2023-2024 NFL Playoffs, Etc.

Actually, I just wanted to talk specifically about some of the coaching changes (although feel free to comment on the playoffs). I’ve really distanced myself from the sport, but I have been curious about the coaching moves. Here are some thoughts:

  • I really liked Vrabel, and would have been happy if he went to the Raiders, or even the Seahawks.
  • I’m disappointed Mark Davis is sticking with Antonio Pierce, especially with Vrabel, Belichick, and Jim Harbaugh as possible options, although maybe they wouldn’t take the job.
  • I would have been happier with Pierce if he were able to get Arthur Smith as OC.
  • I don’t have strong feelings about the Hawks hiring Mike Macdonald. He didn’t really stand out to me, but I also didn’t watch all the games this past season. In general, I prefer hiring an offensive-minded HC, though. Hopefully, he’s the type of defensive coach that can really elevate a defense with his schemes and play calling.

10 thoughts on “2023-2024 NFL Playoffs, Etc.

  1. Arthur Smith for the Steelers seem like a great move. I’m not as enamored as Reid is with Smith, but it does seem like a great fit. Smith was able to get the most of an Atlanta offense that really lacked decent QB play, and he will probably get the same level of QB play in Pittsburgh. Also, I like that Tomlin seems to let his coordinators coach.

    I’m pretty excited with the Mike Zimmer hire for the Cowboys. As good as Dan Quinn had been, it was disappointing seeing his defense fail to make any adjustments against teams that were gashing the Cowboys’ D. Zimmer will not have that trouble, I believe.

    I’m sort of cheering for Dan Quinn, since he seemed like a great guy in Dallas. I’m not optimistic with his Kingsbury hire, or his former defensive back coach Whitt’s hire as well. Again, I hope Quinn does well (to a point), but he is definitely not off to a great start.

  2. I didn’t know the Cowboys hired Zimmer. I heard Mike Lombardi mention him as a coach McCarthy should look to hire. I agree. I think this is a good hire, too. The one thing that flashed through my mind that gave me pause was the way his defense played against the Eagles in the NFCCG (or was it the divisional round?) They looked ill-prepared, if I recall correctly. Still, I think Zimmer is really good coach.

    I’m also rooting for Quinn to succeed. When Kingsbury became the head coach of the Cardinals, I had a negative perception of him, but watching his offense, even though it was more pass-based, I thought he featured a balanced attack. The thing is, though, it was based on a running QB. Murray’s threat of running really helped their run game. Will he be able to install a good rushing attack without that type of QB? If he can, I think he can be a solid OC.

    On a side note, John Schneider hiring of Mike Macdonald, and the way they’re going about filling their staff, as well as some other hires around the league, including the fact teams passed on Vrabel and Belichick, gives me the impression that teams want young coaches with new ideas. Perhaps these they believe these coaches are the ones that can really elevate an offense or defense–that is, make it better than the sum of its parts. Someone like Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay would fit the bill. I certainly think the ability to do this is really important and generally rare. (Belichick seemed to be able to do this with all phases of a team, but he seemed to have lost this ability over the last several years. More specifically, the Patriots didn’t seem to be able to able to play that shape-shifting style.)

    Lastly, whatever you think about Arthur Smith, his hiring signals the Steelers going back to a more run-based attack–something they really moved away from. In my view, while the QB play has been disappointing for a while, the run game has been equally disappointing. Smith should be able to rectify the latter. If that can happen they should have more success. At the very least, it should please old school Steeler fans.

    By the way, I generally prefer an offensive-minded HC, but if Macdonald can really elevate the Seahawk defense–especially if he can really stymie the Rams and 49er offenses–he will be a good choice. If you can’t find an OC that can elevate the offense, find one that can elevate the defense.

  3. Kingsbury’s Cardinals had one great year in 2021 (?). But his time at Arizona looked pretty dismal overall. He may be a better OC than a head coach though. The Ringer’s Ben Solak’s theory is that Kingsbury owned Dan Quinn’s defense in head-to-head match ups and because of that Quinn loves Kingsbury more than he should.

    1. My comment wasn’t really based on the overall productivity of the offense. I just liked the balance of it, even though it was more pass-based.

  4. Super Bowl thoughts:

    This may not be a thought I had only at the Super Bowl, but McCaffrey is incredible. No running back in today’s game (last ten years) has the impact that McCaffrey has (Yes, Derrick Henry is close.). He is as important (ie: valuable) as three fourths of the QBs in the NFL. I’ll add that Kyle Shanahan’s offense has a big part to do with that too, as Kyle’s dad had proven with Terrell Davis.

    The Niner defense was susceptible to good running offenses that ran under center all year. Yet the Chiefs kept running from the shot gun. Add to that the Chiefs kept running these misdirection type plays, which seem to be what the Niner defense was built for. Sounding a little too much like Reid, but “I didn’t like the Chief’s play calling”.

    The start of the second half, the Niner defense provided great field position for the Niner offense. And in two straight possessions, the offense couldn’t do anything with McCaffrey not carrying the ball once.

    Mahomes looked confused at times out there. Romo said the Niners were playing the two deep zone, but giving a lot of man-to-man looks. Add to that the Niner defensive strategy to keep Mahomes in the pocket was great.

