Coaches Hot Seat – Week 2

September 25, 2015:

Wow! What a difference a week makes. Jim Tomsula went from genius to dunce. Tomlin went the other way. Dolphins have played poorly in going 1-1 in 2 winnable games putting Joe Philbin squarely in the hot seat. Tom Coughlin continues to show why he should have retired 2 years ago as the Giants blew 4th quarter leads in both their games. The Seahawks, defending SB losers, have started out with 2 losses as have the Ravens and the Saints. Only Sean Payton of those three needs to have any concern about his job (although some of the assistant coaches…).

We’ll start off talking about the coaches on teams that have gone 0-2, so far.

  • Tom Coughlin (NYG) – Another messy loss by Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants. If this doesn’t prove to ownership that Coughlin has stayed too long, will ANYTHING? BURNING HOT (again)
  • Chuck Pagano (IND) – This team is one hot mess. The Coach and GM are sniping at each other in public. The word is that it’s even worse inside the building. By not doing much of anything to address the crappy O-Line during the off-season, the Colts are seeing their fruits in getting pounded by both the Bills and the Jets. Andrew Luck appears to have seriously regressed after improving in each of his first 4 years in the league. But then what do you expect if your QB is expecting to get hit every time he drops back to throw the ball? HOT
  • Sean Payton (NO) – HOT
  • Chip Kelly (PHI) – Chip Kelly got all the keys to the building this off-season and proceeded to make lots of questionable personnel changes. Now the owner has even come out and said that he doesn’t even know if Kelly knows what he’s doing or not. After going 10-6, fading down the stretch and missing the play-offs his first 2 years, Kelly is squarely eyeing the hot-seat. UNCOMFORTABLE
  • Bill O’Brien (HOU) – Despite the good will he engendered during HBO’s Hard Knocks, Bill O’Brien is quickly squandering it all. Telling your starting QB that he’s the starter, but that you would consider pulling him if he doesn’t measure up had the expected instead of the desired effect. With his confidence already shaky, Hoyer played so poorly in the opener, that O’Brien replaced him with Ryan Mallett after 3 quarters. Not a good message to send to anybody. Instead now they have a stronger armed QB who is unproven and makes lots of stupid mental errors. Now how do you go back to the first starter and what confidence could he possibly have if you did. This could be another 1-15 or 2-14 team. Of course, that can be blamed on them not having a starting quality QB – except that O’Brien’s pronouncements on Hard Knocks during training camp about how good his QB’s were tends to invalidate that excuse. (Note: I have been very critical of Houston’s GM Rick Smith in the past.) Bill Belicheck disciples still batting .000 as NFL head coaches. UNCOMFORTABLE
  • Gus Bradley (JAX) – Year 3 of the Gus Bradley regime after going 4-12 and 3-13 in their first 2 years. If they don’t shows some marked improvement this year, that could be all she wrote. UNCOMFORTABLE.
  • Jim Caldwell (DET) – After making the play-offs with a more disciplined approach last year, Detroit (and particularly Matthew Stafford) have regressed so far this year. Would the Ford’s be so bold as to fire a Head Coach after only 2 seasons? Unlikely. WARM.
  • John Fox (CHI) – Nobody expected much out of the Bears this year. Let’s see how Foxy does over the course of the season. SAFE
  • John Harbaugh (BAL) – After getting killed by the Bengals in week 1, the Raiders took it to the Baltimore Ravens leading to major questions about how they will deal with not having Terrell Suggs for the rest of the season. The Ravens were not able to get off the field on third down which has been a familiar refrain for the last several years.
    Baltimore has a brutal first half schedule. After a 2-week trip out west to play in Denver and Oakland, their next three games are at home against the Steelers, Bengals and Browns. This is followed by another 2-week trip to the west coast to play at Seattle and San Francisco. One can easily see them coming back at 1-6. The only good part about any of this is that this means they will have the Chargers, Chiefs, Cardinals and the Rams at home. SAFE
  • Pete Carroll (SEA) – Although I predicted that the Seahawks were ripe for a fall, I don’t anticipate them completely imploding (a la Bill Callahan coaching the Raiders after their SB win). Kam Chancellor is now returning to the team after a 2-week hold out (after the owner sided with the GM in the dispute, and Chancellor realized that he had no advocate in the team office and absolutely no leverage). He is the leader in that defensive backfield, so I anticipate their play to take a quantum leap. The Seahawks have the Bears, Lions, and Carolina Panthers at home in 3 of the next 4 weeks with a trip to Cincinnati in between. SAFE

2nd Year Coaches

  • Bill O’Brien (HOU) – After another lackluster performance, the Texans are off to a 0-2 start. It sure would be nice to have a QB right about now. (See above)
  • Lovie Smith (TB) – After letting rookie QB Marcus Mariota shred them last week, the Bucs got it together and stifled the New Orleans Saints.
  • Jay Gruden (WAS) – A stable QB situation and change at Defensive Coordinator and the Redskins look like they can be contenders in the suddenly sparse NFC East.
  • Ken Wisenhunt (TEN) – After shredding the Bucs cover 2 defense last week, rookie QB Marcus Mariota had to play against one of the better man-to-man cover defenses in Cleveland. Without his receivers running free through the zones and with his receivers unable to gain separation, Mariota struggled until leading the Titan on 2 late drives.
  • Jim Caldwell (DET) – Not a good look for the Lions so far this year. Caldwell may be heading towards a warmer posterior. (See above)
  • Andy Reid (KC) – Lost a close one to Peyton Manning’s Broncos.
  • Mike Pettine (CLE) – Beat up on the Titans after getting beat up last week by the Jets.
  • Mike Zimmer (MIN) – That’s more like people were looking for when they picked the Vikings to go to the playoffs.

First year coaches :

Jack Del Rio (OAK) – After getting killed by the Bengals in week 1, the Raiders took it to the Baltimore Ravens in week 2. Their defense was supposed to be their strong point with Khalil Mack leading the way, but giving up 33 points a game doesn’t give one much confidence going forward. Meanwhile, rookie WR Amari Cooper continues to shine, and FA pickup Michael Crabtree has added another weapon for Derek Carr.

Rex Ryan (BUF) – Oops. Rex & Co sure stepped in a big pile this weekend. New England spread out their offense negating the awesome pass rush of Buffalo and Rex had no answer for it.

Jim Tomsula (SF) – SF looked like the 49ers of 3 years ago for their first week. Then they looked like the train-wreck everyone was expecting against Pittsburgh. It will be an interesting season by the bay this year.

John Fox (CHI) – The Bears have looked decent in their first 2 games, but how long can they sustain that with Cutler out for who knows how long. (Although I’m sure there are plenty of Bears fans that are happy to go to the next option.) Jimmy Clausen to the rescue?

Todd Bowles (NYJ) – Bowles had an easy start with Cleveland and the Jets defensive front, one of the best in the league, easily overmatched a Colts team that was a SB darling of the national media. Hmmm. Maybe offensive line play does matter to how a team performs. You think?

Dan Quinn (ATL) – Dan Quinn has the Falcons playing way above their heads. The defense is flying around with abandon and Matt Ryan has been is usual competent self. Julio Jones is making a case as the best WR in the NFL.

