Head Coach Hotseats

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

At this point in the season every head coach in the NFL is 0-0 for the 2019 season, full of optimism and jam-packed with motivational speeches, outstanding PowerPoint content and a team willing to run through a brick wall for you, unless your name is of course Jay Gruden.

Tim and I ranked our coaches in terms of sleeping in a luxury king size bed, on the sofa, on someone else’s sofa or sleeping in the car in a recent podcast, go and check it out. Here are some of our disagreements and my side of the argument…

Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills

Coaching facts

The Bills 22nd head coach, McDermott boasts a 15-17 record in two seasons and a 0-1 playoff record. The team drafted QB Josh Allen early in 2018, but this failed to yield immediate results as the Bills slipped to 6-10 after a 2017 playoff berth. McDermott comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, having worked his way up from secondary coach in Philly to defensive coordinator, also serving as the DC in Carolina.

Coached DBs for Eagles in 2004 when they reached and lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots, alongside Pat Shurmur (QB coach), Brian Dawkins and Michal Lewis both starting safeties were Pro Bowlers. Fired as defensive coordinator by Eagles Jan 15 2011. Reached second Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Panthers – losing to the Broncos.

In 2017 made the massive error of benching Tyrod Taylor Week 10 following a huge loss to the Saints, bringing in Nathan Peterman – yes that game where Peterman threw five first half interceptions before being benched himself. Somehow steered the Bills to 9-7 and their first playoff game in 18 years – the biggest drought in the NFL. Bills lost that game 10-3 to Jaguars.

FUN FACT: McDermott was a National prep champion wrestler in high school.

Opinion

Since 2000 The Bills have had 10 head coaches – roughly one every two years. The last one to get into their third season was Chan Gailey (2010-2012). McDermott is a defensive guru and takes great pride in developing his defensive players but this is 2019 and you need to maintain possession of the ball and keep your defense fresh. A second sub .500 season for McDermott, and not enough progress from Josh Allen will see McDermott watching his back from around Week 12. Maybe not an in-season sacking, but this is someone who could be a Black Monday casualty.

Prediction: 7-9 and the Bills ownership lose patience.


Pat Shurmur – New York Giants

Coaching facts

Shurmur has a career NFL head coaching record of 9-23, including two years with the not so good Browns, and a 5-11 record with the Giants in 2018. Another disciple from the Andy Reid coaching tree, Shurmur has spent most of his time as an offensive coordinator – most recently helping the Vikings get one game away from a Super Bowl in 2017-18. His son Kyle is a quarterback, and in 2019 he was an Undrafted free agent pickup by the Chiefs.

Was Associated Press Assistant coach of the year in 2017 when the Vikings went all the way to the NFC Championship behind Case Keenum. His uncle Fritz Shurmur was a coach in the 70s – 90s. Coached Eagles quarterbacks in 2004 helping Donovan McNabb to a Super Bowl – a loss to the Patriots – alongside Sean McDermott.

Opinion

Shurmur has won 15 of 49 contests and made a huge splash in the 2019 draft taking Duke’s Daniel Jones at pick 6. Pick 6 how ironic. 9 wins in two years in Cleveland, 1 win as interim Eagles coach and 5 wins in NY last year, Shurmur has finished bottom of his division in all three full seasons. The NY media will be scrutinising Shurmur’s every move and another basement finish, whist hardly a surprise could signal a premature end to this coach’s stint. This will be all about how Daniel Jones develops and when he starts. Eli is untouchable, apart from the day he was benched for Geno Smith, but this could be a messy final year. The Giants mess is at WR– Corey Coleman won’t play on 2019, Golden Tate is suspended four games, Sterling Shephard is injured, leaving tight end Evan Engram become a Pro Bowler, but that means little. Barclay will shine, but it’s the weak Giants defense that will again let down this offensive minded coach.

Prediction: 5-11 – Misery in the Big Apple as Shurmur is hounded out by the media in the Big Apple.


Matt LeFleur – Green Bay Packers

Coaching facts

LeFleur has spent most of his career serving Kyle Shanahan, at three different NFL team. This is his first head coaching gig. He played for the Omaha Beef in the Indoor Professional Football League in 2003 as a backup QB. In May 2019 LeFleur tore his Achilles playing basketball – an offseason injury for a coach.

Since 2003 has had 11 coaching jobs. This is his sixth coaching job in the NFL. Following on the youth movement he is 39 – 40 in November. He was Redskins QB coach in 2012 when they drafted RG3 and Cousins. In 2016 LeFleur was the Falcons quarterback coach (reporting to Kyle Shanahan) and helped Matt Ryan to become league MVP and the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, but they could not hold on to a 28-3 lead. He choked. In 2018 he was the Titans offensive coordinator but Titans finished 25th in offensive output. In addition, the Titans is a place where wide receivers go to die.

Opinion

Big pressure on LeFleur to get Aaron Rogers back to the promised land, he is an offensive guru. The Packers have plenty of talent and a bucket load of WR ready to break out and Aaron Jones has one of the best yards per carry in the NFL. The defense is where the Packers will need to step up and I’m not sure he is the man to help the Pack with that issue. Packers have brought in three new starters in FA – Preston Smith OLB from the Redskins, Zadarius Smith OLB from the Ravens and Adrian Amos S from the Bears. The Packers D is going to be the team’s downfall. LA Fleur is safe but his posterior is already warming up.

