Week 5 Report Card for All 32 Head Coaches
Coaching means a lot to the success and failures of certain teams, but they are overlooked by plays and situations regarding players during the games on Sunday's.
A great coaching staff can win you two or three games a season, a sub-par coaching staff can lose you just as many. Last season this was readily apparent with Wade Phillips in Dallas and Mike Singletary in San Francisco, who cost their teams multiple games with boneheaded coaching decision.
This season it appears the same could be said for multiple teams around the league. Atlanta and Philadelphia were supposed to be two of the best teams in the league, however, they have struggled a great deal over the course of the first five weeks.
On the other hand their has been some teams that came into 2011 with grounded expectations, who have performed at a much higher level than initially expected: Buffalo, Detroit and San Francisco come to mind.
This morning I am going to take a look at all 32 head coaches and give them a specific grade about their job so far one-third of the way through the season.
Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt
The Cardinals season might be over before the halfway mark. They are now three games behind the division leading, San Francisco 49ers. Arizona showed absolutely no heart in their demoralizing blowout loss at the previously winless, Minnesota Vikings.
If I am grading Whisenhunt for this season alone, it cannot be a passing grade. Arizona has committed 35 penalties through five games.
Atlanta Falcons: Mike Smith
This has to be disheartening for a team that came into the seasons with such high expectations. They were leading the Green Bay Packers 14-0 last night before surrendering 25 unanswered points in losing their second consecutive game.
They are having a hard time protecting Matt Ryan, cannot get to the quarterback on a consistent basis and have been torched in the secondary.
I think it is panic time for Mike Smith and the Falcons, they need to improve quickly or face the possibility of a lost season.
Baltimore Ravens: John Harbaugh
With the exception of an off-game against the Tennessee Titans a couple weeks ago, Baltimore has been on top of their game, especially on defense. While, we you should be concerned by the regression of Joe Flacco against the Jets, it shouldn't be a huge deal moving forward.
Baltimore has outscored their opponents 106-31 in their three wins. Overall, Baltimore should be considered one of the favorites in the AFC.
Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey
Buffalo is one last second loss from being 5-0 right now and no one could have seen this coming. Going into the season most people would have thought Buffalo would have one win at this point, at the most.
A lot of this success has to do with solid play in nearly every aspect of the game. Buffalo is forcing opportunistic turnovers, not committing a whole lot of penalties and just playing good football.
This is a direct correlation to the coaching staff and their ability to get the most out of a less than stellar roster.
Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera
This is extremely tricky. Carolina has been competitive in every single game and could have a winning record right now after a horrible 2010 season. Still, how much of this has to do with the out of the world play by Cam Newton? Do you grade Rivera on their record? Or, the improvements that they have made since last season?
I would have to conclude that Rivera has this team playing much smoother football with less mistakes than a year ago. For that, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt despite a 1-4 record.
After all, they had the No. 1 pick for a season: a lack of talent.
Chicago Bears: Lovie Smith
Record: 2-2 (play tonight against Detroit)
With the way Chicago's offensive line and wide receivers have played, it is amazing that this team sits with a .500 record through four games. Their two losses have come against two of the best teams in the NFC: Green Bay and New Orleans.
The Bears have a long way to go in order to catch Detroit and Green Bay this season: That said, I don't think there is any questioning about Lovie Smith's ability to coach up his team to the best of their abilities.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis
Do the Bengals actually have a winning record through five weeks? Many of us concluded that this would be their win total all season.
They are doing it with great defense, which was Marvin Lewis' MO prior to becoming head coach. The Bengals two losses have come by a combined seven points, which tells you this team is prepared to stay competitive all season long.
They are doing this with a rookie quarterback and rookie No. 1 receiver. The reason why Cincinnati has had success is because of X's and O's. Amazingly, Cincinnati has only committed five turnovers in as many games.
If this continues, Marvin Lewis may get some Coach of the Year votes.
Cleveland Browns: Pat Shurmur
Lets be real here for a second. Cleveland's two wins have come against opponents with a combined 0-9 record: Miami and Indianapolis. I understand you can only play the teams on your schedule, however, Cleveland have been less than mediocre this season.
I do like what they are doing with Colt McCoy on offense, giving him the key to the team. That will benefit the young quarterback and offense moving forward.
