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+

 

Featured image from espn.com

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the sixth edition, Super Bowl series: AFC South.

Houston Texans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: http://cover32.com)

The Houston Texans have finished 9-7 for three straight years. Last season, it was enough to win the division but the Texans should be striving for better.

Houston has been led by its defense and has been a quarterback away from being one of the best teams in the NFL. That is why they took a shot on Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft. Houston is very close to winning a Super Bowl so explaining how they can win it this season will be relatively simple.

Houston’s defense is nothing short of elite. J.J. Watt only played in three games last season which may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Watt’s injury allowed Jadeveon Clowney to finally show signs of stardom. Clowney made some amazing plays against the Raiders in the playoffs, to the point where it looked like he was taking over the game. With Watt returning, the combination of these two great defenders may push Houston’s defense to legendary status.

The Texans gave up the fewest yards per game last season, allowing teams to just over 300 yards per game. Unfortunately, that didn’t always stop teams from scoring on them. Houston gave up 20.5 points per game last season, which ranked 11th in the NFL. They also struggled closing out halves giving up 7.4 points per second quarter and seven points per fourth quarter.

If the Texans can do a better job at closing out halves, their defense will take the next step. They must also replace nose tackle Vince Wilfork, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Quinton Demps in order to continue being an elite defense. Houston must also do a better job at creating turnovers. They only had 1.1 takeaways per game.

Houston’s offense is the part of the team that needs the most work. The offensive unit ranked at the bottom of most offensive categories including points per game (17.4, ranking 29th), points per game in the first half (7.6, ranking 32nd), yards per game (314.7, ranking 29th), third down conversions (37.3 percent, ranking 22nd) and passing yards (198.5, ranking 29th). The lack of success from the offense resulted in the Texans drafting Watson and trading Brock Osweiler.

If it wasn’t for Houston’s run game, its offense would have been one of the worst of all time. The Texans ran for 116.2 yards per game on the 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller was a bright spot on this offense as he ran for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. He needs to build on this season to help whoever lines up under center. This may be difficult with the loss of right tackle Derek Newton who is out for the season with patellar tendon tears.

If the Texans can go from one of the league’s worst offenses to being one of the top 15, then this defense will be able to carry Houston to a Super Bowl LII victory.

Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Titans finished the season tied with the Texans at 9-7 but lost the division on tiebreakers. Marcus Mariota broke his leg in week 15 and the Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in that contest. Had the Titans won that game, they would have won the division. Mariota is young but the Titans can go as far as he will lead them.

Marcus Mariota is becoming the face of the franchise but part of his success is due to the sustainable running game of the Titans. Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground. They also ran the ball often, averaging 28.5 attempts per game. This effective running game has taken the pressure off of their young quarterback which has given him the opportunity to succeed.

Taking the next step means giving Mariota receivers that will allow him to improve on the Titans 25th-ranked passing attack. Tennessee drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to be that help. The Titans’ coaching staff must now open the playbook and allow Mariota to take charge of the offense.

He has shown to be a great decision maker already in his career. Mariota converted at the third-best rate in the NFL on third down last year. He also has helped the Titans to a 72 percent conversion rate in red zone scoring while never throwing a red zone interception in his career.

Aside from continuing to dominate the run game and opening up the passing attack for Mariota, Tennessee needs to do a much better job of scoring in the second half. The Titans ranked 23rd in second half scoring, averaging 9.7 points. Shoring up these loose ends will turn the Titans’ offense into a playoff-caliber offense.

Defensively, the Titans are much closer to Super Bowl caliber. Tennesse only gave up 23.6 points per game which may seem impressive considering its defense got off to such slow starts. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed. Getting off to quicker starts will bring that 23.6 point total down and result in more wins.

Tennessee had a horrible secondary last season. Their pass defense was the third-worst in the NFL. The Titans addressed this problem in the offseason. They let go of Jason McCourty but drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The combination of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their second-ranked rush defense.

