NFL Season Predictions

So instead of doing a “30 Clubs in 30 Days” thing like I did for baseball, I’m just going to do a generic preview for this upcoming NFL season. While 30 Clubs in 30 Days was a lot of fun for me to do, it ultimately was too time-consuming and not successful enough to be worth the time. But with the NFL season starting on Thursday with Falcons vs Eagles, I figured, what the Hell, let’s get this preview down now. So without further ado, here are my predictions for this upcoming season.

Projected Standings

AFC East

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Patriots at Panthers

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

3. New York Jets (6-10)

4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

AFC North

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)

AFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

2. Houston Texans (8-8)

3. Tennessee Titans (8-8)

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-11)

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers

1. Los Angeles Chargers (11-5)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

3. Denver Broncos (6-10)

4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns

1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)

2. New York Giants (7-9)

3. Washington Redskins (6-10)

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)

NFC North

Seattle Seahawks v Minnesota Vikings

1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)

2. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

3. Chicago Bears (7-9)

4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)

3. Carolina Panthers (8-8)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

NFC West

888027830-1024x1024

1. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Playoffs

AFC

1. New England Patriots (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (first round bye)

3. Los Angeles Chargers

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Baltimore Ravens

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Los Angeles Rams (first round bye)

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons

5. Green Bay Packers

6. New Orleans Saints

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round:

3 Chargers over 6 Ravens

4 Jaguars over 5 Chiefs

3 Vikings over 6 Saints

5 Packers over 4 Falcons

Divisional Round:

4 Jaguars over 1 Patriots

3 Chargers over 2 Steelers

1 Eagles over 5 Packers

3 Vikings over 2 Rams

Conference Championship:

4 Jaguars over 3 Chargers

3 Vikings over 1 Eagles

Super Bowl LIII:

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Vikings over Jaguars

So you don’t have to watch the NFL season anymore, I’m picking the Vikings to defeat the Jaguars in Super Bowl LIII. It’ll be a first for both teams: the Vikings’ first Super Bowl victory and the Jags’ first Super Bowl appearance. I have the Patriots getting upset in the Divisional Round for a couple reasons. Number 1 is that I feel like there’s just something not right about this year’s team. I’m not sure what it is, but the team just feels a bit thinner than usual. They’ll definitely win the AFC East again because it’s still Belichick and Brady, but after those two, there are a lot of question marks. I think the Chargers will have a breakthrough year by riding their defense (so long as they can stay relatively healthy). The offense will be fine, but the Chargers are going to be one of the more dominant defensive teams in the NFL this season, perhaps this year’s version of the Jaguars. Speaking of the Jaguars, I think they pull off the upset over the Patriots by doing the exact opposite of what they did in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Instead of playing not to lose, they go for the jugular and stomp on New England’s depleted receiving corps, leaving Tom Brady to have to continuously check down to James White, who keeps getting taken to task by Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. On the NFC side, I think the Rams could be a juggernaut this season. They didn’t lose anyone too significant and they reloaded on defense while returning all the important weapons on offense and adding Brandin Cooks. The Eagles I think will still be really good, but I don’t think Nick Foles will play as well in his first few games as the starter as he did in the playoffs last year. They’ll win the NFC East with ease, as the other 3 teams are hurting at the moment. The Vikings might be the most all-around sound team on paper heading into this season and that’s why I’m picking them as Super Bowl champions this year.

As for the bad teams, I still think the Browns will be near the cellar, mainly due to Hue Jackson. I have not been impressed by his coaching techniques watching Hard Knocks, as I think he’s way too soft to be a head coach. His tactics work as a positional coach, but to be the head guy, you need to have more of Todd Haley and Gregg Williams’ fire. Why is Bill Belichick so great? It’s because he doesn’t have a soul. The minute your skills start to deteriorate, you’re out the door. Jackson? It seems like he just wants to be friends with everyone on the team. I also think the Raiders are going to suck this year, but that’s not really news. Jon Gruden hasn’t been a coach in a decade and the game’s changed a lot since his last days with the Buccaneers. Now he doesn’t have a defense with the Khalil Mack trade and his offense is comprised of a bunch of old guys, Derek Carr, and a drop-happy Amari Cooper. I think they’ll end up picking first in April.

On to the awards.

NFL MVP:

Wild Card Round - Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Player of the Year:

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year:

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots

Jalen Ramsey-CB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

1014201982-1024x1024

Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

Defensive Rookie of the Year:

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Packers at Raiders

Josh Jackson-CB-Green Bay Packers

Coach of the Year:

Washington Redskins v Los Angeles Chargers

Anthony Lynn-Los Angeles Chargers

Comeback Player of the Year:

Arizona Cardinals v Detroit Lions

David Johnson-RB-Arizona Cardinals

Breakout Player of the Year:

Miami Dolphins v Carolina Panthers

Kenyan Drake-RB-Miami Dolphins

So yeah, that’s what’s going to happen this season. If you have any questions about this upcoming year, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft: Full Recap

This is the last I’ll post of the 2018 NFL Draft, which is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and it never ceases to disappoint. With all 256 picks made, I’ve gotten a chance to scour them all and decide what I think of each team’s class, which players got screwed, which players god overdrafted, etc., etc. So let’s get to the recap.

