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ESPN Insider: Grading AFC Coaches

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  • ESPN Insider: Grading AFC Coaches

    Belichick better than ever in '05
    Pro Football Weekly


    Christmas break may have just ended in schools across the country, but in the NFL, the final grades are in for the league's head coaches with another regular season having been completed.

    It's hard to imagine any profession that is subjected to as much scrutiny as the head-coaching profession, as fans -- and publications like Pro Football Weekly -- take great delight this time of year speculating on which head coaches will grab postseason honors, and at the same time, which ones slipped up enough to receive pink slips.

    In addition to the quick firing of Vikings head coach Mike Tice on the same day the regular season ended, the Rams' Mike Martz, the Packers' Mike Sherman, the Texans' Dom Capers and the Saints' Jim Haslett were let go the following day. On Tuesday, Norv Turner of the Raiders was fired. It's quite possible even more coaches being scrutinized in the following article will be dusting off their résumés in pursuit of new employment by the time you read this.

    One old-school veteran of the coaching wars, Kansas City's **** Vermeil, has already departed on his own terms after concluding that the day-in, day-out grind has taken its toll -- again.

    In any event, PFW presents its annual head-coaching report cards, assigning a grade to each coach, along with the reasons behind it.



    AFC East
    Bill Belichick | Patriots
    Belichick did another masterful job this season, despite dealing with adversity at seemingly every turn. With trusted coordinators Romeo Crennel (Browns) and Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) taking head-coaching jobs, Belichick managed to keep his team on top of the AFC East despite the absence of LB Tedy Bruschi for half the season and key injuries to SS Rodney Harrison, OLT Matt Light, DE Richard Seymour, RB Corey Dillon and C Dan Koppen. Belichick assumed more of the play-calling duties and leaned heavily on QB Tom Brady, who produced arguably his best season. Belichick's ability to plug street free agents like FB Heath Evans, CB Hank Poteat and safeties Mike Stone and Artrell Hawkins into the starting lineup and get solid production from them is unparalleled. He also had to deal with the death of his father in November, leaving the team for several days to attend the funeral.
    Grade: A

    Herm Edwards | Jets
    Edwards never seemed to recover from the stunning losses of the team's top two QBs, Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler, in Week 3. As the leader of a team that had Super Bowl aspirations heading into the season, Edwards was unable to rally the troops, and instead the Jets dropped near the bottom of the league. More key injuries followed, and things bottomed out in midseason when Edwards was slow to deny that he might be interested in the Chiefs' head-coaching job should **** Vermeil step down this season or next. After overseeing the rebuilding of the Jets' defense prior to the 2004 season, Edwards now faces a rebuilding project on the offensive side of the ball this offseason.
    Grade: D


    Mike Mularkey | Bills
    Mularkey appeared to be on the right track after leading his team to a 9-7 record following an 0-4 start in 2004. But, with raised expectations in '05, the Bills made a precipitous fall that may lead to major changes this offseason. Mularkey chose young QB J.P. Losman over veteran Kelly Holcomb, infuriating some veterans. He also had run-ins with Eric Moulds and Sam Adams, which may have lost him respect from the rest of the players. He supplanted offensive coordinator Tom Clements as the play-caller in Week 5, but the team has had an alarming lack of identity offensively. And, embarrassing blowout losses at Oakland and San Diego and a blown 23-3 fourth-quarter lead at Miami appeared to show a team that was ill-prepared and lacked mental toughness.
    Grade: D-minus


    Nick Saban | Dolphins
    After a shaky start in which Saban's team committed 51 penalties in the first five games, and saw the first-year coach guilty of some questionable play calls, the team turned things around. Rather than falling apart down the stretch, as they had in recent seasons, the Dolphins posted the first perfect December in franchise history. The players bought into Saban's system, and that momentum should carry over into next season. Saban's stubbornness in not getting QB Gus Frerotte more work in the preseason slowed the progress of the offense. However, Saban effectively incorporated Ricky Williams back into the team, got good production out of several rookies, turned WR Chris Chambers into a Pro Bowler, and his hires of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and O-line coach Hudson Houck appear to be master strokes.
    Grade: B-plus



    AFC North
    Brian Billick | Ravens
    Speculation ran rampant that Billick was losing his team and would be fired at season's end after the Ravens' awful start to the 2005 season, but owner Steve Bisciotti has elected to bring him back for the '06 campaign. The Ravens' improved play in the season's final month likely helped Billick's case to return. Another factor in Billick's favor: QB Kyle Boller finally began to show signs of becoming a starting-caliber player. Nevertheless, Billick likely has to lead the Ravens back to the playoffs to keep his job beyond next season. A lack of focus and discipline doomed the Ravens early this season, and the AFC is too strong for any contender to endure much turmoil and live to tell about it.
    Grade: C-plus

