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Around the NFL: What are head coaches thinking in 2019?

Questionable calls leave fans puzzled after Week 3

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 in the NFL is in the books, and after 16 games, eight teams continued their undefeated seasons, while sending seven programs into the win-less pit at 0-3 or 0-2-1.

There were many enticing stories up and down the slate of play. The rise of Minshew Mania and the 18-point comeback win for Daniel Jones in his first career start sparked hope in Jacksonville and New York, respectively.

Pat Mahomes and Lamar Jackson dueled to the very end in a showcase of premier AFC teams. Can’t forget about Teddy Bridgewater, who took care of business in his first start in several years by taking down a strong Seattle team on the road.
So many fun players, stories and plays throughout the week, but nothing was enjoyable enough to make us overlook the most horrendous story of the week: NFL coaching.

Several head coaches and play-callers made the job look easy this week, failing to make sensical calls that ended up handing their team a loss in embarrassing fashion. Even in 2019, where the league has taken favor to advanced analytics that show positive trends and provide insight on the best ways to manage games, a number of coaches looked like they were playing in the 1970s the way they handled business.

Take 68-year-old Pete Carroll, for example. His Seattle Seahawks have one of the best home-field advantages in the league, his quarterback is in the top tier of athletes this decade, and they’ve been the fourth-winningest team over the last decade. Sunday they hosted the 1-1 New Orleans Saints, who came in as heavy underdogs without their savior Drew Brees lining up in shotgun.

Already down 20-7 in the first half, Seattle received the ball on its own 21-yard line with just a hair under 30 seconds to play. The two options seemed as clear as day; either take a knee and go into the half, or attempt to get into field goal range aided by two timeouts in Carroll’s pocket. They did neither.

A short pass over the middle the field was completed, but the Seahawks didn’t use a timeout. By the time the next play was called there was only 10 seconds left, but that didn’t stop Russell Wilson from launching a 54-yard pass to wideout DK Metcalf. They found themselves at the 15-yard line after the impressive grab, but time had expired during the play and both teams headed to the locker room. The poor clock management left a minimum of three points on the board, which would’ve made their second-half comeback attempt a hair more realistic. Maybe his brain was still frazzled after being hit with a football during warm-ups.

Let’s pick on the new guy next, Mr. Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns, who made a number of questionable decisions but two that trumped the rest.

With nine minutes left in the game and the Browns trailing by four points, Cleveland kept its offense on the field for a fourth and nine attempt. With Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, most would expect a pass play in order to convert on the fourth-and-long chance. If not that, then maybe a little trickery with the offense pushing to the outside allowing lead blockers to help move the chains.

Instead, Kitchens — the innovative play-caller he was proclaimed to be — ran a draw play with running back Nick Chubb. Yes, the play that teams use as a sign of surrender on third-and-15 was implemented with the game on the line and it went just as expected — not well.

Kitchens wasn’t done yet, however, as he got another chance to prove his incompetency just a few minutes later when the Browns were faced with a first-and-goal scenario on the four-yard line with three timeouts. Not only did they give zero touches to Beckham Jr. or Chubb, they used their first time-out before running the fourth-down play that didn’t find the end zone.

Calling the timeout there meant the Browns wouldn’t be able to force Los Angeles to get a first down to seal the game, and eliminated their chances at seeing the ball again. Two very bad signs for the young coach with high expectations in the AFC North.

You would think Kitchens was as bad as it could get on Sunday, but you must’ve forgot about red-faced Bruce Arians and his clock management skills for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After surrendering an 18-point halftime lead to Danny Dimes and the G-Men, Bruce Arians needed a Hail Mary from Jameis Winston and his offense — and they got it. Winston connected with Mike Evans on a beautiful catch for a gain of 44 yards, quickly putting the Bucs in a position to kick a game-winning field goal and crush the dreams of the New York faithful.

Then Bruce got in the way. The 15-year coach intentionally took a delay of game penalty to move the football back five yards, saying he believed kicker Matt Gay kicks better further away from the goalposts.

Five yards was just too much, as Gay’s kick barely squeaked past the upright and lost them the game — with no doubt it would’ve gone through if he were five yards closer. An ugly decision by Arians and one that cost him a winning record, potentially putting another spell on kickers in Tampa for the foreseeable future.

Whether new or seasoned, the coaching in Week 3 was a horrendous reminder of how a game of inches can have so many fallacies at once. Those coaches propelled their teams to an 0-3 showing on Sunday, and an overall record of 4-6. Hopefully they all woke up Monday morning with a little more clarity so we can avoid humiliating losses like this in the coming weeks.