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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Jimmy Garoppolo trade

The Jimmy Garoppolo trade

The Patriots sent away the man who has sat behind Tom Brady for three seasons to the San Fransisco 49ers for a 2018 second-round pick. Garoppolo has not entered a game this season, but won both of his starts last season with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Why They Did It

Garoppolo is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season. It was reported that he said he wants to play and would not be re-signing with the Patriots unless they start him.

Even if Garoppolo wanted to stay, it would be hard to justify paying the backup quarterback more than the starter. Brady has taken many pay cuts so the Pats can spend their money elsewhere while the young Jimmy Garoppolo wants to get paid.

Entering his fourth season, Garoppolo wants to prove himself as an everyday starter in the NFL. If he waits as a backup for too long, he may never get to prove himself.

Looking Ahead

Jimmy Garoppolo trade

(Photo from ESPN)

The San Francisco 49ers are currently 0-8 and have one of the worst defenses and offenses in the entire league. The team has shown potential at times with five out of eight games ending by one possession.

The 49ers are coming up against the Cardinals, and I would be surprised if they threw Garoppolo into the fray right off the bat. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he can’t even promise that Garoppolo will play at all this season.

If the 49ers go the entire season without letting Garoppolo get in, then this would be a crazy move by them. Garoppolo has only played in a handful of games, so you would think they want to see how he plays before offering him a huge contract.

If the 49ers don’t play Garoppolo this season, they will ride it out with C.J. Beathard, a rookie from Iowa. This will most likely result in getting the worst record in the league and the No. 1 pick.

My Take

If the 49ers end up sitting Garoppolo the rest of the season then they made a huge mistake. Garoppolo just wants to compete. Even if it is for one of the worst teams in the league, you need to give him the keys to the car.

What kind of message would that send to him if he sits the rest of the year, and the team goes without a win? Does he want to be part of the rebuild, or would he want to re-sign elsewhere?

The 49ers might be wanting this No. 1 pick. With the season already lost, is there any point in playing Garoppolo and winning a few meaningless games?

Jimmy Garoppolo trade

(Photo by The Mercury News)

This is why I think they may have pulled the trigger a little too late. If you’re going to make this happen, you need to get him earlier in the season to give him the time to get acclimated with the offense.

This also could be because they don’t want to risk injuring him with this horrible offensive line they have, which may be something they address in the draft.

I think no matter what happens that Garoppolo will re-sign with the 49ers because he saw what they gave up for him in a contract year. It shows that the organization has faith in him, and that goes a long way.

With so many rumors and theories circulating right now, only Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers front office know what will happen. My money is on that he will play at least a few games this season. They will win a game or two, which give the Browns the first pick in the draft.

With all that said, I wish the best for Jimmy and hope he can bring back the 49ers from the dead. The league is much better when the 49ers are competing at a high level.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft V. 3.0 (Post-Lottery)

The lottery has finally passed and the draft order is now officially set. As the Finals approach, so does the draft season. All but the final four teams are focused solely on the draft, which means The Game Haus is too.

This mock draft will take a look at where players may go in late June. Also, if you loved Draftmas for the NFL draft, be on the lookout for the hardwood version of Draftmas coming soon here at The Game Haus.

For now, here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft, version three.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Boston is in great position after winning the lottery. It is also obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college, but I.T. is a proven commodity. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything yet in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for another scoring superstar. The pick here seems to clearly be Fultz, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

LaVar Ball and the rest of his family got exactly what they hoped for in the lottery. The Lakers came away with the second overall pick. LaVar has made it clear that he wants his son to be the next Laker great. He has even said that his son, Lonzo, will not work out for the Celtics. Lonzo is from L.A., and not only is it his dream, but he believes it’s his destiny, to rock purple and gold.

There are also rumors swirling that teams are putting together trade packages in hopes of acquiring D’Angelo Russell, who may be on his way to bigger things. You can read about how well he has actually progressed as a player here.

LaVar may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a consensus top-three prospect. Ball is a great playmaker and passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better and that will translate into the NBA.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. The Lakers have a difficult decision ahead of them, but pairing Ball with Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle could lead to more parades in Hollywood.

3: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

4: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the West in two to three years.

Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

5: Sacramento Kings: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become a nice addition to the team in Sacramento.