    Bill Cowher | Steelers
    The NFL's longest-tenured head coach, Cowher pushed the right buttons with his club. He deftly handled a tricky situation at running back, sticking with young Willie Parker as his starter from the beginning of the season but working in veterans Jerome Bettis and Verron Haynes (and, midway through the season, Duce Staley). Cowher also deserves credit for the team's late-season turnaround. With its playoff hopes seemingly fading in early December, Pittsburgh got back to the basics (running the football, smothering defense) and ripped off four wins to close out the season.
    Grade: B-plus


    Romeo Crennel | Browns
    If nothing else, the 2005 Browns were scrappy and well-coached, and that's a credit to Crennel, who got the most out of his club in his first season at the helm. The Browns scored impressive wins at Green Bay and vs. playoff-bound Chicago and gave Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Jacksonville tough games. Crennel also deserves credit for his handling of a tricky QB situation. Proud veteran Trent Dilfer was eased out of the lineup in December in favor of rookie Charlie Frye, who looks to be the Browns' starter in the years to come. Crennel looks similarly well-entrenched in Cleveland.
    Grade: B


    Marvin Lewis | Bengals
    Lewis led the Bengals to the playoffs in his third season with the club, a remarkable achievement when considering the depths to which the franchise had sunk when Lewis was hired in January 2003. After slow starts in Lewis' first two campaigns, the Bengals started 4-0 this season and clinched the AFC North title with two weeks to spare, a testament to their superior focus and preparation this season. Lewis has put together an excellent coaching staff; witness the development of QB Carson Palmer with the tutelage of QB coach Ken Zampese and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
    Grade: A-minus



    South And West, next post
    Administrator

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  • #2
    AFC South
    Dom Capers | Texans
    To Capers' credit, the Texans played hard in the season's final weeks. But a lack of effort and execution far too often earmarked lopsided losses in September, October and November. Capers fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer after only two games because of the unit's dismal performance, but the offense took much of the season to get comfortable with Joe Pendry's scheme. The defense hasn't stopped the run or pass consistently and has not mustered enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Capers is respected by his players, who appreciate his even-keeled approach. But his fourth season in Houston was a disaster.
    Grade: D-plus

    Jack Del Rio | Jaguars
    Local and some national media have taken issue with Del Rio's sharp tongue and fire-and-brimstone personality, construing that combination as a contagious arrogance rubbing off on both the team and administration. Maybe, just maybe, this isn't a bad thing? Del Rio, one of the lowest-paid coaches in the league, has produced impressive results, creating a top-ranked defense and playoff team from a young, widely inexperienced roster. He inherited a rag-tag outfit in 2003 and quickly turned the Jaguars into a respectable opponent with a 21-11 record in the last two seasons. The playoff bid is the team's first since 1999. Young bucks drafted on Del Rio's watch, such as Byron Leftwich, Rashean Mathis, Greg Jones and Ernest Wilford, have developed rapidly to play key roles, and Del Rio's razor-wire defense is one of the best in the league and the top reason Jacksonville will play into January despite a spate of injuries.
    Grade: B




    Tony Dungy did a masterful job with the Colts' young defense.
    Tony Dungy | Colts
    Dungy's defense -- his system, actually -- allowed Indianapolis to stack its roster with skill-position talent that soaked up most of the Colts' salary-cap space. Dungy, a tremendous teacher who works almost exclusively with young players during game-week practices, advanced raw, unheralded prospects into roles of prominence, and the Colts' defense went to a new level. Of course, Dungy is undersold based on the talent he inherited on the other side of the ball. Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James are MVP candidates, and WR Marvin Harrison had another fine year. Dungy, though, is the glue of the team and the true captain of the ship.
    Grade: A

    Jeff Fisher | Titans
    With a young (and, some scouts say, untalented) roster to manage and a first-year NFL offensive coordinator in Norm Chow to catch up to speed, expectations for Fisher's club -- at least externally -- were not very high. Still, improvements were expected, and Fisher's teams typically appear to be well-coached, hungry and driven. But this year's model falls short in all three categories as the Titans limped to a 1-7 road record and a 4-12 mark overall. Despite a relatively healthy Steve McNair and the addition of Travis Henry and several rookies, the offense never took off, scoring fewer points than last season. Though Fisher can't be blamed for all of this, given the situation, this was not his best coaching effort.
    Grade: C



    AFC West

    Mike Shanahan | Broncos
    Shanahan surely heard the chuckles in the offseason after signing Jerry Rice, drafting Maurice Clarett in the third round and overhauling his defensive line with a group of underachievers and journeymen cast aside by the lowly Browns. Rice and Clarett didn't make the team, but the improved D-line worked out just fine for Shanahan, who continues to enjoy proving skeptics wrong with Jake Plummer's continuing maturation. A young secondary stepped up, the running game is as reliable as ever and his staff's preparation and in-game adjustments have garnered praise. Consequently, the Broncos locked up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and will host a playoff game for the first time since the John Elway era.
    Grade: A

