Why the QB situation may prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West

The 49ers QB spot is a question mark

By: Andy Davies

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6) have more Super Bowl wins than the 49ers (5). The 49ers’ five Super Bowls all came between the years of 1981 and 1994. They have lost two since, in the 2012 and 2019 seasons. The quarterbacks that led the 49ers to the Lombardi Trophy were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Three of those five wins saw Montana as the starter and Young as the backup.

Young is seen by many as the best backup quarterback in history, considering the gold jacket that he earned despite many years as the backup to Montana. He would win a Super Bowl as the starter after the franchise moved on from Montana. Ever since Young decided to hang up his cleats, the 49ers have struggled to find his replacement. Have they found the guy in Trey Lance?

Perhaps, but here is why the quarterback situation involving Lance and current starter Jimmy Garoppolo could prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West during the 2021 season.

Struggles Since Young

Jeff Garcia was the man to come in for Young. During his five seasons in the Bay, he threw for 113 touchdowns and 56 interceptions as well as 16,408 passing yards. He had a 35-36 record as a starter for the 49ers in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the postseason, meaning he never hit the heights of his predecessor.

Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in 2005, shattering Aaron Rodgers’ dreams. However, he was a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. Colin Kaepernick replaced Smith and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a game often called the ‘Blackout Bowl’. Kaepernick failed to live up to the standards he set that season.

He would be kicked out of the league for taking the knee in a protest against police brutality in 2016. He has not played a snap in the NFL since. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He gave hope to the organization after winning all five of the games he started in 2017. The fanbase had hope going into the 2018 season.

Many non-49ers fans had San Francisco down as their dark horse for the season. A season-ending injury to Garoppolo in Week 3 saw the starting role shared between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. However, the 49ers finished 4-12 as they went into 2019 with the second overall pick. Nick Bosa was selected and transformed the defense of San Francisco and Jimmy G had the best season of his career. He threw for 3,978 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite these stats, Garoppolo saw his production limited in the NFC Championship game as the coaching staff decided to use more of their running game. This led to many questions leading to the Super Bowl. The 49ers threw away a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter as they would end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

Garoppolo was criticized heavily for an overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that would have given San Francisco back the lead. His 2020 season saw a mixture of poor form and injury. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to gain the number three overall pick. They took Lance with the pick, showcasing their intentions to eventually move off from Garoppolo. There is now talk of whether San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan will start Lance in week one. The other scenarios discussed are either Lance coming in mid-season or sitting out the whole campaign as the backup to Garoppolo. The uncertainty will have a significant impact on the 49ers’ season.

The Strength of the NFC West

This is a problem that will affect all four teams in the best division in the NFL. There is a chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Los Angeles has an exciting new quarterback in 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray that they would never dream of trading away. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is largely unpopular by fans, due to a mixture of the overthrown pass in the Super Bowl, his poor 2020 campaign and his injury record.

San Francisco has the least trusted quarterback in the division. With the position being one of the most crucial in all sports, it does not bode well for a team when there is uncertainty in the position. Garoppolo may be benched at some point during the season for Lance. However, the 49ers would be putting a rookie that will still be learning the system into the toughest division in the NFL.

Learning From Mahomes, Jackson, Tua and Burrow

If San Francisco are to help Lance succeed, they will need to take some lessons from recent draft classes. Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the best quarterback in the league, spent all but one game of his 2017 rookie season as a backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs then traded Smith the following offseason and Mahomes has never looked back. In his first three full seasons as a starter in the NFL, he has reached two Super Bowls, winning one. He has also been crowned MVP and Super Bowl MVP and reached three successive AFC Championship games. All three have been at home. On the flip side, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow started in week one of his rookie year. He wouldn’t last the season, only playing ten games before injury curtailed his first NFL campaign. He was impressive before his injury but there are no guarantees he will be the same player when he returns.

Lamar Jackson was a backup to Joe Flacco during his 2018 rookie year but won the starting role midseason. He has since gone on to win an MVP award and is the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins brought Tua Tagovailoa in mid-season but he struggled in his rookie season. He is seen to already be on the hot seat, with many feeling the Dolphins rushed him in. These examples all show there are reasons for the 49ers to be hasty when it comes to choosing when to bring Lance into the starting role.

