Another week, another smartly executed win by the Patriots which again underscored how great Bill Belichick is. In a relatively mundane game, New England eked out a victory by doing the simple things on a day where they weren’t at their best. It’s the hallmark of the Pats sustained success: Do all the little stuff and let the other team make the mistakes. More often than not, you’ll win. Especially in an NFL filled to the gills with questionable coaching decisions, rampant injuries, and (cheap) inexperienced players.
There is no debate, Belichick is the best in the game (which makes his history of pushing the boundaries even more maddening since he has never needed to). But what about the worst? Who is the poorest tactician? The most inefficient motivator? Who gets the least out of his team and finds losses where there should be wins? Here’s the list:
5) Mike McCarthy. This is a hard call since the man has a Super Bowl championship under his belt, and is a botched onsides kick away from going to another. But the Packers performance this year has been putrid on too many occasions to give him a pass. No doubt, he hasn’t been helped by a rash of injuries on defense and a shallow roster to replace them with. However, McCarthy had made his career on offense and the Packers attack is often toothless. We knew the offense had to be the engine that drove Green Bay this year, and McCarthy doesn’t know how to fix the broken pistons and leaky carburetor. He hasn’t been able to squeeze the best out of Aaron Rodgers, and has led a team that has looked like zombies in important games (Colts, Titans, Cowboys). Green Bay should not be 4-6 on a 4-game slide. Belichick would have this squad at 8-2, and looking at a bye in the NFC playoffs.
4) Marvin Lewis. This was not a hard call, and it’s only because he has led the Bengals to five straight postseasons that I’m not dropping him lower. Cincinnati has been pathetic this year in a season with high expectations. They’re 3-7-1, with two of those wins against the Browns and Jets. It’s damning that Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs. It’s telling that the Bengals have won double-digit games four straight years and we still don’t take them seriously. But it’s mostly shameful Cincy has this much talent and will finish with one of the worst record in the AFC. The message has gone stale, and the players are simply not responding to Marvin. He’s been a good coach (and a better eye for talent) for a long time. But it’s over. The Bengals need to move him off the sideline, into the front office, and find a new voice. Belichick would have the Bengals at 8-3, leading the AFC North and competing for a two-seed in the AFC playoffs.
3) Chip Kelly. The Niners don’t have a lot of talent, but they give us a Walking Dead preview on FOX every Sunday afternoon. San Francisco has played like zombies this year, stumbling in a daze to a gory 1-10 record. It seems impossible the Niners beat up on the Rams 28-0 to open the season. Since then, they’ve lost ten in a row, failing to score 20 points in 5 of those. Chip’s offenses were a masterpiece at Oregon. They were creative, explosive, and ever evolving. Now? He’s been unable to correct both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick’s copious mistakes (although Kap actually was very good vs. Miami), and the Niners offense takes entire halves off. There is no inspiration. no spark, no fun. It’s a weekly slog through three hours, and if you’re going to lose at least be inventive. It feels like Chip’s monster ego was punctured in Philadelphia and he’s forever mentally wounded from it. The Niners aren’t good enough to be winning many games, but they also look punchless when they step off the bus every Sunday. Belichick would be 5-6 with this team, and at least competitive each week.
2) Jeff Fisher. How many years of mediocrity must we see before the Mustachioed Menace gets the zig? He makes Marvin Lewis look like Vince Lombardi. Fisher has not had a winning season since ’08. An even more mind-numbing fact? In 22 years as a head coach in the NFL, he has had just 5 winning seasons. The master of the staying employed at .500, he has ten seasons of only seven or eight wins. Has there been quarterback issues for the Rams this year? Yes. But can Fisher fix those problems? Fat chance. Despite years of selecting in the top 10 and stockpiling picks from the RGIII heist, the Rams will miss the playoffs yet again. At 4-7, this will likely be the fifth straight year he can’t even push the team to 8-8. The Rams have consistently had one of the most talented defensive fronts, and have added explosive offensive players like Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley. Yet, Fisher still can’t win. What will it take for him to get axed? Well, it doesn’t help that SoCal TV ratings for other NFL games are higher than for the Rams this season. Boring the locals already? Maybe that will finally do it. Belichick would have this team at 7-4 battling for the NFC West crown, Case Keenum would be Matt Cassel, and they would have been to the playoffs three times in his 5 years with the Rams.
1) Gus Bradley. The worst. The absolute bottom of the bad coaching barrel. The Jaguars are a completely unacceptable 2-9, in a season that began with real playoff aspirations. Jacksonville has excellent wide receivers, a solid pair of running backs, and good defensive talent. They’ve signed Julius Thomas and Malik Jackson to big money. They have picked in the top ten every year since ’08. There is too much talent on that roster to be this bad. Blake Bortles has certainly not helped matters by throwing recklessly into coverages, but under Bradley he has not grown past these mistakes. In four years with the Jags, Bradley’s high water mark was 5-11 last year. He is 14-45 in his career, meaning that he has the lowest win percentage of any coach in history with at least 59 games (.254). He may have fire. He may have optimism. But he also can’t coach. The Browns and Niners were supposed to be bad. The Jags were not. This is the biggest failure of the NFL season, and rightly Gus needs to be canned. Belichick would be drooling to coach all that top 10 talent, plus compete in the dreadful AFC South (although the AFC East has been quite cozy for him). With Belichick, the Jags would be 7-4 and easily the AFC South team no one wanted to face in the playoffs.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.