Gary Kubiak (DEN) – The Broncos have won 2 close games against quality opponents. However, it’s notable that this week, they threw out Kubiak’s west-coast offense and went back to the shotgun, hurry-up offense that Peyton has played his entire career.
On a side note: this speaks to the raging debate among those that insist on ranking players. Bill Belichek has a different game plan every week for Tom Brady whereas Peyton has played in one style of offense his entire career. The flexibility of Tom Brady allows Belicheck to change up his play-calling to get the most out of any given week. This would probably elevate him above Peyton in my book even if the play-off results were not so lopsided.

Hot Seat:

  • Tom Coughlin (NYG) – 2 time SB winner. Has not made the play-offs in any other season as the Giants Head Coach. GM Ernie Accorsi is being questioned as well.
  • Chuck Pagano (IND) – Already being described as on the hot seat before the season even started (despite taking the Colts to the playoffs each of his years in Indy), two ugly losses and a 0-2 record to start are not helping things. GM Ryan Grigson is sharing his seat.
  • Joe Philbin (MIA) – Tannenhill has looked like the bad Tannenhill so far this season and Ndomukong Suh has done nothing after becoming the highest paid defensive player in football. It looks like maybe new GM Mike Tannenbaum is reproducing his “success” with the New York Jets.
  • Sean Payton (NO) – “I get the impression that Sean Payton isn’t a very nice person.” Around The NFL podcast – 9/22/15

Uncomfortable:

  • Chip Kelly (PHI) – (See above)
  • Bill O’Brien (HOU) – (See above)
  • Gus Bradley (JAX) – With Blake Bortles starting to get comfortable, the Jags are not getting blown out as much starting towards the end of last season. They are still losing, but they look like they’re going the right direction.

Warming up:

  • Jim Caldwell (DET) – Old habits die hard. Or tend to reoccur as is more the case here.
  • Jason Garrett (DAL) – With last years OL Coach Bill Callahan now in Washington and last year’s OPOY RB DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia, suddenly the Cowboys can’t run the ball anymore. This was supposed to be the most talented O-line in the NFL.
  • Jeff Fisher (STL) – Played the Seahawks nicely as always, but then laid an egg in DC.

Stable:

  • Ron Rivera (CAR) – Continues to get the most out of this talent deficient team. The friendly schedule helps.
  • Mike Tomlin (PIT)
  • Mike McCoy (SD)
  • Marvin Lewis (CIN)
  • Bruce Arians (ARZ)

Definitely Safe:

  • Mike McCarthy (GB) –
  • John Harbaugh (BAL) – Super Bowl Winner in 2012. Harbaugh has led the Ravens into the playoffs every year he’s been there except one.
  • Pete Carroll (SEA) – Super Bowl Winner in 2013
  • Bill Belicheck (NE) – Super Bowl Winner

Coaches Hot Seat – Preseason

September 17,2015:

So to start off the year, let’s go through all the coaches from newest to safest:

New coaches:

First year coaches always have a honeymoon period – it is almost unheard of for a coach to be fired after one year. The last one I can remember is Cam Cameron in Miami after Nick Saban left precipitously the year before. However, in these days of a hyper-competitive NFL it is not out of the question. In particular, coaches that have failed in previous head coaching stints can more easily be canned. (Ray Rhodes(GB); Norv Turner(OAK), Wade Phillips)

Here are the first-year Head Coaches from most to least stable.

Gary Kubiak (DEN) – Easily the most surprising team with a new coach in 2015 is the Denver Broncos. See the write-up on John Fox to get a good reason for this to happen. How much of that had to do with the 3 game stretch in November when Peyton threw more passes than any other QB had thrown in any other 3 game stretch? The only other QB who had done as much was Matt Schaub in 2012, after which he turned into a pick-six machine and the Texans went 2-14. Regardless, it was notable that Kubiak had already said that he would stay with the Ravens. This was the right decision, not only for his career, but because none of the other HC openings were worth taking (with the possible exception of the Atlanta job, but it appears that they had decided pretty quickly on Dan Quinn). Of course, once the Denver job came open there was no question that Elway would offer it to his old back-up and OC during the Super Bowl wins. Nor any question that Baltimore would not hold him to his previous proclamation for the only job that he would ever have gone back on his word for.
However, this sets up a curious situation. I can’t believe that Elway thought that Peyton would be back after his disastrous second half of the season. He now no longer has the arm-strength to compete at the NFL level – even with his superior knowledge and experience. That would almost certainly be true even if they were running the same offense that he has run his entire career. But they’re not. Kubiak is bringing back the version of the west-coast offense that he and Mike and Kyle Shanahan developed during the years when Mike was the Broncos HC and Kubiak was his OC and then when Kubiak became HC of the Houston Texans and Kyle became his OC. Elway was a good bit younger than Manning when he learned this system and still had a much stronger arm. He almost certainly still did when he retired – it was his knees that had gotten too bad for him to continue, not his arm – which was always one of the league’s strongest.
So, I have no idea how this is going to work out this year. I’ve heard both that Peyton’s arm looks good, but also that he has struggled with the new offense. Brock Osweiler anyone?

Dan Quinn (ATL) – Mike Smith took over the same year as John Harbaugh did in Baltimore and they both drafted franchise QB’s known for the unflappability (Atlanta got “Matty Ice” Ryan with the 3rd pick while the Ravens picked up “Joe Cool” Flacco with the 19th pick). While the Ravens have been to the playoffs every year since (except for their SB hangover year), the Falcon’s have one playoff appearance in that same time. After two straight losing seasons, it was time for a change in Atlanta. The Falcons are the latest team to try and copy the Seahawks success by hiring their Defensive Coordinator. Unlike Jacksonville, they have a franchise QB and a nucleus of players to go with him. Bringing in Kyle Shanahan as their OC will undoubtedly improve their offense to the point where I again expect them to be competing for the NFC South – and not just at 7-9. Only a revamped NO offense stands in their way.

Todd Bowles (NYJ) – Bowles has been working wonders with the defense under Bruce Arians in Arizona the last couple of years. It’s time to see if he can continue that magic in New York for possibly the worst franchise in the league. He inherits a team that was horribly mismanaged under previous GM’s John Idzik and Mike Tannenbaum, but now has former Texans’ scout Mike Maccagnan running the show. Good luck trying to right Woody Johnson’s folly, you’re gonna need it.

John Fox (CHI) – The best description of John Fox is that he can take a bad team and quickly make a good team out of it and he can take a great team and quickly make a good team out of it. Although he’s not even on the Marty Schottenheimer level with this, the Chicago Bears are tailor made for him to take over. The key question is how they decide to manage Jay Cutler. Josh McKown dissed him publicly before he even started and ended up having to trade him. Last season the OC (Kromer) started talking about him behind his back and Cutler proceeded to turn into arguably the worst QB in the league. This was after Cutler had a career year the previous year which was Marc Trestman’s first year as an NFL Head Coach (after several years in the CFL). I’m guessing that they figure it out and the Bears bounce back to contend for their division.