Lance Or Garoppolo In 2021?

The 49ers will have to decide soon who their starter will be in 2021. Considering Lance has only played one full season (2019), he is likely to start the season as the backup. He only threw for a combined total of 31 passing attempts, two touchdowns and 1 interception across the 2018 and 2020 seasons, albeit the latter campaign being disrupted by the pandemic. He is likely to be a work in progress but his 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in 2019 mean that he is one for the future.

Garoppolo will likely start in week one but it was clear from the NFC Championship game that Shanahan doesn’t completely trust him.

Jimmy G is a capable quarterback but his health is a concern. Expect Garoppolo to remain as the starter provided the 49ers are winning games but for Lance to come in should Garoppolo either be injured or start the season poorly.

Should this happen, this will be the end of Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco. Depending on timing, he will then be traded either before the deadline or in the 2022 offseason.

Can The 49ers Returning Players Avoid A Repeat Of 2020?

This is key if the 49ers are to challenge for both the NFC West and the NFC. After earning the number one seed and reaching Super Bowl 54 during the 2019 campaign, San Francisco finished 6-10 in 2020 and bottom of the division. A ‘Super Bowl Hangover’ played its part but the main cause of such a decline was down to a colossal amount of injuries the team suffered. Along with the aforementioned Garoppolo, the 49ers also saw Bosa, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas miss large chunks of the 2020 season due to injury.

San Francisco had 33 players reported questionable and there were 186 occasions when the 49ers reported a player on injured reserve. They had the second-most injuries of any team in the NFL over the past twenty years. Should all these players come back, then this 49ers roster will be one of the best in the league. This will make life much easier for whoever the San Francisco starting quarterback is.

However, from the strength of the division to the uncertainty at quarterback, San Francisco will find it tough to win the NFC West.

Why Sean Payton is One of the Best Play Callers in NFL History

Saints head coach Sean Payton is one of the best offensive play callers

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Sean Payton is one of the best play-callers in NFL history for his effectiveness, creativity, and adaptability. His sustained success and many examples of designing an effective offense put him right in the mix with some of the legendary offensive minds like Bill Walsh and Air Coryell. Payton has been revolutionary with his schemes and has consistently had one of the top offenses in the NFL for his entire 15-year career as the head coach and play caller for the New Orleans Saints. His genius offensive mind is a big reason why he has an extremely impressive .631 career winning percentage.

Sustained Success

Payton has been the head coach of the New Orleans Saints since 2006 and has been the offensive play caller the entire time. His innovative designs and schemes have been the main reason why the Saints offense has consistently ranked towards the top of the NFL every season. In order from 2006 through 2020 their offense has ranked 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st, 6th, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, and 12th. That is an insanely consistent and impressive run that really speaks for itself. Besides being ranked 1st overall in offense for 6 of the 15 seasons, they have also never been outside of the top half including being in the top 10 in 14 seasons and the top 5 in 11 of them.

Maximizing Potential

One of the signatures to the success of Payton has been his ability to get the most out of the weapons that he has available to him. What makes him such an offensive genius is the fact that he can design an offense around the strengths of his roster rather than trying to get his players to fit his scheme. This is where he has been able to show off his creativity by designing a new offense not just from year to year, but sometimes even from week to week when necessary.

One of the many gifts Payton has been getting the most out of his players. He has been great at maximizing the potential out of the players available to him. The most recent example of this has been the unique ways that he has been able to utilize Taysom Hill. He has lined him up everywhere including quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and even special teams. Over the last three seasons, Hill has accumulated 22 touchdowns including 4 passing, 11 rushing, and 7 receiving.

Hill is an extremely unique talent and the type of player that can’t just be plugged into any offense and be effective. Payton has masterfully unlocked his potential into a solid contributor by specifically designing plays to fit his skillset. It’s highly unlikely that many other coaches, if any, would have been able to do that considering Hill was mostly viewed as a bust until Payton transformed him into what he is today. There have been other examples of this concept as well.

