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10 Dec 2015

Scramble for the Ball: Coaching Carousel

by Andrew Healy and Sterling Xie

Andrew: As I watched the meltdown on the final play in Detroit, I started thinking "Dead Man Walking." I thought it again on Sunday when RedZone switched over to Browns-Bengals against millions of pleas not to do so. So it seems like a good time for us to check out the coaching carousel: the Already Dead, the Mostly Dead, and the Not Quite Dead.

Sterling: Don't forget our fourth category, Cleveland (a.k.a. the Perpetually Dead). I do think the end of this season is going to present a difficult dilemma for tons of front offices. So many mediocre teams are still in the playoff race and might remain there all the way to the end of the season, but is relevance enough?

Andrew: Maybe enough to keep their job through the end of the year, but not to avoid our cutting wit.

The Already Dead

Sterling: I'll pass up the brown-and-orange softball here and go for Jeff Fisher. The man has a lifespan that makes tortoises look like houseflies. Fisher has twice received a fourth season after three consecutive non-winning seasons to start his coaching tenure (excluding his interim tenure in 1994) -- his Titans/Oilers squads went 7-9, then 8-8 three times in a row before breaking through to the Super Bowl. Now he's sitting on his fourth season in St. Louis after a combined 20-27-1 record over his first three seasons. I don't think Fisher receives the same patience this time around. St. Louis' loss on Sunday clinched Fisher's 14th non-winning season, which might end up being an unbreakable record. That's the exact same number as George Halas, Don Shula and Curly Lambeau -- combined. Together, those guys coached 106 seasons.

Andrew: All right, let's hit that softball first. Mike Pettine is Extremely Dead and the league's worst strategic coach. Next, Jim Caldwell is Very Dead after his team looked like it had never even heard of a Hail Mary on the final play against the Packers. Mike McCoy is Probably Already Dead, and will be bringing his kickers with him into the afterlife so he can execute all his fourth-and-shorts in heaven.

But Jeff Fisher is Undead, so let's not go putting him on one of those slide-y trays in the morgue just yet. OK, he's probably going to get fired, and it would be hard to argue, what with the Rams on a five-game losing streak in which they have scored 54 total points -- or, what we might expect a team to score in one good game against the Saints. But it's reasonable to think Fisher deserves a shot with a real quarterback. I tend to think Fisher is underappreciated given the success he had in Tennessee with guys like Steve McNair and the eminently average Kerry Collins (he went 142-120 in Tennessee and went exactly .500 five times). His current quarterback, Nick Foles, has passed Peyton Manning to rank dead last in passing DVOA.

The Mostly Dead

Andrew: I'll go with Tom Coughlin as the Coach-Who-Would-Already-Be-Dead-If-Not-For-Fluky-Playoff-Runs. Don't want to be too harsh, but Coughlin's clock management has hit a new low this year, although he's getting way too much undeserved heat for a close call on Sunday against the Jets. Who else might join the league's two most unkillable coaches in this category?

Sterling: I'll steal one of your picks and put Mike McCoy here. The Chargers are quietly one of the NFL's most restless franchises -- in its entire history, only Don Coryell has lasted more than six seasons. And the coach who did hang on that long, Norv Turner, was probably there a year or two too long. San Diego just feels super stagnant right now, and there hasn't been a whole lot of life surrounding this franchise in recent seasons. For the Rams and Chargers, both potential Los Angeles movers, there's this emerging storyline that both franchises need new coaches to infuse some energy into the franchise as they move into their new home. I don't know if I buy that logic for McCoy, since he was a promising first-year head coach back in 2013. Injuries have hammered the Bolts, and there's nothing McCoy can do about that. San Diego was 31st in adjusted games lost in 2014, and the Chargers will probably end up in that neighborhood again this season. I think McCoy deserves at least one more year, but I'm beginning to doubt it'll actually happen.

The Not Quite Dead

Sterling: It sounds like the gist of this is coaches who are ostensibly on the hot seat, but aren't actually in as much peril as the angry torch-bearing Twitterverse would have us believe. To me, that sounds like... well, no one, to be honest. Recently floundering teams like the Falcons and Raiders aren't firing their first-year head coaches. Dallas and Baltimore have severely disappointed, but the coaches there have enough pedigree that their jobs aren't really in jeopardy. I would like to make a defense for Caldwell or Sean Payton, but I think both are goners (the latter perhaps by trade).