Best Draft Class: Green Bay Packers

951981788

The Packers had the most picks (12) going into this Draft and they made very good use of them. This class is getting bonus points for the wheeling and dealing they did. First, they acquired the Saints’ 2019 first round pick to move down, then they gave up one of their third rounders to move back up and get a cornerback in Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. Then they doubled down on corner in round 2 and got a first round talent Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who led the nation in picks last season. The secondary was such a huge need for the Packers that I don’t mind that they hit the same position multiple times, especially considering both players they got were first round-caliber prospects. Aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, that unit is garbage. I would have liked to have seen them get another safety, but if I’m a Packers fan, I’m more than happy with the corners they got. The Packers also got great value for their wide receivers in an effort to find a replacement for Jordy Nelson as they landed Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the 4th and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the 6th. Here’s every pick the Packers made.

18. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

45. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

88. Oren Burks-LB-Vanderbilt

133. J’Mon Moore-WR-Missouri

138. Cole Madison-OG-Washington State

172. JK Scott-P-Alabama

174. Marques Valdes-Scantling-WR-South Florida

207. Equanimeous St. Brown-WR-Notre Dame

232. James Looney-EDGE-California

239. Hunter Bradley-LS-Mississippi State

248. Kendall Donnerson-EDGE-Southeast Missouri State

Honorable Mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

Worst Draft Class: Oakland Raiders

951878470

Jon Gruden’s first Draft in 10 years didn’t go great in my opinion. First, he traded down to take Kolton Miller. I liked the trade down and I like Miller, but there were far more pressing needs for the Raiders than offensive line and there were some damn good players available. There were a ton of needs on the defensive side of the ball, pretty much every position could have used a pick dedicated to it. When the Raiders took Miller, the following defenders were available: Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans, all of whom would have started immediately on that defense. Then in the second round they took a defensive tackle named PJ Hall. At first I thought it was a typo and they meant NC State’s BJ Hill and I thought to myself “it’s good they addressed DT, and I like Hill, though I think this is a little rich for him.” Turns out it wasn’t a typo and they drafted some guy named PJ Hall from Sam Houston State, a player I had never heard of. They traded up for another tackle in the third, this time North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker, a guy I think I heard of in passing but never paid much attention to. I don’t know why they needed to trade up for a tackle from NC A&T of all places, but what do I know, I’m a blogger who lives in his parents’ basement. They took Arden Key in the third round, which I thought was a good value, but he’s a guy that has struggled with drug abuse and has failed to maximize his potential and I’m not so sure the Raiders would be the best place for him, especially with the eventual move to Las Vegas. They get bonus points for landing Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, though, so that keeps this Draft from being an utter shit show. There’s talent in this class, don’t get me wrong, and I think some of the guys taken later in this class could wind up being steals, but I thought the value of a lot of these picks, especially given who else at their positions were available, was pretty poor. I can’t in good faith give this class a good grade out of the gates. Here’s the rest of the class.

15. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

57. PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State

65. Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T

87. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

110. Nick Nelson-CB-Wisconsin

140. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

173. Johnny Townsend-P-Florida

216. Azeem Victor-LB-Washington

228. Marcell Ateman-WR-Oklahoma State

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets

Best Bargain: Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan-Oakland Raiders (140th Overall)

883584906

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times during this draft process, but Hurst fell in this draft due to being diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. I expected him to fall out of the first round, but I didn’t expect him to fall all the way to the 5th. Oakland got a tremendous value with this pick. I at one point had Hurst as the 12th best player on my Big Board. His reaction to the snap is basically perfect. As soon as the center even flinches his wrist, Hurst is off. The only knocks against Hurst for me was that he was a bit undersized (which didn’t bother me so much because Aaron Donald is considered undersized) and I felt that he would often be so consumed with the guy who is trying to block him that he’s not looking in the backfield to see where the play is going. But that’s something that’s easily coachable. The Raiders got a goddamn steal with this kid, which significantly helps what was otherwise a weak class.

