By HCR Staff | Oct. 14, 2019
Here are some observations of head coaches from around the NFL prior to HCR’s Week 6 rankings. We have a lot to cover this week.
The Dallas Cowboys have too much talent to be performing like they did yesterday in a loss against the New York Jets. In our view, the biggest problem with the Cowboys is that their coaching staff is wildly overrated. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants the best of everything — the best stadium, the best fans, the highest TV ratings, the best corporate sponsorships, etc. And he gets the best of everything. However, he has a blind spot with respect to his coaching staff. Jones is settling for mediocre. Right now, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is in over his head. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard was completely out coached yesterday — it was a very poor performance. Head coach Jason Garrett is a nice guy, but his teams play inconsistently. The Cowboys are a tease, and they shouldn’t be.
Veteran coaches making rookie mistakes. Yesterday was a poor performance by the Cowboys coaching staff in general, and it was reflected in a clear lapse in judgment by Jason Garrett. With less than four minutes in the first half, he had the opportunity to make it a 7-6 game. Instead he opted to go for a 4th and 2 conversion, which failed. The Jets went on to score two touchdowns, including a 92-yarder to WR Robby Anderson. Dallas kicked a 62-yard field goal before the half ended to make it 21-6, but the decision not to kick a field goal earlier changed the momentum in this road game.
Rookie coaches making rookie mistakes. Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has made plenty of rookie mistakes this season which is somewhat expected. What was surprising was that coming off a bye week, he named quarterback Josh Rosen the starter for the rest of the season. In the narrow loss to the Washington Redskins, Flores made the decision to switch back to veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. So which is it? This kind of waffling can slowly erode a head coach’s credibility, and it’s a path that’s not favorable for Flores. Again, he’s a rookie, so we have to give him a chance to learn. Hopefully, he will.
Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams have become one-dimensional. Sean McVay clearly is one of the brightest coaching minds in the profession, but he now confronts his first real challenge as the head coach of a successful team. Defensive coordinators have caught up to him a bit, and he needs to make some adjustments. It was pretty clear from yesterday’s game that the Rams can only run the ball with misdirection — the Rams simply cannot lineup and run power directly at anyone. The Rams don’t play with a fullback, and their interior offensive line is just average. Additionally, the Rams personnel groupings have become predictable. It was telling and alarming that McVay, with four additional days of preparation for yesterday’s game, did not appear to give the Rams any coaching edge. The Rams seem to continue to rely on executing at a higher level than their opponents, but now that they have lost three straight, will they continue with this philosophy? The scheme may need some further evolution and refinement, but will McVay take this path?
Andy Reid and his Chiefs should be okay, but much is dependent on whether Reid can provide any valuable input to his defense. As Kansas City’s offense gets healthier, any current concerns there will be mitigated. The biggest concern, however, is the defense, and whether head coach Andy Reid can do anything about it. The Chiefs lost consecutive games to AFC South opponents, and in both games the defense was taxed. During yesterday’s loss to the Texans, the Chiefs continually lost to a single play that they never adjusted to. Texans QB DeShaun Watson continually gashed the Chiefs with a short dump-off pass to his tight ends, taking advantage of the Chiefs hard up field rush. Additionally, the Texans were able to run the ball inside effectively with RB Carlos Hyde. Andy Reid is one of the best head coaches of his generation, and unquestionably, one of the best offensive coaches. However, he isn’t known for having stout defenses, and this is particularly true once his productive relationship with former DC Jim Johnson ended. The most alarming thing about the Chiefs performance yesterday is that they lost an early double-digit lead. Typically, the Chiefs are one of the NFL’s best front-running teams, and they use that momentum to simply overwhelm opponents. Yesterday, however, this formula did not work, and the defense spent close to 40 minutes on the field. This is a cause for concern going forward as they head to Denver on a short week.
Kyle Shanahan continues to demonstrate he is on the path to becoming an elite head coach. During Kyle Shanahan’s rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers, we saw many moments of potential brilliance with his decision-making, even though the record did not reflect it. Now, our instincts are being rewarded. In yesterday’s victory over the Rams, Shanahan had to deal with significant adversity in preparation for this game. Not only was it a short week, but the 49ers had to confront a variety of significant injuries. Regardless, the 49ers were prepared and most impressively, Shanahan’s game plan was beautiful in its simplicity. On a short week, a head coach doesn’t have as much time to install anything more nuanced, even though many give into that temptation. Shanahan didn’t, and focused on execution of the game plan they were able to put together. Not trying to do too much on a short week demonstrates to us that Shanahan is showing a higher level of judgment than many of his peers.