So by process of elimination, I'll climb the Eagles bandwagon one last time and pick Chip Kelly. The dogs are at bay this week after that stunning win at New England, and if the Eagles are going to at least show a pulse, I believe Jeffrey Lurie will look for reasons to stick it out with Kelly rather than toss him into the sacrificial fire. Under Lurie's ownership, both Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid survived one disappointing non-winning season, then got the ax after a second consecutive season below .500. Plus, undoing Kelly's drastic personnel changes will take multiple years no matter when the Eagles start, so they might as well see if Kelly can find competent quarterback play to turn things around in 2016.

Andrew: I like your call a lot here. The main point in Chip's favor here is his division. Our playoff odds now make Philly the favorite in the division and almost even money to make the playoffs. Could we be heading towards another wild-card game where the road team is favored by more than a touchdown if we get Seattle at the Chipsters? Somehow, the big underdog wins these games, with Marshawn Lynch intervening in one and God intervening in the other.

How have we gotten all the way to this category and not mentioned Chuck Pagano? If the Colts win the division, I guess Pagano could survive. But I can't imagine he makes it if they don't, particularly with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton already getting the ax. Ryan Grigson deserves the ax most of all, but Pagano has been a pretty poor strategic coach this year and the fake punt is hard to forget. Jim Tomsula is on Early Death watch. Even though he's in his first year, he may not be totally in the clear given the fiasco in San Francisco, part of which fairly falls on his shoulders.

OK, all this death talk is kind of morbid. Next week, let's try to look at the life that comes after death and check out a couple of the best choices for next guys up. Then we can rip them when they start screwing up in 2016.

Sterling: I'm already buying up FireJoshMcDaniels.com and FireAdamGase.com.

The Scramble Fantasy Redraft Update

Andrew: Given that I get beat in picking football games by my six-year-old nephew every week, it's pretty hard to believe that I managed to pick the near-immaculate fantasy team in our four-week redraft league that we started last week. I kind of want to pull a George Costanza, go out on top, and quit anything fantasy-related forever. Every player on my roster outside of Greg Olsen scored a touchdown, and both of my quarterbacks went over 30 points. How impressed are you?

Sterling: Well if you're going to pull a Costanza, I'll pull a Mr. Kruger and leave so you can handle the rest of this column on your own.

I wish you would have watched the games with the bench of the Monmouth men's basketball team. Your home would have been covered in imaginary bows and arrows. But I'm only about 25 points in the hole thanks to Big Ben and my receivers, and nine points per week isn't unfeasible. Don't go celebrating like it's the Summer of George just yet.

Andrew: I am so happy you found that, as someone who grew up in Monmouth County, N.J., home of Monmouth basketball. Let's just say some e-mails have been exchanged about Monmouth's wins over UCLA, USC, and Notre Dame. Mustafa Barksdale, John Giraldo, and the other ghosts of former Monmouth greats from my 1990s high school days must be toasting somewhere that Monmouth is getting AP votes. But I digress. Let's get back to my fantasy ass-kicking of you.

Scramble’s Fantasy Playoffs Results: Week 13
Position Team Andrew Week 13 Pts Team Sterling Week 13 Pts
QB1 Cam Newton, CAR (Group 6) 36.14 Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (Group 4) 33.86
QB2 Russell Wilson, SEA (Group 3) 34.06 Matthew Stafford, DET (Group 8) 17.00
RB1 Thomas Rawls, SEA (Group 9) 16.30 Adrian Peterson, MIN (Group 1) 2.40
RB2 DeAngelo Williams, PIT (Group 8) 14.50 Chris Ivory, NYJ (Group 5) 4.90
WR1 Antonio Brown, PIT (Group 1) 23.80 DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (Group 3) 14.80
WR2 Calvin Johnson, DET (Group 2) 10.40 Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (Group 2) 20.90
TE Greg Olsen, CAR (Group 4) 10.90 Tyler Eifert, CIN (Group 7) 0.00
FLEX Brandon Marshall, NYJ (Group 5) 19.10 Allen Robinson, JAC (Group 6) 33.30
D/ST Patriots (Group 7) 2.00 Bengals (Group 9) 15.00

Advanced Stat O' The Week

Change in Win Probability from the Onside Drop Kick: 1.5 percent

By Pro-Football-Reference's Win Probability model, the Patriots' chances of winning dropped from 96.3 percent to 94.8 percent after Nate Ebner's onside drop kick. We feel the same way about the drop kick as Jim McMahon (who unsuccessfully lobbied Mike Ditka for years to let him try one) and clearly the Patriots' coach, who gave the green light for the first successful drop kick since World War II with Doug Flutie in the last game of the 2005 season. Next offseason, when he's having lunch at the Ground Round, he'll undoubtedly be scouring the rulebook for new opportunites to work drop kicks into the game plan.

