2017-2018 NFL Season

What are your thoughts and predictions on the upcoming NFL season, particularly with regard to who you think will be the best teams, specifically relating to who has the best chance of winning the Super Bowl. Here are some of my thoughts off the top of my head.

As always, I first think about the team’s that follow what I think is a winning blueprint for a Super Bowl team: a really good defense, strong running game, and a QB that can protect the football, play well under pressure, including making a handful of plays in critical moments, particularly when a play breaks down. Any team like that fit the bill this year? Which teams come the closest?

The Teams With the Best Chance of Winning It All

Before I say anything else, I should say that I feel like I have less information about the teams than I’ve had in the past, probably because I didn’t follow the NFL as closely as I did in past preseasons. So, I’m even less confident about my opinions than I normally am.

Having said that, off the top of my head, I don’t think there is any team that fits this. It’s certainly possible that a team(s) like this could exist, but I don’t know who they are. Seahawks and Vikings have a chance to be like this. Maybe the Broncos, Jaguars, Texans, Panthers, and Rams do, too, but I’m really shaky on that.

I’m really not confident that there are any teams that will have a great defense. I would guess that the Vikings, Texans, Seahawks, Broncos, Chiefs, and Giants might have the best chance. Other contenders could be the Rams and Steelers. If any of these defenses are truly dominant, than I would say those are likely playoff teams.

Putting my blueprint aside, who do I think is the best team? I’d say the Patriots. And I think this could be one of the best Patriot teams in a while. On paper, I get the sense they’re better than last year’s team. The defense could approach the level of the 2014 defense, which was probably the best defense they had since 2006. I don’t really see any team posing a real serious challenge unless they follow the blue print I mention.

I think the Seahawks have the best chance of being that team, although I’m skeptical about their OL. The other teams I mentioned may have a really good defense, and strong running game, but I don’t think they have the QBs that fit my description. For these teams to beat the Patriots, they have to have historically dominant defenses and/or a great running game.

58 Responses to “2017-2018 NFL Season”


  1. don

    In terms of Super Bowl contenders, I, like everyone else, think the Patriots have the least question marks. I think their weakness may be a pass rush, but Belichick’s schemes and their DBs may cover that up. The Seahawks, Cowboys, and Giants have the second least questions. With Seattle their offense may not be consistently good, but Wilson can carry that team if he can stay healthy. The Cowboys lost a lot of snap counts from last year and the heart of the team, the offensive line, lost two players and may take a step down. But I think overall they will be more talented and may be good by year end. The Giants has a less than average offensive line. I think they can cover that up with a good short passing game, but that means Eli will have to be great. These Giants could be like former Giant Super Bowl winners, in which they get hot at the end of the year and through the playoffs. The other interesting teams are: Steelers, but I don’t trust Big Ben. Raiders, a consistent running game could carry them all the way. Carolina, a better offense performance this year would make their defense that much more effective. And Atlanta, their defense was pretty good by the end of the last year.

    Super Bowl winner’s chances:
    1st Tier :
    Patriots: I think the only weakness (and it’s average at worse) is their pass rush. However, their DBs and probably schemes can help cover it up. I’m not 100% sure about their defense against the rush as well.

    2nd Tier:
    Seahawks: Their defense will be top three again if they can stay healthy. Their question mark is always on the offensive side of the ball. Even in their Super Bowl run years, their offense wasn’t consistently good. Wilson will need to carry them on offense again.
    Giants: I will be surprised if their defense isn’t in the top five. The huge question mark with the Giants is their ability to run the ball. They won’t run it well, but is it going to be good enough. I can see this team, like their previous Super Bowl winning clubs, have a great run down the stretch of the year and into the playoffs. Eli cannot win consistently, but he’s shown in can be great in stretches.
    Cowboys: They may start the season slow especially if Elliot doesn’t play. But this team is young and could get really good toward playoff time. The question mark is their offensive line. It’s the heart of this team and they lost two starters from last year. Lael Collins who had an average preseason camp will be outside for the first time. But if the o-line can be solid all year long, the Cowboys will be good enough early on and hopefully turn it on by the end of the season, when it counts.

    3rd Tier:
    Packers: Logically I can see them as a 2nd tier team, but somehow after last year I don’t have that confidence. They will definitely be better this year barring injuries, but for some reason I don’t see them quite in the 2nd tier. If they prove me wrong I will not be surprised.
    Steelers: The most explosive offense in the NFL and it may not be close. Atlanta was amazing on offense last year, but this Steeler team has more weapons adding Martavis Bryant and Vance Mcdonald to an already stacked offense. Their defense may be decent as well, especially if Watt is any good rushing the passer. I’m just not confident Ben is still an elite QB. Like the Packers though, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are really good.
    Falcons: They lost their offense coordinator and it may be a big lost. We will see how Matt Ryan can adjust. Ryan didn’t adjust well when Shanahan first started as OC, and now he will have to adjust again. Their defense really came on at the end of the year though, and that’s why I think they could be a legit contender.
    Panthers: I’m not sure what happen last year, but this team went through some hard times and I can see them coming out of it for the better. I think of Cam as an elite QB, and adding a weapon like Mccaffrey will really help. If the Panthers and Cam are terrible on offense again this year, I will adjust my thoughts on Cam being elite.

