By Clark Judge | Oct. 26, 2018
There’s something not named Patrick Mahomes or Todd Gurley that’s a big deal with the NFL these days … only you wouldn’t know it by the press it’s getting. Because it’s not.
And that’s first-year head coaches. They can’t win.
There are seven of them, and the past two weeks they’re a combined 2-10, including 0-6 in Week 6 — the second week this season they’ve been blanked. At this rate, they’ll pitch at least four shutouts in the 17-week schedule, and that’s good if you’re pitching for the Red Sox; not so good if you’re coaching the Raiders.
But sit still. We’re just getting started.
There isn’t one first-year head coach with a winning record. You heard me. Not one. The closest we come is in the NFC North, where the Bears’ Matt Nagy and the Lions’ Matt Patricia are both 3-3. Worse, three of them haven’t won more than one game apiece, which is tied for the league’s worst, and two — the Raiders’ Jon Gruden and Giants’ Pat Shurmur — are in the midst of mid-season clearance sales.
Only we’re not halfway through the season.
In all, first-year head coaches are a combined 14-32, a .304 winning percentage, with six of the seven alone or tied for last place in their divisions. The only exception is Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel, but he’s on a three-game losing binge … with a team that last year made the playoffs.
That, of course, is nothing compared to what’s going on … or not going on … in Oakland, Arizona and the Giants. Let’s start with the Raiders, because the Black Hole seldom has been blacker or deeper than it is today. Not only do the Raiders stink, but they’ve basically told their fans that, patience, things will get better … when we move to Vegas.
That’s in two years, and who knows what the Raiders will look like then. Because in a very short time, Gruden has lost more than ballgames. He’s lost Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and is in jeopardy of losing his locker room, too – with The Athletic reporting that multiple players are questioning their head coach’s “accountability.”
Then there’s Arizona, where star cornerback Patrick Peterson said he wants out. I would, too, if I couldn’t win. And the Cardinals can’t. So far, they haven’t traded Peterson, but stay tuned. They jettisoned offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and may be next to purge their roster.
Next stop: New York, where the Giants this week pulled the plug on the season by trading defensive starters Eli Apple and Damon Harrison. Barring an unexpected turnaround, next to go will be quarterback Eli Manning … though it won’t be to another team. Nope, more like the bench. With the Giants circling the drain, Manning’s a virtual lock to sit down this season in favor of rookie Kyle Lauletta.
Gruden was supposed to fix Derek Carr because he has a reputation as a “quarterback whisperer.” Well, whisper this: Through the first seven weeks, Carr has fewer touchdown passes (7) and more interceptions (8) than at any time of his five-year career.
Steve Wilks was supposed to tighten an already suffocating Arizona defense, with the Cardinals producing a league-best 17 preseason takeaways, including eight in one game. Yeah, well, they have 12 through seven regular-season starts and rank 24th in total defense.
They ranked sixth last season.
Shurmur was supposed to be the guy who would fix Manning and resurrect the Giants. Manning has seven TD passes, tied with Carr and the Redskins’ Alex Smith for last among full-time starting quarterbacks, and the Giants are 1-6 for the second straight season.
And so much for experience. Shurmur and Gruden are the only guys on this list who’ve been head coaches before, and they’re a combined 2-11. The other five are rookies, and three of them each have more victories (3) than the Raiders and Giants together.
The bottom line is this: Owners make head-coaching changes to improve their teams, but outside of Chicago (3-4 through seven weeks last year; 3-3 today), nobody’s improved. A year ago, the seven franchises that jettisoned head coaches were 19-29 at this stage. And now … well, now they’re a Not So Magnificent Seven, and there’s a lesson there.
Be careful what you wish for.