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Philbin, Fisher or Pagano: Who ranks higher?

Associated Press
See where Romeo Crennel (left) and Jeff Fisher rank among the seven NFL coaches in new places in 2012.

When Jeff Fisher assumed command of the St. Louis Rams, long gone were the veteran players he relied upon during his 17 years with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans.

"I think that was one of the weirdest moments, when I stood up in front of the team and only recognized two players," Fisher told the Tennessean on Friday. "That's definitely different. But now it seems so long ago ... Now it's become a team and I'm very familiar with the roster."

That isn't good news for the NFC West, which has made mincemeat of the Rams in recent days.

Fisher's a familiar face, but he's one of the seven new head coaches this season, including four first-timers.

All seven have time to prove us wrong, but here's my ranking from top to bottom. It's an imperfect science here in June, but this is my guess on how they'll be judged after the season:

7. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars: Mularkey's two-year head-coaching run in Buffalo wasn't exactly a resume builder. We're impressed with how he handled the Justin Blackmon situation, but Mularkey inherits a question mark at quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and an AWOL bell-cow in Maurice Jones-Drew. The jury is out.

6. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins: The director of "Hard Knocks" is already impressed with Miami's new coach. Philbin, by all accounts, is a class act, but he faces a stiff challenge in turning this team around in a rowdy division that won't hand the Dolphins any breaks. We'll know so much more about him when the cameras roll.

5. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders: Allen impressed last season as Denver's defensive coordinator and there's reason to believe the Raiders are on steadier ground. No early draft picks was a tough pill to swallow, but maybe Allen will have more time to build Oakland's talent base than Tom Cable and Hue Jackson were afforded. An intriguing team in a competitive division.

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4. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: One of the more fascinating developments this season: Tracking Pagano's growth alongside Andrew Luck's. Pagano possesses one of the most impressive QB prospects in decades and must prove he's the right man to guide the Colts into a new era. So far, so good.

3. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Reports out of Florida suggest Schiano has brought discipline to a Bucs squad that floated away last season. Beating his own division will require total buy-in. The record might suffer, but the direction is promising.

2. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo was a hot-and-cold act in Cleveland. Players have always liked him, but the Browns were a sizzling mess by the end of Crennel's tenure. He did a nice job in the interim role last season, and he's in a better position to succeed in Kansas City with young talent on both sides of the ball.

1. Jeff Fisher, Rams: Fisher isn't just the best of this bunch; he's among the league's finest coaches. As bad as the Rams have been, Fisher understands how to build a consistent, winning program. This was a franchise-altering hire.

Naturally, you disagree. Tell us why below.

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