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Old 01-04-2009, 08:23 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Grading the coaches

Grading the coaches
http://www.profootballweekly.com/PFW...oaches2326.htm
By PFW staff
Jan. 2, 2009

Mike Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers


The Steelers take their cues from Tomlin, who doesn’t mince words and doesn’t make excuses. Things to like about Tomlin’s second season on the job: The defense is again top-notch. The Steelers swept the Ravens and didn’t have any letdowns vs. the Browns and Bengals. Tomlin deftly handled a potential controversy with RB Willie Parker, who complained about the offense’s approach before the pivotal Week 15 game at Baltimore.

The only knock on Tomlin may be the inconsistency of the offense, which sputtered in losses at Philadelphia and Tennessee. Overall, though, his career is off to a great start.

Grade: A-minus


Dolphins coach Tony Sparano
As 2007 cellar dwellers, the Falcons and Dolphins provided their new head coaches with the luxury of knowing whatever they did, they couldn’t realistically do any worse than their predecessors. But instead of making the gradual steps that rebuilding franchises typically take, Mike Smith and Tony Sparano put their reclamation projects into overdrive in Year One. Along with John Harbaugh in Baltimore, who at least inherited standard-bearing defensive talent with a club craving new energy at the top, three of the NFL’s four new coaches — Washington’s Jim Zorn faltered in the second semester — made honor roll in 2008. Yet that barnstorming trifecta was counterbalanced by the unsightly departures of three other coaches in the midst of downtrodden campaigns.

Ken Whisenhunt
Arizona Cardinals

In his second season in the desert, Whisenhunt and his staff deserved an “A” for the job they did in the first 11 games on the way to the Cardinals clinching their first division title in 33 years. But the disturbing lack of motivation the team showed in embarrassingly ugly late-season losses to the Eagles, Vikings and Patriots brings his grade down significantly. He handled the team’s QB situation well, making the right decision in choosing Kurt Warner as the starter over Matt Leinart, and when disgruntled WR Anquan Boldin ripped him earlier in the year and demanded a trade, Whisenhunt’s response was measured and non-confrontational.

Grade: B-minus

Mike Smith
Atlanta Falcons

There are other quality candidates to choose from, but Smith has perhaps the strongest case to make for NFL Coach of the Year honors. He inherited a ruinous situation in Atlanta, taking over a club marred by Michael Vick’s dogfighting scandal. After going 4-12 last season, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Falcons with rookie QB Matt Ryan at the helm. Instead, Smith’s intelligence, passion and clear lines of communication have helped guide the club to a stunning 11-5 record and the most unlikely of playoff berths.

Grade: A

John Harbaugh
Baltimore Ravens

It’s hard to have many qualms about the job John Harbaugh has done in his first season on the job. Some of Harbaugh’s best work came in the offseason, when he convinced defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to stay in Baltimore and hired former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron to run the offense. Ryan and Cameron have done tremendous jobs, which undoubtedly has helped Harbaugh’s transition. But make no mistake: Harbaugh has earned the respect of his veteran-laden team. He’s confident and fearless, as evidenced by his call for a fake field goal in the pivotal Week 16 win at Dallas.

Grade: B-plus

Dick Jauron
Buffalo Bills

Jauron started out the season looking like he’d be a top candidate for NFL Coach of the Year honors. After getting his team out to a 5-1 start, he signed a three-year extension, appearing as if he’d be the club’s skipper for quite awhile. Then things fell apart at the seams, and he wasn’t able to rectify it. His decision to appoint QB coach Turk Schonert to offensive coordinator backfired on him, as the offense had no rhythm or direction with either Trent Edwards or J.P. Losman at quarterback. The defense, Jauron’s specialty, was serviceable at best.

Grade: C-minus

John Fox
Carolina Panthers

Fox set his team up for success before the season began when he and GM Marty Hurney decided to revamp the offensive line and draft Jonathan Stewart to pair with DeAngelo Williams in a power running backfield. He showed sound leadership in handling a potential pitfall in training camp, suspending WR Steve Smith, arguably the team’s best player at the time, after he punched CB Ken Lucas. Fox entered the season on the hot seat, but he has reaffirmed the notion that he’s one of the better coaches in the league. Aside from one or two occasions, he has had the Panthers in every game this season.

