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15 Nov 2017

Scramble: Sudden Changes of Fortune

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Bryan: Welcome to a very special Scramble for the Ball in this, the week of Football Outsiders back-patting. For the first time in ... I'm going to say roughly "ever," we give the Los Angeles Rams the best odds of winning the Super Bowl, which makes us look really good when you go back to our preseason predictions.

Andrew: There are, of course, quite a few extenuating factors at play there. For one, the Los Angeles Rams didn't actually exist from 1995 until 2016. For another, Football Outsiders was a mere fledgling company the last time the Rams were a legitimately good team. The Rams have not won double-digit games since 2003, and have not made the playoffs since losing 47-17 to the Falcons in January 2005. Their highest DVOA rank over that period is 14th in 2013, and they have not finished a season with double-digit positive DVOA since 2001.

Bryan: And even this offseason, we weren't projecting the Rams to be as good as they have been. They lead the league in DVOA; we had them projected more like 13th. You know, an above-average team sparked by the rebounding of the defense under the guidance of pass rush whisperer Wade Phillips. And maybe Jared Goff not quite being the worst quarterback on the face of the Earth for two years straight.

Andrew: I remember you asking in the relevant preseason over/unders article what it would mean if Jared Goff was actually just bad, rather than historically terrible. Well I guess we'll never know! It's safe to say, however, that he did indeed receive "actual coaching" and "running plays with a non-zero chance of success." As good as Wade Phillips' defense has been -- yet again -- it's rookie head coach Sean McVay who is deservedly getting the most plaudits. This team scored more points in its first game of November this year than in the entire month last season. It had outscored last season's Rams team by the close of play in Week 8.

Bryan: I mean, this is not how this is supposed to work. When a new head coach takes over a terrible team, it's supposed to take a while to see an impact. You've got to have time to establish your system. You've got to cycle out bad players from the previous administration and bring in your own guys. I mean, the Patriots dropped from 8-8 to 5-11 in Bill Belichick's first season. The 49ers stayed flat at 2-14 in Bill Walsh's first season. Pete Carroll moved the Seahawks from 5-11 to 7-9. It's supposed to take time, dang it! If you get a Super Bowl contender in your first season, it's supposed to be because the previous guy left you with a talented group already -- see the Tony Dungy-to-Jon Gruden switchover in Tampa Bay.

This is all more evidence that Jeff Fisher committed coaching malpractice, isn't it?

Andrew: Jeff Fisher's time with the Rams is much more interesting to study after the fact than it was to watch at the time. Charitably, it appears that he did exactly what he was paid to do, which is not quite the same as coaching a winning football team. It was only in that final year following the relocation that the Rams truly bottomed out.

Bryan: Yeah, it's easy to forget that Fisher provided a sudden boost to the franchise after it had suffered three years under Steve Spagnuolo. 7-9 bullshit feels pretty good coming off of a 2-14 season. It just never got out of that gear.

Andrew: It is also fair to point out that he actually left the franchise in a better place than he found it. The Rams have some good players who play tough football. After Spagnuolo was fired, they really pretty much didn't.

Bryan: But it's one thing to move from a terrible team to an average team, and quite another to move from average to -- dare I say it -- great. That's an entirely different shift, and one Fisher was never really able to pull off. Even when he took over the Oilers in 1994, he moved them from 2-14 to ... 7-9. And it took him four years before he saw the playoffs, as opposed to the rapid-fire turnover McVay is pulling off.

Andrew: That is true, and McVay has done a great job so far, but we also need be aware that he hasn't won anything quite yet. These quick turnarounds are not always rooted as deeply as they appear. Remember when Tony Sparano took over the 1-15 Dolphins after Cam Cameron was fired, went 11-5, and won the AFC East?

Bryan: I choose not to remember that, as I try to forget about things which do not make sense. But even if you exclude that, he went 7-9 in his remaining two full seasons as head coach, which was an improvement on what Cameron or Nick Saban were able to do at the end of their tenures. Though it does go to show that first-season gold may, in fact, be iron pyrite.

Andrew: The wisdom of a true 49er.

Bryan: When it comes to lists of coaches change bringing swift changes of fortune, no one has more recent experience, in both directions, than the 49ers. We're getting whiplash over here. I have a stat that can back that up, and maybe qualify me for a neck brace or something.

Andrew: You have a stat for everything.

Bryan: I only have a stat for 87.3 percent of things.

