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The source for back issues of Football Thoughts.

For 12/11/2005

With the firing of Steve Mariucci in Detroit, the NFL's annual coaching wheel has been officially started into motion. And with that, here are some of the other teams who I expect to be changing head coaches between now and the first week of January and the guys who you should be thinking about as candidates.

Better have your bags packed...

Houston: Before the season, I said that Dom Capers was a lot like former Chicago Bears head coach Doug Collins: OK but not good enough to get you to the next level. Well, that was before this season spiraled out of control. Capers, who has now posted a career record of 47-77 (a winning percentage of .379), will almost assuredly be given his walking papers on January 2nd. While he was admittedly hamstrung by a lack of talent (especially on the offensive line), Capers has systematically trotted out inept offensive units and porous defenses -- a sin for a guy who's known for his strong defensive background.

Minnesota: Despite the near miraculous turnaround, Mike Tice will be a free agent after this season and I don't expect him back given that the Vikings have new ownership who will, most likely, look to hire their own GM and head coach.

Oakland: Norv "what do you mean, 'Play defense?'" Turner's run in Oakland will most likely expire at 8 PM PT on January 1st. Al Davis has invested significant amounts of money and draft capital into improving the overall level of talent on the Raiders roster and Turner has responded with a 9-18 record. In the eyes of Mr. "Just Win, Baby", that is unacceptable.

St. Louis: Mike Martz is, for all intents and purposes, already gone. When he wasn't allowed to relay a message to the coaches during a game, that pretty much spelled the end of Martz' tenure in the Show Me State. Now, the Rams' management is saying that they doubt Martz will receive "medical clearance" to return to the team for next season. When Dan Reeves was back coaching the Falcons a month after suffering a heart attack, you have to think that the team just doesn't want Martz around anymore.

Make sure that you have your agent's phone number handy...

Green Bay: Mike Sherman has been on the hot seat for a while now. For the past few years, he's had the luxury of coaching a team that plays in one of the weaker divisions in football and he's been able to reach the playoffs simply by not being as bad as everyone else. This year, he needed to do some very serious coaching to simply be competitive and his teams have flat out stunk. I see a change coming in the coaching ranks because I can't see Sherman having the stones to tell Brett Favre that his time has come.

New York Jets: In my preseason preview, I alluded to Herm Edwards being at risk because I couldn't see the Jets being anything close to competitive in a year when their owner was trying to get public financing for a new stadium. Well, the Jets have stunk up the joint mightily and talk is starting that Edwards will be the guy who'll replace Dick Vermeil in KC. Since he can't leave the Jets to take the Chiefs job if he were still under contract, you have to assume that something's going to happen.

Stranger things have happened...

Baltimore: The last time the Ravens were in the playoffs was following the 2003 season. The last time that they won a playoff game was after the 2001 season. The biggest problem that the team has faced has been the woeful lack of offensive production. Brian Billick is supposed to be an offensive genius. While you can argue that the talent had been lacking for few years, you can't say that this year's squad lacked the pieces that it needed to be competitive.

Kansas City: Dick Vermeil went on record as saying that he took the KC job back in 2001 for the money. After the first 4 years, the Chiefs had made the playoffs once and, despite playing at home, lost their only game. He's got Kansas City back in the running for another playoff slot this year, but it's not going to be easy.

So, just who are the candidates for what looks like it could be up to 9 head coaching vacancies? Some are guys you would expect, others are complete newcomers.

I'll start with the name of a guy who won't be getting hired by an NFL team this year, and that's Charlie Weis. Weis had his resume out there for head coaching jobs after the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI and the best offer he got was to be the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. After that, he got a nibble here and a nibble there, but zero offers. I think that Weis is done with the NFL coaching gig for now. He's an alumnus of Notre Dame and has turned that program around in one year. I see him settling into a role where he can become a college coaching legend along the lines of Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno.

Getting that out of the way, here are the folks whose names you'll see come up as head coaching candidates.

Jim Bates - Defensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers: Served as the interim coach of the Dolphins in 2004 and led the team to a 3-4 record during his tenure. According to Packers fans I've spoken with, the way that Bates has run the defense is the reason why the Packers are 2-9 and not 0-11.

