Week 1 is in the books, and while there’s still 94% of the season remaining, judgments will be rushed to. So let’s rush to a few.
The Factory of Sadness is running at capacity
If I ran a national sports website I would not dedicate a whole week to talking up a team that won eight games in the three previous seasons. But I don’t run The Ringer, who did just that three weeks ago. Whoops.
The Browns are, or were, a chic pick for the Super Bowl. On Sunday they looked like a team that won eight games in three years. Baker Mayfield looks like he should spend less time doing stadium maintenance and more time prepping for the game, the offensive line looked like they too should call their agent and request a trade, and the defense gave up a touchdown on three straight possessions to turn a two point game into a blowout. Last season Freddie Kitchens looked like a revelation simply by not being Hue Jackson, his honeymoon might already be over.
The future is bright in Cleveland, and the second half of their schedule is quite favorable, so expect a late season surge. But for Week 1, they’re a high profile reminder that you’ve got to earn it in the NFL.
Questions of trust
I don’t know how you watch the NFL over the last two seasons and not come to the realization that if you play aggressively, you will come out on top. But somehow this has eluded coaches.
Last season Frank Reich went for it on 4th and 4 with :27 left in OT from his own 43 yard line. The Colts didn’t convert and lost the game, but he instantly won over his locker room because he trusted them and played to win. Trust is an enormous factor in a coach’s success, it always has been, it always will be. Did anyone learn a lesson from this? No.
With 1:10 left in overtime and facing 4th and 7 from the Lions 46, Kliff Kingsbury punted. Kliff Kingsbury is a coward who doesn’t trust his players.
Earlier in that game, Matt Patricia called a timeout because he didn’t think Matt Stafford would get the snap off in time, and it wiped out a third down conversion. Stafford was visibly upset that his coach did not… wait for it... trust him.
Matt Nagy, who has spent the past 9 months with his brain paralyzed by a tipped field goal, punted on 4th and 3 from the Packers 41. Coward. Later, when the score was 7-3 Packers and the Bears were facing a 4th and 10 from the Packers 33, he went for it.
In the fourth quarter Adam Gase punted on consecutive drives on 4th and 3 and 4th and 2 from his 44 yard line, the Bills scored touchdowns on both ensuing drives and won.
With the possible exception of the Bears, none of these teams are going anywhere this season, and all the coaches should take every opportunity to earn their players’ trust. There’s no reason not to be aggressive. Cowards.
Jason Garrett is on borrowed time
The Cowboys offense looked good on Sunday. Sure, they were playing the Giants, who have maybe the worst defense in the league. (Yes, I saw the Dolphins game.) But even with that caveat they still looked good, they passed the eye test. At least for Week 1, the changes Kellen Moore is supposed to bring to the offense worked, drawing rave reviews for his play calling.
And that puts Jason Garrett, who is in the final year of his contract, in an impossible position. The expectations are high for the Cowboys. If they struggle, Garrett is gone. But if they have a good season, well, there’s no guarantee that Garrett will reap the rewards. Because if the Cowboys offense is at the least competent for the rest of the season, Kellen Moore is going to become a hot commodity in the coaching market. Teams are falling over themselves hiring young coaches with even a modicum of success coaching QBs: Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Matt Nagy, Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor, and Kliff Kingsbury. One good season and Kellen Moore is next.
Garrett knows the drill, he got his job in similar circumstances. He interviewed for head coaching jobs in 2008 and 2009 before the Cowboys fired Wade Phillips and promoted Garrett in 2010. At the time the Cowboys were 1-7, so the change was justified, but the possibility of losing Garrett in the offseason had to have played a factor: the Cowboys made him permanent head coach four days after the season ended.
Every game the Cowboys offense looks bad, Jason Garrett’s chances of being fired increase. Every game the Cowboys offense looks good, the Cowboys risk of losing Kellen Moore increases.