The rapid success of McVay got us wondering how rare these quick changes in fortune were. How often do coaching changes bring with them immediate results? To find out, we're comparing the weighted shift in winning percentage before and after a coaching change. The season immediately before and after the switch are weighted twice as much as the ones immediately following/preceding, which are weighted twice as much as the season before that, and so on and so forth. For recent coaching changes, the numbers are still in flux, but it's a good measure of when coaching changes coincided with fortune changes. Here are the biggest quick improvements since the NFL went to 16-game schedules in 1978:

Biggest Weighted Improvement (1978-2017)
Year Team Old Coach Last Season New Coach First Season Weight Diff
1997 NYJ Rich Kotite 1-15 Bill Parcells 9-7 0.464
2017 LARM Jeff Fisher 4-9 Sean McVay 7-2 0.456
2017 JAC Gus Bradley 2-12 Doug Marrone 6-3 0.443
2016 TEN Ken Whisenhunt 1-6 Mike Mularkey 9-7 0.392
2013 KC Romeo Crennel 2-14 Andy Reid 11-5 0.366
1987 BUF Hank Bullough 2-7 Marv Levy 7-8 0.365
2011 SF Mike Singletary 5-10 Jim Harbaugh 13-3 0.357
2008 MIA Cam Cameron 1-15 Tony Sparano 11-5 0.357
1987 IND Rod Dowhower 0-13 Ron Meyer 9-6 0.343
2008 ATL Bobby Petrino 3-10 Mike Smith 11-5 0.330
1992 SD Dan Henning 4-12 Bobby Ross 11-5 0.330
2015 OAK Dennis Allen 0-4 Jack Del Rio 7-9 0.313
2003 CIN Dick LeBeau 2-14 Marvin Lewis 8-8 0.313
2012 IND Jim Caldwell 2-14 Chuck Pagano 11-5 0.313

Andrew: OK, so first impressions here: that 2012 season may say more about the difference between Andrew Luck and Curtis Painter than it does about Chuck Pagano and Jim Caldwell.

Bryan: Yeah, this can be a blunt tool when multiple changes happen in the same year. Maybe, in ten years, we're talking about how five-time MVP Jared Goff made Sean McVay look competent for a year before he vanished.

Most of these, however, are Rams-esque cases. I'm on record as saying going from Mike Singletary to Jim Harbaugh is the single greatest coaching improvement of all time, and this stat at least puts it in the running. With Singletary, Romeo Crennel, Cam Cameron, Bobby Petrino -- you have a pretty good list of terrible coaches there, so it's unsurprising that even a solid coach would see a rapid turnaround.

Andrew: Rich Kotite-to-Bill Parcells probably eclipses your Singletary-to-Harbaugh transition through the lenses of most observers, but I agree with the rough observation.

Bryan: Kotite is pretty much a synonym for terrible coach at this point in time. This is a man who tried to convince Eagles fans that "8-8 is great." He's responsible for the two worst seasons in Jets history. And you're replacing him with a Hall of Fame coach like Parcells? Yeah, I'm comfortable in calling that a slight improvement.

Andrew: On the other hand, I think we may have a different view of the switch from Whisenhunt to Mike Mularkey in a few years, and possibly from Gus Bradley to Doug Marrone. Those look likely to fall ultimately in the same bucket as Bobby Petrino-to-Mike Smith: bad head coaches being replaced by middling ones.

Bryan: Yeah, that's the thing: four of these top switches are still very much in flux at this point. Sean McVay is not going to win more than 75 percent of his games over the rest of his career, so it's quite possible that he'll drop down a bit as we get more data on how good his Rams "really" are. While Parcells, Reid, Levy and Harbaugh put up strong numbers over multiple years, the jury's still very much out on McVay and Marrone, and even Mularkey and Del Rio. It's one thing to be good for a season; it's another thing to sustain it for multiple years. But hey, even one good season got Tony Sparano on this list.

Andrew: When your predecessor takes the team to 1-15, the only way is up. So that, at least, is good news for the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns!

Bryan: Which of those four new head coaches do you think we'll hold in the highest esteem in, say, 2020? I have a feeling it's McVay. Marrone seems to be benefitting from a huge influx of defensive talent. Del Rio's Raiders are trending in the wrong direction this year. I have a hard time matching the phrases "Mike Mularkey" and "quality coaching."

