Back in September 2016, I tried to predict the exact records for all 32 NFL teams and made a list of NFL coaches on the hot seat. It has become traditional in these parts for me to resurrect those prognostications to see how good they were – – not the usual outcome – – or how far off they were – – far more common. Why did this become a tradition? Probably because I know no shame.
Lest anyone think that I am shading these grades – subjective as they are from the outset – here is a link to my original predictions.
Let me start with the “Coaches on a Hot Seat”. I put 8 of the 32 coaches in that category for 2016. Four of the eight are now out of a job and three of the ones who were fired were let go in mid-season. Here was the list:
Gus Bradley (Jags): I did not think he would be fired because I thought the Jags were going to be good last year (more on that blunder later). Well, they weren’t. Here is what I said back then:
“… if … the Jags regress to something like a 3-13 record, he will be toast.”
Let the record show that the Jags were exactly 3-13 and that Bradley did not finish the season at the helm of the team.
Jim Caldwell (Lions): In 2015, the Lions finished 6-2 in the second half of the season setting up the team as a “momentum pick” for 2016. I said that Caldwell needed to maintain that momentum – and the Lions did that. They were a playoff team until they lost their last 3 games in a row. This year, it was the 9-4 record after 13 games that kept Jim Caldwell in his job.
Jeff Fisher (Rams): The Rams struggled in 2016 and got virtually nothing from overall #1 pick, Jared Goff, after they paid a handsome price to get his draft rights. Fisher lasted 13 games and then was shown the door.
Jason Garrett (Cowboys): I put him on the list in the event that the Cowboys really tanked in 2016. That did not come close to happening as the team went 13-3; so, Jason Garrett properly continues as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Marvin Lewis (Bengals): I said then that I thought Lewis “needs a playoff win this year” to keep his job. He did not get into the playoffs – let alone win a game there – but he is still the coach in Cincy. He has another year to go on his contract and reports say that he and the team are “working on a contract extension”. If he does get an extension, he will likely be with the Bengals for a while because owner, Mike Brown, really does not like to pay people not to coach his team.
Mike McCoy (Chargers): I said then that the team had to do better than 4-12 with the 3rd overall pick in the draft as they had after the 2015 season. Well, they sorta did that; the record was 5-11 and they have the 7th overall pick in the draft. McCoy made it through the final game of the year but was let go right after that.
Mike Mularkey (Titans): This situation is the obverse of the one involving Gus Bradley and the Jags. I thought the Titans would stink and that Mularkey would be gonzo. Instead, the Titans were a very pleasant surprise for their fans so Mularkey is still in charge.
Rex Ryan (Bills): Here is what I said back then:
“… he might be out of a job come January if the team falls below .500.”
What happened was that the Bills were 7-8 with a game left to play and Bills’ ownership pulled the plug on Ryan between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
I did not see the Niners firing Chip Kelly after such a short tenure but the team was awful and they did. I hope that ownership in SF will show a lot more patience with Kelly’s replacement because the Niners’ 2-14 record in 2016 was due in the most part to a talent-deficient roster and not to incompetent coaching.
So, 50% of my coaches on the hot seat lost their jobs and 37.5% of them lost their jobs before the end of the 2016 season. I will award a grade of “B” to that set of prognostications.
In the AFC East:
- I had the Pats winning the division with an 11-5 record; I said they would win the division comfortably with that record and indeed, they would still have won the division at 11-5. However, I underestimated the Pats in 2016; they played to a 14-2 record.
- I had the Jets in second place at 8-8. I did say then that if the football gods penalized Ryan Fitzpatrick strongly as payment for his way-better-than-career-stats year in 2015, that the Jets would be in “real trouble”. The football gods did just that and the Jets finished last in the AFC East at 5-11.
- I said the Bills would finish at 6-10; they finished at 7-9. I did say that at the end of the year Rex Ryan would be collecting the rest of his contract money without having to freeze his butt off in Buffalo. I got that right.
- I had the Dolphins at 10-6. They finished 2016 at 10-6. In 2015, I said the Dolphins would finish with a 10-6 record and they finished at 6-10. The Dolphins and I are clearly out of phase with one another…
- I thought the teams in the AFC East would win a total of 31 games; they won 36 games.
The overall grade for the AFC East is “C –”.
In the AFC North:
- I had the Steelers as the division winners with a record of 11-5 and that they would ride the strength of their offense to that record. The Steelers were indeed 11-5 and their offense was the dominant unit.
- I thought the Bengals would win 10 games and be a wild-card team in the playoffs. The Bengals went 6-9-1.
- I had the Ravens at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Indeed, the Ravens were 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
- I thought the Browns would be 3-13 and would not have the overall #1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Browns were 1-15 and they do indeed have the overall #1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
- I thought the teams in the AFC North would win a total of 32 games; they won only 26 games.
The overall grade for the AFC North is “B”. I was tempted to call it “B+” given that I got two of the teams’ records spot on. However, the fact that I missed the total wins for the division by 6 games removed the “+” from my consideration.
In the AFC South:
- I had the Jags winning 10 games and winning the division thereby saving Gus Bradley’s job. Instead of a 10-6 record, the Jags finished 2016 at 3-13 (dead last in the division by 5 games) and Gus Bradley is now the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. I definitely coughed up a hairball on that prediction.
- I had the Colts finishing second in the division at 9-7. The Colts were 8-8 finishing third behind the Texans and the Titans.