  2. don

    I missed the Raiders in my 3rd tier. I think Lynch can be a huge difference for them. He could really change how teams have to play them defensively.

    I also forgot to add my “honorable mention” tier:
    Cardinals – They could return to the team of two years ago.
    Broncos – Their defense can carry them far, and their offensive line should be improved.

  3. Reid

    I, like everyone else, think the Patriots have the least question marks. I think their weakness may be a pass rush, but Belichick’s schemes and their DBs may cover that up.

    To me, the pass rush isn’t the issue. In my opinion, the key to their defense involves the nature of their opponent. If the opponent is one-dimensional, the Patriots defense will be effective, if not great. If the opponent is a good balanced, give-what-they-take offense (which is the traditional pro-style offense), then their defense can be exposed. Generally, this means an opponent that has a good run-first offense, including a QB that can hurt you. Think of the Cowboys or Seattle, with a good OL. (Seattle’s offense looked really good against the Patriot defense last year.)

    Seahawks: Their defense will be top three again if they can stay healthy. Their question mark is always on the offensive side of the ball. Even in their Super Bowl run years, their offense wasn’t consistently good. Wilson will need to carry them on offense again.

    Two things: The OL has to be competent, at least, against good defenses, not just in pass pro, but run-blocking. Wilson can only do so much. If the OL is dysfunctional in these areas, then the only chance the Seahawks have is if the defense must be dominant, generating turnovers, getting off the field quickly, and even scoring. (Really good ST play can make a huge difference as well.) Sheldon Richardson has the potential to do that. But if the defense returns to the same level as last year, it’s all on the OL. If the OL is competent against good defenses, I think Wilson will be an MVP candidate and the Seahawks will have a good shot at winning it all.

    The question mark is their offensive line.

    That’s one question mark, but the other that comes to mind is Dak–how well will he play in his second year? Can he make the handful of crucial plays in the big moments? (He came up short in this area last year in my opinion.) If so, I think he can take them all the way–assuming the defense is as good, if not better, than last year. That would be the second question mark: will the defense be as good, if not better?

    The huge question mark with the Giants is their ability to run the ball.

    I agree with this. I’ve heard there are questions about their OL, and the run-blocking may actually be a bigger deal than the pass-blocking. Also, do they have good enough RBs. Finally, I wonder if Ben McAdoo isn’t that great at developing a running game. (He came from the Packers.) I always got the sense that Coughlin was good at developing a running game. Since McAdoo has been here, the running game hasn’t been great, but it could be due to personnel.

    If the Giants can run the ball well enough, they will be two-dimensional, and they should give more rest for their defense. How far they go depends on this, in my opinion.

    Logically I can see them as a 2nd tier team, but somehow after last year I don’t have that confidence.

    I still hesitate about how good their offense can be. Did they add anyone besides Martellus Bennett. If he becomes a serious threat, that could open everything else up.

    I also have no idea how good their defense will be. At one point, they look like one of their better defenses last year, but then they seemed to decline by the end of the season. But if the offense returns to form, they just need to be solid.

    I’m just not confident Ben is still an elite QB.

    The supporting cast (and his health) are key. I think he didn’t look as good because of the weapons around him. If the weapons are as good as it was in 2015 (and the OL plays as well as it has), I think he’ll be in contention as an MVP candidate.

    I do think Roethlisberger can be prone to error, or turnovers, but not so much that I would say it greatly diminishes their chances to winning a Super Bowl.

    The bigger deal is their defense in my view. How good will they be? Will they at least be sort of good, instead of terrible?

    Also, and this might be the kicker: they are a terrible, terrible match up for the Patriots. Their defense/DC seems to have no answers for the Patriot offense. And their offense is that pass-first, one-dimensional offense that Belichick usually controls, if not dominates. Things could change of course, but the Steelers seem like their lost and out of their depth when they play the Patriots.

    They lost their offense coordinator and it may be a big lost. We will see how Matt Ryan can adjust. Ryan didn’t adjust well when Shanahan first started as OC, and now he will have to adjust again. Their defense really came on at the end of the year though, and that’s why I think they could be a legit contender.

    I agree about the loss of Shanahan. I think he made the offense, especially the running game. I suspect the running game can, through inertia, be effective for at least one more year, but unless Sark is really good, I suspect something will be missing.

    I also agree the defense improved. If they take another step, they could be one of the best defenses. I think the answer to this will depend on the offense. Shanahan actually shift to a more uptempo, pass-oriented offense, and I think that exposed the defense. If they become a more grind-it-out offense, I could see a big boost to the defense, and I’d like their chances.

    I think the Super Bowl hangover thing will be a big challenge to overcome as well.

    I think of Cam as an elite QB, and adding a weapon like Mccaffrey will really help.

    More than Roethlisberger? I don’t agree with that, if so. I think Cam’s good enough to win a Super Bowl, but he needs a really good running game and defense, in my opinion. The key to me is if the defense can return to form.