Andrew: Del Rio is a solid coach. I think we'll view him as, say, a John Fox or maybe a Lovie Smith -- a solid mid-tier coach who can keep you competitive with mediocre talent and get a team to the playoffs, but who won't win you a title through personal brilliance. Mularkey has, at least, generally avoided getting Marcus Mariota killed, which was a danger for a while under Whisenhunt. Marrone's Jaguars will go as far as their ability to cover interception returns will take them. That leaves McVay, who looks like an offensive mastermind right now, and that might be enough to make him the new Andy Reid. It's still very, very early though.

Bryan: Of course, there's a flipside to this. Sometimes, teams fire a coach, thinking that a change at the top might give them a much needed spark only to find that no, not that, dear god no. Here are the biggest quick collapses since 1978 by this metric:

Biggest Weighted Collapse (1978-2017)
Year Team Old Coach Last Season New Coach First Season Weight Diff
1993 WAS Joe Gibbs 9-7 Richie Petitbon 4-12 -0.411
1981 HOU Bum Phillips 11-5 Ed Biles 7-9 -0.379
2015 SF Jim Harbaugh 8-8 Jim Tomsula 5-11 -0.374
2001 DET Bobby Ross 5-4 Marty Mornhinweg 2-14 -0.339
2016 SF Jim Tomsula 5-11 Chip Kelly 2-14 -0.312
2017 DEN Gary Kubiak 9-7 Vance Joseph 3-6 -0.310
2003 SF Steve Mariucci 10-6 Dennis Erickson 7-9 -0.304
1991 NYG Bill Parcells 13-3 Ray Handley 8-8 -0.277
2001 BUF Wade Phillips 8-8 Gregg Williams 3-13 -0.268
1978 SF Ken Meyer 5-9 Pete McCulley 1-8 -0.258
1990 NE Raymond Berry 5-11 Rod Rust 1-15 -0.255
1978 STL Don Coryell 7-7 Bud Wilkinson 6-10 -0.254
1992 SEA Chuck Knox 7-9 Tom Flores 2-14 -0.241

Bryan: Have I mentioned that the Yorks are not very good owners? I don't think I've done that for two paragraphs.

Andrew: When you have Jim Tomsula as your coach, and he is the better of the two listed options on one of the rows...

Bryan: And the Mariucci-to-Erickson move was done under their watch, too, albeit John York's and not Jed's. It turns out randomly shuffling through coaches is not a solid strategy for improvement. Twice in NFL history has an NFL team gone through four coaches in four years. It was the 49ers both times. Both eras appear on this list. Don't do that, NFL teams!

Andrew: A lot of this stuff happened before the dawn of widespread home Internet access. Only the most recent three of these changes occurred during a season I could actively follow the league, so I find myself rather ill-placed to comment. Letting Jim Harbaugh out the door, however, in favor of Trent Baalke ... that looked crazy at the time, and looks even crazier now.

Bryan: To make things look worse for the 49ers, most of these bad switches were outside the owners' control. Joe Gibbs retired in 1993 for health reasons. Bobby Ross also claimed health reasons for his sudden departure, though frustration with his own players had something to do with that, too. Parcells retired, for the first time, in 1991. You can blame the ownership for not finding good replacements for them, but at least losing those guys in the first place wasn't their choice.

Andrew: The challenge we face with our hindsight view of a lot of these changes is that the really bad failures only get one chance to fail that badly. Chip Kelly might one day get another shot, but there is no danger at all of, for instance, Jim Tomsula taking the reins in Washington, unless the owner goes on some crazy power trip and starts appointing guys he likes instead of guys who are actually good at ... ah, crap.

Bryan: We may yet see a return of BLUDGEON

It's also worth noting, while we're tooting our prediction horn, that one of our picks for a rapid decline shows up here, too -- Vance Joseph taking over from Gary Kubiak. That's more about the collapse of the defense than anything Joseph is doing in particular, I think, but hey. Always good to look good.

Andrew: So really, the overall lesson is that if your team's record is terrible and you replace your coach, you might look like a genius in a year's time. If your team's record is good and you replace your coach, you might look like a dunce. It's not exactly innovative research, but we aren't paid by the hour here.

Bryan: At the same time, not replacing your coach can make you look like a dunce as well. By this metric, the Saints have literally never made a bad coaching change -- not because they're great at picking coaches, but because they let their coaches drive themselves 200 feet underground before putting a warm body in to replace them. This may have something to do with their historic lack of success, pre-Sean Payton.

