Black Monday is a day which fires up NFL fans, and it didn’t disappoint, at least for fans. For the six head coaches fired I’m sure it will be more of a disappointment as they begin to reflect on what went wrong and how they could have done it differently.
In total there are eight vacant head coaching jobs, with a few being left over from mid-season removals, a much rarer situation in the NFL than in British football. Some of those coaches will look back at critical moments or think back to a draft pick they may have made differently, but poor Steve Wilks will have less to reflect on than others.
It’s another oddity – at least to us football fans – that coaches are almost always given more than one season in the NFL, but the former Arizona Cardinal head coach was given one season and one season only – 16 games, a rookie quarterback and a weak 53-man roster.
Now, this won’t be the case for all the teams that removed their coach, but it is in Arizona. The key to any success, both long-term and short-term, is a successful partnership between the head coach and the general manager. Both these roles tend to be taken by a manager here in British football although the director of football is somewhat akin to a GM.
Wilks came into the role with general manager Steve Keim, who took charge in 2013 and in that time, won his division only once. Yes, Wilks had a lousy year, but he was given a roster that even Bill Belichick would have struggled to get something out of.
This is an inherent problem within the NFL, and while Keim is not the only general manager to get away with this, it seems that as part of the executive team the general managers have a lot more leniency. But why should they? After all, the decision to sign players falls to them, they get the final say in who gets drafted, and they oversee trades. When will owners realise that coaches can only work with the tools they are given, and those tools are handed down by the general managers?
The Wild Card Weekend as it was dubbed lived up to its name.With only four games it managed to generate a massive amount of drama. The first game had the NFL’s two hottest teams taking each other on with the Indianapolis Colts travelling to Houston Texans. The Colts raced out to a 21-0 lead by half-time and dominated play on both sides of the ball. Any hopes of a second-half fightback seemed to fade with the Texans offense who couldn’t get going.
The Cowboys picked up a win against a resolute Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks mimicked their season with a slow start before pulling themselves into contention but a resolute Dallas defence held Seattle to only 74 yards rushing. The Cowboys managed to take a 24-14 lead but with 50 seconds left Seattle scored again to bring it close.
On Sunday the LA Chargers travelled across the country to play the Baltimore Ravens, a team that beat them three weeks ago. In a game that started in a dour fashion with the only points scored by kicking field goals for the first three quarters, it burst into life late. With LA holding a 23-3 lead and just over six minutes to play, the game looked over. Baltimore’s rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson hadn’t read the script and two quick touchdowns later the game was finely balanced at 23-17. Just when things got interesting, the Ravens reverted to early-game form and fumbled the ball on a potential to secure a Chargers win.
Chicago were defeated by Philadelphia at Soldier Field in dramatic fashion. In a defensive battle, the teams exchanged kicks before the Eagles called on the underdog spirit which won them the Lombardi trophy last year to lead 16-15 late. With seconds left, Chicago moved the ball within field goal kicker ranger; Cody Parkey hit the left post and crossbar before the ball bounced back into play. That miss ended the game as the Eagles continued on their unlikely journey.