2017 NFL: General Thread

Thoughts on Mike Vrabel as New Titans Coach

I know little about Vrabel, but the fact that he’s a former DC makes it harder for me to get excited–namely because I’m fixated on developing Mariota. My hope is that Vrabel is good leader, organizer, excels with communicating and working with people, and will hire a good OC. Really, I think a lot comes down to who he hires and the system they’ll put in place. I was leaning toward an a really good west coast OC, because I think Mariota needs to work on throwing with his feet (and I suspect this will help with accuracy, especially on the deep passes). But I don’t care what system he plays in, as long as he improves his footwork. Having said that, I could see Mariota thriving in a spread-based system, which might not really help his footwork. I have mixed feelings about that. My preference is he plays in a system/for a coach that works on his footwork.

Another reason I’m lukewarm on Vrabel is that he doesn’t strike me as a great DC. But as I alluded to earlier, I don’t think he needs to be a great coordinator to be a really good head coach, assuming he brings in the right people.

27 thoughts on “2017 NFL: General Thread

  1. I think this is a really good get for the Cowboys, especially if my impression of Marinelli is correct. Namely, I see his handling of the DL as his strength. If this is correct, then Richard is a really good complement, because his strength has been the secondary, especially developing players.

    (Watching the way the Jaguars talented secondary gives up deep passes or commits penalties, I thought JAX should have tried to get Richard.)

  2. You have to admit it’s kind of odd that your reaction to the Jay Gruden hiring was an exaggerated “I’m no longer a Raiders fan” while the hiring of Mike Vrabel gets a “Let’s wait and see” response. I’m not saying there’s no merit to either reaction, but I wonder if it’s actually, truly unique. ‘Cause I’m not hearing that from anyone.

  3. But Jon Gruden is a known quantity as a head coach, while Mike Vrabel is not–and you’ve known about my dislike for Jon Gruden way before the hire, right?

  4. Not really. I know you were getting tired of his schtick, but I don’t remember your criticisms of him as a coach. So you were down on him in those Gannon years when the Raiders were in the playoffs every year, and when he won the Super Bowl? I really don’t remember that but I believe you. I’m just saying yours may be a unique position.

    I don’t know anything about Vrable, but I heard someone (Bill Barnwell, maybe?) wonder aloud if the bar for guys like Vrabel is lower than for minority coaches, because it does seem harder to picture a black coach with Vrabel’s resume getting a shot at a head coaching job.

  5. Not just during the time when he coached the Raiders (expect you to remember that would be asking too much), but after that. I’m almost certain I posted comments here saying that I’d hate it if the Raiders hired Gruden, within the last year, and also, I believe, before they hired Del Rio.

  6. Not super crazy about Bettcher, primarily because I think his defenses would give up big plays (although maybe that’s more in the past; and might have been due to a weak secondary). But he’s a 3-4 guy, and I assume the Titans are going to stay in the 3-4.

  7. My Estimation of Pete Carroll Will Depend Heavily on the Upcoming Season

    I’ve praised Pete Carroll as a really good coach, focusing on the way he can work with players, dealing with psychological aspects of performance as well as bringing a team together, through a philosophy and program he’s developed over the years. However, the more I think about the last three seasons, the more I feel he really failed as a coach (or the entire organization failed massively). In retrospect, the way they handled the offensive line has been a disaster, and I don’t think words like “inept” or “incompetence” is far off. The Seahawks are lucky they didn’t ruin Russell Wilson.

    Can these three seasons really negate the other good seasons Carroll has had? (This is especially true if you include his years at USC.) Yes, I think so. Even if we put aside the offensive line, I would point to the failure of the defense (and, to a lesser extent, the special teams) from achieving the appropriate level of play. The defense supposedly had good stats during this time, but not enough to justify the amount of cap space devoted to the defense. In my view, after 2014, the defense, while good, if not very good, wasn’t the type that could almost single-handedly win games, by not only shutting down offenses, but generating turnovers and scoring points. If the defense was like that between 2015-2017, one might be able to overlook the problems on offense, including the offensive line. The defense is Carroll’s forte, and he seemed to be going for the classic formula for defensive-minded head coaches: namely, play great defense and special teams, and who cares about the offense, as long they eat up clock and protect the football. Yes, the offense struggled to eat up the clock, but I don’t think that excuses the defense from holding up their end of the bargain. This failure is equally egregious as failing to protect Wilson (and more recently the utter failure of running the ball).