Rex Ryan (Buf) – Rex is unquestionably a good DC, probably a very good one and maybe even great, but he has consistently shown over the last 4 years in NY that he doesn’t have the aptitude to run an entire NFL team. I expect that the Bills will do well with him as their coach – winning some tough games while losing other embarrassingly easy games – but ultimately, the Bills’ new owner, the Pegulas, will see what everyone else already knows: that neither Rex, not GM Doug Whaley have the slightest clue about how to run an NFL franchise and replace the entire front office. Unless, of course, the idea is to dispirit the entire fan base in order to facilitate a move to Toronto, a scenario that (to quote the NFL’s “independent” investigator) is “more probable than not”.

Jack Del Rio (OAK) – Although I’ve always liked Del Rio, I’m always skeptical about coaches who jump into their first NFL HC gig when they’re obviously not ready (He had one year as an OC in Carolina after 2 previous years as LB coach in Baltimore). This was the case in Jacksonville, although he did do a decent job there, I’m not sure how I feel about him as a HC. He takes over a Raiders team that has some interesting pieces, a few good journeymen and a mess at most other positions. Tack onto that the distraction of the team trying to move to LA and you have a disaster in the making. Of course, improving from a 4-12 season when you have Khalil Mack, DE, Amari Cooper and a second year of Derek Carr should make things a lot easier.

2nd Year Coaches

  • Jay Gruden (WAS) – New GM Scott McCloughan not withstanding, any coach who has been under Dan Snyder for more than a year is in jeopardy. The getting normal pre-season hullabaloo about RG3 just continues to show how clueless Snyder is and how unwilling he is to let his football people run the team. They finally got RG3 benched, but he’s still on the team which means that Snyder is still in his camp. I’ll be surprised if he isn’t the hammer that Snyder uses to fire Gruden when the ‘Skins struggle.
  • Bill O’Brien (HOU) – I’m not on the Houston Texans bandwagon. Their wins have been shaky against mediocre teams. Although they do get to play in the AFC South, they can’t keep up with the “big boys”. Robert McNair is an admirably patient owner. However, even Bill Belichek couldn’t win without a Tom Brady at QB. GM Rick Smith has been the anchor dragging this ship down for the last 15 years. When he’s replaced, we can find out if Bill O’Brien is anything other than another Bill Belichek protégé dictator.
  • Lovie Smith (TB) – I still can’t see why anyone would hire Lovie as a Head Coach. He’s obviously a gifted DC, but has continually proved that he can’t head the organization. Unfortunately, the Glazor kids seem enamored, and getting Jameis Winston just gives them another reason to give him another year to “develop”.
  • Ken Wisenhunt (TEN) – Ken Wisenhunt may be another man gifted with the NFL rabbit foot like the Irsay family who had the bad ”luck” to have historically bad seasons the year before 2 of the best QB’s to ever play the game graduate (Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck). Marcus Mariota is (unsurprisingly) the real deal and is going to make the entire Titans organization look like geniuses, regardless of their general incompetence.
  • Andy Reid (KC) –
  • Jim Caldwell (DET) – After calming this team down from the Jim Schwartz tenure and leading them into the play-offs, I expect the Lions to take a step back this year. Minnesota looks poised to compete for the division title and Chicago will be much improved with John Fox and Vic Fangio
  • Mike Pettine (CLE) – It’ll be interesting to see how Pettine does in a year that he doesn’t get to play the AFC and NFC South divisions – the 2 worst divisions. I’d be much more comfortable with Hoyer as QB than either McKown or Johnny Football, but maybe if they can keep Alex Mack healthy all year they won’t swoon half-way through. Anyway, Pettine has proven that he deserves to stay, and it will be interesting to see how owner Haslet reacts if they don’t play as well as the rest of the AFC North.
  • Mike Zimmer (MIN) – A tumultuous time for the Vikings: Losing the best offensive player in the league (Adrian Peterson) for domestic abuse preceded a bad loss to the Patriots; losing Matt Cassell to injury has now issued in the Teddy Bridgewater era – for now; TB played well enough to win in his first start, against the up-and-down Falcons. Let’s see how long it takes for the league’s D. Coordinators to get the amount of tape on him that they need.

Hot Seat:

  • Chuck Pagano (8-4) –
  • Tom Coughlin (retires) (3-9) – Another strong game from Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants. This looks like Coughlin will go out a winner after all. But I still think he retires this year.
  • Joe Philbin (7-5) – So what was that with Philbin NOT endorsing Tannenhill as the starting QB going forward. After starting off with a bang against the Patriots, Philbin is starting to pick up where things were at the end of last season. Things are not looking good in Miami.
  • Ron Rivera (3-8-1) – Another coach who’s suffering due to the absolute incompetence of his GM. Unless Jerry Richardson decides to stick with Rivera over Gettleman, he’s gone.

Warming up:

  • Jeff Fisher (5-7) – I have no idea what is going to go on in Saint Louis. They’re as hard to figure out as any team in the league.
  • Sean Payton (5-7) – Even with the team below .500, they are still in first place in the NFC South and Payton’s previous success will insulate him from another bad year or two.

Stable:

  • Chip Kelly (9-3) – This again points out the necessity of good Offensive Line play. A recurrent theme this week.
  • Mike Tomlin (7-5) – Wow. You’re not supposed to lose to (arguably) the worst team in the league if you’re the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin is downgraded from safe again this year.
  • Jason Garrett (8-4) – With the improved O-Line (There it is again!) and having a real coach as a DC (Rod Marinelli as opposed to the retired 187-year old Monte Kiffin), Dallas is really looking like a serious football team. Meanwhile, Manziel is still on the Cleveland bench. Maybe Stephen Jones knows a lot more about the personnel side of NFL football than his old man, Jerry.
  • Mike McCoy (8-4) – It’s amazing how bad QB’s start to perform when one of the best OC’s of all time (Norv Turner) becomes the head coach. Two years ago, under Norv, Phillip Rivers was being thought of as done. Now he’s the best ever.
  • Marvin Lewis (8-3-1) – From looking like the best team in the AFC at one point, to getting blown out at home by Cleveland, this team is having a slow, painful implosion. Marvin Lewis has been with the team for so long it’s hard to believe that he’s had so little success. Unless they do something dramatically different, he could be in jeopardy.
  • Bruce Arians (9-3) – The runaway winner of the Coach of the Year for a second time. Why did Pittsburgh not want him again?

Definitely Safe:

  • Mike McCarthy (9-3) –
  • John Harbaugh (7-5) – Super Bowl Winner in 2012. Harbaugh has led the Ravens into the playoffs every year he’s been there except one.
  • Pete Carroll (8-4) – Super Bowl Winner in 2013
  • Bill Belicheck (9-3) – Super Bowl Winner

Coaches Hot Seat – Week 6

So we have several candidates to be on the next hot seat.

