The thing about football coaches is they know more about football than I do. They know more about football than you do. And we know a lot about football. We impress our friends and family with how much we know about football. But the vast majority of people who read this, if not all of them, will never reach the level that someone has to reach before they are even considered for NFL head coaching jobs.
But while they all know X’s and O’s backward and forwards, not all of them are great at strategy. As I’ve said before, they’ve spent too much time studying game film, and not enough studying game theory. Because of this, we often see illogical, poorly thought-out decisions, especially when the pressure and emotion runs high at the end of games.
In Week 2, we saw several such decisions. Enough that Anthony Lynn didn’t even make the list.
Does someone want to ask alleged head coach of the year candidate Anthony Lynn about losing a 13-10 game with two missed field goals because he didn't roster a kicker— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) September 15, 2019
If a guy in your fantasy league played without a kicker, you’d give him crap about it all year. If he lost by three points, you’d never let it go. Lynn didn’t exactly do that — he at least had his punter available to kick and be thrown under the bus.
Bronze medal: Bruce Arians
Arians allowed Carolina’s 3rd down conversion to stand without a challenge — after having the entire two-minute warning break to consider it — despite replays appearing to clearly show D.J. Moore didn’t get the ball to the sticks. The play gave Carolina a 1st and 10 at the Bucs 11-yard line, Arians had all three timeouts, it was literally the last play he’d be allowed the challenge in the game. What was the downside?
Bruce Arians is saving his challenges for overtime— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) September 13, 2019
Silver medal: Bruce Arians (again!)
Arians put on a show in the last minutes of the Bucs Thursday night game at Carolina. After his first blunder, the Bucs defense forced a 4th down at the three-yard line. Arians called a timeout to set up the defense. Then he called a second straight timeout, which is great, except that it’s not allowed. Maybe he saw something in the formation that made him feel compelled to change his defense, but it turned 4th and 2 into 4th and 1/2-yard. Luckily, the Bucs defense bailed him out.
Tampa Bay just got away with a coaches' blunder, illegally calling a timeout and getting penalized, by stopping McCaffrey on a trick play to win the game. What a win for Jameis and Bruce Arians at Carolina. What a loss for Cam and Co.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) September 13, 2019
Gold medal: Doug Marrone
I won’t criticize Marrone for his tiff with Jalen Ramsey, or the fact he now wants out of Jacksonville. Though Ramsey doesn’t seem to be the only Jag who’s not a fan.
I find the reactions of #25 and #26 “interesting”.— Sage Rosenfels (@SageRosenfels18) September 16, 2019
I won’t blame Marrone for his decision to go for two with 30 seconds left in Houston, trailing 13-12. I’m always a fan of the win-it-now-instead-of-rooting-for-a-coin-flip strategy. Believing your team can get two yards is a good thing. However, you have to have a good play ready for the occasion. He didn’t, and that’s what I blame him for.
Earlier in their final drive, the Jags faced a 3rd and 1 and ran Leonard Fournette up the middle. No gain.
On 4th and 1, they ran Fournette up the middle again. The refs gave him the first by an inch, but replays appeared to show he was stopped short. Houston challenged, but there was no definitive angle, and the call stood. I couldn’t find the video of it, but here’s an artist’s rendering.
So after Gardner Minshew II marched them down for a touchdown, converting a 4th and 10 along the way, it was clear the ball should be in his hands. Especially needing two full yards. So what does Marrone do?
Devil’s advocate:— Coleshew (@ColeFartley2) September 15, 2019
What a stop by the Texans. Really. What a stop. They had only been able to stop Fournette 129 times in the game before this. No one could have guessed they’d do it here. https://t.co/igxnI54Bfb
Doug Marrone not letting Chef Minshew cook on the 2-pointer was so damn disappointing....— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) September 15, 2019
32 Flavors (and then some)
Week 2 is about ifs and buts. As in “if this happened we’d be 2-0” or “But if that hadn’t happened they’d be 0-2”. Everybody is 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2 (except those weirdos with a tie), so it’s easy to imagine how different things would look if you could just change one call, one play, one break. There’s just enough evidence now to re-think your beliefs about teams.
Oh, and all the QB’s are hurt. Well, not all, but...
Cam Newton appears to be broken. Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t finish today’s game. Drew Brees is out now. Nick Foles is hurt and replaced by a man who looks like a pornographer. And Sam Darnold has mono.— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) September 15, 2019
It is no longer safe to be a quarterback, unless you’re Vampire Tom Brady.
With all the injured Q.B.’s, not to mention Andrew Luck’s retirement, the balance of power is shifting quickly. So we’ve got a few movers this week.
Tier A: The Patriots
Until further notice...