Honorable Mentions: Bo Scarbrough-RB-Alabama-Dallas Cowboys (236th Overall), Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida-Seattle Seahawks (141st Overall), Deshon Elliott-S-Texas-Baltimore Ravens (190th Overall), Josh Sweat-EDGE-Florida State-Philadelphia Eagles (130th Overall), Tyrell Crosby-OT-Oregon-Detroit Lions (153rd Overall)

Biggest Reach: Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh Steelers (28th Overall)

951931896

I had 8 safeties rated ahead of Terrell Edmunds, including one that went undrafted (Quin Blanding). Yet the Steelers still made him their first round pick, 28th overall. In fact, Edmunds was so surprised he was taken by the Steelers, he was in the bathroom when they called him. He had been sitting in the green room with his brother Tremaine, who was taken 12 picks earlier by the Bills and despite not technically having been invited to the green room, he still got to hold his jersey with the commissioner and Ryan Shazier because they had the Edmunds Steelers jersey lying around for his brother. It made for a nice story, but the Steelers could’ve gotten this guy in the third, maybe even the fourth round.

Honorable Mention: PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State-Oakland Raiders (57th Overall), Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T-Oakland Raiders (65th Overall), Joseph Noteboom-OT-TCU-Los Angeles Rams (89th Overall)

Notable Undrafted Free Agents and Where They’ve Signed

899672284

Every year there are extremely talented players that get overlooked. Here are just a few.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-WR-Indiana-Washington Redskins

JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State-Indianapolis Colts

Josh Adams-RB-Notre Dame-Philadelphia Eagles

Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana-Los Angeles Rams

Akrum Wadley-RB-Iowa-Tennessee Titans

Allen Lazard-WR-Iowa State-Jacksonville Jaguars

Chase Litton-QB-Marshall-Kansas City Chiefs

Nic Shimonek-QB-Texas Tech-Los Angeles Chargers

Kurt Benkert-QB-Virginia-Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Allen-QB-Houston-Carolina Panthers

Kevin Toliver-CB-LSU-Chicago Bears

Jeff Holland-LB-Auburn-Denver Broncos

Davin Bellamy-EDGE-Georgia-Houston Texans

Riley Ferguson-QB-Memphis-Miami Dolphins

Hercules Mata’afa-DL-Washington State-Minnesota Vikings

Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State-San Francisco 49ers

Holton Hill-CB-Texas-Minnesota Vikings

And those are just the big names that didn’t hear their name called. There were hundreds of others. But as I said in yesterday’s blog, just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean your NFL dream is dead. Not by a long shot.

The Quarterbacks That Were Taken

951616698

Football’s most important position is definitely quarterback and there was no shortage of signal callers in this year’s class. Here’s every QB that was selected.

1. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma-Cleveland Browns

3. Sam Darnold-USC-New York Jets

7. Josh Allen-Wyoming-Buffalo Bills

10. Josh Rosen-UCLA-Arizona Cardinals

32. Lamar Jackson-Louisville-Baltimore Ravens

76. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State-Pittsburgh Steelers

108. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond-New York Giants

171. Mike White-Western Kentucky-Dallas Cowboys

199. Luke Falk-Washington State-Tennessee Titans

203. Tanner Lee-Nebraska-Jacksonville Jaguars

219. Danny Etling-LSU-New England Patriots

220. Alex McGough-FIU-Seattle Seahawks

249. Logan Woodside-Toledo-Cincinnati Bengals

Of the 13 quarterbacks, all 10 from my rankings ended up getting drafted, a first for me (last year I had 9 out of 10, UPenn’s Alek Torgersen being the lone undrafted quarterback). Of the 3 that weren’t ranked, Lee, Etling, and McGough, none of them probably would’ve cracked my “first 5 out.” Lee is the most talented of the three but his play at Nebraska was far below his talent. I’ve seen Alex McGough (pronounced “Mah-GOO”) play a couple times, since Indiana and FIU have a home-and-home series and I’ve gotta say, I don’t know what Seattle sees in him. He just looked lost every time I watched him play (which, to be fair, was only against IU, which has a pretty solid defense). The Patriots and Saints were two teams I figured would be going after a quarterback in the middle rounds as hard as anybody, but the Saints didn’t take any and the Patriots took a guy that had defenders stacking the box to stop the run because they knew he wasn’t a threat. Perhaps both teams weren’t high on this year’s class and elected to try and find their Hall of Fame quarterbacks’ successors in next year’s Draft.

Most Confusing Draft Day Decision

952511202

The Draft Day decision that confused me more than any other was the Cowboys not electing to take a wide receiver until the third round, and even then they took a pretty raw Michael Gallup out of Colorado State. They did trade a 6th rounder to the Rams for Tavon Austin, but Austin hasn’t lived up to his 8th Overall pick billing and has been a guy that you just get creative with rather than a real threat to the defense. They also didn’t address pass rusher until the 4th round with another raw player in Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. I know they took Taco Charlton in the first round last year but pass rusher is still a big need, especially if they can’t sign DeMarcus Lawrence long-term. Overall I thought the talent the Cowboys got in the Draft was good, I just think they had their positional priorities out of whack a bit.