    In my view, there needs to be a big turn around this year–at the very least, they have to perform a lot better. If the defense becomes dominant, if the offense can run the ball and protect Wilson better that would be a good start, but I don’t know if that will be enough. A return to the Super Bowl, or something close to it, if not winning it all, would have to be in order.

  8. Except for the Wagner INT, the rest are on Brady and are pretty bad. (You could blame Brady for the Wagner INT, I guess, but it looks like Brady’s vision of Wagner may have been obscured, and Wagner just pounced out of nowhere.)

  9. Chiefs Trade Alex Smith to the Redskins

    Apparently these are the details of the trade:

    Even without knowing the details this seems like a bad move. Wonder if Jay Gruden truly believes Alex Smith can take them to the Super Bowl. My theory was that Smith was as effective as he was because Andy Reid was great at using smoke and mirrors.

    If you add the details, I would think Don would be happy, and Darren would be upset.

  10. Mike Shanahan’s Thoughts on Jets New OC

    The new OC is Jeremy Bates, who actually was Carroll’s first OC in Seattle. (Carroll fired him.) I wanted Shanahan or Kubiak as Seattle’s OC, but I knew they weren’t viable options. My next thought turned to guys who coached under them. Surely there had to be good coaches who learned under them, with the ability to do implement similar things? I couldn’t think of any names, initially. But then I learned that Rick Dennison worked under both Shanahan and Kubiak. I thought he was solid as the Bills’ OC, but nothing more. I didn’t really notice the nice run-blocking and cuts by the RB, like I did with the Shanahans or Kubiak.

    Now, I learned that Bates coached under Shanahan. (I’m guessing Shanahan’s recommendation played a big role in Carroll’s hiring of Bates.) Anyway, there’s some things that Shanahan says in the article that gets me a little excited–as in, “Why can’t there be more coaches that are good at this!” For example,

    “Jeremy was a guy that was ahead of his time,” Shanahan told the Daily News on Monday. “He’s an extremely bright guy. That’s one of the reasons why he called plays. I knew he could handle it. When you’re around coaches, you know who has the ability to call plays and who doesn’t. And it doesn’t take you long to figure it out… especially when you’ve called plays your whole life. Which people understand defenses? Which people understand the running game? Which people understand how the running game and play action are put together? Which people understand third downs?”

    (emphasis added)

    Where are the coaches that understand the running game and how running game and play action are put together? I want that guy!

    For whatever reason, I thought the following quote was cool:

    To be a good play caller, you really have to understand defenses,” Shanahan said. “You have to be a student of the game. You have to know defenses better than defensive coaches do. So, when you’re on the offensive side of the ball, you have to know fronts, you have to know secondary coverages, linebacker drops, different stunts. You have to really know it all to be a really effective guy. Sometimes guys get better with age too. There’s a learning process. It’s like playing a game of chess. The more you play it, the better you get it. But you better be studying it all the time.”

    I think what Shanahan says should be taken with a grain of salt, though. It’s likely that at least part of this is a former coach speaking up for his guys. I’m curious to see the Jets offense next year, though. If they look and play like Shanahan’s, I might become a Jets fan. And a Bates fan as well.

  11. On Brock and Salk Show, Tony Dungy was on, and he and Brock (who was a backup QB at Indy) shared their experiences preparing for Belichick and the Patriots. 6:10 mark

    If you don’t want to listen to it, here’s the part that stood out for me. Brock talked about, in preparing for a team, they’d have a discussion about the opponent’s tendencies–and they’d write various defenses on a white board. When they played the Patriots, the board was completely white, because basically they had no idea! Well, that might be an exaggeration because Dungy mentions that there were a few things that they could anticipate (although it sounded like he was almost guessing), but only at half-time would they finally know. That’s pretty crazy to me. I would have wanted to know if that was true for any other team/coach he faced, ever.

  12. Just heard that McDaniels didn’t take the Colts job. I feel bad for these assistants.

    This would explain why McDaniels backed out:

    (I hope Luck doesn’t need surgery. I’m getting annoyed at the Colts just thinking about it.)