Grade: B-plus

Lovie Smith
Chicago Bears

Considering most league observers predicted before the season that the Bears would be hard-pressed to crack the .500 mark, Smith deserves an above-average grade. Often criticized for his bland, low-key demeanor, he deserves credit for keeping his team fired up during its last-ditch drive to make the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has done a nice job this season handling a unit with limited resources, and a strong case could be made for Dave Toub as the league’s best special-teams coach. But the late breakdowns by Bob Babich’s uneven defense in losses to the Panthers, Buccaneers and Falcons were inexcusable.

Grade: B-minus

Marvin Lewis
Cincinnati Bengals

Say this for the Bengals: They’ve played hard for much of the season. So that’s a credit to Marvin Lewis. Also, Lewis made the right call in hiring Mike Zimmer to run the defense. Nonetheless, the Bengals were never in the AFC North race, even when QB Carson Palmer was behind center at the beginning of the season. The collapse of the offense was especially troubling. The offensive line, a strength in past seasons, was awful. RB Chris Perry fumbled away the starting job. And Chad Ocho Cinco’s ’08 campaign was a debacle. Such regression just doesn’t reflect well on the coaching no matter the circumstances.

Grade: D

Romeo Crennel
Cleveland Browns

Crennel’s players respect him. And there is no doubt that the game plan he oversaw when the Browns drilled the Giants in October was one of the best any coach put together this season. But this was a season to forget for Crennel. His clock management often came under fire. The defense collapsed in devastating home losses to Baltimore and Denver. Two of the offense’s most dynamic players — WR Joshua Cribbs and RB Jerome Harrison — were utilized infrequently. Crennel’s approach never wavered throughout such a tough season, and that’s one of the reasons he’s so popular with his players. But too often this season, the Browns were reacting, not forcing the action.

Grade: F

Wade Phillips
Dallas Cowboys

Saddled with sky-high expectations and fraught with a locker room of grade-A talent and type-A personalities, Wade Phillips has dealt with just about every imaginable situation a team can have in a season. There was the Pacman Jones saga, followed by the Tony Romo injury, the Roy E. Williams trade and the Terrell Owens mouth-off, among other daily distractions. It should be noted that after Phillips took more of a hand in calling the defense, the results were markedly better, the Week 17 blowout loss in Philadelphia notwithstanding. Phillips also faced the tough position of not only looking over his shoulder at owner Jerry Jones, a monolithic and omnipresent figure at Valley Ranch, but also at offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who might or might not be Phillips’ successor. But ultimately, Phillips’ and the Cowboys’ season must be deemed a failure.

Grade: C

Mike Shanahan
Denver Broncos

It’s not easy grading Shanahan. There’s an argument to be made that he has done one of the best jobs of his career with this team, since it has been marked by a wave of injuries that sent seven running backs to injured reserve. Then again, Denver did become just the second team in NFL history to blow a three-game lead in a division race, losing the AFC West title to the Chargers in Week 17. Considering the circumstances, it’s fair to say Shanahan has done more than an above-average job of managing the bad hand he was dealt.

Grade: B-minus

Rod Marinelli
Detroit Lions

Many would blame the grade of Marinelli on former GM Matt Millen, who was fired after Week Three, given that the roster appears to be perhaps the most bare in the NFL. But it should be noted that Marinelli had more influence over the players brought in this past offseason, and nearly everything he and his staff attempted to do this season went south in the NFL’s first-ever 0-16 campaign. The Lions said they wanted to get back to running the ball and establishing toughness up front; they seldom did until late in games. They wanted to clean up a secondary that allowed 6.46 yards per pass and had 12 interceptions by DBs in 2007; shockingly, it got worse in ’08, as they allowed 7.93 yards per pass and had one interception by a DB. Marinelli preached consistency but played four different QBs, struggled to find and coach up adequate injury replacements and failed to show guts late in games with aggressive calls.

