Lombardi: The four types of NFL coaches, power ratings and a Week 9 preview

November 5, 2022 09:58 PM
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As young football fans, we all had our favorites teams.  The choices were sometimes based on geography, the uniforms, or the players.  Many of you still love that one team, whereas for me, because of my professional journey, a separation occurred.  What began as a love affair with the Washington Redskins ended the day that I was officially hired in April of 1984 by the San Francisco 49ers.  From that moment, my favorite team was my employer.  Money has a way of changing loyalties.  Today, with my sons involved, I cheer objectively hard for their teams and for my close friend’s teams.   

Once you visit enough NFL cities and talk to members of other organizations, you understand the landscape of how the game is played, and you begin to wonder why certain franchises never win.  Why, for example, are the Lions one of those teams that never can put a consistent winner on the field?  There was a time in my career -- not any longer -- that I wanted to be the general manager of the Lions, because as an overall organization they were a perfect match for my dream GM job criteria.  I wanted a team with historic uniforms, played indoors, with a great fan base and an owner willing to let you work, under pre-determined ironclad guidelines.   The Ford family through the years has always been willing to step back and allow the person in charge run the team.  The problem has been who they trust -- and who they chose.  It’s never about money in Detroit, it’s always about choices and now they seem to be repeating the same errors, not finding the right strategist to lead their organization.    

The betting community understands bad choices more than the average fan because when they lose money, it becomes more than a loss -- it causes regret, consternation and grief, which results in a deeper analysis. Fans love their team -- they may hate their coach, or quarterback, but they will remain lovers of their team.   Bettors love making money and have no loyalty towards anything but the green stuff.  They anguish over poor playcalling, a lack of attention to the details and bad game management. So, they recognize the importance of strategy and having someone oversee the game from a global perspective.   When sharp betters understand a team lacks this element, they remove it from their betting card -- which I have done with the Lions.  How can you trust them to make the right decision if the line is seven or under?  You can’t. 

The 2022 season has given many betters grief with all the bad decisions and lack of awareness of the game.  We no longer have game strategists as head coaches, we have scheme creators, playcallers, coaches who never understand the flow the of game, never understand who is in control and who is in the lead might be vastly different -- or sometimes the same. Owners seemingly don’t feel the need to find a strategist as an important characteristic of their search.  Colleges seemingly don’t either as they are always looking for the next bright offensive mind. 

There are only four profiles of coaches that teams can potentially hire.  The first and most popular is the schemer.  Someone who has a good scheme -- offense or defense -- and can implement that scheme at their next job.  They don’t have to be the originator of the scheme, only have learned the scheme from someone successful.  (The Sean McVay syndrome.)  The next type of coach is the caretaker, someone who must hire a good offensive and defensive coach and then watch them install their schemes with no direction.  They watch the game as we do, and have little influence on the calls, they take care of the team. The “caretakers” coordinators are truly subcontractors and run their side of the ball with complete autonomy.   Ron Rivera would be an example of this profile.  The third coach is the recruiter, which is mostly limited to colleges.  The NFL has no need to recruit, so hiring a brand influencer, is not important.  The last -- and best—type of coaches are strategists.  Someone who coaches the coaches, run the game from start to finish, makes sure the game plans work in harmony with one another and makes smart in game decisions.  He is the CEO of the team, the organization and prepares the teams to perform well weekly in the certain areas of the game that ultimately determine winning.  Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel, Pete Carroll, Brian Daboll (this season) and John Harbaugh would all be examples of a strategist.  Dan Campbell and many others wouldn’t. 

Nick Siranni is the favorite for Coach of the Year and the Philadelphia Eagles are 8-0 after defeating the Houston Texans last night 29-17. The Eagles didn’t play their best, but their best wasn’t needed against a Texans team offering only a running game on offense and a defense that wears down by the 50-minute mark of the game.  Siranni is the front man for the Birds and has done a great job of caretaking.  The Eagles, since Andy Reid’s departure, are an organization that relies on power of all, instead of the talents of one.  When former head coach Doug Pedersen wasn’t being his collaborating self, he was dismissed and Siranni came in.  Siranni is the front man, deserving of the credit, yet the work of many others behind the scenes has significantly played a huge role in their undefeated season.  For example, Siranni, didn’t walk into defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon office and tell him to change his style, blitz more, attack and be aggressive.  That came from their analytics department blending with their player procurement.  Same can be said about their radical change offensively, from a team wanting to pass all the time (much to the frustration of the Eagle fans) to their all-run approach.  The Eagles have been one step ahead of the curve all year, and their organization deserves a ton of credit.  Siranni being the front man will surely gain the praise, yet this isn’t he work of a single strategist.  The Eagles understand the value of a strategist, and since they couldn’t find one man to handle the role, they developed an organization to supplement.  Well done. 

How does this all relate to betting?  Before being so confident with your bets, ask yourself one question:  Do I trust this coach to make the right decisions in a close game?  After answering your own question, then act accordingly.

