Michael Vick, Andy Reid and 7 QB-Coach Duos Most Dependent Upon Each Other
The relationship between quarterback and coach is perhaps the most important one in the NFL.
While there are coaches like Tom Landry and Don Shula who had success with multiple quarterbacks (Landry had great runs with Don Meredith, Craig Morton, Roger Staubach and Danny White, while Shula had great success with Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall, Bob Griese and Dan Marino), other coaches will forever be linked to their starting quarterbacks.
Bill Walsh will forever be linked to Joe Montana, Vince Lombardi will always be linked to Bart Starr, and despite Mike Holmgren's success in Seattle with Matt Hasselbeck, if you ask any football fan to connect him to a quarterback, odds are they'll say Brett Favre.
This still rings true today. While there are coaches who have had varied success with different quarterbacks or are still looking for their franchise guy, the NFL has seven quarterback-coach duos who are currently very dependent on each other.
Here's a look at those seven.
Michael Vick and Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles)
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Reid has had success with other quarterbacks. He went 108-67-1 while Donovan McNabb was the starter in Philadelphia, and when McNabb was hurt he also had success with Jeff Garcia and A.J. Feeley filling in for McNabb.
But with Michael Vick it's a different story.
Vick resurrected his career in Philly in a way that nobody expected him to. Used primarily as a Wildcat-type weapon in his first season with the Eagles (after spending two years out of football), in his second season he took over as their starter in Week 2.
Vick would lead the Eagles to a 10-6 record and an NFC East title. They would trade Kevin Kolb in the offseason, and Vick came into to the 2011 season as Philly's man.
Now would he have had the same career resurrection elsewhere? I can't really say. Part of what made the Eagles an attractive option for Vick was the stability in the organization. Reid has been the head coach since 1999 and is currently the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL. In contrast, while Vick was in Atlanta, he went through two different head coaches and two different systems.
Reid also knows how to tailor his offense to the talents of his players. Most coaches (looking at you, Mike Martz) will usually never do this, as it is their belief that it's the system that makes the players. Reid has always believed that you tailor your system to the players that way their talents are maximized. Reid wouldn't attempt to turn Mike Vick into a pocket passer, but plenty of other coaches would.
Considering the fact that Andy Reid will be entering his 14th season as Eagles head coach next fall, while the average tenure of an NFL coach is about three years, I would say Reid knows what he's talking about.
Philip Rivers and Norv Turner (San Diego Chargers)
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One question that is seemingly always asked at the end of the season is, "Why is Norv Turner still the coach of the Chargers?"
Despite the fact that the Chargers always find new and exciting ways to underachieve under Turner, they have accomplished plenty under his watch—but a lot of that has to do with their quarterback Philip Rivers.
In their five seasons together, the Chargers have won three AFC West titles and gone to the AFC championship game once, compiling a record of 49-30 while consistently ranking in the top five of NFL offenses.
Next season could possibly be the final season we get to see this QB-coach duo in the NFL, but we have been saying that for the past two years.
Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers)
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Mike McCarthy took a huge gamble when he allowed Brett Favre to retire and promoted Aaron Rodgers as his No. 1 quarterback.
He took an even bigger gamble when Favre came back and he chose to stick with Rodgers and let Favre go. Favre would play three more years with the Jets and Vikings.
In the final year of Favre's career, it was very fitting that Rodgers and McCarthy would lead the Packers to the Super Bowl. In their four years together thus far, the Packers have made the playoffs three times, winning Super Bowl XLV, and have a record of 42-22 while consistently ranking as one of the top offenses in the NFL.
Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears)
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Instead of writing up a couple of paragraphs to explain to you why these two are so important to each other (especially this season), I'll just highlight the Bears' 2011 season.
Chicago would start 2011 with a 7-3 record. While running back Matt Forte was the main cog behind the offense, Jay Cutler was having a phenomenal season, throwing for 2,319 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Cutler would also show leadership on the field, as it was evident to anyone who had watched the Bears that he had earned the respect of his teammates. Right in front of our eyes we were watching Jay Cutler redeem himself from the fiasco that was the 2010 NFC championship game (and by 2010 I mean the one that took place in January of 2011).
