NFC East makeover: Coaches who will reshape the division in 2020


It’s a new day in the NFC East, with lots of new coaches and hope for improved results. It’s necessary after the way this once-proud division stumbled through the 2019 season a combined 16 games under .500, its worst aggregate record since becoming a four-team division in 2002.

The fallout led to the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins hiring new head coaches. The Philadelphia Eagles shook up their staff (beginning with offensive coordinator) even after winning the division. There was coaching carnage between the end of the regular season and Super Bowl LIV. By the time the 2020 season rolls around, fans will need a program to recognize some of the faces on the NFC East sidelines.

The Cowboys have the most accomplished newcomer in Mike McCarthy. The Redskins went with a coach in Ron Rivera who once took a 15-1 Carolina Panthers team to the Super Bowl. The Giants surprised everybody by hiring Joe Judge. (Judge who!?!?)

NFL Nation reporters Todd Archer (Cowboys), Jordan Raanan (Giants), Tim McManus (Eagles) and John Keim (Redskins) provide a closer look at the coaching overhaul:

Dallas Cowboys (2019 record: 8-8)

Primary coaches: Mike McCarthy, coach; Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator; Mike Nolan, defensive coordinator; John Fassel, special teams

What McCarthy brings to the Cowboys: The Cowboys wanted winning experience in their replacement for former coach Jason Garrett, and McCarthy certainly has that. He has a Super Bowl win to his credit. He has been to four conference title games. He went to the playoffs in nine of his 13 seasons in Green Bay. The Cowboys have not been to a Super Bowl (or NFC title game) since 1995. They are out to end the drought and Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones believes McCarthy’s experience will help get this roster — one Jones and many others believe is talented enough to win it all — over the hump.

Biggest change to expect: McCarthy might be making the biggest change because he will not be calling plays. He called the plays for almost all of his tenure in Green Bay and did not like the experience. He will alter the structure of what he had in Green Bay during the week so he will be involved in the planning and he will be in communication with Moore during the game, perhaps being as influential as Bill Parcells was on Sean Payton and Tony Sparano back when they called plays, and Parcells was the Cowboys’ head coach.

Staff changes will have the biggest impact on: The entire defense. The offense will largely remain the same with some of McCarthy’s twists, but Nolan will have a new defensive scheme. The Cowboys have been a mostly predictable scheme for years, but Nolan promises to bring different fronts and looks that will keep the opposing quarterback guessing. The hope is that it will help free the Cowboys’ best pass-rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, a little more, while opening up playmaking chances for Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and a secondary that could be revamped with Byron Jones, Jeff Heath and Anthony Brown set to be free agents.

He said it: “I enjoy calling plays. I’ve had a lot of success doing it. But when I looked at the big picture of the opportunities that I’ve interviewed for, this was the one that the quarterback [Dak Prescott] was established. Obviously his relationship with Kellen is important to me, and I think it was something we could definitely build off of … We’re taking a Year 1 approach with the offense, but I do want to make sure that when our players do come back, the transition is as easy as possible for them. That’s my goal.” — McCarthy

New York Giants (2019 record: 4-12)

Primary coaches: Joe Judge, coach; Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator; Patrick Graham, defensive coordinator; Thomas McGaughey, special teams coordinator

What Judge brings to the Giants: Some pieces of Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Hopefully some of the same success. Judge was an assistant under Saban at Alabama before joining Belichick in New England for the past eight years — primarily as his special teams coordinator. He has never been a head coach, but worked with the entire team in his previous role and brings the same attention to detail and attitude as his mentors. As Giants co-owner John Mara explained, “Nick’s not going to send Bill any dogs.” The Giants were blown away by Judge during the interview process, and want to integrate some of the Patriots’ ways of doing business into their organization.

Biggest change to expect: Judge has preached versatility and multiplicity early in his tenure. The Giants are not going to be easily defined by a phrase or scheme. Judge wants to be able to be a running team one week, if that is what is necessary, and a passing team the next, depending on the opponent. Fungible. “Whatever is best week by week by opponent is how we’ll address it,” Judge said. This is how the Patriots have operated for years, both offensively and defensively. And it’s coming to the Giants.

Staff changes will have the biggest impact on: Daniel Jones, the Giants’ second-year quarterback, will be in a new system under Garrett. That’s a significant change for a young quarterback, who will have to learn a new language and playbook. It’s almost as if Jones is back to square one as a rookie this offseason. Garrett’s offense is expected to feature a lot of downhill running, heavy on tight ends with plenty of downfield shots on early downs — the latter of which plays to Jones’ strengths.