Miami Dolphins (1-3) – Joe Philbin had completely lost this team. Not only that, but the players had no respect for either the DC Croyne or the OC Bill Lazor. After the big loss to the Jets in London, the only question Steven Ross had was who he was going to get to coach the team after he fired Philbin since obviously neither Crone nor Lazor could. OUT

Teams that are 1-4 or 1-5:

Baltimore (1-5) – The Ravens have continued to decline from their abysmal defensive secondary from last year which gave up two 14-pt leads to the Patriots in the playoffs. That they were even in the playoffs is a credit to the coaching staff and organization for continuing to come up with players after all the injuries / releases.
This year they got their 2 top corners back, but they’re still getting torched by long plays late in games. They’ve had numerous injuries, but then so does everyone. They also seem to be the beneficiaries of bad calls by the officials late in games (meaning that the calls go against them). This is nothing new to the Ravens. It’s been a consistent theme throughout their history – with the notable exception of their Super Bowl run in 2011-2 (after one of the all-time greats, Ray Lewis, announced his retirement). In short the Ravens are playing just well enough to NOT win. Is this due to the loss of Haloti Ngata (trade) +/- Terrell Suggs (season-ending injury) or just karma – as many fans from Cleveland would contend.
In any case, the Ravens organization is not going to panic. There may be some more dramatic changes in the off-season. I don’t see DC Dean Pees coming back at this rate. The jury is still out on Marc Trestman. Maybe even Ozzie Newsome retires, but that seems pretty far-fetched. But I would be shocked beyond believe if they were to get rid of coach John Harbaugh after all he’s accomplished with this team over the past 8 years. SAFE

Detroit (1-5) – For the eighth time in modern NFL history, the Lions were the last winless team in the league. This after going to the playoffs last year for only the second time since 1999. They have a new OC in Joe Lombardi who seems to be in over his head. Matthew Stafford has significantly regressed this year and the defense has looked like a shell of itself without Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairly. Whether Jim Caldwell gets it turned around in year 2 of his tenure may not matter as the Ford family has shown a high ability to mismanage this team exceeded only by the Jets’ Woody Johnson. To my eyes, this is a continuation of Caldwell’s failures as the Colts head coach in 2010 (1-15 after Peyton Manning got hurt) and as the Ravens OC in 2013 (a historically bad offense the year after winning the Super Bowl). DOUBTFUL

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) – In year 3 of the Gus Bradley regime, one would expect a much more competent defense. It’s notable that the Seattle defense had no drop-off in his departure, but they are really struggling after losing Dan Quinn this past off-season while the Falcons defense has turned completely around. Still Blake Bortles does appear to be getting better. How patient Shahid Khan will be is yet to be seen. QUESTIONABLE

Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) – Two years into the latest Andy Reid regime, things are starting to look a lot like the end of the old Andy Reid regime in Philadelphia. Poor game management. Overly conservative play calling. Not a whole lot of good players. Kansas City has been pretty much a revolving door of failed Head Coach retreads for the last 20 years. Expect Mike Shanahan to replace Reid after this year. 😉 PROBABLE

Tennessee Titans (1-4) – After Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl during Bill Cowher’s final year, Ken Whisenhunt left there for Arizona after being passed over for the head coaching position in favor of Mike Tomlin. After a year and a half of mostly mediocre play, Wisenhunt was finally forced to resort to back-up (and Super Bowl winning) QB Kurt Warner. He only succeeded in taking the Cardinals to the Super Bowl the next year (to face the Tomlin-led Steelers!). After Warner retired, the Cardinals sunk back into mediocrity as their QB situation returned to its previous level. A successful year as the Offensive Coordinator under Mike McCoy in San Diego (with Philip Rivers as his QB) set up Wisenhunt for another HC stint. So instead of taking the position in Detroit where he would have had Matt Stafford as his franchise QB, Wisenhunt goes to Tennessee where he has just as bad of a QB situation as he had in Arizona. A curious decision to start with. [Perhaps he heard of Rivers’ dislike of the SoCal area and knew that he wanted to go back to Tennessee, so he thought he could get him.] The Titans wallowed into a 2-14 record last year that set them up to pick Marcus Mariotta in this year’s draft. To some people’s surprise, he created an offense that the former college spread offense QB could master. Mariotta has looked good for most of the season. However, he has started to be hampered by a extremely limited offense with outrageously conservative play-calling (like punting from the opponents’ 40-yard line).
Coming out of Pittsburgh’s SB year, I thought he was one of the best OC that I had seen. However, his struggles in Arizona coupled with bailing on the Chargers after one year and the poor performance with the Titans has led me to completely change my opinion. Whether he is able to keep his job depends partly on how well Mariotta progresses. However, I’ve seen enough to pull the plug and get someone else to be the Titans’ 4th coach in 6 years. QUESTIONABLE

2-WIN TEAMS:

CLE (2-3) – Josh McKown is playing like Brian Hoyer did for the first half of last year except that he isn’t making as many bad plays. Cleveland is still not a good team, but they’ve been coming to play.

HOU (2-4) – The only reason the Texans have any wins is that they play in the worst division in football, the AFC South, and they’re playing the teams in the 2nd worst division, the NFC South. Now that O’Brien has convinced himself and every other observer of the NFL that Ryan Mallett cannot play QB in the NFL, he is going back to Brian Hoyer. How this all feels to the human ping-pong ball known as Brian Hoyer and how it affects him will be shown on the field on Sunday. Meanwhile, O’Brien’s detractors now have a significantly poor showing by him in his QB management to send him packing if things don’t improve significantly. Unfortunately, in the AFC South things are bound to go better.

OAK (2-3) – Derek Carr and company are really rolling with rookie WR Amari Cooper who is unquestionably the real deal. Meanwhile, Kahlil Mack and Aldon Smith are anchoring a defense that is playing much better than previously.

Scouting the AFC Playoff teams

[Ed: The analysis of the teams was done before the week 1 games. I tried not to take into account the results when completing the write-up.]

AFC Playoff teams:

New England – New England lost a lot of good players in the off-season – like they do seemingly every year. But with Brady aging and the OL being hit hard, this seems like their window may be closing. Brady looked extremely poor at the beginning of last year; it is quite possible that the deflating of footballs led to his dramatic turnaround mid-season. They have another SB to go along with their previous 3. How hungry are they now? More particularly, how much does Brady have left in the tank? We saw Peyton go over a cliff mid-season last year; is this the year that Brady hits that precipice? Of course, how many times have we said that about the Brady-Belicheck era?
Prediction: Way down

Baltimore – Baltimore made it into the playoffs and was 2 touchdowns up on NE with 2 street free-agents in their defensive backfield. Now Jimmy Smith and Ladarious Webb are back plus they’ve added Kyle Arrington and S Kendrick Lewis. Safety Will Hill has now had an entire offseason to absorb the defense – and he looked pretty good even before that. This is essentially the same team that beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs and took NE to the mat, but with their hole at CB repaired. NFL better look out. One big difference is OC Gary Kubiak moving on to Denver. Marc Trestman is a good OC and they’re keeping the same offense that Kubiak installed, but this may or may not be a major downgrade.
Prediction: Even better than last year.

Bengals – Last year was the first without DC Mike Zimmer. The second year may see the defense continue to erode. But they have some very good play-makers. Of course it all comes down to how QB Andy Daulton plays in the playoffs.
Prediction: Serviceable 😉 – May win the AFC North again this year.

Colts – Everybody loved them picking up fast WR Dorsett in the first round of the draft, but that’s just flash. They did nothing to address a horrible O-Line and a suspect defense. However, Andrew Luck keeps them alive for the Play-offs. HC Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson are early candidates for the Hot Seat.

Steelers – A markedly worse defense, losing starting Center, and an aging Ben Rothlisberger make this team the biggest loser this year. No matter how good this offense is (and Antonio Brown may be the best WR in football), it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to stop anyone on D.

