Some thoughts after Week 5 of the NFL season…
Recapping the Urban Meyer Situation
When your lead principle for yourself is your ability to lead and build a culture and then you, yourself, become the headline in a totally inexplicable way, it completely sabotages your core message. For me, that is what I think Meyer is really going to struggle with when it comes to re-gaining the trust of his team. It is almost totally unheard of that a coach does not fly home with the team in itself, and then to get caught in the position he did, is totally unacceptable.
The coaches I have worked with are usually with the tape on plane rides home while relaying messages to position coaches, who can communicate certain things to players and team leaders. Then, as a group, you start to do some preliminary work on next week’s game plan. To just totally abandon your team through the weekend is baffling to me. From my experience, these plane rides home are good work time to figure out things that did not go well. These players have experienced 20 straight losses. As the head coach, he needs to be the figurehead in turning that around.
Now a look around at some of the key games from Sunday’s action..
Philadelphia 21, Carolina 18
I have never been a huge Sam Darnold fan, but when you are consistently putting your quarterback in 2nd-and-long, you are not putting him in a position to succeed. On 1st-and-10, Carolina had 16 running back carries for 72 yards. If you take out the one singular rush by Chuba Hubbard that went for 26 yards, Carolina only had 15 carries on first down for 46 yards. You cannot win football games by consistently putting your offense in 2nd-and-7 situations. This is also against an Eagles defense that allowed Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes to both complete at least 80% of their passes in the two weeks prior.
Focusing the attention on Darnold, it is not like he was bad throwing on early downs on Sunday either. On his 1st-and-10 opportunities, he was 9 of 11 and averaged 5.5 yards an attempt, which was putting Carolina’s offense in 2nd-and-4 opportunities. His longest completion in these scenarios was only 12 yards, so it is not like his average was skewed by a few big completions. These are little details that played a huge outcome in this game, and one of the reasons why the Panthers only scored three second half points. The Eagles were on the road, coming off a few bad losses, and Carolina’s coaching staff solely handed them this game with a poor game plan and non-existent adjustments.
Buffalo 38, Kansas City 20
The Chiefs lost the Super Bowl last year in part because they were completely overmatched on the offensive line and could not handle Tampa Bay’s pass rush. They bolstered that this season by bringing in Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown but still seem to be having some problems, even more now that Thuney might miss time with a broken hand.
The real problem with Kansas City, though, is their defense. They are generating no pass rush and really missed Chris Jones on Sunday. They are also really struggling to cover on the back-end. Daniel Sorensen looked totally overmatched and could not handle Dawson Knox down the field. They have been getting gashed in the middle of the field all season, and I am unsure if they can make a deep playoff run by relying on their offense to score 40-plus points on a weekly basis.
Los Angeles Chargers 47, Cleveland 42
Justin Herbert is just playing unbelievably, but he is being supported by an aggressive play-caller that is putting him in advantageous situations. On 1st-and-10 opportunities on Sunday, Herbert completed nearly 65% of his passes and averaged 8.7 yards an attempt. On third and fourth down, he was even better. He only completed 61.5% of his passes, but he averaged over 14 yards per attempt with a touchdown pass.
I have always been a big proponent of defense-first head coaches who are able to adapt to offensive analytics and use it to make aggressive, calculated decisions. I think when you look at some of the best coaches in the history of the NFL; Bill Parcells, or Joe Gibbs, or Bill Belichick, they fit this mold, and I think Brandon Staley with the Chargers could be an up-and-coming example of this. He is not worried about watching the clock or shortening the game, and it shows in how aggressive that offense is. They also are not afraid of going for it on fourth down, going 3-for-3 on fourth down on Sunday. There is accumulating evidence that Staley could be a top-tier defensive head coach very shortly, and he has the Chargers looking like a playoff-caliber team five games into his tenure.
Tampa Bay 45, Miami 17
Miami is in a really tough position after trading away their first-round pick in 2022 in order to move up to draft Jaylen Waddle. Wide receivers do not win Super Bowls in themselves, and they moved up to draft an undersized player who had injury concerns coming out of college. I think besides that, their biggest issue is that , they do not know if they have a quarterback. It was a mistake to give up all those assets back in April, but now with the uncertainty building around Tua’s future leading Miami, I would be really concerned if I was them that they are going to end up giving Philadelphia a top 5 pick. It was total mismanagement at the time of the trade, and as the season goes on, I think that problem is only going to compound. Overall, there are a lot of little, talented wide receivers that fail in the NFL, and sinking two firsts into this guy was not good management.
Titans 37, Jaguars 19
I am generally not a fan of big, linear running backs, but I could not have been more wrong about Derrick Henry. It is very rare that a team has their record drastically impacted by a running back, but that is what he is doing for that offense. It is even more impressive because he really does not impact their passing game, but he absolutely is drastically impacting their record. Over his last four games, Henry has rushed for 582 yards and is averaging 4.66 yards per carry. On Sunday, he averaged nearly 4.5 yards a carry and only had a rushing long of 15.
This is really what you want in a running back. Explosive runs are great, but if your average is just okay, it also means you had a lot of runs that were not very successful. For a player to consistently get five-to six yards, it shows his ability to wear down on a defense and have a bigger impact as the game goes on.