By HCR Staff | Nov. 18, 2019
It’s going to take a bit longer for Matt Patricia to change the culture in Detroit. In our view, the Lions’ season completely changed when they lost the Monday night game against the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season. The Lions clearly did not get any breaks down the stretch with the referees in that game, but this has been a constant theme in Detroit for almost a generation: bad luck, bad place, and bad coaching, at the wrong time. We firmly believe Matt Patricia is going to be a good head coach, and Bob Quinn a good general manager. However, the player roster mix on the Lions right now is in transition, and the core group of Lions players that pre-existed Patricia may be more of the problem than the solution. This is a group of players that was chosen to play a different style of football than Patricia wants, and he and general manager Bob Quinn will have some difficult decisions to make this offseason in order to get Patricia the type of players he wants. Yesterday’s loss against the Dallas Cowboys is a microcosm of where the Lions are as an organization. Pretty good, but just not good enough.
It sure looks as if the Indianapolis Colts are the AFC version of the Philadelphia Eagles. Colts head coach Frank Reich served in a meaningful role as an assistant coach with the Eagles, and it’s pretty clear that he’s imported a lot of what he learned there to Indianapolis. In particular, the 4th down decision-making looks very similar to the Eagles’ protocol, and the offense looks similar as well. Colts general manager Chris Ballard has built a very talented roster, and he already is among the top five general managers in football. However, we continue to believe Reich’s in-game decision-making is still a bit loose, and we’ll see how it plays out if they happen to make the playoffs. By 2020, we firmly believe Ballard will have built a championship roster, but whether or not Reich’s in-game decision-making also is of championship-caliber remains to be seen.
Will Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace abandon the Mitch Trubisky experiment? Nagy and Pace form a pretty good duo atop the Bears organization, but they have clearly tied their fortunes to Trubisky. It’s a shame because both Nagy and Pace are young talents in the industry, but a lot of energy and politics are being expended defending Trubisky and his development. At some point, all of this energy will begin affecting other players. Once that happens, the culture will begin to erode. It’s pretty clear from watching last night’s contest versus the Los Angeles Rams that the quarterback position simply isn’t dynamic enough for the type of offense that Nagy wants to run. Sometimes, a mistake has to be acknowledged and losses cut. When will this happen for the Bears?
If the Arizona Cardinals can add some talent on the offensive line and a couple of more players on defense, the NFC West in 2020 will be the most exciting division in football. Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is receiving a lot of criticism this morning for his all-out blitz call at a critical juncture of the game yesterday. We understand it, but it was also aggressive blitzing that actually put the Cardinals in a position to win as well. Nevertheless, we believe the Cardinals actually have a path to contending for their division in 2020. We had a lot of skepticism about the Kliff Kingsbury and Joseph pairing in the offseason, but they have done a very good job of getting this team ready to compete each Sunday. The Cardinals don’t receive a lot of national attention, but we believe coaches all around the league know that you cannot sleep on this team.
Obviously, X’s and O’s are important to football, but as a head coach, building team character in resiliency is harder. Vic Fangio found this out yesterday. The Denver Broncos were impressive in running out to a 20-0 lead against the Minnesota Vikings yesterday, but the loss came about because this still is a developing team that has not yet developed a belief in itself. Not many teams lose after taking such a large lead, but the Broncos’ collapse came about because at the moment, the Broncos resemble a doughnut–something along the fringes, but nothing in the middle, at the core. That core is belief, resiliency, and competitive character…when it matters. Whether Fangio is capable of doing this still is debatable in our view. Like any new head coach, however, he deserves at least two years to see if his philosophies can take hold.