By HCR Staff | December 14, 2020
The post-season picture is becoming clearer as more teams are eliminated. It’s a major miracle the NFL season is in Week 15. Thanks as always to the players, coaches and staffers for providing us this entertainment during a difficult time.
Let’s get to it.
Mike Tomlin – Great Head Coach Or Not? The Steelers lost last night against the Bills to drop their second straight game, and the “Mike Tomlin for Coach of the Year” chorus was silenced a bit. Tomlin has a sterling career won-loss record, but is he really a great head coach?
Well, yes and no.
Here’s the “yes” part: motivation, being collaborative with the front office and ownership, passion and drive. None of these things should be discounted; all are important to becoming a great head coach.
Here’s the “no” part: In-game strategy, game management and game-planning. These things also are important, of course. For an example of Tomlin’s lack of sharp game management skills, just check out the end of the Steelers’ 2017 home loss to New England.
So Tomlin is a bit of a mixed bag as a head coach, but he has one advantage that no other head coach in the NFL has: the most stable ownership group in the NFL.
The Rooney family ownership culture can’t be understated. The culture gives its front office and coaches a sense of calm that breeds confidence and loyalty. Grateful coaches want to win for this ownership group; they feel they are in possession of a real civic treasure, so they take their job performance very, very seriously.
The Rooney family culture also seeps down to the players, and this also helps make Tomlin’s job a bit easier. The players also want to win for the family, not just for themselves.
The Steelers will always be a bit hit or miss under Tomlin, but they’ll always be in the hunt.
Doug Pederson Gets His Spark. Last week, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson announced a quarterback change from Carson Wentz to rookie Jalen Hurts because he wanted a spark. Well, it paid off in a big win against the talented Saints, who were playing their third consecutive road game.
Pederson did a good job of sticking with a plan that didn’t deviate from what Hurts does well. For essentially the first time this season, we saw an Eagles team play disciplined ball. The stripped down offense allowed the Eagles and Hurts to play fast, and that was the difference. The Eagles were simply a bit faster and more intense than the Saints.
Does Hurts’ one game success mean Pederson’s off the hot seat? If it were up to us, the answer is ‘no.’ Why? Because we simply don’t know what to expect from the Eagles from game to game. For an organization rich with resources, we think the product should be more consistent.
Andy Reid Gets The Win, But We See Some Loose Threads With The Chiefs. The Chiefs still are the most talented team in the NFL, but one of the issues we saw yesterday is their penchant to get a bit ‘playground’ on offense. Now for the most part, due to their talent, they can get away with it, but a seriously short-handed Dolphins squad pushed them to the limit.
From a coaching standpoint, the Chiefs are so talented that it’s natural a coach will want to try everything. Five wide receiver sets, the quarterback taking a snap while in motion, backward passes, no-look passes, etc. They’ve largely gotten away with it because the talent is just that good.
The funny thing is that the Chiefs also have a lot of running back talent too, but pounding it just seems too boring for them. Plus, the shock plays they make demoralize opponents faster. We get it.
They may win their second straight Super Bowl this season, and they’re certainly in position to do it. But we see some loose threads right now.
Can Jon Gruden Find His Counterpart On Defense? The Raiders lost to the Colts, and then they fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. If the Raiders can get into the playoffs this season, they can be a hard out, but they’re not a really serious contender to win it all.
In 2021, however, they can be, but they’ll have to do two things. First, they have to add more talent to the defensive side of the ball. They’re two impact players short – at least. Second, and even more importantly, they have to find a Gruden-clone to coach that side.
Now that’s a tall task. There’s not a lot of super-passionate, borderline crazy, defensive football-mad coaches out there with a high degree of intelligence. But for the Raiders to get to the next level, this has to happen. Paul Guenther was a veteran coordinator, but he was far from Gruden’s equal.
The Rams’ Sean McVay had a similar issue coming into 2020. McVay made it his mission to find his counterpart on defense, and he did it in finding Brandon Staley; the Rams now play defense as intelligently and passionately as any in the league.
Can Gruden do the same?
Ron Rivera, Coach Of The Year? As the COY debate heats up, here are the names that make an awful lot of sense: LaFleur, Reid, Stefanski, Payton. But here’s another to consider: Rivera.
Yes, WFT still is a losing football team, and yes, they’re not really pretty to watch (unless you love defensive line play). But consider what Rivera’s done.
He’s managed to take all the attention away from the most screwball, dysfunctional ownership group in the league.
He’s managed to take attention away from the racist former team name (and we vote for ‘Football Team’ to become the permanent name).
He’s managed to undergo chemotherapy – during the season – and not miss any time coaching.
He’s managed to deal with a quarterback controversy, injuries at the position, and reinvigorate veteran quarterback Alex Smith.
He’s building a playoff-caliber defense.
Most of all, he’s making the WFT a feared opponent.
If he takes this squad above .500, he’s getting our COY vote.