The risky thing about being a successful NFL head coach is outlasting your great quarterback.
The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and Seahawks’ Pete Carroll are discovering that reality this season, as moving on after Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson, respectively, is proving to be a roller coaster. It’s nothing the Patriots’ Bill Belichick couldn’t have warned them about.
If finding a franchise quarterback is the hardest thing to do in sports scouting – as some believe – imagine all the things that have to go right to find two in a row. John Harbaugh, Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy don’t have to imagine.
Those are the six active coaches with the most career wins in NFL history – all with at least 139 and a grand total among them of 1,121. To no surprise, each of the six had the same primary quarterback for at least 10 seasons.
“Longevity means you had a pretty good quarterback,” one former NFL quarterbacks coach told The Post. “Who had longevity without one?”
But how have they fared without that quarterback? None of the six pairs are together any more. Here’s a closer look and then some analysis:
1. Bill Belichick
219 of 291 wins with Tom Brady, 72-82 with anyone else
Over .500 with: Vinny Testaverde (16-15), Mac Jones (11-9), Matt Cassel (10-5)
2. Andy Reid
92 of 236 wins with Donovan McNabb, 144-87 with anyone else
Over .500 with: Patrick Mahomes (53-14), Alex Smith (50-26), Jeff Garcia (5-1), Michael Vick (18-16), A.J. Feeley (4-3), Koy Detmer (2-1), Nick Foles (1-0)
3. Mike Tomlin
136 of 155 wins with Ben Roethlisberger, 19-18-1 with anyone else
Over .500 with: Mason Rudolph (5-4-1), Landry Jones (3-2), Michael Vick (2-1), Dennis Dixon (2-1)
4. Pete Carroll
104 of 154 wins with Russell Wilson, 50-53 with anyone else
Over .500 with: Drew Bledsoe (26-20)
5. Mike McCarthy
98 of 146 wins with Aaron Rodgers, 48-40-1 with anyone else
Over .500 with: Brett Favre (21-11), Dak Prescott (13-9), Cooper Rush (4-0)
6. John Harbaugh
96 of 139 wins with Joe Flacco, 43-23 with anyone else
Over .500 with: Lamar Jackson (39-14)
What does it mean? Like everyone else on this list other than Belichick, Reid only has one Super Bowl win. But he is in rarefied air with Don Shula as the only head coaches to notch at least 50 wins with three different quarterbacks, according to NBC.
Harbaugh is set up for the future almost as well as Reid, and McCarthy should be in good position unless owner Jerry Jones’ itchy finger hits the eject button.
But some of the luster could come off of Tomlin – who has never had a losing record in his first 15 seasons – if he doesn’t win early in rookie Kenny Pickett’s career. Especially after the Mitch Trubisky experiment failed by Week 4. The far more accomplished Belichick already is hearing that criticism less three seasons after Brady left, 20 games into Jones’ career.
Carroll is staking part of his legacy on Geno Smith – and looking surprisingly good so far – but he has less to lose because, at 71 years old, he can retire if things go awry without any suspicion. The 50-year-old Tomlin has no such luxury.
An argument could be made that there should be a seventh coach listed. Sean Payton (142 of 152 wins with Drew Brees, 17-12 with anyone else) stepped down from the Saints in the offseason, just one season after Brees’ retirement. Payton made it clear he isn’t retiring. What he really should have said was: I’m not going to risk my reputation on an unknown quarterback. My next job will have a ready-made star, like McCarthy got with Prescott.
More credit to Reid, who developed two quarterbacks and maximized a third’s ability after others wrote Smith off. And to Harbaugh who developed two. No inheritance.
How would Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant and Gottfried Leibniz have handled the NFL Draft?
A guess: The three philosophers known for their work in the exact sciences would have been as baffled as any scout, coach or general manager by the inexact science of the NFL Draft.
Four weeks into the 2022 season, the rookie rushing leader was the seventh running back taken, the rookie tackles leader was selected after the television broadcasts start taking commercial breaks during pick announcements and the best offensive tackle wasn’t even his team’s first pick at the position.
