All I could think about while watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominate Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, was how quickly “fads” come and go in the NFL. Just two years ago, Sean McVay, the newly minted Rams head coach, was all the talk in the NFL. After leading them to a Super Bowl appearance in his second season, coach-less teams began to look desperately for their version of Scott McVay. Cincinnati went out and signed McVay’s quarterback coach in Los Angeles, Zac Taylor. Green Bay moved on from Mike McCarthy and got a signature from McVay’s offensive coordinator during his first year in Los Angeles, Matt Lafleur.
The point I’m getting at is that the NFL changes so much every year, that fads come and go. When offenses were lighting up the scoreboard during the early to mid-2000’s, everybody around the NFL was trying to figure out how to stop guys like Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, who were throwing the ball all over the field like it was a schoolyard pick-up game. Then, in 2013, the Seattle Seahawks devised a defensive game-plan that was led by the infamous “Legion of Boom,” to stop air raid attacks. Peyton Manning was absolutely destroying defenses in his second year in Denver. They set an NFL record by scoring fifty or more four times, and four of their receivers all had ten touchdowns each. Manning would go on to win the NFL MVP for the fifth time, beating out LeSean McCoy, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees. He also beat out Seahawks signal-caller, Russell Wilson for the award.
In Super Bowl XLVIII, Manning would face-off against Wilson once again, this time Wilson getting the better of Manning. Wilson finished the game 18-25, for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Manning was under pressure all night and finished the game going 34-49, for 280 yards, and one touchdown, but two interceptions. Malcolm Smith and Kam Chancellor both had interceptions, and Malcolm Smith took home the MVP of the game, who had 10 tackles, one fumble recovery, and pick-6, and one pass defended.
After the offensive game changed so much in the NFL in the mid-2010’s, Seattle’s defensive game-plan was now the blueprint for how to stop offenses, thus forcing other teams to seek defensive specialist as head coach. The Vikings went out and got Mike Zimmer, who was the Cincinnati defensive coordinator in 2013. The Cleveland Browns hired Mike Pettine who had been a defensive coordinator for the Bills in 2013, and the Jets before that. After parting ways with the Bears after nine years, Lovie Smith signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, there were a few teams out there that shook it up during that period. The Washington Football Team hired Jay Gruden after he did wonders with the Bengals offense in 2013. The Lions looked towards Jim Caldwell, who had been in the NFL coaching offenses since 2001. The Titans, thought they got the guy for the job in Ken Wisenhunt, but he only lasted 23 games after losing 20 of them. The other note-worthy hiring that summer, was the Texans plucking Bill O’Brien from Penn State, and well, we all know how that has turned out.
The fads in the NFL didn’t change much before 2017, as the great mastermind, Bill Belichick beat the Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl 49. In Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning went out on top as his Broncos defeated Cam Newton and the Panthers 24-10. New England would go on to win another Super Bowl over the Falcons, staging an incredible comeback, to win in overtime, 34-28.
In 2017, everything changed. McVay was hired, and he posted a great 11-5 record in his first season on the job. With second-year signal caller, Jared Goff, under center, the Rams led the NFL in points scored, and finished tenth in total offensive yards. They would go on to lose to the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs. However, the league took note of McVay’s incredible first year. McVay also set the stage for a new group of very young coaches in the NFL.
In 2018, the Rams were again, very good. McVay led them to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl birth. Goff would have a tremendous third year, being at the top of the MVP talk for most of the year. On top of that, Todd Gurley, the bruising back from Georgia, had a great year as well, He would rush for 1,251 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns. He also caught 59 passes for 580 yards and four more scores. The Rams and McVay would go on to play in the Super Bowl versus Tom Brady and the Patriots. Many were expecting a high scoring affair, with the over-under in Vegas set at 56.5. However, the game could not have gone any more different. The Rams were held touchdown-less and would eventually fall to the Patriots 13-3 in an incredibly boring affair.