    To me, besides accuracy issues, I don’t like Cam’s character and leadership. I tend to think this is the big stumbling block for him.

  4. Reid

    I also forgot to add my “honorable mention” tier:
    Cardinals – They could return to the team of two years ago.
    Broncos – Their defense can carry them far, and their offensive line should be improved.

    For me, there are several (many?) teams that fall into this category–teams that can race to the top if certain conditions are met. The thing is, I have no idea if those conditions will be met or not. If the Cardinals OL is really good, I could see them returning to their 2015 level. Also, how good will their defense be? It’s possible they could be one of the best or just average. If the Broncos become a really good running team, and their defense returns to 2015 level, they will be Super Bowl contenders.

    What about the Vikings? Maybe the Chargers? Dolphins? Titans>? Shoot, it’s conceivable that the Jaguars end up having one of the better defenses and running games in the league.

  5. Don

    Ooops I didn’t mean to add that first paragraph to my original post. I changed the first paragraph to what I posted below it to be more clear (at least I thought so).

    I agree the Patriots style of play isn’t as good as a run first style. So in terms of match ups I would agree, the Cowboys and Seahawks can beat them. On sort of a side note, I am curious how both the Cowboys and Seahawks will be on third down against the Pat’s great secondary though. But based on style of play, I would give the edge to the running style offenses as you have said, but by personnel I think the Patriots can negate some of those advantages. But if there was a match up against a good Seattle team versus a good New England team I can see Seattle winning that one, because Seattle’s defense will have a decent chance of stopping New England’s offense. I cannot say the same of the Cowboys.

    Yeah I can see how many will view Dak’s development as a question mark, but I think he will be as good as his offensive line. Dak has looked great this preseason and I think that will continue. The one thing that could negatively happen though is confidence. Dak will have to take more chances with the football this year. He checked down a lot last year and didn’t use Dez (or T Williams) effectively and the talk is that, that has to change for Dak’s development. That ultimately will lead to more turnovers which I think the coaches will live with (unless it gets ridiculous), but how that will affect Dak’s confidence will be the biggest stumbling block. That being said though, Dak’s attitude and level headedness, at least thus far, seems to be his biggest strength.

    The thing with the Giants the two years they won the Super Bowl they were not great in the regular season. In fact the second time Eli won, I’m pretty sure the Giants barely made the playoffs at 9-7. They have a good playoff pedigree which makes me pick them despite how I feel of Eli as a QB.

    I still hesitate about how good their (Packer’s) offense can be. Did they add anyone besides Martellus Bennett.

    The Pack added a healthy Jordy Nelson. I heard Ty Montgomery is looking really good as well as a RB.

    Also, and this might be the kicker: they are a terrible, terrible match up for the Patriots.

    I completely agree with this. I didn’t really look at match ups, but yes if it came down to New England versus Pittsburgh, I think I would take New England nine out of ten times.

    I think Cam is underrated as a passer. I don’t think he’s an elite passer, but I don’t think he’s average as well. I would put him in the good category. His fundamentals don’t always look great though, and yes that’s a big problem, at least to me. Most pundits would say Cam is average to below average in terms of accuracy and I don’t see that. I’m not sure if he needs a “can opener” like Ted Ginn to make him effective though.

  6. Reid

    I agree the Patriots style of play isn’t as good as a run first style. So in terms of match ups I would agree, the Cowboys and Seahawks can beat them.

    I agree with this, but my initial point was that a good run-first offense (which normally utilizes a take-what-they-give-you approach) is a bad matchup for the Patriots. Basically, Belichick is great at taking away something, while leaving them exposed in other areas. A good run-first offense will usually exploit that. (This is one reason I suspect Belichick had problems against Mike Shanahan.)

    But if there was a match up against a good Seattle team versus a good New England team I can see Seattle winning that one, because Seattle’s defense will have a decent chance of stopping New England’s offense. I cannot say the same of the Cowboys.

    I agree with this, although I sort of thing the Cowboys defense can keep them in the game. If the Seahawk OL is solid, the Seahawks are a bad match up for the Patriots, on both sides of the ball.

    Dak has looked great this preseason and I think that will continue.

    I tend to think he will do fine, but his preseason play isn’t a good indicator of that in my opinion. Defenses aren’t going to tip their hand on the type of gameplan they’re going to use against him. Also, it might take a little while for DCs to come up with the right game plan. Once they do, I need to see how Dak adjusts. This is a big test.

    That being said though, Dak’s attitude and level headedness, at least thus far, seems to be his biggest strength.

    He does seem poised, and I tend to think this is real. But it’s hard to know when he’s played with such a good OL. Carson Palmer looked fantastic in 2015, but he had really good pass pro for most of the season. How will Dak look with shakier pass pro, taking more hits?

    The thing with the Giants the two years they won the Super Bowl they were not great in the regular season.

    Right, but they eventually became a very balanced team, with a solid running game. Their running game hasn’t been very good, in my opinion. (Oh, I forgot–that’s the other way I judge teams. The Patriots look like the most balanced team. I guess the Falcons could be as well, but I don’t like the loss of Shanahan or that they’re combing back from such a tough loss. Seahawks, too, if OL solid; Cowboys, if defense improved. Packers, possibly; a bunch of other teams.)

