Each NFL Head HC's Worst Habit

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterJuly 30, 2012

Each NFL Head HC's Worst Habit

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    Each NFL coach takes the job with the intention of building the program his way and hoping his way eventually leads his team to the Lombardi Trophy.

    However, things don't always work out the way they are supposed to, and coaches get fired faster than they get hired.

    Each coach has a bad habit, but not every coach allows his bad habit to do him in.

    Click through to find out the one bad habit of each NFL head coach. The first-year guys got broken down, and there was a bit of speculation—nothing concrete, though, considering they've never been head coaches before.

AFC East

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    Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: Fourth-Down Aggressiveness 

    By most Belichick's coaching is seen as genius, and he is easily one of the greatest coaches of all time.

    But more than once, his aggressive fourth-down play calls have backfired.

    Most notable was a play on Nov. 15, 2009. It was 4th-and-2 from New England's 28 with 2:08 to play, and all the Patriots needed was a first down to seal the game.

    Tom Brady looked for Kevin Faulk on a short pass, a play that was a staple in their offense in that game.

    Brady did connect with Faulk, but the two yards were unattainable.

    The unsuccessful conversion allowed Peyton Manning and the Colts back into the game. Manning hooked up with Reggie Wayne for a one-yard touchdown that sealed a 35-34 win.

    Rex Ryan, New York Jets: His Big Mouth

    We all know Rex Ryan has the ability to coach and be a successful coach at that. In his first three years as head coach of the Jets, he has made it to two AFC championship games and won over 58 percent of his regular-season games.

    But Ryan hasn't quite figured out how to tone down the talking and the predictions.

    It seems as though he is always guaranteeing a Super Bowl victory or calling players out, good and bad.

    During the 2010 preseason, Victor Cruz torched the Jets for three touchdowns. After the game Ryan went on to say, “I hope they cut him. I know one team that would be ready to sign him, and that’d be us” (h/t The Star-Ledger).

    Not to say another team wouldn't have put a claim in on Cruz if he had been cut, but sometimes it's just better to keep things to yourself.

    Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills: Play-Calling on Third Down

    If you're a team's head coach and offensive coordinator, the success of said team's offense relies solely on you. Gailey is known by many as a bright offensive mind, but at times in 2011, I had to scratch my head on some of the play calls.

    Especially some of the third-down play calls. 

    The Bills finished last season with a third-down conversion rate of 32.46 percent, five points lower than the year before.

    Over the final three games of the 2011 season, Buffalo's conversion rate was a lowly 10 percent—the lowest number in the league by far in that three-game stretch.

    Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins: Offensive Firepower

    It's hard for first-year coaches to have formed any bad habits by the time training camp has opened, so let's take a look at what will be under the microscope in Philbin's first year.

    Will he be able to bring that same offensive magic to Miami that the Packers had? Who will be the starting quarterback when the season starts? Was he a product of Mike McCarthy?

    All of these things are good questions. It will definitely be an uphill battle offensively, as the Dolphins defense is primarily set.

AFC North

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    Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: Bad Challenges

    Making a bad challenge here or there can be forgiven, but consistently ridiculous challenges can prove detrimental to a team in more ways than one. Hindering a team with bad moves from the sideline makes it that much harder for the players on the field to win games.

    In his last two playoff games, Marvin Lewis has been out of challenges by halftime: first when the Bengals met the Jets in 2009, and second this past year against the Texans.

    Both challenges this year proved to be real head-scratchers, and listening to Pacman Jones doesn't help. 

    Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers: Handling of Injuries

    I don't have a problem with Tomlin starting Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh's Week 15 game against the 49ers last year, but I do have a problem with the way the QB was handled in the game.

    At a certain point, it was pretty clear San Francisco was in the driver's seat, so there was no reason for Roethlisberger to play all 60 minutes on a severely sprained ankle, considering the further damage that could have been done.

    When LaMarr Woodley was forced from the Steelers' Week 8 game against the Patriots with a hamstring injury, it was known to be a multiple-week injury, but that didn't stop Coach Tomlin from putting him back in the game.

    The pain became so severe that Woodley had to take himself out of the game a second time. My question is, why even let him go back in?

    Is one game worth a few missed games down the road? 

    John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens: Consistency on the Road

    While it really is nitpicking on my part, the Ravens have a tendency to get blown out and beaten by some pretty underachieving teams when they are away from Baltimore. 

    In 2011 alone I saw three particular road games that the Ravens should have won. The Titans and Jaguars were both early-season games on the road against the AFC South. Matt Hasselbeck dropped 358 yards on Baltimore's porous pass defense, and five weeks later Blaine Gabbert got his first win against a team that looked lost on offense.

    The Ravens' last regular-season road loss was their second-worst loss under Harbaugh.

