As we head to the final week of the regular season, Albert Breer of NFL.com has provided his latest notes column, synthesizing news and opinion from around the league. Lets’ dive in…
- The number of head coaches who are fired after the season figures to drop this year, writes Breer, who argues that there aren’t any “slam-dunk” candidates available. For example, the top two coordinators on the market, the Broncos’ Adam Gase and the Seahawks’ Dan Quinn, were virtual unknowns just two years ago. As such, as few as four teams could be looking for new HCs. Said one NFC executive to Breer: “If you’re Miami, do you stick with Joe Philbin, or is the guy who’s replacing Joe Philbin gonna be that big an upgrade?”
- Another reason that Black Monday might be uneventful is that clubs are placing a higher value on continuity. Young players thrive when they’re able to stay in the same scheme for some period of time — if the Dolphins had fired Philbin for example, Ryan Tannehill would be playing under his third offensive coordinator in three seasons next year. As one veteran OC told Breer, “Players are drafted by coaches and the personnel staff for a reason — they met a schematic element those guys had in mind. Most NFL coaches are good at developing people and players, but say that shift comes, then the new coach doesn’t like something about the fit with a guy,” said the OC. “There’s no benefit of the doubt anymore, because he didn’t draft him. So he’s not getting better anymore.”
- The Texans have been quietly impressed with how their season has turned out, writes Breer. Even though the club’s draft class didn’t produce much in 2014, the team was able to find veterans like Ryan Pickett, Kendrick Lewis, and Danieal Manning to fill in holes. If Houston is able to upgrade at quarterback, it could be a formidable unit in 2015.
- Bengals personnel man Duke Tobin deserves credit for finding talent in the draft, and Marvin Lewis should earn praise for developing young players, per Breer, who notes that Cincinnati is now regarded as something of a model franchise. Guard Kevin Zeitler and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, each of whom are former first-rounders who struggled early in their careers, are now playing well, a testament to the team’s vision.
- As Breer notes, there was plenty of skepticism when the Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey as general manager earlier this year. But after making a few shrewd signings in free agency, and nailing his first two draft picks — Ja’Waun James and Jarvis Landry — Hickey looks like a wise choice. He’ll probably still need the club to make the postseason in 2015 in order to keep his job, though.