Grade: F

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Old 01-04-2009, 08:23 AM   #2
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Mike McCarthy
Green Bay Packers

One year removed from a storybook 13-3 campaign, McCarthy’s 6-10 Packers will receive more than a few votes as the NFL’s most disappointing team this season. Seven losses by four points or fewer do not reflect very well on McCarthy’s staff, which could have changed a few outcomes with better adjustments. With Aaron Rodgers replacing Brett Favre under center, the Packers’ offense was respectable for the most part, but it had a consistently hard time getting the job done in crunch time. Bob Sanders’ defense suffered a significant decline, especially against the run, and the special teams coached by Mike Stock took a major step backward.

Grade: D-plus

Gary Kubiak
Houston Texans

Kubiak has transformed the Texans’ offense into a powerhouse, and the way his team has played in December throughout his tenure is a reflection of how hard his team works for him. But the Texans won’t take the next step until they make a sustained run. This was a roller-coaster campaign for the Texans. They went winless in a nightmarish September marked by Hurricane Ike ripping part of the roof off Reliant Stadium. The Texans rallied in October, fell off the pace in November, then re-rallied in December, but all that got them was third place in the AFC South.

Grade: C-plus

Tony Dungy
Indianapolis Colts

Dungy was dealt a losing stack of cards on the defensive side of the ball, with an unexpected retirement and legal troubles whittling away his defensive line and a batch of injuries at all levels. The Colts suffered because of it, but then his new players began to understand the system, and the results followed. There was never much of a doubt that Peyton Manning would recover from his knee injury to regain his rhythm as one of the league’s top passers after a slow start, but Dungy deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team motivated and hungry following its disappointing 3-4 start.

Grade: B-plus.

Jack Del Rio
Jacksonville Jaguars

Del Rio drank a tall glass of the Kool-Aid the media shoved his way last offseason, saying the Jags were just a couple pieces away from completing a Super Bowl-worthy club. He therefore sank a king’s ransom into acquiring pass rushers in the draft, both of whom have failed, and his defense fell completely apart. More importantly, he lost control of his locker room, sending home respected team leader Mike Peterson for a stretch of practice for an incident in which Del Rio reacted too harshly in trying to send a message.

Grade: D

Herm Edwards
Kansas City Chiefs

Asked to oversee the beginning of a rebuilding project this season, Herm Edwards did little to prove the franchise is headed in the right direction. Not only did he lead the team to a paltry two wins, but he failed to develop many of the talented young players that the Chiefs invested heavily in last offseason. Furthermore, it was on the defensive side of the ball — which is supposed to be Edwards’ specialty — that Kansas City really failed. With a new regime entering the Chiefs’ front office, Edwards’ future with the club is in serious doubt.

Grade: D-plus

Tony Sparano
Miami Dolphins

Sparano walked into a situation where he could not fail in Year One. The Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007, so there was nowhere to go but up. But the club’s rapid rise up the NFL hierarchy, after an 0-2 start, highlights one of the most impressive coaching jobs in the league in some time. A notorious tough guy, Sparano implemented a full throttle offseason workout plan to get the team into shape, but has been flexible and creative enough with his on-field tactics — such as the implementation of the “Wildcat” formation in Week Three — to adjust for the inevitable sluggish times.

Grade: A

Brad Childress
Minnesota Vikings

Vikings fans have had trouble connecting with Childress, who won’t win congeniality awards, but he has done a nice job in spite of weekly criticism. Many believe that Childress should have won more games because of the offseason trade and extension for DE Jared Allen and the big-money signings of WR Bernard Berrian and FS Madieu Williams. But Childress’ grade is tied a lot to QB Tarvaris Jackson, whom he believed was ready for prime time this offseason following an up-and-down 2007 campaign. Childress benched Jackson after two bad games, and although Gus Frerotte did a respectable job in his place, Childress had to go back to Jackson, who handled the move exceptionally well and led this team down the stretch. Winning the division and finishing strong earns Childress mostly strong marks from the critics despite a few hiccups.