Prediction: 9-7 – winning record but no playoffs


Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers

Coaching facts

Tomlin has a pretty decent records in Pittsburgh, 125-66-1 in the regular season, but a disappointing 8-7 in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl win, despite having arguably the most talented roster for al lot more than just one season. In the last six season he has finished first or second in his division.
Tomlin has never had a losing season in 12 years coaching the Steelers. Was Bucks DB coach when they won Super Bowl and had three defensive return touchdowns. Fined 100k for putting off Ravens Jacoby Jones on a kick return – look this up on You Tube.

Opinion

Steelers do not like making changes at head coach, and considering Tomlin got a winning season despite their star player not playing one down last year that is credit to his leadership. The NFL does not have many jobs for life but Tomlin has lasted a long time on just one Super Bowl win. With Helmet monster Brown gone this is going to be a different looking Steelers team, with T.J. Watt looking after the defence and Juju Smith-Schuster looking to go All-Pro. Tomlin and Big Ben are the next best thing to The Sith Lord Belichick and Tom Brady, and was it not for these two the Steelers would probably have had 2-3 Super Bowls in the last decade.

Prediction: 10-6 – Wild card winner but divisional playoff loser


Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals

Coaching facts

Another NFL head coaching newbie, Kingsbury is the most fascinating of all the new coaches to join in 2019 due to his offensive style, his brand new QB and his college pedigree.

Kingsbury set a ton of passing records playing at Texas Tech. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2003 – 6th round but went on I/R. He did get a Super Bowl ring, but was waived in 2004.

Bumped around the NFL and CFL on practice squads. Threw only two passes in the NFL in 2005  – 1 of 2 for 17 yards for the Jets in a 27-0 loss. He played in NFL Europe for the Cologne Centurions.

Opinion

An offensive genius at Texas Tech – he tutored Patrick Mahomes. He has averaged 550 yards offense and 42 points a game in college in past 7 years. This explosive output did not however equate to wins as he went 35-40 in six season, winning just one bowl game – Holiday Bowl in 2013. This is pure curiosity as Kingsbury has spent lots of time in NFL locker rooms as a clipboard holder but never as a head coach. He has the number one overall pick to work with, having dispensed of 2018 first rounder Josh Rosen. He will be looking for big things from running back David Johnson, and the veteran savvy of Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards have new wide receivers in Isabella and Johnson, and Christian Kirk will be looking for a 1,000-yard season. It will be a wild ride ahead but again the defense will let down the progress of the team.

Prediction: 4-12 – Keeps job as it’s the start of the journey.


Zac Taylor – Cincinnati Bengals

Coaching facts

Another head coach cutting his teeth in the NFL in 2019. Taylor was a QB at three different colleges including the Butler Community College Grizzlies. Two winning seasons at Nebraska. Was not very mobile – ran for –MINUS 64 yards at Nebraska. Was signed by Buccaneers in 2007 as quarterback but cut and was then 4th string at the Winnipeg Blue bombers in the CFL. Taylor is married to the daughter of former Packer head-coach Mike Sherman.

Opinion

This move is relative to waiting for a lovely Christmas present and thinking it’s something you always wanted like a signed Sean Taylor shirt only to open it and its socks, but not even nice M&S socks, pound shop novelty ones you won’t want to be seen dead in after December 26th. He originally worked his way up to offensive coordinator with the Dolphins.

Taylor was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2016, before becoming the Rams QB coach in 2018. He got Jared Goff to a Super Bowl and then got schooled by the Dark Sith Lord Belichick.

Prediction: 6-10 – Anonymous season anonymous coach anonymous team.


Bill O’Brien – Houston Texans

Coaching facts

O’Brien has steered the Texans to a 42-38 record in 5 years, including three division wins, but he only has one playoff win. This is a coach who always looks intense, but maybe a bit too intense for some.

Opinion

O’Brien has been coaching since 1993. Was offensive coordinator for Pats in Super Bowl 46 – a loss to the Giants. Became the replacement for Legendary Joe Paterno at Penn State and despite sanctions he became college coach of the year in 2012 – guiding Penn State to 8-4. Could have become the Jaguars coach that same year. He signed a four-year extension in 2018

Prediction: 11-5 another division win


Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers

Coaching facts

Shanahan is 10-22 in two full seasons and really needs a playoff run to keep his job. He is the son of Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shannahan – who won two titles with John Elway and the Broncos. Coached under his dad at the Redskins 2010-13. Was fired alongside his father – debatable nepotism. He resigned from OC job with the Browns in 2015 disagreeing about Johnny Manziel starting. He served under Jon ‘Chucky’ Gruden in 2004-5

Was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons when they collapsed against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Shanahan’s QB coach then, Zac Taylor, is now head coach at the Bengals.

Opinion

Shanahan’s head coaching tenure is in the hands of Jimmy Garropolo. Who was injured last season leaving the likes of Nick Mullens to take the helm for a team that has five Super Bowl wins. With new RB Tevin Coleman to be the feature back this is a team that many have as dark horses for a playoff push in 2019. I’m not as confident.

Prediction : I can see an 8-8 type performance.

Don’t forget to go and check out our in depth podcast from Tuesday 27th August where myself and Tim discuss all of these head coaches and their vulnerabilities ahead of the 2019 season.

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