Thursday, June 11, 2009

Overrated, underrated offensive coordinators

By Dan Parr
June 11, 2009

Ninth in a series of overrated/underrated commentaries

Question: Which offensive coordinator is most overrated? Underrated?

Overrated: Cowboys' Jason Garrett

Thanks to an intriguing pedigree that fit what NFL owners were looking for in the next hot, young head-coaching candidate and his management of Dallas’ high-powered offense, the hype around Garrett skyrocketed after the 2007 season. He reportedly turned down head-coaching job offers from the Ravens and Falcons. As last year showed, however, this supposed prodigy has a lot to learn. Despite having an abundance of playmakers at his disposal, the Cowboys ranked 13th in total offense and 18th in scoring in ’08. While blame for the unit’s struggles was largely directed at Terrell Owens and a lack of team chemistry, Garrett erred by stubbornly underutilizing a deep, dynamic backfield and ultimately failed to get the most out of a talented group on “O.” He may turn out to be a fine coordinator and even a great head coach someday, but people around the league are beginning to wise up that many crowned him king too soon.

Underrated: Falcons' Mike Mularkey

Mike Mularkey

Although his profile is on the rise after a successful first year in Atlanta, Mularkey still flies a bit under the radar. He’s old-school, opting for a power-running offense rather than the wide-open spread attacks that are gaining popularity. It’s not the most exciting style to watch, but he managed it with precision last season, as Atlanta ranked sixth in offense. In stark contrast to many of his fresh-faced counterparts who have been moving to the front of the pack in job interviews to fill head-coaching vacancies, Mularkey is a grizzled veteran. He began his coaching career in 1994, rising from the lowest ranks as a quality-control assistant in Tampa Bay, and he’s seen his share of adversity along the way, including an unremarkable two-year term (2004-05) as the Bills’ head coach before resigning due to a disagreement with ownership. Yet, in three of his five seasons as an NFL coordinator, his offenses have been ranked sixth or higher. The hard knocks he’s suffered in his coaching career haven’t done much for his popularity, but they’ve made him a better coordinator — one who’s underappreciated.