6: Orlando Magic: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for five straight years in a very weak Eastern Conference. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but they need more talent outside of Aaron Gordon. At this point, the best thing the Magic can do is pick the best available player, which in this position would be De’Aaron Fox.

Fox doesn’t get the hype that Fultz or Ball get, but is definitely going to be a force in the NBA. Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right-handed players. He is also extremely quick, and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game.

7: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside.

Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

8: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith JR PG N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock draft

(Photo Credit: WILLIAM HOWARD/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

The Zen Master needs to make the most out of this pick to win back the love of the Knicks’ fan base, and Dennis Smith could bring that love to the Big Apple.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile, left-handed player who can score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could easily relate to Dirk. He could really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): JONATHAN ISaAC PF FLORIDA STATE

Jonathan Isaac would be a great fit with this team. Isaac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Isaac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potentials, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

11.CHARLOTTE HORNETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, loves him some Tar Heels. Justin Jackson would be a terrific fit in Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has never lived up to the hype of a second overall pick. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Hornets back into the playoffs.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished. Charlotte would improve by drafting Jackson.

12: DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: Zach Collins F Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a real good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: MIAMI HEAT: T.J. LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

T.J. Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

18: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit:http://www.draftexpress.com)

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

19: ATLANTA HAWKS: IVAN RABB C CALIFORNIA

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future, and Ivan Rabb is the future at center.

He has lots of potential to grow offensively. Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own.

Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs. Filling the small forward spot is of utter importance to the Thunder.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs a lot of help, even though they played better late in the year.

Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA. Every team needs that type of player, and the Nets can’t get a franchise-changing player in the early 20s. They will have to settle for finding solid role players until they can get a franchise changing player.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

If Kyle Lowry is truly leaving, then Toronto is going to need a point guard. At this point in the draft, there aren’t any point guards capable of starting.

The Raptors may have to let Cory Joseph be the guy and draft a wing player here. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player, allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.

Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner, and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. If they put together a backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Josh Hart, the Magic could make the playoffs as early as next season.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA off the bench. Anything more than being a role player would be a huge win for the Blazers.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL PF OREGON

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Jarrett Allen C Texas

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been average at best since signing with the Spurs. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can play as Robin to Leonard. Jarrett Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team. The Jazz continue to build depth at hopes of a deeper postseason run.

 

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Tony Romo

For Some Teams, Not Signing Romo is a Bigger Risk Than Doing So

Despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones not sounding fully ready to move on, reports emerged earlier this week that quarterback Tony Romo will be released. Assuming these reports are true, the market for the often injured 36-year-old quarterback is not being viewed correctly. For three teams in particular, he would not be a risk, but rather a lifeline.

Before we get there, let’s trim the field a little bit. By his own admission, Romo only has two or three years left. Thus, being part of a total rebuild in Cleveland or San Francisco is out of the question. Carson Palmer is coming back in 2017 for another season with the Cardinals. The Broncos continue to articulate their commitment to Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

The Jets and Bills are hoarding young quarterbacks in the hopes that one might stick. Adding a veteran like Romo just does not seem to be on their radar, but perhaps it should be.

All these teams seem poised to either stand pat, add a quarterback through the draft, or look for a longer-term solution in free agency. If he is released and not traded, the teams that should be beating down Romo’s door are as follows.

Bears: Chicago is not as far away as last year’s 3-13 record suggests. They lost six games by one possession. Despite not being highly thought of by fans, John Fox is actually a heck of a coach. He got to a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and won a division title with Tim Tebow.

Jay Cutler John Fox

Photo: twitimes.com

The organization seems poised to move on from the temperamental enigma that is Jay Cutler. Romo is the kind of upgrade Fox needs to improve upon his 9-23 mark with the Bears and keep his job beyond this year.

 

Pair Romo with emerging running back Jordan Howard and an improving defense that ranked seventh against the pass last year, and the playoffs are not a stretch. Romo has roots in Illinois. The same can be said of Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be a fallback option for the Bears. Regardless, Chicago will likely add a quarterback at some point in the draft as well.

Texans: These next two teams would be tricky from a financial perspective, but I am not an accountant. It took winning a playoff game with Brock Osweiler for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to receive confirmation from ownership that he would return in 2017.

O’Brien is a fine coach who had nothing to do with the ridiculous $72 million contract Osweiler was given. Rest assured though, O’Brien will take the fall if quarterback play continues to hold the rest of this championship caliber roster back. A completion percentage under 60 and more interceptions than touchdowns should be enough to give up on Osweiler after one year, despite his contract.

