A year ago at this time, the Kansas City Chiefs were coming off a wretched campaign that saw their coach fired after a franchise-worst 2-14 record.
Not so fast. There's plenty to like about Pettine and his team, but Cleveland doesn't top our list of newly coached squads likely to pull off a major turnaround.
Let's take a gander:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith: People keep talking about the Lions as the most talented team of the bunch, but I'd give the nod to the Buccaneers. Lovie Smith offers proven defensive mastery and the Bucs have a potential long-term answer in quarterback Mike Glennon. Almost every position group in Tampa has at least one legitimate building block, and I expect the Bucs to compete, despite their nasty division.
2. Detroit Lions, Jim Caldwell: Caldwell's under tmore pressure than anyone on this list to win right away. If Detroit could wind back the clock, hiring Marc Trestman would have been a godsend for Matthew Stafford, but Caldwell's résumé speaks for itself. The Lions should have won the division last year, so why not expect the same?
3. Houston Texans, Bill O'Brien: The biggest danger here? The perception that Houston is merely a functional passer away from returning to double-digit wins. O'Brien inherits one of the league's premier talents in defensive lineman J.J. Watt, but close inspection suggests holes all over the roster. But the Texans will benefit from playing in a weak division, and that should inflate their win-loss record.
4. Cleveland Browns, Mike Pettine: This all comes down to the quarterback. If the Browns land a passer who can flip the switch, Cleveland might be a sleeper to win the AFC North. I love the Pettine hire and think he'll build a gritty squad, but the signal-caller void could sink them as low as No. 7 on this list if they start another dud under center.
5. Tennessee Titans, Ken Whisenhunt: I'm not sure how Ken Whisenhunt became so beloved during this month's coaching carousel. Perhaps because he was a safe pick in a bland field of candidates? Tennessee also toils in the winnable AFC South, but the Titans lack identity. For Whiz to turn this ship around, Jake Locker needs to stay healthy, and that's nothing short of a wild-card.
6. Minnesota Vikings, Mike Zimmer: I love the Zimmer hire and think he'll succeed. He's put together a great staff and his players are bound to adore his style. Minnesota can smile at what lies ahead, but a quick turnaround is unlikely with so many holes on the roster -- especially under center.
7. Washington Redskins, Jay Gruden: Something's not right in our nation's capital. Maybe it's just the stink from last season, but this Washington team has issues all over the place. Their historically bad special teams were no help to a defense that bled points and yardage. The hope is that Gruden can unleash Robert Griffin III, but no team on this list is more talent-poor.