first-year NFL head coaches

Checking in on the first-year NFL head coaches

We are far enough into the NFL season that it is now fair to evaluate how all the head coaches are doing. While there are 32, the coaches who took new jobs prior to this season are always of particular interest. So, let’s see who is making the grade.

Sean McVay

What the former Redskins offensive coordinator has done defies logic and description. At the time of his hiring, he was the youngest head coach in league history. Also, he took over a mess.

The Rams were the worst scoring offense in the league in 2016 and limped to a 4-12 mark in their first year back in Los Angeles. Much of the offensive personnel has remained the same under McVay, including second-year quarterback Jared Goff, who was totally overwhelmed as a rookie.

The Rams are now the top scoring offense in the NFL and sit atop the NFC West. It is impossible to be sure whether McVay is brilliant or his predecessor Jeff Fisher was grossly incompetent. The answer is likely a little bit of both. The Rams defense was pretty good all along.

There is a lot of football left to be played, and it is hard to imagine any team averaging 32.9 points per game for an entire season. That puts you in the conversation with some of the greatest offenses ever.

For now though, McVay is the runaway winner for coach of the year. Turnarounds like this simply do not happen this quickly in pro football.

Grade: A+

Vance Joseph

When Gary Kubiak stepped down due to health concerns after the 2016 season, the former Dolphins defensive coordinator took over an organization that won a Super Bowl less than two years ago.

first-year NFL head coaches

(Photo from Denver Post)

However, the Broncos have regressed under Joseph. Trevor Siemian was at least serviceable last year. That cannot be said of Siemian or any other Broncos quarterback this year. Despite the team being very good for most of his tenure, John Elway has had to hire three head coaches during his relatively short time in the Denver front office.

With a workable schedule down the stretch, Joseph could still salvage the season if he can lead an upset over the Patriots Sunday night, but that is unlikely at best.

No individual is responsible for anything in the NFL. Even so, with the Broncos among the league leaders in penalties and turnovers and on a four-game losing streak, it is starting to look like Elway will be finding another head coach sooner than he would like.

Grade: D+

Anthony Lynn

The former Bills offensive coordinator took over a franchise that was relocating to a city where it has virtually no fan base. That is an unenviable position for any coach to be in.

However, Lynn did inherit Philip Rivers as his quarterback. This is something even some established coaches in this league would kill for. Early in the season, the seemingly never-ending trend of the Chargers finding ways to lose close games continued.

Lynn’s team showed some impressive toughness by winning three in a row after an 0-4 start. The defense is also much improved thanks mostly to the hiring of former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator.

3-5 is not where any coach wants to be through eight games. All things considered though, Lynn has done an okay job. Remember, this is also a team that is essentially playing 16 road games this year and potentially beyond.

Grade: C+

Sean McDermott

This is the toughest one for me. The former Panthers defensive coordinator has the Bills in the mix to end a 17-year playoff drought. The best thing this team has going for it is a defense that is allowing less than 19 points per game.

Getting blown out by the Jets on Thursday night in Week 9 was a big blow. They still have to play division rival New England twice, as well as New Orleans and Kansas City. They will be underdogs in every one of those games.

McDermott would not be the first Bills coach as of late to lead Buffalo to a hot start only to fade late in the season. He has done well to this point, but his job is about to get a lot tougher.

Grade: B-

Kyle Shanahan

The mastermind behind last year’s electric Falcons offense is still searching for his first win as a head coach in San Francisco. Shanahan is well aware that he is bringing the less talented roster into almost every game this season.

Despite that, the 49ers are playing hard and have been in almost every game. The best thing the young head coach has done is oversee or possibly facilitate the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo from New England before the trade deadline.

Shanahan is certainly taking his lumps as a first-time head coach this year, but if Garoppolo turns out to be the star that many people believe he will be, the wins are not far behind.

Grade: C+

 

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2017 NFL power rankings Week 9

2017 NFL power rankings: Week 9

There were not a lot of changes to the power rankings after a pretty predictable week of football. Most the teams that were expected to win did their job and won the game. The playoff picture is starting to form and the races will begin to heat up as the weather around the country gets colder. Here are the 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 9.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-8)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 9

(Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: Bye

Cleveland had the world stunned after the first half of their game in London. They were up on the Vikings 13-12 at the half.

The Browns went out in the second half and got outscored 21-3. This proves that the Browns have talent and they are still learning how to win.

They get a week to regroup with a bye and will be looking to find a win in the second half of the season so that they won’t become the second team to finish a season 0-16.

