Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick: The One Question to Ask Them and Other NFL Coaches
NFL head coaches get asked about everything around every turn. Almost every important play call whether it works or not, every roster move whether they had final say or not, every lineup change, every injury, every disgruntled player are all questioned by fans, reporters and an occasional player or owner.
It seems they get questioned by everyone, but they haven't been questioned by me.
So in my own dream world I'm a very important person, and every NFL head coach would come to my special end of the season gathering and as we partied till the break of dawn, I'd ask each of them one question.
Obviously, I would mix Sodium Pentothal in the punch bowl to make sure they told the truth; there's no telling what would come out of Bill Belichick's mouth.
There are seven new NFL head coaches this offseason including former Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher taking over in St. Louis and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano leaving the college ranks for the head gig with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After each question, I'll explain why I felt the need to ask it.
With the 2011 season in the books, there is plenty of things past, present and future to talk about with the head honchos of the NFL. So let's start serving punch and begin the party.
Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt
"You're really not going to give Kevin Kolb a full offseason as starter, are you?"
A major chunk of the offseason was taken out for the 2011 season because of NFL labor disputes. While there were reports that Kolb was training and throwing passes during the strike, that isn't really the same as a true, full offseason with a team.
Whisenhunt has said there would be a QB competition this offseason (via sportingnews.com), and there have been rumors swirling about Peyton Manning heading to the desert for weeks now (via Adam Schefter).
Less than a year ago, Arizona traded former Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft for Kolb. They then handed Kolb a six year, $65 million deal, with $12 million guaranteed.
Kolb wasn't the best QB this year. He completed less than 60 percent of his passes, threw for 1955 yards, passed for nine touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Even with a less than stellar season, the Cardinals viewed Kolb as the quarterback of the future and gave him a big contract last offseason. How has the opinion of Kolb changed so since his acquisition where he didn't get a normal offseason of preparation time with a new team?
I know Peyton Manning being available is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and John Skelton showed he could win last year, but I'd still ask Whisenhunt about the potential Kolb abandonment.
Atlanta Falcons: Mike Smith
"Will the loss of Mike Mularkey hurt your team's quest in becoming more explosive?"
Last offseason, Mike Smith stated that the team wasn't getting enough explosive plays. They went out and traded up for game breaker Julio Jones and drafted Jaquizz Rodgers.
After this season, Smith seemed happy with the improvement of the team in getting explosive plays (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Then their offensive coordinator took a job as head coach of the Jaguars.
Smith said his team was ninth in explosive plays for the 2011 season.
Will the team hold ground or continue to improve with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, formerly of the Jaguars?
According to NFL.com statistics the Koetter-led Jaguar offense was dead last in passing plays for 20+ yards with 30 and tied for 18th in running plays for 20+ yards. To be fair, Jacksonville was much better in plays over 20+ yards in previous seasons. Some of the problems experienced in 2011 could be attributed to average receivers and a rookie QB.
Koetter wants balance in the Falcons offense (via ESPN.com) and it'll be interesting to see if balance leads to more explosive plays. Koetter also is a big believer in screen passes, something Mularkey was not.
I think it'll take the Falcons some time to adjust to a new offensive coordinator, and it wouldn't surprised me if the explosive plays took a step back this next season.
It'll be interesting to see if the Falcons take the next step under Koetter or pine for the Mularkey days.
Baltimore Ravens: John Harbaugh
"The defense isn't getting younger; can Joe Flacco lead this team to a Super Bowl victory right now?"
Joe Flacco has been a solid quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.
In the first three games of this season, Flacco threw for seven touchdowns compared to two interceptions, 810 yards and had a QB rating of 91.9. Over the next 13 games he would throw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a QB rating of 78.1 and 2800 yards.
He helped lead the Ravens to a 12-4 record, AFC North title and a first-round bye.
Flacco was better in the playoffs then the regular season. He threw for four touchdowns to one interception and had a QB rating of over 95 in two games.
Flacco probably should have played in the Super Bowl this year if Lee Evans could hold on to a second-down pass that should have been caught in the end zone with time winding down in the fourth.
Flacco again got to play with one of the top defenses in the league. Among the defense's more impressive stats were: being third in points and yards given up, first in touchdown passes given up and second in rushing yards given up.
While it seems every offseason people talk about the Ravens D finally taking a step back, what if this is the season it finally happens? Can Flacco lead the team when the window starts to close on the dominant defense?
Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey
"Do you at all regret Ryan Fitzpatrick being given an extension for $59 million over six years during the season?"
If Ryan Fitzpatrick was a book, he'd be called The Tale of Two Quarterbacks.
