Wasn’t it just yesterday that Jared Goff was a “bust” and then-rookie head coaches Ben McAdoo, Adam Gase and Dirk Koetter were eschewing the learning curve for a linear path to instant success?
Goff, last year’s first overall pick who waited in the wings for half of his rookie season behind Case Keenum, appeared hopeless once he did get his chance. His inability to flash, albeit within an offense and coaching staff rooted in the dark ages, was nothing if not troublesome.
McAdoo, Gase and Koetter, each inheriting 6-10 clubs, combined for a 30-18 mark — with the Giants and Dolphins going to the playoffs — and the cyclical nature of hiring coaches had swung spectacularly back toward the rookies with fresh ideas and fast implementation.
Then Goff was given Sean McVay and a QB-friendly scheme and supporting cast every young passer deserves. All the Rams have done to this point is surpass their 2016-worst 224 total points, and they did it early in their eighth game this season. They now rank second in the NFL in scoring. — The Rams are 6-2, and McVay is a favorite for Coach of the Year honors at the halfway point.
Goff’s passer rating is up almost 35 points (63.6 to 97.9) and his yards per attempt have increased three entire yards (5.3 to 8.3) as he quarterbacks a first-place team. On Sunday he tossed four touchdowns and no interceptions, his third game with multiple touchdowns and zero picks. Last season as a rookie he had totals of five TDs and seven interceptions.
McAdoo’s Giants and Koetter’s Bucs, meanwhile, fell to a combined 3-13 record Sunday, when both teams were noncompetitive in humiliating defeats. When asked what message he had for his team down 27-10 to the Rams at intermission, McAdoo’s silence spoke as loudly as Jim Mora’s “playoffs!?” and Dennis Green’s “they are who we thought they were.”
Koetter’s Bucs? One of the offseason’s biggest darlings showed their most fight after the whistle, and Jameis Winston’s most accurate delivery of the day came on the sideline, where the injured passer incited a brawl by sticking his finger in Marshon Lattimore’s helmet.
It’s suddenly hard to envision either coach surviving. Giants GM Jerry Reese also is in trouble. Winston’s immaturity, rather than his improvements, is the story in Tampa Bay on Monday.
Gase’s ‘Phins, who entered Week 9 at 4-3 despite a minus-60 point differential, committed 11 penalties for 107 yards to squander Jay Cutler’s best game in Miami on Sunday night at home vs. the reeling Raiders. Miami unlocked an efficient and productive run game following the stunning trade of Jay Ajayi, but Ajayi also shined in his Philadelphia debut.
Fast-forward to this season’s rookie coaching success stories.
McVay has been nothing short of remarkable for the Rams, reviving not only Goff but Todd Gurley. The 31-year-old head coach has let his accomplished coordinators do their thing and the result is a dangerous team, not just offense. The Rams have outscored the Jaguars and Giants 78-34 in their past two road games, both of the cross-country variety, and tallied 111 points overall amid their three-game ascent.
Sean McDermott’s Bills, who are allowing five fewer points and nearly 40 fewer rushing yards per game than under Rex Ryan last season, are 5-3 and would halt the NFL’s longest playoff drought if the season ended today. This after many NFL analysts anxious in August to declare trade winners and losers declared Buffalo was tanking in 2017.
So let's give them the credit in the short term they deserve, not the long-term crown they’re still trying to earn.
Then there’s Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz and the 8-1 Eagles. Both fell from grace as rookies following a 5-0 start but have flown to becoming the NFL’s most dominant team so far this season.
The Eagles also will emerge from the Week 10 bye with four of their next five on the road, including difficult trips to L.A. and Seattle, and both games with the rival Cowboys remaining.
It's possible Philly, L.A. and Buffalo are all poised to embark on long runs of sustained success with their up-and-coming coaches; we're not predicting it won't happen. But the Giants and Buccaneers should serve as reminders of how quickly seemingly charmed teams can crumble.