But then against San Diego, in a game the Bears would win 31-20, Jay Cutler would suffer a broken thumb. He would miss the rest of the regular season, but all Chicago had to do was go 3-3 in its final six games and by virtue of its tiebreaker over the Falcons, it would make the playoffs.
But without Cutler, followed by another huge injury to Forte, the Bears would finish the season losing five out of their last six to finish 8-8.
Prior to Cutler's arrival, Lovie Smith went 45-35 but did make a Super Bowl appearance and win two NFC North titles. Since Cutler came in, the Bears have gone 25-17 when Cutler has started and made it to an NFC championship game.
Drew Brees and Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints)
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Since teaming up in 2006, Sean Payton and Drew Brees have gone 62-36 during the regular season while winning the NFC South three times and making four playoff appearances, winning Super Bowl XLIV.
Of course, this almost didn't happen. When Drew Brees was a free agent in 2006, his options boiled down to the New Orleans Saints or the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins passed on Brees due to their concerns about his separated shoulder, while Payton and the Saints were more than willing to give Brees a chance.
Since Payton and Brees arrived on the scene in New Orleans, the Saints have gone from being one of the worst franchises in professional football to being one of the best and have also helped the city of New Orleans rebound from Hurricane Katrina.
One still has to wonder how things would have turned out had Brees gone to Miami instead; would Payton still be coaching the Saints right now had that happened?
Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers)
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The record behind this combination speaks for itself.
Prior to Jim Harbaugh becoming the head coach of the 49ers last season, Alex Smith was looked at as a bust in his first six seasons. The 49ers would never finish above .500 and were still waiting on their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Part of this had to do with constant turnover at the offensive coordinator position. Smith's first offensive coordinator was Mike McCarthy, which sounds promising until you remember that he left that job to become the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Then in 2006 Smith would have Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. While he showed improvement under Turner, that came to an end as well after Turner got the call to become the next coach of the San Diego Chargers.
When 2007 arrived, Alex Smith's new offensive coordinator would be Jim Hostler. Hostler was criticized for not utilizing the 49ers running game well, and he would be jettisoned after the 2007 season in favor of Mike Martz.
Martz would be let go after the 2008 season due to new 49ers head coach Mike Singletary's desire to have a ball-control offense. He would be replaced by Jimmy Raye II. Raye would then lose his job in September of 2010, and Mike Johnson would become the 49ers offensive coordinator until the end of the 2010 season.
Jim Harbaugh's hiring was a breath of fresh air for Smith, as now he had stability thanks to an offensive-minded head coach who has shown his belief in him. In his first year under Harbaugh, Smith and the 49ers went 13-3 and were just a few key plays away from going to the Super Bowl. Smith, meanwhile, showed he had some of that old magic that Joe Montana once had when he led a come-from-behind drive in the NFC divisional playoffs against the Saints.
Now going into 2012, Smith is assured of being San Francisco's starting quarterback, and no one is calling him a bust anymore. He has his head coach to thank for that.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)
Belichick is widely credited with being a genius. However, one has to remember that New England was his second head coaching job.
His first was with the Cleveland Browns. In Cleveland Belichick went 36-44 and only made one playoff appearance in five years.
In Belichick's first year as coach of the Patriots, which was five years after the Browns fired him (they fired him prior to moving to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens), he went 5-11 with Drew Bledsoe as his quarterback.
But then in Week 2 of the 2001 season, Bledsoe got hurt, and in came Tom Brady. However, the Patriots would wind up at 0-2 after the game. Brady then made his first start the next week (a 30-10 Patriots victory over Peyton Manning and the Colts), and from then on the Patriots would finish the season on an 11-3 run on their way to their first Super Bowl championship.
Actually, here's an interesting stat: Bill Belichick's career record right now is 175-97. However when his quarterback is anyone not named Tom Brady, his record is a paltry 52-62 with only two winning seasons.
Does this take away from Belichick's brilliance? Absolutely not. One of the non-Brady seasons I included when tallying up the records was his 2008 campaign that Brady missed the entirety of. New England went 11-5 that year and only missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker (and if you ask me, the Patriots were a better team that year without Brady than the team that won the divisional tiebreaker, the Miami Dolphins).
But it is worth noting that most of Belichick's success came with Tom Brady.
On the flip side, one has to wonder, would Brady have been as successful under any other coach as he has been under Belichick?