- I thought the Texans would finish third with an 8-8 record. The Texans finished 9-7 and won the division.
- I had the Titans finishing dead last here at 2-14 with coach Mike Mularkey out looking for work. The Titans finished 9-7 only losing the division to the Texans on a tiebreaker.
- I thought the teams in the AFC Central would win a total of 29 games; they won exactly 29 games.
The overall grade for the AFC Central is “F”. If schools gave grades down the alphabet, this grade might have been a “Q”. Even the fact that the “total wins prediction” was exact, that does not mitigate the abject failure of these predictions.
In the AFC West:
- I had the Raiders winning 11 games and winning the division. The Raiders were 12-4 and finished second in the division to the Chiefs on a tiebreaker; the Raiders did make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
- I had the Chiefs in second place in this division with a 10-6 record and as a wild-card team in the playoffs. The Chiefs finished atop the division at 12-4.
- I thought the Broncos would finish at 8-8 and miss the playoffs. The Broncos were 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
- I thought the Chargers would finish 7-9 last year. I said they would miss the playoffs, be hunting for a new coach come January and that they would lose their stadium referendum held in November. The Chargers finished last in the division at 5-11 and all of the other prognostications came true.
- I thought the teams in the AFC West would win a total of 36 games; they won 38 games.
The overall grade for the AFC West is “A “. If I could make predictions of this quality for every division year over year, I would get paid by one of the sports websites to make those pre-season picks. Please note that none of them are contacting me to buy my “words of wisdom” …
In the NFC East:
- I had the Skins at the division winners at 9-7. The Skins finished at 8-7-1 which is pretty close – – except they finished third in the division and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
- I had the Cowboys finishing second in the division at 7-9. The Cowboys won the division at 13-3 and had the best record in the NFC.
- I had the Giants finishing third at 7-9. Actually, the Giants wound up 11-5 in second place in the division and in the playoffs as a wild-card team.
- I had the Eagles in last place with a record of 5-11. The Eagles overachieved and finished 7-9.
- I thought the teams in the NFC East would win a total of 28 games; they won 39 games.
The overall grade for the NFC East is “F”. Other than coming very close to the Skins’ final record everything else here sucked wind.
In the NFC North:
- I thought the Packers would win the division with a 12-4 record. They did win the division but only at 10-6.
- I thought the Vikes would finish second in the division at 10-6. That prediction came after Teddy Bridgewater’s injury but before Adrian Peterson’s injury. The Vikes were 8-8 for the season finishing third in the division. Given Peterson’s absence for 90% of the year, I think this prediction was actually pretty close.
- I had the Lions finishing third with a 5-11 record. I thought the absence of Calvin Johnson would be a big loss for the team. The Lions were 9-7 last year and made the playoffs as a wild-card team.
- I thought the Bears would be 5-11 at season’s end. The Bears were only 3-13.
- I thought the teams in the NFC North would win a total of 32 games; they won 30 games.
The overall grade for the NFC North is “B”. I realize I was off by a lot on the Lions here but coming as close as I did on the Vikes despite injuries to their QB and their stud RB sort of makes up for some of that. Coming as close to the win total for the division as I did also gooses the grade up just a tad.
In the NFC South:
- I had the Panthers “winning the division by a mile” at 13-3. You may commence snickering now; OK, that is enough. The Panthers succumbed to “Super Bowl Hangover” in a major way and had a record of 6-10 for the season. That put them in last place in the division.
- I thought the Bucs would be 7-9; they were 9-7
- I thought the Saints would be 7-9; they were exactly 7-9.
- I thought the Falcons would be 7-9; they were 11-5 and went to the Super Bowl.
- I thought the teams in the NFC South would win a total of 34 games; they won 33 games.
The overall grade for the NFC South is “C – “. Obviously, I had the Panthers dead wrong and hugely underestimated the Falcons. However, I did have the Saints, Bucs and the total wins for the division pretty close.
In the NFC West:
- I liked the Seahawks to win the division at 11-5 on the basis of a tiebreaker. Indeed, the Seahawks won the division and their record was 10-5-1. Oh, by the way, I did say before the season started that OL would be an issue for the team – – and it was.
- I thought the Cardinals would finish second in the division with a record of 11-5 and lose out on tiebreaker. Indeed, the Cards did finish second but that was because they had a record of only 7-8-1.
- I had the Rams finishing third at 6-10 and said they would be looking for a new coach in January. The Rams did finish third at 4-12 and they searched for and found a new coach in January.
- I thought the Niners would finish last in the division at 6-10 and that the turmoil in the coaching staff/GM office and owners’ suite would continue. The Niners indeed finished last at 2-14; they have a new coach and a new GM but they still have the same owner and President of football operations because, you cannot fire an owner.
- I thought the teams in the NFC West would win a total of 34 games; they won only 23 games.
The overall grade for the NFC West is “B”. I had the order of finish correct; and other than missing the Cards; final record by 3.5 games, much of the rest of my crystal ball gazing was on target. The total wins for the division was off by a lot however…
So, I have handed out 9 “grades” here – 8 for the individual divisions in the NFL and one for the coaches on a hot seat. Here is how they break down:
- A = 1
- B = 4
- C – = 2
- F = 2
My Grade Point Average for the 2016 works out to be 2.11. That may not sound like much, but it is an improvement over the 2015 when the GPA was only 1.98. Major progress can result from a series of small steps…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………