    Philip Rivers and the Chargers had their aerial attack in full force on Sunday Night Football. Rivers connected on a couple deep passes. His longest of the night was 58 yards. 

    Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns: Red-Zone Play-Calling

    Pat Shurmur is seen as an offensive-minded coach that can make something out of nothing. Just look at his work as the offensive coordinator of the Rams in 2010. He did a nice job of keeping Sam Bradford in his comfort zone with the short passing game.

    So how can the Browns offense be that bad when they arguably have just as many weapons as the Rams did?

    It starts and ends inside the 20.

    How can you expect to win if you can't score when you get close to the end zone?

    The Browns finished nearly dead last in red-zone scoring percentage. Only 42 percent of their trips to the red zone resulted in scores.

    Many have attributed that number to their play-calling being too predictable inside the 20.

AFC West

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    Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers: Inability to Win Close Games 

    It's no secret that Norv Turner has never been a fan favorite at any of his stops along the way. Playoff appearances are rare under Turner, and fans are usually clamoring for his dismissal by year's end.

    One stat that could add fuel to the fire is his inability to win close games. Of Turner's 113 losses in his career, 64 of them were by seven points or fewer. 

    Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders: Limited Opportunities

    The 2012 season features plenty of first-year head coaches, and since Dennis Allen hasn't been an NFL head coach before, we will restrain from trying to guess his bad habits and focus instead on the things that might hamper him come the beginning of the season.

    One of the biggest things that I feel may get him off to a slow start is his lack of talent on defense. Allen is a defensive-minded coach, but the Raiders saw plenty of players leave due to salary-cap restrictions and bad moves by the previous regime. The Carson Palmer trade also handcuffed him in terms of the team having a depleted draft for a couple of years.

    Luckily, the Raiders are set on offense, because it will take some time for the defense to catch up. 

    Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs: Playing Veterans Because They Are Veterans 

    We haven't seen a full season of coaching from Romeo Crennel since his stint in Cleveland, where he compiled a 24-40 record.

    Many claimed during his tenure with the Browns that he was too lenient with veteran players and often hung on to them too long.

    No matter where the team was with its win-loss record, it seemed that Crennel had his core of veterans that always played no matter how poorly they were doing. The best examples were Willie McGinest and Darnell Dinkins.  

    John Fox, Denver Broncos: Run-Heavy Offense

    John Fox loves to run the football. If you don't believe me, just look at his time with the Panthers and his 2011 season with the Broncos.

    It's not bad that he is run-heavy, but where he gets into trouble is when he becomes stubborn and forces the run.

    Peyton Manning's systems have always been pass-first and pass-heavy. Can Fox coexist with Manning?

    He did with Tim Tebow because all he asked the QB to do was run more.

AFC South

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    Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans: Late-Season Meltdowns

    In six seasons as the head coach of the Houston Texans, Gary Kubiak has led them to the playoffs once. He has shown his ability to produce talented offenses, and more than once they have been in the playoff hunt towards season's end.

    However, more than once they have also collapsed and missed the playoffs.

    In 2010 Houston started the season 4-2 as it headed into its bye week. The Texans looked as though they were in control.

    But two four-game losing streaks over the course of 10 games forced them to miss the playoffs. The 2011 season was almost more of the same, as Kubiak's Texans lost their final three games.

    Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans: Clock Management

    Clock management seems to be an error often associated with rookie head coaches, and more than once last season, it affected Mike Munchak.

    The most notable case of this was on the final drive of the Titans' comeback attempt against the Saints in Week 14.

    Munchak had no timeouts left and called for a run on first down. The first-down run play was a draw that gained very little yardage and kept the clock running.

    It sealed the Titans' fate, as it burned almost 30 seconds off the clock.  

    Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars: Offensive Questions

    It's hard to say Mularkey's bad habit will be, as he hasn't been a head coach in seven years, so I'm not going to try to predict it. However, I can say that many people will be paying close attention to Mularkey's play-calling, as it was often under scrutiny in Atlanta.

    There were often times when it got a little too run-heavy and predictable for folks. Mularkey could really benefit from Maurice Jones-Drew—that is, if he ever shows up to training camp.

    Putting your team on his shoulders is a lot better than putting it on Blaine Gabbert's. 

    Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: Rebuild

    Again, like Dennis Allen, Chuck Pagano is a first-time head coach who hasn't established any bad head coaching habits as of yet, but it's safe to assume that some will creep up.

    For now, something to watch will be how well the Colts defense performs.

    Pagano is a defensive-minded coach that is coming over from the Baltimore Ravens. It was surprising that the Colts focused so much on offense during the draft and the offseason. Pagano switched the team to a 3-4 defense, which is the total opposite of its 4-3, Cover 2 scheme under Jim Caldwell.