Romo would bring quarterback stability to Houston, something the franchise has never had. If he gets hurt, the Texans would be right back where they are now. However, at least he would offer a potential off-ramp from the path to nowhere they are on with their current quarterback options.

Vikings: I am on an island here, but Minnesota is loaded. With guys like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes on defense, the Vikings are a notch below the 2015 Broncos. The defense cannot win a title by itself, but a slightly more balanced Vikings team would be lethal.

After his devastating training camp injury last year, questions continue to linger about Teddy Bridgewater’s future. Mike Zimmer seems strangely stubborn about sticking with Sam Bradford. Granted, the Vikings did give up a lot to bring him in. As good as his record completion percentage and four to one touchdown to interception ratio made him look last year, there is one very important thing Bradford has never done all that well: win games.

sam bradford

Photo: foxnews.com

In 78 career starts for three different franchises, Bradford has posted a winning percentage of 41 percent and has never lead a team to the playoffs. In the words of a very wise Canadian songstress, “that don’t impress me much.” Yes, football is the ultimate team sport. However, the blame has to start going on the quarterback and not the supporting cast.

After fading down the stretch behind Bradford last year and putting up only nine points in a home playoff loss with Bidgewater the year before, Zimmer needs to start winning big quick or whispers will start about his job security. With the talent on this roster, a healthy Romo makes the Vikings instant Super Bowl contenders. Sticking with Bradford makes Zimmer being unemployed within two years a virtual certainty.

Understandably, there is real skepticism about Romo’s ability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has not done so since 2014. Even so, for these three coaching staffs under varying degrees of pressure to win now, his career winning percentage (61 percent) makes him a chance worth taking. In fact, recycling average veteran or unseasoned young quarterbacks that will get them nowhere is a much bigger risk.

 

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Love Them or Hate Them, the Patriots Continue to Amaze

 

Before we start looking ahead to the second full Slate of NFL football, I want to take a look back at the one performance of opening weekend that really stood out to me. That was the Patriots going into Arizona and knocking off the Cardinals.

 

It was not just the fact that New England was able to get the win with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback instead of Tom Brady. When you dig deeper it is truly amazing. New England was also without the best tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski, starting running back Dion Lewis and two starting offensive linemen. For most teams, a partial injury report like that is a death sentence for any given week. However, the Patriots used the power run game, led by Legarrette Blount, and lots of short passes to their shifty wide receivers, like Julian Edelman, to hide their obvious offensive deficiencies. Despite the final score being close, they never trailed and were in control throughout. Bill Belichick and entire offensive staff seemed to be well aware that they were vulnerable to any kind of pass rush on Sunday night. Thus, Garoppolo’s average release time was a shade over .3 seconds. No pass rush on planet Earth can to a quarterback that quickly. This is partially good coaching and knowing your personnel, but Garoppolo also deserves credit for being able to execute the release so quickly.

photo from sports-news.com

photo from sports-news.com

 

The most incredible thing about New England’s performance Sunday night was the quality of the opponent. Arizona had the top offense in football last year and fell a game short of appearing in the Super Bowl. Also, many people are very high on the Cardinals again this year, myself included. Yet the Patriots were able to go into their building with an offensive starting lineup that looked like it belonged in the preseason and knock them off.

 

No matter how well Garoppolo plays, Brady’s job will be waiting for him when he returns in week five. Thus, his long term future in New England is cloudy. In the short term though, they continue to win regardless of who their opponent is or who is available on their own team.

photo from sportingnews.com

photo from sportingnews.com

I have never been a huge fan of the Brady/Belichick debate as far as who deserves more credit for New England’s unprecedented success. They are both great and each makes the other better. I do not know or care who is greater. However, I do know this. Belichick has posted 14 straight seasons of 10 or more wins. That is the most incredible sports statistic I have ever heard. Additionally, there has never been a more shining example of his brilliance than this past Sunday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 1 NFL Picks Against the Spread

We are just hours away from the start of a brand-new NFL season. Each week, I will publish my picks against the spread for every game. The point spreads I will use are from rtsports.com. The minus sign denotes who is favored and by how much. My picks are in bold. Underdogs I like to pull upsets out right and win the game will have an asterisk next to them. Any changes I make between time of publishing and game time will be published on my social media accounts, and likely those of The Game Haus. The first week is always very difficult pick games in, but here it goes.

