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NFL Coaching: Year-End Strategies

   by Bryan Leonard - 12/12/2006

Coaching in pro football is not easy, and frankly, there are far more bad/mediocre coaches than very good ones. Just ask Detroit Lion fans the last six years. This is the time of the season when coaches can be a huge factor in whether a team is motivated or not. Many NFL teams are already out of it and there are fans more focused on who they will take in the NFL draft than the remainder of the 2006 schedule.

It's not always easy for teams this late in the season to get focused or give 100%, unless they are fighting for a playoff berth. However, some coaches have the talent to get the most out of their players whether they are in the playoff race or not. Look at the Tennessee Titans.

Jeff Fisher is a respected coach by both fans and players. I've heard players over the years praise Fisher, saying that he's a great teacher on the field AND knows how to communicate off the field. This last point is just as important as the first.

How many times do you see players in all sports tuning out the coach? That can happen over time when a coach doesn't have the social skills to communicate with athletes, that can result in burn-out or players tuning out the coach. When that happens, a team is finished, because the players don't care. The Titans won't make the playoffs, but they are playing hard and have covered the number in 7 of the last 8 games. They have also won 5 of 7 games despite being an underdog in every game but one!

There's a situation percolating in Minnesota worth keeping a close eye on. This week safety Darren Sharper called for the Vikings to make changes on offense following a 23-13 loss at Chicago. "Everybody gets paid to do a job," Sharper said. "If you're not executing your job, changes need to be made." They are on a 1-4 SU/0-5 ATS run under first-year coach Brad Childress. Childress has been criticized for discipline problems, clock management and play calling.

Take a look at the Cleveland Browns. They played hard at home, pulling off a stunning upset of Kansas City, but they followed that with a 27-7 loss at Pittsburgh. The Steelers ran 52 times for 303 yards. The Browns ran 11 times all night. QB Ben Roethlisberger passed for 225 yards, and Willie Parker ran for 223.

Cleveland's receivers and backs dropped at least six passes, and had three more that appeared to be catchable. Edwards dropped two, Dennis Northcutt three and Terrelle Smith one. The one bright spot is that rookie quarterback Derek Anderson played well, completing 21-of-37 passes for 276 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Anderson hardly seemed rattled by the Steelers' rush, and he stood in the pocket well.

Perhaps it helps to look back at late last season. Remember that in 2005, the first under respected head coach Romeo Crennel, the Browns didn't quit or pack it in. Despite a 6-10 season, the Browns went 3-1 ATS their final four games of 2005, even beating the Ravens and Raiders as a dog. Coaching is a significant aspect to how a team prepares and plays, and it can be even more important this time of the year with respects to who plays hard and covers and who is just going through the motions.

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