Once again, Bill Belichick saw the new fad rising in college football, and he did what he needed to do to defeat it. However, just with the flip of a switch, there was another change coming in the NFL, and his name was Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes was drafted by the Chiefs with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Mahomes was a gun-slinger at Texas Tech, under then head coach, Kliff Kingsbury. Mahomes finished his college career with over 11,250 passing yards for 93 touchdowns and just 29 interceptions. Mahomes got his first start of his career in his rookie season, after the Chiefs had clinched a playoff birth, and sat starter Alex Smith. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory over the Denver Broncos. Mahomes was 22-35 for 284 yards and one interception.
In 2019, the legend of Patrick Mahomes became a reality. The second-year quarterback had a whopping second season in the NFL. He led the Chiefs to an 11-3 record in fourteen starts. He also decided it was time to set some NFL records, so he did that as well in his second season. During the 2018-2019 season, Mahome’s first as a starter, he was a machine. He passed for over 5,000 yards and had fifty touchdowns. On top of that he only threw 12 interceptions and added two running touchdowns. The Chiefs would go on to lose to the New England Patriots in the playoffs, who would win the Super Bowl to begin 2019. However, Patrick Mahomes left quite the first impression on NFL viewers that season.
Mahomes was named NFL MVP in 2018-2019, after setting multiple NFL records in his second season. However, the great mind of Bill Belichick once again thwarted this fad as well, but not completely. As offenses in the NFL were changing quickly, they needed a guy like Patrick Mahomes. However, he was a Chief, so they had to settle for the next best thing, the man who made Patrick Mahomes.
Kliff Kingsbury had just come off of a 5-7 season at Texas Tech, but things were looking up for him. Kingsbury had recently just gotten hired as USC’s offensive coordinator, a huge boost up from Texas Tech. However, in December, reports were circling around that Kingsbury was a possible head coaching candidate for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals. After taking the USC job, he resigned only a month later, and was named the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The year before, the Cardinals had drafted UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen to be their quarterback of the future, however, Kingsbury had other ideas in mind. Kyler Murray had just won the Heisman Trophy after his season at Oklahoma. He was a big question in the draft, because of his short frame. However, Kingsbury said he wanted him, so the Cardinals traded Rosen to Miami for a second round pick, and drafted Kyler Murray as their quarterback of the future.
In his first year in Arizona, Kyler and Kingsbury dealt with some growing pains as they finished with a 5-10-1 record. Murray finished his rookie season with 3,722 passing yards for 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ran in four scores on the ground. All in all, the Kingsbury-Murray pairing seemed like a great fit for the long term. In Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid’s case, they went on to win Super Bowl LIV, beating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.
The Chiefs opened the 2020-2021 NFL season as odds on favorites to win their second consecutive Super Bowl, and for most of the season it seemed that way. During the regular season, they finished with a 14-2 record, and were the first seed in the AFC. Mahomes had another great year in 2020 throwing 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Mahomes and the Chiefs had agreed upon a new ten-year contract extension, worth $503 million. At the time it was the largest contract in American Professional Sports, surpassing Mike Trout’s 12-year $426.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Chiefs cruised through the regular season, and had the first seed in the AFC locked up by week 16. In week 17, Mahomes rested and the Chiefs fell to the Chargers 38-21, in a game that pretty much fell upon deaf ears. The Chiefs got a first round bye with the new NFL Playoff format, and would take on the upstart Cleveland Browns in the divisional round at Arrowhead Stadium. The Browns were having themselves a tremendous year, and had just beated their rival Steelers, two weeks in a row, the latter being a 48-37 win in the wild-card round of the NFL Playoffs. However, the Browns had gotten lucky and caught the Steelers on an off night, but surely they were no match for the giants that were Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
In the divisional game, the Chiefs jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after a Mahomes touchdown run, and a Harrison Butker missed extra point. The Browns would go on to get a field goal in the first half, but that was it as the Chiefs led at the break 19-3. Things got worse for the Browns as the second half started. Baker Mayfield threw his first interception of the game, trying to get a ball to Jarvis Landry. Chiefs All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, stepped in front of Landry and returned the ball to the Browns 19. However, the Browns were given a breath of fresh air after Harrison Butker missed a 33-yard field goal off the uprights to keep the score at 19-3. Mahomes would end up leaving the game in the third quarter after he was tackled by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson. He was diagnosed with a concussion and the Chiefs went on to outlast the Browns thanks to a huge Chad Henne third-down run, 22-17. When questioned during the week about his concussion, he down-played it and would suit up for the AFC Championship Game versus the Bills. The Chiefs would end up winning, and Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns. However, even though they were headed to a second consecutive Super Bowl, the chinks in the armor were beginning to show.
Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers would outlast Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship game, sending Brady to his tenth Super Bowl. Brady had been the offensive catalyst for the Bucs all year, and the defens was hard-hitting and would maul you. They matched up very well with the Chiefs receiving corps, as they have three young corners in Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Carlton Davis. This is where our story takes it’s final turn into the home stretch.
Tampa was able to get pressure on Mahomes all night, and the Chiefs had some costly penalties, which meant a half-time deficit of 21-6. In the second half the Chiefs received the kick and cashed in on a 52-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to make the score 21-9. Halfway through the third quarter, Bucs running back Leonard Fournette busted into the open field and hit pay-dirt, giving the Bucs a 28-9 advantage. About four minutes later, another roung secondary player for the Bucs made a huge play. Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off a Mahomes pass, all but sealing the game towards the end of the third quarter. Ryan Succop, Tampa Bay kicker, would go on to hist a 52-yarder of his own, for the final score of the game. In the end Tom Brady won his tenth Super Bowl, and the Chiefs have a critical off-season ahead.
Mahomes would finish the game with a passer rating of 52.3 was the lowest of his career. He also failed to score for the first time in his career. The Bucs defense during the playoffs was incredible. They had to go through a gauntlet of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and now Patrick Mahomes to get their ring. Brees was 19-34 for 134 yards and three interceptions against the Bucs defense. Aaron Rodgers couldn’t fine the end zone when he needed to most in the NFC Championship Game. This season the Buccaneers finished sixth in total defense in the NFL, and overcame three Hall-of-Famers on the way to their Super Bowl ring. Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David were tremendous off the edges and in pass coverage. Devin White, the punishing linebacker from LSU had a great game, managing twelve tackles and one game-sealing interception.
So, just like that, we’re back to the same spot we were after the Super Bowl in 2019, when Brady shut down another NFL fad. So is it Tom Brady, or is it just how quickly the NFL evolves to take on new challenges? While, yes, Tom Brady is the greatest of all-time, this was just another short fad in the NFL. I do expect this one to keep going for a while, as offenses are only getting faster, and the rules are favored towards the offense. However, after Brady put down the new-look Rams in 2019, and how he effortlessly guided Tampa Bay to their second Super Bowl, the fads in the NFL will continue, most likely forever. The real question is, what is the true answer here? You have teams like the Carolina Panthers, who just hired former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule then lured Joe Brady to become his offensive coordinator, after Brady had a record setting year at LSU as the passing game coordinator. The Brown hired former offensive coordinator of the Vikings, Kevin Stefanski, before this past season. Stefanski himself re-shaped the Browns, and won the AP NFL Coach of the Year.
It’s impossible to tell which way teams are going to lean during these next two to three years. The Falcons just hired former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith. On the other hand, after giving up on Matt Patricia, the Lions went defense first and hired former Rams defensive coordinator Dan Campbell. To end another fabulous season of NFL football, I present to you my coaches to look out for in the coming years, already hired or not.
