- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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Seven first-time head coaches were hired in one of the strangest postseason scrambles for jobs in recent memory. This was the biggest changeover to first-time head coaches since 1999 when Andy Reid, Mike Riley, Brian Billick, Dick Jauron, Ray Rhodes and Gunther Cunningham.
Here's a look at the 10 coaching moves this offseason (in order of the hires), and the pros and cons of each situation.
Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings
What he has going for him: As the first coach hired, he was able to put together the coaching staff he wanted. The organization is set up very much the same way it was for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Childress will have input in personnel. The team, like the Eagles, has plenty of cap room ($23 million). The roster is loaded with talented players on offense and defense after years of good drafting and solid free agent acquisitions.
The biggest issue: Offense. He has to sort out what works and what doesn't on his offense. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper is coming off triple ligament knee surgery so Brad Johnson will have to handle the offseason as the starting quarterback. The offensive line has holes and needs improvement. Childress has to decide whether the wide receivers fit the West Coast offense. And there are questions in the backfield. Michael Bennett is a free agent. Onterrio Smith hasn't been cleared from his one-year drug suspension. Plus, coming out of the Eagles' system, where there was heavy reliance on passing the ball, does Childress really want to emphasize the running attack?
Herman Edwards, Kansas City Chiefs
What he has going for him: Three playoff trips in five seasons with the Jets should say something. Edwards may not be the best coach for X's and O's and his clock management may not be the best, but he's a great motivator. His teams play hard. Compare him to Bill Cowher in how well he gets his teams mentally and emotionally ready to play. He links up with a team president, Carl Peterson, who truly appreciates him and will do everything to make his stay in Kansas City a successful one.
The biggest issue: The offense is getting old. Tackle Willie Roaf and guard Will Shields are going year-by-year contemplating retirement. The receiving corps is understaffed and needs improvement. There will also be an adjustment in play calling. Mike Solari, one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, takes over the play-calling responsibilities for Al Saunders, who left for the Redskins. Edwards can focus on the offense because Gunther Cunningham has things under control on defense.
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
What he has going for him: He's a disciple of the West Coast offense and he has a great mind and structured plan for passing the football. A tireless worker, McCarthy did a nice job of putting together his staff. He promoted Bob Sanders as defensive coordinator to keep continuity on a defense that surprisingly ranked in the top 10. McCarthy's strength is developing young players on offense. He's always had good relationships with the quarterbacks he's worked with and will put them in a quarterback-friendly system.
The biggest issue: He could lose Brett Favre. Even though they have a successor in Aaron Rodgers, convincing Favre to return is one of the keys to the Packers' season. Favre is leaning toward retirement because he doesn't want to go through another 4-12 season. McCarthy only signed a three-year contract, so he needs to be successful in his first season. Having Favre for one more year could give the Packers a chance of being a .500 team or better. If Favre is gone, halfback Ahman Green could also leave via free agency. That's a lot to replace on offense.
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
What he has going for him: He's a bright young coach who has a good offensive mind. Knowing that quarterbacks are the key to winning in the NFL these days, Payton has always worked well with quarterbacks. His offensive system has a nice mix of running and passing plays and would be conducive to developing a young quarterback such as Matt Leinart. He inherits a pretty good offensive line and a great running back in Deuce McAllister. That's a start.
The biggest issue: This might be the toughest of the head coaching opportunities. Because of Hurricane Katrina, the financial budget will be the one of the smallest. Who knows how many Saints fans will buy tickets to keep the Saints in town. He's probably going to go through a quarterback transition from Aaron Brooks to Leinart, the likely second pick in the draft. The coaching staff of assistants is young, and Payton will have to coach the coaches along with calling the offensive plays.
Eric Mangini, New York Jets
What he has going for him: He learned from Bill Belichick. That gets you a head coaching job these days because having Belichick's name on your résumé improves your head-coaching stock immensely. Mangini is a tireless worker like Belichick. He has a bright mind for defense and will do creative things to make less talented players successful in a scheme. Being a good teacher, Mangini should be able to develop young players, which will be part of the Jets' rebuilding process for the next couple of years.
The biggest issue: Is he ready to be a head coach at the age of 35? He'll end up with one of the youngest staffs in the league. The Jets also have some of the toughest rebuilding issues of all the teams in the league. They are $26 million over the cap and have grown old on offense and will have to rebuild that unit over the next two years. Chad Pennington is coming off his second shoulder operation, so the Jets don't know whether they even have a starting quarterback. The Jets may have to go three steps backward before they move forward.