At times, Fitzpatrick looks like a potential Pro Bowler, and you can see why the Bills gave him the extension.
Then there are other times when Fitz looks clueless, throws interceptions at random and you wonder how he made it in the NFL at all.
The Bills got off to a fast start at 4-1, including a win over the New England Patriots but went just 2-9 after that to finish the season at 6-10.
Fitzpatrick had eight multi-interception games including two games of three interceptions and one game of four interceptions.
Fitzpatrick finished the season with 23 touchdowns and 23 picks, but the disappointing finish is what really stings.
So is Fitz the potential Pro Bowler, or is he the average starter that will throw interceptions, or is he both?
Gailey has to have wondered a few times if maybe they were too quick to give Fitzpatrick a high-paying extension. Though, the real question is, is if he regrets it.
Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera
"Were the Carolina Panthers lucky last year, or is the team on the cusp of something good?"
The Panthers were one of the most impressive 6-10 teams that I've seen.
No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton played much better than expected by most, won Rookie of the Year and made Steve Smith look like a top receiver again. They also had a great running attack led by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart with both averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
The Panthers lost five games by seven or less points and one game by eight points. The Panthers gave up the sixth most points in the league. Perhaps if the ball bounces the Panthers way a few more times, the Panthers win some of their close games.
Was it luck? Did teams take them lightly? Or is this a team that is close to being contending for a playoff spot?
They should be a very exciting team in the NFC, but it'll be a challenge to compete in a division with playoff teams in the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints
Chicago Bears: Lovie Smith
"Will the change of offensive scheme protect Jay Cutler and improve the line's play?"
When it comes to the Bears' offensive line play under the Mike Martz scheme, the only thing that surprised me was that it took as long as it did for Jay Cutler to get hurt and that the injury this season wasn't even the fault of the offensive line.
Cutler proved his toughness over the last few seasons constantly being slammed to the field as he tried to get rid of the ball.
After the season, Martz wasn't brought back with the Bears and subsequently retired. Cutler's body then rejoiced.
In 2010, the Bears gave up 56 sacks, good for first in the NFL. This season it wasn't as bad and the Bears still tied for fifth and gave up 49 sacks. Over 100 sacks in two years is not a good total.
So now Mike Tice is the offensive coordinator; it'll be his first time as an OC, but the former offensive line coach might be the perfect guy to get Cutler some protection. It'll be interesting to see if the line is up to the challenge.
At the very least, lets hope that the promotion of Tice spells an end to the Jay Cutler "please don't hurt me" back peddle.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis
"Are you worried a sophomore slump from your dynamic duo could cost you your job?
The term "sophomore slump" is around because in the second season for players it isn't uncommon for a step back in development.
This year, the Rams' QB Sam Bradford and Tampa Bay's WR Mike Williams were players that share positions with QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green that you could consider went through sophomore slumps.
Before the season, many felt that Marvin Lewis was on the hot seat. The two biggest staples of his offense in Carson Palmer (short lived retirement) and Chad Ochocinco (traded to Patriots) were gone.
It wasn't supposed to be a good year for the team, but he responded by leading his team to the playoffs with a rookie quarterback while losing four games to division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
A sophomore slump by Lewis' terrific twosome next year could put an end to his career with the Bengals and open up one of the most attractive job openings on the market.
A sophomore slump isn't guaranteed, and Dalton and Green could boom next year, especially with a more potent rushing attack, but one has to wonder if Lewis is slightly worried about a setback in the development of his two stars next season.
Cleveland Browns: Pat Shurmur
"So what was the real reason you called a handoff to your third-string tight end against the St. Louis Rams?"
There is so much more I could ask Shurmur, but when I watched this game live I couldn't believe it, and a few moments later the Browns missed a field goal that would have given the Browns the lead in the final minutes.
Seconds after that, I got to see the Facebook fallout from the many Browns fans that are my friends. The general consensus was that they wanted Pat Shurmur's head.
When asked about the thought process of handing Smith the ball, Shurmur gave a confusing answer.
“We tried to hand him the football and he dropped it, that’s the thinking. For the moment that it was in there, that’s what happened and we’'ve got to do a better job. There are so many things that happened in that game. Missing the kick, dropping the (ball), there were a lot of things. There was a lot of good, there was a lot of bad. I promised everybody that I would be genuine from day one till the last day and I’m genuine right now in saying that. We can focus on what we want to focus on, but we lost the game. That’s genuine.”
Later, Shurmur said the call was made for Owen Marecic, but still the excuses didn't change the fact the Browns' collapse that game started with that handoff.