Andrew: I was just going to point that out. Other than Sean Payton, the Saints have exactly one coach in team history with a winning record: Jim Mora, and even he was 3-13 in his final season. It's a smidge easier to avoid making a negative coaching hire in those circumstances.

Bryan: So, I guess our advice to owners is "make decisions that will make you look good to snarky writers on the Internet 20 years from now," right?

Andrew: Or decisions that will make you look really bad to them! As long as you're mentioned, everything is fine. No publicity is bad publicity!

Bryan: In that case, let's give some publicity to this week's batch of Loser League Leaders.

Loser League Update

Quarterback: When you only throw for 56 yards in a game, you're not going to score very many fantasy points. Tyrod Taylor only threw 18 passes before being pulled for Nathan Peterman late, and one of those was an interception. Taylor earned you 2 Loser League points as the Bills were bludgeoned.

Running Back: Bilal Powell ended up splitting time pretty much exactly evenly with Elijah McGuire, which had to be a shame for all the daily fantasy players or Ezekiel Elliott owners who picked him up for a spot start with Matt Forte out. Even worse, Powell did nada with his touches -- 30 yards on 10 carries, with a fumble to erase what value he did put up. That's how you score 1 point.

Wide Receiver: Only two Goose Eggers to highlight this week, and neither went without a reception -- that might be a Loser League first! Terrance Williams caught one pass in four targets for 9 yards, while T.J. Jones had one catch in three targets for 2 yards. Hey, at least you guys are contributing.

Kicker: Three different kickers scored in the negatives this week. Mike Nugent and Ka'imi Fairbairn were hurt by missed field goals, but Randy Bullock, who had been out with a back injury for a couple weeks, missed an extra point in his triumphant return. That's worth -3 points, there. Missed extra points will KILL you.

Check your team's score and the Part II leaderboard here!


Keep Choppin' Wood: Blake Bortles versus the Los AnDiego Chargers was always going to be a matchup between the errant and the fallible, but we could not have known just how errant and fallible both would be in arguably the most ludicrously entertaining fourth quarter of the season so far. Scott Kacsmar has a detailed write-up in this week's Clutch Encounters, so we'll just observe that when the dust settled, Blake Bortles had thrown two game-losing interceptions to Tre Boston; the Jaguars were flagged for taunting three times in a game they weren't even winning at the time; and yet somehow Jacksonville still ended up winning the game thanks to an interception of Philip Rivers; a 5-yard penalty against the Chargers for shouting fake offensive signals on the game-winning field goal attempt; and most notably, the fumble by rookie Austin Ekeler that gave away possession on first down when the Chargers were trying to run out the clock with a three-point lead. After blowing yet another winnable game in implosive fashion, and with their quarterback now subject to the league's concussion protocol, the Chargers are all but dead in the fight for what might well have been Rivers' final playoff opportunity.

John Fox Todd Bowles Award for Conservatism: As we have discussed before in this very column, conservatism takes many forms in the modern NFL. For one coach, it is the three-runs-and-punt approach to four-minute offense; for another, the absolute refusal to allow a quarterback to throw downfield. One of the most aggravating forms of coaching conservatism is the determination to run "our scheme" regardless of the available personnel. For Jason Garrett this week, that meant treating stand-in left tackle Chaz Green no differently than injured starter Tyron Smith. Given no extra help, a clearly overmatched Green allowed six sacks to Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn -- a player who had not achieved six sacks in a SEASON since his rookie year in 2011. Green's display evoked memories from another reigning NFC East champion ten years prior: Winston Justice's first start for the Eagles against the 2007 Giants. Justice recovered to have a solid NFL career, but will always be remembered for that one game. Chaz Green will hope that he can go on to enjoy the former, ideally without the burden of the latter.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game: Buffalo scored first against New Orleans in Week 10 -- a 36-yard run by LeSean McCoy the key play on a 57-yard opening drive that resulted in a field goal. New Orleans took possession trailing 3-0 and drove to the Buffalo 30-yard line, where an Alvin Kamara screen gained 6 yards on third-and-7. Sean Payton, sensibly, left his offense on the field, ran a misdirection play, and sent Mark Ingram up the gut of the Bills defense for a 25-yard gain on fourth-and-1. That was the first big play for the Saints in a game which quickly got away from the Bills, in a spot where many a conservative coach would have looked to tie things up with a field goal.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching: It's a tough week to make a decision, and if we knew, for sure, what the play call was on the Browns' end-of-half debacle, we may have changed our minds here. But, I mean, it's John Fox. Of course it's John Fox; it absolutely had to be thanks to the worst coach's challenge in recent memory, and possibly NFL history. In the second quarter, Bennie Cunningham stepped out of bounds just before the goal line. First-and-goal, Bears. Fox, however, threw the challenge flag, arguing that Cunningham had managed to reach the ball across the pylon for the score. So far, so good -- except replays pretty definitively showed that not only did Cunningham not reach across the pylon, but he actually fumbled just before the pylon, out through the end zone. Rather than be a first-and-goal for Chicago, it was a touchback for Green Bay!

