NFL15: Bills’ Rex Ryan Tops Coaches on the Cue

28 Jul

The hot seat: That’s the term of the trade, coaching, that is.

Specifically, a term of warning that means, he, maybe she someday the way things are moving (See; Welter (AZ) & Hammon (NBA)), who sits on said seat had better get his rear-in-gear, find a winning touch or that proverbial pink-slip is certain to arrive by or before season’s end, depending on the equity said coach has accrued.

But that ain‘t this write, not exactly.

Coaching cats listed here would at least appear to be pretty well situated and are, in fact, not in immediate danger of getting the boot.

Some are new to their job but so popular they’d trigger an impromptu parade with local fans (Ryan). Others have recently received extension (Tomlin / Coughlin / Lewis) and most are in possession of Lombardi (replica) home décor.

Even so, not all is as rosy as it appears for these elite NFL sideliners.

While they’ve all had success and anticipation runs high as summer training camps are getting under way, each of them has struggled for extended periods time and failed, sometimes miserably, to meet their own particular expectations.

For some that simply means consecutive losing records and no post-season play; for others it means doing everything necessary in the RS to punch-ticket for prime playoff placement but then fail repeatedly to close the deal (GB).

If these expectations are not met, whether that‘s simply a >.500 record or Super Bowl birth, all of these coaching veterans could be looking for work next March or begin to feel a noticeable warming in their seats, contracts notwithstanding.

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Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills (1st year HC)

“A parade all by himself (Jimmy Cannon‘s description of Ruth)” would be bit of a stretch but Rex Ryan may be the closest thing we’ve got today, sans the whiskey, womanizing, wee-hour waltzes, hot dog eating contests, etcetera. Rex’s press conferences, anyway.

Ryan starts fresh in Buffalo after six seasons at the helm in Jetsland in the town the Babe called home for many years (1920 – 48), having left the Big Apple with mixed results. After reaching a couple AFCCs in the early going the wheels came off, offensive-side mostly, and a semi-amicable parting-of-ways was reached.

He hopes to dispel belief he’s an early-bloomer, inspiring with a positive persona in phase I, only to lose his grip in phase II when the bloom comes off the rose.

“Over-identification with his men,” is what Gregory Peck (“Gen. Savage”) called it in the classic World War II drama, Twelve O’Clock High (‘49). Big trouble. You want your men’s respect, even a little fear on occasion, not their friendship, not necessarily. Whether that’s factual with Ryan or not, only he and players can say, but it does give appearance.

Rex’s specialty, defense, is in the genes, evidenced by brother Rob (NO-DC) and their famous father “Buddy” having coordinated way back to those AFL title days in Buffalo (‘61-65). Like father, like sons, except James had some terrific guys on the O-side, including names like Kemp & Gilchrist (BUF), Namath & Maynard (NYJ), Tarkenton & Foreman (MIN) and Payton & McMahon (CHI), something with which Rex has rarely been assoc’d since his days in Baltimore (’99-08).

Mastering offense has proven his bugaboo, in particular, finding a quality field general. He ain’t alone. When young Mark Sanchez (NYJ) hit a wall, Ryan kept his cool but eventually was forced to make change and came up short (G.Smith).

As it stands, Bills QB question remains unanswered.

Veteran Matt Cassel, displaced in MIN by Ted Bridgewater, has two 10-5s under his belt (NE / KC) appeared the presumptive starter but Ryan wants to please everyone so everyone (Manuel / Simms / Taylor) will get a good look-see. He knows securing a signal-caller’s key to making his mark in Western New York State versus a likely last NFL head coach gig.

Bills fans are a frustrated lot, playoff-dry since ‘00 and though looking to be turning a corner under Marrone in ‘14 (9-7), saw him skedaddle and capable Orton call it a career at season‘s end. While playoffs in ‘16 is, to a Bills optimist, expected, the QB quandary permits RR something less, but with a seat-warmer handy. Gets cold in Buffalo!

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Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers (10th yr)

The hand-writing was on the wall for this move.

On the one hand, you can’t blame Packers for taking Mike down a peg in having to fork over the play-call book, given GB’s recent playoff runs with unexpected Ls to visiting Giants (’12), Colin Kaepernick-led 49ers (x2), last one at home, no less (‘14), and then the Cheese Melt 2015 (1.18) versus defending champs, Seattle, in NFCC in what looked (late) like an earned trip to SB49.

One the other hand, while Packers fans & Mgmt are some of the best in the biz, great success will often breed over-inflated sense of self-worth and unreasonable expectations, i.e., big brats, and not the Usinger’s® or Klement’s® varieties.