Darren Sproles is another player who Payton made into the best version of himself. Sproles spent 14 solid years in the NFL spread out between the Chargers, Saints, and Eagles but his 3 seasons with Payton in New Orleans was by far the best stretch of his career. His 3 best receiving seasons of his career were the 3 years he spent with the Saints from 2011 to 2013 when he recorded receiving yard totals of 710, 667, and 604 respectively. His career high in rushing yards of 603 also came in 2011 and 21 of his 55 career offensive touchdowns came during that 3 year stay in New Orleans. Payton is a master of maximizing potential and Sproles is an excellent example of that.

New Opportunity

Now that Drew Brees has retired, for the first time in his head coaching career Payton will enter the 2021 NFL season with a new starting quarterback. Those big shoes will be filled by either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston. Brees is of course a legend of the NFL and will easily be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so it is going to be very interesting to see the brand new offensive design by Payton without him. He does have strong weapons to work with, such as superstars Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, so this is a new opportunity for his creativity to shine once again. If Payton was to lose one of the best quarterbacks of all time this season, but still come up with one of the best offense in the league as he always has, it would just further solidify the fact that he is one of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history.

3 things to know about Norv Turner

What is most impressive about the offensive guru?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

Born in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 1952, Norv Turner has spent his whole life around football. Turner attended and played quarterback at the University of Oregon, where he went on to be a graduate assistant in 1975. Turner would then rise through the ranks of the college system until his eventual hire in the National Football League by the Los Angeles Rams. Turner worked around the league, winning super bowls as a coordinator before receiver head coaching offers. Though Turner never had sustained success as a head coach, he is thought of well in the league due to his history as a coordinator. Norv’s son, Scott Turner, is the current offensive coordinator for the Washington Football Team. 

West Coast Start

Turner’s beginnings are rooted on the West Coast of the United States. Immediately after graduating from Oregon, he spent a year working with their football program as a graduate assistant. Pac-12 rival USC poached Turner from Oregon, making him their wide receivers coach from 1976 to 1979. The Trojans promoted Turner to quarterbacks coach for the 1981-1983 seasons, then made him their offensive coordinator for the 1984 season. During Turner’s nine seasons with the Trojans, USC won three conference titles and one NCAA division one title. 

Turner’s achievements with USC made him a target by the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams hired Turner to coach their wide receivers. During his tenure with the Rams from 1985 to 1990, he also was an assistant coach. Due to the Rams’ progress during Turner’s time with them, he received an offer from the Dallas Cowboys to be their offensive coordinator. 

Success In Dallas

Norv Turner’s career took off while he coordinated the Dallas Cowboys offense. In 1990, the year before Turner joined Dallas, the Cowboys’ offense was dead last in the National Football League. They averaged 255.1 yards and 15.2 points per game. In Turner’s first year, the offense jumped to 9th in the league, averaging 318.8 yards and 21.4 yards per game. During the next two years of Turner’s time with Dallas, the Cowboys possessed a top-five offense. The electric Cowboys’ offense possessed multiple Hall of Famers, most notably Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. In his three-year stint with Dallas, the franchise would go on to compete in two Super Bowls against the Buffalo Bills, defeating them in both matches. 

Turner’s transformation of the Cowboys’ offense landed him a head coaching offer in 1994 with the Washington Redskins. 

Bounced Around The League

Following his time with the Cowboys, the division rival Redskins, now the Washington Football Team, hired him as their head coach. Turner served as Washington’s head coach from 1994 to 2000. His cumulative record as Washington’s coach was 49-59-1. Turner’s team reached the playoffs once during his seven-year tenure. The Redskins fired Norv Turner with three remaining games in the 2000 season, and he has the rare distinction of getting fired as a coach during the season despite a winning record. 

Turner landed an offensive coordinator gig the next season with the San Diego Chargers. Though he was not brought back for the 2001 season, he became the Chargers’ head coach before the 2007 season, and he held that title for six seasons. In his entire career, Turner had four head coaching regimes and served as the offensive coordinator for eight different NFL franchises. He is the only head coach to have a losing record despite winning over 100 games.

3 Teams That Should Look at Jim Harbaugh Next Season

Jim Harbaugh returning to NFL?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

It seems like every offseason since Jim Harbaugh left the NFL for the University of Michigan, his name comes up again when looking at head coaching vacancies. He was successful coaching at the pro level, making it all the way to the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, so it makes sense why he would be a speculative candidate for job openings. He is best known for bringing a culture of toughness to a locker room and is a great choice for a team looking to turn things around. Also, being a former quarterback himself, he provides expertise with that position as well.