1. New England Patriots (2-0)
They didn’t bring their A-game to Miami. Or their B or C-games. They did the bare minimum. And won 43-0.
Tier B: In The Neighborhood
The teams it looks like the Patriots will have to beat in January.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
The Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes sleepwalked through the first quarter in Oakland, falling behind 10-0. Then he woke up and threw for 278 yards and four T.D.’s. In the second quarter.
Even without Tyreke Hill, they’re the NFL version of a fast break. Like the championship Warriors or the Showtime Lakers of the ’80s, they seem to run circles around the defense.
3. Los Angeles Rams (2-0)
The Rams M.O. has been to start slow, then turn it on after halftime, scoring points with ease. So far, so good.
But until someone convinces me Jared Goff’s not a puppet with Sean McVay hands crammed up his butt working the levers, I’ll still be suspicious.
"I wonder what I'm having for dinner tonight" pic.twitter.com/sCLRupPxte— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) September 16, 2019
4. Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
I’m looking for something to criticize, and it’s not easy to find.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
They’ve been ravaged by injuries and haven’t played well, but they’d probably be 2-0 if Nelson Agholor didn’t drop a late pass on his way to the end zone, or they gained an extra yard on the last play vs. the Falcons. Wentz has struggled mightily at times, but he also almost led them back in the final moments at Atlanta with half his receivers hurt, making a couple of incredible plays. The ceiling is still high, but the floor is lowering a bit.
Tier C: Rising Sharply
They’re trending upward after coming out strong to start the season.
6. Green Bay Packers (2-0)
The Packers already have two huge division wins, and while Aaron Rodgers isn’t exactly lighting it up in his new offense, the running game looks good, and the defense appears greatly improved.
7. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
The Lamar Jackson train rolls on, even if the Ravens struggled to put away Arizona. Starting off with the Dolphins and Cardinals, the Ravens haven’t faced tough competition yet, but they’re about to -- they have the Chiefs next week.
Tier D: Falling Sharply
They’re trending downward after not coming out strong to start the season.
8. New Orleans Saints (1-1)
The Saints have the league’s best backup QB (non-Big Nick Energy division) in Teddy Bridgewater, the NFL’s highest-paid understudy, but they’re not the same without Drew Brees. If you don’t believe me, ask the Caesars Sportsbook, who dropped their Super Bowl odds from 8-1 to 25-1.
Oh, the refs still hate them.
Imagine taking away 7 points away from the Saints and instead forcing Bridgewater to drive 87 yards for no reason except terrible officiating.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 15, 2019
9. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)
The Chargers could be 2-0 with a healthy kicker -- though that often ends poorly for them, too -- as their punter Ty Long (great punter name, btw) missed two field goals, and may have influenced a riskier pass leading to Phillip Rivers huge late pick.
The old Chargers are back!!!— Cousin Sal (@TheCousinSal) September 15, 2019
On the bright side, they’d be 0-2 had the Colts not trumped the Chargers kicking problems with their own.
Speaking of bright sides...
10. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
The Vikings can take solace in the fact that, after falling behind 21-0, they held Green Bay right there and almost come all the way back. That being said, Kirk Cousins looked bad, and it’s hard to win while trying to hide your QB. Just ask...
11. Chicago Bears (1-1)
The Bears could be 0-2 if not for a brutal roughing the passer call. Of course, if they’d lost, I’d be saying they could’ve been 1-1 if they hadn’t jumped off-sides on Brandon McManus’ missed PAT attempt to tie the game with 31 seconds left.
Whatever the record, Mitchell Trubisky is playing like, well, Mitchell Trubisky.
Mitchell Trubisky became the first starting QB to win a game despite (min 25 att):— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 16, 2019
- averaging 4.4 YPA or less
- passing for 120 yds or less
since... he did it in 2018.
Only full-time starting QBs w this feat:
- 2019: Trubisky
- 2018: Trubisky
- 2017: Cutler
- 2016: Osweiler pic.twitter.com/zdA3VQwDZx
Tier E: Staying Put
They haven’t proven anyone right or wrong just yet.
12. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
State of the Niners: Fluid
People cried homerism when I initially had the 49ers at 14, but now ESPN and NFL.com have them at 13. Sure, their opponents haven’t been great, but both were competitive on the road in their other games, going 1-1 in two tight contests. The Niners have taken care of business, and this metric has them among the NFL’s elite so far (fourth in both offense and defense):
NFL tiers through week 2.— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) September 17, 2019
Might have to kick the Dolphins out of these soon. pic.twitter.com/V1DW9Dr0z3
San Francisco has been underestimated so far, winning as road underdogs both weeks. Suddenly, they’re a big home favorite. When I first saw the schedule, I had them 2-0 at this point, then losing to Pittsburgh. But the Steelers are 0-2 and without Roethlisberger. Expectations have changed. How will the 49ers react?