  13. Luck’s condition must have been a consideration, but I’m hearing that the Patriots and Belichick went hard after McDaniels to convince him to stay. They surely sweetened their offer, perhaps promising him an inside track (which I’d guess he already had) on the Patriots head coaching job once Belichick steps away. McDaniels is in a good spot: he can let this Colts job go and not worry that he won’t have other opportunities down the line.

  14. McDaniels is in a good spot: he can let this Colts job go and not worry that he won’t have other opportunities down the line.

    I don’t know about that. Given what he did, you don’t think that would hurt his chances, at least a little? Also, unless he knew for sure the assistants who already committed were going to be taken cared of, it seems like he really screwed them, as well.

    To me, if Luck’s prognosis was grim, that would be the only thing that would justify what he did–especially if working with Luck was the main reason for taking the job. Whatever the case may be, the hard sell by Belichick and Kraft wouldn’t justify the move at all for me.

  15. Undoubtedly uncool if some of those coaches were his hires. I’m sure he’s apologized profusely, and I’m sure they understand. But until you’ve started the job, it’s okay to pull out. The man shouldn’t be forced to do a job he regrets taking if he hasn’t begun, should he? In a field where you can be dismissed at any time with no notice, the employee should be given the same professional leeway.

    I had a job for sixteen years where if you quit any time between the end of July and the beginning of June, you were totally screwing a lot of people. But sometimes you just have to. Of course it’s uncool, but the rest of the world doesn’t wait for summer vacation to make positions available. When I was younger I used to judge people who left in the middle of a school year. I don’t anymore because it’s nearly a no-win situation for the employee or the employer when it comes to leaving a position.

    This is why I never tell people about new jobs until the ink is dry and I’m sitting in the seat.

  16. The man shouldn’t be forced to do a job he regrets taking if he hasn’t begun, should he?

    No, but he screwed the team he was going to and the assistants who left positions to coach with him. (I’m not sure as you are that these assistants were so understanding.)

    I had a job for sixteen years where if you quit any time between the end of July and the beginning of June, you were totally screwing a lot of people.

    I really think this is a different situation. A more analogous situation would be agreeing to the job, which ends the employer’s search to fill the position, at the very last minute to stay with your current employer; in the mean time, a few of your professional colleagues agreed to join you in their new position, leaving their current jobs to do so. If the person isn’t going to be happy at the new job, they probably shouldn’t take it, but that doesn’t make what they did any less wrong.

  17. If this is an accurate description, what’s the right thing to do? You’ve committed to work at another place, and your current employer makes a really strong pitch after you’ve already committed, and you’re literally clearing out your stuff and about to leave. I have to think this isn’t a situation where McDaniels would be happy in one situation (staying) and miserable in the other (leaving), otherwise he wouldn’t have taken the job.

    There’s gotta be more to it than this (read: Luck’s health). If not, hard to see how this is not wrong.


    Tony Dungy weighs in:

  18. If there is a huge problem with your head coach being the GM, it’s Malcolm Butler. There are inferences that a reason that Butler didn’t get in the game (as a DB), is that he will be a free agent next year. Even if it’s not true, you don’t have that problem if your head coach is not the same person as the GM. Other reasons for not playing pundits are saying is that Butler is the shortest of the DBs and Philly’s receivers are taller than average receivers as a corp. This could be true as to why he didn’t start, but as terrible as the Pats were getting beat, at some point they should have given Butler a shot. Whatever the case, Butler not playing was strange to say the least.

  19. There are inferences that a reason that Butler didn’t get in the game (as a DB), is that he will be a free agent next year.

    The inference is that Belichick didn’t want Butler to play–and potentially perform well–so that his free agency value wouldn’t be so high–even though he was the best option? I think that’s kinda crazy. Is there any previous situation where Belichick might have done something like that?

    I would be really upset if I were a player. The coach is basically screwing a teammate and also screwing the team, by not putting in the best player at that position. I wouldn’t put it past Belichick to doing the former, but not the latter.