31. San Francisco 49ers (0-8)

Last week: 31 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Arizona

The 49ers got manhandled against the Eagles, but it was pretty expected. Philly is the best team in the NFL, and San Francisco doesn’t even have a win.

The 49ers will continue to struggle. Unless the Browns find a way to get a win, they won’t move much in these rankings. With time and patience though, John Lynch will rebuild the 49ers into winners. That much shows with their draft trades and their recent trade for Jimmy Garoppolo.

30. New York Giants (1-6)

Last week: 30 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Los Angeles Rams

The Giants are coming off of a bye, but it won’t do much to help their season. At 1-6, there is little to no chance that they can make the playoffs. The offense only puts up 16 points per game, which ranks 30th in the league.

The entire offense needs to be rebuilt from the offensive line up. This week won’t get any easier either as they take on the Rams.

29. Indianapolis Colts (2-6)

Last week: 29 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Houston

The Colts almost beat the Bengals, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Indianapolis hasn’t had a good defense in a very long time. Even when they won the Super Bowl, the defense was only good in the postseason. They are giving up over 400 yards and 30 points per game. With Houston up next, they will likely add another loss to their miserable season.

28. Arizona Cardinals (3-4)

Last week: 27 (-1)

Next game: away vs. San Francisco

Arizona had a bye week last week, but the rest of the season still looks dreadful. After losing David Johnson early in the season, the Cardinals have also lost Carson Palmer. Arizona’s offense is going to struggle to put up points even though they still have Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson.

The defense can’t lead this team as they are giving up the third most points in the NFL at 27.3 per game. Arizona needs to tank the rest of the season to get a good pick that can help this team compete in a tough division.

27. Miami Dolphins (4-3)

Last week: 20 (-7)

Next game: home vs. Oakland

The Dolphins were utterly and completely embarrassed against Baltimore. They looked more like a 2-4 team rather than a 4-2 team.

All season I have been saying this team isn’t as good as their record. They won’t win more than six games this season, and last week’s performance against the Ravens shows why. Miami has nothing to go to on offense, and it will be even worse with the trade of Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins only average 13.1 points per game, fewest in the NFL.

This team is going to stink and may even fall into the bottom three by the time the season ends.

26. New York Jets (3-5)

Last week: 26 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Buffalo

The Jets had a shot to beat Atlanta, but were outscored 9-3 in the fourth quarter. New York is having a great season considering that nobody expected them to have three wins after eight games. They won’t win more than five games total, but they aren’t as far away from being a playoff team as we all expected.

This week they get a divisional rival that is on a roll and will likely lose their fourth straight game.

25. Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

Last week: 28 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Tennessee

Despite losing Joe Flacco during their last contest, Baltimore smacked the Dolphins 40-0. The Ravens scored two touchdowns off of interceptions, one by C.J. Mosley and the second by Jimmy Smith.

Going forward, this team will need these type of performances to win games. Baltimore may also be without Flacco for an extended amount of time.

Either way, this team may be competitive, but won’t be a playoff contender.

24. Chicago Bears (3-5)

Last week: 25 (+1)

Next game: Bye

The Bears defense is keeping this team competitive. Chicago played the Saints tough, but ultimately fell short 20-12.

Not many people talk about it, but the Bears do have a very stingy defense. In their last three games, teams are only scoring an average of 15.7 points per game on them.

If Chicago can continue to run the ball effectively as Mitch Trubisky grows as a quarterback, then this team can pull off some upsets. In the end, the future looks bright in Chicago.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)

Last week: 24 (+1)

Next game: away vs. New Orleans

It is hard to condone the Bucs moving up a spot in these rankings, but the Dolphins getting annihilated forced a few teams to move up.

Just like the Dolphins are not as good as their record, the Bucs aren’t as bad as their record. Tampa has lost three of their five games by five points or less. This team is on the verge of being good. Once they learn how to win close games, they will be dangerous.

22. Denver Broncos (3-4)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 9

(Photo by Jack Dempsey / AP)

Last week: 19 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Philadelphia

It is so obvious that Denver needs help at quarterback. Trevor Siemian is incapable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. He would make an excellent backup though.

The Broncos will be held back by their inability to pass. Teams can stack the box and stop the run, forcing them to throw the ball. That is exactly what the Eagles will do to send Denver to another loss.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)

Last week: 23 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

The Bengals were extremely close to having their season end. A loss to the Colts would have been a new low. Cincinnati managed to win the game 24-23 in the end.