Broncos – Almost as bad a situation as the Steelers, but the defense keeps them alive. They now have Wade Phillips back as DC (the DC analog to Norv Turner’s OC – i.e. Great coordinators who make terrible head coaches). And with their defensive personnel they’ll be monsters. However, on Offense they have 39-year old Peyton Manning having to learn a new offense for the first time in his career. An offense that is gear towards the mobility of the QB of which there is little left. And they start 4 unproven players (now down to 3) on the OL. Bad combo.

Baltimore and the Bengals are the only ones guaranteed to make it back to the play-offs (Yes, you read that right). Who might replace the others? Miami and Buffalo will both be markedly improved. New York Jets might be as well as Todd Bowles tightens that ship.
Now that Philip Rivers has signed a contract extension, San Diego will again compete for a playoff spot and might actually make it this year. With Maclin back in Andy Reid’s offense, the Chiefs will again make a strong push for the playoffs.
Houston has a Bill Belichek disciple (I’ll believe it when I see it) and no QB. Tennessee has a winner in Marcus Mariotto, but they are not going anywhere. Jacksonville may be alright now that Bortles has a year under his belt.
Cleveland will be up and down. Pettine showed a strong hand last year, but Kyle Shanahan has bolted to the Falcons and they will be suffering a Johnny Football hangover for the foreseeable future.
Oakland should be better. But how much?

Scouting the NFC Playoff Teams

[Ed: Although not published until after week 1 games, this post was written entirely before the games with the exception of an expanded analysis of Seattle and some editorial corrections.]

Seattle Seahawks: As with all Super Bowl teams, the Seahawks will not be as good in the coming year. I don’t think that they were as good this year as their press made them out to be.

Reasons for Concern:

  • They have now lost 2 DC’s in the last 3 years. Their latest “man up” is Kris Richards. That will be hard to overcome.
  • Kam Chancelor is holding out. He is the leader of that defensive backfield.
  • They traded their starting center to New Orleans for TE Jimmy Graham. As the Ravens found out after their SB win in 2014, a starting center is the difference between a dominating Offensive line (2014 play-offs) and the worst running game in the league (2013)
  • Also, I think that Graham was exposed last year and that other teams will know how to neutralize him.
  • Russell Wilson is buying into the star syndrome.

Prediction: They are due for a major fall.

Green Bay: Green Bay should have gone to the SB last year Or maybe not as they were almost beaten by the Cowboys in the playoffs (Some say they were beaten, except for the refs.). They have kept the team together, so there would have been no reason for them to be just as good this year except for aging players. However the Jordy Nelson injury puts a major roadblock in their path. I don’t think that that is insurmountable, but that remains to be seen.
Prediction: I believe that they will still perform at a high level.

Dallas: How much is a good running back worth when you also have a dominating O-Line? That is the question in Dallas this year. After losing the best running back in the league in the offseason, they have replaced him with a broken-down Darren McFadden and several other unknown running backs. There is no reason that one of those backs may turn into something special. However, DeMarco Murray was always a special back for the Cowboys, he just kept getting hurt. I think they will miss him a lot more than they think. Their defense has also been problematic and it’s filled with Felons and abusers on top of that. I question whether that chemistry will gel this year. Also, people say that the Cowboys tend not to build on their success, so they are due for a comedown from that as well.
Prediction: They should take a step back this year.

Detroit Lions: Year 2 of Jim Caldwell. I am not a big believer in Caldwell. The first year a new coach can come in and establish discipline and improve a team just from that. The second year becomes a test as other teams now know what the coaching schemes are and can gameplan for them better. They also lost both the DT’s Ndomukong Suh AND Nick Fairly. A late career Haloti Ngata will not fill that gap, especially when he gets busted for PED’s again.
Prediction: They will take a step backwards this year

Carolina Panthers: They were lucky to get into the play-offs last year and will not have that this year. Cam Newton has continued to show that his is only effective when he is a running QB. Lucky for them, that he is big enough to take the hits. However, losing Kelvin Benjamin for the year has left the WR pantry empty and they will not recover.
Prediction: Out of the Playoffs

Arizona Cardinals: People are forgetting that the Cardinals where dominating the league last year before Carson Palmer got hurt. Additionally, Drew Stanton provided a serviceable back-up. It was only when he went down and they were left with Ryan Lindley and rookie Logan Thomas at QB that they fell out of contention (even though they did make the play-offs)
Prediction: There is no reason why that they won’t be dominant again this year.

So with only Arizona and Green Bay guaranteed to return to the playoffs (OK and Seattle, too), who will replace the others? The easy answer is Philadelphia. I also think that both Atlanta and New Orleans will be back in. The other team that is almost guaranteed to make the playoffs are the Minnesota Vikings.

Other NFC Teams: Chicago should be much improved. If Fox and Gase can keep from offending Cutler they may be a lot better than anyone expects. Tampa Bay is loaded at the skill positions on offense, however their O-line is terrible and they have a rookie QB not named Dan Marino or Tom Brady. Washington should be better with a stable QB situation with Kurt Cousins. They have quality skill position players, but again a bad O-line. The Giants will be monsters with Bob McAdoo’s offense if the end of last year is any indication. However, their defense is questionable. They brought back Spagnola, but his schemes are too complex and take away players’ instinctiveness. If they can improve their defense, they may challenge for the play-offs again. The 49er’s will suck. The Rams are a total question-mark. But having to play Seattle and the Cardinals twice will make things difficult for them.

Week 14 – 2014 Season

Things are really starting to heat up early this year. Lots of coaches are feeling more than a little warm under their bottoms.

Fired:

  • Dennis Allen (0-4) –The Raiders fired Head Coach Dennis Allen after an 0-4 start and replaced him with former Miami Dolphin Head Coach Tony Sparano as Interim Head Coach. No evidence that Coach Sparano will do any better than his predecessor with the players he has. Will the GM Reggie McKensie survive?
  • Tony Sparano (1-7) – So Sparano gets a second chance to prove that he can be an NFL head coach. A 12-game audition. Good luck with that with this team!

Hot Seat:

  • Ron Rivera (3-8-1) – Another coach who’s suffering due to the absolute incompetence of his GM. Unless Jerry Richardson decides to stick with Rivera over Gettleman, he’s gone.
  • Rex Ryan (2-10) – The Jets finally won another game. The fans are getting really fired up about firing GM John Idzik. Whether this will do anything to help Rex’s position is questionable. The play of Mark Sanchez in Philadelphia this year may have some bearing on this. With Randy Lerner no longer on the scene, Woody Johnson may reclaim his previous position as the worst owner in the NFL.
  • Jim Harbaugh (7-5) – Although a loss this past weekend would’ve made a 4th consecutive playoff appearance unlikely, nothing appears to be changing the direction of the 49er’s and Harbaugh parting at the end of the season.
  • Tom Coughlin (retires) (3-9) – Another strong game from Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants. This looks like Coughlin will go out a winner after all. But I still think he retires this year.
  • Lovie Smith (2-10) – Lovie continues to make Greg Schiano a happy man. His in-game coaching is suspect and his total mismanagement of the offense (as in his tenure in Chicago) makes it increasingly likely that he joins the ranks of Rich Kotite and Cam Cleveland. However, with the GM also being a first year, they may suffere through ONE miserable season.

