Baseball might be America’s past time, but the National Football League is America’s true passion. Each season millions of fans cram stadiums, gather at bars, and host Sunday parties to watch their favorite team on the gridiron. Since March however, every NFL fans hopes’ of seeing their team lift the Lombardi Trophy or visiting the cathedrals of the game have been on hold due to the current lockout. While practice facilities are quiet and the massive LCD HDTV screen at Cowboy’s Stadium remains dormant for the Dallas Cowboys, there is hope on the horizon that the NFL lockout could end soon. What will this mean for the 2011 season?
The answer to this question is tricky. A lot of things remain up in the air regarding the NFL at this moment. Rookies drafted back in April have neither signed a contract nor seen a playbook and veterans have been left to their own devices in regards to training. While many recent NFL seasons have been highlighted by the unexpected, the 2011 season could be very different.
Assuming the lockout comes to an end and we get football come September, fans should expect to see experience and familiarity rule the day in the NFL. With little time to prepare, review playbooks, and install new systems, several NFL teams could face a rough ride in 2011 as new coaches settle in with several franchises. Eight new coaches will take over in 2011 at the following franchises:
- Carolina Panthers
- Cleveland Browns
- Denver Broncos
- Oakland Raiders
- San Francisco 49ers
- Tennessee Titans
- Dallas Cowboys
- Minnesota Vikings
Each of these teams faces possible disadvantages as their new coaches and their staffs will have little time to prepare them to play “their brand” of football. The extent to which each of these teams will be disadvantaged will be different for each team.
The Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans face a difficult time of transition as the clubs welcome new coaches for the first time in years. Coach John Fox, who led the Panthers for nine years, parted ways with Carolina in the offseason and quickly landed the head coaching gig with the Denver Broncos. Carolina will now be led by long time defensive coordinator, and first time head coach, Ron Rivera who is bringing a new offensive coordinator to the team as well.
The Titans have known just one head coach in their 14 year history. Jeff Fisher took over as the head coach of the then Houston Oilers in 1994 and led the franchise through its move to Tennessee, even making a Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 2000 season. Now the Titans face an uncertain future under first time head coach Mike Munchak.
Other clubs, namely the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, removed the interim tag from their coaches last season and promoted them to head coach. Long time assistant Leslie Frazier will get a chance to put his mark on the Minnesota franchise, while former Cowboy Jason Garrett.
Although the transition to a new coach is difficult for everyone, welcoming several new coaches is even more difficult. No one may be facing greater pressure this season than Jason Garrett. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was blessed with great coaches in the late 1980s and 1990s, but the ‘Boys have fallen on tough times in the 21st century. Despite a lavish new stadium, complete with a 72ft by 168ft LCD jumbotron, Jones has not seen his team return to their former glory. Garrett, who spent the bulk of his 16 year career playing in a Cowboy uniform, will be tasked with returning America’s team to its former glory.
Garrett was successful in 2010 after taking over for Wade Phillips, who led the team to a 1-7 start. Under Garrett the Cowboys went 5-3 down the stretch to salvage a 6-10 season. Now however, Garrett has a chance to put his stamp on the Cowboys. If he’s going to be successful, he’ll need to do it with a coaching staff that has little experience working together. The team has four new coaches as of 2011 and three with less than two years of experience on the Cowboys.
What exactly the 2011 season holds in store is anyone’s guess, but everyone should expect to see teams that have been together for awhile with consistent coaching staffs to have an upper hand in 2011.