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It stands to reason that when a team has a bottom five scoring offense, they’re going to make some changes. But today we’re going to quantify what we all know. By definition, there were 55 teams to rank in the bottom five in scoring from 2002 to 2012. What changes did those teams make?

  • 29 of the teams (53%) switched head coaches, 43 switched offensive coordinators (78%), and 32 teams (58%) had a different starting quarterback in week 1 of the following season. In 19 of the 55 cases (35%), the team got rid of the whole trio.
  • I don’t think it’s too surprising that the offensive coordinator is the most likely casualty.  In the 12 cases where the offensive coordinator was retained, the head coach was only fired in one of those seasons. That was in Cincinnati after the 2002 season, when Bob Bratkowski was kept after Dick LeBeau was replaced by Marvin Lewis. The Bengals drafted Carson Palmer with the first overall pick a few months later, but Jon Kitna kept the quarterback job for the 2003 season.
  • In only four of the other 11 cases where the offensive coordinator was fired did the team switch quarterbacks. In 2009, Steve Spagnuolo and Pat Shurmur struggled in St. Louis under Marc Bulger; the team landed the number one overall pick, drafted Sam Bradford, and played him immediately. Also that year, Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll could not get the Cleveland offense humming under Brady Quinn. The solution was to bring in Jake Delhomme in 2010. In 2008, the Bengals offense struggled when Palmer missed most of the year due to injury. Lewis and Bratkowski were retained, as Cincinnati pinned the blame on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Finally, in 2006, Tampa Bay ranked 31st in scoring despite the presence of coaching guru Jon Gruden and Bill Muir. A rookie Bruce Gradkowski (playing after Chris Simms) was replaced in 2007 with Jeff Garcia.

There were only 7 of 55 situations where a team had a bottom five offense but brought back the head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback. Below is the full information for the 55 teams; analysis to come after the jump. For the Year N QB, I’ve listed the quarterback with the most attempts. For the Year N+1 QB, I chose to list the quarterback that started in week one of that season. All team/player/coach cells are linked to the relevant PFR page.

