<
>

Camp '09: In the Pressure Cooker, coach version

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Thursday, we tossed eight NFC North players into the "Pressure Cooker." Now, let's shift the focus to coaches as we continue establishing our season-long storylines.

Let me say in advance that I couldn't bring myself to include anyone from Detroit's coaching staff. Jim Schwartz and his assistants have taken over the worst team, based on record, in the history of the NFL. Historically speaking, at least, it's highly likely the Lions will improve on last year's 0-16 mark. Schwartz and his staff have a difficult job, but I don't see any of them on the traditional hot seat. There's no pressure the year after 0-16.

Smith
Chicago head coach Lovie Smith

Pressure source: Smith took over the defensive play calling and is the de facto coordinator after overhauling his defensive staff. Loosely translated, that approach said: "Last year's problems were coaching related and can be fixed by better coaching." If the defense doesn't improve in this new arrangement, there will be no one left to blame.
Ramifications:
It's hard to imagine Smith losing his job over this gambit, but his reputation as a defensive guru would certainly take a hit if it doesn't work.

Chicago defensive line coach Rod Marinelli

Pressure source: The Bears have hailed Marinelli as nothing less than a miracle worker. Soon after hiring him, Smith referred to Marinelli as the best free agent on the market. He is an excellent defensive coach, but it's a tall task to manufacture a four-man pass rush with players who couldn't get it done the year before.
Ramifications: The Bears won't improve their defense if Marinelli can't cajole a better performance from the line.

McCarthy
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy

Pressure source: The Packers are coming off their second losing season in 17 years. McCarthy's response was to scrap his defensive scheme and change to a 3-4, a move that could result in some short-term growing pains.
Ramifications:
McCarthy might have bought himself a grace period with the scheme change, but he'll need patient bosses.

Green Bay outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene

Pressure source: Greene has been asked to transition two former defensive ends -- Aaron Kampman and Jeremy Thompson -- into outside linebackers. He also has rookie Clay Matthews to develop. It's a tall task for a coach in his first full-time NFL job.
Ramifications: Greene has been given a huge responsibility. If Kampman doesn't produce this season, it's going to be hard for the Packers to improve their defense.

Childress
Minnesota coach Brad Childress

Pressure source: Childress works for an owner who complies with nearly every request and rarely, if ever, pulls the purse strings. As a result, the Vikings have a talented and well-paid roster that carries high expectations again this season. Childress, however, struck out in his attempt to rectify one of the few question marks on his team. The need to pursue Brett Favre reflects the Vikings' longstanding inability to develop a quarterback for themselves.
Ramifications: Childress is entering the fourth year of a five-year contract. At the very least, a regression in 2009 would leave him with an expiring contract in 2010.

Minnesota special teams coordinator Brian Murphy

Pressure source:
The Vikings gave up more touchdowns on special teams last season than any team in NFL history, and Murphy was a part of it. He was promoted from assistant special teams coach to replace the departed Paul Ferraro.
Ramifications: The Vikings can't be a championship-caliber team if their special teams remain subpar.