By HCR Staff | Nov. 25, 2019
Here are some observations of head coaches from around the NFL prior to HCR’s Week 12 rankings:
The Dallas Cowboys have Super Bowl talent, but the coaching staff just isn’t there yet. Jason Garrett is known throughout the profession as a professional and upstanding guy, but is he among the top-tier of NFL head coaches as a strategist? He’s not. That’s not his fault, he can only accomplish whatever his talent allows him to do. Ultimately, he didn’t put himself in this position, Jerry Jones did. Given that Jerry also is the most hands-on owner in the NFL, whatever results the Cowboys deliver, it’s on Jerry. Yesterday’s Cowboys loss in New England proves once again that generally speaking, superior talent does not always end up victorious. The NFL is highly dependent on competent coaching, and it was highly doubtful that Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and defensive coordinator Kris Richard, were going to go in to Foxborough and win a game against Bill Belichick. Garrett and his staff put the Cowboys in a position to win the game, but could any observer of yesterday’s game genuinely say that the Cowboys ever had the game under control at any point? The Cowboys will win games where they have the talent edge and the opposing coaching staff is equal to or less competent than their own. Their record reflects this.
Matt LaFleur may be a fine head coach in time, but the Packers 2019 season is being propped up by QB Aaron Rodgers, DC Mike Pettine, and free agent acquisitions Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. In the Green Bay Packers one sided lost to the San Francisco 49ers last night, the most alarming thing that we saw was the lack of adjustments by Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and his staff. The Packers’ defense, like they have all season, hung in there admirably, but the Packers’ offensive staff literally had no answers for their sluggishness. We didn’t see any tempo change, nor any other strategic adjustments during a game in which the Packers had numerous opportunities to make competitive. We felt that the Packers got away from their running game too quickly, as running back Aaron Jones was giving excellent effort on his opportunities. Of all the rookie head coaches, LaFleur landed in the most opportune situation, inheriting a Hall of Fame quarterback and a terrific defensive coordinator. LaFleur gets a pass on the 2019 season as he is a rookie, but we will be interested to see what his growth is in the future.
Adam Gase and the New York Jets have won three games in a row, and central to that progress is the relationship between Gase and QB Sam Darnold. Gase made his reputation as an offensive coordinator coaching Peyton Manning during Manning’s Denver Broncos tenure. The two had a very close relationship, so much so that Manning has recommended Gase for head coaching opportunities. It looks as if Gase and Jets QB Sam Darnold are developing a close relationship as well, and it is beginning to pay dividends. Darnold is playing with tremendous confidence and assuredness–it’s a mental sweet spot that every quarterback wants to be in. Darnold knows that Gase has his back, and vice versa. Additionally, the Jets quietly have the number one run defense in the NFL. If they can close out the 2019 campaign with some momentum–they dominated the Oakland Raiders and Dallas in-home wins already–this is a young team capable of making noise in 2020.
What makes the 49ers defense so dangerous is the communication between the players, and that is a credit to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. By now, the entire league is aware of the immense talent the 49ers possess on defense. However, what we see as the secret to their success is the communication between the players. It’s a defense where the players trust each other, and they know the scheme well enough to where they can self-correct, without any coaching intervention. That’s a high level of discipline, and it is a reflection on the coaching staff, and particularly defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. It looks to us as if he has entrusted cornerback Richard Sherman to control the back end, and linebacker Fred Warner to control the front end. HCR does not think Saleh is ready to be a head coach yet, but he certainly is a rising talent.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel still struggles with in-game strategy, but he shows elite leadership qualities. Simply put, the Titans know how to get up for big games, and that is a direct reflection on head coach Mike Vrabel. The organization does not get a lot of national attention, but since Vrabel has arrived, no one would dispute that the Titans are a tough out. Occasionally, and as evidenced by their record, the Titans will throw up stinkers, but here we are past the midway point of the season, and the Titans are in the mix for another divisional title. This season, Vrabel has had to break in a new offensive coordinator, as well as manage a QB change. He’s done both very well, and he now has a team that plays in his image: tough and tenacious. As his in-game decision-making improves, the W-L also will improve. Right now, however, it’s still good enough to keep the Titans contending.
It’s a lost season for the Broncos, and the responsibility falls on GM John Elway. When rookie head coach Vic Fangio was hired by John Elway to become the new head coach of the Broncos, we felt Fangio’s most critical decision would be a choice of offensive coordinator. Fangio chose 49ers QB coach Rich Scangarello. Scangarello had never been an NFL offensive coordinator–thus, the Broncos were going to be led by a rookie head coach and rookie offensive coordinator. Pile on top of that, the Broncos were going to try to break in a new QB (Joe Flacco) into a new system. It simply was too much. One man could have provided guidance, and that was Elway. We don’t know if he tried to, but he certainly could have put up some guardrails. The Broncos are a mess right now, and have no direction.