    Only time will tell if the retooling and shuffling pays dividends.

NFC East

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    Tom Coughlin, New York Giants: Playing Down a Level

    It's hard to pick apart a coach who has won two Super Bowls during his time with the Giants, but everyone has a flaw.

    Coach Coughlin's Giants teams will often play down to the level of their competition. They often lose to underachieving teams that they should easily beat. 

    For examples, look at their 2011 Super Bowl season.

    The Giants lost to the Seahawks, the Eagles and twice to the Redskins. All three teams missed the playoffs, and Washington finished a lowly 5-11. The Eagles game I understand, as Philadelphia underachieved much of the season.

    But the Giants had no business losing to the other three. 

    Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles: Timeout Usage

    This bad habit should be easy to guess. as everyone knows that Andy Reid could always use another timeout. As games go on, Reid must forget at times that he doesn't get unlimited timeouts.

    Each coach is allowed only three per half.

    If someone were to keep track of how many timeouts Reid has called in his career, it would easily be more than any other coach.

    By looking at some of the coaches he mentored, you will see they are much the same. Brad Childress was equally as bad or worse when he was a head coach, and second-year coach Pat Shurmur looks to be well on his way. 

    Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys: Illogical Decisions

    Jason Garrett is still considered a relatively new coach, as he is entering only his second full season as the leader of "America's Team." Just like the veteran Andy Reid and fellow young coach Mike Munchak, his game and time management needs to improve.

    Not many coaches settle for 49-yard field goals when there are 26 seconds remaining and two timeouts left in their back pockets.

    It's good that he had that much confidence in Dan Bailey, but he didn't have to. He had no excuse for not trying to get more yards, regardless of the fact that Bailey had already had two shaky kicks before that.  

    Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins: Shanahanigans

    Since Mike Shanahan landed the job in Washington, he hasn't had a true No. 1 running back. In 2010 it was a mix of Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams and Clinton Portis. Last season it was Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Torain. 

    Starting six different running backs in the span of two years is definitely considered Shanahanigans. He's proved in the past that you can have good luck with unproven backs, and that is true.

    But for any kind of rhythm in the running game, there needs to be repetition and trust in at least a couple of the backs.

NFC North

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    Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers: Too Much Analyzing

    One of the most respected things about Mike McCarthy is that he is such a competitor, but one of his biggest problems is the fact that he has a hard time getting over losses.

    In 2010 he was still talking about how the Packers' playoff loss to the Cardinals ate at him, and now six months later he still stews about the playoff game against the Giants.

    It's probably a good thing that it eats him up so much inside, but the 2012 season is fast approaching, so just let it go. You don't get anywhere by sitting and dwelling on past failures.

    The only way to move on is to put it behind you and start fresh. 

    Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions: No Discipline  

    The Detroit Lions are undisciplined. Their play has always reflected this, and I'm not solely talking about off-field arrests.

    The Lions have the talent to be an elite team, but elite teams aren't penalty-ridden, and they don't let their emotions get the best of them. 

    This past season Detroit averaged 7.9 penalties a game; in 2010 they averaged 8.5 penalties a game; and in Schwartz's first season, they finished 19th with 6.1 penalties per game.

    Couple all those penalties with all the offseason arrests, and one may start to think that he is coaching a bunch of thugs. 

    Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears: Conservative Tendencies

    Lovie Smith's defensive mind is what helped him get his job initially as the coach of the Bears. His defenses always seem to be ranked near the top in total yardage and turnovers.

    But there is one area in which Smith tends to get a bit conservative at times, and that's with the coverage of the secondary.

    I know it's common for teams to play loose coverage when they have leads and don't want to get burned deep, but I've seen Smith do this in multiple close games.

    Case in point: the Bears' loss to the Broncos last season.

    Toward the end of the game, the Bears corners started giving Broncos receivers 10- to 15-yard cushions. Why? Chicago's secondary had been smothering Tim Tebow all game. The cushions allowed the Broncos back in the game, and it eventually led to a Denver victory. 

    Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings: Misuse of Percy Harvin

    It seems as if the only coach who was willing to utilize Percy Harvin to his utmost abilities was Urban Meyer. Both Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier have failed to get their most productive player on the field more.

    There are the scary migraine issues from which he suffers, but from the sounds of it, he wants his snaps increased as well.

    In 2011 Harvin logged only 623 snaps, and 2010 was about the same with 649.

    To put that in perspective, Calvin Johnson had the most snaps out of any wide receiver with 1,066. Over a two-year span, Johnson has played about 800 more snaps than Harvin.

    Leslie Frazier needs to start treating Harvin like a true No. 1.

NFC West

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    Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams: Power of Players

    Jeff Fisher has never let an arrest or character concern bother him. In Tennessee he drafted Adam "Pacman" Jones, Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson. All three players would never fall under the category of Boy Scouts.