    Marty Schottenheimer | Chargers
    Schottenheimer's Chargers were not about to sneak up on anyone this year after surprising the NFL with an eight-game turnaround in 2004. But an inability to finish teams off, leading to five losses by a combined 14 points, proved to the Chargers' demise. A brutal schedule didn't help, but inconsistencies were prevalent throughout, and a roller-coaster four-game stretch late in the year served as proof. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could potentially hear their names mentioned for various head-coaching vacancies in the coming weeks.
    Grade: B-minus


    Norv Turner | Raiders
    Although subtle improvements were made defensively, the offense's failure to live up to expectations and some general indecisiveness that cost Turner credibility with his players may have sealed his fate after only two years in Oakland. A lack of emphasis on the running game and an inability to ignite a passing attack with loads of playmakers (including Randy Moss) were puzzling, and penalties and a lack of discipline were prevalent as well. Turner and his staff seemed to have the players' verbal support late in the year, but enough concerns have arisen to question whether he is the man to get the Raiders back on track.
    Grade: D-minus


    **** Vermeil | Chiefs
    The aging Chiefs opened up their checkbook in the offseason and added several key defenders. But the spending failed to yield the positive results the Chiefs had hoped for, and stopping teams, especially through the air, remained an issue for defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. But once OLT Willie Roaf got healthy, the Chiefs were a team no one wanted to face down the stretch. Vermeil caught some criticism for the team's penchant for run-ins with police, especially during a sometimes tumultuous training camp. With Vermeil stepping into retirement, the Chiefs now must focus on finding a worthy successor.
    Grade: B



    I'm content with an A from Shannahan
    Administrator

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    Comment


    • #3
      Imho Shanahan is very deserving of that kind of grade.

      But how does Dom Capers only get a "D"?
      Last edited by TXBRONC; 01-04-2006, 02:49 PM.
      John 11: 25-27

      My Adopt-A-Bronco is D.J. Williams



      Thanks Snk16

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by TXBRONC
        Imho Shanahan is very deserving of that kind of grade.

        But how does Dom Capers only get "D"?
        I'm thinking cause they did win 2 games or they are getting reggie bush.
        Darrent Williams #27 R.I.P

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by KnightOLB53
          I'm thinking cause they did win 2 games or they are getting reggie bush.
          Well I guess in a way he can be credited with the Texans being able to draft Bush.
          But I thought the emphasis of the article was to evaluate the season of each head coach. I would think that having the worst record in the League would earn him an "F".
          John 11: 25-27

          My Adopt-A-Bronco is D.J. Williams



          Thanks Snk16

          Comment


          • #6
            I still feel all these analysts kiss some much New England A$$$

            Billichick I don't think deserves an A, maybe a B. He beat a lot of horrible teams. Nick Saban deserves an A. He took the HORRIBLE Miami mess and made them a 9-7 team almost playoff contenders.

            Romeo Crenell a B also kind of weird. The browns are horrible and didn't do anything impressive. But he is from that NE Pedigree that these people love, so I geuss that makes it ok!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Accordngs
              I still feel all these analysts kiss some much New England A$$$

              Billichick I don't think deserves an A, maybe a B. He beat a lot of horrible teams. Nick Saban deserves an A. He took the HORRIBLE Miami mess and made them a 9-7 team almost playoff contenders.

              Romeo Crenell a B also kind of weird. The browns are horrible and didn't do anything impressive. But he is from that NE Pedigree that these people love, so I geuss that makes it ok!

              i have to disagree on the NE coaching job....how much i hate the pats the coaching staff did a really good just staying in the playoffs with all those injuries


              and for the brows i would of gave him a D they ended up with 6-10

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Wanobe
                i have to disagree on the NE coaching job....how much i hate the pats the coaching staff did a really good just staying in the playoffs with all those injuries


                and for the brows i would of gave him a D they ended up with 6-10
                I agree they did well. That is why I think a B is appropriate. I feel like the A's should go to the coaches that did a Elite job. (Shanahan, Dungy, Lewis, Holmgren, Lovie etc.)

                Although Billichick coached to a 10-6 record they were blown out in quite a few games and many of the teams they beat were not very good. (Jets, Bills, etc.)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wanobe
                  i have to disagree on the NE coaching job....how much i hate the pats the coaching staff did a really good just staying in the playoffs with all those injuries


                  and for the brows i would of gave him a D they ended up with 6-10
                  Then he should have been fired on Monday if he has a grade that low.

                  D = A D which is one away from an F. So you are saying that a coach that takes a team that was in shambles and makes them halfway decent should be fired?
                  The Browns are gone; I'm not a fan of the Impostors

                  The real Browns are in Baltimore, see?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dawgfan
                    Then he should have been fired on Monday if he has a grade that low.

                    D = A D which is one away from an F. So you are saying that a coach that takes a team that was in shambles and makes them halfway decent should be fired?
                    I guess we don't need those in-depth analyses to decide how well a coach did.

                    All we need are some of these guys reminding us of the W-L records and quality of the competition they played.

                    -----

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