Lawrence: Patience Is A Virtue

Seven NFL teams hired new coaches this past offseason. Those teams went a combined 0-7 in Week 1.

Amy Lawrence
September 11, 2018 - 5:03 pm

USA Today Images


And we're OFF! As the dust settles on the first weekend of the new NFL season, the analysis is well underway. From film sessions to coaches' offices to training rooms to sports radio studios, we now have real football to dissect. In some cases, the evaluation process will be painful. That goes for all seven head coaches who made their debuts in Week 1. All of them lost. It's the only time in league history that new coaches posted a combined record of 0-7 in their openers!

Jon Gruden in Oakland, Matt Patricia in Detroit, Matt Nagy in Chicago, Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, Pat Shurmur in New York, Frank Reich in Indianapolis, and Steve Wilks in Arizona – the new kids on the block are now in charge. The introspection and direction for the franchise fall on them. They set the tone for their assistants as well as their players; and as leaders, they should also recognize the value of patience and perspective. 

In the case of Nagy, he can point out that the Bears don't have to face Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay again this regular season! To be on the wrong end of the most dramatic comeback in Rodgers' career, to watch him chuck the ball all over the field on one leg, to see how the Packers responded to their fearless captain playing hurt – it's a tough pill for Nagy to swallow off the top. But it's also a useful teaching tool. For the rest of the season, the Chicago locker room won't need a reminder of how critical it is to finish the job. A 20-0 lead is not safe in the NFL, especially on the road. If you suffer a drop in intensity or aggressiveness and take your foot off the gas, your opponent is more than happy to turn you into a footnote. Khalil Mack's coming-out party was the talk of football early, but his incredible first half became old news in the blink of an eye.

The mere mention of Mack's name draws the ire of Raiders fans (and incites some confusion in the locker room). Even though most of the frustration is directed at Gruden, the decision to trade one of the league's best pass-rushers wasn't made by him alone. It lines up with the current long-term goals of the franchise. Sure, the Raiders would love to win now, but they're also keeping a weathered eye on the horizon. Oakland only has 34 players under contract for 2019, and the front office is stockpiling cap space. The Raiders sport the oldest roster in the NFL, and it's a recurring issue stretching back several years. The pair of first-round draft picks acquired in the Mack trade should help, but the team is also poised to make a run at free agents in their prime next offseason. With Gruden under contract for the next decade and the move to Las Vegas looming, the Raiders are all about the slow burn.

Patience is also required with the Giants where the rebuilt offensive line needs time to gel. Shurmur's team can still harbor goals of double-digit wins and a playoff spot; they aren't out of reach after a loss to Jacksonville. It was a tough matchup against one of the league's most physical, bruising defenses. New York recently overhauled the line in front of Eli Manning, but the unit requires more reps to settle into a consistent rhythm. The positives from the opener far outweigh the negatives. Rookie running back Saquon Barkley finished with 106 yards rushing and scampered 68 yards for his first career touchdown. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham is still happy after he returned to the field healthy and torched the Jags for 111 yards on 11 catches. With an unsteady line protecting an immobile quarterback, the limitations can be frustrating, but they aren't permanent.

In Nashville, Vrabel's initial foray into coaching hinges on the health of his QB. If Marcus Mariota can't specifically recover from the hit to his throwing elbow Sunday or stay healthy for the length of the season, life becomes infinitely more difficult for the Titans. They've already lost tight end Delanie Walker for the year with a broken and dislocated ankle.

In the wake of the Lions' opener, Patricia must feel like he got run over by a semi. Matthew Stafford's four interceptions and the Jets scoring 21 points in under three minutes is certainly headache-inducing. Of greater concern is the paltry run game. The Lions finished dead last in rushing two of the last three years, and Reggie Bush is the only back to rack up 1,000 yards in a season since 2008. Without balance in the offense, it's a whole lot easier for opponents to pressure Stafford and the passing attack.

The Colts and Cardinals aren't dealing with massive expectations after coaching changes, though there are reasons for optimism this fall. Reich gets to plan around a healthy and enthusiastic Andrew Luck who played like a kid in a candy store Sunday. He threw his first TD pass in more than a year-and-a-half against the Bengals and looked like the gun-slinging athletic force we remember. Indianapolis also needs a consistent run game, but Luck is the right starting point. In Arizona, success hinges on the defense and its ability to wreak havoc and force turnovers. As the Cardinals break in a new offense with Sam Bradford, a healthy David Johnson is a sight for sore eyes.

Longtime NFL coach and Super Bowl winner Brian Billick shared with me his advice for these new coaches: don't forget you were hired by bad teams in desperate need of change, and that change very rarely happens overnight. In other words, patience is a virtue!

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.