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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Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Trevor Siemian’s fantasy impact on the Broncos skilled players

On Monday August 21, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph named Trevor Siemian the starting quarterback for the regular season over Paxton Lynch.

What to expect from Siemian

When Siemian took over in 2016 after the retirement of Peyton Manning, he completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,410 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and ran for 57 yards in 14 starts. He did miss time and had surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder in January. Siemian only had four games with at least 20 Fantasy points. Needless to say he won’t entice fantasy players to pick him in only one QB starting leagues.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Trevor Siemian (Photo by: chicagotribune.com)

But Siemian won this job with great reason. He’s more experienced. Siemian looked sharp through two preseason games, completing 14 of 18 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. And this is a new year for the Broncos with a new head coach in Joseph and a new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who was the OC in Denver from 2009 to 2012. He helped the Broncos offense rank second in total offense in 2012. His passing offense ranked in the top-10 twice in that span. During his time as head coach for the San Diego, now Los Angeles Chargers, his passing offense ranked no worse then 12th. Granted most of the time they had to throw the ball coming from behind and he also had Philip Rivers. But this could benefit Siemian with the coaching changes.

Granted Siemian isn’t Manning or Rivers, but he proved last season he can move the offense when given protection. He doesn’t have a cannon, but he can make all the throws, get through his progression, and isn’t afraid to test defensive backs down the seam. But is this enough to trust him to help the other skill players in Denver?

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders

The Broncos passed for an average of 230.3 yards per game last season, tying them for the 11th least passing yards per game in the league. While this news isn’t the greatest for the whole offense, it’s “good” news for both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders (Photo by: numberfire.com)

First with Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had 90 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns on 145 targets in 2016.  Thomas only had seven games with double digit fantasy points. He had career lows in receptions and yards per game at 5.6 receptions and 67 yards since becoming a full time starter in Denver.

Emmanuel Sanders had 73 passes for 1,032 yards and five touchdowns. on 139 targets. While these numbers are average, they weren’t standouts like they were in 2014. He only had four games with double digits. Sanders had eight games where he had less then five points.  Sanders also had his lowest stats, receptions and yards per game, at 4.9 receptions and 64.5 yards.

It isn’t like Thomas and Sanders are inconsistent. Thomas is working on five years in a row of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. Sanders went to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and had his third season in a row with at least 75 catches, 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. The main reason for the decline has been due to bad quarterback play. Now granted not all of it was bad quarterback play. Thomas dealt with a hip injury all season and the Broncos had a very inconsistent running game. Plus this was Siemian’s first year as a starter so it was expected they might struggle.

While this may all still to be true from a fantasy standpoint, there is reason for hope. Denver doesn’t really have any other viable receiving threats. These two could see an a rise in production as they develop more chemistry with Siemian.

The running backs

The 2016 Denver Broncos running game still proved to be irrelevant. C.J. Anderson struggled, only playing in seven games before an injury. He was off to a good start. Anderson had four games with at least 10 Fantasy points in a standard league in the seven games he was healthy, with five total touchdowns and three outings with at least 90 total yards. He will enter 2017 as the no.1 back and there’s good opportunity for him. Devontae Booker is on the shelf due to a wrist injury. Anderson was likely going to split carrries but now he can solidify his job. He could actually get more of a workload especially with the QB situation. But don’t expect a boost in Anderson’s rankings with the news of Siemian as the starter. Anderson is still a RB2 or a high flex option. The main thing to keep in mind is Anderson’s health.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

CJ Anderson, Devonetae Booker, Jamaal Charles and Terrell Davis (Photo by: denverpost.com)

As for Jamaal Charles, his role is likely to work in a part-time role behind Anderson. He will enter behind him with Booker’s injury. He will get his touches and could get extended reps if Anderson has another injury. Charles will be a guy to look at on third downs for Siemian to dump the ball to.

Conclusion

Overall, Siemian’ only worth a late-round pick in two-quarterback leagues this year. But for the skilled players it helps their rankings a little bit having Siemian as the starter. While most fantasy players know this, Siemian, out of all the quarterback battles, has the best players and coaches around him. He could have a surprising season with these weapons. However, with new coaches and a new offense, I still think Siemian will have his tough outings. Don’t over reach for the skill players in Denver as inconsistent QB play is still in the air.

 

Featured image from denverbroncos.com.

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Houston Texans

Predicting the 2017 NFL quarterback battles

If you do not have a quarterback, you don’t have anything in the NFL. Like any other year, quarterback battles are sprinkled throughout training camps. Here is a look at the top battles to keep an eye on during the preseason.

Houston Texans

The players: Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson

Context: These first two situations are different from most quarterback battles. Whoever wins them will be inheriting a team that has realistic aspirations of playing meaningful games when the weather gets cold.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: Houston Chronicle

Houston’s top-ranked defense carried them to the playoffs last year, but quarterback play was perhaps the only real weakness all year long. Brock Osweiler was the main source of that and is now in Cleveland.