One-Time Ode/Limerick to Drop Kicks

The Patriots' coach Belichick
Very much loves to drop kick.
Come early next May,
Rog Goodell might say
A rugby star is his No. 1 pick.

G.O.A.T. of the Week

It was an absurd week for quarterbacks, with six signal-callers scoring at least 30 points in ESPN standard leagues. As far as I can tell, that's the highest single-week total dating back to 1960, which is how far back Pro-Football-Reference's Player Game Finder goes.

Of those six, the most interesting top performer may have been Marcus Mariota. Mariota has had a strange year -- though his -8.1% passing DVOA looks pretty harmless for a rookie, he has had three obscene games to drag that number up. If you'll forgive a moment of cherry-picking, in his three best games against the Buccaneers (Week 1), Saints (Week 9) and now Jacksonville (Week 13), Mariota has compiled a cumulative passing DVOA of 45.3%, while his passing DVOA in all other games has been -27.3%. Granted, most quarterbacks would have massive splits in this exercise, but even just looking at fantasy points, Mariota has been polarizing. The Titans rookie has had three games with at least 24 fantasy points and three under 10, a feat matched only by Oakland's Derek Carr.

For fantasy purposes, Mariota might have a higher floor if Tennessee has really taken the shackles off his legs. His nine rushing attempts against Jacksonville represented almost one-third of his season total, and just the second time all year he has cracked 30 yards on the ground. The Titans have also been hesitant to call designed runs with him, even though such a wrinkle would seem like a nice way to keep defenses off balance to prevent them from abusing Mariota behind that porous offensive line. With games against the Jets, Patriots, and Texans over the next three weeks, Mariota might not be usable for 2015. But for those in keeper leagues or simply prospecting for 2016, watch to see if he begins to receive the green light to run more frequently, whether on designed calls or out of structure.

Goat of the Week

Despite the high-scoring week that produced a number of fantasy stars, arguably no one did more to swing fantasy playoff races than Eddie Lacy. Following back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances, Lacy was started in 78.7 percent of ESPN standard leagues, a number eclipsed by only 11 running backs. Of course, the public didn't know he violated curfew until after he turned in a dismal goose egg, the biggest gut punch yet in a season full of them.

Lacy is probably a lost cause for 2015, but in keeper and dynasty leagues, he might be the most fascinating running back around right now. Though he's currently entrenched in Mike McCarthy's doghouse, it's not like Green Bay is going to cut Lacy in the offseason when he's making $1.1 million in the final year of his rookie deal. He'll still be playing in an offense which figures to revert to its prolific self upon the return of Jordy Nelson, and if you buy into the contract year phenomenon, is there a more obvious candidate? Why can't 2016 Eddie Lacy turn into the NFL version of 2014 Pablo Sandoval? The offseason weight loss stories practically write themselves.

Lacy is currently the 36th-ranked running back by season point total -- he still hasn't passed Jamaal Charles or Dion Lewis! -- but come next preseason, it feels as though he'll still be ranked as a solid RB2. If anyone has any idea how Lacy is actually going to turn out, though, I'm sure McCarthy and the Packers front office would like to have a word.

Loser League Update

Quarterback: Remember how I said there were six quarterbacks who broke 30 fantasy points this week? Well, the other end of the spectrum was just as full, as six quarterbacks didn't even crack double digits, based on LL scoring. Teddy Bridgewater led the way with 3 points, while those who picked Nick Foles were surely happy to see the Rams quarterback return to the lineup and deliver 5 points.

Running Back: So I'm guessing no one took Adrian Peterson in their Loser League lineup. Well, this doofus took him for a real (but actually fake) fantasy draft, but that's besides the point. Peterson ended up with 1 point, while Joique Bell and DeMarco Murray each had 2. Bell was too much of a usage risk for most owners to pick, but Melvin Gordon continued to pay off, as the Chargers' embattled rookie ended up with 3 points.

Wide Receiver: We had a receiver go into the red for the first time all year, as San Diego's Malcom Floyd ended up with -1 points. Additionally, eight receivers ended up with goose eggs. Not many lineups had Jarvis Landry or Griff Whalen, but the likes of James Jones, Harry Douglas, and Nelson Agholor probably paid off for a few Loser League players.