When asked after the game, Fox said "in hindsight, I would not have challenged it." Yeah, that sounds about right.

'Parting the Steel Curtain' Fantasy Player of the Week: Chester Rogers is a player the Colts really like -- an undrafted free agent out of Grambling State a year ago, he made a lot of waves and drew more than his fair share of praise during OTAs before a nagging hamstring injury cost him the first month and a half of the season, as well as his shot at the third receiver role. But with Kamar Aiken and Quan Bray both hurt, Rogers got plenty of action against the Steelers, who were putting up their annual bad road game against a terrible team. Rogers was targeted six times, catching all six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps Rogers will get more chances now -- he now has 11 receptions on 12 targets this season, much improved from his 56 percent catch rate from a year ago.

Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Performer of the Week:: The Patriots-Broncos showdown on Sunday Night Football was essentially over before halftime, as Denver kept answering New England's touchdowns with field goals. They finally got a few things going later in the game, as New England started playing a bit softer, and Demaryius Thomas was able to break free from Stephon Gilmore for a change. Thomas caught three passes for 33 yards, including Denver's only touchdown, well after the competitive portion of the game was over.

'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: J.J. Watt is but a memory for the second straight year. Deshaun Watson's star was extinguished for this season mere moments after it truly ignited. Whitney Mercilus will trouble bodyguards no longer in 2017. The loss of Mercilus has thrust second-year undrafted outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett into the starting lineup, and Scarlett recorded his first two sacks as a professional on one drive against the Rams in Week 10. One of those sacks came on third-and-6, forcing the Rams into their fourth punt of the day. Scarlett later added his second run stuff in two weeks, with a tackle of Lance Dunbar for a 1-yard gain in between -- his four total tackles on average cost the Rams 2.5 yards of field position. In a year that held so much promise only four short weeks ago, Texans fans are once again forced to hope for development from their younger players as a consolation prize.

Game-Changing Play of the Week: We have an automated spreadsheet that highlights possibilities for us, to help identify which plays were big in which games. Because the game was so close and because it was so important in the AFC wild-card race, the Jaguars-Chargers ending kerfuffle ended up with nine of the top 10 results, and 13 in the top 20. This includes pretty much all of the lowlights that we mentioned earlier in the Keep Choppin' Wood section, with the Austin Ekeler fumble -- which gave the Jaguars their second of three attempts to tie the game in the fourth quarter -- coming out on top. No matter what win probability graph you prefer, the ending to that game looks like an earthquake -- or perhaps ventricular fibrillation, which seems apropos for Chargers fans in general.

Three-Eyed Raven Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Andrew: Denver (-2.5) versus Cincinnati. "Confused. Embarrassed. Frustrated." That was the verdict of defensive end Garrett Wolfe after the Broncos were eviscerated 41-16 at home on Sunday night in Week 10. The Orange Crush have a great chance to make amends by crushing the orange of Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Cincinnati still has major offensive line problems, giving Wolfe's pass-rushing teammates Von Miller, Shane Ray, and Shaquil Barrett a great chance to trouble Dalton, while Cincinnati is not quite as well-equipped to take advantage of the mismatches that were so ruthlessly exploited by the Patriots last weekend.

Bryan: I've got to stick with the hot hand. The Packers got me back closer to .500, so I'll take Green Bay (+2) at home against Baltimore. I'll be honest, I'd be happier with the full field goal, but we take what we can get. Brett Hundley had the deep ball working against Chicago, and while Baltimore is definitely a tougher matchup, it's not like the Bears have been allowing just anyone to go deep on them. The Ravens actually rank 28th in DVOA defending the deep ball, so if the Packers can game-plan right ... I'll take the points.

