At the conclusion of week 6, you can already forget about an undefeated season for any team in the NFL. In fact, almost as many teams have a chance at going 0-16 (Bills, Panthers) as the number of teams with a chance to finish with only one loss (Steelers, Jets, Patriots). Of the 12 playoff teams from last season, only 7 of them currently have a winning record and of the five without one, two (Charger, Dallas) are already 2 games under .500. Moreover, NFC West favorite, San Francisco, is 1-5 to go along with a slew of poor teams such as Buffalo, Cleveland, Carolina, and perennial loser, Detroit. The question is, which coaches are to blame for the current failures?
We’re So Bad Even the Wax Figure/Robot Himself, Jim Caldwell, Could Have a Better Impact
Since 2002, the Lions have had a top 10 draft pick every seasons except for 2008 and have had 5 within the top 3. Of their 9 top draft picks, they drafted 4 wide receivers, 2 quarterbacks, 1 defensive tackle, 1 linebacker, and 1 lineman. What’s missing for the most part? Offensive lineman! Eight top ten draft picks over the course of 9 years should be more than enough to take a team into the ranks of the contenders. In fact, a single effective number one pick can turn a team around in just a year or two! When discussing the Lions’ recent abysmal performances, I like to compare their draft strategy to that of the New York Jets. In the 2006 NFL draft, the Jets selected LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson with the forth pick and Nick Mangold with the 29th pick. The two have evolved into the premier players at their respective positions and through them, the Jets have become the leagues most dominant rushing team over the last three seasons. Their current success has a direct correlation to the draft strategy of 2006. Offensive lineman = future success.
Therefore, I’d say the biggest problem with the Lions is not so much the coaching staff, but the fact that all members of the front office over the last 9 seasons have run the organization like a Fantasy Football Team, drafting flashy wide receivers and highly hyped quarterbacks. BUT, and this is a big but, any coach that fails to turn top college talent into NFL talent and in doing so leads his team to a overall record of 3 and 18, deserves to have his job given to a more deserving and able minded human being. Sorry, Jim Schwartz, but you fit into this category.
Coaching Verdict: Schwartz needs to be fired. He has some individual talent (Bess, Johnson, Suh, Stafford) but seem incapable of getting W’s, which are all that matters in the NFL. I hate the term “winning culture” (honestly, what does that mean? What organization doesn’t want to win? The hard part of establishing a winning culture is actually winning) but it seems to be most appropriate here. Peace out.
Imagine you are a hunter who’s main pray, for whatever reason, are small, tree-living rodents, such as a squirrel. Now, lets pretend you see your target squirrel in the woods. Bigger animals, such as a moose, a deer, and an elk, surround the animal. But, being that you hunt squirrels, you elect to shoot the squirrel with a gun. That was easy, the squirrel is little, weak, and no match for a bullet. But, you’re not done yet. You proceed to take the squirrel into the street, run it over with your pickup truck, grab the flattened animal and cut it in half with a machete, take the two halves of the squirrel and put them into a blender with some ice, make a squirrel smoothie, take the smoothie and feed it to one of the animals you found it near, wait for the deer to take a shit, and then light the fecal matter on fire. That seems a bit excessive given the already puny nature of the squirrel but that’s just what some divine power had in store for the animal from the beginning. That’s sort of how I see the Bills’ season.
A wise man once said regarding the Bills 2010 seasons, “The Bills have the most unjustly difficult schedule of any team in the NFL. They not only have to play 6 games against the other 3 teams in the division, but they also must play Green Bay, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburg. Those are 11 possible losses right there.” You can add to that list the surprising teams of this season, the Chiefs and the Bears, as well as Jacksonville, to whom they already lost, and that leaves only 2 more possible wins. One is against the aforementioned Detroit Lions and the other is against the soon to be mentioned Cleveland Browns. The Bills are bad, but they aren’t 2-wins bad.