Green Bay’s collapse, a worst in NFL post-season history, was a team effort. Call it Murphy’s Law, if anything could go wrong, it did. I call it Swing Time (’36), the best of Astaire & Rogers and apt name of what afflicts this NFL. A winning team loses all momentum which swings to the up & comers who turn the tables. Cause? Millennials don‘t handle pressure like Dad? It’s as good an explanation as any.

And orchestrating Brett Favre’s high-profile return to the Fox Valley just prior to opening of training camp, the prodigal QB, as it were (Luke: 15: 11-32), just when faithful are having serious doubts about keeping McCarthy‘s hands on the controls, was not Thompson‘s best play. Now fans have all summer to remind ’em of those halcyon days of Green Bay Renaissance when Wolf, Holmgren, Favre & White seemed invincible, until they met Elway & Co. (SB32), of course.

Though, it’s a bit rough for a guy who built his rep on offensive know-how (See; UP ‘89), relinquishing strategizing duties is, in big picture, nothing to stew about, when you’ve got a guy named Aaron Rodgers conducting the orchestra (MVP ‘14).

Packers problem every January is the same it’s been since Reggie and LeRoy Butler retired: defense, or lack thereof, in crunch time.

A panache for glory stats guys (Clay Matthews / Woodson) in sacrifice of tackling (See; SEA, CAR, SF), the heart & soul of football, has too often been their undoing. Moving out of the mid-pack (yapg (15) / papg (14)) by leaping Minnesota and Detroit and into the top-10 on these key defensive measures will punch Green Bay’s ticket to Santa Clara.

...Tomlin.wc.steelcityhobbies.9.16.7 thm

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (9th yr)

If I’d had ear of Steelers Chair Dan Rooney in 2013 I’d have advised Mike be dismissed from his coaching job at season’s close, giving Tomlin option of sooner if chosen, and pinned my own position of influence on the call.

Tomlin’s buffoonery in Baltimore on Thanksgiving, of all nights, where he clearly interferes with Ravens return man Jacoby Jones breakaway sideline run, gave the Pittsburgh organization a black-eye, traces of which still remain with the two-time Super Bowl (43 W / 45 L) coach’s continued presence on Steelers‘ sideline.

The fact he chose to step on the field while watching the ball-carrier approach (not Jumbotron as claimed), most certainly to divert Jones likely TD trot, was bad enough. That he wore a Cheshire grin immediately following his chicanery certified the misdeed. That he didn’t own-up afterwards was strike three.

Even as game officials failed to flag Tomlin, speaking once again to the fallacy of instant-replay’s purported necessity, the NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 for interference, one of largest penalties levied on a coach in the League’s history.

Tomlin just inked a 2-yr (K) extension with the Rooneys. Irony is that as long as veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger remains hearty & healthy, he, like Rodgers in GB, almost assures Steelers dbl-digit wins, which nearly assures Mike his continued employ in the Steel City that’ll pretty much assure Ben & Co. won’t be returning to a Super Bowl anytime soon. The steady slide in key defensive categories over the past few seasons (yapg 18 / papg 18) throws up another red flag.

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Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (9th yr)

Like Mike & Mike, Sean’s nearing a decade at the helm of the first and only NFL team he’s headed, and, could too be on the outs soon, add’l proof that winning a Super Bowl doesn’t, or in some cases, shouldn’t, guarantee undying loyalty from the faithful.

Though the Saints haven’t exactly been in free-fall post-Bountygate, making the PS 3 of 5 seasons, they’ve clearly fallen from juggernaut status since the scandal.

What almost assuredly differentiates the Steelers guru and his Saints peer is that while Tomlin arguably rode on coat-tails of Bill Cowher’s success, Payton, strictly in coaching terms, forged a title-club by his own method & means, as debatable as they were, while others before (Haslett, Mora, Phillips, etc.) came up short.

Call it a pattern, trend or an NFL norm (I miss Cheers (pre-Kristie Alley)), but here’s another team with a Super QB (Brees) that looks to’ve become over-reliant on his wherewithal and seen the defense go to the dogs (yapg 31 / papg 28).

Drew, like Eli & Ben, is a tough customer but won’t play forever. If the once stout New Orleans D doesn’t find it’s footing in ‘15 (the OL protects the franchise well (29sk ‘14)), Sean may be footing it out the door in ‘16.

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Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (3rd yr)

Reid may be one of the few non-titlist NFL head coaches to get busted in Canton (See: Grant, Levy). In his 16 seasons at the helm for Philly (14 (’99)) and KC (2 (’13)), Andy’s had 9 dbl-digit, 12 winning and only 3 losing campaigns (2 @ .500).