I know Browns forums have asked the question whether or not Shurmur is in over his head. Hopefully, the addition of Brad Childress as offensive coordinator helps, and we never see a handoff to a third-string fullback again.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett
"You have one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Why the mediocre play and why all the collapses?"
The Cowboys are a team that I have felt has had Super-Bowl talent for a few years, yet they seem to under-perform.
It doesn't matter who the coach is because the same things that happened under Wade Phillips on the field are happening under Jason Garrett.
Crazy collapses happen to the Cowboys, things that make you think the team is cursed.
They lost in overtime week 13 in Arizona, but only after they iced their own kicker in regulation. Romo lost a double-digit lead against the Jets Week 1, fumbling the ball inside the five and throwing an interception that looked like it was intended for Darrelle Revis inside a minute.
They lost a 27-3 lead in the third against Detroit in Week 4 and lost 34-30. Romo threw two interceptions for touchdowns in that game. In Week 14, they also blew a 12-point lead the fourth quarter and lost 37-34 to the New York Giants.
It's these kind of things that stop the Cowboys from being great. They have too many mental mistakes and don't play up to their potential.
They are too talented to finish 8-8. So why do these mental mishaps keep showing their ugly head, and why has the team been just average?
Hopefully, talent ends up winning out in Big D.
Denver Broncos: John Fox
"Seriously, are you mad about the whole Tebow thing?"
John Fox seemed reluctant to start Tim Tebow, even when the team was floundering. It wasn't until Kyle Orton's performance and subsequent fan clamoring for Tebow that made it impossible for Fox to not at least take a look at the former Heisman winner as starter.
While Tebow at times was infuriating as passer and turned ESPN into the 24-hour Tim Tebow channel, he took the Broncos on an incredible run that culminated in a overtime win at home in the opening round of the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Winning the AFC West didn't seem like a possibility after a 1-4 start, but the Broncos did it.
Fox has been slamming Tebow with compliment sandwiches, like saying his quarterback would be "screwed" in a regular offense. Fox also says that two QBs will be brought in to compete with Tebow (via The Denver Post).
While he has complimented Tebow, it doesn't seem like Fox wants to attach his career in Denver to Tebowmania. It has to be a little frustrating to have to roll with a quarterback that you didn't want as your starter, and that's why asking about Tebow would be the obvious choice.
Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz
"Can you get Ndamukong Suh to control himself?"
I love how disruptive Ndamukong Suh can be on the field. He is a force on every play he is out there.
Unfortunately, the beast can get out of control and get caught up in the moment. This year he was suspended two games for stomping a Green Bay Packer on Thanksgiving. When suspensions start to hit, it hurts your team, and that turns it into a problem.
In his first two years, Suh has been fined three times for more than $42,000, lost two game checks during his suspension totaling $164,000, been named dirtiest player in the game by a Sporting News poll of 111 players and has committed nine personal fouls.
These fouls and suspensions hurt the team; they give teams second chances and free first downs. Suh needs to start playing with more control, or more fouls and suspensions will be sure to follow and, in the end, all that does is hurt the Detroit Lions.
Suh has tons of talent, and I'm sure he can still be the same monster while being a bit less reckless.
I just don't know if Jim Schwartz has it in him to control Suh, or if he even wants to.
Green Bay Packers: Mike McCarthy
"Your team was invincible and Super Bowl favorites for much of the season. How do you get the team re-motivated after the disappointment?"
Some people talk about a Super Bowl hangover for teams that lose, but for the Packers, I'm worried about an imperfection hangover.
The team openly talked about the goal of being undefeated, and it's got to be disappointing to not reach their goal. Maybe this is why the Patriots tried to keep mum about perfection during their run in 2007 towards Super Bowl XLII, to avoid a potential disappointment hangover.
There have been a few teams that flirted with perfection.
The 2007 New England Patriots lost in the Super Bowl to ruin their undefeated season and followed that in 2008 by going 11-5, but Tom Brady was injured in the first game, and they missed the playoffs.
The 2009 Indianapolis Colts went 14-0 before resting starters and losing their final two games. They ultimately lost in the Super Bowl, then followed it up with a 10-6 (their lowest win total since 2003) and a first-round playoff exit.
The 1998 Broncos were 13-0 before losing. They went on to win the Super Bowl but followed that up with a 6-10 season in 1999 (though John Elway had retired).
The 2009 Saints won 13 games before a loss and still won the Super Bowl; the next year they finished 11-5 and were bounced from the playoffs by a 7-9 team.