    The Pack added a healthy Jordy Nelson. I heard Ty Montgomery is looking really good as well as a RB.

    I thought Jordy was healthy last year, no? Or was he not fully recovered, but reports are saying that he is now? (I hope so, because he’s on my fantasy team.)

    I completely agree with this. I didn’t really look at match ups, but yes if it came down to New England versus Pittsburgh, I think I would take New England nine out of ten times.

    The Steelers will almost definitely have to face the Patriots. Who could beat the Patriots from the AFC? Maybe if the Texans have defense like the 2015 Broncos, and a good run-first offense. (The latter doesn’t seem likely.) Raiders offense not a good fit against the Patriots, and their defense won’t be good enough.

    His fundamentals don’t always look great though, and yes that’s a big problem, at least to me. Most pundits would say Cam is average to below average in terms of accuracy and I don’t see that.

    But if you think the fundamentals are a big a problem, that relates to the accuracy issues, in my opinion. I don’t know if Cam is average in terms of accuracy, but I think it’s significant enough that it can be really costly, particularly in close games and in those handful of plays that a QB needs to make to win the game. When the pressure is on, I also don’t trust him completely, not just in turns of ball security, but just dealing with the situation. More specifically, if he and/or the team is struggling, experiencing some serious adversity, I don’t think he handles this well, and this points back to his character and leadership.

  7. Don

    How will Dak look with shakier pass pro, taking more hits?

    Absolutely, which is why I think Dak will go as far as his offensive line can take him, at least at this point in his career. That’s why I think the offensive line is Dallas biggest question mark. I think if I knew the offensive line would be as good as last year, I would have few doubts about Dak. Not no doubts, but few.

    Right, but they eventually became a very balanced team, with a solid running game.

    I don’t really remember the Giants being great on the ground during their Super Bowl wins. I think they had Ahmad Bradshaw and maybe Brandon Jacobs, but I thought their running game was average. I guess depending on what you mean good. They were not Dallas or Redskins good, but serviceable. I think they can be serviceable again, but really it will take a commitment to run. I thought last year in the games I saw, they ran pretty badly, but they seemed sort of committed to it anyway.

  8. Reid

    That’s why I think the offensive line is Dallas biggest question mark.

    I think defenses will come up with some scheme, though, that will force Dak to do something he’s not comfortable with, even if the OL is very good. And the question will be, can he adjust? I think this applies to all QBs. With a rookie QB, DCs may have found the right gameplan to do this. Chances are, they’ll come up with one this year. And the OL, alone, isn’t necessarily going to get Prescott out of this.

    But regardless of how well the OL plays, I’d still like to know how well he handles pressure, especially if it occurs more frequently. Is is a Carson Palmer or a Russell Wilson?

    I don’t really remember the Giants being great on the ground during their Super Bowl wins.

    Great, no. Good or very good, yes. They had a balanced attack. A defense couldn’t just sell out to stop the pass.

    As far as commitment, it seems like they’re fairly committed to the run, but something seems missing. Maybe they’re not committed enough or the timing of the play calls or play design–something doesn’t seem right. Or maybe they just don’t have the players. I don’t think the Giants ran so well at the end of Coughlin’s tenure, too.

  9. Mitchell

    Okay, kickoff is in 12 minutes so I have to do this now.

    AFC East: Patriots
    AFC North: Steelers
    AFC South: Texans
    AFC West: Chiefs
    AFC Wildcard: Raiders, Bengals

    I don’t like these picks because they’re the same four division winners from last year. That last wildcard is a coin toss among almost everybody, but I kind of wavered between the Titans and Bengals. I settled on the Bengals because last season’s bad record was mostly the result of a quarterback injury.

    NFC East: Giants
    NFC North: Packers
    NFC South: Panthers
    NFC West: Seahawks
    NFC Wildcards: Saints, Cardinals

    Man, I have no idea what I’m doing. I do think Ezekiel Elliott missing six games is enormous, though. Prescott’s yards per passing attempt when Elliott is out was disturbingly lower than when he was in. I mentioned I kind of like the Buccaneers this season, but I’m also interested in the Eagles for some reason.

    AFC Champion: Patriots
    NFC Champion: Packers
    Super Bowl Champion: Packers

    MVP: JJ Watt
    Comeback player of the year: Cam Newton

  10. Reid

    Man, I have no idea what I’m doing.

    That kind of describes how I feel about evaluating the teams so far.

  11. Reid

    Eric Berry out for the year. Shoot! Man, that sucks. I just feel like at any moment, key players, from any team can be lost for the entire season and that won’t be something unusual. That really sucks.

  12. Mitchell

    That’s a huge loss for KC. Ugh.

  13. Don

    Mitchell’s omission of the Falcons is what stood out to me. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but it does stand out.

    I’m picking Carolina to win that division, but Atlanta will be a good team (I think).

  14. Reid

    It’s so hard for me to know what the Panthers and Falcons will be like–or the Buccaneers for that matter. It’s conceivable that their defenses could really jump up another notch, in which case they could be among the best in the league. Or they could be average or worse. The answer to this question makes a big difference on how good they’ll be.