Warm-up Deck:

  • Mike Smith (5-7) – Atlanta has not returned to the form of the team that went to the NFCC two years ago. They don’t appear to have the ability to win road games anymore – regardless of the opponent. Additionally, Mike Smith’s game management has been particularly poor this season, directly causing at least 2 games. But they still might win the NFC South. LOL
  • Gus Bradley (2-10) – With the continuing poor play of the Jaguars, Coach Bradley is starting to really feel the heat. Bortles is not progressing and the team appears to have regressed from last year in every meaningful way.
  • Marc Trestman (5-7) – Last week, the Bears beat the 49er’s and were leading the division. This week they lose to GB (against who Cutler is 1-10) and there’s no way they’re even in the play-off discussion. God, I love sports pundits!

Stable Position:

  • Doug Marone (7-5) – Buffalo is looking much better than anyone outside of Buffalo expected. Breaking news is that Marone has now benched EJ Manuel in favor of Kyle Orton. He might be correct in thinking that this team is playing well enough in all other phases that Manuel is dragging them down. This doesn’t change the toxic relationship between him and the front office, and with new ownership set to takeover, something will be changing.
  • Sean Payton (5-7) – Even with the team below .500, they are still in first place in the NFC South and Payton’s previous success will insulate him from another bad year or two.
  • Jeff Fisher (5-7) – I have no idea what is going to go on in Saint Louis. They’re as hard to figure out as any team in the league.
  • Joe Philbin (7-5) – So what was that with Philbin NOT endorsing Tannenhill as the starting QB going forward. After starting off with a bang against the Patriots, Philbin is starting to pick up where things were at the end of last season. Things are not looking good in Miami.
  • Mike McCoy (8-4) – It’s amazing how bad QB’s start to perform when one of the best OC’s of all time (Norv Turner) becomes the head coach. Two years ago, under Norv, Phillip Rivers was being thought of as done. Now he’s the best ever.
  • Mike Tomlin (7-5) – Wow. You’re not supposed to lose to (arguably) the worst team in the league if you’re the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin is downgraded from safe again this year.
  • Jason Garrett (8-4) – With the improved O-Line (There it is again!) and having a real coach as a DC (Rod Marinelli as opposed to the retired 187-year old Monte Kiffin), Dallas is really looking like a serious football team. Meanwhile, Manziel is still on the Cleveland bench. Maybe Stephen Jones knows a lot more about the personnel side of NFL football than his old man, Jerry.
  • Andy Reid (7-5) –
  • Marvin Lewis (8-3-1) – From looking like the best team in the AFC at one point, to getting blown out at home by Cleveland, this team is having a slow, painful implosion. Marvin Lewis has been with the team for so long it’s hard to believe that he’s had so little success. Unless they do something dramatically different, he could be in jeopardy.
  • Chuck Pagano (8-4) –
  • Chip Kelly (9-3) – This again points out the necessity of good Offensive Line play. A recurrent theme this week.
  • Mike McCarthy (9-3) – With no D-Line to speak of, Rodgers had all day to sit in the pocket spotting receivers. Not as if that was all that hard to start with.

Definitely Safe:

  • Bruce Arians (9-3) – The runaway winner of the Coach of the Year for a second time. Why did Pittsburgh not want him again?
  • John Fox (9-3) – Super Bowl Runner-up. Ho, Hum. Wake me up when it’s January. Fox’s only problems are medical, and if he didn’t quit after last year, I doubt that he will this one either.
  • John Harbaugh (7-5) – Super Bowl Winner in 2012. It would take a much worse year than last year’s 8-8 for Harbaugh to be jettisoned.
  • Pete Carroll (8-4) – Super Bowl Winner
  • Bill Belicheck (9-3) – After a horrible September, Belicheck again proves his genius as one of the two most dominant teams in the league. If they can keep at this level through the playoffs, he might finally get that last ring.

First-Year Head Coaches (Generally safe):

With the exception of Detroit and – most notably – Cleveland, this year’s head coaching class is not having much success, especially when compared to last year’s stellar results. Lovie Smith should be gone. Will Wisenhunt, Zimmer or Gruden be far behind?

  • Ken Wisenhunt (2-10) – Wisenhunt’s Titans start the year blowing out a playoff team from last year, but now have three straight bad losses.
  • Jay Gruden (3-9) – After 2 stellar outings Kirk Cousins lays an egg and suddenly everybody is saying “OK, we were wrong, he can’t play.” Huh? Besides, the Giants always beat up the ‘skins.
  • Mike Zimmer (5-7) – A tumultuous time for the Vikings: Losing the best offensive player in the league (Adrian Peterson) for domestic abuse preceded a bad loss to the Patriots; losing Matt Cassell to injury has now issued in the Teddy Bridgewater era – for now; TB played well enough to win in his first start, against the up-and-down Falcons. Let’s see how long it takes for the league’s D. Coordinators to get the amount of tape on him that they need.
  • Bill O’Brien (6-6) – I’m not on the Houston Texans bandwagon. Their wins have been shaky against mediocre teams. Although they do get to play in the AFC South and have a last place schedule, they can’t keep up with the “big boys”.
  • Mike Pettine (7-5) – Amazing comeback from 25 points down. Brian Hoyer continues to befuddle the analysts. I just realized that one possible reason for his production (despite being “only a journeyman QB”) could be that he had Norv Turner as his OC last year. Norv is the Best OC/Worst Head Coach in the NFL. OK, only the most mediocre Head Coach. The point is that he’s been possibly the best OC in the league while stinking things up in 3 head Coaching stints.
  • Jim Caldwell (8-4) – The Lions are looking like world-beaters again. Caldwell seems to have tamed Stafford to limit his gun-slinging until critical moments in the Q4. So far the gambling has paid off.

 

Changes this week:

  • Moved Belicheck ahead of every other coach.
  • Moved Mike Smith and Gus Bradley from the hot seat back to the warm-up deck.
  • Bumped Marvin Lewis back up to the middle of the stable group.
  • Added caveat to Lovie Smith also having a first-year GM.

 

 

Fewer Coaching Changes Coming This Year?

Ed:This post was originally written around Week 12 of the 2014 season.

It seemed last about half the coaches in the league were on the hot seat a few weeks ago. Now we’re down to 3 or 4. It appears that teams are starting to figure out that sticking with a coach through a few (or more!) bad seasons is worth it in the long run. That’s the way the Steelers have  always run. The Cowboys have turned a lot of heads with their season even after Jason Garret has been on the hot seat for several years.

Of course, there are always a couple of surprises every year.

Jim Harbaugh has been gone ever since the 49er’s leaked the information that they were ready to trade him to the Cleveland Browns last year. Michigan is making a MAJOR push to get him to come coach there. It would probably the best situation for him, because college players are more amenable to dictatorial style coaches. However, that would be a huge ego-burst to him as he thinks he is a super-bowl winning coach in the NFL. If he had actually won the SB against the Ravens, it would make it a lot easier. I hope but don’t expect him to take the wiser course.

Everybody is expecting Rex Ryan to be fired, but I’m not positive that he will be. I AM positive that the GM John Idzik will be gone, but Woody Johnson has always liked having Rex as his coach. After people from iaround the league proclaimed how great of a job he did last year guiding the Jets to 8-8, he was kept to most other people’s surprise. This past off-season was even worse than most for the Jets and this year’s team is even worse. Johnson could see that and blame the GM. Probably not, but I wouldn’t be shocked.