Grade: B

Bill Belichick
New England Patriots

Belichick was dealt a potentially crushing blow when reigning league MVP Tom Brady tore his ACL in the first quarter Week One. He then had a huge decision to make: Hand the ball over to career backup Matt Cassel, or bring in a veteran from another club or the free-agent market to give the team some stability. Belichick chose Option No. 1, the riskier choice, and the results have been extraordinary, with Cassel producing 11 wins and a solid 21-11 TD-to-interception ratio. The defense hasn’t been as stingy as it should’ve been, but Belichick had to weather storms that arose out of season-ending injuries to his two most versatile performers, OLB Adalius Thomas and SS Rodney Harrison.

Grade: A-minus

Sean Payton
New Orleans Saints

For the second consecutive season, the Saints failed to meet expectations and have to be considered one of the NFL’s most underachieving teams. There are few better than Payton when it comes to coordinating a passing game — New Orleans has the top-ranked aerial attack — but defense and the running game continue to be puzzles he can’t seem to figure out. He wasn’t helped by a grueling schedule, which included a “home” game in London and 42 consecutive days without a contest in the Superdome. The bottom line, though, is this team didn’t seem to get much better this season, despite offseason upgrades on both sides of the ball.

Grade: C

Tom Coughlin
New York Giants

Considering the Giants were among the least-respected defending champs in recent memory and that the team has faced the task of repeating without four of its starters on defense — including stud DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora — Coughlin has done another amazing job of stoking this team’s fire, building great depth, replacing holes and perhaps coaching a team that is better than the version that won Super Bowl XLII. It has not been pretty, but the Giants have responded to trouble very well. The most notable of which, of course, was the Plaxico Burress gun incident, and some teams certainly would have considered not deactivating him. Not Coughlin and the Giants. They fell off their mark a bit and faced a showdown for the No. 1 seed in the Week 16 game against the Panthers but fought back to win in overtime.

Grade: A

Eric Mangini
New York Jets

Mangini and right-hand man Mike Tannenbaum were like kids in a candy store during last offseason’s shopping spree, trading and signing virtually any player they wanted. They’re not quite experiencing indigestion over their splurge, but it’s close. Some acquisitions worked out nicely, such as NT Kris Jenkins. Some did not pan out well, such as OT Damien Woody. The worst of all was Brett Favre, who, over the season’s second half, looked nothing like the MVP candidate he was a season ago. Worse yet, Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have yet to find out how to use him best.

Grade: C

Tom Cable
Oakland Raiders

There were a few times when he showed bad judgment — expecting PK Sebastian Janikowski to run 10 yards for a first down on a fake field-goal attempt in Week 13 stands out — but overall, Cable did a respectable job in a very difficult situation. He was hired on an interim basis after Lane Kiffin was fired Sept. 30 and led the Raiders to a 4-8 record, but a team in turmoil never seemed to quit on him. He helped keep things in order despite Al Davis’ bizarre press conference and prying nature.

Grade: C
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:24 AM   #3
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Andy Reid
Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles believed they had a team that could make a good run at the Super Bowl heading into this season. At times, the talent showed itself as QB Donovan McNabb rebounded and the defense turned into a very strong unit. But there also were serious lapses as the Eagles struggled in short-yardage situations, especially when Brian Westbrook was injured. The team’s low point was the tie at Cincinnati, which put the team in a playoff predicament and exposed the players’ lack of knowledge. But give Reid credit for going back to McNabb after benching him mid-game at Baltimore, a move that roundly was questioned at the time, because McNabb responded with some of his best ball after that as the Eagles somehow found their way into the playoffs.

