Publish date:

Mailbag: What Should Shad Khan Do About Urban Meyer?

Plus, five coordinators putting themselves in position for their first head-coaching interviews, Wentz’s progress, Giants culture and more.

Lots on the Stephon Gilmore trade here. Now, on to your mail...

From Tyler Kind (@TylerKind8): If you were Shad Khan, how would you handle the Urban Meyer situation?

Tyler, I think Shad did what he had to do on Tuesday, in putting Urban Meyer on notice.

And I don’t think Meyer’s problem professionally is specifically what happened on Friday night in Columbus—that is between him and his family (and it’s not like that’s the worst thing an NFL coach has ever done on a night out). I don’t think very many people in the league want a precedent of a coach being fired for behavior like that specific incident.

His problem professionally would relate to his credibility. College coaches often try to occupy the moral high ground. We’ve seen Meyer do it, and it’s understandable why so many work to put themselves there. They have to convince parents to send them their 18-year-olds, and a lot of those elite 18-year-old football players come from religious roots.

In the NFL, no one cares about a coach trying to take the moral high ground. We’ve seen a number of high-profile NFL coaches go through messy divorces, without much attention or fanfare at all. Where a coach can run into trouble, though, is if he’s positioning himself as something he’s not. Then, it becomes a matter of, If I can’t believe him on this, what else is he lying to me about? And once you get there, you’ve got real problems.

So forget what Meyer tells all of us publicly—he has to be honest and transparent with his players, or he has no chance. He can’t go in there and act like he was ambushed by the women in that bar, or pretend he was an innocent bystander to try and mitigate the damage. If he says to them, I had a few drinks and acted like a moron, that’ll go a lot further, in my opinion, with his players than trying to explain the whole thing away.

From there, it’ll be about results, and I can tell you he does get that part. When he and I talked over the summer, I asked how he’d bridge the divide from college coach to pro coach, and he kept saying how it was his job to provide value for the players—in essence, he knew to get them engaged, he had to help them win and, in turn, help them get rich. And he’s right. If he can show them he can do that, he should be able to win them over.

But that starts with getting them to do what he needs them to do now. How they respond to him coming out of this is critical, and if I’m Khan, that’s what I’m watching closest.

From Fernando Macedo (@fmacedocosta30): How big will be the head coach market for Josh McDaniels in 2022?

Fenando, I believe McDaniels has a tremendous opportunity this year to wedge his name back into the conversation—a year after interest in hiring him as a second-chance candidate waned a bit. McDaniels had the Colts job in 2018 before backing out, and was right there with Kevin Stefanski for the Browns job in ’20. Last year, he nearly got the Eagles job, but Philly was really the only team that even kicked the tires on him.

It’s understandable, of course, that would happen following the Patriots’ worst season by record in 20 years. And as of right now, New England’s 1–3, which means just to avoid another sub-.500 season (the Patriots haven’t had consecutive losing years since Bill Parcells’s first year, with Dick MacPherson’s final years providing the front end of that back-to-back), New England will have to go 8–6 the rest of the way. But McDaniels’s case to become a head coach again will be based on more than just that.

Mac Jones, to this point, has been very steady, and the most consistent of the five rookie quarterbacks taken in the first round—something we saw again in a driving rainstorm and on a big stage during Sunday night’s Brady/Belichick extravaganza. And if he ascends from here, now we’re talking about a coach who not only had a hand in Tom Brady’s star turn years ago, but also will add Jones to a list of quarterbacks he’s developed in the Patriots’ bullpen that includes Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

In that group, you have a quarterback who never started a college game (Cassel), one who came from the FCS level (Garoppolo), another had tools but a bit of a disjointed college career (Brissett), and then Jones, who had to adjust tothe pros with a skill group that wasn’t as good as the one he played with in college (and that’s not even grading on a curve), and started just 17 games between high school and the pros.

To be clear, that’s not to say that Cassel, Garoppolo, Brissett and Jones don’t have talent. But those guys weren’t Trevor Lawrence coming into the pros, each had a different path, each had a different skill set, and each benefitted from working with McDaniels.