Not all teams that flirt with perfection have down years. The 1962 Packers, the 1985 Bears and the 2005 Colts were all solid the next season.
It's not a guarantee that McCarthy and the Pack will have a disappointing season next year, but if they do, at least they have the perfection hangover to point to as an excuse.
Houston Texans: Gary Kubiak
"A division title was found without a Peyton Manning to worry about. How big is the pressure now to improve on the success?"
Kubiak, you were on the hot seat this year, so congratulations on taking the Texans to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but with growing production comes growing expectations.
The Texans are a good team, but made it by in a division that had the best team missing one of the top players in the league.
If Manning was healthy, if the Jaguars were competitive or the Titans had their regular running game, I don't think that the Texans make the playoffs with all the injuries they suffered this year.
They did a great job adapting without Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub or backup Matt Leinart, Mario Williams and Arian Foster for a few games.
Now that success has been found, even with third string QB T.J. Yates, the bar will be raised even higher.
With a healthy team where will the bar be set: a bye, AFC Championship game or even Super Bowl?
Ultimately, Kubiak thrived under pressure this year. (He needed playoffs or he was going to be fired.) Maybe more pressure will lead to greater success.
If not, the Texans are still lucky, this division looks very winnable for the time being.
Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano
"So Chucky, you feeling Luck-y?"
Do you see what I did there with the rhyme? Clever, aren't I?
The Colts won the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and will clearly select the Stanford product No. 1 one in this year's draft. There is a lot of hype surrounding Luck, and some of it bothers me.
I think right now there are unrealistic expectations being placed on Luck. I've read Bleacher Report articles about how the Colts will be better off without Manning. One suggested Luck wasn't far behind Manning. A better running game and more control to the coaches are two other points I've seen when talking about Manning leaving.
It's like Manning leading the Colts to nine-straight double-digit win seasons while completely dominating in the passing game didn't happen.
Another thing not being considered is: What if Luck completely flops as a pro, sports fans?
Luck being drafted isn't going to make the Colts a force in the division again. More pieces need to be added. He is just a rookie, but some are penciling him as the second coming of Peyton Manning already.
Even if he doesn't flop, I look at the Colts roster, and I have a feeling it's going to take Luck a couple of years to get his footing. I do think Pagano switching styles to a bigger, more physical attack (via Pro Football Weekly) is the best move for Luck's sake.
Personally, I don't think Luck will flop as a pro, but you truly never know about the draft. Sometimes it just doesn't go the way you want it to. Here's hoping it all works out for Pagano's sake.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey
"Well, the offense could be worse, right?"
I'm not trying to break the spirit of Jaguars fans, but outside of Maurice Jones-Drew, their offense really doesn't do anything for me.
Blaine Gabbert looked very bad to me, like one of the worst rookie starters in the past couple of years. Out of all the rookies that got to start this year, I'd rank him last.
I know he didn't have much to throw to, but that's a part of the problem now isn't it? The targets he did have (Marcedes Lewis/Mike Thomas) seemed to regress this season.
As an offensive mind, Mularkey has to know there are holes that need filled on the offensive side of the ball, and he has to stop several young players try to reach their full potential.
MJD led the league in rushing by almost 300 yards, yet the Jaguars were dead last in total offense and ranked 32nd in yards per play. They also finished last in passing yards and 31st in passing touchdowns.
It was smart for Jacksonville to hire an offensive mind because the team could clearly use a pick me up in that department.
If Mularkey can get the offense to catch up to the defense, I think Jacksonville will be a playoff team again, but it's going to be a difficult task for the former Falcons offensive coordinator.
So the question is actually to perk up Coach Mularkey. At least he has Jones-Drew, so things could be much worse.
Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel
"Are you the luckiest man on earth?"
This is the only question I have for the man I got to watch coach the Browns for several years.
He coaches three games as interim Kansas City Chiefs head coach, beats the Packers to stop them from becoming unbeaten, loses to the Raiders in overtime and his squad beats the Broncos 7-3, and that's enough for him to secure the head coaching job.
Honestly, I'm pretty sure he had it in the bag after the win against Green Bay.
Crennel has always attached himself to the right coaches. He followed around Bill Parcells and then was on Belichick's staff. Seriously, Crennel only secured a gig with Cleveland by being a New England defensive coordinator.
So, Crennel gets hired in K.C. which is run by the son-in-law of the aforementioned Parcells. He gets the interim gig when Todd Haley finally runs out of the luck his career to seems to have been running on.
Maybe Crennel is a genius, but it seems like he falls into the right places all the time; the guy does have five Super Bowl rings.
Here's to hoping some of his luck helps the Chiefs during his head coaching stint.
Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin
"Should we pencil in Matt Flynn as opening day starter already?
I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to realize that the Dolphins want someone as their quarterback besides Matt Moore. Brandon Marshall certainly wants a new quarterback and has even named Matt Flynn specifically (via sportingnews.com).
New coach Joe Philbin is coming over from the Packers where Flynn has been the past few year, and usually new coaches like to bring in someone to be "their" guy at quarterback. Sometimes that is through the draft, other times free agency is used.
The Dolphins need a long-term answer at QB, and they just don't seem like they want to give the job to Matt Moore, though he went 6-6, had a QB rating of 87.1, threw for 16 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions and had almost 2500 yards passing.
We all know what Flynn did for the Packers the last game of the season starting in place of Aaron Rodgers under then offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. Sure, Flynn is going to get a hefty contract based on a couple of starts, but if he could be a solid signal-caller, he'd be worth it for the Fins so they can stop the revolving door at QB.
If you can read the tea leaves, it just seems like Flynn and the Dolphins are a perfect match. If I was them, I'd go for it. He can't be any worse than Henne.
(Note to Dolphins fans: That is not a dig from a Jets fan. I've heard all about how horrible Chad Henne from my brother who worships the Fins.)
Minnesota Vikings: Leslie Frazier
"Don't you want Joe Webb and his playmaking ability on the field?"
Christian Ponder was a first-round pick out of Florida State in the 2011 draft, and Joe Webb was a sixth-round pick out of UAB in 2010. Ponder seems to have a bright future ahead of him, but there is something about the spark plug that is Joe Webb that is very intriguing.
Both players flashed ability last season after the Vikings wisely gave Donovan McNabb the boot.
Webb showed some skill when he almost pulled off a comeback win against the Detroit Lions in Week 11 before he fumbled in the closing minutes when it looked like Minnesota was going to score and take the lead.
Webb has the ability to make plays with his legs, but isn't a bad passer either.
Ponder played decent as a rookie, especially since he didn't expect to start this season with McNabb in front of him at the beginning. Ponder would throw 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, have a 54.3 completion percentage and throw for 1853 yards. He also showed he can make plays with his legs to a lesser extent.
While it looks like Webb won't be given the chance to compete (via ESPN.com), one has to wonder if Leslie Frazier isn't at least intrigued with the idea of starting a talent like Webb.
Now that the team has decided to keep Webb exclusively at QB, his chances may only come if Ponder gets injured or is ineffective.
I'm just curious if Frazier isn't at least frustrated that he isn't going to be able to get Webb on the field.
New England Patriots: Bill Belichick
"Why couldn't you have done this in Cleveland? Haven't those fans suffered enough?"
Growing up in Ohio, I had to hear a lot about how Belichick was a worthless head coach. Granted, most of this came about after New England's top dog ousted Ohio's own Bernie Kosar during the 1993 season.
Belichick coached 80 games in Cleveland and had a record of 36-44. He only had one winning season (11-5) in 1994. He added a playoff win that same year before being eliminated by the Browns' arch rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the division round.
So five seasons in Cleveland and he amassed one winning season and one playoff win.
Let's compare that to his first five seasons with the Patriots. In those seasons Belichick had a record of 53-27, three playoff appearances, nine playoff wins and three Super Bowls.
Cleveland hasn't won a title in any major sport since the Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship. Couldn't Belichick have just weaved some of his mangled sweatshirt magic over the city cursed by Rocky Colavito?
So for me the question is simple. It's curious that the man that took the 2011 New England team with a very poor secondary in a passing league to the Super Bowl couldn't get the job done in Cleveland and remove the black cloud that follows around that city's sports fans.
New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton
"Drew Brees is a given to stay, but can your team keep Carl Nicks and Marques Colston, too?"
The Saints are very talented. Unfortunately, when this happens, it is hard for a team to keep all of their own stars. The Saints have three very important ones this offseason, and I'm just curious if they can keep them all.
There have been so many mixed reports about it from people in and out of the know. Some say they can sign all three. Others say they can only sign two at the most.
Everyone just expected a Drew Brees signing to be a given and then expected the Saints to franchise guard Carl Nicks, tying up a ton of money in him and Jahri Evans (seven years, $56.7 million in 2010).
Could the Saints let both Nicks and Colston walk? It seems that any receiver that plays with Brees is going to look better with him throwing the ball, so could they hedge their bets and not give Colston a big deal?
It's going to be an interesting offseason for the Saints, and this is one situation I'll be monitoring, especially if the Saints have to franchise tag Drew Brees before the start of free agency.