Kicker: In a week with eight missed extra points, it was no surprise to see six kickers end up with negative point totals and one with zero. Continuing his Loser League MVP campaign, Jason Myers led the way with -7 points stemming from two missed extra points and no field goal attempts. The Jags rookie has now astoundingly missed six PATs, two more than any other kicker. Among kickers with at least 20 extra point attempts, Myers' current 79.3 percent conversion rate would be the fourth-worst in NFL history.

You can see the full Week 13 standings and Part II leaders here.

Super-Huge Mega Lock of the Week

After winning big with Seattle on Sunday, the nephew and niece are still perfect, and they haven't really come close to losing yet. This week, the nephew liked the Packers and the niece like the Broncos. But then we got a curveball as the nephew chimed in with a late plug for the Raiders. We looked for other games, but no agreement came. So we're going to assume that the nephew likes the Raiders to cover the number but lose the game and go with a two-team teaser of the Packers and Broncos, each down to 1.5 points.

Our Record: 7-6
The Nephew and Niece: 3-0

Cinemax Presents Exotic Propositions

With Todd Gurley's surprising dropoff as the Rams' offense has fallen off a cliff, the Offensive Rookie of the Year award has appeared to fall to Jameis Winston, primarily by default. Marcus Mariota has been better by QBR, although a little worse by DVOA, but would need a big end-of-season winning streak to enter the discussion.

But suppose Winston struggles in the last four games. Why couldn't it be Thomas Rawls? Even with starting only six games so far, Rawls has provided the most total value according to DYAR of any running back. So we love Rawls at 15/1 to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He'd actually be our choice if the season ended today. You can chalk that up to our crush on him, but voters might be on board after four more weeks of Wrecking Rawls.

John Fox Award

It's our first picture-is-all-you-need for the worst coaching job of the week (and the season).

Those two blue blobs on the sideline on the untimed down at the end of Thursday night's game might as well have been on the bench as Aaron Rodgers unloaded the throw to beat the Lions.

Keep Choppin' Wood

The Rams' potential final season in St. Louis has been one of disappointment and regression after a promising 4-3 start. So maybe it's fitting that a team that can't get out of its own way literally could not get out of its own way on Sunday:

T.J. McDonald coldcocking Janoris Jenkins is bad enough, but in a tragicomic development, Jenkins actually suffered friendly fire twice against the Cardinals. On David Johnson's third-quarter touchdown catch, Mark Barron failed to move his feet and instead made a futile lunging attempt to break up the pass, therefore falling with all his body weight into Jenkins' upper-back area. The Rams grabbed unwanted headlines for the Case Keenum concussion debacle a few weeks ago, and given that Jenkins may have suffered two concussions in one game, this is another bad look for St. Louis.

Posted by: Andrew Healy and Sterling Xie on 10 Dec 2015

54 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2015, 2:55pm by Perfundle


by Tundrapaddy :: Thu, 12/10/2015 - 5:30pm

'I'll pass up the brown-and-orange softball here and go for Jeff Fisher. The man has a lifespan that makes tortoises look like houseflies.'

Did he perchance mean 'fruit flies'?

by dbostedo :: Thu, 12/10/2015 - 6:37pm

How would that change the analogy? Flies in general have short life spans. (FWIW, I Googled it, and house flies are about 15-30 days, compared to a Fruit fly's 40-50 days.)

by jonsilver :: Thu, 12/10/2015 - 9:27pm

Jon Silverberg

by Nahoj :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 10:43am

I vote for mayflies, who rarely last more than 24 hours in their last stage, subimago.

by Theo :: Thu, 12/10/2015 - 5:33pm

Ok ok ok ok , that's never how bad Antwon Blake made it- but you have Boykin on the bench and you let him rot for a guy that well... gets you killed. Staying on the field, taking unnecessary hits, it's all the same. That's Atnwon Blake for the Steelers. He's completely not where he's supposed to be.
So enter Boykin.
It's like adding one puzzle piece (to a 4 piece puzzle).

So they changed that...

by jacobk :: Thu, 12/10/2015 - 8:49pm

What does Jeff Fisher have to live for that's so important?

by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 5:33am

He likes to get the daily news.

by theslothook :: Thu, 12/10/2015 - 9:30pm

Jeff Fisher's biggest problem is he's stuck in 70s football, despite a coaching career coinciding with the dynamism of the modern passing game. He(and probably Rex Ryan) - seem convinced the path to true greatness involves lots of 17-7 wins. I might be inclined to lump John Fox into that category, but he's less stubborn about forcing square pegs into round holes.

