By HCR Staff | Dec. 30, 2019
As the head coaching vacancies pile up, here are observations we found interesting on the final weekend of the regular season.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn is returning, but he regressed this year. The Chargers lost a lot of close games this year, but many of them were unnecessarily self-inflicted. Yesterday’s loss is a case in point. The Chargers trailed by 10 early in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs, and after a stalled drive, Lynn chose to go for a longish fourth down in lieu of a chip shot field goal to cut the deficit to seven. Even IF the Chargers would have gotten the first down and IF they would have converted that into a touchdown, the Chargers still would have needed another possession. This is elementary. It was a long fourth down attempt, and the Chargers had finally gained some momentum. There was no compelling reason to make that attempt there. Of course, the Chargers were unsuccessful on the fourth down attempt, and of course, the Chargers drove for a touchdown on their next possession. Which, of course, could have been the tying touchdown. We understand coaches want to be aggressive, but we certainly feel prudence and aggressiveness aren’t mutually exclusive concepts either.
Brian Flores, like Mike Vrabel and Matt Patricia before him, continued the success of former Bill Belichick defensive coaches against Belichick. Last season, Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans and Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions tattooed Bill Belichick with humbling losses. This year, it was Brian Flores’ turn. And he did not disappoint. Flores had his Miami Dolphins ready, and well-tutored in the concepts of the New England Patriots offense, defense and special teams. Most impressively, was the disciplined play of the Dolphins–and they avoided stupid penalties, and literally controlled the game nearly start to finish, so much so that the game-winning drive felt like a fait accompli. Belichick had tutored Flores so well that Belichick had no answers–a very rare sight.
The San Francisco 49ers secondary is a concern, Kyle Shanahan might consider throwing away his two-point PAT chart…and what was the kickoff squib kick all about? Kyle Shanahan is a Coach of the Year candidate, but he needs to get with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and figure out precisely what is going on in the back end. Too often in the last month of the season, the 49ers secondary has shown significant breakdowns, and from a technique standpoint, their ball skills are lacking. On another note, we did not like the third quarter two-point PAT decision by Shanahan. It was far too early, and that attempt could have cost the 49ers the game. In our view, generally, no such try should even be considered until five minutes are left in the game. Finally, the 49ers strangely attempted a squib kick on a kickoff after they had just scored a touchdown to reassert control of the game. That squib went out of bounds and gave the Seattle Seahawks excellent field position, which ultimately resulted in a Seahawks touchdown. It was a sign that perhaps Shanahan was overthinking it a bit, especially since the Seahawks’ kickoff return game wasn’t doing much.
Even though the Oakland Raiders lost, Jon Gruden has them going in the right direction–the plays were there to be made, but it appears he wants a different quarteback. We could be wrong, but it’s our observation that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is very frustrated by what he sees as a significant limitation in Derek Carr’s abilities. There were some well-designed plays to be made by Carr yesterday (one wheel route comes to mind), but he just didn’t execute. The Raiders essentially controlled the first half, but the lack of execution on several key plays held them back. Gruden also chose to go for a 4th and a half-yard just outside the Denver Broncos’ goal line–the decision could have gone either way–but they failed to make it, and that failure led to a momentum changing 99-yard Denver touchdown drive. On the failed fourth down attempt, the Raiders didn’t seem ready and lined up….which Gruden might see as Carr’s responsibility.