Despite a 2-2 record, I can't go with a great grade here.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett
I guess a lot of this has to do with whether or not you choose to be an optimist. Dallas could be 4-0 right now, but they could also be 0-4.
I choose to remain optimistic because I like what Jason Garrett has done with this team so far. They remain only one game out of first place a quarter of the way through the season. This is amazing considering the issues that the Cowboys have had in terms of injuries.
Next weeks matchup against the New England Patriots will be a marker game and tell us where Dallas stands moving forward.
Denver Broncos: John Fox
Things are an absolute mess in Denver, where the team has dropped three in a row. Kyle Orton was benched for Tim Tebow yesterday, after the Broncos coaching staff pretty much shunned the former Heisman winner during the preseason. It looks more and more like Tebow will get the call when Denver plays again, but we are going to have to wait and see.
After five weeks, Denver sits three games behind the division leading San Diego Chargers, and there doesn't seem to be much hope that they will close that gap as the season progresses.
At least Bronco fans get to see Tebow on the field for the foreseeable future.
Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz
Record: 4-0 (play tonight against the Chicago Bears)
As of this morning, Detroit remains one of only two undefeated teams in the entire league. How amazing is that? We already knew the Lions were extremely talented, but they have seemed to put it all together at this point. Detroit now owns the biggest winning streak in the NFL at eight games.
To say that Jim Schwartz has turned around this franchise would be a miscarriage of credit in regards to the job that he has done. Detroit isn't an elite team just yet, but they are well on their way to becoming one.
Green Bay Packers: Mike McCarthy
The Green Bay Packers have picked up where they left off last season as Super Bowl Champions. They are the best team in the NFL, and I don't think it really is even that close. Despite falling down 14-0 against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome last night, Green Bay was able to right the ship and remain undefeated by scoring 25 unanswered points.
Detroit promises to give Green Bay a battle for the NFC North title this season, but it is hard to bet against this team. They are currently hitting on nearly every cylinder, and the coaching staff gets a lot of credit for that.
Houston Texans: Gary Kubiak
A couple weeks into the 2011 season, Houston seemed to be the biggest lock to win their division. Indianapolis was reeling after losing Peyton Manning for an extended time, Jacksonville had just replaced their veteran quarterback with a rookie and Tennessee didn't seem to be much more than average.
Well, what a difference a couple weeks make. Houston has lost two of their last three games culminating with a disheartening home loss against the Oakland Raiders. This seems to be the Texans MO under Gary Kubiak, not living up to expectations.
The loss of Andre Johnson does hurt, but with road games against Baltimore and Tennessee coming up, Kubiak's seat could start getting really hot.
Indianapolis Colts: Jim Caldwell
Say what you want about the coaching performance of Jim Caldwell, he has gotten the undermanned Colts up for every game since their opening game disaster against Houston. Indianapolis has lost their last four games by a total of 22 points.
Still, they are only one of three teams without a win so far: success is measured by wins and losses. It is way too early to say that Jim Caldwell's seat is hot at this point because he doesn't have a whole lot to work with. I think that the "heart" of this team moving forward will be telling as to whether or not he returns next season or is fired midseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jack Del Rio
Four consecutive losses may have sealed Jack Del Rio's future in Jacksonville, they have been outscored by 58 points in those for games. He was already on the hot seat following the Jaguars 2010 season, but that seat just got much hotter.
Still, making the switch to a rookie quarterback had to mean that the Jaguars were prepared to take their lumps in order to improve long term. I am just not sure if that "future" includes Del Rio at this point. After all, Carolina and Cincinnati were both games that Jacksonville needed to have. Now they are looking at Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston in their next three games. A 1-7 record at the bye would spell an end to his tenure.
Kansas City Chiefs: Todd Haley
Todd Haley and the Kansas City Chiefs seemed to have righted the ship following their first two losses that saw them outscored 89-10. Since, the Chiefs have lost a close game to San Diego and won two consecutive matchups against inferior teams.
With the injuries to Eric Berry and Jamal Charles, it would have been easy for Kansas City to throw in the proverbial towel. Instead, they have rebounded in a great way.
Still, the defending AFC West champions are on the outside looking in behind the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.