Coaching Verdict: Over the last 10 years the Bills have had 5 different coaches. Of course, the reason for this has been their poor performance over that same time span. However, I’m not ready to dismiss Chan Gailey. The Bills are yet to play a team with a losing record and probably will not do so until week 10. I already agree with two of the moves the Bills made this season; releasing Trent Edwards and trading Marshawn Lynch. The quarterback situation was a necessary change after tremendous disappointment and the combination of Jackson and Spiller is a fine one at running back. If the Bills can win 4 games this season, I would consider Gailey’s performance to be a success. As of now, Gailey’s still got the job.
The Cleveland Browns and head coach Eric Mangini are kind of like the food at Union’s dinning halls. You know it’s gonna be bad, and perhaps even worse; you know its going to be boring. There seems to be no hope for change and you wonder after every encounter why things are the same as they were a year-and-a-half ago. The franchise has failed to improve because of utter stupidity, indecision, and second guessing concerning the starting quarterback position. The question in 2009: First-round pick, Brady Quinn, or sixth-round-nobody-but-relatively-successful-pre-injury Derek Anderson. In a classic dilemma teams must face every season, Cleveland elected to go with the rarely seen, quarterback-by-committee strategy, making three different switches throughout the course of the season. After realizing they shit the bed with this approach, Mangini and company elected to rid themselves of both and start over with the absolute definition of mediocrity, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, one and two on the depth chart respectively. After realizing this was a mistake as well, they decided that second-level talent and rookie, Colt McCoy, was to be the new starter. All these changes proved to be as helpful as the comment cards given to the Union dinning hall employees.
Coaching Verdict: This is all a direct effect of terrible coaching. Eric Mangini is among the worst head coaches in the National Football League. His smug nature and inability to instill anything resembling trust or respect among his players is only surpassed by his utter lack of understanding regarding clock management and how to win football games. After watching him run a Jets team, which was just as talented as the one that advanced to the AFC championship last season, into the ground with the assistance of Brett Favre, I was shocked to find that there existed a team in the NFL desperate enough to pay for his services (They soon found these “services” are nowhere to be found). Mangini should be fired today, no question about it. Each day he retains his job is a slap in the face to all the soon to be head coaches eagerly awaiting an opportunity to succeed. I cannot be more certain of this obvious choice.
Much like the Buffalo Bills, the Carolina Panthers have the unfortunate fate of being a less-than-stellar team dealing with a challenging schedule. However, they do get to play the NFC West, which are all opportunities for a win, as well as their games against the Bucs. Again, like the Bills, they are yet to play a team with a losing record. The bottom line here is the Panthers are too one-dimensional to compete with most NFL teams. They rely almost exclusively on the run game, and to the horror of their fans, the Panthers currently rank 26th in rushing offense. DeAngelo Williams is yet to eclipse the 100 yard rushing mark in any game.
Coaching Verdict: John Fox has earned the respect of most people across the league because the guy produces successful football teams. In his eight seasons as the Panther’s head coach, he has taken them to the playoffs three times (once to the Super bowl) and has never done worse than 7-9. However, that will probably change this season as his team has already accumulated 5 loses. The bottom line is that Carolina lacks in the talent department and I doubt there is any amount of coaching that can make up for their atrocious quarterback situation. Fox has proven that he can get the job done and he should still have his position at the conclusion of the season.
Class C Underachiever
San Francisco 49ers
Many people, including myself, picked the San Francisco 49ers to run away with the AFC West and contend for a deep playoff run. After a 1-5 start, that is beginning to look less likely. Perhaps the team is underachieving, or maybe, the expectations were too high for a team that finished 8-8 last year. Led by a fiery head coach and arguably the league’s best defensive player, Patrick Willis, the defense of San Fran was supposed to be among the best in the league. Well, the unit has actually been ok (they rank 11th and 19th in passing and rushing defense), which, considering they are 1-5, is more like pretty good. Frank Gore has been solid at running back and Vernon Davis is on pace for another good season. The problem however, and this is a problem of cataclysmic proportions, is that the fans of San Fran chanted “We Want Carr!” towards the conclusion of their week 5 game. As in, “We Want David Carr!” As in, “Alex Smith is So Bad We’d Rather Subject Ourselves to David Carr, One of the Biggest Busts of the Last 10 Years!”