This could be the year of scorched earth for coaches. Short of the 49ers winning 7 games, I see Tomsula, McCoy, Fisher, Caldwell, Pettine, Coughlin, Payton, and Pagano as likely gonners. Kelly's on the fence also.

That's 8 coaches to go along with the dolphins and titans, bringing the coach count to 10. A third of the league in other words...smh.

by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 9:50am

He(and probably Rex Ryan) - seem convinced the path to true greatness involves lots of 17-7 wins. I might be inclined to lump John Fox into that category, but he's less stubborn about forcing square pegs into round holes

Buffalo has the #7 pass offense by DVOA this year. I think Rex likes to talk that game, but has learned to let his OC actually handle that offense-type stuff.

by ammek :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:55am

Another season with 10+ losses, and Gus Bradley would be on the hotseat, no?

by jtr :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 11:29am

I would love to see Pettine end up DC in Buffalo. He was Rex's right hand man in Baltimore and New York. In Collision Low Crossers, he comes across as the voice of reason to balance Rex's chaos; Rex draws up a crazy blitz, Pettine points out a flaw in it, Rex comes up with a solution, Pettine finds a new flaw, and so on until either they're both satisfied or they give up on the idea. That might be just what Rex needs to get back on track after two straight years of defensive DVOA ranked in the 20's. Wolfman Rob has done a tremendous job of showing what can happen when nobody is around to tell a Ryan that his latest wacky idea is bad.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 11:55am

Good point.

I just looked it up and saw that Buffalo has a lower DDVOA than Chicago. Hard to believe.

by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 3:21pm

Bills fans are not pleased by this.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 11:48am

Remember when Pettine got hired and his daughter tweeted, "It's the Browns, but hey, still pretty cool!"

That sort of resigned, existential sigh is pretty much part of the job description if you want to become the coach of the Cleveland Browns.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 11:54am

It's crazy to me that Caughlin and Payton are on the hot seat. I think both teams will really regret their fires after the fact. Of course, there is a still a very good chance the Giants make the playoffs.

by jtr :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 12:12pm

I've felt for years that Coughlin's in game decision making has been hurting the team. He definitely has some of the counterproductive old-school-football mentality that the Scramble crew mention in association with Fisher: unproductive I-form runs, punting when it doesn't make much sense, and so on. This year he has put on an incredible clinic of every possible way to blow a game in the fourth quarter.

As far as Payton goes, he was obviously the right man for Brees, but as the team moves on from Brees they'll have to decide if Payton will be the right man for the next version of the team. Remember, Brees came to the team as an established, fairly successful QB already, so it's not a foregone conclusion that Peyton is the right man to develop the next QB for the team.

by BJR :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 12:19pm

Payton deserves some portion of the blame for the Saints continued ineptitude on defense, but it's obviously not really his bag. And he certainly doesn't deserve any of the blame for their salary cap issues. Firing him would be a big mistake I feel.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:01pm

It depends how much control he has over any personnel decision; I'd have to think as the offensive guy, he's got a lot of responsibility for helping choose players on that side of the ball. The Saints have drafted badly for a number of years; it took Ingram several years to be anything other than a complete disappointment (probably because the Saints have really rotated through RBs a lot), Brandin Cooks . . . I don’t know, he just feels like he should be better than he is, you know, and the only really late-round hit they’ve had in years is Kenny Stills, and why is he no longer on the Saints? The Saints have consistently hosed up free agency for years, and that’s only considering the offensive side of the ball (the defensive side of the ball has been its own special train wreck). Getting rid of Stills, trading Graham (the perfect guy for Brees) for Unger and an almost-second round pick and trying to replace him with Ben Watson (Watson has 75 targets this year, which seems about 50 too many for Ben Watson), turning the offensive line into a sieve, Darren Sproles . . . why would you get rid of Darren Sproles? I wake up at night shivering, terrified Darren Sproles is coming for me. Cooks seems to be sort of his intended replacement, but he’s not the same guy.

The Saints have relied for years on getting guys in space, having Brees throw with perfect timing, and then watching those guys run for about a billion yards. Sproles was perfect for that, Graham was perfect running routes Brees loves, and neither is there anymore. Yeah, Brees is still more or less Brees, but part of him being an all-time great was the absolute perfect timing and accuracy he had getting it to guys who were going to be exactly in the right spot, and those guys aren’t there anymore. There aren’t a whole lot of guys on that offensive roster you’d say, “Sure, I totally want that guy on my team” these days, and Payton’s got a lot of responsibility for that.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:23pm

You say all that, but New Orleans still has the 8th best offense and they were 7th best last year. So it's almost all a net wash.