It’s not a surprise to see the Jaguars’ Travon Walker, the Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson or the Jets’ Sauce Gardner – three of the first four picks – playing at a high level immediately. But the equation gets tricky faster than the first round ends.
Here is a look at five of the most surprising and five of the most disappointing rookies so far:
RT Abraham Lucas, Seahawks (No. 72 overall): After drafting left tackle Charles Cross at No. 9, the Seahawks decided to go with rookie bookends. Sure enough, it’s the third-rounder Lucas who is the highest-graded rookie tackle by Pro Football Focus. He has allowed three quarterback hits (zero sacks) on 152 pass-blocking snaps.
RB Dameon Pierce, Texans (No. 107 overall): Pierce subscribes to the theory: “Be the hammer, not the nail.” He runs like it, initiating and then running through contact with defenders. Maybe he can inherit the Titans’ Derrick Henry’s crown whenever the King is done bruising the AFC South.
CB Jack Jones, Patriots (No. 121 overall): He certainly doesn’t lack confidence, saying it was “disrespectful” for Aaron Rodgers “to throw an out route on me” because if it’s complete then “I’m no good.” Jones’ snap count has increased every game, and he shouldn’t leave the field at all after his pick-six on Rodgers.
WR Romeo Doubs, Packers (No. 132 overall): Just as Davante Adams once replaced Jordy Nelson as Rodgers’ go-to receiver, someone had to replace Adams. Doubs (19 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns) looks like the early favorite, despite dropping a potential game-winning touchdown against the Patriots (the Packers won in overtime). Catching passes from a Hall of Famer is a good way to earn a huge second contract.
OLB Malcolm Rodriguez, Lions (No. 188 overall): There has to be one bright spot on the worst scoring defense in the NFL. It’s Rodriguez, who leads all rookies with 33 tackles and was PFF’s third-highest-graded rookie even in a 48-45 loss to the Seahawks. He is showing great instincts.
OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants (No. 5 overall): A surprisingly fast start by the Giants has taken some pressure off Thibodeaux, who missed the first two games due a sprained MCL and has only one quarterback hit (plus a fumble recovery) in two games. Thibodeaux acknowledged “it’s time” for his first sack.
LG Kenyon Green, Texans (No. 15 overall): After getting by for three weeks, Green had a nightmare Week 4, allowing seven pressures and committing three penalties on 57 snaps. He entered the NFL as a much better run blocker, but he’ll need to be multi-dimensional to validate his draft status.
WR Treylon Burks, Titans (No. 18 overall): Not only does Burks need to live up to his draft status, he also will be known as the player traded for A.J. Brown. Brown has 25 catches for 404 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles; Burks has 10 for 129 and no touchdowns. The run-heavy Titans need to throw deep to keep defenses honest, and Burks’ foot injury won’t help get that done.
S Dax Hill, Bengals (No. 31 overall): If the plan is to replace free-agent-to-be Jessie Bates with Hill next season, the Bengals might want to get Hill some experience as a rookie. Yes, Bates and Vonn Bell make a top safety duo, but Hill needs to carve out a role in sub packages. He has played 15 snaps in four games – fewest on offense or defense of any non-injured first-rounder.
RB Kenneth Walker, Seahawks (No. 41 overall): Just when it looked as if the Seahawks were ready to give up on 2018 first-round bust Rashaad Penny – who was buried behind the now-retired Chris Carson for 3 ½ seasons – Penny came to life. It has rendered Walker (15 carries for 58 yards in three games) as a spare part, much like Penny was when not injured.
College football game of the week
No. 8 Tennessee at No. 25 LSU, Saturday, Noon, ESPN
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker might not be able to jump over the top three quarterbacks in the 2023 draft class – Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Kentucky’s Will Levis – but he could top the next tier.
Two numbers stand out: A 71.7 completion percentage and zero interceptions on 113 throws. Last time out, Hooker threw for 349 yards and ran for 112 against Florida without his top receiver Cedric Tillman on the field.