Brian Billick - Head Coach, Baltimore Ravens: If he's available, we're talking about the guy who would have to be considered the odds-on favorite to be the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Cam Cameron - Offensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers: After loosening up the reins on Drew Brees, he's built one of the most consistent and balanced offensive units in the NFL. Sure, it's easy to look like a genius when you have LT's talent, but harnessing it to get more out of the total than the sum of the parts takes talent.

Pete Carroll - Head Coach, University of South California: He's dominated the college Div-1A circuit for the past three seasons. He wants to get back to the big time.

Brad Childress - Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles: Everyone talks about Childress being the next "it boy" coaching prospect, but the offers haven't exactly been rolling in. I think he'll get calls but I don't see him going anywhere.

Herm Edwards - Head Coach, New York Jets: Just the best motivational coach in the NFL today. He gets his teams ready to play, even when they have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

Kirk Ferentz - Head Coach, University of Iowa: Another guy who coached under Belichick and might get calls because of it. He's turned the Iowa football propram from a perennial also-ran into a Big-10 contender by getting hard-nosed, tough-minded players who do not quit.

Jerry Gray - Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills: The Bills had the #2 defense in the NFL in 2003 and 2004 thanks to his style. He's young and one of the less-heralded minority coaches in the league but he better expect that his phone will start ringing any day now with people looking to talk to him. He will be a very good head coach in the NFL someday.

Jim Johnson - Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles: Architect of a defense that has carried its team to the NFC Championship game 4 years in a row. What more do you need to know?

Greg Knapp - Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons: His resume would have to include the following points "dealth with NFL's prototype problem player, Terrell Owens", "turned Jeff Garcia into a Pro Bowl QB", and "oversaw development of Mike Vick into legit pocket passer". That ought to get him a couple of call.

Mike Martz - Head Coach, St. Louis Rams: The best offensive mind in football today. More than likely will end up in Minnesota, but anything's possible.

Rich Rodriguez - Head Coach, University of West Virginia: You might be wondering why I've included Rodriguez on this list. In short, he's a minority candidate who's lead his college team to their conference title each of the past two seasons. He might not get a job, but he should get a call.

Gregg Williams - Defensive Coordinator, Washington Redskins: The basic fact is that he's a defensive coach and his track record shows that he knows how to coach the 11 guys who play without the ball but his offenses lack that certain something. I think that, much like Childress, he'll get a call of two (especially if there are 9 jobs to be filled) but I would be very surprised if he gets an offer.

On the surface, the numbers are gaudy. 3 Super Bowl victories. A career record of 55-19. Over 230 passing yards a game. Not bad for a kid was drafted in the 6th round with a compensatory pick.

However, if you really want to get a sense of exactly how impressive Tom Brady's production over the past 4+ seasons has been, a good close look at the pimples will drop your jaw because you'll see how dominant he has actually been when he's "on."

So, here are the facts, with the pimples highlighted.

In 73 career regular season starts in the NFL, Tom Brady has played against 30 of 31 possible opponents and, barring a catastrophic injury, he'll face his 31st opponent, the Tampa Buccaneers, this December.

Of those 30 teams, he's posted wins against 28 of them - only the Redskins and Packers have kept Brady out of the win column, but they have only faced him once.

Of the 28 teams he's posted a win against, only three have beaten him more than once - Miami (3-5 against Brady), Denver (3-1), and San Diego (2-1). Denver and San Diego are the only teams to have played Brady more than once and still have a winning record against him and the Dolphins have intercepted Brady more than any other team. (In fact, the Dolphins have intercepted Brady more often than the Jets and Bills combined.)

If you were to remove Brady's games against Miami, Denver, and San Diego, Brady has a career record of 47-11 -- a mind-boggling winning percentage of .807 (approximately 81%) -- and a career passer rating of almost 91 -- less than 2 points shy of Joe Montana's career passer rating.

Against the AFC, Brady is 40-15. This breaks down to 21-5 against the AFC East, 7-1 against the AFC North, 7-2 against the AFC South, and 5-7 against the AFC West. Brady is 15-4 against the NFC.