I think a lot of these moves were driven not by talent evaluation but cap concerns though. The Saints are near the bottom of the cap pool this year and projected to be 4 million over next year, but they managed to clear a lot of salary this year (33 million in dead money).

Brees is in his final year of his contract next year and it balloons to 30 million cap hit. So they should be able to restructure that and then clear the 14 million in dead space next year, and then be able to start building for real again.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:13pm

Yes, and I'd attribute that to Drew Brees still largely being Drew Brees; he's just no longer God Mode Drew Brees like he's been for years. If Brees goes down in the preseason, the Saints are the worst team in the NFL. I mean, sure, every team is better with their starting QB, but the Saints without Brees would be like the Cowboys without Romo, except the Cowboys still have Dez Bryant and a phenomenal offensive line.

I haven't spent much time staring at potential FAs this offseason; a guy like Alshon Jeffery would clearly help loads, as would Josh Norman, but, even presuming those guys just don't get franchised, those guys will be hellaciously expensive. Building with free agency is usually not successful (I'm a Bucs fan, I am so painfully aware of this), it takes good drafting. And the Saints have sucked at that for a good long time.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:23pm

The week Brees did miss, Josh McCown played pretty damn well. I think a lot of it is that Payton knows how to coach him some offense.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:36pm

Luke McCown, and backups often have a good game or two until defensive coordinators have time to study tape and figure out tendencies, and things go rapidly downhill from there. I remain less then entirely confident Payton could coach him some offense after having given defenses a couple weeks of game tape to figure out how to beat Luke McCown, whose career stats are even worse than his brothers.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:52pm

I think the Chargers have an argument about being the worst roster without their qb, but the saints aren't that far ahead.

Honestly - the Saints dvoa being 8th is pretty surprising to me - though I guess it shouldn't be given how they've exploded in some games. But they've also had plenty of no show performances that seem odd in retrospect. Here I'm referring to their poor showing against Was, Tampa at home, and against houston. Brees is still good, but hes not a consistent player anymore. This team is fading fast and next year feels like the complete end.

Let's assume the saints lose out and end up with a top 5 pick. I think if I were the owner, I would probably fire everyone, cut brees, and begin anew a la the vikings post favre.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:53pm

Jimmy Clausen didn't have a good game or two. It doesn't happen automatically.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:54pm

I think there's evidence of the backup effect. Matt flynn, Case Keenum and Landry Jones come to mind.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 3:00pm

I don't disagree there is some backup effect, but two of your examples, Flynn and Jones were backups for notable "good coaches". They identified quality backups and put them in positions to succeed and rode that backup effect for all it was worth.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 3:46pm

Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace had the same benefit of a coach that Flynn did in GB, and didn't have vaguely the success. Same with the creaky corpse of Michael Vick and Landry Jones this year. Both Flynn in 2013 and Jones this year weren't even the first options at backup, and only came in after the coaches' chosen backup QBs were patently terrible.

Prior to this year, Luke McCown had thrown a total of one pass in the prior three seasons. He had thrown a total of 80 passes in the prior SEVEN seasons combined. I can't imagine how Payton gets credit for selecting a guy as backup QB who hadn't been a consistent starter since George W. Bush was president. Luke McCown is undoubtedly smart, good with young players, willing to run the scout team and do all the little things, and holds a clipboard in a dashingly roguish manner, but one good game does not a "quality backup" make.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 3:21pm

There's an open question about how much blame Payton deserves for the team's talent situation. I don't fault people for missing on draft picks like most people do(since I've been on the record of saying most of it comes down to luck); but I do blame someone for the cap mismangement, decisions to trade away draft picks, and other shennaningans that leave you with a roster of an aging offensive stars, one great defensive player, and a whole lot of nothing else. I also have to openly question the decision to draft Mark Ingram in the first place - when it was clear their committe approach was working fine and there were clearly weaknesses on the defense. Bottom line - someone deserves to be fired for this and as I've said below, I tend to think the inevitable result means everyone gets sent packing.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 12:44pm

Assuming the Saints drop at least two more games (not guaranteed, the end of their schedule looks pretty easy). It will be the first time in 9 years coaching the Saints that Payton has coached a team worse than 7-9.

He's made the playoffs 5 out of 9 times, and at least two misses I think they were not eliminated until week 17.