Panthers (-3) at Broncos *- In the interest of full disclosure, it is very difficult for me to pick against the Broncos. It will happen, but not here. I expect Denver to come out firing in defense of their Super Bowl title. Carolina’s front seven is essentially the same as last year. Denver had success in the Super Bowl by going right at them, expect nothing different from C.J. Anderson and company in this game. Even with a few faces from last year gone, the Broncos defense will be incredibly difficult for every opponent to deal with.

Cam Newton may have difficulty getting over the mental hurdle that the Super Bowl drubbing undoubtedly created. New Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian has a very simple role for now. Get the ball to the playmakers around you and do not make the big mistake. I expect a very physical football game between two fairly evenly matched teams. When in doubt, take the home team. Den 20 Car 17

Bills at Ravens (-3) – In my view, no team had a better off-season than the Ravens. Everyone is healthy and they added a couple really nice pieces in free agency without breaking the bank. In contrast, the Bills but did little to improve their roster. They were the definition of average last year. Granted, dual threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor was surprisingly effective and will keep them in most games this year. Their lack of defense and pass rush is astounding for a Rex Ryan coached football team. His brilliant defensive mind is not enough, the players have to be there, and right now they just aren’t. Bal 31 Buf 24

Bears * at Texans (-6) – This is a game I am anxious to see. I am the only one on planet Earth who thinks the Bears are going to be good this year. I really like that offense and John Fox will really start to make that defense better in year two.

I am also in the minority that thinks Houston will take a major step back this year. Lamar Miller has never been the bell cow running back in his career. Why the Texans think he is going to succeed in that role now is a mystery to me. Also, remember one thing about their new quarterback Brock Osweiler. If he was anything special, John Elway would have never let him leave Denver. Two of my biggest off season predictions are on display in this one for better or worse. Chi 24 Hou 21

Bengals (-2) at Jets- This game is one of the toughest to call in the opening week. These teams are built very similarly. Solid quarterbacks, preview the skill position players, and well above average defenses. I think Ryan Fitzpatrick played well above his capabilities last year. Sometimes that happens. I just like the Bengals a little bit more on both sides of the ball. However, they will miss tight end Tyler Eifert dearly as he recovers from injury. Cin 23 Nyj 17

Browns* at Eagles (-4) – This line is baffling to me. In fairness, that probably means Vegas is right and I am wrong. How the Eagles can be favored over anyone is a mystery to me, even if it is the Browns. I just cannot pick a team that is starting a rookie quarterback that prior to Philadelphia’s organizational 180 earlier this week was not going to see the field at all this year. Cle 27 Phi 20

Packers (-4.5) at Jaguars – Jacksonville is really coming on strong led by young quarterback Blake Bortles and a slew of other young talent on offense. This is a tall order for the first week though. I have to go with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers here. I know what I’m getting from them. Jacksonville looks pretty good on paper, but I have to see them before putting any faith in that franchise. GB 31 Jac 20

Vikings (-2) at *Titans- Here is another line that boggles my mind. The Vikings are trying to give quarterback Sam Bradford a crash course in their offense so he can start this game. He was just acquired via trade a few days ago. Tennessee is a really nice job adding talent to the offense in support of second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason. I say they start on a winning note. It will be a long year for the Vikings, as I thought they were a six win team with Teddy Bridgewater. Without him, they could be picking first in the 2017 draft. Ten 21 Min 10

Raiders at Saints (-1) – Much like Jacksonville, the Raiders are a trendy pick to surprise this year. Taking on Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans is an interesting first test. I will take Brees to outduel youngster Derek Carr in an entertaining shootout. Nor 38 Oak 35

Chargers at Chiefs (-7) – It is tough not to go with the underdog getting this many points in a rivalry game, but Kansas City is pretty good and very well coached. Andy Reid is money when given more than a few days to prepare. The season opener is one of few instances where he has that. San Diego is lacking direction and does not have much outside of Philip Rivers. KC 24 SD 13

Bucs * at Falcons (-3) – The Falcons are basically the same team as they were last year. They were wildly inconsistent. Tampa got better and better under quarterback James Winston. Expect both trends to continue in 2016. TB 31 Atl 28