Secretly Genius Draft Day Decision

951991636

A move that didn’t make sense to me at first but has really grown on me is Bill Belichick’s decision to take Georgia runningback Sony Michel with the 31st pick. I was a little taken aback by the decision at first since the Patriots had a very crowded runningback room, but then I thought some more about it. Only one of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee is going to remain on the roster as the goalline power back. James White is just the pass catcher who never gets carries. Rex Burkhead is a wildcard who is only back on a 2-year deal. The Patriots were at their best last season when Dion Lewis was torching defenses in the second half with his all-around style of play. Michel is a very similar style of player and he was the most explosive player on Georgia’s offense that was a quarter away from a National Championship. There are people who are going to complain that the Patriots should’ve addressed the defense that got torched in the Super Bowl to which I say this: they kind of already did. The Patriots’ defense was riddled with injuries last year, particularly to Dont’a Hightower and 2017’s top Draft choice Derek Rivers (who was having a nice training camp before tearing his ACL). They’ll be getting those guys back and healthy They also signed Adrian Clayborn and traded for Jason McCourty to fill the holes for the meantime while also stockpiling on picks for next year’s Draft. The defense looks to be fine and in a win-now mode while the plethora of picks for next year’s class will likely be used to re-stock as this group gets older. So no surprise, but to me, the most genius Draft Day decision comes from the mind of Bill Belichick.

Some Prospects to Keep an Eye Out For in 2019

For scouting departments, when Mr. Irrelevant is announced, they get to work on next year’s class. Here are some guys that I think will go high next year.

Ed Oliver-DL-Houston

Nick Bosa-EDGE-Ohio State

Rashan Gary-DL-Michigan

Drew Lock-QB-Missouri

Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

AJ Brown-WR-Ole Miss

Dexter Lawrence-DL-Clemson

Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

Austin Bryant-EDGE-Clemson

Just a few guys to look out for next college football season (you’ll notice a lot of defensive linemen. Next year’s class might be the best ever class for that position group).

And that’s a wrap on the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

General Sports: March 31

940276486

-The Red Sox were able to bounce back in a big way against the Rays, as Alex Cora gets his first managerial win 1-0. The one run came across on a Rafael Devers single in the 7th inning to score Xander Bogaerts. One thing I did notice, though, is when the Red Sox won, the outfield did not do their win-dance-repeat routine, instead they just fist bumped. I’m a little disappointed that the dancing appears to be over but a celebratory fist bump is fine, I guess. Also, Red Sox starting pitching was outstanding once again as they have yet to allow a single run. David Price went 7 innings and only let up 4 hits in getting the win. Craig Kimbrel continued to do Kimbrel things and struck out the side in order en route to locking down his first save of the new season.

-Villanova guard Jalen Brunson won National Player of the Year in the NCAA, which feels like an unimportant award, to be truly honest. For whatever reason, basketball’s top individual prize just doesn’t feel like it’s worth anything, unlike the Heisman. Why that is is beyond me, but nonetheless, it is interesting that Brunson won it over Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who put up a ridiculous statline all season. However, as I’ve noticed, this award typically goes to the best player on the best team and by that logic, Brunson is the rightful winner.

937889134

-Speaking of college hoops, the Final Four starts Saturday night as Loyola-Chicago takes on Michigan and Villanova takes on Kansas. As bad as my bracket was for much of the tournament, I actually managed to get 3 out of 4 Final Four teams, with Loyola being the lone exception, of course. I had Arizona coming out of the South but they thought it’d be funny to get blown out by 13th seeded Buffalo in the first round. I had them in the National Championship, losing to Villanova. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how this Cinderella run for Loyola ends because it just feels like they can do no wrong. Michigan is a really good opponent and they’ve been on fire, too, but the lowest seed they’ve faced so far is the 6th-seeded Houston. Should they win and make it to the National Championship, they will have done so by beating a 14, a 6, a 7, a 9, and an 11 in Loyola. I’m predicting the championship game will be Michigan vs Villanova, which will be very conflicting for my uncle, who attended ‘Nova but is also a big Michigan fan.

-After Aaron Hicks injured his ribs, centerfield may have a vacancy for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury is currently on the DL and Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner moved into center while rookie Billy McKinney manned left. However, Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated that Aaron Judge may get a look in center when Gardner needs a breather, which could get interesting. Judge has only played right field since his Major League debut in 2016 and he has played it very competently. However if he does end up playing some centerfield, he could wind up being the biggest centerfielder of all time at 6’8 280 pounds. I tried doing a google search for the tallest centerfielders but it didn’t help very much so I may need some help from the readers. But I can’t imagine there’s ever been a heavier one at the very least.

