Falcon Points

Ranking the AFC South head coaches

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Ranking coaches can be a purely subjective exercise. Wins and losses are an easy way to keep score, but they don't always tell the whole story. It's made even more difficult by the fact that two of the coaches have only been on the job for a year. So these rankings could look a lot different at the end of the season. We analyze them based on win percentage, playoff success, success as a coordinator, success hiring assistants. With that in mind, here we go...

4) Mike Vrabel, Titans

Record: 9-7, one season.

Win percentage: .563.

Playoff success: None.

Coordinator success: Vrabel had one season as Texans DC, and it was a disaster.

Assistants: Too early to tell, but Dean Pees on the defensive side is a longtime NFL assistant with a lot of success. Arthur Smith is in his first year as OC after Matt Lafleur was poached by the Packers for head coach. Much of Vrabel's success might be defined by how Smith does with quarterback Marcus Mariota, who needs a big season.

Bottom line: Vrabel has been well thought of in the coaching community and his reputation probably exceeds his ability. His one year as DC, the Texans had a terrible season. The Titans have talent, especially on defense, and a step forward from 9-7 would bump him on the list.

3) Bill O'Brien, Texans

Record: 42-38, five seasons.

Win percentage: .525.

Playoff success: 1-4 in the postseason. The only win was against a Raiders team with a backup QB.

Coordinator success: He is part of the Bill Belichick tree, so he got to coach Tom Brady. That doesn't require a ton of skill.

Assistants: He has mismanaged his assistants throughout his coaching career. He hired a legendary DC in Romeo Crennel, then kicked him upstairs to give Vrabel a shot, and that was a failure, so he returned Crennel to the role last year. He has gone back and forth between being the offensive coordinator himself and hiring under qualified coaches. He has stubbornly stuck with Mike Devlin as his offensive line coach, even as every linemen they have brought in has failed to improve or in fact regressed as players.

Bottom line: O'Brien is not a bad coach. But his stubbornness limits his ability to take the next step. He has chased off two GMs, mismanaged his assistants, and has continued to build a power base he has yet to earn. He also mishandled his quarterbacks, and now that he has one, his scheme does not protect the player well enough. O'Brien could be a good coach. Hiring a successful OC for a different voice would go a long way. But O'Brien believes he knows best, and that stubbornness will likely keep him stuck in the 9-7 zone.

2) Doug Marrone, Jaguars

New York Jets v Jacksonville Jaguars

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Record: 31-35, four seasons plus two interim games.

Win percentage: .470.

Playoff success: He is 2-1 in the playoffs, leading the Jags to the AFC Championship game in his first season. He has taken his team farther in the postseason than any of the other coaches.

Coordinator success: He was OC of the Saints in the mid-2000s before getting the top job at Syracuse and then the Bills. The Saints offense is run by Sean Payton, so it is hard to gauge the impact, but New Orleans had very good offenses during his tenure.

Assistants: Marrone fired OC Nathaniel Hackett last season as the Jags fell off the map after throwing a scare into the Patriots in 2017 in the AFC Championship game. Someone had to be a scapegoat for a season that saw the Jags derailed by injury. Todd Wash has been a solid DC for four years.

Bottom line: Marrone has had the most postseason success, and he also had a winning season in Buffalo, which is no easy feat. The win percentage could be better, but he did have one disaster season, which skewers things. He almost certainly will move up or down the list based on this season. He could be No. 1 or out of a job. He has a new QB in Nick Foles, and if Leonard Fournette can stay healthy, the offense should rebound. The defense fell off last season as well, but a return to form could lead to another successful season and perhaps a bump up the rankings.

1) Frank Reich, Colts

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts

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Record: 10-6, one season.

Win percentage: .625.

Playoff success: 1-1 last season, including a win over O'Brien and the Texans.

Coordinator success: He was well thought of after stints as OC with the Chargers and the Eagles, including winning the Super Bowl with Philly. He helped develop Carson Wentz, and Andrew Luck had arguably his best season under Reich.

Assistants: Matt Eberflus appears to be a solid hire at DC, as he improved the unit in his first year. Nick Siriani is the OC, and he did well in year 1.

Bottom line: It's only been one season, but Reich came in with the most success as a coordinator of any of the coaches in the division, and he did not disappoint in his first season, knocking off the Texans in the playoffs. He will face a tougher task this year with Luck's retirement, but it's unlikely the Colts fall into disaster territory.

Mediocrity abounds

The coaches in the division hardly get a ton of respect. In a recent NFL.com ranking, Reich was the highest rated at No. 12. Marrone came in at 18, O'Brien 19 and Vrabel 20. Reich clearly has the highest upside. The hardest was separating O'Brien and Marrone, but the playoff success tipped it. The NFL rankings clearly show the lack of respect nationally for the group, which is warranted at this point. But Reich has a chance - especially if he can win without Luck - to continue to move up the overall rankings. As for O'Brien? More than any of the coaches, we know what he is. Not a bad coach, but a limited one.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

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With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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