NFL Coaching Carousel: New Faces In New Places

New Year, New Coaches: A few weeks ago the NFL saw a total of 7 head coaches fired by their old teams. Those teams were the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers. Since then all 7 coaching vacancies have been filled. Here’s a rundown of who was hired:

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians, who led the Colts to an 11-5 record as interim coach in the absence of Chuck Strong, who battled Leukemia last season.

Buffalo Bills: Doug Marrone, former Syracuse Orange head coach, went 25-25 in four seasons with the Orange and has 7 years of NFL experience with coaching staff stints with the New Orleans Saints 2006-2008 and  the New York Jets 2002-2005.

Cleveland Browns: Rob Chudzinski, former Offensive Coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and also was OC for the Browns in 2007-2008.

Chicago Bears: Marc Trestman, former CFL coach for the Montreal Alouettes winning two Grey Cup titles, also has 17 years of NFL coaching experience spending most of that time as an offensive coordinator for a number of NFL teams.

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid, Former Philadelphia Eagles Bench Boss, spent 13 years with the Eagles, leading them to five NFC Championship game appearances and a Super Bowl in 2004, he finished last season with a record of 4-12.

Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly, former Oregon Ducks head coach, went 46-7 while helping to turn the Ducks into a college football powerhouse. Kelly also led the Ducks to a BCS National Championship in 2011. Kelly has no previous NFL experience.

San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy, former Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator who helped the Broncos along the way to a 13-3 season that ended with a playoff loss to Baltimore last Saturday (January 12th).

Best and Worst Hire: From the list of recent hires above, here’s my choice for who nailed it and who should have kept looking:

Best: The Arizona Cardinals have earned my nod for the NFL’s best off-season coaching move with the hire of Bruce Arians. I chose the Cards over Kansas City hiring Andy Reid for a few reasons.

1. Arians led a Colts team that nobody had winning more than 4-5 games to an 11 win season and a playoff berth. 2. He coached on a team with a green-horn QB in Andrew Luck and found ways to win. 3. He displayed leadership all season long as he stepped in for Chuck Strong, and picked up the teams spirits to push forward.

It’s all of those reasons that I have Arians having success in Arizona with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Kevin Kolb/ John Skelton, Adrian Wilson, and Patrick Peterson.

Side note on Arians: To have success, he will need to address the teams QB situation. Last year Kolb and Skelton shared duties in leading the team. The Cardinals have the 7th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Which could give them the option to go for either Geno Smith of West Virginia or Matt Barkley of USC (then again, Matt Leinart didn’t exactly workout in Arizona). Any way you slice it though, Arians will need to resolve that position if he is to ultimately succeed.

Worst: This one is pretty clear cut in my mind. The Philadelphia Eagles took a gamble on hiring Chip Kelly and that’s exactly what Kelly will be in Philly, a risk. Kelly certainly isn’t the first college head coach to try his hand on the NFL Grid-iron.

Some college head coaches like Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers head coach) Pete Carroll (recently with the Seattle Seahawks) Tom Coughlin( New York Giants 2 Super Bowl Rings) and Jimmy Johnson (Dallas Cowboys Head coach in the 90’s who won 2 Super Bowls) are having/had great success in the NFL . However, more often than not, “The Old College Try” doesn’t pan out so well for most NFL teams. Here’s a list of college coaches who weren’t so hot in the NFL:

Steve Spurrier (Washington Redskins for 2 years going 12-20 before retreating back to college ball)

Nick Saban (Miami Dolphins for 2 years going 15-17 before taking the Alabama job and building a college dynasty)

Bobby Petrino (Atlanta Falcons for 13 games of the 2007 season left with 3 games still to play, the Falcons finished with a 4-12 record. Petrino returned to college to coach Arkansas)

Rich Brooks (St. Louis Rams for 2 years going 13-19 and was fired, which allowed him to return to college and coach Kentucky)

Unlike Harbaugh, Carroll, Coughlin, and Johnson, I forsee Kelly falling into the same category as Spurrier, Saban, Petrino, and Brooks. I just don’t see his offensive schemes working at the professional level.

Also, unless Kelly, an offensive minded guy, can somehow work wonders with his defensive coordinator and the Eagles defense (who gave up an average of 27 points per game last year and ranked 23rd in rush defense with 126yds per game) things will not get any better in the city of brotherly love.