Rod Marinelli, Detroit Lions
What he has going for him: He did one of the best jobs in putting a staff together. He has Mike Martz on offense and Donnie Henderson on defense. That's a good start. Because he's going from defensive line coach to head coach, it will help having an experienced hand such as Martz to lean on for advice. Marinelli relates well to players because he's clear in his instructions and he's honest. Players like that. President Matt Millen likes his stern attitude because it could mean a more disciplined, efficient team.
The biggest issue: He takes over one of the wackiest groups in the league. He inherits a quarterback (Joey Harrington), who isn't much of a leader and three former No. 1 receivers who aren't great followers. The offensive line is highly paid and underachieving. The offense has been unproductive for years. He'll also have to overcome the tough transition into the head coaching job. As a former military man, Marinelli can preach discipline, but he also has to make sure his words turn into action and his speeches don't lose the players' attention, which can happen under the best communicators.
Scott Linehan, St. Louis Rams
What he has going for him: Linehan is a bright offensive mind who does well no matter what quarterback he works with. Gus Frerotte had a strong year with Linehan in Miami. Culpepper had a career year with Linehan in Minnesota in 2004. He takes over an offense that should easily average 25 more points a game. He's got three receiving options -- Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and rapidly developing star Kevin Curtis. He has a power back in Steven Jackson. His offensive line is solid. And he made a wise hire in Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, giving Haslett the freedom to bring a staff and his system to the Rams.
The biggest issue: Linehan might be forced to totally rebuild the defense, a very difficult thing to do. Adam Archuleta, Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett are free agents. The team is extremely thin at safety. The cornerbacks were banged up last year. The linebacking corps has been undergoing constant change for years. The Rams should be able to score points, but if they can't stop anybody on defense, they will struggle to win games. Linehan also has to develop a solid backup behind Marc Bulger. If Bulger gets hurt, the Rams lose their firepower.
Dick Jauron, Buffalo Bills
What he has going for him: He was the perfect fit, under the circumstances, in Buffalo for the 2006 season. Marv Levy was hired to bail out owner Ralph Wilson in getting through this season. Jauron, like Levy, is Ivy League educated. That helps in conversing. Second, Jauron is a steady, patient coach who is a good teacher. As a head coach in Chicago, he always had a good feel for how to work his players. He knew when to push them and when to ease up. That's important in getting through a season. Even as an interim coach in Detroit, Jauron made the team better as the weeks progressed.
The biggest issue: It all comes down to developing J.P. Losman. Losman clearly wasn't ready to be the starting quarterback last season. It cost general manager Tom Donahoe his job, and the front office chaos that followed led to Mike Mularkey's resignation. Jauron needs to rebuild a shaky, undermanned offensive line. The defense is getting some age in the secondary and is growing thin for talent upfront along the defensive line. There may not be enough cap room to add much in free agency.
Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
What he has going for him: He gets the benefit of the doubt in the Houston area because he's a native. Homegrown talent always gets a free pass at the beginning. He's a bright coach who brings a lot of the West Coast offensive ideas that worked so well for Mike Shanahan. The offense's biggest problem has been protecting David Carr. If the Texans can make the right free agent moves, Kubiak should bring the right blocking scheme to keep Carr upright and viable in the offense.
The biggest issue: He's bringing in a lot of new, young coaches, so there might be a little bit of a learning curve for this group to overcome in the first season. That's why adding Mike Sherman to the offense would be a nice touch. Kubiak has always had the respect of the offensive players around him, but he will need to be more vocal as the leader of the entire franchise. Kubiak has normally been a quiet sort. Now, he's the face of the organization.
Art Shell, Oakland Raiders
What he has going for him: He was a successful Raiders coach in the early 1990s, and most important, he's a Raider. Al Davis tried and failed several times in going outside the organization to find head coaches. Shell knows how things work for the Raiders. That's important. He can be more direct with Davis in solving problems because he has a relationship with him that will always command respect. Shell has the type of personality that should create more discipline. His return to the sidelines should turn the offense into more of a power running attack. Plus, he wants to return the nastiness and swagger the Raiders have been missing for years.
The biggest issue: Two weeks ago, he really wasn't in the mix for the head coaching job. That gives him the latest start of all of the coaches. Playing catchup is tough. He moved quickly in filling some of the holes on the staff. Tom Walsh will be the offensive coordinator and Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman are expected to work with the offensive line. The challenge facing him is getting back as head coach after being away from those chores for a dozen years. He has to command instant respect for that to succeed.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
2dEric D. Williams