When looking at potential fits for Harbaugh next offseason, a team in a transitional phase at the quarterback position while also relatively close to being competitive is probably the most ideal situation. It seems unlikely that he would even be interested in a full rebuild type of scenario. It’s also important to consider what teams could actually be in the market for a new head coach. All things considered, here are three teams that should consider him for their head coaching job next year if the situation calls for it.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are an interesting team heading into this upcoming season. They have a very good roster, including a ton of young talent at the skill positions on offense to go with a solid defense from top to bottom. Their one big question mark right now is at the quarterback position. Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock have both showed flashes of hope at times, but have also shown that they may be no better than a backup at other times. In the case of Lock, who is now entering his third season with the team, it’s fair to wonder if head coach Vic Fangio is getting the most out of the young quarterback.

This is likely going to be a “prove it” year for Fangio as the head coach, especially considering the talent on the roster. He has not been good enough through two seasons, going 8-8 and 4-12 respectively. If the team does not show significant improvement and does not show signs of a solution at quarterback, the Broncos could surely be in the market to replace him. The team is built and ready for a coach like Harbaugh if they do decide to go that route. He could help them with their quarterback situation, and potentially turn a talented roster into a winning organization.

Chicago Bears

Like the Broncos, the Bears are another team in an interesting situation heading into this upcoming season. They did make the playoffs last year, but their season was more of a disappointment than it was successful. They only finished with an 8-8 record, so the postseason appearance was more about the conference being weak than the Bears being good. This lead to them releasing their starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, but somehow head coach Matt Nagy survived and kept his job as head coach. He will be on very thin ice this year.

If the Bears struggle at all this year, it’s really hard to imagine any way that they will stick with Nagy. Another important factor with this team is the quarterback situation. They signed veteran Andy Dalton, but more importantly, they drafted their quarterback of the future in Justin Fields. Developing the rookie is the most important task for this team over the next couple of years, and that is where Harbaugh could bring some serious value. After all, Nagy already failed at this same mission with Trubisky, so he will need to show this year he is capable of handling a young quarterback if he wants to keep his job.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a team that is hoping they are near the end of their full rebuild. They finally have some young talent and some reasons to be optimistic. The biggest thing they have going for them is their second-year quarterback Joe Burrow. Before unfortunately getting injured during his rookie season, he was living up to the high expectations he had after his historic season at LSU and being selected first overall in the NFL Draft. He is now highly regarded as a future star in this league.

It is yet to be seen if first-time head coach Zac Taylor is even capable of developing a young stud like Burrow. If Taylor appears to stumble at any point this year in handling this situation, the Bengals may not hesitate to move on from him and to a head coach with a proven track record. This is where Harbaugh could step in. The team is going to do whatever they believe is best for the development of Burrow. At some point, the Bengals want to transition from a rebuilding team to a competitive team, and they need the right coach to do so. Taylor has a lot to prove he is capable of this year, and he can start by improving on his abysmal 6-25-1 record as a head coach.

Why Sean Payton Will Prove Again Why He is the Best Offensive Mind Without Drew Brees

Saints Sean Payton is a genius offensive play caller

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Sean Payton has consistently shown that he is the best offensive mind in the NFL since taking over as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Now entering his 15th full season in this role, he will face a brand new challenge. For the first time since getting the job, he will not have the luxury of Drew Brees at the quarterback position. That is of course because Brees officially retired this offseason.

This new situation provides Payton with an excellent opportunity to remind everyone around the league just how much of an offensive genius he is. Brees is a lock to be a first-ballot hall of famer, but Payton is ready to show that he can still run a highly productive offensive scheme without him. This will certainly be a challenge, especially considering the options on the current roster at quarterback including the swiss army knife Taysom Hill, the big arm but turnover machine Jameis Winston, journeyman backup Trevor Siemian, and newly drafted rookie Ian Book.

If anyone is up for the task of losing a legend at quarterback but not missing a beat on offense, it’s Sean Payton. His track record speaks for itself and his offensive rankings are beyond impressive. Here is why he will prove it again this year.