The other coach who everyone has being gone is Marc Trestman in Chicago. It seems like either him or Jay Cutler are leaving, but it’s likely that the McCaskey’s clean house with GM Emery going too. It’s too expensive to get rid of Cutler right now and who are they going to replace him with? NFL starting quality QB’s are pretty rare about now with at least four teams in desperate need (Buffalo, Houston, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Tennessee, at the least)

I have no idea what Tom Coughlin‘s fate in New York will be. The team finally starting executing Offensive Coordinator Bob McAdoo’s offense, so maybe Coughlin will feel like he can retire having left the team in good stead. Then again, maybe the Giants will want him to stay so that they can keep McAdoo’s offense (Seems like there should be another way of doing that).

Wannabes:

Mike Smith – Atlanta Falcons          Both of these coaches were gone a few weeks ago. Now the

Ron Rivera – Carolina Panthers      winner of their week 17 match-up wins the division.  Will the other one get fired? Will the one who wins the division get fired.

Sean Payton – Things have gone slightly differently in New Orleans than people thought. Don’t be surprised to see a major shake-up

Joe Philbin – Miami. Who knows? Owner Stephen Ross has announced that Philbin will return

As for the rookie coaches:

Pettine in Cleveland has been a real find. B+

Caldwell in Detroit has stabilized that team. We’ll see a) how the do in the play-offs and b) how much more undisciplined they are next year. A-

O’Brian has also done a good job despite losing 3 QB’s. B

Lovie Smith has stunk things up in TB. I’ve never been a fan of Lovie as a head coach D+

Wisenhunt hasn’t done well. Why did he choose Tennessee over Detroit again? C-

Mike Zimmer didn’t start well, but his team has been getting better. B-

Jay Gruden in DC has been a mess – as is to be expected with the worst owner in the NFL. I don’t expect him to get fired after this year, but things have got to get better. Right?

2nd Years

Chip Kelley – QB issues. missed playoffs

Gus Bradley – Forced to start raw rookie QB. Bottom 5 team

Bruce Arians – Coach of the Year despite losing several starting QB’s

Mike McCoy – On the cusp of the playoffs again

Chuck Pagano – Won their division again with Luck.

Doug Marone – A dominating defense let done by an ordinary offense led by a retread QB. Missed playoffs, but there conflict between the coach and the GM and a new owner.

Andy Reid – Can still make the playoffs, but need alot of help.

And the (current) best coaches:

Bill Belichick

John Harbaugh

Mike Tomlin

Jason Garrett

Mike McCarthy

Marvin Lewis

Pete Carroll

Jeff Fisher

Jason Garret

Week 5 Random Thoughts

Week 5 thoughts:

  • On any given Sunday any team can beat any other. So goes the old saying. But what I’m seeing this year is that on any given Sunday, any team can BLOW-OUT any other team. It really weird seeing really good teams like New England, Kansas City and Carolina get blown-out one week and then turn around and blow-out another, better team the next week.
  • Teams that get blown out have a tendency to bounce back the following week. The embarrassment of being blown out serves to motivate the players to get it together the next week, while the blow-out tends to decrease the work that their next opponent feels is necessary.
  • Pittsburgh after losing to the previously winless Tampa Bay and struggling to overcome the Jaguars this week (due to their own mistakes) are looking like the worst team in the AFC North. That still puts them in front of about a half a dozen other teams in the AFC.
  • The Dallas Cowboys are really good. I saw a hint of this in the opening loss to SF (where they turned the ball over 3 times in the first quarter and were losing badly before totally outplaying the Niners in the second half), but they are much better overall than I thought even then.
  • Atlanta and New Orleans don’t seem able to beat anyone on the road. Baltimore is also road-challenged.
  • The Giants have somehow turned things around. Again. They seemed to have a lot of difficulties in learning OC Bob MacAdoo’s new offense, but are executing it beautifully, now.
  • Andy Reid (KC) and Mike Smith (ATL) continue to make poor game-time decisions that cost their teams games.
  • Chip Kelly either is a master at making half-time adjustments or a dunce at responding to opponents’ half-time adjustment. Most likely both. The Eagles have yet to play more than a half a game in any game this season.
  • As expected, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is neither the savior we saw in week 3 nor the incompetent we saw in week 4. This week – as in past seasons – he showed some good abilities, while not having the ability to consistently win games by himself.
  • Detroit started out with a bang but has not been showing up the last few weeks. Seems like I’ve seen this before with Jim Caldwell coached teams.
  • St Louis continues to hang tough under dire circumstances. Kudos to Jeff Fisher (again!).
  • The Titans were up big before Jake Locker was knocked out of the game (expect big fines for Buster Skrine) this week, yet crumpled again with Charlie Whitehurst as QB. Different Head Coach, different back-up QB, same results.
  • Seattle played as expected for a couple of drives, but had NINE 3-and-outs against Washington. Russell Wilson gouged Washington for 122 yards rushing. The Redskins defense seemed completely unprepared for a QB who is known as an excellent runner.

Written 9/30/2014

The last couple of seasons have shown just how valuable the Offensive Line is to the success of a franchise. Consider that the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl after dominant performances down the stretch from the regular season all through the post-season. After that year, they had to totally retool their defense after future Hall-Of-Famers Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed was released. They also lost a few valuable – but not critical – players on the defensive side. After bringing in several new players and notable free-agents, the defense played remarkably well. About as well as they had the year before with Lewis and Reed at the end of their careers. But where they fell apart was on offense.

During their Super Bowl run, the Offensive Line had dominated. The only real difference was that the one-time all-pro Center, Matt Birk retired after 16 years (??). The offense was putrid. The starting Running back Ray Rice had one of the worst averages of all RB’s in the league, second only to Bernard Pierce, the Ravens back-up RB. Rice was somewhat injured, but that in no way explained the totality of the difference. Add to that Pierce’s production and Joe Flacco’s precipitous drop in production, aided by a staggering 48 sacks, and it was obvious that this was more than just a Super Bowl hang-over. (One can also argue that the trading of WR Anquan Boldin and injury to TE Dennis Pitta had major effects, but there were other players that should have been able to substitute most of their production.) The one MAJOR difference was the retirement of Matt Birk.

An interesting fact about Offensive Linemen is that they are almost always the most intelligent players on a football team. Matt Birk had graduated from Princeton and got a score on the Wunderlich that was close to the highest of all time. The Offensive Tackles on the Ravens were former first-round bust Bryant McKinnie and the formerly homeless Michael Oher of “The Blind Side” fame. Neither of these players is known for his intelligence. Reports are that during their stretch run, after the play was called in the huddle, Birk would tell each lineman exactly what his responsibilities were. Hence, two players that had marvelous physical attributes, but who were not up to the demands of their positions mentally, were able to take the team to a Super Bowl victory. [Note: the Ravens traded McKinnie half-way through the 2013 season and Oher was allowed to leave in free-agency.]

Fast forward to the 2014 season and with a retooled offensive line and a new zone-blocking offensive scheme under Gary Kubiak, and the Ravens are back to beating their opponents with even less credentialed Running Backs.

