New coaches lose them all in first week of season

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, September 13, 2018

New coach. Familiar results.

Teams with a new man in charge went 0-7 in Week 1, the worst start by a group of new head coaches in NFL history. The previous worst was 0-6 in 2001.

It took Aaron Rodgers coming back from a knee injury and leading the Packers back from a 20-0 deficit to spoil Matt Nagy’s debut for Chicago.

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Jon Gruden returned to Oakland and his Raiders had a 13-10 halftime lead before the Los Angeles Rams turned it into a rout in the second half.

Matt Patricia endured the worst loss of the seven new guys when rookie Sam Darnold and the New York Jets whipped Detroit 48-17. The Lions can only hope Patricia fares better than other members of Bill Belichick’s coaching tree did after leaving New England.

Arizona’s Steve Wilks didn’t have a chance against Washington. Andrew Luck’s return for the Colts didn’t help Frank Reich earn a win against the Bengals.

Eli Manning’s pick-6 ruined Pat Shurmur’s opener with the Giants. Mike Vrabel and the Titans endured long weather delays in a loss at Miami.

None of the seven teams play each other this week, so 0-2 is still on the table for all the new coaches.

Here’s a look inside more numbers going into Week 2:

SO MUCH YELLOW: The first weekend saw more penalties (255) and penalty yards (2,254) than any Week 1 since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002. The Falcons led the way with 15 in an 18-12 loss to Philadelphia. The Eagles and three other teams had 11. The Steelers had 12. The Raiders had the most penalty yards with 155.

SCORING OUTPUT: The 765 total points were third-most in a Week 1. The Jets and Buccaneers led the way with 48 and the Ravens had 47.

TAKE IT TO THE HOUSE: The 12 return touchdowns in Week 1 were the second-most in an opening week since the 1970 merger. There were 13 in 2011. The Jets had two return touchdowns and became the third team to score a touchdown on a pass, rush, interception and punt return in an opener. The Dolphins and Titans had TD returns on kickoffs in the same game, the 10th time that’s happened since the merger.

DOWN TO THE FINISH: Ten of the 16 games were decided by eight points or fewer and four teams — Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay and Philadelphia — had comebacks in the fourth quarter.

DO IT ALL: Khalil Mack had his second game with a forced fumble, fumble recovery, pick-6 and sack in his first game for the Bears. He also did it against Carolina in 2016 while with Oakland. Charles Woodson in 2009 was the only other player to do it since sacks became an official stat.

SIZING THINGS UP: The Giants, Eagles and 49ers each have 13 players weighing less than 200 pounds. The Steelers have 14 players weighing more than 300 pounds.

CRIMSON TIDE TAKEOVER: Alabama led the way among colleges with 44 players on active rosters for Week 1. LSU was second with 40. Florida had 37, Miami and Ohio State each had 36.

MISLEADING STAT: Tampa Bay allowed the second-most yards passing (475) but it doesn’t mean the Bucs have the second-worst pass defense. The Buccaneers built a 24-point lead over New Orleans and forced Drew Brees to throw nearly every down to try to catch up. Tampa Bay held on for a 48-40 win.

THAT’S SO BROWNS: Since the merger, teams that are plus-five in turnover margin are 403-17-3. Doesn’t help the Browns, though. They’re only 2-2-1 in those instances following a tie against the Steelers.

AGE MATTERS: The Raiders have the oldest team in the league with an average age of 27.6 years old. The Browns are the youngest at 25.2.

FOREVER YOUNG: Tom Brady became the third player to throw a TD pass in a season-opening game at age 41 or older, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers George Blanda and Warren Moon.

THE PERCENTAGES: Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, 52.1 percent of teams that won the season opener went to the playoffs while only 23.9 percent that lost reached the postseason.


Brees likes what he sees from Mayfield

CLEVELAND (AP) — Drew Brees sees a lot of himself in Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.

And then some.

“I think he can be a lot better than me,” the New Orleans Saints star said Wednesday.

A fellow Texan, Brees has never met Mayfield but he’s tracked his playing career from afar and has been impressed by virtually everything he’s seen from the Heisman Trophy winner, now waiting his turn to play in Cleveland. Brees, who will face the Browns on Sunday, loves Mayfield’s competitiveness and playmaking ability, and believes he can develop into one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.

“He’s got all the tools,” said Brees, who could pass Peyton Manning and Brett Favre this season on the career list for yards passing. “He’s more athletic. He probably can run around better. He’s got a stronger arm. He’s got all the tools.”

Brees would know. Now in his 18th season, the 39-year-old has been defying preconceived opinions about quarterbacks and proving people wrong from the moment the Chargers drafted him in the second round in 2001.

Too short. Too slow. Too this. Too that. It won’t say any of those things on his Hall of Fame bust.

Brees has broken the mold on what a star quarterback is supposed to look like. And while he might not be able to look many of his QB peers in the eye, he’s been able to make up for any physical limitations with other gifts.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be 6-foot-5 because I never will be 6-5, never have been 6-5,” Brees said. “But I’ll say it like this: If every one of you closed your eyes, all of your other senses would be heightened, your sense of smell, your sense of hearing, all that other stuff. So maybe because I’m 6 feet, maybe there’s certain things that I can’t see as well, but for that reason, maybe I can hear it and feel it better because that’s what I’ve had to do my whole career.

