The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Caldwell the Hot Name

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As April rains turn into May the burning question in NFL land is which of the plethora of new coaches will have the greatest and most immediate positive impacts on their teams. Last year at this time, very few teams looked like they would change coaches after the 2008 season, yet after a host of under-performing teams and disappointments, greater than a third of the league's teams (11) opted to change the man in charge of their troops, firing their existing coaches to hire replacements. Some of the new coaches came as a result of the retirement of perennially successful coaches; Indianapolis's Tony Dungy and Seattle's Mike Holmgren. All of the teams believe and hope that a change at the top will amount to a change in the clubs fortunes, but the reality is, in a 32 team league focused upon a strong competitive formula with even schedules, half of the teams will be above the .500 level and half will be below. That comes with the territory in the NFL.

Some coaches inherited underachieving teams and some inherited rosters devoid of talent. In those cases, it will take not only strong coaches but an infusion of talent to bring these clubs back to prosperity. I'm looking at you, Kansas City (Todd Haley), Cleveland (Eric Mangini), Detroit (Jim Schwartz) and St. Louis (Steve Spagnoulo). Other teams that had established rosters will take a few seasons to learn their new coaches' systems and way of life, a case that seems primed for Tampa Bay (Rahim Morris), the New York Jets (Rex Ryan) and Seattle Seahawks (Jim Mora Jr.). Then of course there is the Raiders and Tom Cable; enough said.

This leaves three potential candidates for this years "Tony Sparano" Award for the most immediate positive impact by a new head coach: Mike Singletary with the 49ers, Josh McDaniels with the Broncos and Jim Caldwell of the Colts. The key with the 49ers and the Colts is that the new coach is familiar with the team, its personal and its system and the players are all familiar with them as people and coaches. Both Singletary and Caldwell coached their respective teams in 2008.

With these teams, the coaches will not be changing offensive or defensive systems, so players will not have to both learn new systems and head coaches at the same time and can hit the ground running at the beginning of the season. With the Broncos, McDaniels brings a proven offensive system from the Patriots, an experienced defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan and some youthful exuberance to an established team that hovered around the .500 mark for the past two seasons. The team also imported a host of talented players through free agency and the draft, and should challenge for a playoff berth, as will the Colts and 49ers.

Yet the ultimate winner of the Sparano Award for 2009 is clearly Caldwell, who has both the luck of inheriting a solid and experienced roster and working under and for the great Tony Dungy for years. Caldwell has total familiarity with the team's entire roster, and that should help him keep the Colts in their historic and perennial perch atop the AFC South.

Continuity equates to improvement in the NFL. Changing coaches creates an entire new learning period and curve for teams. Caldwell has the benefit of knowing his players, using th same offensive and defensive systems and spending the better part of a decade with the organization. The players know his style, demeanor and personality. And while he will have to distinguish himself from the even-keeled Dungy and separate himself from the future Hall of Famer's legacy, the factors in his corner place him at the top of the list of candidates for a new NFL coach having the most immediate success in the league.

By Peter Schaffer  |  June 2, 2009; 10:06 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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