Fantasy NFL

Choose wisely

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Texans have a new head coach.

So do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns will join them soon enough.

But should any of us care?

Yes, actually.

It's become a common misconception that we as fantasy owners live and die by the players we select on draft day. Though they won't get as much credit as they deserve, the guys wearing headsets may be just as important to our teams' success as the ones wearing helmets and shoulder pads.

Two of the best examples of this have come in the last year.

Black Monday 2013 saw Andy Reid's tenure as Eagles head coach come to an end. His replacement, offensive mastermind Chip Kelly, propelled Philadelphia to fourth in the league in points scored just one year after scoring the fourth- fewest points in the NFL. LeSean McCoy (1,607 rushing yards in 2013, a 767- yard improvement from the year before) and DeSean Jackson (1,332 receiving yards, 632 more than he produced in 2012) looked like completely different players with Kelly calling the shots this season.

Philadelphia's season ended on Saturday but the Saints are still going. For New Orleans, the difference between last season's 7-9 team and this year's 11-5 squad can be summed up in two words: Sean Payton. With Payton suspended for his involvement in the Bountygate Scandal, the usually unflappable Drew Brees was picked off 19 times, his highest interception total since 2010 and the second-highest of his 13-year career.

With Payton back at the helm, Brees looked much more at ease in 2013, finishing with seven fewer interceptions and upping his quarterback rating by over eight points (96.3 to 104.7). The return of Payton also impacted Jimmy Graham, who scored seven more touchdowns and produced 233 more yards than he did a year earlier.

Perhaps the most coveted coaching job still available resides in the Motor City. The Lions should have been a shoo-in for the playoffs after getting off to a 6-3 start but a late-season collapse cost them their division title and eventually Jim Schwartz his job.

The team already has the pieces to win a championship (Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Ndamukong Suh). They just need a coach who can take them there.

Some think that coach might be Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. A tight end for the Falcons, Redskins and Jets during his playing days, Whisenhunt has made it to the Super Bowl once as a head coach and once as an offensive coordinator.

During his six-year tenure as head coach in Arizona, the Cardinals finished in the top-12 in passing yards three times including 2008 when they were second behind New Orleans. Most are attributing Philip Rivers' revival in 2013 (872 more passing yards, six more touchdowns than he had in 2012) to Whisenhunt's presence on the sidelines.

There's a good chance Whisenhunt would have a similar impact on the talented but mechanically-flawed Matthew Stafford (29 TD, 19 INT, 4,650 passing yards) if he got to coach him in Detroit next season.

Houston wasted no time in finding a new coach after the season ended. The last-place Texans decided to go with Penn State play-caller and Bill Belichick disciple Bill O'Brien.

Though it's true O'Brien has never been the head coach for an NFL team before, the hire should bode well for the team's offensive outlook, assuming they can grab either Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel with the No. 1 pick. Under O'Brien's leadership, Penn State finished fourth in the Big Ten in yards per game this past season.

With O'Brien's creativity on offense, Andre Johnson (1,407 receiving yards but only five touchdowns) and Arian Foster (542 yards and one touchdown before he got hurt) should both be able to rebound from so-so fantasy seasons in 2013.

O'Brien's hiring, though not as high-profile as some of the other vacancies we'll see filled in the coming days, speaks volumes about where the NFL is headed. Of the seven teams that hired new head coaches last season, only Jacksonville went with a defensive specialist (Gus Bradley). The others all came from offensive backgrounds.

Today's NFL isn't about keeping your opponents off the scoreboard. It's about putting up as many points as possible. With the NFL trending more and more toward offense and especially toward passing, the record-breaking offensive display we saw from the Broncos in 2013 could soon become a yearly occurrence.

Which makes Tampa Bay's hiring of Lovie Smith all the more curious. With offenses churning out more yardage than ever, why re-brand with a coach whose focus has always been about defense?

Well, there's actually a perfectly good explanation. Sometimes the best way to improve your offense is by playing really good D. Tampa Bay's defense wasn't terrible last season (17th in yards allowed) but there is certainly plenty of room for improvement.

If the Bucs can force more three and outs, they'll give their offense more chances to put points on the board, which is great for fantasy studs Vinny Jackson and Doug Martin. Four of the top-five teams in time of possession (Carolina, Cincinnati, New Orleans and San Diego) made the playoffs this year so maybe this "addition by subtraction" theory has legs.

Black Monday has come and gone.

As for the fantasy implications? There's no end in sight.

01/08 18:40:44 ET