891803716

-The Oakland Raiders cut punter Marquette King. Normally a punter getting cut wouldn’t make news, however King is a special case. He gained notoriety in the NFL for his entertaining social media presence and his on-field antics, which included some fun celebrations when he would pin a punt inside the 20 yard line. And the elephant in the room, he’s the only black punter in the league, there I said it. The guy can kick, though, and I can’t imagine he’ll be out of a job for very long. He did have a pretty lucrative contract for a punter, as he was in the second year of a 5-year $16.5M deal. Jon Gruden also cut talented young tight end Clive Walford, who showed promise in his first two years, then basically did nothing in 2017 as he only caught 9 passes in 13 games.

-Amazon’s All or Nothing series that kind of works like Hard Knocks but follows a team during the regular season is going to follow two football teams this year, one college and one pro. The college team is going to be Michigan while the NFL team is the Cowboys. They were following these teams throughout the season and will compile their footage into a documentary on a team’s season. They started doing this in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals and it was a blast following a team as it made a run at the Super Bowl, falling just short in their NFC Championship loss. Then in 2016 they followed the Rams and we got to see the inverse, as they fired coach Jeff Fisher midseason and we got to see what it was like for an organization to deal with this kind of upheaval, which was super interesting. For the 2017 season, Michigan went 8-5 including a bowl loss to South Carolina after starting off pretty well while the Cowboys went 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs so these ones seem like they’re going to be more up-and-down rather than all ups with the Cardinals or all downs with the Rams. I’ll definitely be looking forward to this series. The Cowboys one will be released on April 27, also Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft while the Michigan one will be released on April 6 (this coming Friday).

-76ers “rookie” Ben Simmons recorded his 11th triple double on the season against the Hawks, which is more than 27 other teams. Simmons is most certainly going to win Rookie of the Year, but I’m still going to bitch and moan since in my brain this technically isn’t his rookie year, as he was drafted in 2016. But whatever, nobody ever really remembers who won Rookie of the Year anyway. You know who won last year? Malcolm Brogdon. Did you know that? Because I sure as Hell forgot, I had to google it.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

A Look at the NFL Head Coaching Hires

With Arizona’s hiring of Steve Wilks and Indy’s and Detroit’s inevitable hirings of Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, it appears that all head coaching vacancies have been filled. Let’s take a look at how each team did with their new head man.

Arizona Cardinals Hire Former Carolina Panthers’ DC Steve Wilks

453083984

Wilks is probably the least experienced coach in the group as far as major responsibilities go. 2017 was his first year as a defensive coordinator in the NFL and only the second time he’s ever held such a title, when he was DC at East Tennessee State in 2002. Wilks spent one year as a head coach at the college level at Savannah State in 1999 before moving to Illinois State as defensive backs coach. He’s been an NFL coach since 2005, primarily as a defensive backs coach. He had spent the last 5-6 years in the Panthers organization, where he helped create guys such as Josh Norman into what they are today. His best work has easily come as a member of the Panthers, particularly in the last couple of seasons. Carolina’s secondary had been about as weak a defensive unit as there is in football but always got masked by a great front seven. Last year, Carolina boasted the 7th best defense in the NFL in total yards and helped lead the team to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. He joins an Arizona team that has talent but has to reload after the retirements of both former head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer. I don’t think it’d be fair to expect a ton out of Wilks and the Cardinals in his first year, as that offense is going to need to undergo a lot of changes, however I do think Arizona will continue to field a strong defense.

Indianapolis Colts Are Going to Hire New England Patriots’ OC Josh McDaniels

873401272

Josh McDaniels is arguably the best offensive coordinator in the NFL, as the Patriots are consistently at the top of the NFL in terms of points and yardage year-in and year-out. He does have head coaching experience with the Denver Broncos, however after starting his career 6-0, he crashed and burned horribly. What I think went wrong was McDaniels tried to be Belichick with his new team before he had earned that right in his players’ eyes. He traded their quarterback and top wide receiver (Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall) before even coaching a game, which probably should’ve been the first sign of things to come. I think McDaniels will have learned a lot from his failures in Denver, however, and I expect his tenure with the Colts to go much better. He has still yet to be announced as their head coach but all signs point to McDaniels becoming the head man after the Super Bowl. The Colts offensively won’t become the Patriots overnight, but I think if they can boast just an average offensive line, then I think they could be deadly if McDaniels is able to transition his system over from New England to Indy.