Records to date:
Andrew: 6-3
Bryan: 4-5


The 49ers' 31-21 victory over the Giants didn't just give them their first win of the season; it kept them alive for a potential playoff spot. Seriously. Despite terrible tiebreakers and a guaranteed losing record, the 49ers could squeak into the playoffs at 7-9 in some very, very specific situations. That means every team is still in it with a chance, and we're in an out-and-out race to see which team will be mathematically eliminated first. Pick your side!

Cleveland has time working against them -- they can be eliminated by the end of the late slate of Sunday's games, while San Francisco is guaranteed to be alive until at least Monday night. On the other hand, the Browns have a degree of control over their scenario, as they can stay alive by upsetting the Jaguars at home. They're only touchdown underdogs -- that's not so bad, right? Even a loss doesn't kill them by itself; they could still make the playoffs at 6-10 in a weak AFC, because the race for that last slot is a garbage fire. A 4-8 conference record is terrible, so they'd need to win a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chargers or a massive mess of common games tiebreakers over a quarter of the league to do it, but it is possible. So they need a Browns loss; a Chargers loss; and a loss by one of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, or Houston to be officially out. If they dodge that, the ball is San Francisco's court for a Monday night elimination.

Besides just winning out, San Francisco needs one of two things to happen to have a playoff chance. They could finish second in the NFC West, but the Rams have already clinched the season tiebreaker over them, meaning the Seahawks would have to lose out for that to be possible. They could also win a tiebreaker at 7-9 over the Bears; the 49ers' best-case 4-8 conference record would destroy them against Detroit, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Carolina, or Atlanta, so a fairly precise combo of wins and losses would be needed to circumnavigate that issue. The short of it is that wins by the Seahawks and Lions would be enough to send the 49ers packing on their bye week, albeit not until Monday night.

So, which team gets eliminated first? The Browns in the more convoluted but chronologically earlier scenario? The 49ers in the simpler but later one? Or do they both survive to fight another day? That's the sort of thing fans of terrible teams ponder in mid-November.

  • Cleveland can be eliminated from a First-Round Bye IF Jacksonville d. Cleveland OR Pittsburgh d. Tennessee OR Houston d. Arizona OR ALL OF Oakland d. New England AND Denver d. Cincinnati AND Green Bay d. Baltimore.
  • Cleveland can be eliminated from the AFC North IF Jacksonville d. Cleveland OR Pittsburgh d. Tennessee.
  • Cleveland can be eliminated from a Top-Five Seed IF Jacksonville d. Cleveland AND ONE OF Tennessee d. Pittsburgh OR Buffalo d. L.A. Chargers OR Miami d. Tampa Bay OR Baltimore d. Green Bay OR Arizona d. Houston OR BOTH Oakland d. New England AND Denver d. Cincinnati.
  • Cleveland can be eliminated from the playoffs IF Jacksonville d. Cleveland AND Buffalo d. L.A. Chargers AND ONE OF Baltimore d. Green Bay OR Tennessee d. Pittsburgh OR Arizona d. Houston.
  • Chicago can be eliminated from Home Field Advantage IF Detroit d. Chicago AND Philadelphia d. Dallas AND EITHER L.A. Rams d. Minnesota OR ALL OF New Orleans d. Washington AND Atlanta d. Seattle AND Green Bay d. Baltimore AND Tampa Bay d. Miami
  • N.Y. Giants can be eliminated from the NFC East IF Kansas City d. N.Y. Giants OR Philadelphia d. Dallas
  • N.Y. Giants can be eliminated from a Top-Five Seed IF Kansas City d. N.Y. Giants AND Detroit d. Chicago
  • San Francisco can be eliminated from a Top-Five Seed IF Detroit d. Chicago OR Seattle d. Atlanta OR BOTH Atlanta d. Seattle AND Green Bay d. Baltimore
  • San Francisco can be eliminated from the playoffs IF Seattle d. Atlanta AND Detroit d. Chicago

Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, coaching opportunities, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter on 15 Nov 2017

19 comments, Last at 17 Nov 2017, 8:50am by BJR


by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 3:11pm

The most frustrating thing about this article was the slow loss of the world's greatest lead.

See, to generate those tables, I went team-by-team with all the coaching changes. And I did the NFC first. If it wasn't for the existence of the AFC, the headline would have been:

"Sean McVay has had the biggest, fastest impact on his new team since Vince Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959".

