Season 2013 – Coaching Change Evaluations

After the changes in coaches, I want to take a little time to examine if the teams in question made the right decision to fire or retain their coaches. Note that this is ONLY concerned with the teams’ decisions about whether to retain or fire their Head Coaches (with some divergence into the General Managers.) My next blog will evaluate the new coaching staffs.

Fired Coaches:

Houston Texans – Head Coach Gary Kubiak was fired after the Texans’ week 14 Thursday night game. The Texans owner Bob McNair had stuck with Kubiak for several years when all their fans were calling for his firing. The coach rewarded him by bringing the Texans their first playoff appearances and victories. A major ingredient of this success was made possible by bringing in Wade Phillips (and his 3-4 defensive scheme) as the Defensive Coordinator. In the last few years, the Texans’ personnel have degraded noticeably, especially on defense. It was so bad that last year after paying big bucks to an over-the-hill Ed Reed, Reed called out the team for not having the type of players that they needed to play Phillips’ defensive scheme. (He was released within a week.) While General Manager Rick Smith deserves some recognition for building those teams, he has also presided over the subsequent degradation. Look at the star players that have been traded or released – Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, etc. The most obvious problem was their status at QB, where Matt Schaub has been declining and they had no capable backup or heir apparent. It may have been time to move on from Kubiak, but he was by no means the biggest problem.

Action Rating: 3/5 (below average)

Detroit Lions – Jim Schwartz came into a very bad situation, taking over after the Matt Millen, General Manager experiment ended with a 0-16 season. Schwartz is now finishing up his 5th year as head coach of the Lions. And while he did an exceptional job at turning around a team that went 0-16 the year before he came, they appear to be stuck in neutral. They play like a very undisciplined team – which mirrors Schwartz himself. They had both the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers without their starting QB’s for extended periods this year, but have still not been able to take the division. In contrast the General Manager Martin Mayhew seems that he has done a good job of assembling the talent.

Action Rating: 5/5 (Good)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – After the Josh Freeman debacle early in the year, I was convinced that Greg Schiano would be fired. There wasn’t much to change that view as the Bucs went 0-8 before winning a game. They then won 4 of their next 5 against Buffalo, Miami, Detroit and Atlanta – all average or below teams. After closing the season with blow-out losses to the Panthers and 49’ers, it was a no brainer that Schiano would be canned. Tie into that with the debacle surrounding Josh Freeman with his personal details being leaked and both Schiano and the GM had to go.

Action Rating: 4/5 (Above Average)

Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings have been much better over the last month with Matt Cassell playing QB. This has been the case all season, even though the always return to Christian Ponder when he’s healthy. It’s hard to say what the exact dynamics of the situation are, but it looks to me like the GM Rick Speilman is mandating that the coach play his high draft pick QB instead of the one that gives them the best chance to win. Couple this with his disastrous pick-up of Josh Freeman and immediately playing him and it looks like Speilman needs to be the one being fired. Unfortunately, he has the ability to fire the coach. This doesn’t bode well for Frazier, who may not have earned a longer tenure anyway. With the Vikings moving into a new stadium next year, something needs to change.

Action Rating: 3/5 (Average)

Tennessee Titans – The acquisition of a NFL caliber starting QB and a reliable back-up is the responsibility of the GM. Jake Locker has shown that he is NFL caliber when healthy, but hasn’t been healthy enough of the time. This makes it even more important to have a capable back-up This is not a problem that Munchak has any control over. After last season, Munchak was forced to replace his Offensive Coordinator (???). When the Titans management requested more changes to the coaching staff this year, Munchak decided that there weren’t any changes that he felt needed to be made. The new owner and his GM decided that they didn’t believe in Munchak enough as a coach to make his own decisions.

Action Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)

Washington Redskins – In case anyone needs any additional ones, this is a prime example of how no coach no matter how good (even Joe Gibbs) can overcome the effects of a bad owner.

Action Rating: 1/5 for Mike Shanahan (or anyone) taking the Redskins job (Bad). Team: Unrateable.