YearTmPF RkYear N HCYear N OCYear N QBYear N +1 HCYear N +1 OCYear N +1 QB
2012KAN32Romeo CrennelBrian DabollMatt CasselAndy ReidDoug PedersonAlex Smith
2012ARI31Ken WhisenhuntMike MillerJohn SkeltonBruce AriansHarold GoodwinCarson Palmer
2012JAX30Mike MularkeyBob BratkowskiChad HenneGus BradleyJedd FischBlaine Gabbert
2012PHI29Andy ReidMarty MornhinwegMichael VickChip KellyPat ShurmurMichael Vick
2012NYJ28Rex RyanTony SparanoMark SanchezRex RyanMarty MornhinwegGeno Smith
2011STL32Steve SpagnuoloJosh McDanielsSam BradfordJeff FisherBrian SchottenheimerSam Bradford
2011KAN31Todd HaleyBill MuirMatt CasselRomeo CrennelBrian DabollMatt Cassel
2011CLE30Pat ShurmurPat ShurmurColt McCoyPat ShurmurBrad ChildressBrandon Weeden
2011JAX28Jack Del RioDirk KoetterBlaine GabbertMike MularkeyBob BratkowskiBlaine Gabbert
2011IND28Jim CaldwellClyde ChristensenCurtis PainterChuck PaganoBruce AriansAndrew Luck
2010CAR32John FoxJeff DavidsonJimmy ClausenRon RiveraRob ChudzinskiCam Newton
2010CLE31Eric ManginiBrian DabollColt McCoyPat ShurmurPat ShurmurColt McCoy
2010MIA30Tony SparanoDan HenningChad HenneTony SparanoBrian DabollChad Henne
2010MIN29Brad ChildressDarrell BevellBrett FavreLeslie FrazierBill MusgraveDonovan McNabb
2010BUF28Chan GaileyCurtis ModkinsRyan FitzpatrickChan GaileyCurtis ModkinsRyan Fitzpatrick
2009STL32Steve SpagnuoloPat ShurmurMarc BulgerSteve SpagnuoloPat ShurmurSam Bradford
2009OAK31Tom CableTom CableJaMarcus RussellTom CableHue JacksonJason Campbell
2009TAM30Raheem MorrisGreg OlsonJosh FreemanRaheem MorrisGreg OlsonJosh Freeman
2009CLE29Eric ManginiBrian DabollBrady QuinnEric ManginiBrian DabollJake Delhomme
2009BUF28Dick JauronAlex Van PeltRyan FitzpatrickChan GaileyCurtis ModkinsTrent Edwards
2008CIN32Marvin LewisBob BratkowskiRyan FitzpatrickMarvin LewisBob BratkowskiCarson Palmer
2008CLE30Romeo CrennelRob ChudzinskiDerek AndersonEric ManginiBrian DabollBrady Quinn
2008STL30Jim HaslettAl SaundersMarc BulgerSteve SpagnuoloPat ShurmurMarc Bulger
2008OAK29Tom CableGreg KnappJaMarcus RussellTom CableTom CableJaMarcus Russell
2008WAS28Jim ZornSherman SmithJason CampbellJim ZornSherman SmithJason Campbell
2007SFO32Mike NolanJim HostlerTrent DilferMike SingletaryMike MartzJ.T. O'Sullivan
2007KAN31Herman EdwardsMike SolariDamon HuardHerman EdwardsChan GaileyBrodie Croyle
2007BUF30Dick JauronSteve FairchildTrent EdwardsDick JauronTurk SchonertTrent Edwards
2007ATL29Bobby PetrinoHue JacksonJoey HarringtonMike SmithMike MularkeyMatt Ryan
2007STL28Scott LinehanGreg OlsonMarc BulgerJim HaslettAl SaundersMarc Bulger
2006OAK32Art ShellTom WalshAndrew WalterLane KiffinGreg KnappJosh McCown
2006TAM31Jon GrudenBill MuirBruce GradkowskiJon GrudenBill MuirJeff Garcia
2006CLE30Romeo CrennelJeff DavidsonCharlie FryeRomeo CrennelRob ChudzinskiCharlie Frye
2006MIA29Nick SabanMike MularkeyJoey HarringtonCam CameronCam CameronTrent Green
2006HOU28Gary KubiakTroy CalhounDavid CarrGary KubiakMike ShermanMatt Schaub
2005CLE32Romeo CrennelMaurice CarthonTrent DilferRomeo CrennelJeff DavidsonCharlie Frye
2005NOR31Jim HaslettMike SheppardAaron BrooksSean PaytonDoug MarroneDrew Brees
2005SFO30Mike NolanMike McCarthyAlex SmithMike NolanNorv TurnerAlex Smith
2005NYJ29Herman EdwardsMike HeimerdingerBrooks BollingerEric ManginiBrian SchottenheimerChad Pennington
2005DET28Steve MariucciTed TollnerJoey HarringtonRod MarinelliMike MartzJon Kitna
2004CHI32Lovie SmithTerry SheaChad HutchinsonLovie SmithRon TurnerKyle Orton
2004WAS31Joe GibbsDon BreauxPatrick RamseyJoe GibbsDon BreauxPatrick Ramsey
2004SFO30Dennis EricksonTed TollnerTim RattayMike NolanMike McCarthyTim Rattay
2004JAX29Jack Del RioBill MusgraveByron LeftwichJack Del RioCarl SmithByron Leftwich
2004MIA28Dave WannstedtChris FoersterA.J. FeeleyNick SabanScott LinehanGus Frerotte
2003ARI32Dave McGinnisJerry SullivanJeff BlakeDennis GreenAlex WoodJosh McCown
2003BUF30Gregg WilliamsKevin GilbrideDrew BledsoeMike MularkeyTom ClementsDrew Bledsoe
2003NYG30Jim FasselJim FasselKerry CollinsTom CoughlinJohn HufnagelKurt Warner
2003CLE29Butch DavisBruce AriansKelly HolcombButch DavisTerry RobiskieJeff Garcia
2003HOU28Dom CapersChris PalmerDavid CarrDom CapersChris PalmerDavid Carr
2002HOU32Dom CapersChris PalmerDavid CarrDom CapersChris PalmerDavid Carr
2002DAL31Dave CampoBruce CosletChad HutchinsonBill ParcellsMaurice CarthonQuincy Carter
2002CAR30John FoxDan HenningRodney PeeteJohn FoxDan HenningRodney Peete
2002ARI29Dave McGinnisRich OlsonJake PlummerDave McGinnisJerry SullivanJeff Blake
2002CIN28Dick LeBeauBob BratkowskiJon KitnaMarvin LewisBob BratkowskiJon Kitna

So what can we learn from the 7 teams that kept all three men in charge of the offense?

