New Defensive Coordinators for the 2017 NFL Season
By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Ah, the fickle life of an NFL defensive coordinator. They often get shortchanged on credit and are often the first shoe to drop when things start going wrong. Case in point—there were nine defensive coordinator openings up-for-grabs heading into the 2017 season. Among the lot are former head coaches and rising positions coaches throughout the league. The job itself can be a springboard to a head coaching job, as both coaches in Super Bowl LI were former defensive coordinators in Dan Quinn and Bill Belichick. The list this year is packed with familiar names, along with former head coaches, longtime coordinators, and guys getting their first opportunity to coach at the highest of levels in the NFL. Let's take a look at all the new defensive coordinators who will be in the first year of their new gig in the 2017 NFL season.
Leslie Frazier (Buffalo Bills): The 57-year old former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings led the Super Bowl winning Bears in interceptions before having to abruptly retire and turn to coaching. This is his fourth coordinator job, having previously served in that same capacity with the Bengals, Vikings, and Buccaneers. A former defensive back, that area is his specialty and last season, he was the secondary coach for the Ravens. He joins a totally revamped Buffalo coaching staff, led by new head coach Sean McDermott. Frazier has some nice pieces with which to work and we'll see if they can get things pointed in the right direction this season.
Matt Burke (Miami Dolphins): Burke replaced Vance Joseph, who is now the head coach of the Broncos. Burke served as linebackers coach for the Lions, Bengals, and Dolphins, before getting promoted to the coordinator ranks upon the exodus of Joseph. The fiery 40-year old looks to make his mark on a Miami team that is worth keeping an eye on this upcoming season. Burke combines an Ivy League education with an aggressive defensive outlook and it will be interesting to see how the 'Fins "D" fares under his stewardship.
Gregg Williams (Cleveland Browns): This is the 7th coordinator job for the 58-year old Williams. Some may remember Williams was the head coach for three years with the Bills. He has achieved results nearly everywhere he has been and is considered one of the top defensive minds in the game. He first worked in the NFL under defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan for the Houston Oilers. Prior to this, he worked for three seasons as the Rams' defensive coordinator and now faces the daunting task of getting things turned around in Cleveland.
Joe Woods (Denver Broncos): The longtime defensive backs coach was rewarded for his sterling work with the Broncos, getting promoted to defensive coordinator. After knocking around in the college ranks for a decade, he got into the NFL as a DB coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a role he also served with the Vikings and Raiders. After two strong seasons leading the Broncos secondary, he gets the gig with Wade Phillips taking the Rams coordinator position.
Gus Bradley (Los Angeles Chargers): The 50-year old gave it a good try, but could never get the Jacksonville Jaguars turned in the right direction in his 4-year tenure as head coach. He returns to the coordinator ranks for the Chargers in their first season in Los Angeles. Bradley served in this role for four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks from 2009 to 2012. If they can catch a few breaks on the injury front, there are ample pieces with which Bradley can work, as he and the new staff tries to get the Chargers back to respectability.
Greg Manusky (Washington Redskins): Promoted from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, this is the 50-year old's fourth coordinator gig. The former NFL linebacker who enjoyed a 12-year career in the league has previously served as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, and Indianapolis Colts. Manusky replaces Joe Barry, who led the Redskins "D" to a number-28 ranking in 2016, leading to Manusky's promotion.
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Steve Wilks (Carolina Panthers): With previous coordinator Sean McDermott off to take the Bills head coaching job, the Panthers promoted from within and went with defensive backs coach Steve Wilks as the new coordinator. Wilks, 47, came from the college ranks, eventually joining the NFL coaching ranks as a defensive backs coach in 2006. He served in that role for several teams, the last two with the Panthers.
Wade Phillips (Los Angeles Rams): After two seasons leading the Broncos defense, the erstwhile Phillips joins the Rams' staff. Phillips, 69, will be the wise old counterpoint to 31-year old head coach Sean McVay. His first NFL coaching job came in 1976 and he has been a defensive coordinator for the Saints, Eagles, Broncos (twice), Bills, Falcons, Chargers, and Texans. Phillips was also a head coach for the Broncos, Bills, and Cowboys. Phillips has orchestrated some great defenses over the years and has a lot of good pieces to work with in LA.