He clearly understands the defense is a problem and is making moves to fix it.

There are only a handful of coaches you can definitely say are better than Payton.

You want to fire him because theoretically, he might not be able to coach up a QB prospect. Which they might not even be moving onto next year. Brees is slowly declining, but he's still good. How about actually giving the best coach in your franchise's history a chance to develop said QB first?

by jtr :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:18pm

I didn't say I WANT to fire him, I was just arguing that it wouldn't be CRAZY to fire him. Brees' days are numbered and I think the post-Brees Saints will inevitably be a very different team. Payton may or may not be the right guy for the next version of the team, depending on what the new team looks like.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:35pm

There are a few layers to this. Brees is in decline but still good, I agree. But I said the same about Peyton and the next year everything collapsed almost instantly. I dont know if that will happen next year w brees, but its a real possibility - which means the saints as we know them are effectively over.

I think in that scenario, it makes sense to consider firing loomis and starting over with a new regime like the bears have. I like Payton, but in that scenario the new regime may not want him

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:41pm

When the Bears fired their decent coach and started over, they got Marc Trestman.

Oh, and now Lovie is probably 50/50 on making the playoffs this year.

Also, is it a big deal if Brees sucks and the Saints are terrible one year? That's pretty much expected no matter who the coach is, right? So if you got rid of Payton, that's firing him for doing what everyone expects to happen.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:46pm

My argument was, once the saints crash and burn(which next year seems probable), they will probably need to fire the gm and gut the roster completely. In that scenario, the new gm will want his guy. Im effectively saying, if you want to keep Payton, you either need to promote him to gm/coach or keep loomis.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:52pm

I think that's the kind of thinking that leads to hiring bad coaches and missing more playoffs. If you can't find a gm who's willing to work with a clearly above average coach, you are looking in the wrong places.

Also, there are organizations where the coach is above the GM, but he's not the GM.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:42pm

Tuluse - think of all of the times a GM was hired when the head coach was kept in place. Nearly always, it lead to both eventually getting fired. The Bears and the jets are two very recent examples.

Fair or unfair, it feels like a nfl fact of life. Gms like choosing their own coaches. Gms who aren't given the choice of coach are likely not top candidate gms, which is what happened when the Jets were shopping for Tannenbaum's replacement - but had the keep RR mandate.

One way or the other, the Saints are going to face a true day of reckoning. We all agree on that. My point still is - there's no way you can hire a new gm and expect to keep Payton there.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 2:58pm

The Steelers hired Kevin Colbert as GM in 2000, right in the middle of the Cowher era.

That worked out pretty well.

Blowing up the management of most successful era of the Saints is a loser's mentality. A really good organization would find a solution to keep a good coach and move forward.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 3:11pm

Sure, there are a few counter examples, but that doesn't really prove the rule. BB can be a successful gm/head coach, but most of the others who try it fail quite spectacularly.

Honestly - I like Payton and in a vacuum, the saints should try to keep him. But in practice, that doesn't really work out well. And so I'm really posing it to you like this - would you rather have Payton as the duel gm coach/keep loomis for the long term or start over with a new gm and coach?

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 6:48pm

"And so I'm really posing it to you like this - would you rather have Payton as the duel gm coach/keep loomis for the long term or start over with a new gm and coach?"

I don't know enough about Loomis to make the call whether or not to keep him. The Saints are in bad cap shape and that speaks very poorly of either him or his employees. Draft can be a kind of a crapshoot, so I'm going to mostly ignore that.

Here's another point I want to make though. If Payton was fired, how many teams do you think would be happy to hire him? All those GMs would pick Payton. So, why is it hard to hire a GM in the first place that "picks" Payton who happens to already be there?

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:59pm

I just think Gms are stubborn. When they get hired, they want everything to be firmly in their hands. Successful or not, GMS have fired coaches who did well just because they didn't feel like their hires. Aj Smith and Marty come to mind. Emory and Lovie. Both of those were off seasons where the teams won double digit games.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 9:08pm

I want to point out that backfired for both teams, so maybe it's a clue those GMs sucked.

by gomer_rs :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:26pm

Any objective analysis of the best managed roster must have the Saints near the bottom. They continually trade up in the draft when all systems of valuation and analytics suggest to do so is a loser's game.