So I want to know from Sean Payton himself. Can the Saints keep all these guys?
New York Giants: Tom Coughlin
"Why does your face always seem red?"
Winning a Super Bowl excuses you from any tough questions.
What else could I ask him? Is it fun to play and beat the Patriots in Super Bowls? Do you only save Super Bowl wins till it feels like the hot seat is warming up? Is Eli Manning really Beaker from the Muppets?
Instead, I'll stick with asking the rosy-cheeked goblin why it seems like he always caught in the sun without sun tan lotion creating strategic spots of his face.
Maybe his freezing face just represents his cold, icy heart?
Regardless, Coughlin gets to bask in the glow of his Super Bowl win during my party. Champions don't get put on the spot.
New York Jets: Rex Ryan
"Are you sure you want to attach your coaching career to the success of Mark Sanchez?"
For those that haven't seen my writer's profile, I am a New York Jets fan.
That said, when the Jets traded up with Cleveland to select Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft, I got sick to my stomach. There was just something about Sanchez that I didn't like, and I couldn't put my finger on.
Jump forward a few years, and my stomach pain is still raging. The USC product has done nothing to settle my nerves. Now I fear that, along with giving me ulcers, Sanchez is going to have a big hand in ending Rex Ryan's head-coaching tenure with the New York Jets.
Sanchez is one of those cases that it'd be easy to look at his statistics and say he's improving. He set career highs in completion percentage (56.7 percent) , passing yards (3474), passing touchdowns (26), completions (308) and attempts (543). He also threw 18 interceptions and fumbled 10 times on the year, losing eight of them.
But this was the year he was supposed to be more than a game manager and step into his own, and he failed to do that. Sometimes he looked scared; the last game of the season he looked confused in the fourth at Miami.
He ended the season with nine turnovers in his final three games, all losses for the Jets as they were battling for a playoff spot.
Sanchez seems best suited for a team with a very strong running game that doesn't ask him to do too much, not good for a team in a passing league or for a team that has to keep up with New England twice a year.
Watching Sanchez, I just don't know if he has it in him to be a guy that can lead his team to the Super Bowl, and I think Rex should think twice before he fully supports Mark Sanchez. Perhaps bringing in a backup that isn't 7000 years old will light a fire under Rex's golden boy.
Oakland Raiders: Dennis Allen
"Do you think Hue Jackson should still be the head coach?"
This is less against the 39-year-old Dennis Allen and more against the people now in charge of the Raiders organization.
I have the opinion that Hue Jackson would have led the Raiders to the playoffs had Darren McFadden not been injured for the majority of the season and if the quarterback position wasn't completely shook up due to Jason Campbell's injury and the Carson Palmer trade.
Down the stretch, I think it would have really helped the team and Palmer to be able to lean on the explosive running back.
The Raiders only needed to win their final game against San Diego to win their division. Unfortunately, they lost. Reggie McKenzie was plucked from Green Bay to serve as general manager, and he fired Hue Jackson.
I've seen the Raiders play over the past few seasons, and it hasn't been all that good. But Jackson had the Raiders playing for him. They lost three games by seven points or fewer and looked to be a team on the up.
The team also had to deal with the death of owner Al Davis during the season.
It was Jackson's only season as Raiders coach and he deserved better with the season he had. Exit Jackson, enter Allen who only served one year as the Broncos' defensive coordinator.
I wish all the luck in the world to Allen, but I really feel Jackson should still be the guy in charge. It'd be interesting to see if he would agree under the influence of truth serum.
Philadelphia Eagles: Andy Reid
"What was your biggest regret from last offseason?"
The Eagles had a massive offseason before the 2011 season. Every other second it seemed like the Eagles had made another signing of a high-profile free agent.
Some of the signings included; Nnamdi Asomugha, Ronnie Brown, Jason Babin, Vince Young, Cullen Jenkins and they traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
They also signed Ryan Harris, Jarrad Page and Donald Lee, but they were released over time.
One of the better signings, Evan Mathis, wasn't a high profile one.
Per Profootballtalk.com Young later made a remark about Philadelphia being something of a "dream team".
Many thought this team had the talent to rip through their division and conference, winding up in the Super Bowl.
Instead, they limped of the gate to a 1-4 record and finished with an 8-8 record. Andy Reid is more on the hot seat now than he ever has been before.
One of the bigger changes Reid made was naming long-time offensive line coach Juan Castillo the defense coordinator.
So does Andy Reid have any regrets about last offseason? I'm sure he does, and I want to know the one he regrets the most. Maybe it was letting someone put a microphone in front of Vince Young's face?
