By HCR Staff | November 2, 2020
As we get to the halfway point in the season, planning for 2021 grows closer for some teams – even with the expanded 14 team playoff format.
Let’s get to it.
Can, And Should, Raheem Morris Be Named The Permanent Falcons Head Coach? If not for a badly botched end-of-game scenario in Week 7 vs. the Lions, Morris would be enjoying a 3 game winning streak with the Falcons. Thursday’s night’s win over an improved Panthers squad was impressive.
The Falcons have played with a lot more energy and aggressiveness since Morris’ ascension, but after they face the Broncos in Week 9, the schedule stiffens considerably.
What concerns us about Morris is whether he actually knows how to win games, which is very different than getting a team ready to play, inspired or anything else. Knowing how to win concerns the ability to make key strategic decisions during a game, that results in a victory.
The loss to the Lions gives us pause.
On the plus side for Morris is that he’s experienced, he’s been a head coach before, and he intimately understands what went wrong in former head coach Dan Quinn’s tenure that may be fixable. Therefore, if owner Arthur Blank wants continuity, Morris would give him that.
The Ravens Are All-In On QB Lamar Jackson, But Head Coach John Harbaugh Knows They’re One-Dimensional. John Harbaugh and the Ravens organization have created a successful, consistent winning culture in Baltimore, but now they confront a huge question: is it a culture that can get over the top and win Super Bowls again with QB Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP?
Or does their current style of play have a lower ceiling than they think?
This may sound like a strange inquiry, but here’s what prompting us to ask it. It’s pretty clear that the Ravens’ current formula for winning is to a) get an early lead; b) don’t deviate from the run game; and c) allow the defense to close out the game.
We like this formula, and it’ll win much of the time, but we think Harbaugh now has enough data to conclude that “whenever we get behind to a good team, we’re in deep trouble.”
In yesterday’s loss to the Steelers, it was Jackson who was the source of troubles. Bottom line: while being an incredibly marvelous talent, Jackson simply isn’t a natural passer. So when the Ravens do throw the ball, Harbaugh has to confront anxiety and unpredictability…and those two variables create more margin for error, and losing.
So Harbaugh and the rest of the organization knows that if they ride Jackson – long term – this is the brand of football they’ll have to produce and deal with.
Jackson still is on a rookie contract, but soon, his camp is going to want $30-40 million annually to play. When that time comes, it’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens respond.
Sean McVay – One Dimensional? McVay is one of the best head coaches in football right now; he’s accomplished a lot in a short period of time. But a pattern is starting to emerge, and that’s when the Rams lose momentum briefly in a game, they simply don’t seem to be able to re-generate it.
The Rams are a front-running tempo team; when they’re clicking on offense, they can be unstoppable, and that tempo fuels their defense as well.
Sometimes, though, opponents sniff out McVay’s bread and butter plays – the jet sweeps, the naked boots, the crossers. And when it happens, the Rams’ confidence deflates in a hurry and McVay doesn’t have answers.
We saw it in the Rams’ 13-3 loss in the Super Bowl to the Patriots. It happened again in the loss in Week 6 to the 49ers. In 2019, we saw it in the Week 6 loss to the 49ers and the Week 12 humiliation at the hands of the Ravens.
Yesterday, it was the Dolphins and Brian Flores who jammed McVay’s hard drive. The Dolphins defense basically copied the Patriots’ winning Super Bowl formula and confounded Rams QB Jared Goff all game long. Goff was embarrassed, and by extension, McVay. Don’t let the final game stats fool you; the numbers are meaningless. At the most crucial moments, Goff and McVay couldn’t deliver.
McVay is going to grow and improve as a head coach, and he’s already on a terrific trajectory. But this is one issue he’s got to address.
Jon Gruden’s Getting Closer And Closer To What He Wants With His Raiders. We don’t know for sure, but our speculation is that the Raiders’ win against the Browns in awful weather conditions may already be in Gruden’s personal Top 10 most enjoyable. Winning tough, physical battles in the elements is the kind of thing that get Gruden juiced, and the Raiders won in impressive fashion.
Gruden’s team has had to battle some obstacles lately, but that didn’t stop them from being gritty when it mattered. While Gruden is affiliated with offensive Xs & Os, he actually isn’t enamored with the throwing it 40 times a game; he actually loves smashmouth offense. Mano-a-mano, grind it out 3.5 yards a time, type of offense, with one shock play here or there.
That’s what the Raiders are developing into – quietly. If he can get his offensive line situation settled (although OT Trent Brown’s unfortunate experience with an IV drip doesn’t help), Gruden is going to be in the playoff hunt til season’s end, and if he gets in, he is going to be a very, very tough out.
Bill Belichick Is Making Excuses – It’s Not Like Him, And It Shows He Cares About His Legacy. Belichick did a great job yesterday, even though his team lost to the Bills in Buffalo. The game plan was what it needed to be in order to compete, and give his woefully shorthanded squad a chance to win.
He did make two judgment calls that were unlike him – an onside kick after having gained some momentum, and a decision to not opt for one play into the endzone at the end of the first half. We can understand some of his reasoning, but his reasoning wasn’t as deep and logical as we’d hoped it would be.
Most importantly, though, in his postgame presser, Belichick started to lament salary cap restrictions as a reason for the Patriots’ woes. In short, he was making excuses.
Belichick almost never gets into off-the-field issues to explain performance, or the lack of it. He doesn’t allow it for his players…but now he’s allowing it for himself.
First of all, he alone is responsible for the Patriots’ cap situation. No one else. He makes every decision in this area.
Second, when the Patriots were winning, every win and loss was explained through the prism of playing and coaching. For example, Belichick could have explained yesterday’s loss by saying “well, we knew coming into the game that Cam was going to have to run the ball, and so since we knew that, it’s incumbent on the coaches to emphasize ball security. We didn’t do a good enough job coaching that up this week, and that’s why we lost.”
Belichick didn’t make his players or his coaches accountable for Newton’s fumble. He talked about the salary cap. This is a diversion, and it’s not becoming of him.
In our view, he’s one of the 2 or 3 best head coaches ever in the history of the game. That opinion will never change. But right now he’s feeling the pressure, just like everyone else.
Anthony Lynn, Like Dan Quinn Before Him, Is Struggling With Knowing How To Win A Game – During The Game. The Chargers blew another win in Chargers-like fashion; leading 24-3 in the 3rd quarter, Lynn and his staff managed to just loiter around long enough to go home with another L.
Lynn is routinely blowing double digit leads, and this is what got Dan Quinn fired by the Falcons. His players are playing hard, and at a certain point, it’s up to the in-game decision-making by a head coach to properly guide his team in a smooth landing and a well-deserved W.
Right now, that’s not happening, and the morale may start slipping away quickly. The presence of a dynamic and talented rookie QB in Justin Herbert makes things more palatable organizationally, but a bitter taste still remains. Lynn’s teams always play hard, but what’s the point if the head coach doesn’t know how to close out a game? Lynn has to improve in a hurry, or else the Chargers will be making a change.