Cleveland Browns – New ownership was supposed to bring a higher level of competency to this organization. Instead, they have shown more incompetency than even the Oakland Raiders after Al Davis went senile. This is not surprising seeing as the front office was comprised of guys that have failed repeatedly in multiple organizations. After firing Rob Chudzinski (both a questionable fire and even a questionable hire in the first place), they refused to name a new head coach until they were able to interview all the potential coaches. Since several of those coaches went to the Super Bowl, this meant that they left their early interviewees hanging. That is, until, the interviewees one by one declined to pursue the position. In the end they were again left with going after a lower tier prospect in the Buffalo Bills DC, Petine. Thankfully for the Cleveland fan base, the owner then promoted the newly hired pro personnel man Ray Farmer to GM and fired all the other front office stooges. Put this one down as a learning experience for Haslett and lets see if he’ll get a clue from this.

The latest wrinkle in this soap-opera of a football team is the revelation that hey actually approached San Francisco about getting Jim Harbaugh from them AND THAT THEY LISTENED! It was only after discussing the issue with JH that he nixed the deal. More on that to come.

Action Rating: 1/5 (Bad) trending towards upwards.

Kept Coaches:

Oakland Raiders – Dennis Allen – GM Reggie McKensie fired the outspoken Hue Jackson in 2011 even though he had been doing a better job in Oakland than anyone since Jon Gruden. Dennis Allen was hired as the youngest coach in the league (a familiar theme in Oakland) and was not considered a high-quality hire. Allen has rewarded McKensie by publicly dissing his highly paid free agent QB Matt Flynn (forcing McKensie to release him), and generally doing a mediocre job. After a second straight 4-12 season, both of them appear to be completely out of their league

Action Rating: 1/5 (Bad)

New York Jets – Keeping this team competitive with a rookie QB and its general lack of talent has probably been the best coaching job of Rex Ryan’s career. First year GM John Idzek appears to recognize this and, after jettisoning Mark Sanchez and his outrageous contract, will have a chance to bring in some better players. However, when a new GM is appointed, he usually gives the existing coach one year before he’s fired. (See Lovie Smith in 2012). It may only be a one-year reprieve.

Action Rating: 5/5 (Good)

Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys are a mess, as they have been ever since Jerry Jones fired Jimmy Johnson as his coach. Although Jason Garrett is ostensibly the coach, it was Jones who mandated that Rob Ryan be fired as the Defensive Coordinator and replaced with the 167 year old Monte Kiffin. The result was predictably disastrous, as the Dallas D couldn’t stop anyone. (Meanwhile the afore mentioned Ryan has taken the Saints defense from a total disaster after Bounty-Gate to one of the best.) Jones also demanded that Garrett be stripped on the play-calling ability and that it be given to Bill Callahan. However, Garrett has been Jerry’s guy from before when he promoted him to Offensive Coordinator (thus hastening the end to Bill Parcells’ coaching career.)

Action Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)

New York Giants – Coach Coughlin at 67 is the oldest head coach in the NFL by five years. (The next oldest coach is Pete Carroll at 62). Although Coughlin has won 2 Super Bowls over the last 6 years, they have failed to make the playoffs the other 4 seasons. In fact, six years ago when they eked into the playoffs and won the SB, just making the playoffs probably would not have been enough to save Coughlin’s job. Only by winning the SB was he able to survive.

This year it has been reported that management was going to force Coughlin to fire his OC Kevin Gilbride and that Coughlin would not have done it. He was again miraculously saved by Gilbride’s decision to retire. Winning 2 SB’s apparently gives you the luxury of going out on your own terms.

Action Rating: 3/5 (Average)

Miami Dolphins – Joe Philbin – The Jonathan Martin/Ritchie Incognito scandal will stain this franchise for a long time. Even before that GM Jeff Ireland’s performance was so bad that many league insiders wondered how he managed to keep his job. It was a given that he was gone once the scandal broke. However, owner Stephen Ross has supported his Head Coach throughout the process. However, he may have rued that decision once the investigator’s report came out. Philbin did fire his OC after the season after starting QB, Ryan Tannenhill apparently lost confidence in his former college coach.