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin
"What do you think "Steeler football" should be?"
I keep hearing and reading these two little words, "Steeler football," and it just about drives me crazy.
Steelers President Art Rooney II has made it known a few times in the past that he wants the Steelers to run the football more. (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Roethlisberger made the Pro Bowl this year as he utilized more explosive receivers like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, as Hines Ward was slowly becoming less involved in the offense.
Big Ben was shocked that Bruce Arians was replaced (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), but it came as no surprise given Rooney's comments over time.
This season, the Steelers were 19th in passing attempts and 19th in rushing attempts. It's not like they passed the ball all the time.
Rashard Mendenhall ran for 928 yards last season and averaged 4.1 yards a carry, and Isaac Redman added 479 yards on 4.4 yards a carry.
While the Steelers' two explosive receivers mentioned above, both eclipsed 1000 yards. But beyond stats and from watching Steelers games this past year, it seemed Arians was only playing to the Steelers' strengths.
They have more weapons in the passing game than running game.
What does Mike Tomlin think his team should do on offense? Is he going to have to agree with Rooney and make sure new OC Todd Haley runs the ball more?
Tomlin deserves to build the Steelers in his vision, and as long as the Steelers keep winning, Rooney should try his best not to call out his team's offense coordinator so much.
San Diego Chargers: Norv Turner
"What exactly do you and GM A.J. Smith have on Dean Spanos?"
Let me start off by saying that I think Norv Turner is a great offensive mind, but he hasn't panned out as a head coach with three different teams.
He seems to be on the hot seat every year in San Diego, and no matter the slow starts and disappointing finishes, comes out at the end of the season with a head coaching job in hand.
He has had some of the most talented squads with the Chargers; they were a trendy Super Bowl pick for several years in a row, yet the team was never able to put it all together.
The Chargers have only made one AFC Championship game under Turner. He has had two double-digit win seasons in 2007 (11-5) and 2009 (13-3). The 13-3 season saw the Chargers bounced from the playoffs without a win.
The last two years have been playoff-less with finishes of 9-7 and 8-8 respectively. With all that underachieving talent, Turner and/or the GM escaped being fired.
So this leads me to believe that Turner and Smith have some pretty juicy stuff on Dean Spanos, and my curiosity is itching to know what it is.
San Francisco 49ers: Jim Harbaugh
"The 49ers were the surprise of the NFL this past season. So you can't sneak up on anyone this year. Can you duplicate the success next year?"
The 49ers had a giant turnaround this year, one that not many people predicted. They went from 6-10 to 13-3 and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs and ended up hosting the NFC Championship Game.
Alex Smith performed better than anyone expected and threw 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions, threw for over 3000 yards and got rid of the crippling mistakes that have plagued his career thus far. He even made clutch throws to win the game for the 49ers against the Saints in the division round of the playoffs.
The defense was also an incredible unit. Aldon Smith looks like a future star after a 14-sack rookie campaign. Patrick Willis still did his thing, and Carlos Rogers was an absolute steal in free agency.
So, now that everyone has taken notice of these Niners, can they be as successful next year?
They hadn't had a winning record since 2002 before this season, but Harbaugh is a different coach than the ones who previously led the 49ers.
The 49ers' division is one of the weaker ones in the NFL. In 2010, the Seahawks clinched it with a 7-9 record. This year, the closest team to the 49ers was the Arizona Cardinals at 8-8.
But to be one of the elites, the 49ers can't play down to their division and do just enough to win. I'm very interested to see where the San Francisco 49ers end up next year after being so close to making the Super Bowl this season.
At my imaginary party, after answering the question, Harbaugh would shake my hand and push me to the ground.
Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll
"How do you get this team over the 7-9 hump?"
I know that Pete Carroll took his team to the playoffs in his first season and even upset the Saints in the first round of the playoffs, but overall his teams have been mediocre, propelled by bad quarterback play and questionable front-office decisions.
It's not like all the acquisitions have all been bad. The Seahawks have picked up some solid players like Chris Clemons in a trade with the Eagles and Marshawn Lynch from the Bills.
But some of the more confusing moves were: overpaying for Charlie Whitehurst, signing Tarvaris Jackson as a starter, overpaying Sidney Rice and snagging LenDale White in a trade with the Titans. (White wouldn't play a down with Seattle.)
The Seahawks have had a solid defense in 2011, finishing in the league's better half in passing and rushing yards allowed and points allowed. But they are not going to get over the hump with Whitehurst and Jackson at QB.