- Robert Saleh – Jets Head Coach (Former 49ers Defensive Coordinator 2017-2020): Robert Saleh has been waiting for his chance for a couple years now. I was incredibly surprised he didn’t take another job after the 49ers Super Bowl run last year. During the 2019 season, Saleh’s 49er defense was sixth in the league in turnovers forced (27), second in total defense (281.8 Yards Per Game), first in passing defense (169.2 YPG), and fourth in sacks (48). He seems like a guy to me who is going to try and rebuild the Jets from the defense up, starting with the secondary. They have three pieces already in safeties Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis. Bryce Hall is a young corner who could develop in the right system. On top of that, Brian Poole, when healthy, is pretty good in the slot. If Saleh doesn’t love Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, look for them to trade down a bit to grab an offensive play-maker, or a front seven defensive player. Predicted New Record: 5-11 (Fail to Qualify for Playoffs, Four-Five Years from Super Bowl Contention)
- Urban Meyer – Jaguars Head Coach (Former Ohio State Head Coach 2012-2018): Surprise, surprise! Urban Meyer is still not done coaching football. He signed on with the Jaguars this winter, and Jacksonville is in better shape than one might expect. They will draft Trevor Lawrence, barring something crazy, who is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. They have some young defensive stars in cornerback C.J. Henderson, linebacker Myles Jack, and defensive end Josh Allen. The Jaguars are closer to contention than the Jets, but not by too much. Predicted New Record: 6-10 (Fail to Qualify for Playoffs, Two-Four Years from Super Bowl Contention)
- Brandon Staley – Chargers Head Coach (2020 Rams Defensive Coordinator Under McVay 2020): What a meteoric rise it’s been for new Chargers head coach Brandon Staley. Just six years ago he was the defensive coordinator for the division three John Carroll Blue Streaks. However, McVay went out and hired him this past off-season, and what a season it was for Staley. This year the Rams were first in the NFL in points allowed, and first in total yards allowed. The Chargers have a lot of young pieces ready to go right now. Quarterback Justin Herbert was named NFL Rookie of the Year. Joey Bosa and Derwin James are two of the top five players at their position in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how well the offense performs next year, because their defense will be very good. Predicted New Record: 9-7 (Fail to Qualify for Playoffs, Two Years from Super Bowl Contention)
- Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern Wildcats Current Head Coach: Yes, I know. Fitzgerald isn’t in the NFL yet, but I have a feeling it’s coming in the next one-two years. Fitzgerald interviewed with the Packers two years ago, and declined to interview for the Carolina Panthers job this past off-season. The obvious NFL choice for Fitgerald is the Chicago Bears. Matt Nagy is the current head coach in Chicago, but that could come to an end before the next season is even half-way over. Nagy was hired as an offensive guru to give the Bears offense some new life. However, he has wasted the career of Mitchell Trubisky, and the offense is tough to watch. If Fitzgerald didn’t get a call this year, he will definitely be getting a couple next year. Predicted New Record: N/A (Northwestern 9-3, Two Years From NFL Head Coaching Position)
- David Shaw – Current Stanford Head Coach: If we’re being honest, Shaw should have left for the NFL in 2016 when Christian McCaffery did. However, Shaw still has the respect of a lot of the NFL front offices. Not to mention, the last Stanford head coach to make the jump to the NFL, JIm Harbaugh, played in a Super Bowl. Shaw just finished his tenth season at Stanford, as they went 4-2. Shaw has put off NFL rumors for years, but is it finally time to make the leap? I think so. Predicted New Record: N/A (Stanford 8-4, One Year from NFL Head Coaching Job)
*One To Watch*
Todd Monken – University of Georgia Offensive Coordinator: Monken has a lot of NFL experience in his resume. He joins the Bulldogs after last coaching in the NFL as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2019. If you have seen any of my Georgia articles this past week, you would know that the Bulldogs struggle at times offensively, and in hist first year at Georgia, once JT Daniels finally got on the field, Monken fared pretty well. Monken was also the offensive coordinator for the Brandon Weeden-Justin Blackmon Oklahoma State connection. After that he took the head coaching position at Southern Miss, where he turned a team that was 0-12 the year before into 9-5 in his third season. With some teams still prioritizing offense over defense, look for Monken to be a hot name come next year’s head coaching carousel. Predicted New Record: N/A (Georgia 10-2, Win SEC East, Lose in SEC Championship, One Year from NFL Head Coaching Job)
*Side Note: Browns are 20-1 Odds to Win The Super Bowl in 2022! Easy Money!
Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE
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