Offensive Production

The Saints have been an absolute offensive juggernaut since Payton took over as head coach. It may be easy to forget that Brees spent the first five years of his career with the Chargers, where he was a good quarterback but by no means the legendary one that he became with the Saints. The head coach and quarterback relationship is a very important one in the NFL, and few have been on the level of Payton and Brees. It was a match made in heaven, and their offensive rankings since becoming a tandem verify that.

In their 14 season run, the Saints offense ranked first in the NFL in total yards six times, was ten times in the top five, and only once finished outside of the top ten. Their scoring rankings are just as impressive, leading the NFL twice, including nine top fives and only twice finishing outside of the top ten. They were in the top five for passing yards in eleven straight seasons including being ranked first five times. Passing touchdown rankings are a similar story, leading the league twice and finishing in the top ten in all but two seasons. The list of offensive accomplishments goes on, but they have obviously been a powerhouse in the Payton era.

No Brees, No Problem?

That is the massive question that Payton will be looking to answer this season. He will be excited to embrace this new challenge and show off his brilliance. It’s an opportunity to quiet the doubters that may believe that the success of the Saints offensive has solely been due to the greatness of Drew Brees, rather than the collaborative efforts of the pair. Payton is an extremely creative schemer and play-caller, which he has demonstrated in the way he has utilized a unique player like Taysom Hill recently and Darren Sproles in the past, as well as unlocking the true weapon that Alvin Kamara has become and setting receiving records with Michael Thomas.

Do not sleep on the Saints offense no matter who is playing quarterback. They will certainly look different than they did with Brees, but different does not necessarily mean worse. This new set of circumstances will really get the creative juices flowing again for Payton, and it will be exciting to watch what he comes up with. If there were any doubt about the genius of Sean Payton before this upcoming season, it’s highly unlikely that there still will be when it’s over. Expect to see the new Saints offense towards the top of the league once again.

Why Jon Gruden has underperformed since arriving

3 disappointing years for Raiders HC Jon Gruden

By: Adam Hulse (Twitter: @AdamHulseSports)

The Raiders had very high expectations when they lured Jon Gruden away from the broadcast booth and made him their head coach. Mark Davis, the owner, gave Gruden a 10-year contract worth 100 million dollars. This is one of the biggest contracts in history, and one that should come with an expectation of winning. That has not been the case to this point. In fact, despite the records, it can be argued that the team is even worse off now than it was when he first got the job. Here are some of the reasons why Gruden is failing in Las Vegas.

Poor Results

The most simple way to judge the success of a coach is by looking at their record. In the past 3 seasons with the Raiders, Gruden has only 19 wins and 29 losses. This is a very ugly winning percentage that is below 40 percent. In fact, none of the 3 seasons have been winning seasons, and the Raiders have missed the playoffs all 3 years. The legendary Al Davis, the former owner of the Raiders, had the very famous motto of, “Just win, baby!” It’s safe to say that Gruden has not lived that motto so far.

Roster Decisions

In addition to all of the money Davis gave Gruden, he also gave him the power to collaborate with GM Mike Mayock about player personnel decisions. The moves that this tandem has made in these 3 years have been questionable at best. First, they traded away their two best players in Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Then they chose the wrong “veteran impact players” such as Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict, who provided zero leadership and are no longer with the team.

One of the most puzzling things they have done happened during this current offseason. They released three of their starting offensive lineman from a year ago and traded another away. To make it even worse, the one they traded away, Trent Brown, is a solid tackle who is in the prime of his career at just 27 years old. In return, they received nothing more than a fifth-round draft pick. That is extremely poor value.

Questionable Draft Picks

Though drafting is a collaborative effort, Gruden has the final say in Las Vegas when making their selection. In his three drafts, the results have been mixed and the strategy seems off. He has reached on several picks and completely missed on others. Last year he selected Henry Ruggs over both Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. It’s only been one season but so far that looks to be a big mistake. At least Ruggs has not been a complete failure, he does show some big-play ability, and he is nowhere near the worst pick for Gruden. His list of bad choices when selecting in the top 100 include Damon Arnette, Arden Key, Lynn Bowden, Jonathan Abram, PJ Hall, and Tanner Muse. All of these players clearly qualify as draft busts.