He said it: “What I’m about is an old-school, physical mentality. We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of, because this team will represent this area. We will play fast, we will play downhill, we will play aggressive. We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own, with a relentless, competitive attitude. We will play fundamentally sound, we will not beat ourselves. That is our mission right here.” — Judge

Philadelphia Eagles (2019 record: 9-7)

Primary coaches: Doug Pederson, coach; Press Taylor, pass game coordinator; Jeff Stoutland, run game coordinator; Rich Scangarello, senior offensive assistant; Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator; Dave Fipp, special teams coordinator

What Taylor brings to the Eagles: Peace of mind for Carson Wentz. Taylor has been the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2018 and has developed a tight bond with Wentz. There is mutual trust and respect between the two, which will help keep all parties on the same page when it comes to offensive approach and planning. Taylor, 32, will wear two hats as he assumes many of former offensive coordinator Mike Groh’s responsibilities while continuing to coach quarterbacks. He will have a lot on his plate, but the Eagles have long viewed him as a promising up-and-comer in the organization, and now will have the chance to see what he’s got.

Biggest change to expect: Scangarello will help provide the fresh offensive ideas Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is hungry for. Before becoming the Denver Broncos‘ offensive coordinator last season, Scangarello worked under Kyle Shanahan as San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach for two years. Expect bits of Shanahan’s system to be sprinkled into Pederson’s — from pre-snap motion to misdirection to more play designs to get Wentz out of the pocket.

Staff changes will have the biggest impact on: Pederson. The Eagles opted not to hire an offensive coordinator after firing Groh, instead going with the pass/run game coordinator model utilized by the 49ers and others. While an O-coordinator is not technically needed given that Pederson calls the plays, he benefited a great deal by having Frank Reich as a sounding board before Reich was named the Colts’ head coach following the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl run. Given Taylor’s relative inexperience and dual role, can he really be that guy? Will Scangarello fill the void? That’s a storyline to follow in 2020.

He said it: “Press has been awesome to really grow together with, and just talk a lot of football. We’re in there watching tape and we both have lots of ideas. It’s been fun working with him. A lot of positives have come out of it.” — Wentz in December

Washington Redskins (2019 record: 3-13)

Primary coaches: Ron Rivera, coach; Scott Turner, offensive coordinator; Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator; Nate Kaczor, special teams coordinator

What Rivera brings to the Redskins: Everything the Redskins need: discipline, attention to detail, a track record. Rivera led Carolina to four playoff appearances in eight full seasons and made one trip to the Super Bowl. Rivera is a no-nonsense coach who will not put up with a lot of what occurred in Washington the past six years. He’ll also bring a defensive mindset; he’s the first defense-oriented coach whom Redskins owner Dan Snyder has hired since Marty Schottenheimer in 2001. The Redskins need all that Rivera has to offer. He posted only three winning seasons in Carolina, but he is respected and enters with instant credibility.

Biggest change to expect: The schemes, especially on defense. Washington will use a base 4-3 front for the first time since 2009 — also the last season the Redskins finished in the top 10 in either yards or points allowed. The Redskins needed change and they have the talent in their front to make it work; it also means Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan (and/or touted pass-rushing prospect Chase Young, whom Washington is likely to draft with the No. 2 pick) will play end. The Redskins’ defense has underachieved for a decade and has too much talent to play as poorly as it did the past two years. That will change under Del Rio. Offensively, they’ll use a lot more play-action and attack more downfield; this should play to quarterback Dwayne Haskins‘ strengths if he continues to improve.

Staff changes will have the biggest impact on: Culture. The Redskins had a poor culture, one that was not conducive to winning. It wasn’t about the players last season as much as it was the organization. In the past, they did have an issue with players showing up late for meetings and sometimes practices. Rivera had the pingpong table removed from the locker room, a symbolic gesture. But it hammers home a point: He wants things to be earned and knows that now is the time to lay the foundation for what he wants. A number of players were definitely tired of the organization. With a new power setup, it should close, for now, the division between the front office and the coaching staff. That played a crucial role in inconsistent roster-building and also in stories being leaked to the media. The culture needed changing long ago. It’s about time Snyder realized it.

He said it: “I told [Snyder] I didn’t want to go through a five-year rebuilding process because quite honestly, I don’t have the patience, and from what I read, neither does he.” — Rivera

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