Coaching Verdict: I really like Singletary and I really, really want to think he’s a good fit. How can you not love his enthusiasm (Can’t play with ‘em, can’t do it!) or the fact that Patrick Willis seems to be the second coming of his head coach? Prior to the start of this season, Singletary was 13-12 as the head coach of the 49ers and in his defense, much like some of the other coaches and teams on this list, his team has had a pretty rough schedule to start the season. They certainly have the ability to win 6 of their next 7 games, which, given their division, would put them right in the middle of the playoff race. I’m going to delay the decision on Singletary until the end of that stretch. If San Francisco is looking at something like a 4-9 record, then perhaps the intense, always entertaining Singletary is on a team that just doesn’t fit his demeanor.
Class B Underachiever
As Dwight Lowery ran Brett Favre’s interception into the end zone at the end of the week 5 Monday Night Football matchup between the Jets and Vikings, I needed a moment to reflect on the event I just watched. I mean, I was shocked. Did Favre really just throw an ill-advised pass to lose the game for his team, even after Rex Ryan did everything in his power to give the game to Minnesota? No way, I must have seen it wrong. “Show the replay, show the replay,” I screamed at the TV. “That must have been some type of Wildcat pass play, right? Someone other than Favre must have been quarterbacking that train wreck!” To my shock, the replay revealed that, no, it wasn’t some running back/wide receiver that just threw the pick (I pretty much ruled out backup Tavaris Jackson for obvious reasons) but rather, Brett Favre, the best quarterback of all time, just lost the game for the Vikings. Perplexing.
The biggest problem with the Vikings, aside from the fact that their season is resting on the brittle arm/shoulder/leg/penis of their starting quarterback, is that all their talent just cannot formulate the way it should. There is no question that Minnesota has one of the best collections of individual talent in the NFL, but likewise, there is no question that Minnesota has WASTED one of the best collections of individual talent in the NFL. Just because I like sorting things in a hierarchical fashion:
Top 5 Most Individually Talented Teams in all Phases of the Game:
5. Green Bay Packers
4. Minnesota Vikings
3. San Diego Chargers
2. New York Jets
1. Dallas Cowboys
But, I digress. When you have the talent for a top 5 rushing attack, a top 5 defense, and a top 5ish passing attack, and probably the number 1 return game, it is inexcusable to have a losing record midway through the season.
Coaching Verdict: Childress recently signed a contract through 2013 so the chances that he will be fired a probably pretty slim. The addition of Moss should make this team better, and, on the off chance that Favre only gives away, say, 2 more games, and makes it through the season long enough that Tavaris Jackson only has the opportunity to cost Minnesota 2 additional games, then they could still actually make it to the postseason. If this is the case, 2010 would be the third straight year Childress has taken Minnesota to the promised land. He can keep the job under 2 conditions.
1. When it comes time to day goodbye to Favre at around week 11 or 12, Childress must have the backbone to say goodbye to his quarterback and not let Favre take control of the situation and dictate the actions of the organization like he has done the past 2 years.
2. Minnesota goes on at least a 4 game wining streak somewhere during this season and finishes 9-7 at worst, which, given the bland NFC, may actually be enough for a playoff spot.
San Diego Chargers
Who’s to blame for this underachievement? According to the Weinberger Team Talent Rankings, the Chargers rest one position above Minnesota, which means, their slow start is even more disappointing. Unlike some of the other teams on this list, the Chargers have faced a who’s who list of overachieving teams, destined for a late-season crumble (Kansas City, Jacksonville, Seattle, Arizona, Oakland, St. Louis). Honestly, the Chargers should be 6-0. But, they aren’t.