Possibly the biggest key to Brady's success has been his ability to limit his mistakes by selecting the safe option (whether it be throw the ball away, take the sack, or hit the outlet receiver) instead of trying to make a play where none exists.

This is clearly evident in his winning percentages by INTs thrown in a game. In games where Brady has not thrown an INT, the Patriots have posted a record of 33-5. Wow! When Brady has thrown 1 INT, the Patriots are still a dominant 16-4. In 2 INT games, Brady's Patriots are a respectable 6-4. But, whenever Brady throws picks in bunches - usually because he's trying to make plays out of nothing - the Patriots lose. They are 0-6 in games where Tom Brady has thrown 3 or more INTs - 0-2 in 3 INT games and 0-4 in 4 INT games.

Ironically, there isn't the same direct correlation between TD passes and wins. In fact, the Patriots have won more games (13 wins in 17 games), when Brady's hasn't thrown a TD than they have when he's thrown 1 TD (10 wins in 18 games).

Think about this the next time you're watching the Patriots on TV and you see some graphic come up about Brady.

I'm sure that I've griped about this in the past, but I'm really sick and tired of the slipshod way I which Division 1-A college football determines it's national champion.

For years, people have argued about the need for a tournament-style approach and the best argument that I had against that was that "the players do have to go to class (they are students after all, aren't they?)". However, following the University of New Hampshire's trek through the Division 1-AA playoffs indicates that a tourney will work for the "big boys" just as well as it would for the other schools since the smaller schools actually seem to view the players as athletes first and not minor-league professionals.

The problem, of course, is determining which teams would get to go.

The knee-jerk reaction is that the top 16 ranked teams would compete. I disagree. I think that the only teams who should be considered are the conference champions, plus 1 wild-card team (to account for the non-conference teams, such as Navy and the Golden Domers). In short, if you don't win your conference, you won't be considered for a national champion.

Had the NCAA adopted this "concept" in the BCS (which stands for Big Crock of S--t in my book), then we wouldn't have had any needless controversies such as the situation that arose after the 2003 season when LSU played Oklahoma for the national title - because it would have been LSU vs. USC since Oklahoma lost to Kansas State in their conference championship game.

And now, some stats for the math freaks in the audience.

- LaDainian Tomlinson (a.k.a., LT2) is on a pace to rush for over 1550 yards this year while scoring 25 TDs. As amazing as that sounds, it pales in comparison to Seattle's Shaun Alexander who is on pace to rush for almost 1950 yards and 29 TDs which would be a new NFL record.

- Speaking of NFL records, the NFL's single-season TD record seems to be coming under constant fire. Starting in 1965, when Jim Brown broke the 20 TD threshold, the bar seemed to be raised every ten years as O.J. Simpson slashed his way to 23 scores in 1975, John Riggins rumbled for 24 TDs in 1983, and Emmitt Smith crossed the plane 25 times in 1995. However, over the past 6 seasons, the record has come assault with Marshall Faulk scoring 26 TDs in 2000, and Priest Holmes scoring 27 TDs in 2003. If Shaun Alexander continues on his current pace towards 29 TDs, you have to ask when will someone break the 30 TD mark and who will be the first to do it?

- One more thought about TD scoring: In the history of the NFL, a player has scored 20 or more TDs in a season 20 times. The feat was accomplished 3 times in the 1960s, twice in the 1970s, and four times in each the 1980s and 1990s. However, in the first decade of the new millennium, the 20+ TDs in a season has already been accomplished seven times.

- More love for Brady. New England's signal-caller leads the league in passing yards and is currently on pace to throw for over 4,400 yards this year.

- The Miami Dolphins currently have a 800+ yard rusher and an 800+ yard receiver, putting them on pace for the first season in franchise history with both a thousand-yard rusher and receiver.

- Despite having a record of 2-9 coming into Week 13, the Packers were still outscoring their opponents 232-230.

- When Brett Favre began his current streak of consecutive games started (not just played in, but started), George Herbert Walker Bush (the current President's father) was still in office as President of the USA.

- The Chicago Bears have scored 5 TDs on returns (INT, Fumble, KO, Punt, etc.) this year. To date, they have 8 rushing TDs and 9 passing TDs.