Divisional Competition

There isn’t much of a case to be made that the Raiders are a better team heading into the 2021 season than they were a year ago. The same can’t be said about the other three teams in the division, and because of this, the AFC West is going to be a major challenge. The Chiefs, who were already not only the best team in the division but in the whole conference as well, improved even further by upgrading their offensive line. The other two teams, the Broncos and the Chargers, have made moves this offseason to improve their roster and provide optimism for the upcoming campaign. It appears that the only team in this division that has not taken a step forward is the Raiders.

Changing the Narrative

On the positive side for Gruden, despite the losing overall record and questionable roster moves, the Raiders record has actually improved each season since he arrived. If that trend were to continue, they should have a winning season this year and would likely make the playoffs. The issues presented by his decisions are going to make that very difficult, but of course, it’s not impossible. Now officially in the middle portion of that long ten-year contract, it’s time for Gruden to prove whether or not he was worth the investment.

Three NFL Offensive Coordinators With Head Coaching Potential

Will Buccaneers Byron Leftwich Become a Head Coach?

Seven NFL franchises hired new NFL coaches for the 2021 season, and a trend started to emerge between the highers. Of the seven, five come from offensive backgrounds, and four were coordinators on the offensive side of the ball this past season.

This follows a trend that the NFL has been heading down for years. Teams will line up for the coaches that can help them light up the scoreboard. If you have a track record of doing a lot on offense with very little, helping young quarterbacks reach their potential, or producing consistent, immense offensive success, you’re bound to receive a head coaching offer at some point. It’s the way the league works.

And next head coaching cycle should be more of the same. So get yourself ahead of the game, and read up on three current offensive coordinators who could be potential head coaches in 2022.

Mike McDaniel — San Francisco 49ers 

If you don’t already know who he is, allow me to introduce you to Mike McDaniel, the San Francisco 49ers’ brand new first-year offensive coordinator, but a coach with an impressive bit of history with the team already.

McDaniel has been with the 49ers going on five seasons now, spending his previous four specializing in operating the San Francisco running game. In 2017, he served the role of the team’s running game specialist. Since 2018, he’s been the team’s running game coordinator.

The reason that’s special? The San Francisco rushing attack, since McDaniel’s involvement in the running game, has been one of the best units in the league, peaking in 2019 at second in team rushing yards and eighth in yards per carry. Perhaps even more impressive, the 49ers have done it all without the help of a star running back, using an amalgam of forgotten free-agent running backs over the years to do the team’s bidding, relying on names like Matt Brieda and Raheem Mostert.

Even with a down season in 2020, the 49ers’ offense was plagued by injuries throughout the season to their running backs, quarterbacks, and offensive line. He’s been trusted enough with the departure of the team’s passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur to run the offense as the team’s dedicated offensive coordinator. And if he continues his typical level of success, the next stop for him will be a head coaching job.

Byron Leftwich — Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The only possible knock against Leftwich’s possible potential as a head coach is his lack of coaching experience, as the former quarterback has been on the coordinating side of the game for just three seasons. 

But Leftwich’s immense success during those three seasons makes the small sample size easy to ignore. Not only is his Tampa Bay offense coming off of a Super Bowl run, one where Leftwich called the plays, but they got there in large part due to an offense that finished third in points per game, and seventh in yards per game.

In fact, even without the help of Tom Brady under center back in 2019, Leftwich’s offenses still thrived, once again ranking third in points per game, and third in yards as well just one season prior.

Leftwich, in just three seasons, has proven his immense value as a coach and play-caller. With back-to-back seasons ranking in the top five in points per game culminating in a Super Bowl win, the resume is too impressive to not attract a bit of head coaching attention in the immediate future.

Brian Daboll — Buffalo Bills 

Saving the most obvious, and perhaps the best coordinator on this list for last. Not only did the Buffalo Bills offense thrive to the tune of 31.3 points per game, good for second in the NFL, in 2020 under Daboll’s guidance, but the Bills OC pulled off something of a miracle last season, one that will have NFL franchises lining up for his services.

