left for Miami.
Together, they did a good job of getting the most out of Jay Cutler, who completed nearly 65 percent of his passes with 3,659 yards and 21 touchdowns. Loggains also received credit for helping Matt Forte to rush for most 900 yards that season. However, after Gase joined the Dolphins, the Bears’ offense was abysmal under Loggains. ESPN ranked him as the NFL’s worst play-caller.
Still, looking to recapture what they had in 2015, Gase will lean on Loggains to finally get the full extent of talent the Dolphins appear to believe they can still squeeze from Ryan Tannehill, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.