If the Titans allow Mariota to sling the rock more then the offense can become more balanced. Defensively, the Titans secondary must give up less than 250 yards a game through the air. Simply doing these two things, in addition to what the Titans already do well, will push Tennessee from fringe playoff team to Super Bowl contender.

Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

The story of the Colts’ failures are well documented. Their defense is pathetic and they are contributing to wasting away Andrew Luck’s career. Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years. In order for the Colts to really have a shot at winning Super Bowl LII, they need this defense to become much better.

The Colts have finally begun to realize they need to address the defense. In the draft, the Colts selected safety Malik Hooker who many believe is the next Ed Reed and cornerback Quincy Wilson.

During free agency, the Colts signed numerous defenders that will fit in with the new 3-4 scheme. These players include defensive ends Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard and John Simon along with linebackers Sean Spence and Jon Bostic.

This complete change in scheme and personnel is what is supposed to cure a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. Indianapolis’ defense didn’t have a strength. They ranked 27th against the pass (269.2 yards per game) and 25th against the run (120.4 yards per game) for a total of 382.9 yards allowed per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts are led by a great quarterback. Andrew Luck has put up impressive numbers so far, with 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions but needs more balance. Indianapolis only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for an average of 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore did rush for over 1,000 yards last season but he is 34 years old. The Colts drafted running back Marlon Mack as a possible spell or replacement for Gore.

Even with their unbalanced offense, the Colts managed to put up 25.7 points per game last season, good for eighth best in the league. Adding a rushing attack will only improve the offense, thus the team’s chances at a Lombardi Trophy. If the defense comes around to being a top 15 defense, you can guarantee that Andrew Luck will win Super Bowl LII.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been so bad that they have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. Jacksonville is far from competing for a Super Bowl, or so it seems. It is going to be difficult for the Jaguars to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl, but it is possible.

Jacksonville has a very good and underrated defense. Although they gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7. The Jaguars offense put them in bad situations often as displayed in Jacksonville’s amount of giveaways per game.

Jacksonville had 1.8 turnovers per game, tied for 26th in the NFL. Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air.

Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air. They lost defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara but signed A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both of which are upgrades over their counterpart.

To improve this defense even more, the Jags signed defensive end Calais Campbell. The Jacksonville defense will be elite and as long as their offense doesn’t make crucial mistakes, they can lead this team to the playoffs.

Getting to the playoffs is one thing, but getting to the Super Bowl is an entirely different beast. Jacksonville is going to need a complete resurgence from its offense. They signed tackle Brandon Albert and drafted tackle Cam Robinson to bolster their offensive line. If this unit plays well, they can open up running lanes for one of the most dynamic running backs to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.

Leonard Fournette, the man to be the best running back since Adrian Peterson, will be asked to be a workhorse and improve the 22nd-ranked rushing game. Jacksonville must also run the ball more than 37 percent of the time if Fournette is going to become a threat on the offense.

Generating a solid running game will help in a multitude of areas for Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked 28th in third down conversion percentage at 35.3 percent. Shortening the chains will go a long way in fixing this problem. Converting more on third down can lead to more points as well.

Jacksonville scored 19.9 points per game last season. By now you can see the pattern starting to form. Running the ball leads to shorter third downs, which leads to more points, which all leads to taking the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance but the entire weight of the offense is too much for him. If Leonard Fournette can make an immediate impact, then this offense can become really good.

Being better on defense and offense simply aren’t enough. Jacksonville must become more disciplined as well. The Jaguars gave up 8.1 penalties per game for an average of 74.2 yards per game. Both ranked 31st in the NFL. Improving on this is a must if the Jaguars want to start drafting outside of the top five.

Defending home field is also vital in acquiring success in the NFL. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better home field advantage.

If Jacksonville can put all these things together, then it is possible for them to win Super Bowl LII. The odds of that happening though are the about as equivalent of the Patriots going 0-16.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC South. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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