Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Sean Payton was supposed to be the savior of the Denver Broncos. Today, Denver is 1-4 and were judged to be merely going through the motions by their last opponents, the New York Jets who entered their game with the Broncos owning identical 1-3 records. Last year at this time, the coach that Payton said did one of the worst coaching jobs in NFL history had a 2-3 record at this point.
What’s going on?
Bill Belichick is arguably the best coach in NFL history. Belichick is an 8 time (!!) Super Bowl champion, 6 of those championships as head coach. Belichick is a 3 time AP NFL coach of the year and the Maxwell Club NFL coach of the year winner, as well as setting the coaching standard for most Super Bowl wins, most Super Bowl championships by a head coach, most Super Bowl appearances, most playoff wins and appearances, and most divisional championships. Today the once proud Pats sit at 1-4 and have lost their last two games by a combined score of 72-3. (!!??)
What’s going on?
Two certain future Hall of Fame coaches currently have a combined record of 2-8 and both their teams look awful.
Have Sean Payton and Bill Belichick forgotten how to coach?
Now consider the other end of the spectrum, or at least as the spectrum is today. Dan Campbell is the 3rd year head coach of the Detroit Lions, and under Campbell the Lions have gone from being laughed at to laughing at others. The 4-1 Lions have an exciting offense, a much improved defense, and a feeling around them that makes other players want to play in Detroit.
Campbell must be a great coach.
Mike McDaniel is the second year coach of the 4-1 Miami Dolphins, a team that, allegedly, four years ago had an owner imploring his then head coach to intentionally lose games to get better draft picks. Now the Dolphins have a fast, exciting, and innovative offense that scores points in huge bunches. Not only that, the Dolphins offense is populated by several guys that other teams did not want, or at least were second choices.
Mike McDaniel has to be an offensive guru.
Think about what it must be like to be a coach. You are judged by what other people do. I have always thought that a coach cannot win anything, but he sure can lose a lot. I watched the Baltimore Ravens drop two sure touchdowns in a 7-point loss to the Steelers last Sunday. The coaches did their jobs, but the players didn’t do theirs and the Ravens lost. Since coaches cannot execute anything, they can’t win anything. On the other hand, I sincerely doubt the Steelers’ game plan was to let Baltimore dominate the game for three quarters and hope they would still be in the game at the end so that a couple players could make a couple of big plays and pull off a very improbable win. But that’s what happened, and what, exactly, did the coaches of either team have to do with the final result?
So, while coaches get undeserved credit or blame for wins and losses, it is also important to point out that coaches can establish a winning attitude on a team, but, again, be careful. That probably is more important at lower levels of competition. I’ll bet no team that played the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints thought Sean Payton’s team did not try all that hard, unlike the Jets after playing Sean Payton’s 2023 Broncos. What I have noticed about great coaches is that their teams get better as the season goes on. Also, professional athletes are not nearly as willing as amateurs to “give up on themselves”. Every year in the NFL, there is at least one team that looks hopeless that manages to turn their season around. But that takes work, and we’ll see if Sean Payton and Bill Belichick still have the energy to do it.
As far as a coach getting blamed for something out of his control, I believe I qualify.
Several years ago, I was coaching a 9 and 10-year-old baseball team. Almost every kid at that age wants to pitch, and JJ was no exception. When JJ qualified by throwing 60% bullpen strikes, I scheduled JJ to start his first game on the mound. I warned JJ that he had to be there at least 20 minutes before the game so he could properly warm up.
On game day, JJ was there on time and went through his warm up fine. But after throwing just one pitch, JJ called me out to the mound and told me he had to poop. Imagining the alternative, I had no choice but to let JJ sprint to the bathroom, from where he emerged 5 minutes later with an embarrassing trail of toilet paper. It went downhill from there.
At the next practice, JJ’s father approached me and claimed I was to blame for JJ’s embarrassment. He explained that JJ was so concerned about arriving on time to warm up that he did not go to the bathroom before he left home. Accordingly, I was to blame for being concerned about his son’s welfare. JJ never pitched again, and I had to take solace in the knowledge that JJ did not stop pitching because of a sore arm.
Much better last week. I’m trying again this week. Lines are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Miami Dolphins (-13 ½) vs Carolina Panthers I hate to give this many points, but the Dolphins seem to beat up bad defenses. Also, when Carolina fires their coach, remember they had DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey.
New Orleans Saints (-1 ½) at Houston Texans The Texans are playing well, but the Saints are pretty good.
SF 49ers (- 5 ½) at Cleveland Browns The 49ers are the best team in the NFL right now, and the Browns (again) are without a real NFL QB.
Las Vegas Raiders (-3) vs New England Patriots The Raiders are no championship threat, but the Patriots look pathetic right now on offense, and they’re missing their two best defensive players.
Buffalo Bills (-14) vs NY Giants Something has to happen for New York or this one will be really ugly
San Diego Chargers (+2) vs Dallas Cowboys This one should be high scoring, and I don’t know if the Cowboys can keep up with the Chargers coming off a bye at home.
Last week: 4-2
Rutgers (-4 ½) over Michigan St.: Rutgers doesn’t have the high level talent it takes to compete with the top teams in the Big 10, but they have taken care of business regularly against the bottom of the league, and that’s exactly where Michigan St. finds itself again.
Navy (-3) over Charlotte: Navy ran for 313 yards last week, but didn’t cover because they gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass and a 47-yard touchdown run, the latter after they had just taken a 10-point lead in the last few minutes of the game. But Charlotte doesn’t bring that explosiveness on offense, and ranks 93rd in defending the run. I expect the Midshipmen to get me my money back this week.
UCLA and Oregon St. under 54: The first time UCLA went on the road, quarterback Dante Moore was completely overwhelmed by the Utah defense, but the UCLA defense held Utah’s offense to seven points. I think Chip Kelly will try to protect Moore with a conservative plan and rely on his defense again, especially if the forecast of a chance of rain is accurate.
Bears (+3) over Vikings: After 14 losses in a row, can the Bears make it two straight wins? With Justin Jefferson out and the running game not working for the Vikings, I say yes.
Cowboys (-2) at Chargers: I don’t like taking road favorites on Monday night, but this crowd will be predominantly Cowboys. The Dallas defense will make more stops than the Chargers.