HCR (“Head Coach Ranking”) is a proprietary algorithm utilizing rigorous qualitative judgments that considers a head coach’s performance in five key areas – areas we feel strongly influence the outcome of any game. The five factors we review, analyze and grade are:
We grade the quality of the offensive, defensive and special teams play calls, and also determine how well or poorly each head coach makes these play calls within the context of particular situations within a game. Within this factor, we also consider 2-point PAT decisions (e.g., our general rule is that no 2 pt PAT decision should be considered/tried until there are five minutes left in the fourth quarter), fourth down decisions, and challenge plays.
We grade how well each head coach utilizes the personnel available to him on the roster. For example, if a particular running back is not a good pass catcher, but a head coach runs a pass play to him on a key third down situation, our conclusion would be the head coach did not do a good job with his personnel on that particular play. This also could, of course, happen on defense. For example, if a head coach has his best pass rusher dropping into coverage too often, perhaps this also may not be prudent given the context of that particular game.
We grade the strategic soundness of the offensive and defensive game plans for each game. We want to determine the efficacy of each team’s strategy as it enters the game, and whether the judgment made by each head coach regarding the path to victory or competitiveness is reasonable and sound.
One of the most fun aspects of professional football is the “chess match” dynamic, i.e., how well does each competitor respond to the moves of the other? If a defensive end is constantly winning a one-on-one matchup versus an offensive tackle, will the head coach respond by adjusting his offense so that a running back or a tight end ‘chips’ that defensive end? We will grade how well each head coach responds to changing conditions during the game.
The use of time outs, play clock management, and tempo changes – particularly on offense – are critical to proper game management technique by head coaches. These decisions can directly impact winning and losing, and we will grade how well each coach performs in this area.
Our Grading Process
Each game will have one grader assigned to it. Prior to grading the game, our grader will take into consideration factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Weather conditions
- Personnel variables (injuries, suspensions, relative youth/inexperience, etc.)
- Preparation time (e.g., short week game?)
Our graders will then watch each game, analyze it, and provide a final score in each of the categories listed above on a 0-10 scale, with 10 being best. The score in each of the five categories we grade will be added together, and that total will be divided by five. The resulting score will be the head coach’s Head Coach Ranking (“HCR”) for that particular game.
Our graders do not grade a head coach’s ability to motivate his team, nor do we grade player execution. The focus of our grading process is a head coach’s judgment and decision-making ability during a game.
Finally, we obviously are not privy to all of the information a head coach has prior to, and during a game. One reason why the head coach position is difficult is because they must be good at quickly filtering and processing new information. For example, a player may suffer a slight injury during a game and that might cause a coach to adjust strategy, one that may not have been planned for prior to the start of the game. That piece of information often is not known to us, or any other fans. Here at HCR, we do our best with the information available to us at the time we view a game, but we admittedly are dealing with limited information.
New HCR grades for each week of the NFL season will be revealed by 6 a.m. Eastern time every Tuesday.
We will rank all the head coaches from 1-32. We will track each head coach’s overall progress throughout the season. Readers can track how each head coach is performing in each category week to week as well.
Finally, in addition to grading each game, we will provide a brief summary of observations that we find interesting or noteworthy.
How Our Graders Watch Games
We grade each game simply through the television broadcast of the game, and in some cases, with the All-22 view of the game available online.
Additionally, we understand that we are not privy to all of the “inside” information that may affect certain decisions. Some of this information may come out after we already have graded a game. We simply base our analyses upon readily available public information, e.g., injury reports, etc., at the time of that particular game.
We also understand that not every head coach makes all of the offensive and defensive play calls, and we also understand that not every head coach has the authority to choose his own personnel. However, and with respect to play calls, every head coach is responsible for the decision of coordinators – so even if specific calls are not made by the head coach, he ultimately is responsible. Moreover, and with respect to the players provided to a head coach, every head coach accepts the position understanding the dynamics present for that particular organization; therefore, we do not consider this as a ready excuse for poor performance. We simply are trying to assess whether a head coach has done as good a job as he could under the circumstances. We understand that if a head coach is operating under poor circumstances, it is unreasonable to expect smashing success.
Likewise, we also understand that there are other variables that are out of the head coach’s control. Injuries, weather, travel snafus, suspensions, unfavorable scheduling, etc. Winning and losing does not always dictate a good or bad HCR either. It is entirely possible that a losing head coach emerges with a good HCR score for that game.