Action Rating: 3/5 (Average)

Atlanta Falcons – Mike Smith has done a very good job with the Atlanta Falcons over the last 5 years, getting into the playoffs 4 of those 5 years. However, it wasn’t until last year that they actually won a playoff game. The play of the Falcons this year was abysmal. This was after they were expected to be a Super Bowl contender. Not only were they losing, but they didn’t even seem to be trying in many games. It’s not too common that one bad season leads to the coach being fired unless that just gives the front office a reason to fire someone that they were already disenchanted with. This was not the case in Atlanta, but the magnitude of their collapse will put Mike Smith on the Hot Seat to start 2014.

Action Rating: 5/5 (Good)

Saint Louis – Jeff Fisher – The Rams are one of the most enigmatic teams in the NFL – you never know what you’re going to get on any given Sunday. Still, Fisher has them playing hard and winning occasionally despite losing starting QB Sam Bradford midway through the season.

Action Rating: 4/5 (Above Average)

Safe:

San Francisco – In my last blog I wrote the following: “Jim Harbaugh would be considered untouchable if he wasn’t so prickly.“ Now word has come out of Cleveland that they had tried to get him for their HC job and the 49’ers CONSIDERED it! This would be unprecedented except that Al Davis traded Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for IIRC 4 draft picks back in 1999. Now their neighbor across the bay has been looking into doing the same thing. This sets up a power struggle. Harbaugh believes that he has “outplayed” his contract 3 years into a 5-year deal and wants a new contract. After taking a team to 3 straight NFC Championships, He wants to be paid like a Super Bowl winning coach. The 49’ers management believes that they have built a team that anyone can do as well with and are not willing to make him the highest paid coach just yet. Stay tuned for more developments after the coming season.

Action Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)

Cincinnati Bengals – Marvin Lewis has done a credible job as Head Coach over his tenure in Cincinnati (currently the longest in the league), even when he didn’t have much to work with. He has taken the Bengals to the playoffs for 3 straight years, although they have lost in the first round each year. Andy Daulton has been progressively worse in those 3 playoff games. Major coaching changes this year as both the coordinators left for NFL Head Coaching jobs.

Action Rating: 5/5 (Good)

Carolina Panthers – Many NFL observers were surprised that the Panthers kept Ron Rivera as the coach this year. Especially after the team went 0-2 and it was looking like they wouldn’t be able to go half a season with him. With Ron Rivera’s week 3 epiphany about taking more chances earlier in games, “Riverboat Ron” was born. With an improved Cam Newton under center and 2 rookie NT studs allowing MLB Luke Keuchley to make the kind of plays that brought him into the DPOY conversation, the Panthers had their first division win since ???. Nevertheless, it was not a given that Rivera would keep his job until they finished at 12-4 ??? and won the Conference 2nd seed.

Action Rating: 3/5 (Average)

Green Bay – Mike McCarthy Despite losing Aaron Rodgers for ½ the season, the Packers are still won the division title. With an improved defense and bell cow Eddie Lacy at RB, this team looks set for the future if they can keep Rodgers healthy.

Action Rating: 5/5 (Average)

Pittsburgh – Mike Tomlin – Can anyone tell me why the Steelers went from 0-6 to start the season to finish 8-2 in their last 10 games? Anyone? Bueller?

First Year Coaches:

A+ to the following teams:

Philadelphia Eagles

Jacksonville Jaguars

San Diego Chargers

A to the following teams:

Indianapolis

Chicago Bears

A- for the Arizona Cardinals

B+ for the Kansas City Chiefs

C+ for the Buffalo Bills

Let’s see if they can keep it going (AZ and KC in particular)

Summary:

1/5

Washington Redskins

Cleveland Browns

Oakland Raiders

2/5

Miami Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys

Tennessee Titans

San Francisco 49’ers

3/5

Houston Texans

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Carolina Panthers

4/5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Saint Louis Rams

5/5

Detroit Lions

New York Jets

Atlanta Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

No Decision: (Nothing to Rate)

Pittsburgh Steelers

New Orleans Saints

Baltimore Ravens

New England Patriots

Denver Broncos

Seattle Seahawks

Rookies:

Buffalo Bills ??

Jacksonville Jaguars 5/5

San Diego Chargers 5/5

Chicago Bears 5/5

Arizona Cardinals 4/5

Indianapolis Colts 5/5

Kansas City Chiefs 5/5

Philadelphia Eagles 5/5

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