What Daboll did was help to turn around the career of the young quarterback Josh Allen, who went from the league’s most inaccurate passer in 2019, to a legitimate MVP candidate throughout the season in 2020. After never having a season completing over 59% of his throws, Allen ascended in 2020 to hit 69.2%, all while throwing for a career-high in yards and touchdowns.

Credit Allen, of course, for his ascending to another level of play. But Daboll’s influence is hard to look past. The coordinator helped create a scheme that helped his young quarterback thrive, turning him from a potential draft bust to a franchise hero. For teams with young quarterbacks across the league, a success story like Daboll with Allen should get the Bills’ OC attracting head coaching offers in no time.

Five NFL Head Coaches Worth Trading For

Could an NFL head coach be traded?

Before the 2021 free agency period even began, and well before the 2021 Draft, the league saw a fair share of blockbuster trades set to shake up the fortunes of a few franchises. 

The Los Angeles Rams shipped away their former first-overall pick, quarterback Jared Goff, for the Lions’ Matthew Stafford. The Colts traded for Carson Wentz. Rumors still swirl about a potential trade for Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson. And no matter what happens next, each of these trades will be franchise changers. 

But franchise changers can be found beyond the quarterback position, even beyond the football field. Perhaps even more than a good quarterback, a good head coach can change the tides of a team, in some cases, doing so overnight. For a coach like that, teams should be willing to give up a king’s ransom to bring them into the organization.

Here are a few names at the head coaching spot good enough to consider trading for.

Honorable Mentions: 

John Harbaugh, Ravens

John Harbaugh isn’t the league’s most lauded head coach. He isn’t the winningest guy in the league, and the Baltimore Ravens, while an elite team now, haven’t always been legitimate Super Bowl threats in the league. 

But John Harbaugh has something that few coaches in the league have, an ability and willingness to adapt his schemes to his personnel. Letting Lamar Jackson do Lamar Jackson things in the NFL set the quarterback an MVP track in 2019, and turned the Ravens into a powerhouse franchise at the same time.

Mike Tomlin, Steelers

Mike Tomlin gets some heat for not being able to maximize his talent, missing the Super Bowl and failing to win the AFC despite half a decade of an All-Pro LeVeon Bell at running back, and two future Hall of Fame players in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a model of consistency stronger than Tomlin’s coaching tenure. Not once in his 14-year head coaching career has Tomlin seen over a losing season, and in nine of those seasons, Tomlin’s Steelers have hit over double-digits. He’s a steady hand capable of turning a roster into a winning franchise.

Matt LaFleur, Packers

Matt LaFleur is on pace to be an all-time great. A head coach for just two seasons, LaFleur’s Packers have already been to two NFC Championships on two 13-3 seasons.

LaFleur’s success is hard to argue. Even with one of the best to play the quarterback position manning the Green Bay offense, the 41-year old head coach’s influence is clear, leading the Packers to their first two-season stretch of 13 or more wins since 1996-97. But his experience is still limited, his teams have still stalled out in the playoffs, and he’s still working with more talent than most rosters have to offer.

Give him a few more years though, and LaFleur could be one of the biggest names in the league, coach or player. 

The Five Coaches:

Bill Belichick, Patriots

There are plenty of good NFL head coaches. There are far fewer proven elite NFL head coaches. There are even fewer Canton-bound head coaches. But there is only one Bill Belichick.

Belichick’s legacy is not up for debate, it simply cannot be. A head coach with 26 seasons of experience,  who has won as many Super Bowls as he has losing seasons, who has reached double-digit wins in 19 seasons, cannot be touched.

Forget any arguments of Tom Brady carrying Belichick’s teams. Brady might be the greatest of all time for what he does, but for everything that he’s accomplished for over a quarter-century worth of coaching, Belichick has earned that title as well.

The Patriots, led by Belichick, have been an untouchable dynasty for two decades—in a league built for parity among the NFL’s 32 franchises. He means more than any coach ever has, and maybe more than most players mean as well.

Brian Flores, Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins were not supposed to be a good team in 2020. With a rookie quarterback plagued by injury-concerns, a supporting cast with just one pass-catcher over 600 yards the year before, an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in 2019, and the 32nd ranked scoring defense, at best, the Dolphins were a year away from being a year away.