“There are a lot of easy throws because the offense is so good, but there is accuracy there, too, because it can be easy, but you still have to make the throws,” one scout said. “He’s super-productive with a good arm and athleticism.”
One big question in the scouting community: What happened to LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte? A preseason high-first-round projection, Boutte has 11 catches for 97 yards and no touchdowns in four games. LSU produced studs Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, respectively, but that was before a coaching change to Brian Kelly, who recently addressed the effect of Boutte’s poor numbers on his draft stock.
“All those guys that make decisions about who the best receivers are in the country are still going to look at Kayshon and go, ‘That’s a really, really good wide receiver,’” Kelly told reporters. “Numbers won’t dictate where he gets drafted. It’s his ability to continue to play the game at the highest level. When you turn on the film, he’s running full speed, he’s beating the guys, and the ball didn’t come to him for whatever reason.”
With attention called to it, expect LSU to feed Boutte, if for no other reason than so LSU’s top receiver recruits don’t start to look elsewhere.
1. I’ve never been a believer in the Law of Averages. More of a Murphy’s Law subscriber myself.
How long until Harbaugh joins me? After losing their final six games of last season to fall from top team in the AFC to missing the playoffs, the Ravens were supposed to be better this season just on the basis of luck.
Five of those six losses by a total of eight points. One was in overtime and two were after Harbaugh’s analytics-charged decisions to go for the winning two-point conversion backfired and became one-point losses. How could it get worse?
Well, the Ravens are 2-2 after trailing for a total of 14 seconds in their two losses. They’ve actually trailed for more time (8:53) in their two wins.
Harbaugh again came under fire last week for the analytics behind passing up a tie-breaking field goal with his offense at the 2-yard line on fourth down in the fourth quarter against the Bills. His point was that taking a 23-20 lead just means the dangerous Josh Allen has four downs instead of three to move the ball – almost guaranteeing a field goal and maybe the winning touchdown.
It might be a hard sell to defensive players to admit you don’t trust them to get a stop. Take feelings out of the equation, though, and it’s hard to argue with Harbaugh that field goals don’t beat great quarterbacks and defenses don’t get stops often enough in that late-game spot.
2. If you have ever received the wrong small package from Amazon – who hasn’t? – then you know that the return policy usually allows the customer to keep, donate or throw away the incorrect item. Well, I wonder if Amazon is asking for any money back after airing a Broncos-Colts game Thursday that was widely pilloried on social media for its boring, sloppy, punt-happy, touchdown-less play.
Amazon’s debut of “Thursday Night Football” – a package for which it is paying more than $1 billion per year – allegedly set a record for Prime subscription sign-ups over a three-hour period. Well, that was for Chiefs-Chargers. Will there be a press release next week about the number of cancellations caused in a three-hour period by Bears-Commanders?
There’s just not enough good matchups most weeks to fill up the three Sunday windows, Thursday night and Monday night. Unlike Sunday, the Thursday and Monday schedules can’t be flexed for better matchups as the season progresses. At least that Jets-Jaguars matchup on Dec. 22 has appeal now!
3. The members of a deep preseason field for Comeback Player of the Year – Saquon Barkley (Giants), Christian McCaffrey (Panthers), Derrick Henry (Titans), Chase Young (Commanders), the duo of Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston (Saints) – should all understand if the award goes to Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson no matter his stats.
Robinson returned to the practice field Wednesday, just 38 days after he was shot during what police called a robbery or carjacking attempt. He underwent surgery on his right leg.
“I guess I’m the king of adversity,” he said. “I’ve … dealt with so much adversity in my life. This is just another situation where I just got to be stronger than what I’m up against.” He added of his hospital stay, “That was probably the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. The only thing I remember is just receiving all the love and everybody reaching out to me, just spreading the love. That was all I needed at the time.”
The Commanders have three weeks to evaluate Robinson before deciding whether to add him to the active roster or shut him down for the season. Barring a health setback, he could be their starting running back before too long.