Miami Dolphins: Tony Sparano
It has gotten ugly really quickly for the Miami Dolphins this season. They have started 0-4 for the first time since a disastrous 2007 season when they lost 13 consecutive games. To add insult to injury, Chad Henne is out for the remainder of the 2011 season.
Looking at the Dolphin schedule, I see two or three wins from here on out. That may bode well for their chance to get Andrew Luck, but it won't help Tony Sparano keep his job for the remainder of the season.
And, for good reason. Miami hasn't shown any sense of urgency throughout their first four games. This is not a good sign for the struggling team moving forward.
Minnesota Vikings: Leslie Frazier
Prior to Minnesota's first win of the season yesterday against the Arizona Cardinals, they had been outscored 80-16 in the second half this season. That means that the Vikings have failed to make necessary halftime adjustments to build off first half success.
This goes directly to the abilities of their coaches to understand the situation at hand and fix the issues. Don't be fooled by the Vikings win against Arizona yesterday, the Cardinals seemed to forget that they actually had a game to play this weekend.
Minnesota still has two games against Green Bay and a road matchup against Detroit on their schedule. Five wins would seem like a stretch at this point.
New England Patriots: Bill Belichick
To take a quote from the "great" Dennis Green, "they are who we thought they were." Those seven words pretty much sums up the Patriots success so far this season. We knew that New England was going to be one of the best teams in the NFL, and it has panned out that way.
Still, it isn't like this team doesn't have their issues. The defensive secondary remains a major problem and needs to be fixed in short order, the win against New York may have temporarily ended those issues, but we will see.
Still, the Patriots own the best offense in the NFL, and will continue to put up Madden like stats.
New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton
New Orleans has won four consecutive games following their season opening loss to the Green Bay Packers. Still, there remains a lot of things this team can improve on.
They are giving up over 250 passing yards per game, which puts them in the bottom half of the league. It also has to bother New Orleans that they barely escaped Carolina with a win this weekend. This is a team that should be taking care of business against inferior competition.
If it seems that I am being extra hard on Payton and Co., there is good reason for that. Anything less than a Super Bowl title would seem like a disappointment, and they are not currently near the level of the Green Bay Packers. Instead, New Orleans is atop the "second-tier" teams in the NFC, such as the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers.
New York Giants: Tom Coughlin
Losing to an improving, but mediocre Seattle Seahawks team at home cannot boost anyone's confidence in the Giants as the favorites in the NFC East. New York had a great opportunity to take over first place in that ultra-competitive division and blew it in every possible way.
Seattle quarterbacks went a combined 27-for-41 and threw for nearly 280 yards in their win against New York. This just adds further speculation that the Giants secondary is well below average at this point. They had committed stupid penalties and turnovers at inopportune times, while allowing inferior teams to stay in the game with them.
Moving forward, New York has Buffalo, New England and San Francisco coming up on the schedule, there remains a real possibility that they are below .500 for the stretch run.
New York Jets: Rex Ryan
The Jets were expected to take the next step this season, but three consecutive losses has Rex Ryan's boys reeling after five weeks. After a disastrous offensive performance against Baltimore two weeks ago, New York hung with the Patriots in New England: to no avail.
This team should be okay, but they need to find an offensive identity before it is too late. That is up to Rex Ryan and his coaching staff. They currently sit two games behind both New England and Buffalo, so these need to be fixed in short order.
Oakland Raiders: Hue Jackson
As a football fan, I couldn't help but get chills following the Raiders dramatic victory over Houston yesterday. It came on the heels of the passing of their long time owner, Al Davis. Hue Jackson represented exactly what it meant to be a Raider yesterday following the game when he broke down.
All this aside, the Oakland Raiders are a pretty darn good football team. They didn't play too well on the road in Houston, but came out with a victory. This is a sign of a good team: being able to fight through controversy to beat another tough opponent.
So far, Oakland has come through the toughest part of their schedule with a wining record. That is a testament to the coaching and leadership of one Hue Jackson. Watch out San Diego, the Raiders are for real.
Philadelphia Eagles: Andy Reid
The Philadelphia Eagles have not lost four in a row in a season since the start of 1999, under Ray Rhodes. Yes, that Ray Rhodes. In fact, if you include last year's playoffs, they are 1-7 in their last eight games.