13. Atlanta Falcons (1-1)
The Platonic example of why a team can be so hard to judge after two weeks. Are they the team who failed to show up in Minnesota, or the one who took care of business in primetime against Philadelphia?
14. Seattle Seahawks (2-0)
Seattle has two close wins against teams blown out by 24+ points in their other games. Next up is the Brees-less Saints, then Arizona. I’d call them lucky, but that goes without saying when you start a leprechaun at QB.
15. Cleveland Browns (1-1)
The Browns are one of the few teams who couldn’t be 2-0 or 0-2. A true 1-1 team.
16. Houston Texans (1-1)
Last week, they had a handsome loss to a very good Saints team on the road. This week, they had an ugly win. They could be 2-0 or 0-2, but 1-1 is karmic justice.
Tier F: QB Or Not QB?
Teams are wondering if they have a QB capable of a playoff run.
17. Buffalo Bills (2-0)
Tough-alo! This team never wows you, but they grind you down. Josh Allen is an inaccurate passer, but a great athlete, and eventually he hurts you. The Bills had the second-ranked defense in the NFL last year so their continued success this year isn’t a surprise. They have Frank Gore, who brings toughness and tenacity wherever he goes. And their fans are unbreakable.
18. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Jacoby Brissett has a 107.8 passer rating, but the Colts almost went 0-2 because of Adam Vinatieri, as his misses likely cost the Colts a Week 1 win at the Chargers, and kept Tennessee in the game in Week 2. Indy would be 2-0 if Vinatieri retired two weeks ago, which he’s reportedly considering.
19. Tennessee Titans (1-1)
How am I supposed to judge Marcus Mariota and the Titans when they don’t even seem to know who they are. Impressive one week, disappointing the next. It’s hard to imagine them ever escaping this 10-20 section.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2)
It’s now the Mason Rudolph era, and this is starting to have the feel of a lost year. Even with Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Tier G: The Have-Nots
Teams I cannot make a playoff argument for.
21. Detroit Lions (1-0-1)
Detroit would be 2-0 if not for an ill-advised timeout by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, called despite Matthew Stafford yelling “Trust me” at him just beforehand.
The Lions had the game-clinching play called, executed it perfectly to get the first down, and it was waved off because offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called timeout just before the snap. After the timeout, Lions throw incomplete. Now they punt back to the Cardinals. Crazy.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 8, 2019
Of course, if the Chargers could kick, the Lions could be 0-1-1.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
It’s hard to take the Bucs win too seriously due to the Thursday night factor, and the fact I’m not sure Cam Newton is healthy.
23. Carolina Panthers (0-2)
Speaking of lost years, 0-2 is no way to start a season but’s it’s not a death sentence. The last time the Panthers did it? 2013, when they started 0-2 and went 12-4. Of course, that year they didn’t go 0-2 at home. And Cam Newton wasn’t hurt.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
The good news is, Jags fans get more of this:
25. Arizona Cardinals (0-1-1)
The Cardinals kicked three field goals from inside the five-yard line and lost by six points.
26. Oakland Raiders (1-1)
For a game and a quarter, the Raiders were one of feel-good stories of the year. Welcome to the rest of the season.
27. Denver Broncos (0-2)
Denver has looked bad, but they’d be 1-1 if not for this:
This was called roughing the passer on Bradley Chubb. pic.twitter.com/EA20wdl3gi— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 15, 2019
28. New York Jets (0-2)
Before the season, I thought to myself, What if Sam Darnold is for real? And what if Leveon Bell isn’t rusty? And what if... Wait, this is the Jets we’re talking about. Everything falling into place for them is one of the signs of the apocalypse. It’s like famine, pestilence, the Jets being good, and one more I can’t remember. Maybe it’s this graphic:
When the date went so well you're missing class for the next month pic.twitter.com/6IH6pwVztr— Luke Zimmermann (@lukezim) September 17, 2019
In Darnold’s place, the Jets started Trevor Simien, who somehow avoided having Simian Flu, but suffered a brutal looking ankle injury and is out for the year. So who the Falk is their QB now? (Fun fact: Falk was drafted with the 199th pick. Just sayin’.)
29. Washington Redskins (0-2)
I think we’re just buying time until Dwayne Haskins starts.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)
The Niners are good, but are they really that good?
31. New York Giants (0-2)
32. Mike Leach
Washington State now has produced the Jets’ QB Luke Falk and the Jaguars’ QB Gardner Minshew.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2019
Air raid, baby!
33. Miami Dolphins (0-2)
They’re in their own tier, but they don’t deserve it.