Detroit Lions Are Going to Hire New England Patriots’ DC Matt Patricia

908498248

Same situation with Patricia as McDaniels, as he hasn’t been announced as the head coach yet since he’ll be coaching in the Super Bowl, however it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he’s getting the Lions job. There’s a lot of talent on the Lions that went unrealized under previous head coach Jim Caldwell however they could never get over the hump. It is unknown how Patricia will do as a head coach because he’s never been a head coach at any level before. He’s been the Patriots’ DC since 2012 and before that served as an offensive assistant, O-line, linebackers, and safeties coach. Patricia’s defenses in New England have been the personification of bend-but-don’t-break, as they’re routinely near the bottom in yards allowed but near the top in points allowed. Patricia is notoriously well-liked by his players and it will be interesting to see how he gels with the Lions. I really don’t know what to expect out of the Lions under Patricia just because there’s nothing to go off of since he’s never been a head coach before. I think the Lions will fall somewhere between the 6-9 wins range next season.

New York Giants Hire Former Minnesota Vikings’ OC Pat Shurmur

625645812

Pat Shurmur has been in coaching since 1988 when he was a grad assistant at his alma mater at Michigan State. He’s been in the NFL since 1999 with the Eagles’ staff and has had one stint as a head coach and another as interim head coach. He led the Browns in 2011 and 2012 and posted a 9-23 record. He was also the Eagles’ interim head coach after they fired Chip Kelly in 2015 and won his only game at that position before the Eagles hired current head coach Doug Pederson. Shurmur has spent the last two seasons with the Vikings. In 2016 he was the tight ends coach before becoming interim offensive coordinator, then keeping the job on a full-time basis for 2017. In 2017, the Vikings were able to find a lot of success on offense despite the injuries to key offensive players. Stud rookie Dalvin Cook tore his ACL in Week 4 and Sam Bradford suffered a leg injury that effectively ended his season. But I think the biggest thing that got Shurmur the Giants’ gig is the rise of Case Keenum under his watch. When a journeyman quarterback leads his team to an NFC Championship game while posting the numbers that Keenum did, the OC is going to get some looks. I think this could wind up being a sneaky good hire. There’s lots of talent on the Giants, who simply underperformed in 2017 and if Shurmur can get the most out of a guy like Keenum, doing the same for Giants players will be a breeze. I think there will be a hefty win improvement in 2018. The intriguing thing for me is going to be what he decides to do with the #2 pick in the Draft. Do the Giants take Eli’s heir or do they take a playmaker like Saquon Barkley? We’ll have to wait and see.

Tennessee Titans Hire Former Houston Texans’ DC Mike Vrabel

842277072

Like Matt Patricia, Mike Vrabel is also getting his very first head coaching gig at any level. Vrabel was a stud linebacker with the Patriots during their initial dynasty in the early 2000’s, as he was a major part of the team that won 3 super Bowls in a 4-year stretch from 2001-2004. He has since served as linebackers and defensive line coach at his alma mater Ohio State from 2011-2013 before joining Bill O’Brien on the Houston Texans’ staff in 2014 as linebackers’ coach. When Hard Knocks focused on the Texans in 2015, we got a chance to see Vrabel’s coaching style firsthand and man, is he tough. He’ll get in your face and yell and call your mother a bitch but you also get the sense that he really cares about his guys. In 2017, he was promoted to defensive coordinator and the Texans ranked 20th in yards allowed and last in points, however a large part of that was all the injuries to key players the team had to deal with. But Vrabel’s personality is the type of thing I think the Titans need. At times they seemed a little relaxed and I think a good kick in the pants could be what takes them from an inconsistent and mediocre team to one that contends for division titles every year. I’m not so sure the Titans will make the playoffs next year like they did this year, though, especially with the rise of the Jaguars and a healthy Texans team. But again, we don’t know what to expect with a true rookie head coach in Vrabel and how his players might respond to his coaching style.

Oakland Raiders Hire Monday Night Football Broadcaster Jon Gruden

903070700

This is easily the highest-profile coaching hire of the offseason. Jon Gruden was a pretty well-decorated coach with the Raiders from 1998-2001, then with the Buccaneers from 2002-2008, including a Super Bowl XXXVII victory with Tampa over the same Raiders team that had fired him the year before. He also holds the distinction of being the winningest coach in Buccaneers’ history and was inducted into their Ring of Honor this past season. Since being fired from the Buccaneers in 2008, however, Gruden has been the color commentator for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, where his antics had become endearing to many fans. He now rejoins a Raiders team that really regressed last season but there are a lot of talented pieces in place. The AFC West appears to be wide open next season as both the Chiefs and Chargers, who finished ahead of Oakland, were wildly inconsistent while the Broncos struggled mightily. I think Gruden gets the Raiders back in the thick of things, though we may see some early-season rust.