2010 Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey, Curtis Modkins, and Ryan Fitzpatrick

In 2009, the Bills ranked 28th in scoring under Jauron, Van Pelt, and Fitzpatrick. In the off-season, Buddy Nix was hired as GM, and he brought in Gailey and Modkins. The Bills actually began 2010 with Trent Edwards at quarterback, but Fitzpatrick started 13 games and Buffalo again ranked 28th in points. Nix wasn’t going to fire Gailey after one year, nor was Gailey going to get rid of Modkins, his longtime assistant in Dallas, Georgia Tech, and Kansas City.

The only option was a new quarterback, but the 3rd pick in the draft meant Cam Newton wasn’t available. Buffalo wisely chose Marcell Dareus over Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, or Christian Ponder. A second round pick on Aaron Williams may have been better spent on Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick, but in any event, Buffalo decided to give the trio another shot and was rewarded with a 14th place finish in points scored in 2011.

2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Raheem Morris, Greg Olson, and Josh Freeman

After an ugly end to the Gruden era in 2008, Tampa Bay cleaned house. Morris and Olson were brought in, and Freeman was selected with a first round pick. This is an easy example to understand, as it represented year one of a rebuild. In year two, Tampa Bay finished 15th in points, before falling to 31st in scoring in 2011. Without the rebuilding excuse that time around, Morris and Olson were fired.

2008 Washington Redskins: Jim Zorn, Sherman Smith, Jason Campbell

The circumstances surrounding Zorn’s hire were very odd, even by Daniel Snyder standards. After the second Joe Gibbs era ended, Zorn was hired as offensive coordinator — before the team hired a head coach! Gregg Williams and Jim Fassel were both rumored for the job, but eventually, Snyder and Vinny Cerrato decided to simply promote Zorn (a decision that later cost Cerrato his job). Zorn then hired Smith, his former teammate when the duo was in Seattle.

At the time, Campbell was established as the quarterback, and while Washington did rank 28th in points, the team went 8-8 and Campbell did lead the league in completion percentage. Of course, bringing the trio back turned into a disaster, as Washington went 4-12 in 2009 and ranked 26th in points scored.

2004 Washington Redskins: Joe Gibbs, Don Breaux, and Patrick Ramsey

The 2004 season was the first year of the Gibbs Era 2.0, and while the offense struggled, nobody was talking about firing Gibbs or his longtime offensive assistant. In 2004, the quarterback reps were split between Ramsey and Mark Brunell, and in ’05, Brunell wound up starting the final 15 games of the year — and succeeding. Washington went 10-6 and ranked 13th in points.

2002 and 2003 Houston Texans: Dom Capers, Chris Palmer, David Carr

The 2002 Texans were an expansion team, and the trio of Capers, Palmer, and the former number one overall pick were given mulligans after each of their first two seasons. Small gains were made in 2004, before the team bottomed out against in 2005.

2002 Carolina Panthers: John Fox, Dan Henning, and Rodney Peete

The 2001 Panthers lost their final 15 games of the season, and not much was expected the following year. Fox was hired in 2002 after his strong work as the defensive coordinator in the Giants, and Henning (who was 60 years old and had a long coaching history) was a noncontroversial choice to run the offense. Peete was an odd choice, but the 36-year-old started 14 games. The team predictably struggled, but the big surprise was that Carolina didn’t draft a quarterback. Perhaps they knew what they were doing: Peete started the 2003 opener, but was benched at halftime for Jake Delhomme, who guided the team to the Super Bowl that year.

2013 Bottom Five Scoring Teams

Let’s apply this analysis to the five lowest-scoring teams in 2013.

#28) New York Giants

Eli Manning isn’t going anywhere, of course. The Giants want Tom Coughlin back, but as I wrote in the New York Times last week, someone will have to pay for the results this year. That person is almost certainly going to be offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Coughlin is meeting with Giants management today, and presumably Gilbride’s fate will be the main topic of discussion. [Update: Gilbride is announcing his retirement today.]