Tom Savage was pretty ordinary in spot duty last year. In three games played, he completed just 46 of 73 passes while not throwing a touchdown. He was forced back to the bench for the playoffs due to injury.

Meanwhile, Watson comes in with all the hype and the glitzy college numbers. The first-round pick led Clemson to consecutive national title games and was named the MVP of last year’s comeback win over Alabama.

While back to back seasons of double digit interceptions scare me, the winning is hard to ignore. Throw in his mobility and the recent success we have seen by other NFL rookie quarterbacks, and his upside becomes very intriguing. The roster in Houston is loaded with talent. Thus, Watson presents the highest risk, but also the highest reward and may be able to take this team to the next level.

Winner: Watson

Denver Broncos

The players: Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch

Context: Even though the players themselves are saying as much, the notion that the Broncos had some kind of massive Super Bowl hangover last year is simply not accurate. They went 9-7, meaning a couple different bounces of the ball would have resulted in at least a return to the playoffs.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: denverpoast.com

Surprise starter Trevor Siemian was by no means a disappointment in 2016. Throwing for 3,400 yards and eight more touchdowns than interceptions is nothing to sneeze at. Siemian also dealt with a shoulder injury for most of the year that required offseason surgery.

Despite winning one, Lynch was pretty bad as he started two games for an injured Siemian. He posted just 327 combined passing yards and struggled to complete half his throws. His numbers are somewhat skewed due to playing well in garbage time.

Lynch was drafted in the first round to be the franchise quarterback, but it is no secret that he was a project coming out of Memphis where he simply let it fly and never lined up under center.

Quite frankly, the project is probably coming along slower than the Broncos would like. Even so, whoever wins the job will have the benefit of playing behind a revamped offensive line, two top-notch wide receivers, a crowded but talented backfield and a defense that remains one of the best in football.

New head coach Vance Joseph has spoken very highly of Lynch this offseason, but Siemian has done nothing to lose the job. Until that happens, he is the present, even if Lynch or late-round draft pick Chad Kelly end up being the future.

Winner: Siemian

New York Jets

The players: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg

Context: The Jets seemingly endless search for a franchise quarterback rolls on. McCown is what he is. That is a 38-year-old journeyman who has never been healthy (or good) enough to start for an entire 16-game season. He was clearly brought in to be a one-year bridge to one of the younger guys.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: nydailynews.com

A brief late-season glimpse of Bryce Petty last year was nothing to write home about. Hackenberg is where all the intrigue lies here. The former Penn State star did not see the field in his rookie year. However, he is the only guy on the current roster who could be the future at quarterback.

No matter how little offensive talent they have around him, the Jets have to explore that possibility.

Winner: Hackenberg

Cleveland Browns

The players: Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer

Context: Hue Jackson and company have done an outstanding job adding talent to a roster that won just a single game last year. Additions like Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler and Myles Garrett, among others have set the table for vast improvement in 2017.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: cleveland.com

Quarterback remains a major question mark though. Cody Kessler went winless in eight starts last year. DeShone Kizer was given the project label coming out of Notre Dame. The Browns say he is ahead of schedule, but it would be a surprise for him to start a game this year. Even so, his long-term upside has some folks salivating.

Despite posting a winning record as a starter in Houston, Brock Osweiler struggled in a big way after signing the big contract last year, completing just 59 percent of his throws and accounting for more turnovers than touchdowns.

Osweiler was just a bad fit from the start in Houston. He spent most of his time in the shotgun, which was not a strong point when he held down the fort quite well for the 2015 Broncos.

It has never been a work of art, but there is something to be said for going 13-8 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Supporting casts are not created equal, but no other quarterback in this competition has ever won an NFL game. If Osweiler has anything to give, Jackson is the kind of offensive mind that will get it out of him.

Winner: Osweiler

Chicago and San Francisco

Two other shaky quarterback situations reside in Chicago and San Francisco. However, those organizations continue to articulate their commitment to Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer respectively. As much as we all like to speculate this time of year, a quarterback competition can only exist if management says there is one.

 

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The Underwhelming Crop of New NFL Head Coaches

With it all but confirmed that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be taking over as head coach of the 49ers when Atlanta’s season ends, all six of the NFL’s head-coaching vacancies are now filled. Some are stepping into better situation than others, but I find all but one of the head-coaching hires underwhelming. Quite frankly, that is putting it mildly. Here is a look at each:

Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Of all the hires, this is the one that has a chance to work long-term. Marrone is an experienced coach at both the college and pro levels. He did a very respectable job for two seasons as the head coach of the Bills in 2013 and 2014 before a mutual parting of ways. In 2014, he guided the Bills to just their second winning season since 1999. EJ Manuel was his quarterback for most of his time in Buffalo. Not many coaches could get nine wins with EJ Manuel as their quarterback. He has barely seen the field since Marrone left. Marrone also turned Syracuse football into a competitive program during his time there ending a bowl game victory drought of nearly a decade

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville.com

The hiring of two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin as an executive to oversee all aspects of the Jaguars organization is the biggest thing working in Marrone’s favor. Coughlin knows what it takes to win and will bring instant credibility and discipline to Jacksonville. These have been lacking ever since Coughlin left as head coach following the 2002 season. The Jaguars roster is not terrible at the moment and will have chances to improve through the draft and free agency. Whatever they have to work with, Coughlin and Marrone will get the most out of it. They both have done that for their entire careers in football.