After the 2013 season, long-time New England Patriots Offensive Line coach retired. Suddenly, the Patriots are looking ver y ordinary.

Hot Seat – Week 4

Written 9/30/2014

How things are really starting to heat up early this year. Lots of new coaches on the hot seat and some of the others fall off.

Breaking news: The Raiders have fired Head Coach Dennis Allen after an 0-4 start and will replace him with an internal candidate. Update: The Raiders have elevated Tony Sparano to the position of Interim Head Coach.

Fired:

  • Dennis Allen (0-4) –

Hot Seat:

  • Joe Philbin (2-2) – So what was that with Philbin NOT endorsing Tannenhill as the starting QB going forward. After starting off with a bang against the Patriots, Philbin is starting to pick up where things were at the end of last season. Things are not looking good in Miami.
  • Lovie Smith (1-3) – After losing 56-0 to Atlanta, Lovie is looking like an extremely incompetent coach. This week’s win over Pittsburgh helps, but his continuing refusal to make Glennon his starting QB is raises serious questions about his player management. This echoes the problems he had with his offenses in Chicago. He’s lucky that McCown got hurt. Will it be enough to save him?
  • Rex Ryan (1-3) – The Jets continue to play Jekyll and Hyde. Regardless of Rex’s coaching ability, there’s a serious disconnect between him and GM John Idzik. Unless Woody Johnson’s a Hell of a lot more perceptive than he’s ever shown himself to be in the past and fires Idzik, it’s unlikely that Ryan survives past this season.

Warm-up Deck:

  • Tony Sparano (0-0) – So Sparano gets a second chance to prove that he can be an NFL head coach. A 12-game audition. Good luck with that with this team!
  • Tom Coughlin (retires) (2-2) – After 2 strong games, I can no longer keep Coughlin on the Hot List. But I still think he retires after this year.
  • Doug Marone (2-2) – Buffalo is looking much better than anyone outside of Buffalo expected. Breaking news is that Marone has now benched EJ Manuel in favor of Kyle Orton. He might be correct in thinking that this team is playing well enough in all other phases that Manuel is dragging them down. This doesn’t change the toxic relationship between him and the front office, and with new ownership set to takeover, something will be changing.
  • Ron Rivera (2-2) – From an incredible 2 game start, the Panthers have suffered back-to-back embarrassing losses to AFC North teams. Management has to be asking how come the coaching staff couldn’t get the ball to Steve Smith last year, when he’s shown to be one of the best in the league again under Kubiak’s system.
  • Jim Harbaugh (2-2) – The press is reporting that coach Harbaugh has lost this team. Regardless, the relationship with management isn’t getting any better. The only question is if he finishes out the season.
  • Gus Bradley (0-4) – I applaud the team’s insistence that they would “red shirt” rookie QB Bortles. If for no other reason than it kept all the pressure off him until he could develop. So now Henne has shown that he can’t get the job done and they decide that it’s time to get Bortles some playing time. Kudos. Bradley’s future will depend on how Bortles fares from now until the end of the season. If his OC/QB coaches can keep him improving, Bradley should be fine for another year.
  • Jeff Fisher (1-2) – (BYE) I have no idea what is going to go on in Saint Louis. They’re as hard to figure out as any team in the league.
  • Sean Payton (1-3) – Rob Ryan’s defense that was resuscitated last year, has for some reason imploded this season. Sean Payton may be definitely safe, but Rob Ryan certainly isn’t.

Successful Sophmores:

  • Marc Trestman (2-2) – Last week, the Bears beat the 49er’s and were leading the division. This week they lose to GB (against who Cutler is 1-10) and there’s no way they’re even in the play-off discussion. God, I love sports pundits!
  • Andy Reid (2-2) –
  • Chuck Pagano (2-2) – Luck’s Magic(tm)
  • Chip Kelly (3-1) – This again points out the necessity of good Offensive Line play. A recurrent theme this week.
  • Mike McCoy (3-1) – It’s amazing how bad QB’s start to perform when one of the best OC’s of all time (Norv Turner) becomes the head coach
  • Bruce Arians (4-0) – And why was this guy not a head coach before?

Stable Position:

  • Jason Garrett (3-1) – With the improved O-Line (There it is again!) and having a real coach as a DC (Rod Marinelli as opposed to the retired Monte Kiffin), Dallas is really looking like a serious football team. Meanwhile, Manziel is still on the Cleveland bench. I guess Stephen Jones knows a lot more about NFL football than his old man.
  • Mike Smith (2-2) – Atlanta has not returned to the form of the team that went to the NFCC two years ago. They have very poor run defense and have won by out-scoring their opponents.
  • Mike McCarthy (2-2) – With no D-Line to speak of, Rodgers had all day to sit in the pocket spotting receivers. Not as if that was all that hard to start with.
  • Marvin Lewis (3-0) – (BYE) The Bengals are looking like the best team in the AFC at this point. Okay, maybe second to Denver. Still, noone’s going to actually believe in them until they show they can win in the play-offs when it matters.
  • Mike Tomlin (2-2) – Wow. You’re not supposed to lose to (arguably) the worst team in the league if you’re the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin is downgraded from safe again this year.
  • Bill Belicheck (2-2) – Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are looking below average for the first time in a long while. This again points out the necessity of good Offensive Line play. This the first time I’ve had Belicheck off the Safe list.

Definitely Safe:

  • John Fox (2-1) – (BYE) Ho, Hum. Wake me up when it’s January. Fox’s only problems are medical, and if he didn’t quit after last year, I’m doubting that he will this one either.
  • John Harbaugh (3-1) – Gary Kubiak’s offense just keeps getting better and better. If they hadn’t lost the first game to the Bengals, we should’ve been hearing play-off talk again by now. But, no this is Baltimore, after all. One of the junior teams, not worthy of national news coverage, especially now that they don’t have Ray Lewis or Ed Reed.
  • Pete Carroll (2-1) – (BYE)

First-Year Head Coaches (Generally safe):

A lot of up and down teams here. Lovie has officially moved onto the Hot List.

  • Ken Wisenhunt (1-3) – Wisenhunt’s Titans start the year blowing out a playoff team from last year, but now have three straight bad losses.
  • Jay Gruden (1-3) – After 2 stellar outings Kirk Cousins lays an egg and suddenly everybody is saying “OK, we were wrong, he can’t play.” Huh? Besides, the Giants always beat up the ‘skins.
  • Bill O’Brien (3-1) – I’m not on the Houston Texans bandwagon. Their wins have been shaky against mediocre teams. Although they do get to play in the AFC South and have a last place schedule, they can’t keep up with the “big boys”.
  • Mike Pettine (1-2) – (BYE) Nice trick on the Manziel reception. Too bad rookie RB West screwed it up. Cleveland continues to look like a contender in the AFC North regardless of their record.
  • Mike Zimmer (2-2) – A tumultuous time for the Vikings: Losing the best offensive player in the league (Adrian Peterson) for domestic abuse preceded a bad loss to the Patriots; losing Matt Cassell to injury has now issued in the Teddy Bridgewater era – for now; TB played well enough to win in his first start, against the up-and-down Falcons. Let’s see how long it takes for the league’s D. Coordinators to get the amount of tape on him that they need.
  • Jim Caldwell (3-1) – The Lions are looking like world-beaters again. After week 4.