Dolphins at Seahawks (-10.5) – What a tough draw new head coach Adam Gase and the Dolphins in the opener. Seattle is the vastly superior team and Miami is traveling across country. This will get ugly. Sea 24 Mia 6

photo from csnne.com

photo from csnne.com

Lions at Colts (-3) – Both teams were tough to figure out last year. With Andrew Luck healthy and the Lions ability to replace the now retired Calvin Johnson unknown, Indy is the safe bet here. Ind 23 Det 16

Giants at Cowboys (PK) – Dak Prescott looked great in the preseason, which we are no longer in. However, there is enough talent around him for the Cowboys to stay in it while Romo recovers. The Giants burned me so many times last year by losing late leads. They did not change much on defense. Thus, I expect more of the same this year. In pick ‘em games, always take the home team. Dal 28 Nyg 27

Patriots at Cardinals (-6) – I almost went with the outright upset here. As good as Arizona is, Bill Belichick has had pretty much all off season to figure out how to be competitive with Jimmy Garoppolo for four games. He has something up his sleeve. This will be a tight game and the only one the Pats lose without Tom Brady. Ari 24 NE 23

photo from blog.mecurynews.com

photo from blog.mecurynews.com

MNF- Steelers* at Redskins (-3) – I do not buy either of these teams this year. However, no one would argue Big Ben is the better quarterback here. If the better quarterback is getting points in a game between two fairly evenly matched teams, I will take it almost every single time. Pit 28 Was 21

MNF- Rams (-2.5) at 49ers*- As insane as Chip Kelly is, he tends to make offenses better, at least in the short term. Blaine Gabbert was serviceable when given the starting quarterback job during the season last year. Kelly will build on that. The Rams defense is solid, but unless they can duplicate Todd Gurley 10 more times, the offense will be a tough watch. Look for the 49ers to score just enough to pull the small upset. SF 14 LA 10.

Enjoy the football smorgasbord everyone! I know I will. I will keep track of my record throughout the season.

 

Year of the Bill?

Usually, the AFC East is won by the New England Patriots every year Tom Brady starts the season opener, but that will not happen this year. Tom Brady’s four-game suspension appeal was not upheld. He will miss the first four games of the season. The backup Quarterback for the Patriots is 24 year old Jimmy Garoppolo. And on the other side of the division, the NFL will not punish Buffalo Bills’ running back LeSean McCoy for his involvement in a brawl from February.

So who will take the AFC East crown? I think that this could be the best chance for the Bills to take the crown away from the Patriots.

John Bazemore/AP

John Bazemore/AP

The Buffalo Bills had a very good draft. They added former Clemson DE Shaq Lawson and former Alabama LB Reggie Ragland to an already stalwart defense coached by two of the greatest defensive minds in the NFL, Rex and Rob Ryan.

Another thing is their defense will be one of the tops in the league this year. Most Rex Ryan defenses are always great so a defense with his brother should be even better. And on the offense side, the Bills have one of the great backfields. They will return starting Pro Bowl QB Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy. Taylor has some great receivers to throw to this year. He will have a cast of receivers like, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Also I think rookie Kolby Listenbee will do a lot for the Bills in his first year.

The Bills themselves have a pretty favorable schedule. Outside of their divisional play the Bills will play four really hard teams: at the Seattle Seahawks, home to the Arizona Cardinals, at the Cincinnati Bengals, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think that the Buffalo Bills could definitely win two of those game. Most likely the Bengals and home to the Arizona Cardinals. The Bills will even have a bye week before they play the Arizona Cardinals, giving the Ryan Brothers time to think of a plan to stop Carson Palmer and the Cardinals defense.

Courtesy of CSNNE.com

Courtesy of CSNNE.com

Ultimately, I think that this is the only chance any team in the AFC East has to finally overthrow the Patriots. That is, until Brady retires. And I think the Bills have the best chance to do so. In the Patriots first four games, they will have to play at the Arizona Cardinals, and will be home to the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans, and the Buffalo Bills.

The other teams in the division all have some kind of trouble coming into this season. The Dolphins still have Ryan Tannehill, so they are limited in how far they can go. Tannehill is a good young quarterback, but I just don’t think he has that killer instance. The New York Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick have not come to agreement on a contract yet and it’s the middle of July. This maybe the first time ever that a Rex Ryan team is the most stable team in a division.

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