 

Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)

While McDermott’s stints as defensive coordinator in Carolina and Philadelphia were largely positive, his Panthers defense took a major step backward last year. They fell out of the top 20 in almost every statistical category after being one of the most dominant units in the league for the better part of two years. Some will point to the loss of Josh Norman. While it certainly did not help, I do not think it explains the entirety of Carolina defensive decline. No one player should mean that much to defense. If he does, there is something wrong with the system.

 

Combine this with the traditionally dysfunctional Bills front office and fairly new ownership that seems to think the roster is better than it actually is, and I see no way for McDermott to lead this team beyond .500, which is almost exactly the same record Rex Ryan had during his just under two years in Buffalo.

 

Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)

 

 

Here is your classic case of too much too soon. Unlike most of the new hires, the unit McVay coordinated last year was quite good. The Redskins offense had the fewest three and outs in football last year. Even so, he is the youngest coach in league history. Moreover, he is inheriting a mess. Other than the defensive line, there is almost nothing here to work with. Additionally, this is another franchise struggling to find its relocation groove. That only makes McVay’s job more difficult. There are a lot of 60-year-old coaches who could not handle this job.

Photo Courtesy of nbclosangeles.com

 

While the Rams have done a great job surrounding McVay with quality assistant coaches, unless he can walk on water, it will be an extremely difficult task for him to get this franchise turned around. The one thing working in his favor is that the Rams gave Jeff Fisher plenty of time to get things going in the right direction. It did not work out, but McVay will need that same luxury to build a winner.

 

Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)

This is the real stunner to me. Lynn spent most of last year as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. While the Bills were the top rushing team in the league, it is impossible to be a legitimate contender in the modern NFL averaging under 200 yards passing a game like Buffalo did. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, you have to find a way to get more from your passing game than that. It certainly does not merit being hired as head coach.

 

Buffalo wanted to get an early look at Lynn. Thus, he was named interim head coach replacing Rex Ryan for the season finale. Not only were the bills routed by the Jets, but they were on the wrong end of a football folly for the ages. Watch it below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel. I have no words just watch.

 

After allowing a play like that to happen on his watch, under no circumstances would I hire Lynn as the head coach anywhere. Much less head coach of are relocating franchise trying (and mostly failing) to ingratiate itself to a new city. For those that will say a career of a coach should not be defined by a single play, fans and media do it with players all the time. Why should coaches not be held to the same standard? There is no way Lynn’s time in LA the lasts long or ends well.

 

 

Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)

 

Strangely Joseph is the least qualified candidate of the new head coaches. Yet, he landed the best job with one of the NFL’s most consistent franchises over the last half decade or so. Following the sudden resignation of Gary Kubiak, Joseph has been handed the keys to a franchise that won a Super Bowl less than a year ago.

The Broncos roster is loaded with talent and ready to win now. The objective is to win Super Bowls. In theory, this is the objective for all NFL teams every year, but for most teams it simply is not realistic. It certainly is for the Broncos. They missed the playoffs this year for the first time in five years and still managed to post a winning record.

Given that standard of success, I just do not see how hiring a guy who spent one year as an NFL defensive coordinator and oversaw the 29th-ranked defense last year is going to accomplish that goal. I have no clue why multiple teams were interested in this guy as a head coach. He is clearly well thought of around the league. However, there is a difference between that and being a good head coach.

Joseph will likely be the most successful of the new head coaches early on based solely on the strength of his assistant coaches and general roster talent. Eventually, he will likely follow the same path as former Broncos and current Bears head coach Jon Fox who won a lot of games in Denver but was let go for not being able to get over the hump.

 

 

Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)

 

Of the five hires who will be first-time head coaches, Shanahan was most deserving of a job. The work he has done with Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense this year is amazing. Unfortunately for him, he got the one job that nobody short of Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick could make work right now. Shanahan will be San Francisco’s fourth coach in as many seasons. There was never any talent on the roster for Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula to begin with. Shanahan is the same boat. Kelly and Tomsula were given just a single season.

How any candidate could trust ownership with a track record like that is beyond me, but there are only 32 head coaching jobs to go around. So, I do not blame Shanahan for taking the gig. Ultimately though, his success or failure hinges on the 49ers finding a general manager who knows what he is doing and Shanahan being given enough time to figure out the quarterback position and the rest of the roster. I do not trust ownership to do either.

Every year when new head coaches are hired, I find myself asking the same question. Are these the best guys the NFL can come up with? Even the less glamorous franchises like the Jaguars are worth over $1 billion according to Forbes. Why a team does not offer someone like Nick Saban enough money to make him the highest-paid coach in the league is baffling to me.

 

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