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QC's Divisional Round Thoughts

Can anybody in the NFL tackle? New Orleans DB Marcus Williams' whiff (and wipeout of another pursuing teammage) on Stefon Diggs miracle 61-yard TD reception that propelled Minnesota over the Saints was the most obvious example of poor tackling. But it was hardly the only example. Nobody on the Tennessee defense rallied to the ball and New England receivers picked up an astronomical 178 yards after catching Tom Brady's passes in the Patriots' 35-14 beat down of the Titans. And both the Steelers and the Jaguars missed plenty of tackles in the Jaguars 45-42 victory. NFL rules discourage defenders from delivering a blow, but there is no rule against wrapping up and taking a man to the ground.


Tennessee HC Mike Mularkey got a bum deal when GM Jon Robinson fired him after the loss to New England in the Divisional Round. Tennessee's play design differential was -.0282 and its turnover differential was -7 TO in 2015 when Ken Whisenhunt was fired and Mularkey was promoted to HC. The Titans finished that year, QB Marcus Mariota's rookie year, with a 3-13 record, -.0346 play design differential, and -14 TO. In 2016, Tennessee's play design differential improved 4.61% to +.0115--a significant improvement--and the TO differential improved to even and the W-L marke improved 6 games to 9-7. The Titans' regressed in both categories a little bit in 2017, but Mularkey still coaxed the same record from the team, made the playoffs, and upset Kansas City in the Wild Card Game. In the end, Mularkey was a victim of his own success. The Titans' rapid improvement made them a trendy pick in Las Vegas before the season started and they were favorites in the first 9 games of the season and 13 of 16 games overall. There is simply no performance reason for firing Mularky. Morover, it is widely reported that owner Amy Adams-Strunk was quite fond of Mularkey and after the win over the Chiefs stated Tennessee would go foward with Mularkey. Managing, whether it is managing an NFL team or any other competitive enterprise, is about creating options, not limiting options. But GM Jon Robinson has limited his options and painted himself into a corner about as clearly as any manager could by terminating a successful HC who the owner liked. If the Titans falter, don't expect Adams-Strunk to have any patience with Robinson.


How did Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Philadelphia reach the conference championship round with Blake Borteles, Case Keenum, and Nick Foles at QB for all or parts of the regular season? The answer is pass coverage. In D-QCYPA, the coaching statistic that reflects pass coverage, these teams ranked No. 1 (Jaguars 5.674), No. 2 (Vikings 5.778) and 6th (Eagles 6.451). If New England's Tom Brady--the only "elite" QB left in the tournament--is to win his 6th Super Bowl ring, he will be tested by the best design the NFL has to offer in 2017.

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