Changes In The South
By: JJ Lanier
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
When you look at the stability, or really instability in most cases, when it comes to head coaches and quarterbacks throughout the NFL, the NFC South in many ways is the exception.
Two of the divisions head coaches, Sean Payton and Ron Rivera, have been with their respective organizations for at least nine years.
Dan Quinn is currently in his fifth year with Falcons, whose predecessor, Mike Smith, was with the organization for seven years. In fact, the Buccaneers seem to be the only divisional team that has head coaches come and go as if they’re a seasonal employee at Target.
The quarterback position has been even more stable, with Jameis Winston being the shortest tenured of the bunch, at five years in the league.
Longevity is always great when you’re in the midst of it, but like all things, it eventually comes to an end; the NFC South may begin to see that stability start to falter at the end of this season.
The biggest changes will more than likely be seen within the Carolina Panthers organization. As it looks right now, the only person less likely to be the Panthers starting quarterback at the beginning of next season than Cam Newton is Colin Kaepernick.
As much of a lightning rod as Newton has been- some legitimate, some petty- it’s all but a certainty that the best quarterback in franchise history won’t be back for a tenth season.
Meanwhile, Rivera, who began his head coaching career the same year Newton entered the league, is trending towards sharing the same fate as his QB.
The 2-time Coach of the Year has dodged the pink slip in the past due to his team finishing the season strong, but I’m not sure that could even save his job this time around.
The end of an era in Carolina is starting to look less like a possibility and more like an inevitability.
There isn’t going to be a change at quarterback for the Falcons, at least not this year, but the same can’t be said for their head coach.
There is the slight possibility that Quinn could pull a “Rivera” and keep his job if Atlanta were to finish the season strong, but I doubt it.
As for Ryan, his job obviously isn’t in jeopardy, but he is starting to get up there in age and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new head coach looking to begin grooming his replacement.
As for Tampa, I think Winston’s time there is over, but who knows. Would you really be all that surprised if they brought him back? And Bruce Arians isn’t going anywhere as of now, but he’s not the long-term solution, so the smart money is on that dynamic looking dramatically different within the next year or two.
Then there’s the Saints, the organization that has been the most stable in both areas. I imagine at some point Brees will contemplate retirement, if he hasn’t already, but he’s still got a few good years left, so don’t expect that coach/qb combo to change anytime soon.
The NFL specializes in turnover, so it really is a testament to the teams in the NFC South that they’ve gotten as much consistency out of the two most important positions on a football over the past decade.
Just don’t be surprised when those familiar faces start to change; sooner rather than later.