QB RATINGS

TOP FIVE

  1. Josh Allen. Even after making two horrible fourth-quarter mistakes the Bills still were able to cover last week against the Packers.  I expect Allen to play well this week against the Jets as his movement in the pocket and run game will give the Jets problems.    
  2. Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid off a bye is always good—and I’m sure Mahomes will be at his best this week against an improving Titans defense. 
  3. Lamar Jackson.  Isaiah Likely can become a huge factor in the Ravens offense with Mark Andrews being injured.  Likely was excellent this summer and is the perfect inside player Jackson loves to find in the passing game. 
  4. Geno Smith.  His numbers were down last week, in part to the drop by Tyler Lockett for a sure touchdown.  The Seahawks are now running the Rams/McVay offense perfectly.  The Rams are now running the Lions offense from the Stafford days. 
  5. Jalen Hurts.  Wasn’t great last night running the ball, was sacked 4 times and fumbled once in the pocket, but made enough plays for the wins.  Hurst and the Eagle offense will need to play better than last night against the better competition in the NFC.  Averaged only 5.8 per play against a bad defense isn’t going to cut it once they face the 49ers, or Dallas. 

BOTTOM FIVE

28.       Kyler Murray.  Once you stop looking at the run around plays and study his effectiveness in the passing game you realize his 6.1 yards per attempt isn’t good enough and often related to his lack of seeing the field.    

29.        Justin Fields.  This will be a big week for Fields as the Bears now understand the offense, they need to employ each week.  Can Fields improve within the framework of the 6back offense?  The Miami game will be a huge test. 

30.       Mac Jones.    He doesn’t trust his protection, doesn’t trust the offense, and doesn’t trust his ability to protect the ball.  His confidence is an all-time low right now. 

31.       Sam Ehlinger.  He gave the Colts some life, some movement plays and will be interesting to examine his improvement with his second start. 

32.       Kenny Pickett.  Pickett is young and playing behind a bad offensive line, which isn’t a good combination.  The week off will help him.    

POWER RATINGS

Buffalo

Philadelphia

Kansas City

Minnesota

Dallas

Baltimore

San Francisco

New Orleans

Seattle

Cincinnati

New England

NY Giants

NY Jets

Jacksonville

Cleveland

Chargers

Tampa Bay

Las Vegas

Atlanta

Indianapolis

Miami

Tennessee

Washington

Arizona

Denver

Rams

Green Bay

Detroit

Chicago

Carolina

Pittsburgh

Houston

Don’t sleep on Tennessee defense as they have improved and along with their run game are responsible for their five-game win streak. 

As good as Buffalo has played all season, their last five weeks they have performed the best of any team in the NFL in terms of statistics.  They have improved on their already high standards, which is scary for other teams. 

Detroit with only 1 win so far this season has gotten worst the last five games and rank 32 in numbers over the last five weeks.  They are ranked 28th in my poll only because of their offensive numbers early in the season. 

HALL AND OATES PLAY, I CAN’T GO FOR THAT

I would have been all over the Bears this week getting five points at home against the Dolphins as we enter the month of November.  Yet the forecast is more like September weather, than typical November Chicago weather so for me this makes this game a Hall and Oates play.  I can’t go for the Fins on the road for a second straight week and don’t trust the Bears. 

LINE OF THE WEEK

How is Arizona the favorite against Seattle?  They beat them by 10 19-9 two weeks ago and even though Murray ran for 100 yards, the Cards could not score in the red zone and turned the ball over.  Playing at home hasn’t been an advantage for the Cards, so why are they favorite? 

COORDINATOR BATTLE OF THE WEEK

I am excited to watch the battle between Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and Chargers head man Brendon Staley.  Both run their respected side of the ball, and Smith knows he cannot trust his porous defense to stop Justin Herbert from throwing the ball all over the field, so he needs control the ball and play less defense.  Smith knows he must run the ball effectively and Staley knows he needs to play better run defense after his bye week.  Can Staley stop the Falcons run game?   I’m favoring Smith in this matchup. 

RIP JOHN MCVAY (JANUARY 5, 1931-OCTOBER 31, 2022)

As I mentioned above, my hiring in April of 1984 gave me a passageway into the NFL learning from some of the greats in the game. One of those greats was John McVay, a behind the scenes force at the 49ers.  McVay, a former head coach of the New York Giants, suffered through a horrible loss in the Meadowlands when Joe Pisarcik miss handled the exchange with his running back Larry Csonka, which allowed Eagles Herm Edwards returned the fumble for the unprobeable game winning touchdown.  (In 1978, game clocks were kept only by the game official not viewable to the coaches or fans, so running a play at the end of the game was commonplace, because of the uncertainty of time remaining.) McVay was fired at the end of the season and left coaching to accept a position with the 49ers, being Bill Walsh’s righthand man. 

McVay was generous with his knowledge, allowing me to listen and learn as I was in his office, working on his giant magnetic pro personnel board of all the teams and players aligned perfectly by position.  Each time there was a transaction in the league, the board required updating, which meant McVay, and I spent considerable time together.  Through those conversations, McVay provided me with many valuable lessons, the first and most important was suppress your ego.  He told me, “Ego was the cancer of our profession.”   Years later when sitting in my home with Ryan Holiday as he was researching “Ego is the Enemy” I recalled those fatherly conversations with McVay, offering me advice that would last a lifetime, and one I wanted to pass along to my children. 

McVay was never looking for credit, only wins, and ultimately because he was a former coach, he was only interested helping Coach Walsh as he understood the highs and lows of being the head coach.  As he always did, Walsh summed up what McVay did for the team when he signed a photo for McVay to hang in his Granite Bay California home, “You are the master.”  And yes, he was.  Rest in peace John, you will be missed. 

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