    I won't single out only those three players, because he did draft Vince Young as well, and the former Texas QB provided Fisher plenty of headaches while he was in Nashville.

    Some said, toward the end of his reign in Tennessee, that the players had too much power and that the inmates were running the asylum.

    Fisher has already brought a couple questionable players into St. Louis; Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson were both looked at as troublemakers who fell in the draft due to their character concerns. 

    Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals: Poor QB Judge

    Would it be fair to say that Ken Whisenhunt is a poor evaluator of quarterback talent? If one were to take an unbiased approach, he would consider it fair to say that in his evaluation.

    Whisenhunt has had six different starting quarterbacks in his five-year tenure as head coach. The only one that succeeded was Kurt Warner.

    Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb have proved either to be failures or average quarterbacks at best.

    To make matters worse, Whisenhunt didn't even see Warner as a starter. He would consistently start Leinart over Warner until the latter's play finally made Leinart look irrelevant. 

    Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Rah-Rah

    There no question that Pete Carroll is an upbeat, rah-rah type of guy who likes to keep things light, fun and interesting. He's always been like that, that's his style, but does his style work in the NFL?

    It hasn't proven to yet. I can't name an NFL coach who has had that M.O. and been successful.

    Keeping things loose and having fun practices are things you can get away with in college football, but this is the NFL, where things are taken way more seriously, and for good reason.

    Carroll's Seahawks record of 14-18 isn't looking too good, so if he wants to complete a turnaround, this year may be the deciding year.

    Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers: Arrogance

    From his days as a player and a coach, at every level, Jim Harbaugh has always known how to carry himself. He comes from a strong football bloodline that oozes success, so a little arrogance should be OK, right?

    Well, maybe so, but just ask Jim Schwartz, and he may have a different word for Harbaugh's arrogance. He might use the word "smug."

    Any successful head coach has to be a little bit arrogant, or they wouldn't be right for the job. After the 49ers rolled out of Detroit on Oct. 16 last season, many felt Harbaugh let his emotions get the best of him postgame.

    But that wouldn't be the first time that happened. Just ask fellow NFC West coach Pete Carroll.

    While the two were in the Pac-10, Jim made it well known that he and Carroll would be switching places.

NFC South

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    Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: Absence

    If things would have carried on like normal and Sean Payton hadn't gotten caught for his role in Bountygate, my worst habit for him might be different, but right now his absence is his worst habit.

    Roger Goodell made it very clear that Payton knew about Bountygate and did nothing to stop it, so there is no one to blame for Payton's absence except for Payton himself.

    His absence will hurt the Saints offense more than anything. He is the mastermind behind their setup; the odds of it running the way it should be run without Payton in the building every day are low.

    Drew Brees and Payton always seem to be on the same wavelength, so it will be interesting to see if the Saints offense sputters and Brees' production slips due to the coach's suspension.

    Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons: Gambler

    Mike Smith, like Bill Belichick, is not afraid to go for it on fourth down, and if it's 4th-and-short, he almost prefers it. Not to say going for it on fourth down is a bad thing, but it can prove to be costly at times.

    There are three distinct plays from the 2011 season in which I remember the Falcons getting stopped short.

    The Falcons' failed fourth-down play against the Saints in Week 10 could have easily been one of the plays they pointed to if they had missed the playoffs. The other two failed plays were against the Giants in the playoffs, and they got stuffed both times.

    If you go for it twice on fourth down in the same game, maybe try calling a different play each time.

    Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers: Clock Management

    As I mentioned before, clock management seems to be a big issue with young head coaches. A couple of times last year, the Panthers had opportunities to win late in ballgames but didn't have enough time to do so.

    In the early part of the season, the Panthers had the opportunity to beat the Saints. The Saints were moving up and down the field late in the fourth quarter as precious time ticked away. Rivera decided to save his timeouts for when he got the ball back.

    OK, fine, just make sure to use them.

    But with 50 seconds left instead of two minutes, the Panthers used only one timeout during their game-tying drive.

    I don't understand why they didn't use the timeouts to provide more time for the drive, especially since Rivera ended the game with two timeouts in his pocket. 

    Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Discipline

    Former players came out after Raheem Morris had been fired and said that he lacked discipline. Sometimes veteran players get out of line and need someone to set the locker room straight, and Morris just wasn't that guy.

    He will probably never coach in the NFL again unless he learns that trait.

    Greg Schiano was hired because of the tight ship he ran at Rutgers. Players need a coach they respect, and vice versa, as the players need to be respected as well.

    Schiano is referred to by his peers as a disciplinarian and a teacher of the game. This habit of being a disciplined coach will be put to the test, as NFL players are a whole different breed than college players.


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