Final Thoughts: With the new coaches in place, it will be interesting to see what these new bench bosses can do next season. Which coach do you think will have the best season? Who will have the worst season? Leave a comment below.

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NFL PLayoff Predictor: AFC/NFC Championship Matchups

Well so much for my prediction of a Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl. As you probably know by now, both those teams lost this past Saturday and Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Broncos 38-35 in OT at mile high and the Atlanta Falcons edged their way past Seattle by a score of 30-28 in Hot-lanta. The other two teams to advance were the New England Patriots who defeated Houston 41-28 and the San Francisco 49ers who beat Green Bay 45-31.

With that, here’s a look at the AFC and NFC Championship games, and My New Predictions:

AFC: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens:

Tom Brady and Joe Flacco meet up in the AFC Championship game for round two of what is sure to be a great grudge match between these two squads. If you find yourself feeling a sense of Deja Vu’ this Sunday, that’s because these two teams met up in last year’s AFC Champ showdown. The Ravens though are hoping this Sunday is anything but a re-run of last year’s finish, which left them a few plays away from reaching Super Bowl XLVI.

Meanwhile, the Pats will be trying to return to the Super Bowl once more to avenge last year’s loss to the New York Giants and capture their first Lombardi Trophy since 2005. The Patriots will also have to try and beat Baltimore without the help of Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski. Gronk suffered an injury to his forearm in last Sunday’s win over Houston and will miss the remainder of the post-season.

My Prediction: Despite missing a big-time weapon like Gronk, I feel as though the Pats can outlast the Ravens in a great showdown between Brady and Flacco. Though on a sad note, it will be tough to watch knowing it could likely be NFL linebacker great Ray Lewis’ last NFL game. Nevertheless, New England wins 24-21 edging Baltimore out again and returning to their second straight Super Bowl.

NFC: Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers:

This matchup will be a slightly different grudge match between these two teams. On one side you have San Francisco who like Baltimore were a few plays away from last years Super Bowl when they lost to the Giants in OT by a field goal. So, like Baltimore, the 49ers will look to avoid the same fate twice against 1st seeded Atlanta.

On the other hand, the Falcons want to prove their the same team who started the season 8-0 and finished the season tied for he NFL’s best record with the Denver Broncos at 13-3. Atlanta will look to avoid another fruitless post-season and return to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1998 (where the Falcons lost the then defending Denver Broncos 34-19).

My Prediction: This game will ultimately come down to one key factor that has been absent throughout this year’s playoffs…DEFENSE. The Falcons arguably sport one of the top QB’s in the league with Matt Ryan behind center. Ryan can light up a scoreboard and uses his weapons on offense like a General on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the 49ers, have an X-factor at QB…Colin Kaepernick. He put up a stat line against Green Bay that was like something straight out of a Madden game: 444 total yards of offense with 4TDS (2 passing, 2 rushing) that’s 263 passing yards and 181 rushing yards (the most ever by a QB in a playoff game).

With that said, whichever defense can hault the others QB first wins this battle. I give this one to San Fran as Patrick Willis and Co. find away to stop Matt Ryan and the Falcons at home. 49ers win 31-21 as Kaepernick does it again with 276yds passing for 2TDS and 77yds rushing and 1 rushing TD.

Super Bowl XLVII: New England Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers:

On the games biggest stage two storied franchises collide in a Super Bowl for the ages. In what will be a grueling back and forth battle in the Superdome of New Orleans, I have the Patriots edging out the 49ers 28-24 as the Pats capture their first Super Bowl title since 2005. Tom Brady wins SB MVP.

Final Thoughts: We’ll see how it all plays out this Sunday. Until then, what do you think will happen in the Championship games? Who do you have winning Super Bowl XLVII? Leave a comment.

Patriot Nation: Not Our Finest Moment

I don’t know if anyone caught on, but yesterday was more or less a day of silence here at the Boston Sports Blog. A protest, hometown sorrow, reluctance to think about the event that occurred Sunday…call it what you will, but it was in everyone’s best interest to just leave it out of the equation. After all, there really is nothing to say.