And yet, the Miami Dolphins didn’t just beat their minimal expectations, they shattered them. That dead-last scoring defense jumped to the sixth-best group in the league in 2020. An offensive line that allowed 58 sacks the year before gave up just 34 the following year. And the team as a whole took a massive step forward, reaching the 10-6 mark for the first time since 2016.

Call it the Brian Flores effect, who, despite just two years on the job, has been overachieving from the moment he arrived.

That 2019 Dolphins team, even with their growing pains, thrived relative to what people were expecting from them. A franchise that traded young stars for draft picks and cut older contributors made themselves the poster-children for NFL tank jobs, except, they didn’t do a great job at it. A roster as starved for talent as Miami’s was could have easily finished 0-16. Instead, they won five games.

Once again, the Brian Flores effect.

The Dolphins were supposed to be historically bad in 2019. Instead, they were passible. They were supposed to be passible in 2020. Instead, they were good enough to win 10 games. Now that they’re expected to be a good team, who knows where Flores can take them.

Sean McVay, Rams

Sean McVay has become the prototype for what NFL coaches are supposed to be. Young, open-minded, and above all else, offense-oriented. He’s the kind of coach that franchises are lining up and tripping over themselves to hire.

And why wouldn’t he be? The four-year head coach has morphed the Los Angeles Rams franchise from the pinnacle of mediocrity into a powerhouse overnight, finishing with winning seasons in each of his four years, and winning the NFC in 2018.

But it’s been more than establishing a winning culture for McVay. The 35-year old’s offenses are already stuff of legend, finishing top two in scoring in his first two seasons, and never ranking lower than 11th in yards per game. McVay’s offenses have been so successful and so user-friendly that just two seasons ago, now-Lions quarterback Jared Goff was being talked about as a legitimate MVP candidate— two years removed from him posting a dreadful rookie campaign before McVay’s hire.

There’s a reason McVay already has a wide-branching coaching tree. Teams want to find the next young, open-minded, offense-oriented coach to lead a franchise. But nobody does it quite like McVay.

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers

Although, McVay isn’t the only young, open-minded, offense-oriented head coach with a coaching tree after just a few short seasons in the league. In fact, the early careers of Kyle Shanahan and McVay have followed eerily-similar paths up to this point.

Shanahan inherited a 2-14 49ers team four seasons ago, and has since turned them into a force in the NFL when fully healthy, doing so with, similar to McVay, quarterback play that has looked above average at best, and detrimental at worst.

Despite just one winning campaign through four seasons as a head coach, the impact Shanahan has had on the 49ers is unquestionable. It’s been his offensive system that led Jimmy Garoppolo to a 69% completion percentage, 27 touchdown, NFC championship season in 2019. That system’s effects are seen across the roster as well, giving Garopollo’s backup Nick Mullens the second-most passing yards through 16 starts in NFL history.

Shanahan has managed that level of efficiency from his quarterbacks, all without the help of household names at the skill positions, relying on running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson to lead the team in rushing, with Kendrick Bourne and the rookie Brandon Aiyuk leading the team in receiving. The head coach has shown an ability to elevate the talent around him, and has been the most important piece in the 49ers’ resurgence to relevancy. 

Andy Reid, Chiefs

The Super Bowl-winning, cheeseburger-eating, 22-year aged-veteran of the head coaching game rounds out the list. Despite being on the older side relative to McVay and Shanahan, Andy Reid has shown time and time again that he still has his fastball.

Reid’s ability to assemble a winning team year after year rivals Belichick’s, as the last time the Chiefs’ head coach finished with fewer than 10 wins was back in 2014, just his second season in Kansas City. 

Reid now has Patrick Mahomes at quarterback to make the job easier, but the coach has been winning games and dominating the league since long before Mahomes’ arrival to the spotlight. He got the best out of former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, whose only three Pro Bowls came while coached by Reid. He’s maximized the talent around the offense as well, finishing no lower than sixth in either points or yards per game since 2017.

Now that he has a Super Bowl ring to his name, and presumably more to come, Reid’s legacy as a Hall of Fame coach has been cemented. But he’s far from washed up, and proves time and time again to be one of the most valuable pieces of the Kansas City Chiefs operation.

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