  15. Reid

    If this is true, this kinda sucks. Dungy said that many teams looked unprepared in week 1, and he cited the Patriots as one example (and it’s hard to argue with that).

    Also, two things I wanted to mention in The Ringer GM podcast with Mike Lombardi and Tate Frazier:

    Lombardi really is down on Todd Pederson, head coach of the Eagles. He strongly thinks he’s not a good coach. One of his main arguments, if I recall, is that Pederson didn’t pay his dues. (Lombardi said he wasn’t a real OC at KC.) He also cited stats like how many points the Eagles scored in the first quarter (or some stat like that). Is that a good way to say, definitively, that a guy can’t coach? I don’t have a strong feeling about Pederson one way or the other, but this doesn’t seem like a compelling argument. (Having said that, Lombardi’s planted the seeds–I’m starting to wonder if Pederson is not very good. I hope not, for Wentz’s sake.)

    The other was that he and Tate were pretty down on Jared Goff. Goff didn’t look impressive at all last year (about the same as Paxton Lynch in my opinion). But he did look good against the Raiders. Both Lombardi and Frazier seemed to dismiss that performance, which I don’t blame them. (I wouldn’t count Goff’s performance against the Colts, either.)

  16. Reid

    Greg Cosell on How to Beat the Patriots

    I would think this is something Brady will adjust to.

    Cowherd Trashing Dalton

    I’m not an Andy Dalton fan, but I think Cowherd goes too far, here. And maybe we define what it means to a be a good QB. It sounds like Cowherd trashes Dalton because Dalton isn’t being very productive with lesser talent. If that’s true, I would say that applies to most good-to-great QBs. Now, maybe Cowherd is saying that Dalton’s production shouldn’t drop as much as it did, if he were a truly great QB. That might be a fairer point. Ultimately, though, this wasn’t my main problem with Dalton. My main problem had to do with his ball security and ability to make the crucial handful of plays in big moments–something that I think is vital to winning Super Bowls. If he could do that, I wouldn’t mind if Dalton didn’t put up good numbers with mediocre talent.

  17. Reid

    Belichick on Why OLs Struggling

    Other people have said similar things. I wish the NFL and NFLPA would address this before 2020. Bad OL play is ruining football, at least for me.

  18. Reid

    I had a quick question I wanted to ask you guys, and I’m not sure where to put this, so I’m just going to ask here: Do you guys basically agree that all offenses are based either on running the ball or passing the ball? That is, an offense will either emphasis one, in order to create opportunities for the other? Or do you guys think there are offensive systems that do both equally, or don’t even attempt to establish one or the other?

  19. Reid

    This was kinda cool.

  20. Reid

    Not good.

    I believe the tweet below is from the reporter who asked the question:

  21. Mitchell

    “Standard Caucasian high-five.” That was funny.

  22. Reid

    Yeah, McAfee’s commentary, in general, was pretty entertaining.

  23. Reid

    By the way, didn’t a UH punter kick the ball, holding it sideways, too? I swear there’s another punter who would you do this, if not all the time, quite frequently. (Was it the Australian who eventually went to play in the NFL–with the Cowboys, at some point, I think?)

  24. Don

    I think you are talking about McBriar. But he wouldn’t kick with the ball sideways all the time as far as I know. I’m not even sure he did that, but I could be wrong.

  25. Reid

    Yeah, McBriar. Matt, right? Anyway, maybe it wasn’t him, but I could have sworn someone else did this. I could be wrong, though.

  26. Reid

    Questions

    1. How many times do QBs fail to see open pass catchers? I’d be interested in knowing the average and also knowing the difference between the best and worst QBs.

    2. Is there a breaking point for an offense with regard to the amount of blown up plays–e.g., when an O-lineman allows for almost instant penetration/pressure? For example, if an QB and an offense will stop functioning after 7 of these incidents.

    3. Is there a similar number if you include penalties?

  27. Reid

    You guys may not know the answer to the questions above, but I suspect you may at least have some opinions about the questions below, and I’m interested in hearing them:

    1. You’ve heard commentators and coaches talk about a “commitment to run the ball,” particularly from advocates of a run-based offense. But why don’t you hear them say a “commitment to pass the ball?” (Or have you guys heard that?)

    2. In the money ball approach in baseball, a team might go for certain type of players with positive attributes that other teams fail to appreciate adequately. Because of that, these players may be easier and cheaper to acquire and thus provide greater value to a team. But does that sort of thing happen in football? It doesn’t seem that way to me? In football, what would limit (or prevent this) is the philosophy of the coaches/GM. Do you guys agree with this?

  28. mitchell

    For number 2, why not go with the approach taken by the Cubs and Athletics? Hire a head coach who’s invested in coaching the roster he has to make the best use of its talent? If you have six sluggers in a baseball lineup, why would you play smallball? That would be setting yourself up for failure. If a football head coach is so set on his own philosophy or game approach that he can’t adjust it to suit the talents of his guys, he really should move along.