With a day gone by we’ve now had some time to reflect on the game, although it’ll definitely take a whole lot longer to get over it. Regardless, I’m not going to dive into the details of the game because we all know how it ended and no one wants to hear it. Instead, how about the aftermath? It hurts to lose to New York in any sport, whether a preseason game or spring training baseball game. What happened after the Pat’s loss Sunday, notice I’m calling it a Pat’s loss not a Giants’ victory, was very “unPatriot-like”. The two most obvious:

-Gronk and Co. getting Gronked (that’s an understatement) at a post game party

-Mrs. Tom Brady ripping on the receivers

A very New York-esque reaction to a loss if you ask me. We’re not used to seeing this in Boston, especially from a Belichick disciplined Patriot squad. It’s hard to hate on Gronk for doing his thing but it’s just not exactly the same a few hours post loss. Granted, Giselle isn’t a player and the rest of the team came to the receiver’s defense, here’s my question. Which incident was the worst to see as a Pats fan?

 

Flaw in an NFL rule? How much did it effect the Patriots?

Well that was devastating…I’m not going to sit here and tell you a full story on how or why the Patriots lost this game, its over and done with. I’m just as upset as the next guy and I’m sure none of you want to hear any more about it.

Obviously there has been some post game comments by Tom Brady’s wife taking shots at their wide-receivers lack of ability to bring in the big catch, but then again what does she know? Here comes something I’m sure most of you haven’t heard about.

20120207-095859.jpgQuick rewind here: Go back to the Patriots play with 17 seconds left with the ball on their own 44 yard line. Brady lines up and out trots 12 Giants defenders. Was it intentional? Doesn’t really matter anymore and if it was then it’s a smart call by Coughlin and the Giants staff. They run the play; Brady sees the flag and then takes his shot down the field. The pass falls incomplete with 9 seconds to go in the game and the referee makes his call. The Giants get a 5-yard penalty for too many men on the field, and yes that’s the right call. But what about the clock? The clock stayed at 9 seconds remaining. Some of you might be asking what my point is here. So instead of the Patriots getting two, or even three shots at the end zone they end up with one. What is 5-yards at this point in the game? It’s nothing. Anyone in his or her right mind would exchange 8 seconds run off the clock for 5 yards at this point. What prevents a defense from sending 16 guys out there in this situation? It’s a very slim possibility any team completes a big play against 16 defenders. Clearly this is not the reason for the outcome of this game, but I am pretty certain the NFL will be changing this rule.

Patriots vs. Giants: The Quarterbacks

Alright so here goes the hottest topic of discussion over the past two weeks, other than Gronkowski’s ankle. The battle of two great quarterbacks in Sundays Super Bowl. Eli vs. Brady. Who has the edge?

Eli Manning is a great quarterback and that isn’t something up for debate. He has proven in the recent years that he can win the big games when it matters. His bold statement he made prior to the start of this season doesn’t look as crazy as it did before. This season has completely changed Eli’s career as far as I see it. Everyone questioned his ability to make the accurate decisions on the field. Eli has been often criticized for his mistakes and it’s been well deserved. Eli has the tendency to make that great play, then follow that great play up with a rookie-like mistake. It showed last season when he threw 25 interceptions, and although that number dropped this season he still ended up throwing 16 this year. Yes Eli is a quality quarterback, but the recent comparisons between him and Tom Brady just are not warranted. What separates quarterbacks like Eli, Romo, and Rivers from Brady, Peyton, Rodgers and Brees isn’t the amount of yards or touchdowns they throw. It’s keeping the mistakes to a minimum. So unlike most people my opinion differs. Eli Manning is not a top tier quarterback.

Overall Grade: B+

Like I stated above, there is no discussion when it comes to comparing Brady with Eli. Tom Brady is on another level. Brady has earned the right to be put in the same class as his idol Joe Montana along with the other greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Yes Brady struggled last week, but not too many QB’s don’t struggle against the Ravens defense. After the Broncos game the talk was all about how great Brady really is. How quickly things change huh? Now it’s all about how he’s not as great as he used to be and that Eli is better than him. Everyone looks at last week to quickly decide whom you would rather have as your quarterback this week. It’s not even a question. Tom Brady is a proven winner. Brady’s career high for interceptions in a season is 14. Eli Manning has thrown 14 interceptions in a season SIX times. I still see Brady as being the best in the league at what he does but if someone is in his rear-view its Brees or Rodgersk, not Eli Manning.