    Here’s the final, and maybe main reason, I have a hard time believing this. I liked Butler, but I got the impression this was a down year for him. It seemed like the Patriots were willing to trade him last year–maybe success was getting to his head? That would be a plausible explanation for a dip in performance. Betweent 2015-2016, I thought he was an underrated CB–so much so that during trade talk about Sherm, I was open to trading for Butler (not because I thought Butler was better, but I had real concerns about Sherm’s attitude, and thought Butler would mitigate losing Sherm). But I didn’t feel that way after 2017. Butler seems to have slipped. Now, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the best the Patriots had, but it’s not unbelievable if this were the case. It’s not unbelievable if the problem had to do with Butler’s attitude.

    1. I liked Butler, but I got the impression this was a down year for him.

      I think many are conceding this, that Butler wasn’t as great this year. But he would have to be worse than at least three other DBs to not play even in the nickel. And again I’ll add at some point the Pats should have at least gave him a chance being that they were being torched so badly.

      It’s not unbelievable if the problem had to do with Butler’s attitude.

      FWIW, everything teammates are saying about Butler is that he’s a great guy. He even apologized for swearing in the post-game interview, but he was far from ranting. His latest twitter or Instagram post even praised Belichick and the chance the Pats gave him. I think it’s believable that he is a stand-up guy and that it had nothing to do with an attitude. But that just makes this harder to figure out.

  20. But he would have to be worse than at least three other DBs to not play even in the nickel.

    Right that’s a valid point-even more valid if the DBs were getting torched. But if attitude was an issue–like he was somehow uncooperative or confrontational with coaches–that would be a plausible reason Belichick wouldn’t play him. (More on this later.)

    FWIW, everything teammates are saying about Butler is that he’s a great guy.

    To be clear, I didn’t mean he was a bad teammate. Instead, I was thinking about his ego–that he’s really good, which is something that can make him rest on his laurels. Or maybe this makes his disgruntled, thinking he deserves to be paid more. It’s plausible that both could affect his performance.

    One last thing. The way the GM/HC thing could backfire is that Butler resents the GM part of Belichick. This is something that I heard Holmgren say. When the HC and GM are separate, the GM is sort of a buffer between the player and coach (or the HC may be a buffer between the player and GM). The GM’s gotta make tough financial decisions. When the one person is the GM/HC, the players can’t get around the fact that the guy is the GM. I’m not sure if this is what’s happening, but it makes sense.

    1. To be clear, I didn’t mean he was a bad teammate.

      I didn’t mean it to mean acting like Terrell Owens (ie: selfish), but being a bad teammate sort of goes hand-in-hand with what you were talking about “rest on his laurels” or being disgruntled. If he was acting out to the coaches or not trying hard, that is being a “bad teammate”. So teammates wouldn’t back you even if you were a “great guy” off-the-field. The other thing to point out about Butler is it seems like the Pats made him into a star (I guess this could be a negative if it got to his head.), and he does seem sincerely thankful for that. But as you said, Butler having a bad attitude is “plausible”, I just didn’t hear anything from teammates or any insiders that this was the case.

      or the HC may be a buffer between the player and GM

      Yeah I think we either talked about it before in this space, or I heard it from interviews as well. Head coach’s job is to get the most out of a player, whereas the GM’s job is trying to get players for as cheap as possible and trying to upgrade players with better players.

  21. …but being a bad teammate sort of goes hand-in-hand with what you were talking about “rest on his laurels” or being disgruntled..

    It could put not necessarily. If “resting on one’s laurels means being lazy in an obvious and egregious way (e.g., not showing up to practice, etc.) then I think you’re right. But it can be less obvious. Maybe the player is no longer the first one in the building and the last to leave. That wouldn’t necessarily constitute being a bad teammate, right?

    As far as being disgruntled, the reasons matter. If you’re in a contract dispute, I think teammates would be sympathetic. I believe Wes Welker was kinda disgruntled near the end of his stay with the Patriots. Would you say he was a bad teammate? (I really don’t know the answer, but I never got that sense. I thought Brady loved Welker, too.)

  22. Niners All In With Garoppolo

    I’m still uncertain about him (although I really did see him play this year), but we’ll see.

  23. Did you see the tweets from the Indianapolis Colts this weekend? They announced the signing of Frank Reich as the new head coach. Someone (Adam Schefter, I think) said he’d need to see a photo of Reich holding up today’s newspaper alongside the GM in order to believe it. 🙂

    Then the Colts tweeted a photo of the GM and Reich holding up the newspaper. Very cute.

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