The Bengals are clawing their way back into the playoff race. The task will remain difficult this week as they travel to Jacksonville to take on the toughest defense in the league. A win puts them back in the thick of the playoff race while a loss makes their task almost impossible.

20. Green Bay Packers (4-3)

Last week: 21 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

The Packers had a bye week to try and figure how they are going to ride Brett Hundley to some wins. The problem is the defense and the run game. Neither will take enough pressure off of Hundley to win enough games to catch the Vikings or earn a wildcard berth.

The Packers should tank the rest of the season and get a good draft pick to help out Aaron Rodgers. This week they take on the Lions, and there is a good chance they find a way to win.

19. Oakland Raiders (3-5)

Last week: 19 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Miami

In order for the Raiders to make the playoffs, they can only lose one more game the rest of the season. Having more than six losses will eliminate any team contending for the Wild Card.

To get their season on track, they have to travel to Miami to take on a bad Dolphins team. If Oakland losses this game, their season is over. If they win, it will likely be the confidence booster they need to revive their playoff hopes.

18. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)

Last week: 17 (-1)

Next game: Bye

Los Angeles’ three-game win streak came to a halt, but nobody expected it to continue in New England. They did keep it close, losing by just eight points.

Heading into the bye, Los Angeles is 3-5, but are better than their record indicates. They could get hot and make a run for the playoffs, but it is unlikely.

The Chargers must continue to build their defense and tailor the offense around Melvin Gordon. Once they find the replacement to Philip Rivers, the Chargers can truly become contenders.

17. Washington Redskins (3-4)

Last week: 16 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Seattle

Washington was basically in a playoff game against Dallas and lost. They couldn’t stop the run at all as Ezekiel Elliott ran for 150 yards. The Redskins were also unable to run the ball themselves.

Washington doesn’t have a team talented enough to make the playoffs. To even have a chance to win games, they must protect the ball, and the Redskins have a minus turnover ratio. Moving forward, Washington will finish somewhere around six or seven wins.

16. Detroit Lions (3-4)

Last week: 14 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Green Bay

The Lions have stumbled to a 3-4 record. They can’t bring it together at the same time. One week the offense plays amazing. The next week, the defense does.

Matthew Stafford is doing his thing on offense, but the Lions still don’t run the ball well enough consistently. The Lions only average 82.1 rush yards per game. Until they balance their offense, this team will not find success.

15. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)

Last week: 18 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Carolina

The defending NFC Champions struggled against the Jets, but still found a way to win. Offensively, Atlanta is not clicking the way they were last season, and Matt Ryan is struggling. He has only thrown nine touchdowns in seven games.

If the Falcons are to become a contender again he must get this offense rolling. Until then the Super Bowl hangover will continue and the Falcons will be in danger of missing the playoffs.

14. Houston Texans (3-4)

Last week: 11 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis

Houston put up a valiant fight against the Seahawks in Seattle, mostly because Deshaun Watson is a stud who nobody should have passed on.

Watson is giving the Houston fanbase something to look forward to. As he develops, he will have the Texans as Super Bowl contenders for the next ten years.

Right now, they are going to play .500 ball with all the injuries on defense and the lack of an offensive line. This week they should pull back to .500 with the Colts coming to town.

13. Carolina Panthers (5-3)

Last week: 14 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Atlanta

Carolina got back in the win column after a disappointing loss to the Bears. The defense stepped up by shutting out the Buccaneers.

Cam Newton is still struggling this season, and it is causing the up and down season from the Panthers. If Cam can start playing at the level he is capable of, then this team will become extremely dangerous.

This week they have a tough game against their rival Falcons. A win would help the Panthers stay on the heels of New Orleans for first in the NFC South.

12. Tennessee Titans (4-3)

Last week: 13 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Baltimore

Just like Jacksonville, Tennessee jumped up a spot while on a bye due to Houston’s loss. Tennessee is a roller coaster right now. They have had great highs and bigger lows.

Coming off their bye, they have a two-game winning streak and are fortunate enough to face Baltimore next, a team they are better than and should beat.

Tennessee has the ninth-ranked rushing attack, averaging 124.6 yards per game. They must continue running the ball to stack wins and fight for a playoff berth.

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)

2017 NFL power rankings: week 9

(Photo from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPdIb6uKkBI0)

Last week: 12 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Cincinnati

Thanks to a loss by the Texans, Jacksonville jumped up a spot while on a bye. The Jaguars are 4-3 but are still poised for a playoff appearance due to their historically great defense. Jacksonville ranks sixth in total defense (300.3 yards per game), first in pass defense (161.7) and is giving up just 15.7 points per game. The Jaguars have 33 sacks in just seven games and have also forced 16 turnovers this season. If they protect the ball they will continue to win games.

10. Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

Last week: 10 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Kansas City

Dallas’ game against Washington felt like a playoff game. Both teams were 3-3 and trying to keep their season afloat with a win. Dallas won the game 33-19 to keep their season alive.

The Cowboys have won two straight games because they are finally running the ball successfully. In those two games, Dallas has averaged 217 yards per game on the ground. They must keep that up if they want to find themselves in the playoffs.

9. New Orleans Saints (5-2)

Last week: 9 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Tampa Bay

The Saints are on a five-game winning streak and in control of the NFC South. Most predicted it would be the Falcons, while others were split between the Bucs and Panthers. Few expected it to be the Saints.

As usual, the Saints are doing it with their offense behind future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. New Orleans’ 27.3 points per game is sixth in the NFL.

The defense has stepped up lately, allowing just 344.7 yards per game in their last three games. That is why they have won five straight.

8. Seattle Seahawks (5-2)

Last week: 8 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Washington

Seattle was in a shootout against the Houston Texans. Fortunately for them, Russell Wilson threw for a career-high 452 yards and four touchdowns to lead them to a win. The lack of a strong offensive line has yet to hurt the Seahawks. Defensively, Seattle had a bad week, but is still the strength of this team.

They should get another win this week against the Redskins. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will require a path through Seattle if they keep this up.

7. Buffalo Bills (5-2)

Last week: 7 (no change)

Next game: away vs. New York Jets

Buffalo had their most convincing win of the season, beating Oakland 34-14. The Bills are for real and can truly challenge the Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East.

Buffalo, like many of the top teams in the NFL this season, is doing it with defense. Buffalo is tied for second in points allowed with 16.4 points per game.

The Bills don’t need to do much offensively to win games, and that is why the Bills are seeing success.

6. Los Angeles Rams (5-2)

Last week: 6 (no change)

Next game: away vs. New York Giants

The Rams are coming off a bye and are now in second place in both scoring offense and in their division. They have the same record as the Seahawks, but Seattle beat them once this season.

This week, they get to face the Giants, who only have one win this year. Los Angeles is going to run the ball and play solid defense to get another win. If they lose, they could see a significant drop in the rankings.

5. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

Last week: 5 (no change)

Next game: Bye

Early on against the Browns, the Vikings looked lackadaisical. They were also in danger of having the worst loss in the NFL this season. At halftime, they were trailing 13-12, but outscored the Browns 21-3 in the second half to pull out a win and stay atop the NFC North division.

Moving forward, the Vikings will continue to rely on their Super Bowl caliber defense to win games and get into the playoffs.

4. New England Patriots (6-2)

Last week: 4 (no change)

Next game: Bye

The Patriots head into the bye on pace for 12 wins, also known as a typical Patriots season. New England has gotten to six wins by improving their defense.

In the first four games of the season, New England was giving up 32 points per game. In the last four games, the Patriots are only giving up 12.8 points per game.

It may sound like a broken record, but the Patriots will continue to win, continue to be a Super Bowl contender and continue to remain in the top five of everyone’s power rankings.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)

Last week: 3 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Dallas

The current run Alex Smith is on is quite legendary. After half a season, Smith is completing 69.1 percent of his passes with an average of 8.4 yards per attempt, which is a career high. He has also thrown for 2,181 yards 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Yes, you read that correctly. Alex Smith has no interceptions through the first eight games. This offense is clicking on all cylinders and should continue to lead this team to victories.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)

Last week: 2 (no change)

Next game: Bye

Pittsburgh heads into their bye with a big road win to push their record to a stellar 6-2. They are on pace for 12 wins and a possible first-round bye.

The Steelers are led by a defense that is a nightmare for opponents’ passing attacks. Pittsburgh has the second-best pass defense, allowing just 180 yards per game. The offense is finally getting hot as well, scoring 20 points or more in their last two games.

The Steelers will get some rest before facing a very easy second-half schedule. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 26-32.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Denver

Philly continues to roll through the competition. Their latest victim was the San Francisco 49ers, who they beat down 33-10.

The Eagles are firing on all cylinders. The offense is ranked sixth in total yards (371.8), 11th in passing yards (242.5), fifth in rushing yards (129.2) and fourth in points (29).

Defensively, the Eagles rank 14th in total defense (327.1), first in rush defense (70.4) and 10th in points allowed (19.5). They are a balanced team, and the only thing that can beat the Eagles at this point is themselves.

 

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