  29. Reid

    I donʻt know what itʻs like in baseball, but in football and basketball, Iʻm also certain that coaches are constrained by their philosophy, and some of this is not necessarily a matter of choice. My guess is that a coachʻs philosophy is a function of a coachʻs knowledge and skill set. For example, if youʻre a coach who cut his teeth with Bill Walsh, youʻll likely know the west coast offense better than other systems. If youʻre an OC, then you probably not only know the system, but you also know how to teach it and call plays. Therefore, as a head coach, youʻll probably run a west coast system or something close to that. If you switch to a different system, you probably wonʻt be able to teach that system very well.

    This applies to DCs and DCs who become head coaches, too. A 4-3 guy likely wonʻt every run a 3-4 or vice-versa. (One exception that I know of is Mike Zimmer. Heʻs a 4-3 guy, but ran a 3-4 system with Parcells. Iʻm sure there are other examples, but itʻs pretty rare.)

    Now, within these systems, I think coaches can make a lot of adjustments given their roster. But Iʻm pretty sure theyʻre selecting players to fit into their system and their developing them for that system. If there is a market efficiency involving a type of player that doesnʻt fit their system, should they go after that player?

  30. Mitchell

    This is why I’m saying you need a head coach who can and will do it. Moneyball isn’t a player-by-player approach; it’s about finding inefficiencies in the market and exploiting them. This is one reason the Browns seem to be stockpiling second-round draft picks: first-round picks (if I understand correctly; I’m actually just repeating things I’ve heard) are very expensive and often (usually?) don’t return the value teams invest in them. The dropoff in pay between first- and second-round picks seems to be greater than the dropoff in value.

    If the skillset in a West Coast offense is overvalued in the market, it makes better sense for a team trying to employ Moneyball tactics to look for a different skillset, maybe one that enhances a different offensive approach. Is there a different skillset that can compete against, say, the Patriots and Broncos? I don’t know! Will a Moneyball approach work in the NFL? Hopefully we’ll find out soonish. But I’m sure that finding the right coach is part of the big-picture approach.

  31. Reid

    But I donʻt think there are many coaches that can switch styles. It makes sense to me, too. The systems are complex. It might be apt to talk about a system in terms of a Kuhnian paradigm. There isnʻt just knowledge of the system, but how to teach it, exemplars of the system and the players in the system, etc.

    With regard to Cleveland, they may be stockpiling picks, but I would be surprised if Hue Jackson and his staff donʻt have a set idea of the system they want to run, and which type of players will fit it–and my guess is that this isnʻt determined by exploiting market inefficiencies. There might be certain positions where they can do this, but my guess is that this approach is very limited .

    By the way, one example of exploiting market inefficiency would be the two-QB, running QB system that I talked about before. Those QBs should be plentiful and cheap. You could run an offense like Andy Reidʻs or Mike Shulaʻs.

  32. Mitchell

    Yeah, but how do you know (a) that Hue Jackson and Paul DePodesta don’t have something in mind that Jackson is completely prepared to develop and deploy or (b) that Hue Jackson isn’t just the coach for now?

  33. Reid

    I don’t know for sure, but a) whatever they may have in mind, I would be shocked if Jackson is so flexible and knowledgeable that he could exploit any existing market inefficiency and b) there’s another coach not named Bill Belichick that could pull this off. Now it’s possible that Jackson’s system could exploit an existing market inefficiency, and if that’s the case this could work. One problem with this is that other teams will probably catch on, assuming the approach works.

  34. Mitchell

    What I’m trying to say is, if the market inefficiency indicates to Paul DePodesta a certain kind of player suited to a certain kind of approach, wouldn’t it be plausible that he already has in place the coach who can deploy that system and coach the players for it? It might require no flexibility at all if it’s something Hue Jackson already knows. I suspect the Browns are either doing that or that Jackson is just in place to teach the young players a few things until a certain point in the Browns plan is reached, and then a coach who can take the team the rest of the way would be hired. Like those interim baseball managers who replace late-season firees. They’re just asked to get the team to the end of the season.

    If it works, of course other teams will probably catch on. That’s what’s happened in baseball. But then you look for other inefficiencies. And seriously, for anyone to copy the Browns is going to require STUNNING success. And if the NFL gets to that point, where the Browns are so successful that other teams are copying it, then DePodesta is the winner. He’ll have shown everyone that it can be done.

    I’ll repeat what I said when he got hired: I don’t know if this will work in the NFL, but I’m super super super interested in seeing if it does.

  35. Reid

    t might require no flexibility at all if it’s something Hue Jackson already knows.

    Right, and thatʻs what I meant when I acknowledged the possibility that Jacksonʻs system may be able to exploit existing market inefficiencies. Yes, the plan would work if thatʻs the case.ʻ

    I also agree that DePodesta could get another coach whose system can take advantage of existing market inefficiencies. I just didnʻt think there are many (if any) coaches who can just flip between different systems.

    If other teams are copying the Browns, it will likely mean the Browns have had success, and DePodesta would deserve credit–if he did things in a really different way. I would agree that if he used the exploitation as the primary driver for the style of the team, I would say that would be a really different way

  36. Mitchell

    After decades of futility, the only way DePodesta gets credit for success if he does things in a really different way? What if they go to an AFC championship game doing things only a slightly different way?