Bill O’Brien’s in-game judgment may be inconsistent, but no one can dispute that he is a good leader. O’Brien has received a lot of criticism for his game management skills, as well as his decision making regarding personnel (e.g., Laremy Tunsil trade). However, he has demonstrated consistently he is a good leader. He has infused the Texans team with undeniable resilience. He’s put together a veteran coaching staff, and is aided admirably by DC Romeo Crennel. Together, they have infused the Texans team with a grittiness and toughness that has the organization regularly contending for division titles. It’s too bad that starting right offensive tackle Tytus Howard was injured yesterday, as the Texans’ long forlorn offensive line appeared to be jelling. Quarterback DeShaun Watson is playing like an MVP candidate as well, and O’Brien deserves much credit for his development. O’Brien also deserves credit for picking up RB Carlos Hyde, who has been a great addition to the Texans. It’s a results-oriented business, and O’Brien has regularly delivered results for the Texans.
Sean Payton certainly is in the running for Coach of the Year. The New Orleans Saints are winning in a variety of ways, and much of their early-season success is due to Sean Payton’s game management skills. All of their wins have come in close games, and on offense, they have, of course, lost starting QB Drew Brees. Nevertheless, the Saints have been able to win these games because they are playing good situational football. Payton doesn’t really have, besides RB Alvin Kamara, any truly explosive players on offense. The success has come from execution and good judgement — Payton is doing a good job of keeping his team out of bad situations. One thing he is doing well is not asking backup QB Teddy Bridgewater to do anything that he can’t do. This sounds simple, but many head coaches and offensive coordinators give in to the temptation. Similarly on defense, the Saints always know what the situation is. Whenever the Saints defense has the opponent in a third-and-long situation, it appears their defensive focus sharpens. They have been coached to know that giving up third-and-longs is not a formula for success.
We believe Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn can turn this around, but he has to improve the Falcons’ game-planning. Dan Quinn is a good man, has had success as a head coach and is widely respected within the league. While his team is a bit under-sized, it is stocked with excellent talent. So what is the problem? What we see is underachievement in the game-planning area. The Falcons seem to go into each game doing what they want to do, regardless of the opponent. It’s as if the Falcons simply want to demonstrate their physical talent, even if the other team has schemed in order to stop that talent. Every time we watch a Falcons game, it’s a bit difficult to see what they are trying to achieve.
We feel for Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. Right now, it’s a bit difficult to determine whether Taylor is doing a good job or not, because we see this Bengals season as one of complete organizational transition. Former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was in the job for a very long time, and much of his player nucleus still is in Cincinnati. Taylor is going to need time to infuse the organization with his philosophy, and to help that along, Cincinnati may have to move some of the best veteran players. However, Bengals owner Mike Brown may be the most obstinate man in the NFL, and he probably will be resistant to moving some of these players. If this is true, then the Bengals organization may be on a treadmill for a while.
Vic Fangio is beginning to settle in as a head coach, but the upcoming short week will be telling. When you have been a defensive coordinator for as long as Fangio, and then you are suddenly made a head coach later in life, it certainly makes sense that it would take some time for Fangio to feel comfortable. Fangio’s defense is beginning to settle in and deliver results. However, the bigger concern is the offense. It continues to show that it cannot perform consistently. One preseason concern that we had is new OC Rich Scangarello. Yes, he comes from the Kyle Shanahan tree, but unlike Shanahan, he is a low-energy personality. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but his personality may be a roadblock in giving the Broncos’ offense a sense of urgency. This week, Fangio has the advantage as the home team in a short week game, and the stadium should be rocking given that the Chiefs are coming to town. The quick turnaround will test Fangio in a new way as a rookie head coach, and we are looking forward to seeing the product this week.
Pete Carroll proves that taking field goals isn’t such a bad idea after all. The Seattle Seahawks are looking like a serious Super Bowl contender, and the credit goes to head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll showed great in-game judgment yesterday in patiently settling for field goals. Every road game is a long physical trip for the Seahawks, so winning road games are a bit tougher for the Seahawks than most clubs. Carroll knows this, and was not about to damage his own team’s confidence and ability to win when offensive drives stalled out. So instead of following all of the analytics folks down the fourth down attempt aisle, Carroll patiently kept adding points. That strategy paid off as the Seahawks were one of the few teams, if not the only, to come from behind and win after trailing at halftime this week.