Hot, new, offensive-minded head coaches win the offseason. Boring, grumpy veteran head coaches still win the real season. Harbaugh, Reid, Shanahan and Peyton, in that order, have the best odds to win the Super Bowl this year. Three out of those four have more than 10 years of NFL head coaching experience, and Kyle Shanahan's been around the NFL since adolescence, because his father is coaching legend Mike Shanahan.
Innovation sells, experience wins. That's why it was the right decision for Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim to bring back Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.
Fans screamed for a change all season while the Cardinals sat near the bottom of the league in points allowed and yards given up again. Good. Calling for heads is the sign of a passionate fanbase, and the Phoenix market can feel all too apathetic at times. But it's management's job to see the bigger picture. In this case, Cardinals brass did.
In a league where experience and stability have always triumphed innovation long term, keeping Vance Joseph around gives the Cardinals both. He previously served as head coach of the Broncos, and bringing him back prevents players and coaches from having to learn a new defensive language. Kingsbury, by the way, probably still doesn't have the NFL coaching connections to make a viable change. Steve Keim had a huge hand in putting his staff together last offseason. But it goes further than convenience.
When you look at where "offensive innovators" have worked as head coaches, there's a common thread.
HC Doug Pederson/ DC Jim Schwartz
HC Sean McVay/ DC Wade Phillips
HC Matt LaFleur/ DC Mike Pettine
All three defensive coordinators listed above have been NFL head coaches previously. Jim Schwartz has real power in the Eagles organization. Wade Phillips may be fired soon, but he put the defensive training wheels on Sean McVay. Mike Pettine is doing the same for Matt LaFleur in his first year with Green Bay.
Vance Joseph's value may lie in his experience and leadership more than his ability to coordinate a defense.
Speaking of which...
The Cardinals give up 27.6 points per game this year. They gave up 26.6 points per game in 2018, and 22.6 in 2017. It's no coincidence that each of the last three years they've lost significant defensive pieces. Chandler Jones is still humming, but Patrick Peterson was suspended six games this year, and rookie Byron Murphy Jr. was the team's No. 1 corner during that time. The Cardinals just don't have very good defensive players.
Look around the league. It's hard to play great defense without great players. Ron Rivera's unit gave up 29 points per game this year. He was fired after Week 13. In the four games that followed, the Panthers gave up 37.5 points per game. Brian Flores was the mastermind behind New England's defense last year, but this year his Dolphins unit gave up 30.9 points per game. Todd Bowles, who we all loved and adored while he coordinated the Cardinals defense, coached a unit in Tampa Bay that allowed 28.1 points per game this year. Defense is mostly about whether or not you have the athletes. Rivera, Flores, Bowles and Joseph didn't forget how to coach. They didn't have the players.
In the NFL, innovation sells, but experience and stability win. Now that Kingsbury, Keim and Bidwill have made the decision to bring back Vance Joseph, they can have a little bit of all three.