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.

Deshaun Watson had an up and down day. Tim Warner/Getty Images

So what does Bill O'Brien have in store for a Sunday encore in the clock management follies department? All's well that ends well for the Texans if another Billy Botch episode comes with another win. Get it and home games vs. the Panthers and Falcons make 4-1 a very legit possibility.

The Texans have a good shot to get the win in Los Angeles Sunday. They may have half the crowd rooting for them. The Chargers have the lamest homefield advantage in the NFL. L.A. has largely yawned at them since their move up the coast from San Diego. In their home opener the Chargers couldn't sell out the 27,000 seat soccer stadium serving as their temporary facility. Next season they move into the monument of wow and greed they'll share with the Rams. That place will hold about 70,000.

On the field it's a big game for the also 1-1 Chargers if they hope to hang with Kansas City in the AFC West race. The Chargers' three following games are at the joke Dolphins, then home vs. the not good Broncos and the Roethlisberger-less Steelers.

For the Texans, one major subplot is a constant. How porous will the offensive line be? Deshaun Watson has been sacked 10 times over the first two games. The Chargers have one of the NFL's better pass rushing duos in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. If the Texans can protect, opportunity knocks for big plays downfield with the Chargers down both of their starting safeties. Rookie All-Pro Derwin James is on injured reserve recovering from a broken foot, Adrian Phillips broke an arm last Sunday at Detroit.

Warm California sun

So if you were 300 strikeout man Gerrit Cole, what would you be thinking about re: 2020 and beyond? I mean after next month ideally helping the Astros win the World Series. And if you are the Astros what are you thinking?

In his two Astro seasons Cole has been tremendous. The ballclub is tremendous, and if Cole re-signs it that much more figures to stay tremendous for at least another couple of seasons. But Gerrit Cole is to become the most highly coveted free agent on the market. The low end of what he should be able to command is probably in the six years 150 million range. Heck, he could get seven years 250 million.

Next year the Astros payroll is set to soar into competitive balance tax territory. Meaning, in addition to the payroll itself, the Astros are looking at paying millions in penalties if they pay up to keep Cole. To counter that the Astros certainly could pivot and trade Zack Greinke. They basically will be open to giving away Josh Reddick and the 13 million he'll make in the final year of his contract.

Maybe Jim Crane and his partners say this is such a special era, we'll forego huge chunks of profits to keep this core together. That would be fantastic, but drawing a line on how far they'll go to keep Cole would not be miserly. Long term megadollar pitching contracts carry large risks. Cole turns 30 next season.

Cole grew up in Southern California. His wife too. It's where they live in the offseason. He went to high school under five miles from Angels Stadium and grew up an Angels fan. The Angels have a desperate need for starting pitching. Even with Cole though, the Angels can't essentially promise perennial contender status. But the Dodgers can, every bit as much as the Astros, and the Dodgers have much deeper pockets. If the Coles want to spend the rest of Gerrit's prime pitching years living year-round back home in SoCal, no one should take offense. Still, if the Astros’ bid is competitive when factoring in income tax rates, proven comfort level with the team, air conditioned comfort for home games…

Big weekend for Aggies

Better college football schedule this week after the garbage card of a week ago. The biggest game nationally is seventh ranked Notre Dame at number three Georgia. Big game for Texas A&M vs. Auburn at Kyle Field Saturday. The 17th ranked Aggies are three and a half point favorites over the eighth ranked team in the nation. A hard fought loss wouldn't be shameful, but would mean that with games yet to come vs. Alabama, at Georgia, and at LSU, the Ags would have to pull off at least one upset to finish better than 7-5. 75 million dollars to lure Jimbo Fisher were not spent to yield any 7-5 seasons.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Major Applewhite would have coached the Cougars to a 1-3 start much more economically for UH than Dana Holgorsen has. 2. The Tulane Green Wave wearing powder blue uniforms is just as dopey as the St. John's Red Storm and Duke Blue Devils wearing black. 3. Names that Houstonians should rule out for daughters: Bronze-Imelda Silver-Allison Gold-Alicia

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