Now, it’s way too early to say which jobs will be open in the winter. But if I’m an owner and I have, say, one of Jones’ draft classmates on my roster at quarterback and opening for a head coach in January, and I’m just looking at that resume, the idea of bringing McDaniels into work with that player would be pretty enticing.

From Not who you think I am (@DonRidenour): Do the Colts feel better today about Wentz or are they discounting it, since it is Miami and they can't play offense?

Don, I think the progress on Sunday from the Colts was incremental—but it should not be discounted. Indy sent a M*A*S*H unit out there against the Dolphins. No Quenton Nelson. No Braden Smith. The defense was without Kwity Paye, Khari Willis and Rock Ya-Sin, among others. And that put Carson Wentz in the sort of situation he failed in time and again in Philly over the last couple years.

Simply put, when the Eagles would get banged up, and Wentz would have to shoulder a heavier load, he’d throw on the cape and try to play Superman, and wind up looking more like a chicken with its head cut off out there.

That’s why over the spring and summer, Frank Reich and his coaches tried to message to Wentz the importance of just playing quarterback, and not playing hero. The idea, overall, was to get him to slow down, and trust that the offense, and his teammates, would be plenty to put him in position to win the game. So that we saw him do that in a little bit of an adverse spot against Miami is a nice step forward.

His first-half numbers actually really reflect it too. He was 12-of-16 for 78 yards. He didn’t throw a pick. He didn’t lose a fumble. He fought through a slog of a first half, and carried a 7–3 lead into the break, and then things loosened up in the second half and he was in position to take advantage of it. Even his last TD throw reflected the progress—he knew Mo Alie-Cox would get a matchup on that one, told him he would find him beforehand, and put the ball in a spot where only his big tight end could get it.

It’s easy to look at a Sunday like Wentz’s and think that he didn’t win anyone’s MVP vote, that he was just O.K. over those three hours. But if the idea is for Wentz to be alright with making the right plays, instead of just the big ones; there was a lot of progress there.

From Eagle (@Eagle_overland): Is Herbert already top 5?

Eagle, it’s hard to say no, at this point. You’d take Patrick Mahomes over him in a one-game scenario. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, too. So now, you’re at 4. I’d say Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson are still in front of him—but I think Justin Herbert is absolutely in that mix, with Kyler Murray creeping in too. The dividing line between the first four names and the two younger guys, right now, is track record.

But I could absolutely see Herbert or Murray making a real run at MVP this year, the same way Mahomes, Jackson and Carson Wentz did in their respective second years.

And if we’re talking about who you’d want to build a franchise around, I think Herbert might be behind only Mahomes (though Allen and Trevor Lawrence have a case too). Which is to say the Chargers have to be absolutely ecstatic with where they are.

SI Recommends

From T. Mghee (@bendyas): For all the incredible athleticism and focus on 1%ers, why are tackling techniques so bad?

T., my sense is every coach in the league would tell you that this is a time on task issue. Most teams had truncated offseason programs this year, with spring work whittled way down. That meant more ramping up was necessary in training camp, which ate into the amount of fundamental work that was done—which, they’ll tell you, has taken its toll in the meat-and-potatoes departments of blocking and tackling.

Indeed, through September, the two biggest issues teams encountered were shoddy tackling, and a rise in defensive pressure leading to quarterbacks getting knocked around.

Here’s the thing—NFL athletes move at warp speed. It takes air-tight technique to block a freakish edge rusher, and it takes near-perfect fundamentals to take down a top-flight receiver in the open field, and it takes a lot of repetition to develop and maintain those skills. If those things slip a little? Pro football’s best athletes will make it show up a lot.

From Hail Mary Juana (@hailmaryjuana): Do the Giants need a culture change? Would an overhaul and new philosophy serve them better than a new HC, OC or GM coming into the current structure?

Hail Mary, I don’t think they need a complete teardown. I do think they need to find two things that sound like they’re coming out of a board meeting—alignment and innovation.