“You find a way to make up for it. You just get it done.”

By doing what he’s done for nearly two decades, Brees has paved the way for Mayfield — and other smaller quarterbacks — to follow his footsteps.

If not for Brees and his major success as a multi-year Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, it’s unlikely the Browns would have taken a chance on Mayfield and drafted him first overall.

“I do take a lot of pride in that,” Brees said.

Mayfield was a walk-on at Texas Tech and again at Oklahoma, where he became one of the school’s most celebrated players. And while he didn’t have the strongest arm or best 40-yard dash time or some of the other physical attributes the other QBs in this year’s class could boast, Brees said Mayfield has shown he can win.

“Well, at some point you just have to look at results, right?” he said. “So you have to let your mind go past the measurable — maybe how big a guy is or how fast he runs or that kind of stuff and just turn on the tape and does the guy compete? Does the guy make plays? Does the guy win football games? And obviously he’s proven he can do all those things.”

When Brees broke in, he was a backup for Doug Flutie, another undersized QB who showed it’s not just a game for big men. Brees watched Flutie excel at a high level and molded his game accordingly.

“I had a chance to learn from one of the absolute best in my opinion, especially when it came to just having to at times just make plays because of your size and maybe certain limitations,” Brees said. “He would get the job done. So I had a chance to learn from a guy like that and I owe him a lot of credit. We call it the 6-foot and under club. All the 6-foot guys, we kind of know what it’s like.

“We kind of have the chip on our shoulder ‘cause we’ve heard it our whole life. I just kind of chuckle at it. Maybe it is something. Maybe it isn’t. But it gives us an edge.”

Brees was asked if Mayfield is in the under 6-foot club.

“Well, is he 6-foot and under?” Brees said.

He was told Mayfield measured just a shade over 6 feet.

“All right, well, that counts,” Brees said. “He’s in the club.”


Redskins’ line living up to nickname

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Long before Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson joining the Redskins was ever a possibility, Trent Williams made up Hogs 2.0 T-shirts for Washington’s offensive linemen.

The original “Hogs” offensive line paved the way for three Super Bowl titles, so this group has a long way to go before they can be compared to that group.

But with Williams at left tackle, Shawn Lauvao at left guard, Chase Roullier at center, Brandon Scherff at right guard and Morgan Moses at right tackle, the Redskins have a group that could continue bulldozing the way to victories this season.

“Their versatility is the key,” coach Jay Gruden said. “They can run, they can pull, they’re strong at the point of attack and they’re pretty athletic. You can have a lot of versatility there.”

Versatility helped the Williams-led line bully the Arizona Cardinals in run-blocking and pass-protection, something it’ll try to do again Sunday in the home opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

Smith put up 255 yards passing in Week 1 and Peterson, Chris Thompson and the rest of Washington’s ground game rushed for 182 yards in the kind of balanced showing Williams always believed could happen as long as all five starters are healthy.

“I’ve been saying the whole time that our biggest issue is just getting everybody on the field,” Williams said. “I feel like when we have everybody on the field, we’re more than confident that we can handle whatever job the coaches ask us to do.

“Obviously having everybody out there, when we’ve been out there in the past, we’ve done pretty good with a balanced offense, with running the ball and passing the ball.”

The Redskins ran the ball 42 times and attempted to pass 33 times at Arizona, a balance Gruden would love to keep up. The offensive line’s equal proportion of being good in the run and pass games makes that possible.

But no one’s quite sure why the Redskins’ line is almost equally good in each aspect. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan has linemen work a long time after practice, which gives them extra time to work together and improve any weakness.

“That just allows us to get little things polished up here or there,” Roullier said. “Any little extra work you can get on your little fundamental techniques and whatnot, that’s going to help you every day while you’re out there.”

Other than Roullier replacing Spencer Long in the middle, this is the same starting offensive line Washington had to begin last season. Lauvao was re-signed after the draft and plugged back in, and the unit’s continuity has been on display.

Peterson said after one preseason game he can’t wait to run behind this offensive line, and Smith has learned firsthand just what it can do to protect him and give him some room to run.

“I’ve been really impressed with those guys,” Smith said. “I feel like they can do just about everything. They take a lot of pride in being able to do a lot. They don’t get pigeonholed as a single player or as a group. They can do it all: They’re good in space, they can pound it, they’re good in pass pro. I think that’s a strength not only of theirs but obviously ours as an offense and a team.”

Of course, the line is only the start of the offense’s success. Williams gives a lot of credit for Washington’s balance to Peterson and Thompson for making linemen look good.

“It makes our job easy because you got two dynamic rushers who can really take the ball all the way no matter what part of the field you’re on and are pretty prolific coming out of the backfield,” Williams said. “Having those guys clicking like they were, it does make the O-line’s job easier, it makes the quarterback’s job easier and it makes the coaches’ job easier.”