#29) New York Jets

As I wrote last week, the Jets fired Brian Schottenheimer and Tony Sparano at the end of 2011 and 2012, so you would think Marty Mornhinweg would return in 2014. Obviously the Jets are going to retain Rex Ryan and it seems more likely than not that Geno Smith will be the week 1 starter in 2014. The return of this trio would make sense if Ryan was a first-year head coach, but that’s not the case here. Of the 55 teams to finish in the bottom five, the only times the HC/OC/QB were all retained were when the head coach was in his first season and the 2003 Texans, who still carried with them the air of expansion. Retaining Ryan continues to baffle me, and I wonder how the general manager is content bringing back the same head coach, coordinator, and quarterback from one of the league’s worst offenses. Unless, of course, the GM isn’t the one making all these calls.

The Jets could draft a quarterback in the first round, but that would be the third top-40 pick the Jets have spent on a quarterback in the Ryan era. Perhaps that will be the charm? More likely, the Jets organization decides to give Ryan/Mornhinweg/Smith another year, which is simply unprecedented for an offense this bad (of course, it is possible the other team in New York might also make the same unprecedented situation, although the Giants have clearly earned more benefit of the doubt). For what it’s worth, it’s not like the Jets were a good offense that just happened to finish in the bottom five in points: the Jets ranked last in ANY/A, passer rating, and completion percentage, 30th in PFR’s Expected Points Added, and 27th in DVOA. Bringing in new receivers and a tight end will help the offense, but I struggle to believe that the goal for the Jets offense should be based around Ryan/Mornhinweg/Smith and some better receivers.

#30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Greg Schiano and GM Mark Dominik were fired on Monday; Mike Sullivan had a disastrous season as offensive coordinator, and he was dismissed with Schiano. Mike Glennon? He’s been a pleasant surprise, although his TD/INT ratio is much more impressive than his Net Yards per Attempt rank. Tampa Bay just hired Lovie Smith, but it’s too early to speculate what he’ll do at quarterback.

#31) Houston Texans

Not much drama here. Gary Kubiak was fired, Rick Dennison is not coming back, and no one expects Matt Schaub or Case Keenum to be the quarterback in 2014. This will be a full house clean for 2014, and the team has already hired Bill O’Brien as head coach.

#32) Jacksonville Jaguars

You could compare the situation Gus Bradley and Jedd Fisch are in to the 2002 Panthers. Like Fox and Henning, Bradley and Fisch took over the worst team in the NFL and an offense that had no hope of succeeding. Blaine Gabbert’s now identified as a bust, and Chad Henne is just a younger version of Peete. Bradley isn’t going anywhere — Shahid Khan and David Caldwell aren’t going to blame him for this season — and there are no indications that Fisch isn’t going to be retained, either. The quarterback situation is another story, of course. Fisch is already looking at college quarterbacks, and the smart money is on the Jaguars taking  a quarterback in the first round. It would be shocking if Gabbert or Henne is the team’s starter in 2014.

Conclusion: Let’s assume the Texans end the Schaub/Keenum charade, and Glennon returns as Tampa’s quarterback in 2014. That means that of the last 60 teams to rank in the bottom five in scoring, 20 of them switched head coaches, offensive coordinators, and quarterbacks. And with the exception of first-year head coaches, the only teams to bring back the full trio would be the 2003-04 Texans and 2013-14 Jets.

{ 4 comments }
  • Arif Hasan January 2, 2014, 5:00 am

    Really curious about the relationship between changing your HC/OC/QB and improving your offense against simple regression to the mean.

    Reply
  • Danish January 2, 2014, 7:21 pm

    Bear with me, second language here: Did you just use the fact that Schottenheimer and Sparano was fired as an argument for Morhinweg not getting fired?

    Also: Is keeping Rex Ryan really that bad of an idea? I haven’t heard a lot of arguments against him. Sure the offense has been terrible but the defense has been equally excellent, and I’m not sure Bill Walsh could’ve build an offense around Sanchez et. al. I’ll grant you that Ryan deserves some blame for getting those QBs on board in the first place, but thats what GMs and scouting departments are for, right?

    Reply
  • LSF January 3, 2014, 5:15 pm

    Who would have thought that 2 of the 7 teams not to fire anyone would be Dan Snyder’s Skins teams?

    Reply

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