On the first one, for better or worse, the Giants have tried to meld different philosophies and ideas together over the last couple years. GM Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge are from different places, and learned from different people. Ditto for Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (though both have Nick Saban in their past). So if I’m John Mara, I’m spending the rest of the season assessing how all of that is married together.

On the second one, there’s been a long-held perception across the NFL that the Giants have too many people that have either never worked anywhere else or have been in their positions for too long—essentially lifetime employees there in the name of stability. And that’s great if you’re winning. If you’re not? Well, the Giants have missed the playoffs in eight of nine years since winning Super Bowl XLVI, which stands as their last postseason win. So it’s fair to ask whether or not the people who are part of that need to be assessed.

I do think Judge has a ton of potential as a head coach, and I know Mara thinks that too. The rest of the year should give us more information on that. But I certainly don’t think the work stops there for the owner in figuring where his football operation stands.

From Tom Marshall (@aredzonauk): What does the win do for the Jets as they head over to London?

Tom, it’s a huge one considering the franchise was 1–18 in its previous 19 games in September and October—even if Robert Saleh and his staff weren’t around for the great majority of those, a lot of the players were. And getting Zach Wilson to play a more responsible game represented progress for the program as well.

The Jets knew going into the year that they were pretty thin. This year was always going to have its bumps, as Saleh and GM Joe Douglas work to reshape the roster. Which means every win, either on the field or in a player’s development, counts.

From Kris (@ChrisTJ31): Will Kellen Moore be a Head Coach in 2022? Or can Jerry retain him like he did with Jason Garrett in 2008 as coach in waiting?

Kris, I was a Cowboys beat writer in 2008, so I remember the awkwardness of that one.

For those who don’t know, Garrett was hired in 2007 as offensive coordinator before Wade Phillips was tabbed to be head coach, and after the Dallas offense exploded that fall, the Ravens and Falcons both got way down the road with Garrett before Jerry Jones stepped in and gave his OC a record $3 million per year to stay. That necessitated a raise for Phillips, to ensure he’d remain the highest-paid coach on the staff, and eventually led to Jones turning to Garrett in midway through the 2010 season.

Likewise, Moore’s time in Dallas predated his boss’. The similarities don’t end there—and the important one, to me, is that Jerry Jones can look at Moore like he once did Garrett, as someone he discovered and developed. As was the case with Garrett, Moore was a backup quarterback for the Cowboys, and was ID’d while he was playing as a coaching prospect, before quickly ascending to the coordinator level after becoming a coach. Also, like Garrett, Moore turned away head coaching interest (from his alma mater, Boise State) to stay.

Does that mean Moore will become a head coach next year? No. But it does mean he’s in the sort of spot Garrett once was—where if the team succeeds, overtures on his availability will come from other teams; and if the team doesn’t, he’s positioned as the next guy.

And I say that as someone who thinks, through a month, Mike McCarthy’s done a really, really good job, and getting a lot out of his team.

From Matt Ramas (@matt_ramas): Do you expect the Chiefs’ Defense to improve or will their offense need to keep scoring 40+ points to win?

Matt, I’d refer you back to last week’s mailbag—the Chiefs have a lot of guys new to the team playing major roles, and that’s on both sides of the ball. But as to the side you’re asking about: rookie Nick Bolton is in the middle of the defense, the corner spot has newcomers Mike Hughes and DeAndre Baker in the mix, and free-agent import Jarran Reed is playing a big role up front.

Remember 2019, when there was a lot of turnover and the defense came together late in the year and into the playoffs? Give it time.

From Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport): Who are the coordinators who have most helped their stock to become head coaches at the quarter pole this season?

Ryan! It’s still early, so I’ll skip over the more obvious names (Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll, Joe Brady, et al) and give you five I think are worth watching: Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, along with Kellen Moore.

Obviously, there’s a lot of season to go. But those are five well thought of names that haven’t yet interviewed for any head coaching jobs.

More NFL Coverage:

Stephon Gilmore Stared Down the Patriots and Won
MMQB: Brady, Belichick Reunion Lives Up to Hype
MAQB: Don't Count Out Ezekiel Elliott Just Yet