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Owen Daniels and Gary Kubiak, Together Again

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post about Josh McDaniels and Brandon Lloyd. Well, with Owen Daniels reuniting with Gary Kubiak in Baltimore — lest you forget, Kubiak is the Ravens new offensive coordinator with Jim Caldwell now head coach in Detroit — I thought it might be fun to look at previous examples of a tight end playing with a head coach or offensive coordinator in two different cities. I’ve found nine examples since 2000 (minimum 400 yards by that tight end in at least one season of his career), including another Kubiak favorite.

Dallas Clark and Jim Caldwell in Baltimore in 2013 (after Indianapolis)

Clark was a productive tight end/slot receiver in Indianapolis for nine years, but he was released in the post-Peyton Manning makeover after the 2011 season.  Caldwell was with the Colts from ’02 to ’11, including as the team’s head coach in his final three years. After Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip in the summer of 2013, Caldwell — by then the Ravens offensive coordinator — decided to bring in Clark.  With Ed Dickson dealing with a hamstring injury, Clark made an immediate impact in week 1 with 7 receptions for 87 yards against the Broncos. Clark wound up finishing with the most receiving yards of any Ravens tight end last year, but still totaled just 343 yards in 12 games.

Jared Cook and Jeff Fisher in St. Louis in 2013 (after Tennessee)

Cook spent four years in Tennessee, the first two of those under Fisher’s watch. A free agent last year, Fisher and the Rams signed Cook to a big contract to lure him to St. Louis. The results? Too early to tell. Cook led the team with 671 yards and five touchdowns, but his career has been defined by teasing folks with potential (a 671-yard season was hardly a breakout, as Cook had averaged 641 yards over the prior two seasons despite missing three games). He’s continued to disappoint as a run blocker and also led all tight ends with eight drops in 2013.

Randy McMichael and Norv Turner in San Diego (after Miami)

Turner was the Dolphins offensive coordinator in ’02 and ’03, the first two years of McMichael’s career. McMichael left South Beach for St. Louis (more on this, later) in 2007; by then, Turner had become head coach of the Chargers. In 2010, Turner reunited with the 31-year old McMichael in San Diego, although he was brought in as the backup tight end to Antonio Gates. McMichael had three nondescript seasons with the team, before he and Turner were jettisoned after 2012.

Jeremy Shockey and Sean Payton in New Orleans (after New York Giants)

Payton was the Giants offensive coordinator in 2002, which was the year Shockey produced one of the greatest rookie seasons in tight end history. It wasn’t until 2008 that the duo would work together again. the Saints had a need for a play-making tight end, as the prior tight ends in the Payton era (Mark Campbell, Ernie Conwell, Eric Johnson, and Billy Miller) had underwhelmed. As a result, Payton traded a 2nd and 5th round pick to the Giants for the right to get Shockey; expectations were pretty high, as Shockey was drafted, on average, as the seventh tight end in fantasy football leagues.

In retrospect, injuries wound up ruining any chance for Shockey to be a star in New Orleans. His first year he produced a 50/483/0 stat line in 12 games. In 2009, Shockey was only a little better (48/569/3), but he did catch the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV. After a mediocre 2010 season, a 30-year-old Shockey was released.

Daniel Graham and Josh McDaniels in Denver (after New England)

Graham was a first round pick of the Patriots in 2002, and played the first five seasons of his career with the Patriots. McDaniels was a coaching assistant with New England most of that time, but did become offensive coordinator in Graham’s final year in Foxboro. But this example doesn’t really work — unlike the McDaniels/Lloyd love fest, Graham was already a Bronco when McDaniels was hired as head coach.

Jeb Putzier and Gary Kubiak in Houston (after Denver)

Kubiak was Putzier’s offensive coordinator in 2004, when the tight end had a breakout season with 572 yards on 15.9 yards per reception. After the ’05 season, Kubiak was hired as Texans head coach, and he aggressively recruited Putzier after the Broncos released him for cap reasons. But the reunion was much ado about nothing: Putzier lost the tight end job and gained just 164 yards in two seasons in Houston. The man he lost the job to? Owen Daniels.

Randy McMichael and Scott Linehan in St. Louis (after Miami)

Linehan was the Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2005; in ’06, he was hired after the Greatest Show on Turf era officially ended with the firing of Mike Martz. The Rams lacked a competent tight end in 2006, so Linehan went out and acquired his old tight end the next offseason. The 2007 Rams were terrible; while McMichael wound up third on the team in receiving yards, he had just 429 yards. The following year, McMichael suffered a season-ending injury in September, and Linehan was fired after the season.

Jermaine Wiggins and Dan Henning in Carolina (after New York Jets)

Henning was with the Jets from ’98 to ’00, serving as offensive coordinator the final season after Charlie Weis followed Bill Belichick to New England. Wiggins was an undrafted free agent with the Jets in ’99 and didn’t see much playing time in two years. I’ll always remember him for what he did in 2001, catching a game-high 10 passes in a memorable playoff game.

The Patriots released Wiggins a few months after the Super Bowl; after a brief stint with the Colts, Wiggins was reunited with Henning, who had been hired as John Fox’s offensive coordinator in Carolina. Wiggins was a nonfactor in two years with the Panthers behind Wesley Walls. That means in two stops, Henning wasn’t able to get much out of the player who would catch 140 passes with the Vikings in 2004 and 2005.

Stephen Alexander and Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego (after Washington)

Alexander made the Pro Bowl with Washington in 2000; in ’01, Schottenheimer replaced Norv Turner in D.C. That season, Alexander missed nearly the whole year with leg injuries, and Schottenheimer received the quick hook from Dan Snyder. After the coach resurfaced in San Diego, Alexander followed him out west. That season, Alexander put up near identical numbers to his ’00 season, although injuries prevented him from ever catching another pass with San Diego.

So what does this mean for Daniels?  As usual, there’s a limit to what we can infer from looking at prior examples, especially when several were not particularly comparable. The Ravens are singing the usual tune about how Daniels will be a valuable member of the offense, but it’s not clear how much room will be left for Daniels in the Ravens offense. A now-healthy Pitta will be the Ravens top tight end, while Clark remains a free agent (which mean he could wind up back in Baltimore; Dickson signed with the Panthers yesterday).

Baltimore also brought in Steve Smith to complement Torrey Smith; that doesn’t leave a lot of room left for Daniels, especially when you consider that Joe Flacco has never thrown for 4,000 yards. And, if he’s back with the team, Ray Rice should be expected to see about 90 targets, too.

Daniels, along with Jacoby Jones (yet another mouth to feed), should help the rest of the offense acclimate to a Kubiak offense. But history shows that familiarity with a coach does not automatically lead to big numbers as often as coaches seem to suggest.