Chicago Bears Hire Former Kansas City Chiefs’ OC Matt Nagy

903488938

Matt Nagy was the first coach hired this offseason, as he was introduced as Bears’ head coach one week to the day that John Fox was fired. He may have the smoothest transition out of any of these coaches as he has a quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky that has a very similar skillset to his previous quarterback, Alex Smith, and an excellent runningback in Jordan Howard. Nagy is only 39 years old and had been playing football professionally as recently as 2008 with the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League. Nagy has been a coach since 2010 as a coach’s assistant with the Eagles and was an offensive quality control coach there until 2012. He had been with the Chiefs since 2013, where he served as quarterbacks coach until 2015 when he was promoted to offensive coordinator, a position he had held up until his hiring with the Bears. Under Nagy, the Chiefs experienced a lot of success on offense through ball control and ball security, as they were #1 in turnover differential in 2016 and #2 in 2017. We’ll have to see if the transition is as seamless as I think it has the potential to be, considering the similarities I find between Trubisky and Smith, because if it is, then I think the Bears could be dark horses in 2018, perhaps becoming next year’s version of the Rams. Young head coach, young quarterback, complete overhaul in offensive philosophy. It worked in LA, can it work in Chicago?

That’s going to do it for my thoughts on the NFL head coaching hires. Let me know what you think of these hires in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Coaching Hot Seats in the NFL

First off, my apologies for no blog yesterday, I couldn’t think of anything to write about. But I’ve got a few ideas in my brain now so it shouldn’t be an issue. I’m also somehow more busier when I’m home than I am when I’m at school so sometimes life gets in the way for me.

Now that that’s out of the way, Black Monday is coming up in the NFL and Week 17 will be a huge deciding factor for a lot of organizations about the future of their head coach. Of course, there are some coaches who will never ever have to worry about their job security (Bill Belichick) but others aren’t so fortunate. Whether that’s because of the situation they’re in or a lack of success, football can be a cruel game, especially when it comes to the coaches. I don’t remember who said this, but the perfect quote is “you’re hired to get fired” about an NFL coach’s career. It’s mainly just the all-time greats who have total job security and even then that’s not always the case. So with that, let’s take a look at the coaches on the hot seat.

Hue Jackson-Cleveland Browns

897188974

2017 Record: 0-15

Record with current team: 1-30

Jesus that record. Hue Jackson’s not a bad coach but you wouldn’t know it based on what his record says. He was 8-8 in his one year as the head coach of the Raiders but was randomly fired by Al Davis, despite the fact that record was the best they had since losing Super Bowl XXXVII. He was also beloved by his players while he was runningbacks coach with the Bengals. So I think he will find a job somewhere if the Browns do fire him, most likely as a coordinator or position coach. Front office people have said that Jackson will return in 2018, but I think that was also said with the confidence that the Browns wouldn’t go 0-16. But they’re 1 game away and they face a Steelers team that one could make an argument is the best in the NFL. So I think if the Browns go 0-16, Jackson will be given his pink slip. But I actually do believe that if the Browns win that game, then he will save his job. Just a gut feeling because that is a very untalented Browns team, particularly on offense, and it’s unfair to place the totality of the blame on him.

Seat Temperature: Pretty Damn Hot

Chuck Pagano-Indianapolis Colts

893208326

2017 Record: 3-12

Record with current team: 52-43

The Colts have taken an absolute nosedive since getting blown out in the 2014-15 AFC Championship game against the Patriots (and no, I’m not going to mention what that game is most known for). Pagano was looking like one of the top coaches in the league but the lack of talent on the roster was rearing its ugly head. I think what happened was it was Bill Polian’s guys that Pagano was succeeding with and once they started getting older (Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Reggie Wayne) or retiring, the Ryan Grigson guys started rearing their ugly heads. Thankfully for Colts fans, Grigson was canned and I thought they had a pretty good draft in 2017, as Malik Hooker was playing really well until his injury and Quincy Wilson has really emerged in the last couple weeks. The next step is to get a new head coach to take the next step. I can’t imagine Pagano returning, no matter what happens in Week 17.

Seat Temperature: Volcanic

Marvin Lewis-Cincinnati Bengals

885806232

2017 Record: 6-9

Record with current team: 124-112-3

I’m not sure how Marvin Lewis made it this long. If he couldn’t get fired after that AFC Wild Card debacle against the Steelers a couple years ago, then his job was eternally safe. But it appears that he won’t be returning as head coach of the Bengals. He’s been one of the best coaches the franchise has ever had but his lack of playoff success (he’s never won a playoff game) is really what looms large as well as the downward spiral the Bengals have been on the last couple years. I’m sure somebody else will hire him to become their next head coach, though. He’s had too much success in Cincinnati to be relegated to position coach. Somebody else will sign him, whether it be for 2018 or sometime after, if he decides to take a break from coaching.

