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How to help and how not to help an NFL quarterback

NFL head coach hires

The NFL world is simply waiting on the Super Bowl for the next week or so. After that game, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels are expected to take the head coaching jobs in Detroit and Indianapolis respectively. This will fill the remaining head coaching vacancies in the league.

Like every other year, many of the new coaches are inheriting murky quarterback situations. Thus, it is hard to predict how they will fare until the quarterback questions are answered.

However, two of the new head coaches inherit no quarterback questions whatsoever. The Lions and Titans have quarterbacks that have been reasonably successful in the NFL, but need to get to the next level and start winning playoff games on a consistent basis. One of these teams is about to make the right hire for that to happen, and the other has already made the wrong one.

The right hire: Matt Patricia

NFL head coach hires

Like McDaniels and Indianapolis, Patricia will have to fight against the dismal head coaching track record of Patriots assistants over the years, including McDaniels. The good news is Patricia inherits something that many other new head coaches would kill for, Matthew Stafford.

Stafford has never won anything important in this league, but he has also rarely, if ever, been the problem in Detroit. He has thrown almost twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions in his career and flirts with throwing for 5,000 yards every year. It is beyond debate that Stafford can play at a high level.

The problem in Detroit in recent years has been defense, discipline and situational football. This year, Detroit narrowly missed out on the playoffs, finishing at 9-7. They lost games when they scored 24, 26 and 38 points. One or two more defensive stops and the Lions could have done damage in the playoffs.

The now famous Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary clip below from the NFL’s YouTube channel is also worth revisiting. This was a December game dripping with playoff implications. A facemask penalty gave the Packers an untimed down for a prayer into the end zone. The Lions inexplicably had defenders in the middle of the field on the final play and lost because of it.

Fortunately for Lions fans, Patricia cut his teeth on defense and comes from New England, where discipline and situational football are taught as well as they have ever been. Regardless of whether Patricia keeps highly regarded offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter or not, Stafford will continue to produce.

All Patricia has to do for the Lions to become factors when the weather gets cold every year is correct the mistakes detailed in the previous two paragraphs. Stafford has the talent to get this franchise where it wants to go. Moreover, Patricia has the pedigree and the specific knowledge the Lions need to make everything around its franchise quarterback just a little bit better.

The wrong hire: Mike Vrabel

NFL head coach hires

Yes, Mike Mularkey won the Titans a playoff game. However, Marcus Mariota threw more interceptions than touchdown passes this year. So, moving on from Mularkey in the hopes of finding a head coach who can better help develop a 24-year-old quarterback is perfectly reasonable.

What makes absolutely no sense is hiring a first time NFL head coach that has only spent one year as an NFL coordinator to accomplish the above goal. It makes even less sense when you add in the fact that Mike Vrabel’s one year as a coordinator was spent overseeing a defense that gave up a league worst 436 total points this year.

Now there is more to being an NFL head coach than just developing a young quarterback, but you do not have to be a genius to figure out that Vrabel does not have the background or the proven track record to get the best out of Mariota.

Vrabel has to pick the right offensive coordinator. If he does, he has a puncher’s chance of not crashing and burning in Tennessee. However, Titans fans should be nervous about Vrabel picking the offensive coordinator. He has already said he wants to put his young quarterback in a Chip Kelly style offense. Chip Kelly’s offense was nothing short of a complete disaster in the NFL. Why anyone would want to explore that again is beyond me, even though Mariota played for Kelly at Oregon.

Tennessee and Detroit are both franchises that have a great deal of hope tied to their franchise quarterbacks under the age of 30. The difference is the Lions organization has been holding Stafford back for years now. Conversely, Mariota is holding back the entire Titans franchise at the moment. Those are both very delicate situations to be in. Detroit made the perfect hire for its situation, while Tennessee completely whiffed.


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