I have little respect for Norv’s coaching. I have watched his teams, which are usually highly successful during the regular season, crumble, time and time again, against inferior opposition. His idea of clock management is about as diverse, well conceived, and productive as an average night on The Jersey Shore. The guy has absolutely no clue how to run a 2 minute offense or protect a lead with 5 minutes to go. Want proof? The Chargers have lost all their games by eight or less, aka, one-possession games. This is particularly embarrassing considering the talent of their opposition in all these games. As for the Chargers’ victories, well, those 2 have come by a combined 56 points, aka, a big enough margin of error that Norv was actually incapable of blowing it.
Coaching Verdict: In three seasons in San Diego, Norv Turner has taken his team to the postseason three times, and on two occasions, San Diego won 11 or more games. However, San Diego’s success has been in spite of their coach, not because of him. Turner must frequently handle player disputes to go along with his poor “coaching.” Severing ties with coaches that can’t win when it counts is the current trend (see Mike Brown). I know it probably won’t happen given his new contract, but Norv Turner deserves to be fired by seasons end, baring a miraculous turnaround.
Class A Underachiever
Simply put, the cowboys have the most talented team in the NFL and have one of the worst records. Dumb penalties, terrible management, and an overall lack of coaching and discipline have plagued them. Moreover, they don’t seem terribly bothered by this fact. Romo’s boyish charm and old-man hat never seem to leave his face, Jerry Jones continues to insist things are fine although everyone knows they are not, and overall there has not been a single high emotion interview. I’m tired of listening to things like this:
Reporter: “Tony, People are beginning to wonder if this team can make the postseason. What are your thoughts?”
Tony: “Well, you know, Andrea, we can’t control what people are saying. All we can do is get ready for our game against the Giants.”
Reporter: “Three games this season have been altered by penalties. DeMarcus, where can you go from here?” (DeMarcus, Where = DeMarcus Ware. Funny coincidence)
Ware: “Those things are behind us. We will try to improve”
Honestly, can someone please freak out, just to reassure the fans and media that The Dallas Cowboys actually have a pulse, because right now, I’m beginning to think they’ve already accepted failure and just want to try to fly under the radar as much as possible. Well that’s too bad, because Dallas will never fly under the radar, especially when they’re underachieving at a Class A level. Please, please, please, can someone just react like this:
Reporter: “What are your realistic plans for this season.”
ANYONE: “You know what? I’ll tell you our fuckin’ plans – “
Reporter: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you or any – “
ANYONE: “I’m sorry buddy, but you have offended me. And its not just you. Its your entire breed of gossip-hungry, sons of bitches that harass our team week after week, salivating over the fact that America’s team is down the shitter. So, in answer to your intrusion, our plans are to win the Super Bowl. Okay!? And you know what? We’re gonna bash in the fuckin skulls of those pieces of shit Giants we’re playing this week. Once we are done with them, everyone better get ready because we’re coming for you with vengeance! This bullshit is over. We’re the best team in the National Football League and we are ready to let everyone know it. Our little hiatus has come to an end. We’re going to win the Super Bowl. Quote me, fine me, I don’t give a fuck! We are the Dallas Cowboys and we are going to win every game from here on out. This little field day of yours is over. Now. No more comments. In fact, I’m done talking to you cocksuckers until we are in first place of our division, which will come very soon.”
Coaching Verdict: Fired. Done. End of story. Wade Phillips has the most talented team in the league, an owner that will do anything to win, and a brand new stadium and state of the art facilities to run his show. When all those things add up to 1 playoff victory in 3 seasons and a 1-4 record to start this season, the debate over worst coach in the league should end. He honestly should never walk onto a Dallas football field/office/gym/training facility ever again. But then again, it’d probably take him at least a few weeks to realize things were different.
So there you have it. A conclusive analysis of the worst of the worst.