  37. Reid

    No, I don’t think DePodesta should only get credit if he does something in a different way. He should get credit if he turns the team around, whether he does this conventionally or not. But if he does this in a way that isn’t so different, then obviously that wouldn’t support the narrative that he’s doing something really differently.

  38. Mitchell

    Adrian Peterson is traded to the Cardinals for Chris Johnson. I know, I was shocked too: Chris Johnson was still in the league?

  39. Reid

    I heard that the Cardinals traded a draft pick for Peterson. I didn’t know Johnson was part of the package. (The Cardinals released CJ in the off season, but picked him up again after David Johnson got hurt.) I’m not sure which draft pick the Cardinals gave up, but this seems like a good trade for both teams.

  40. Mitchell

    Oh yeah, Johnson wasn’t traded. He was released.

  41. Reid

    I listen to GM Street, with Mike Lombardi and Tate Frazier, from The Ringer. I’m moving to the point where I will stop listening to them, though. Lombardi has some interesting things to say from, time to time, but he (and Frazier) do a couple of things that turn me off:

    1. They seem to enjoy insulting and putting down coaches and players. I like brutal honesty (as long as statements are accurate or substantive), but you can be honest without attempting to ridicule or put people down.

    2. They not only (unnecessarily) ridicule coaches and players, but I also don’t think they provide compelling or even definitive evidence to justify this. I’m thinking primarily of Lombardi’s criticism’s of coaching decisions. Lombardi expresses these criticisms as if the coach made an obviously idiotic decision. Often, when I hear these criticisms, they don’t seem obvious at all. What would make the criticisms more compelling is if both he and Frazier examine some of the benefits and drawbacks, for the coach’s decision as well as Lombardi’s recommendation. I think this would be cool if they did this. (Frazier could serve as a foil, instead of just a yes-man, like he usually does.)

    Despite these criticisms, I sort of like the show, and I guess that’s the reason I airing these criticisms.

  42. Don

    You think the ridicule is that bad? I don’t take it as badly as you do, although as you said it does come with little “proof”. But it doesn’t sound that bad. Like for Jason Garrett, they always say, “I would love to see him do something other than clap.” That’s sort of funny, if they didn’t say it like 10 times already.

    They do keep teasing the same guys like Doug Pederson and Jason Garrett. They do it often, but when they do it, it’s not like they harp on it for long periods at a time, like the ribbing will not go longer than a couple minutes. I just sort of ignore it, although they are sort of making me agree on Garrett. I’m not sure how good of a coach he is.

  43. Reid

    The ridicule seems a lot worse than any other sports show I’ve seen–not just the type of ridicule but the frequency of it as well. Guys like Cowherd, Bayless and Stephen A are very opinionated and even arrogant–to the point where they are obnoxious, but I don’t think they veer into the type and frequency of insults on GM Street. They will blast a coach or player for doing something they think is stupid, but do they name-call? You mention Garrett: They call him, “The Clappper.” Maybe if I thought that was funny, I wouldn’t mind, but it seems petty and childish. I think they have a segment called with the “insults” in the title–like they’re intention is to insult others. I love strong, passionate opinions that are thoughtful, even if they’re harsh. But getting off on insulting people? I have no interest in that, and it’s a turn off.

  44. Reid

    Bills are a solid team. The 2018 picks that they have look very nice. If they make good picks here, they could become contenders.

  45. Reid

    Another Reason to Love the Fullback Position

    By the way, my understanding is the the play action pass works on the fundamental principle of manipulating a defense north or south–i.e., getting them to move to the LOS scrimmage when it’s a pass. (Draw play work sort of in reverse.) I like this type of offensive football–combined with a strong, physical run game.

    Other styles of offense are based on formations and pre-snap movements to get good match-ups against the opponent. I don’t care for offenses and OCs based on this principle. For one thing, I think the approach tends to place more emphasis on the pass. Also, extreme versions of this forgo the principle above.

    Both principles aren’t mutually exclusive, but I tend to think most OCs favor one over the other.

  46. don

    I honestly never thought Osweiler would ever start another NFL game. Well, I take that back, I never thought he would start another game without someone in front of him getting injured. I’m surprised Osweiler was able to pass Paxton Lynch.

  47. Reid

    Paxton Lynch has looked bad (but then again, Jared Goff looked just as bad, and now looks pretty good). Dallas is so lucky the Seahawks traded their pick with Denver instead of Dallas. Cowboys eventually got Prescott. This act of fate, plus the one where Jones agreed to take Zack Martin instead of Manziel might be the two most consequential moves for the Cowboys, at least of this era.

    Osweiler actually played fairly well in the year the Broncos won the Super Bowl. He surprised me–so much so that I thought he could possibly lead a team to the Super Bowl if he had a strong run game. (The primary question I had was whether he could remain poised under heavy pass rush, especially in big moments.)