Trouble with Andy (reads like a Hardy movie) may be, as with Rex, his teams come outta’ the gate strong but if they finish back, tend to fall back in later runs, not out of the money (show (playoffs)), but out of the big money (win or place (title)). Perceptions like that can be short on fact / substance but can carry weight, especially with a franchise that hasn‘t supped champagne since 1970 (Stram (SB4)).

Though not enriched with a fantasy-favored, statistically-elite QB in Alex Smith, who’s been stanchion under center the last four, compiling a 38-16 tally (SF / KC) with a tremendous TD-ratio (71-23), Reid’s Chiefs may have the best balance of all six teams listed herein.

Dropping in key offensive categories in ‘14 (ypg 25 / ppg 16), Chiefs still possess Alex’s matriculatory flair, the explosive, multi-man Jamal Charles and mythically mondo 3rd-yr TE in Travis “Zeus” Kelce, while the defense should take advice from nobody, coming in at #7 in yapg and just behind Seattle in papg (2).

Because full balance is attainable (more hands, top reserves on D), coupled with the Super drought (‘70), expectations are high for Reid in 2015. If KC boards the roller-coaster again (9-7) or busts early in the PS, no one in the Hunt household will hit the panic button but talk will begin on change v. staying the course.

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Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals (13th yr)

Like McCarthy, Payton and Tomlin, Lewis too is making the most his first NFL head coaching gig, setting franchise record in wins (100-90-2) and compiling mostly winning marks (6-3-3) over his dozen seasons in the Queen City. In April, Marvin, like his friend Tom in NYC, signed a 1-yr extension to a deal that was to terminate at close of 2015-16 NFL season.

Cincy has been a regular post-season player under Marvin’s tutelage but have yet to advance in any session, going 0-6, whether it be capable field generals Carson Palmer (‘04-10) or Andy Dalton (’11-14) barking out the signals.

The team rankings are unimpressive though hardly distressing. In 2014, the Tigers were the epitome of adequate, or, as “George Costanza” would say, “a solid C, not falling behind, not showing off (Seinfeld).”

On offense, they came in at #15 in both yards allowed and points allowed per game, while the defensive ranks fell slightly lower at #15 (ypg) and 22 (ppg). And somehow, some way, the Bengals found a way to manage double digit wins again. Where there’s a will, there’s a way?

And maybe that’s Lewis in a nutshell. What he may lack in rah-rah he makes up for in a professionalism and coaching cool that inspires players and staff to perform. Taking nothing away from a fine Colts performance, it’s fair to write that in their last playoff go-round, a 26-10 wild card loss at Indy, injuries to key personnel left Cincinnati a markedly different team.

But while patience is a virtue, even Machiavelli had his fill (See; The Prince).

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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (12th yr (20))

Canton beckons for this 2-time Super Bowl winning coach (42 / 46), both roads to glory that ran through Green Bay (’08 / ’11) and culminated in competitive contests against one of the other ‘best’ coach (Belichick) / QB (Brady) combos in NFL annals.

Winning one Lombardi won’t guarantee a lifetime contract, that’s understood, but winning two in the fashion Tom (and Eli et al) did, well, if that doesn’t give an assurance of loyalty from owners and fans, I don’t know what does.

Even at 6-10 and a so-so run game, the Eli Manning (another Canton lock) -led offense finished impressively in ‘14 (ypg 10 / ppg 12T), with no small thanks to an O-line that knows blocking (28sk). But like the Saints, Bears & Falcons, this traditionally stout defense has fallen on hard times (yapg 29 / papg 24).

Though having in March signed a 1-yr extension that pays him through 2016 season, Misters Mara and Tisch will be honored to have Coughlin guide their Giants as long as they’re reasonably competitive (‘reasonably’ interpreted broadly: no playoffs since 2011 and combined 22-26) or Tom keeps competitive fires burning. But hard to imagine any result in ‘15-16? that’d stoke those fires sufficiently to bring TC back for another, add’l (K)-yr, notwithstanding.

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Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: Ryan, 8.3.8, wc, Allison; Ryan, wc, O’Leary, 10.23.11; McCarthy, 8.11.7, wc, Grant; Tomlin, wc, 9.16.7, steelcityhobbies; Payton, wc, 2.7.10, VOA, Schy; Reid, wc, USAF, Sturkol, 8.6.8; Lewis, wc, emeybee, 9.16.13; Coughlin.Bush.Eli, WH, wc, 4.30.8, USGOV; NFL-Wikiproject;
Posted: 7.28.15 @ 5:15pm; edit (photo) 7.29 @ 5:57pm EST
Copyright © 2015

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