NFL Insider Notes: Frank Reich should be Coach of Year, give Chargers' GM credit and more from Week 15
Plus, Kevin Stefanski's impressive debut as Vikings' OC, Lamar Jackson's impact and more from around the NFL
For what it's worth, I think I would go with Frank Reich as my Coach of the Year. What he has done calling plays and controlling that offense and rebuilding Andrew Luck has been stellar. Remember, he inherited most of his staff after Josh McDaniels walked away from the head-coaching job in Indy, and this was a team everyone thought was thoroughly in rebuild mode.
All they have done is respond to a brutal Week 4 loss in overtime to the Texans by reclaiming their season. Then, after getting shut out by the Jags, they snapped the Texans' nine-game winning streak, and on Sunday they stopped the Cowboys' winning streak at five games.
The Colts are still very much alive for a wild-card spot and the defense has been one of the biggest surprises in all of football. They have no business doing what they are doing right now, and the future looks very bright for Reich and the Colts.
Here are more thoughts about what went down in Week 15.
Chargers' Tom Telesco deserves more credit
No team had a bigger win in Week 15 than the Los Angeles Chargers. The Game of the Week was the first game played this week, and the Chargers are poised to make things happen in January. With that will come a modicum of individual accolades, and there have been some rumblings about Philip Rivers entering the MVP conversation and plenty of rumblings about Anthony Lynn as a frontrunner for Coach of the Year.
But what about Tom Telesco? You rarely even hear the name of the Chargers' general manager mentioned. You can go entire broadcasts without it being brought up. You won't find much written about him, either. He keeps a decidedly low profile and goes about his business in a low-key manner. But that doesn't mean his work should be overlooked, and the role he has played in assembling the talent in Los Angeles has been top notch.
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Actually, the Chargers have had one of the best rosters in the NFL for a couple of years now. It's just that injuries and questionable coaching decisions and kicking/special teams debacles had a way of undermining it. And even this season, it's hardly been all flowers and good fortune with this bunch. Their best defensive player, Joey Bosa, just came back a few weeks ago after getting hurt in the preseason, they lost their best corner for the season in the summer, and they haven't had their best tight end, emerging force Hunter Henry, play a snap all season (despite what you may have heard elsewhere in the media!).
And, well, this team never really has a home game because the people who do go to StubHub Center are generally cheering for the other team. They have to play second fiddle to the Rams in their own city after relocating from San Diego. They have had to chase the Chiefs since losing to them Week 1 and, without many noticing it, they've become the most balanced team in the NFL, able to beat you with their ground game and their aerial attack as well as smother you on defense.
Telesco has been shrewd in whom to extend – keeping Melvin Ingram was massive – and he has been a maven in the draft, with Derwin James looking like the next great playmaker on a team full of them. Joey Bosa looks like a no-brainer now, but find a mock draft that had him slotted to the Chargers at the time he was selected. Melvin Gordon is an absolute beast of a running back. And while the team doesn't do that much in free agency, the signing of Mike Pouncey to finally find the right anchor for an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries in recent years got lost amid the flurry of big-ticket signing the Rams made, but it has been one of the most sage and savvy free-agent moves in the entire league in 2018. And while Mike Williams was marred by injuries as a rookie in 2017, he looks every bit like a first-round talent this season.
Heck, even bringing Antonio Gates back on the cheap has proven to be a significant acquisition. Telesco has put it all together, and, well, he merits credit for being the guy – along with the Spanos family – to actually hire Lynn in the first place, at a time when pressure was mounting for them to do something splashy and glitzy with the move to L.A. afoot. Seems like they found just the right guy.
Not a bad body of work at all. It should come with some postseason recognition.
Lamar Jackson's impact second to none
There is no such thing as a "Second Half Of The Season" MVP, but if there was, Lamar Jackson should be a finalist for it. You could argue that no player has had a more singular impact on his team than Jackson. The Ravens completely changed their identity on the fly while they were 4-5 in their bye week. They have won four of five with Jackson the most dynamic player on the field throughout. He is the first QB in history to run for 70 yards or more in five-straight games and he went over 100 yards again Sunday (then back down to 95 yards after a sack). The Ravens, with Jackson leading the way, went from the second-worst rushing team in the NFL at their bye to the best in the NFL since. The kid makes a few more big plays in the passing game each week, you can see the confidence growing, and he has made some super heady decisions, too, to protect the football and avoid sacks and stay in winning down-and-distance situations.
Kevin Stefanski's impressive debut
Nice debut by Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. He took over mid-week under duress and has a masterful start in his play calling debut. He kept them balanced throughout the offense, getting everyone involved and sticking with the run.
Kirk Cousins looks more at ease than we have seen him in quite some time and the Vikings offense was pretty much unstoppable in the first quarter. It was quite the debut for someone already earning a reputation as a coach on the rise and bright offensive mind The offense bogged down some in the middle of the game, but then got yards in chunks again in the fourth quarter to win comfortably …
More from Week 15
- The Cardinals are the masters of the blowout loss and I have a hard time seeing rookie head coach Steve Wilks surviving it. They got embarrassed by a bad Atlanta team Sunday after a fast start, and Josh Rosen continues to get pummeled and look awfully shaky. Not much for that franchise to hang its hat on right now, above and beyond anything happening on the sidelines … Josh Allen is still super raw and has a ways to go, but he is good for 3-5 explosive plays a game and you have to love the energy and passion he brings to the Bills. Really interesting to see what gains he makes next season … The preponderance of vacant seats in Baltimore and Atlanta had to be troubling for those teams, especially the Ravens, who were playing what amounted to a playoff game. Troubling signs for ownership … The beating Ryan Tannehill took in Minnesota Sunday was unholy. What a brutal display by the Miami offensive line with their season on the line …
- The last couple of weeks have not helped Jameis Winston's cause for a big contract. He threw an ugly pick on first down of a one-score game in the second half on the road. Baltimore has a tough defense, for sure, but the Glazers are going to have a huge decision to make there. If they want to attract the best head-coaching candidates possible, they best not try to make keeping Winston a prerequisite … So much for the firing of Mike McCarthy spring-boarding the Packers into the playoffs …
- The Jaguars are a footballing disgrace at this point. I wonder where Josh Johnson would have ranked on Jalen Ramsey's QB-scale if the writer from GQ would have asked him. Wonder where he'd be right now? Good luck to whoever has to try to clean up that mess in Jacksonville … Will the Giants finally play a young quarterback now? Was getting shut out at home enough to finally stick with something they already knew they should have been done a year ago, like when Manning lost his job to Geno Smith for one game?
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