By HCR Staff | Dec. 2, 2019
The Los Angeles Chargers continue to lose games by one score, but it’s not by accident. Unfortunately, head coach Anthony Lynn mismanaged the end of yesterday’s loss to the Denver Broncos. Yesterday’s Chargers loss to the Broncos was reminiscent of much of the Chargers’ performance over the last decade–slow start, then a furious rally to catch up. If you want to be a Chargers fan, you have to have a strong stomach. As in past losses, the Chargers had an opportunity to win this game, but head coach Anthony Lynn’s performance at the end of the game won’t win any awards. The Chargers trailed 20-17, with two minutes left to go in the game and a 1st and 10 at the Denver 38-yard line. They also had two timeouts left. For a potential Hall of Fame quarterback like Philip Rivers, that’s an eternity. As we watched the game, we felt the Chargers had an excellent opportunity to win the game outright, as the Broncos had lost momentum and clearly were on their heels. We fully expected an aggressive finish for the Chargers in an effort to win the game, and if that failed, a short field goal attempt to tie the game. Instead, what we witnessed was the Chargers playing the last two minutes for a tie–we were incredulous. The play-calling was timid, and even though the Chargers have great red zone options in wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry, they played it safe. The Chargers got the tying field goal, but lost it at the end due to a controversial pass interference call. It should never have come to that. This loss was on the coaching, and for a team struggling to find any kind of fan base, devastating.
Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith deserves a lot of credit for the resurgence of QB Ryan Tannehill. After defeating the Indianapolis Colts yesterday, the Titans now trail the Houston Texans by only a game in the AFC South, and much of the credit goes to under-the-radar offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Smith was tapped by head coach Mike Vrabel to replace departing offensive coordinator Matt Lafleur, after LaFleur accepted the Green Bay Packers’ head coaching job. Smith had never before been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, but his work with Tannehill now is beginning to turn some heads. Smith has the Titans offense operating efficiently on all levels of the field, and that is what is making the Titans very difficult to stop. Smith is attacking defenses on the short, intermediate and deep levels, and impressively varying the pace. This approach, combined with Tannehill’s mobility, makes the Titans an intriguing team to follow the last month of the season.
We’ve noted it in this space before, but Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ most impressive accomplishment thus far has been to have his team playing hard in every game. Everyone in the industry knows the Dolphins are building for the future, but in the process of doing so, a head coach still has to provide leadership, and most importantly, somehow get the players on the current roster to play hard for him. After all, it’s likely that more than one-third of the current roster is not on this team in 2020. Notwithstanding that, Flores has simplified things for the Dolphins. Instead of complex game plans and schemes, Flores has gotten his team to have fun and play with a high energy level. All of the players know they are not going to make the playoffs this year, but when we watch the Dolphins play, they do play as a team. That shouldn’t be underrated, and all of the credit goes to Flores.
Pat Shurmur is an excellent football coach, but there’s enough data to show that he just isn’t a great head coach. New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur has had great success as an offensive coordinator, most recently with the Minnesota Vikings. But after having watched his stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and now the New York Giants, it’s pretty easy to conclude that the head coaching position simply doesn’t fit him. Our intention is not to be overly critical–it’s just that the head coach position is unique, and quite different than any other coaching position on the staff. There’s no shame in it. After all, there have been many legendary coordinators who simply didn’t work out as a head coach. Names such as Dick LeBeau, Joe Bugel, and Norv Turner come to mind. Right now, we cannot discern what the Giants are trying to do in any given game. They clearly need to go in another direction for 2020.
The San Francisco 49ers had a chance to beat the Baltimore Ravens yesterday, but they failed to convert a critical 4th and 1. The 49ers played an outstanding game yesterday against the Ravens, and they put themselves in a position to win it. On their final drive of the day, which stalled in Ravens territory, the 49ers were confronted with a decision on 4th and 1. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up a pass play, but unfortunately for the 49ers, the pass was batted down. The Ravens took over, and ultimately marched for the winning field goal at the buzzer. In the aftermath, there has been some criticism of Shanahan’s play call. Frankly, we find that criticism to be ridiculous. Hindsight is, of course, always perfect. Shanahan’s explanation for the call was definitely justifiable and he has proven himself to be one of the elite playcallers in the game. If that was the best play that came to him at that precise moment in time, we would ride with Shanahan one hundred percent of the time. It doesn’t mean that he’s infallible, it just means that every playcaller is going to win some and lose some. And we think that Shanahan is going to win a heck of a lot more than he loses. Shanahan also made the play calls that helped running back Raheem Mostert to a career day, and in the process, expose something about the Ravens that we haven’t seen yet this season.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien gave one of the best performances of his career in last night’s victory over the New England Patriots. The victory had to be very sweet for O’Brien, as up until last night, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had soundly beaten O’Brien in previous matchups. Last night, however, O’Brien had every unit on the Texans humming, and playing with a high degree of energy and efficiency. When the Texans had to punt, the punt team gave the Patriots long fields. When the defense was confronted with third-and-longs, they got off the field. The Texans also repeatedly won on first down on offense, as QB DeShaun Watson had numerous second and shorts to play with. The only blemish was the end-of-the-game process where the Texans got just a bit too loose on defense, and the Patriots almost climbed back into the game.