AFC South: Marwan Maalouf

Three of four AFC special teams coaches lost their jobs after the season.

Marwan Maalouf was out after just one year in Indianapolis (replaced by Tom McMahon).

John Bonamego was out after just one year in Jacksonville (replaced by Mike Mallory, today.)

Alan Lowry was out after 14 years in the position in Tennessee (replaced by Nate Kaczor who was promoted from on staff.)

Houston’s Joe Marciano has been in the post since the Texans came into existence in 2002.

Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News annually ranks every teams' special teams. In 22 kicking game categories he awards one point for the best and 32 for the worst. Minnesota grabbed the No. 1 spot with 253.5 points, and Carolina was worst at 486.

The AFC South scored quite poorly here, offering some rationale for the three ousters. Parenthetically, I've added Football Outsiders rankings, an explanation of which you can find here.)
16. Tennessee, 358.5 (19th)

24. Houston, 402 (32nd)

26. Jacksonville, 418 (25th)

27. Indianapolis, 423 (12th)

A team like the Jaguars suffers more from bad special teams than Houston and Indianapolis, I’d argue. Any team can get a big boost from special-teams play, but a bad team needs that boost more because it's less likely to get major plays from offense or defense. (That doesn't, however, mean they should be spending a third-round pick on a punter who punts 91 times all season.)

Solid, disciplined, well-coached play and schemes can do more to overcome average personnel in special teams than on offense or defense. Building teams are likely to be younger, and younger guys are generally more willing and able to sell out to cover a kickoff or block for a punt returner.

A good team like the Colts of the Bill Polian/Tony Dungy/Jim Caldwell era showed for a lot of years that, with a quarterback the caliber of Peyton Manning, disregarding or de-emphasizing coverage and return teams can be completely survivable.

Houston and Indianapolis were playoff teams this season, despite bad special teams. The playoff field was all over the map in Gosselin's ratings -- from the Vikings (No. 1) to the Redskins (No. 31).

The Titans ranked in the middle of the pack and special teams helped them more than they hurt them. That's a goal the other three teams can aspire to, at least to start an upward swing.
We see an assistant coach fired and, if the move comes as a surprise, we tend to see fall guys, scapegoats, victims.

While the Jaguars are likely to have close to an entirely new staff under a yet-to-be-determined head coach, and while Marwan Maalouf is out as special teams coach in Indianapolis, the big AFC South turnover so far has come in Tennessee.

Mike Munchak fired Chris Palmer as his offensive coordinator with five games left in the season. Since the 6-10 campaign came to an end and Munchak got a vote of confidence from owner Bud Adams, Munchak has also parted ways with running backs coach Jim Skipper, tight ends coach John Zernhelt, linebackers coach Frank Bush and special teams coach Alan Lowry.

To reach many of you have said, “Yeah, that’ll fix it.”

We need to see not only who’s out, but who’s in to start to judge the moves.

I wasn’t a big fan of Bush, but as I wrote, his was one position where the Titans actually had an up arrow.

That doesn’t automatically mean he was doing a good job or that it was unfair to dismiss him.

After all, isn’t it possible Munchak evaluated the position and thought things could have been even better? Couldn't there have been something the group wasn’t doing that Bush wasn’t sufficiently correcting? Might he have developed philosophical differences that conflicted with his bosses?

I don’t know why he’s out.

But I do know Munchak is unlikely to have fired him on a whim. I do know that while there is a degree of covering one’s own behind with any move made on a staff, NFL coaches don’t make most moves lightly. After all, they were all position coaches once.

I do know that because of the way Munchak operates, we’re probably not going to get the real reason he parted ways with these guys, not in specifics. He’ll see no reason to advertise those publicly, even if many of us will jump to incorrect conclusions as a result.

I’ve never been in position to hire.

But I don’t think it’s very easy to put together a staff of 15 or so and hit on every one of them the first time. A coaching staff, as I’ve written before, is a sort of an evolving organism.

I suspect Titans fans would feel better about the guys who are gone if defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was with them. It’s not a certainty, yet, that Gray has survived this purge.

If he does, there is an inside reason for that, too, and it’s something more than loyalty.

In time maybe we’ll learn more about why Coach X stayed and Coach Y was cast aside.

In the meantime, let’s not simplify it to where if a position is good that means the position coach is good or vice versa.

RTC: Examining Matt Schaub's roots

January, 13, 2013
Reading the coverage from Boston ...

Houston Texans

When he was a kid, Matt Schaub’s coach would jab at him by calling him Bubby Brister, writes Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle. “He knows now it's not so easy to walk a mile in Bubby Brister's cleats.”

“Matt Schaub might be a playoff neophyte, but the nine-year veteran quarterback will not get a pass for a poor performance on the big stage,” writes Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle. “And neither will the Texans.”

Learning from losses is part of what makes Tom Brady a winner, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Garrett Graham could be a key piece for the offense, says Patrick D. Starr of State of the Texans.

Three keys for the Texans from Dave Zangaro of CSN Houston.

Indianapolis Colts

The flawed Colts can travel the free-agency road while bolstering their roster, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Bruce Arians has interviews Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then hopes to have his future resolved by Friday, says Chappell.

The Colts and special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf have parted ways.

Jacksonville Jaguars

David Caldwell is regarded as a grinder like Indianapolis’ Ryan Grigson and Chicago’s Phil Emery, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

How many years will Caldwell need, asks Gene Frenette of the Times-Union. Said owner Shad Khan: “I think we have to absolutely balance hope and expectation. I think we definitely want to be better, but it's going to take a little bit of time."

Is the Jaguars' coaching job attractive, asks O’Halloran?

The Jaguars are interested in interviewing Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Jason LaCanfora of CBS reported it, per Adam Stites of Big Cat Country.

Tennessee Titans

Matt Hasselbeck will serve as Jake Locker’s backup and the Titans' insurance policy at quarterback again in 2013, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Will this coaching shuffle work?” asks David Climer of The Tennessean. “I doubt it. Wholesale staff changes often do nothing but buy the head coach one more season. It provides the illusion of a fresh start, but all it really does is put some new faces on the same old problems.”