QBs under Carroll in Seattle (Jackson, Whitehurst, Matt Hasselbeck) are 14-18, have 29 touchdowns and 34 interceptions and none of them have had a QB rating over 80.
What is the piece that needs adding to put the team over the top?
Perhaps targeting a QB in free agency or the draft will help? Maybe going after a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver?
Maybe adding another pass-rusher opposite Clemons will do the job (which I didn't really consider because of their scheme till all the Mario Williams talk via nflgridirongab.com)?
The Seahawks are close, so hopefully Carroll has a plan in place to get the team over the hump.
St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher
"How many former Titans will join you in St. Louis?"
The obvious question would be: How do you turn Sam Bradford around?, but I'll ask that question if his struggles continue in to the third season.
Right now, I'm interested to see how many former Titans end up with the Rams. Cortland Finnegan (via 101Sports.com) has been rumored to join Fisher in St. Louis and help fix the secondary.
Michael Griffin is another possibility I've read as I passed by various websites.
How many of Fisher's former players are going to rejoin the coach with the Rams?
ESPN.com lists the free agent Titans and also speculates that former Saints defensive players could join new Rams' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, too.
It's probably safe to say that the only former Titan that Fisher won't look at is former quarterback Vince Young.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Schiano
"Why should I believe that this won't be another failed run of a long-time college coach in the NFL?"
All college coaches don't fail in the NFL.
Examples of successful coaches to make the transition are: Jimmy Johnson, who came from the University of Miami and won a pair of Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys; Tom Coughlin, who came from Boston College, found success with the Jacksonville Jaguars and has made the New York Giants champions twice and the legendary Bill Walsh, who coached for a couple of years at Stanford before becoming the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and won three Super Bowls.
But train wrecks far outweigh the great coaches to make the jump from college to the pros. Out of the coaches listed, only one had no NFL experience prior to the jump (Jimmy Johnson).
Bobby Petrino quit with three games left in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons to take the coaching job with Arkansas and left his players a memo to let them know.
Lane Kiffin and Al Davis butted heads for parts of two seasons, and Steve Spurrier took an overpaid Washington Redskins team nowhere, but he did get to start his former college QBs Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel.
Butch Davis, Lou Holtz and Nick Saban are a couple of more coaches who couldn't get the job down at the pro level.
In recent years, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll made the jump from college to the NFL. Both led their teams to the playoffs in their first season. Both had previous NFL experience.
Schiano has previous NFL experience with the Chicago Bears as a defensive assistant in 1996 and 1997 and a defensive backs coach in 1998, so that is working in his favor, but history is still working against the former Rutgers coach.
Tennessee Titans: Mike Munchak
"How do you fix the team's running game?"
Chris Johnson signed a four-year extension worth $53 million before the season and went on to have the worst rushing total of his career.
Johnson rushed for 1047 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards a carry.
Johnson wasn't the only one that suffered. Javon Ringer struggled and only averaged 3.1 yards a carry.
Many questioned whether Johnson's holdout affected his play on the field, but he didn't think he was the issue (via Profootballtalk.com).
Munchak, a former offensive lineman and offensive line coach, held the line accountable for the running game's struggles (via National Football Post).
The Titans brought in a new assistant offensive line coach already. They aren't going to part ways with Chris Johnson no matter the midseason speculation from various sources. I'd imagine there will be changes on the line.
It'll be interesting what the former offensive lineman does and who he holds most responsible for the running game sputtering this season.
Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan
"So Shanny, do you think you were the only person on the planet that thought this Grossman/Beck thing was a good idea?"
When it was known that the Redskins were going to have Rex Grossman and John Beck compete for the starting job during training camp, many figured that the end result wouldn't be good.
Grossman won the job out of camp, but both players saw time on the field this season.
Grossman had a record of 5-8 as the starter and showed a penchant for turning the ball over. Grossman threw 20 interceptions to only 16 touchdowns and fumbled the ball eight times while losing five of them.
Grossman had one season where he played in more than three games and had a winning record. That was in 2006 and he helped the Chicago Bears to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance.
Grossman had the same amount of turnovers in 2006 that he had this season, right down to the fumble statistics. Many people would say that the Bears won that season in spite of him.
As for Beck, he didn't show much in the four starts he had with the Miami Dolphins in 2007 and didn't do much this year in his three starts with the Redskins.
Beck is winless as a starter and just hasn't led his team to many points and has averaged an interception a game and has only thrown three touchdown passes in nine career games.
Here's to Shanahan not believing his own QB-guru hype next time and knowing there are some signal-callers he just can't fix. I still need to know what exactly he was thinking when he looked at his quarterbacks.