Brees, and to some extant Peyton, have been papering over holes on that team created by the front office for a long time. The best GM/HC relationship is the GM works for the HC like in Seattle.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:30pm

Are the seahawks a great example of GM/HC team management. On the surface, the question seems absurd, but consider they've also made some ultra loopy trades for receivers/tight ends that end up overpayed and poor scheme fits.

by gomer_rs :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 12:48am

The Seahawks are good management. They have more long term roster flexibility than any team in the league, with $20,000,000+ in projected cap room for next year while fielding the #2 DVOA team in the league.

Do they take risks? Yes. But two things: when they miss on a prospect, Whitehurst, Matt Flynn, Percy Harvin they cut bait regardless of the investment. They let any player fight for a position on the team regardless of investment and draft order. They are the closest team to the NE Patriots with the a traditional Coach GM model.


I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 3:49am

I'd agree with this. They had a truly phenomenal drafting run from 2010 - 2012 which has been enough to carry them to Super Bowls, but their trades and free agent signings have been pretty hit (Bennett, Avril) and miss (Harvin, Flynn, Zach Miller, Graham to a lesser extent) and their cap management hasn't been great either, and their more recent drafting has been unspectacular (not helped by trading out of the first round for three straight years). They seem to me like a team with a high peak that's eventually going to crash pretty hard than a sustaining machine like the Patriots.

As mentioned above, one thing to give them credit for is willingness to cut bait. I wonder how many teams would have let Wilson win the QB job in 2012 instead of just saying "we paid money for Flynn, it's his job and Wilson's only a third rounder". Probably more than 0, but less than 10 is my guess. Also trading Harvin when it seemed like he was poisoning the locker room despite all the money and draft picks they'd put into him.

I wonder how much of the loopy trades for receivers / tight ends is related to Wilson. He's a really strange quarterback. He seems able to generate a good offense, no matter who's on the offensive line (well, almost. Drew Nowak was apparently a bridge too far.) and out of low pedigreed receivers and an undrafted running back, but he doesn't seem to be able to get anything extra out of "premium" pieces like Harvin and Graham.

by gomer_rs :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 3:51pm

Graham wasn't working out because of offensive design. Re-watch the Steelers game. They do not win that without Graham and the more they become spread pass first the more useful Graham becomes.

They tried to use Graham from the I which was just stupid.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by theslothook :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 5:18pm

Im pretty sure even the seahawks wish they could have that trade back.

by gomer_rs :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 6:37pm

Aren't they both on IR? Isn't it pretty much a wash at this point.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by theslothook :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 7:48pm

Except for the loss of the first round pick...

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:55pm

They seem to me like a team with a high peak that's eventually going to crash pretty hard than a sustaining machine like the Patriots.

Teams can sustain as long as they have a good franchise QB and their defense isn't utter garbage (Atlanta, New Orleans, San Diego), so I don't see any reason they would crash. As for their more recent drafting, they got Rawls, Lockett and Clark this year; I can't see that being unspectacular.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 1:49pm

Tc did well in his playoff runs. But there hasnt been one season under him where the giants didnt underachieve in some way. They would lose games to bad teams every year or get blown out badly when they shouldn't.

If they miss it this year, this will be the 4th straight year missing the playoffs. And in another division, they would be firmly out of it. I say its time to move on.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:45pm

" tend to think Fisher is underappreciated given the success he had in Tennessee with guys like Steve McNair and the eminently average Kerry Collins."

This is a pretty weird comment given that McNair was widely seen as one of the best QB's in the league for a good chunk of his career. Admittedly this was during a pretty bad period for QB's as Manning, Brady and Brees weren't Manning, Brady and Brees yet and the previous generation (Young, Aikman, Elway etc) had retired, but still, he was better than what most teams had at the time.

It seems like people have forgotten how good McNair was and not just Healy here. When he retired, McNair vs Moon for title of best Oilers QB was a reasonable question even if most people would have said Moon, but now people think of him as just a guy.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:51pm

Agreed. McNair was far more than just a guy and sort of gets lost historically.

by Andrew Healy :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 6:16pm

Yeah, maybe I could have been a little more careful here. I went with "eminently average Kerry Collins" to set McNair apart, but he probably doesn't belong in the sentence and I should have emphasized how good he was: #1 in DVOA in 2003 (shared MVP), #3 in 2001, just outside top ten six other times.

by Andrew Healy :: Sat, 12/12/2015 - 6:16pm

Yeah, maybe I could have been a little more careful here. I went with "eminently average Kerry Collins" to set McNair apart, but he probably doesn't belong in the sentence and I should have emphasized how good he was: #1 in DVOA in 2003 (shared MVP), #3 in 2001, just outside top ten six other times.