    Purdy played great overall (I would say in the entire playoffs, Purdy played well.), but either Shanahan still is not letting him make enough plays to the sidelines or Purdy is not capable. Purdy dominates the middle of the field, but outside of that he doesn’t get much production. How about throwing some go routes on the outside? Purdy’s strength is he is great when he is outside the pocket. He is great throwing on the move and making good decisions. But if you pressure him up the middle, he seems too short at times, and his movement inside the pocket is average at best.

    Shanahan’s decision to take the ball first in overtime was a head scratcher. Add to that he was playing against Mahomes, it makes it an even bigger mistake.

  5. I’ll add that Kyle Shanahan’s offense has a big part to do with that too, as Kyle’s dad had proven with Terrell Davis.

    What KS seems to want are versatile chess pieces, whom he’ll move around to put defenses in a bind. That’s what makes McCaffrey a great fit. Add Samuel, Kittle, Jusczcyk and they be the most versatile group of offensive players.

    …but “I didn’t like the Chief’s play calling”.

    Because you didn’t like the type of runs they were calling? Or they weren’t running enough? Or both?

    One question I had: I understand the 49ers had a 10 point lead. Why couldn’t they protect this? Was it the defense? Offense? In the 2019, I blamed the Niner offense’s inability to extend a few drives.

    1. I agree with the versatility comment. However, that outside zone run that Terrell Davis was famous for, McCaffrey does as well or possibly better. Davis played at a time when guys were slower and bigger, making the outside zone more effective. Remember those years, Denver had all these 250 to 270 pound o-linemen that could run. Also, McCaffrey can be a workhorse. He had a swing pass that went for twenty of so yards, gets “katooshed” and gets a good outside zone run, the next play. I’ve seen McCaffrey run the ball four to five times in a row. That’s old-time football.

      The Chiefs play calling was way too much misdirection. And maybe to the Chiefs those are not necessarily “trick plays” but plays to set up the next set of plays. But those misdirection plays were getting killed all day. And you add to that the running from shotgun, I thought the play calling wasn’t great. Chiefs tried to run, but wasn’t doing a great job.

      The Niners dominated the first half. McCaffrey had one fumble close the red zone, if not the score may had been worse than 10-0 (To be fair, the Chiefs had a fumble close to their red zone as well.). But there was a stretch between the end of the first half and start of the second half in which the Niner offense couldn’t do anything. Spags strikes again. Small left turn, but Spags based on this year and the year the Giants took down the undefeated Patriots and add the two other championships with the Chiefs, should be a Hall of Famer, in my opinion. Both offenses struggled for good stretches, which would make one think a 10-point lead is bigger than it is. But when your offense is struggling too, and you are facing Mahomes, a 10-point lead isn’t much.

    2. Of the games I watched, the Niners seemed to get a way from outside zone runs. I would say they did it sparingly. I don’t know if that changed towards the end of the season. I do agree that McCaffrey is a tough runner, who can run inside effectively.

      But I think Mike Shanahan’s offense is very different from Kyle’s. Kyle has move very far from the ZBS run-based offense of his father (and Gary Kubiak) in my view. In the old way, an offense only utilizes the ZBS. Kyle doesn’t seem to ascribe to that view. He also likes to run from shotgun, and can do so effectively. The versatile players on the roster also allow him to do many different things, using WR as RB and RB as a WR.

      And you add to that the running from shotgun,…

      But that’s their primary way of running, and with Pacheco they’ve been effective doing this. That’s my sense anyway.

      But there was a stretch between the end of the first half and start of the second half in which the Niner offense couldn’t do anything. Spags strikes again.

      So you’re crediting this to good defense more than bad offense?

      Small left turn, but Spags based on this year and the year the Giants took down the undefeated Patriots and add the two other championships with the Chiefs, should be a Hall of Famer, in my opinion.

      This goes too far for me. I think the big reason for the Giants success was the depth of their OL. Spags has become known for blitzing, but that Giants team could rush four effectively, and bring in guys off the bench, if I recall correctly.

      I’m not saying Spags is not good, but I don’t think of him as highly as you do.

  6. Based on games I saw at the end of the season, I feel like San Fran ran that toss to the outside more than running from shotgun.

    The commentary after the game has been that Spags moved from running mostly zone to man-to-man and that’s when the Niners started to struggle. Spags made the comment that he was “blown-away” with the way Purdy was able to dice up the zone coverage. For the start of that game, it looked like Spags had the same game plan as the Niners D, which was rush four and keep Purdy in the pocket. But Purdy was playing wonderful from the pocket, then Spags went man-to-man and brought more blitzes.

    In terms of Spags D, I think this year the Chiefs has pretty good talent on D. Outside of the Jets and a healthy Dolphins, the Chiefs may have the best DB duo in Sneed and McDuffie. They have Chris Jones, and I believe Bolton is a slightly underrated LB. But prior to this group, Spags’ defenses with the Chiefs had some horrible talent, and for the most part he has held those defenses together pretty well. I agree he had great talent in NY.

    1. My sense is that the Chiefs defense has been steadily improving–from being really bad, especially against the run, in 2019 (or was it 2018?) and then getting a little better each year. This year the defense moved into the good-to-very-good range. They could win games for the team. How much of this is improvement in talent versus coaching by Spags? I don’t know. i think I might lean towards Spags, but it’s hard to say.

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