There will be lots of new faces among the coaching staffs of the AFC North in 2012.
The names that go with those faces are appearing faster for some organizations than others.
While the Steelers are taking a "wait-and-see" approach with their respective coordinator searches, the Ravens and Browns are already gearing up for what looks to be an active off-season.
Those three AFC North teams lost a coordinator this season - the Steelers lost offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to Indianapolis, Baltimore lost defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to Indianapolis and Cleveland moved on without offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Cincinnati lost defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle to Miami, where he was named the team's defensive coordinator under first-year head coach Joe Philbin.
Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote Thursday morning Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is considering former Steelers CB Rod Woodson for the secondary coaching position left behind by Coyle.
Perhaps that's in response to how well Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake did in 2011. Woodson and Lake played together in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, when both were All-Pro players.
Part of Pittsburgh's reason to wait could be explained by the franchise having its eye on a coach from either of the Super Bowl participants (Giants WRs coach Mike Sullivan, perhaps?). It could also be they're waiting to see whether running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was tragically injured in a house fire in January, is able to coach in 2012. We put out a thought on how it could be because they're waiting on Packers QBs coach Tom Clements to decide whether he'll stay in Green Bay.
Due diligence may suggest all of these factors come into play.
The Ravens, on the other hand, aren't waiting for anything. After Pagano accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis, they quickly announced his successor, defensive backs coach Dean Pees. They announced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would return, with the addition of new quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell (former Colts head coach and an alleged interviewee with Pittsburgh for its offensive coordinator job).
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said emphatically at his press conference Wednesday the team expects to sign RB Ray Rice (a free agent) and QB Joe Flacco (an unrestricted free agent in 2013) to long-term deals. OG Ben Grubbs is also a free agent, and the Ravens will engage in serious discussions internally to figure out how to keep all three, or whether that's a route they want to explore.
Giving Rice the franchise tag this season, and signing Flacco to a long-term deal would make an uncomfortable huddle in 2012, but it may be a necessary evil. Bisciotti threw his full-weight behind Flacco as the franchise's quarterback now and in the future, and rightly so. The size of the alleged contract the team would offer Flacco would speak more accurately to that, but from a bigger picture perspective, the Ravens aren't going to find a quarterback able to lead the team to wins as consistently as Flacco has. He has ups and downs, but starting over with a new quarterback simply isn't an option for an aging team that will have to tie up a lot of money in their offensive skill players the next two seasons.
Cleveland, one of the league's worst offensive teams, signed former Vikings head coach Brad Childress to manage their maligned unit this season, but playcalling duties will remain with head coach Pat Shurmur. Childress tried the head coach/play caller thing for a season in Minnesota before those duties were forced out of his hands. Despite being an alleged offensive and quarterbacks guru, the Vikings struggled on the offensive side of the ball in Childress' first two seasons. The team pushed all their chips in and went after semi-retired QB Brett Favre in 2009 and the team took off. After losing a tough NFC Championship game to eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans, the Vikings tried the same bit next year, and even went as far as to send three of their players to Favre's home in Mississippi to convince him to come back.
He came back, and most wish he'd stayed there. The wheels fell off the Vikings' franchise in 2010, plummeting to 6-10, and 3-13 last year.
It's weird to say, but Childress will have an even worse quarterback situation than he did in Minnesota, after he traded up (with Pittsburgh) to the second round to draft Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. With Colt McCoy's credibility as a legitimate starting quarterback up in the air, the team has to be eyeing Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with the fourth overall pick in April's draft.
Childress's track record with quarterbacks is sketchy at best (let's not forget the blow-ups he had with Favre), so it will be interesting to see what direction he takes the Browns.
It's not uncommon for the Bengals to have the most stability in regards to coaching changes. Coyle was seen as a viable candidate for a few years now, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had a few cups of coffee in regards to head coaching vacancies available early in the offseason.
It won't be surprising at all, if Cincinnati can repeat the success of their 2011 season, to see Zimmer and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in serious contention for head coaching jobs, but for now, the Bengals remain largely intact, and are ready to strengthen a young and talented roster.