Seat Temperature: Scorching

Bill O’Brien-Houston Texans

894506778

2017 Record: 4-11

Record with current team: 31-32

I hate talking about him being on the hot seat because I actually played on a football team with his nephew my freshman year of high school. But Bill O’Brien might be on the hot seat after a disastrous season in Houston. Quite frankly, I think he’s going to be fine. The Texans showed a ton of promise when Deshaun Watson started taking off. But the story of the Texans’ season has been injuries. Watson, JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, CJ Fiedorowicz, and Brian Cushing all either missed substantial time or were put on IR at some point. I think Bill O’Brien will be back next year just simply because everything that went wrong was kind of out of his control.

Seat Temperature: Pretty Comfortable

Mike Mularkey-Tennessee Titans

891823414

2017 Record: 8-7

Record with current team: 19-21

This might be a little surprising because the Titans are in the thick of a playoff race, however I think Mularkey might be in trouble if they don’t make the postseason simply because of how much the team has regressed based on the eye test, particularly Marcus Mariota. Mariota struggled mightily in 2017 and this was supposed to be the year where the former #2 pick took the next step. Somehow the Titans control their own destiny to make the playoffs despite all their issues but it’s not encouraging for the future. This kind of luck isn’t sustainable. I think if the Titans lose to the Jaguars on Sunday and miss the playoffs, then Mularkey will get canned. If they win and get in, though, then I think he will be fine.

Seat Temperature: Pretty Warm

Jay Gruden-Washington Redskins

894283426

2017 Record: 7-8

Record with current team: 28-34-1

The Redskins didn’t really get much better in 2017 and a lot of that can be due in part to all the turnover on offense from last season, as basically their entire receiving corps left in free agency. A lot of people think Gruden might get the axe just because the Redskins have been kind of stagnant the last couple years. This to me is probably the trickiest one to pinpoint because I feel like I’d want to keep him if I’m Dan Snyder but I’d also understand if they wanted to fire him just because they’ve been running in place the last couple years. A part of me does feel like he might be on his way out, though. Just a gut feeling. I personally think I would keep him for next year, but again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went another direction. If he does, I do think he will eventually get another head coaching gig.

Seat Temperature: Room Temperature

John Fox-Chicago Bears

898999398

2017 record: 5-10

Record with current team: 14-33

Fox is a good coach, as evidenced by his tenures in Carolina and Denver. But it was just a bad situation with Chicago. He probably kind of figured he’d be rebuilding, but the Bears just don’t really have anything exciting going for them as offensively they’ve been really stagnant with the exception of Jordan Howard. There’s no passing game and that’s really what ends up being the deciding factor. I think the Bears and Fox will mutually part ways, I don’t think this will be an outright firing, I get a sense that Fox would want a fresh start as well. This isn’t based on anything I heard this is just another vibe I’ve got.

Seat Temperature: Mutually Hot

Dirk Koetter-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

898099074

2017 Record: 4-11

Record with current team: 13-18

It’s only been two years for Koetter, but the Bucs took a HUGE step backward in 2017. They showed about as much promise as any team headed into this season especially after watching Hard Knocks. There was just this spring in everyone’s step that had you really excited for these guys. But then their kicking game started killing games for them and I think that really put a damper on this team’s confidence. I’ve heard a lot of people saying they want Koetter gone, but I don’t think that’s fair. I would give him another year to kind of righten the ship. But they need to do something because it’s basically the same situation as with Tennessee, where Jameis Winston, who was primed for a breakout year, took a huge step backward. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get fired for that reason but I also think there’s potential with him.

Seat Temperature: Reasonably Warm

Vance Joseph-Denver Broncos

898565822

2017 Record: 5-10

Record with current team: 5-10

Vance Joseph did not have the time of his life this year. The Broncos really struggled, especially on the offensive side of the ball and a lot of that is due to poor quarterback play. I don’t think Joseph will get fired because the defense kept the status quo for the most part this year. But to give him a chance, they NEED to draft a quarterback with their high pick. They have to land either Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. Perhaps if the Browns are comfortable with Deshone Kizer then maybe they could pull off a blockbuster, which I think would be worth it to get the quarterback of the future.

Seat Temperature: Cold

Ron Rivera-Carolina Panthers

889594604

2017 Record: 11-4

Record with current team: 64-46

This is kind of a weird one. The Panthers are having a great year but the whole Jerry Richardson situation may put Rivera’s job security in question. Normally, Rivera would have nothing to worry about, but anytime there’s new ownership, which could include P Diddy, Steph Curry, and Colin Kaepernick, change is inevitable. I think they will retain Rivera just because of the success he’s had in Carolina, but I feel like he may be on the hot seat in the near future.

Seat Temperature: Moderately Temperate. 

And obviously the Giants will need to find a new guy, as they’ve already fired Ben McAdoo. Kind of a no-brainer there. So those are my thoughts on potential coaching changes. After Black Monday I’ll discuss the inverse of this, who I think could get hired, which will be a much more positive blog. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.