Overall Grade: A

Edge: Patriots

 

Patriots vs. Giants: Tight Ends

Two more days til’ the big day, and the good news keeps coming from Indy. Rob Gronkowski will be playing in the Super Bowl Sunday barring any major setbacks to his left ankle injury. We are going to be squeezing in a few comparisons in one day today, so keep checking back! First we will take a look at Tight Ends. Not too much compare here, but I guess I can take the time to further emphasize how great these Patriots tight ends really are.

Let me begin with stating that Jake Ballard is a quality tight end. Ballard caught for over 600 yards and as a Giants fan you have to be satisfied with that. Ballard; at 6’6” is a huge target and Eli often looks his way. Ballard’s stats are somewhat deflated because of how many targets Manning has to spread the ball around too. Ballard is a surprisingly consistent threat when it comes to deeper passes, which is a rarity from the tight end position. Ballard has the potential to sneakily be a key contributor in this week’s game if he gets matched up with the primarily run stopping Brandon Spikes.

Overall Grade: B-

20120203-120702.jpgWhere to begin? This two-headed monster the Patriots possess is something that has possibly never been seen, and never will be seen again in the NFL. The Patriots duo combined for 169 receptions, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns. Gronk often overshadows Hernandez but Hernandez really is a top five talent at his position. He has great speed and is as versatile as they come. Hernandez best attribute might be his ability to make players miss after the catch. I guess we can go onto Gronk now, as if you haven’t heard enough already the past couple weeks. Gronkowski recorded 17 touchdowns as he smashed the single season touchdown record by a tight end. Even with the injured ankle I still expect Gronk to be a huge factor Sunday. If double coverage can’t slow him down I don’t think a sprained ankle will.

Overall Grade: A+

Edge: Patriots

Patriots vs. Giants: Head Coach

Happy Monday everyone, today we will take a look at one of the most important parts of both teams: Head Coaches

The Giants Tom Coughlin often finds himself on the hot seat during the regular season, but somehow manages to turn it all around late in the season and heads into the playoffs on a solid note. Coughlin is a good coach with a lot of experience but he is often questioned about being able to have control of an NFL team at his age. He has as much experience as almost any coach in the NFL as far as years in the league, but when it comes to winning it all, his stats are just average. Coughlin is a solid coach but seeing as who he is going up against, I’m sure you know where this is going.

Overall grade: B

20120130-163047.jpgBill Belichick can go down as one of, if not the greatest coach in NFL history with a win this upcoming Sunday. As a head coach this will be Belichick’s fifth super bowl appearance since taking over as the Patriots head coach just over a decade ago. Bill is 3-1 career in the Super Bowl. Belichick is one of the best in history when it comes to making something out of nothing. The defense had terrible numbers as far as yards against this season, and that’s what everyone’s focus has been on. I could be wrong , but I’m pretty sure yards against isn’t what wins or loses a game, points do. The Patriots ranked 15th in points against; allowing 21.4 ppg. With a secondary as inexperienced as what they have, Belichick has done a great job with it. The Patriots bend but don’t break style has allowed them to be where they are today.

Overall grade: A+

Edge: Patriots

 

Brady on SI Cover, Again

20120126-093810.jpgWith the hype of the Super Bowl surrounding us, Sports Illustrated has just issued their Super Bowl magazine this week featuring Tom Brady on the cover. This is Brady’s 15th time on the cover so most Pats fans are just going to use that as another arguing point as to how much better Brady is than Eli, which obviously is a closed discussion. On the other hand, those who pay attention to detail, or even the superstitious readers already know what I’m getting at.

I’ll put it simple. Brady was on the same cover in 2008 for the Super Bowl preview against the Giants. A few months later, Brady was on the cover of another SI issue, just a week before he tore his ACL and MCL in September 2008 against the Chiefs. In regards to the superstitious, I apologize for even posting this, but it had to be said. On the bright side, there were 12 other times he was on the cover and everything was fine. If there’s one guy that doesn’t get fazed by this kind of superstition and hype, it’s Brady. I still have faith. No magazine cover jinx is going to stop Tom from joining the prestigious four ring club. Not on his watch.