    Speaking of this, what do you think about Cousins going to the Jags next year? Or even the Bills? These would be good landing spots for him. I’d be a little nervous if I were both teams, though. I sort of believe Cousins can lead a team to the Super Bowl, on an offense with a strong running attack, but I’m not as confident as I’d like to be on this.

  48. don

    Cousins is not worth what he is going to get paid. He is going to get top five money and he’s a top ten guy at best. So the team picking him up, needs to realize that. But he would be a great addition in Jacksonville. If I was Buffalo, though, because of the price, I would stick with Taylor. Taylor is a guy who doesn’t turnover the ball much, and he is winning right now with no receivers (including his favorite target, Clay). Cousins is definitely an upgrade, but I think I would rather pay a defensive end, offensive linemen, or even a DB and play with Taylor.

  49. Reid

    With the Jags, I’d want to know what the alternative would be to getting Cousins. Is there a good game-manager type QB out there? I think they can be legitimate Super Bowl contenders, if they upgrade the QB position.

    With Buffalo, I really think they could make a big leap by next year as well. (Looking at their remaining schedule, they could do damage and get in the playoffs.) But I think Taylor will hold them back–unless a combination of their defense, run game, and ST gets really, really good.

    In a way, Taylor kinda reminds me of a better version of RGIII. I feel like he has the same problem of playing in predictable passing situations, going shotgun. If he’s gotta pass the ball to win, they’re screwed–and they’ll likely be a moment(s) like this on the way to winning it all.

    I like trade for KB. I like what the Bills are doing.

  50. Mitchell

    I haven’t read this yet, but you can bet I will. I’m just sharing because it’s what you guys are sorta talking about. Mina Kimes: “The Great Tyrod Taylor Debate.”

  51. don

    Reid,

    When you talked about Garropolo being analyzed as a franchise guy or not, I was sort of on the other side of how he should be measured. With Cousins because of the money he has to be paid, the analysis of whether he is a franchise guy or not, is valid. He’s close to a guy a team can hang their hat on (again right now I would have him over all the young guns in a game), definitely closer than Garropolo, but I still would be very hesitant to pull the trigger if I’m a Buffalo.

  52. Reid

    Don,

    When you talked about Garropolo being analyzed as a franchise guy or not, I was sort of on the other side of how he should be measured.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean, you have to weigh the chances he’ll be good with the cost?

    He’s close to a guy a team can hang their hat on (again right now I would have him over all the young guns in a game), definitely closer than Garropolo, but I still would be very hesitant to pull the trigger if I’m a Buffalo.

    I think I’m at the same point, although I don’t think I’d choose him over “all the young guns in the game,” depending on what you mean by that. At this point, I wouldn’t take Cousins over Wentz or Prescott. I still have some questions about Prescott, but the uncertainty is fairly small at this point (at least if he can play on the Cowboys). I think Cousins is above Mariota right now, but Mariota has more upside.

  53. Don

    I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean, you have to weigh the chances he’ll be good with the cost?

    In the previous posts, I was saying Garropolo should be measured against the other QBs that the Niners could get, because I was thinking they wouldn’t have to give him a huge contract. So I was pointing out that the Niners wouldn’t have to measure him as just franchise or not. But with Cousins because any team taking him is going to pay him so much, they kind of, do have to measure him as franchise or not. It’s not easy to get out of these contracts if they are wrong. Osweiler is the exception, but there are not many Brown teams out there to pull that out of a hat.

  54. Reid

    OK, I think I know what you mean. You’re saying Niners don’t need to really feel confident JG a franchise QB because he’s relatively cheap, whereas teams considering Cousins have to, because he will be expensive?

    If so, I still think you shouldn’t pull the trigger on JG unless you feel strongly on him. A second round pick isn’t anything to sniff at. I’d rather use that pick for someone I’m confident with (at any position). If you have to go with a place-holder at QB, while you build the team in other areas. I just feel like the QB you go after with significant capital (and I would consider a second round pick significant), you should be pretty confident this is the guy. If you want to use a 3rd and 4th round pick on on a QB, when you have a starter, thinking you can develop the guy, I’m OK with that. Did the Patriots use a 2nd rounder on JG? If so, I think they should have had high confidence he’d develop into a good starter. Using a 2nd round pick on a backup makes sense if you think the QB could be really good, but just needs time. (Patrick Mahomes may be an example of that, although KC gave up way more than that.)

  55. Reid

    Yep. The frequency of injuries is one of things pushing me to give up watching the NFL. I’m getting closer to that point.

  56. Mitchell

    Dan Le Batard was talking about safeties this week and he asked himself who the three best safeties of all time are.

    He came up with Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott, and Troy Polamalu. That’s quite a list. Is there someone you’d replace one or more of these guys with?

    I was tempted to say Jack Tatum but honestly now, my memory of him is getting hazy, and is it likely he was better than any of these three guys? I’m thinking no.

  57. Reid

    Seems like a good list to me. I’m not sure who I’d pick to be in that category? John Lynch? Brian Dawkins? They were good, but they seem like a notch below. I think Earl Thomas has a chance to be in that group.

  58. Mitchell

    Yeah, they thought of Earl Thomas but decided he’s not ready to unseat one of them.

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