That's a heck of a headline! But nooo, the AFC (and AFL, though there are certainly extenuating factors there) ruin everything. Not only did Parcells top McVay, but going back to 1960, you also have Ted Marchibroda taking over the Baltimore Colts, Al Davis saving the Raiders and Don Shula starting his reign in Miami beating out McVay. Sassafrassa AFL; I knew that upstart league was a bad idea!

by Tim R :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 3:34pm

Fishers rams tenure was really weird. When he first came in he provided competent coaching for the first time since Martz left. He just seemed to become increasingly disinterested as it went on. Particularly in the offense. Progressively downgrading OCs from brian schotenheimmer is impressively incompetent. Last year was a total disaster.

by theslothook :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 4:06pm

Id like to wait a year or so before extolling McVay. Goffs dramatic turnaround coincides with a ton of things, including the coaching, that it's hard to disentangle what the reasons for it are.

Also, why does Wade keep having to get new jobs despite his Sterling track record? He's like the Larry brown of the NFL.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 4:22pm

Yeah, Wade popped up a few times in a "he left, and things got worse" capacity.

Another name who kept popping up was Bobby Ross; both the Lions AND Chargers got significantly worse just after he left, and he helped the Chargers to a very fast turnaround. I didn't do it for colleges, but he also had a positive impact on Army when he went there. Not saying people should be putting Ross on the best of all time list or anything, but he doesn't seem to get talked about enough.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 4:58pm

Ross took a couple of years to swing into things at GT, although that's only because literally all GT coaches leave the program on a relative high note. There's like two exceptions to this (Bill Lewis in 1994 and John McKee in 1902). Essentially every other coach left behind at least a .500 team.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 5:32pm

If Ross had coached in the NFL before free agency and salary cap, with a reasonably good owner, I think he may have had tremendous NFL success. In some ways he was even more of a control freak than a guy like Coughlin, and it frustrated him that the players in the new era were much harder to dictate to.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 5:38pm

Yep, Ross resigned out of rage and frustration from a 5-4 team in 2000, after a 2 game losing streak (can't help but see parallels between the 2000 Lions and the 2017 Bills). I thought he got the best anybody could expect out of some very talent-poor, post-Sanders Lions teams in '99 and '00.

by serutan :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 6:02pm

Yeah, you'd think Elway would have wanted a great coordinator with some
head coaching experience to help out a new inexperienced HC.

The Rams will doubtless send a Thank You card at Christmas.
Was wr

by theslothook :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 7:03pm

Does anyone know WHY Elway let wade walk out? Did he not watch the sb? One would think Elway gave Wade his own key to the city after that.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 7:34pm

It puzzled the hell out of me, from the standpoint that I thought Kyle Shanahan would have been a perfect replacement for Kubiak, and would have meshed well with Wade. Maybe Elway was really eager to prove how smart he is, which is always a dangerous motivation. Oh well, Broncos' loss is Rams' gain.....

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 8:03pm

Any chance it was an issue of Vance Joseph wanting his own DC to hire? Don't remember fully the timing of events between Kubiak's retirement, Wade getting let go and Vance being hired.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 8:11pm

Oh, I'm pretty sure of that, which is why I thought Shanahan was a better hire for the Broncos.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 9:48pm

I think so too, but then again I liked them bringing back Mike McCoy as OC (he was great in his first stint), and it's not like Shanny Jr. is doing so well so far...

But yes, getting rid of Wade Phillips is not a good result no matter what. He also seemed to love those Denver guys. He landed on his feet and is helping build a neo-GSOT with the Rams, but it is sad watching that Denver group regress so much.

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:15am

It's also possible that Wade detested Elway, and knowing that he could still get a DC job pretty much anywhere, decided to leave. We may never know until both are dead.

by BJR :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 8:50am

I also suspect that after last year's embarrassment Kroenke realized the folly of skimping on his coaching staff, and threw a ton of money at Wade.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 5:40pm

Note that the 2012 Colts improvement from 2-14 Jim Caldwell was 2-2 Chuck Pagano and 9-3 Bruce Arians. I think history has shown which of those deserves more credit ...

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 11/15/2017 - 6:35pm

post deleted, after I realized you already covered it in the article.

by dharrell :: Thu, 11/16/2017 - 8:39pm

*Derek Wolfe, not Garrett

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:22am

Despite all the vitriol against him, I don't think Jim Schwartz gets enough credit for taking an 0-16 Lions squad to the playoffs within 3 years and building a top 5 defense during that period. The Rams this year started with a lot more than the Lions had in 2009.