In part one of this series, we evaluated the coaching situations in Arizona, Chicago, and Detroit. Now let’s take a look at the remaining four new head coaches in Indianapolis, New York, Oakland, and Tennessee.
The circus came to Indianapolis this off-season, with the near miss of Colts head coach Josh McDaniels that transitioned into the real new head coach in Frank Reich. All things considered, they did handle it fairly well considering they still landed someone considered one of the top candidates.
My biggest worry with Reich in Indianapolis was how he would fare calling the plays. Nobody on his staff (Reich himself included) had any real experience calling the game. Well, those worries may have been unfounded, as Reich and company have done just fine thus far, currently have the fifth-ranked scoring offense. It helps that Andrew Luck is in fact back, and he’s on pace for his best season since 2014, currently projecting over 4,000 yards and over 40 touchdowns.
The only true questions around Reich and his coaching thus far are if he is perhaps too aggressive on fourth down plays in some situations. His decision, for instance, to go for it on fourth-and-four with 27 seconds left in overtime against the Texans turned a likely tie into a loss. But Reich is far from the only coach showing more aggression on fourth down, and there are many who are fans of that kind of aggressiveness. I personally don’t think it was the best decision at that time, I’m not going to throw him under the bus for it, either.
Current Record: 3-5
Coaching Outlook: Reich is aggressive and seems to be getting a lot out of Andrew Luck. I like his future prospects.
Dynasty Outlook: Hopefully you were smart enough to snag Luck cheap during the whole injured shoulder fiasco. If not, he’d be hard to get now. He is throwing an awful lot, which adds a little concern to his long-term prospects, especially coming off that shoulder injury. T.Y. Hilton is a great dynasty asset when Luck is healthy like he is now, but Hilton has had his own injury concerns as well.
I’m not sure either Chester Rogers or Ryan Grant are long-term assets, but perhaps you can try to peel the injured Deon Cain away from his owner. I’ve never been a fan of Ebron, but in the absolute barren wasteland of tight end, he’s hard to ignore. Marlon Mack may be the biggest puzzle. He’s looked awfully good of late, will he continue at this pace?
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Another offensive coordinator from a playoff team, Pat Shurmur landed the top job for the New York Football Giants. Like many teams looking for a new head coach, there was a big mess to clean up in New York, this one left by Ben McAdoo. His predictable offense and his benching of Eli Manning led to him losing the job, and Shurmur was brought in get the Giants back on track.
Shurmur was expected to bring in a more creative, west coast based offense, and for the most part, he has. He also got a huge talent at running back in Saquon Barkley, but other problems indicated in the original article still remain. One, the offensive line continues to be bad. And a bad offensive line is hampering both Barkley and Manning. Sure, Barkley has some good numbers, but those are in spite of the offensive line, not because of it. A competent line might have Barkley leading the league. The sieve-like line also leads to a scared Manning. Bad decisions and sacks abound.
Shurmur’s offense, despite the problems at offensive line and Manning’s shortcomings, has been able to move the ball. With the kind of skill-player talent they have, this is not surprising. But the biggest issue has been the red zone, where the Giants have only scored touchdowns about 40% of the time, and are at or near the bottom of the league. While some complained about his two point attempt recently when down 14, it’s simply a sign of his modern analytics-based decision making.
Current Record: 1-7
Outlook: The poor current record isn’t the fault of Shurmur. There are great skill players, but lots of holes to fill otherwise, and the quarterback position must be addressed.
Dynasty Outlook: Buy Saquon Barkley. Duh. Buy Odell Beckham. Double duh. There’s also value to be had with Sterling Shepard, who I believe is a nice receiving complement to OBJ. While I really liked Evan Engram last year, he’s been disappointing thus far. He’s getting lost in this offense with all of the options. He’s still immensely talented, but it may be tough to find him enough work for right now. Still, tight end is a flaming garbage dump, so he’s well worth acquiring.
I could take the easy way out here.
But I won’t do that. The fantasy community can, in some cases, fall prey to the narrative. A few people start to get down on a player or situation, a few more join in, and before you know it the Twitter echo chamber has everyone convinced that player A is terrible or coach B needs to be fired. Sometimes that helps everyone out, but there are times where a lot of people can all be wrong. One fine example is Devonta Freeman the year Tevin Coleman was drafted. A lot of people were utterly convinced it spelled doom for Freeman.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone is wrong about Gruden, I’m only saying that virtually everyone is beating the same drum. And when that happens, I start to wonder if we’re all wrong.
Let’s really think about it. Yes, the Raiders were good in 2016, but was that the exception or the rule? A very similar team in 2017 completely fell off the map. Is it possible that the 2016 team reached its absolute peak? Maybe. And perhaps turning Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper into three extra first-round picks will pay off. Even if they don’t, I’m not sure either of them were enough to make this a Super Bowl squad.
In the end, I think we can bank on one thing – the Raiders organization chose this path. They gave Gruden this power and that massive contract. I expect Gruden to be around when the Vegas Raiders take the field.
Current Record: 1-7
Outlook: It’s hard to judge Gruden as a coach at this point, as personnel is obviously a huge part of his job. And the Raiders are atrocious right now.
Dynasty Outlook: This is rough. Even if Amari Cooper were still in the silver and black, he has been tougher and tougher to keep in starting lineups. But even that sliver of dynasty hope is gone. Some believed in Derek Carr a couple of years back, but not so much even more. He’s perhaps worth rostering in superflex, but only barely. Every other possible option seems like a flier at best. Doug Martin, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant. All could be worthwhile, but I wouldn’t want to bank on it. You could always look to Jared Cook…
Let me apologize right out of the gate. I was wrong about the prospects of the Tennessee Titans when I wrote the initial series in March (through week eight, anyway.) The reason for optimism in Nashville was not the new head coach in Mike Vrabel, but his offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur. He has spent time with some very high powered offenses in the two years prior: in 2016 he was the quarterbacks coach for Atlanta in their best offensive year, and he spent last year as the OC under Sean McVay. You may have heard of him. I had hopes for a Ram-like offensive explosion.
So far it has not worked out. The Titans are near the bottom of the league in scoring, but their defense has kept them at a respectable win/loss record. To be fair, the Titans have also had key injuries, with Delanie Walker out for the season, as well as Marcus Mariota and Taylor Lewan missing time.
As far as the head coach, Vrabel is similar to some of the other new head guys in that he has shown quite a bit of aggressiveness – sometimes to a fault. His attempt to win the game against the Chargers by going for two ended in a 20-19 loss when the attempt failed. Still, the Titans are sitting in second place in the AFC South, just behind the Texans.
Current Record: 4-4
Outlook: The Titans have been showing some progress on offense, if they can start to put it together they are still in the AFC South race.
Dynasty Outlook: The Titans, from a dynasty value perspective, have a few players whose value continues to drop. Marcus Mariota had an awfully high ranking in superflex after a strong 2016, but his value has slipped since then, especially this season. Derrick Henry was highly sought after this off-season, but he has fallen like a rock as he continues to disappoint this year.
This story would not be complete without the reasonably disappointing Corey Davis. But the fortunes of all three players could turn in a hurry with an offensive resurgence. Dion Lewis has shown the most consistent production, but injury worries keep his value down a bit.
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