The 2018-19 playoffs have showed us many things over the past two weeks: Proof that advanced offenses are currently winning the arm-wrestling match against advanced defenses, evidence that we should never bet against the New England Patriots and reiterated of how important good offensive line play can be.
But it’s also a fascinating case study on the direction the league is trending, and whether franchise decision-makers—or any of us, really—are thinking about it appropriately. Consider this past hiring cycle, where nearly every NFL team scrambled for a coach who spent time in the same room as Sean McVay. The Cardinals mentioned that their new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, was friendly with McVay, as if it were some type of badge they needed to flash to get him into the nightclub. And now, as the final four teams in the field prepare for the biggest weekend of the year, it’s McVay against the football establishment.
Sean Payton, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid are all prolific football minds. One is the greatest head coach of all time. The other two, one might argue, are among the 10 best play-callers and designers of all time. Payton, who hosts the Rams this weekend, may have been McVay before McVay, but just had to wait a little longer to get his shot.
Will his performance be a referendum on all of the new coaching hires made this season? If the Rams flatten the Saints in New Orleans and roll into the Super Bowl, would it make you feel any differently about Kingsbury, Zac Taylor or Matt LaFleur? If the Rams lose by three touchdowns, failing to crack double-digit points, does it change your mind about where the offensive revolution was really coming from?
The hiring process as a whole has always befuddled me in one way: Owners and general managers constantly make themselves believe that just because someone spends time with a franchise, in a system, existing in that culture, he or she can replicate it elsewhere. Or, that he or she will even want to replicate it elsewhere. It’s kind of like assuming that, after The Police broke up in 1986, that you would just need to acquire any one of the three band members to have something as good as The Police. It doesn’t really work that way (although Sting can stand on his own fairly well and Stuart Copeland was noticeable on Oysterhead’s most interesting tracks).
It creates the sort of wild search we saw this December and January, where we think about coaches as molded duplicates or typecast characters. The stern defensive guy. The savvy young offensive mind. The sage old lifer, finally getting his chance. Because we can’t seem to break from that cycle of thought, it’s now the savvy young offensive mind against the world. We'll all be watching.
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NOW ON THE MMQB:Patriots looked better than they have all season against the Chargers. ... How the Saints’ 18-play touchdown drive flipped the script against the Eagles. ... An evening with the Mahomes family: What it’s like to watch their otherworldly quarterback work. … How do the Rams stay motivated? All the trash talking. … The NFL Freakout: Divisional round edition.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: A beautiful piece on Todd Marinovich, the test-tube quarterback learning to be human. … On the growing legend of Taysom Hill, the Saints’ Swiss Army Knife. … Important news on the NFL’s latest initiative, which will help bolster African American history classes in schools.
1. Kyler Murray is putting the ball in Oakland’s court before deciding whether to pick the NFL or MLB.
2. The Browns are building a name-brand coaching staff behind Freddie Kitchens.
3. Tom Brady: ‘Everyone thinks we suck and we can’t win games.’
4. Big Boi, Travis Scott come to the aid of Maroon 5.
5. An unfortunate end to the season for Sheldon Rankins, who really emerged in 2018.
All hail the last great American super group.
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