So much for the "Dream Team," right?
They are turning the ball over a lot, committing dumb penalties and the play-calling has been less than solid. LeSean McCoy isn't running the ball nearly enough, the offensive line looks like crap and that "vaunted" defense continues to get torched.
I hate to say it, but there remains a possibility that Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia could be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin
To say that yesterday's win against Tennessee was huge for Pittsburgh would be an understatement. With a loss, they would have fallen into last place in the AFC North, yes last place. This is a team that is struggling in a lot of different aspects. First, they can't protect Ben Roethlisberger worth a damn, their rush defense has been average at best and they just look old.
The win against Tennessee probably did cure a lot of these ills, but many still remain. As it is, Pittsburgh is above .500 through five weeks even with all the issues they have had. That bodes well for Tomlin and Co. moving forward.
San Diego Chargers: Norv Turner
Don't get too pumped up about the Chargers 4-1 start, their four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 4-15. Additionally, all those wins have come by 10 points or less. Still, it beats the heck out of how this team had started in previous seasons.
Philip Rivers is tied for the most interceptions in the league, which would seem to be a gross miscalculation of his abilities and past success. Expect him to pick it up as the season progresses.
San Diego still owns a one game lead in the AFC West, but they will be challenged by Oakland moving forward. I am not a huge fan of Norv Turner, but they seem to have righted the ship thus far.
San Francisco 49ers: Jim Harbaugh
This is probably the most surprising team in the NFL (sorry Buffalo and Detroit), but considering the coaching turnover and lack of an offseason: there is no way San Francisco should be 4-1 and with a two game division lead right now.
They completely destroyed a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that had won three consecutive games and were 6-2 in their last eight games. In fact, it wasn't even as close as the 48-3 score would indicate, imagine that.
San Francisco has outscored their opponents 69-6 over their last six quarters of football and everyone is excited about the future of this team. However, the future could be right now as San Francisco looks to be one of the better all-around teams in the NFC. They will probably cruise into the playoffs and host a home game. What a difference a season makes. Jim Harbaugh is an early candidate for Coach of the Year.
Seattle Seahawks: Pate Carroll
After god-awful performances against San Francisco and Pittsburgh to begin the season, Seattle has quietly improved, winning two of their last three games. Their win against the New York Giants yesterday was huge. If they had lost that game Seattle would be looking at a three game deficit in the NFC West through five weeks. Instead, they still have some life in them.
We can get into a debate about whether or not Pete Carroll is NFL head coaching material, but one thing cannot be denied: his team loves playing under him. That still means something.
St. Louis Rams: Steve Spagnuola
A team that was many people's favorite to win the NFC West sits 3.5 games behind San Francisco through five weeks. For all intent and purposes, the Rams season is already over, and their team is playing like it.
St. Louis has been outscored by 64 points in their first three games and aren't showing any signs of life. Additionally, they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans over the next three weeks. It looks like a 0-7 start is an extreme possibility right now.
Not good for a team with such high expectations coming into the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Raheem Morris
Before the Buccaneers demoralizing blowout loss against San Francisco yesterday there were a lot of pundits out there saying that this team wasn't for real. Following the 45 point drubbing, many more will be drawing this conclusion.
Not only did Tampa Bay get trounced, it looked like they just gave up halfway through the third quarter. They weren't able to maintain any composure and even Morris was called for a 15 yard penalty from the sideline.
They are going to need to right the Buc ship soon, or it is going to be be a long remainder of the season for this young team.
Tennessee Titans: Mike Munchak
If anyone were to tell me that Tennessee would be 3-2 with Chris Johnson averaging less than three yards per rush, I would have said "keep smoking the good stuff."
It does seem that Tennessee regressed a great deal in their blowout loss to Pittsburgh last week. They had a season high nine penalties and couldn't get much going on offense. The loss of Kenny Britt promises to have a major impact moving forward, but as of now they are tied for first place.
Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan
Washington now sits in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Two of their three wins have come against the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) and St. Louis Rams (0-4), both by single digits.
I am still having a hard time believing that Rex Grossman can lead the Skins' to a division title, but Shanahan seems to have placed his faith in him. At this point, the future Hall-of-Fame head coach is either going to sink or swim with the enigmatic signal caller.