Grade: B-minus

Jim Haslett
St. Louis Rams

After replacing Scott Linehan four games into the season, Haslett started off like gangbusters, guiding the Rams to impressive upset victories over the Redskins on the road and the Cowboys at home. But with the team failing to win a game since then, it might be difficult for owner Chip Rosenbloom to justify keeping Haslett in place, even though most of his players and the people who work at Rams Park would like to see him return. Bogged down by a rash of injuries to key players comparable to last season’s well-documented nightmare, the Rams have continued to play hard for the most part. But offensive coordinator Al Saunders has been a major disappointment, and Rick Venturi’s defense has been way too inconsistent.

Grade: C-minus

Norv Turner
San Diego Chargers

Having been handed a roster that arguably had more talent than any other in the league, Turner made the Chargers look like a very ordinary team this season. While the passing game thrived, the rushing attack suffered greatly, thanks largely to poor play by the offensive line. And the defense was even more dismal, forcing a midseason change at coordinator. Turner also did little to motivate his players, who looked uninterested for most of the year, almost as if they could coast through the regular season and still make the playoffs. Luckily for Turner, a December rally was enough to salvage San Diego’s campaign.

Grade: C-plus

Mike Singletary
San Francisco 49ers

Taking into account his lack of prior head-coaching experience, there were few league observers willing to predict Singletary would finish the season 5-4 as Mike Nolan’s midseason replacement. But in addition to overseeing a dramatically improved effort on the field — in no small part due to his decision to replace QB J.T. O’Sullivan with Shaun Hill — the Hall of Fame linebacker has managed to totally change the team’s culture in a remarkably short period of time. He also wasted no time winning over his coaching staff, most notably offensive coordinator Mike Martz, whom he convinced to go with more of a straightforward power approach.

Grade: A-minus

Mike Holmgren
Seattle Seahawks

One key injury after another is primarily responsible for turning Holmgren’s final season as the Seahawks’ head coach into a major disappointment. Holmgren’s troops have played hard this season, but not very well, particularly the defense, which, aside from losing its best pass rusher in Patrick Kerney, hasn’t been hurt by injuries nearly as much as the offense. Holmgren would be the first to admit his swan song in Seattle has left a lot to be desired. After recharging his batteries during a one-year sabbatical he promised his wife he would take, look for him to enthusiastically resurface in some capacity with another team in 2010.

Grade: D-plus

Jon Gruden
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the first time since he came to Tampa in 2002, the Buccaneers have put together back-to-back winning seasons under Gruden. That said, his team’s weak finish — dropping four straight to end the season — has diminished what appeared to be an outstanding coaching job by Gruden. He seemed to pull the right strings in overseeing a tenuous quarterback situation, switching back-and-forth from Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese earlier in the season, and the Bucs had a 9-3 record at one point despite an offense composed of castoffs at several skill positions.

Grade: C-plus

Jeff Fisher
Tennessee Titans

The Titans have gone from Super Bowl XLIII long shot to one of the favorites to make it to Tampa. All the while, Fisher has acted like a coach who has been down this road before. He handled the benching of Vince Young quickly and decisively, ending a dreaded quarterback controversy before it happened. This allowed Kerry Collins to settle into the dual roles of focal point and leader of the offense. Fisher also should be credited with putting together a top-notch coaching staff. Everyone’s on the same page in Tennessee, and that’s a reflection of the head coach.

Grade: A

Jim Zorn
Washington Redskins

More than anything else, Zorn’s first season was interesting. After a flat performance in the season opener, the Redskins ripped off six wins in seven games and appeared to be a contender, led by midseason MVP candidate Clinton Portis. Considering that Zorn was taking on three huge responsibilities — head coach, play-caller and QB coach — the first two of which he never had done before at any level, his work appeared impressive. But losing 5-of-6 ultimately sunk the Redskins in a cutthroat division, and pretty soon most people were questioning the devices of the unorthodox coach. The most troubling instance came in the loss at Cincinnati when Zorn called for two Mike Sellers dives at the Bengals’ 1-yard line (the second of which was fumbled) instead of giving Portis the ball. But considering the progress QB Jason Campbell has made with the installation of a new offense and that Zorn managed an upset of a hungry Eagles team in Week 16, his grade gets a boost.

Grade: B

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