Welcome to Week 2 of your (least) favorite blog, Angry Takes by Aiden Rutman. You might be wondering why I felt so compelled to include my full name in the title; it’s a combination of hubris and accountability. I’m no different from the average sports fan – I love to make hot takes and let them fly in the wind, but I almost never get the chance to revisit them and see how they pan out. There’s a part of me that thinks many of these takes will pan out in my favor (hubris), and I want to track them as an ‘I told you so.’ There’s also a part of me that realizes how inherently obnoxious that is (accountability), so I figured when a ton of these predictions absolutely flop, it’ll be funny to see just how wrong I was. Without further ado, let’s get into the theme of this week.
It was a puzzling week for me as a fan of football. I had to watch the Vanderbilt Commodores blow a lead, almost come back to win, and then eventually choke in embarrassing fashion against the lowly UNLV Rebels. Less than 24 hours later, I watched the Giants go down 20-0 against the Arizona Cardinals at halftime, reminding me of last week’s horrific showing against the Cowboys. Between those two and a full slate of exciting games on NFL RedZone, it got me thinking about coaching staffs throughout the country. We’ll start lukewarm and get hotter from there
Zac Taylor has got to go
Is this actually lukewarm? The now fourth-year head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals has led them to the playoffs in two of his three seasons under helm, making the Super Bowl and the AFC Championship in years 2 and 3, respectively. That might be more hot than warm, in all honesty, but I have been extremely anti-Taylor since his first season with the Bengals.
I think he lucked into the job at Cincinnati because of his experience working with Sean McVay. It was around the time that people were oo-ing and awe-ing over the Rams head coach (perhaps rightfully so). Still, it was to the extent that anyone – in this case Taylor – could get hired as a head coach.
Now, here we are, with the Bengals most loaded roster in perhaps team history, and they have started the season 0-2. Both losses are forgivable, as the Browns and Ravens are each formidable foes, but the manner in which the Bengals lost was not forgivable. The offense, which features arguably top 10 players at every position (perhaps two top-10 receivers, depending on how you value Tee Higgins), was nowhere to be found in either game, and Joe Burrow was abysmal in both outings.
I think the Bengals have overachieved during their time under Taylor’s tutelage thanks to crazy talent bailing out mediocre coaching, and I envision Taylor out if things don’t change quickly. Either way, I think he’s a well below-average coach.
Send the Legends Packing
It pains me to even write this section, because of the sheer influence that these two coaches have indirectly had on my youth. I think back to my childhood of fantasy football, watching Patriots and Steelers players tear things up week in, week out. It was a blessing to watch either offense play, and the defenses might have been even better. Still, the fact remains that the game has evolved and success has been minimal for New England and Pittsburgh.
It’s time for Bill Belichik and Mike Tomlin to hang up their headsets. Hall of Fame coaches, no doubt, but boy-oh-boy, they have not had much success in the past five years. At a certain point, one has to realize that the rosters they have constructed and the schemes they are putting out just aren’t cutting it in the NFL today. Sure, both have squeaked into the playoffs and kept themselves afloat above .500, but neither have won a playoff game since 2018.
Fire Clark Lea?
This one might be a bit of an overreaction, in the grand scheme of things. After all, he’s only had three seasons with the Commodores to get things together. Still, Vanderbilt looks just as bad as they did in Lea’s opening season in 2021, and the loss this weekend to UNLV really encapsulates that. Horrific mistake followed by horrific mistake. Bad throws, special teams miscues and blown coverages simply should not happen against a team like UNLV. Vanderbilt’s defense, for all that it has struggled, should not have allowed a freshman quarterback playing in his first ever game to burn it like that.
There comes a time where the lack of preparation falls on the coaching staff. I can live with Vanderbilt being a less talented team than some of its opponents – after all, the majority of its games are against the SEC, the best conference in college football. I can’t, however, defend the team’s coaching when a punt gets snapped into a player and the ball gets turned over. The mistakes have come far too often through the first four weeks to turn a blind eye.
It’s hard to justify firing Lea because of his history here, and how much of a fan favorite he is. This is more of a long-winded take, as I don’t think (nor want) it to happen this year. If by next year, the results still aren;t there, this becomes a real conversation. With a 2-10 season now looming – because let’s be real, if the ‘Dores can’t beat UNLV they can’t win an SEC game – the pressure is on Lea to keep his team playing clean and sharp.
That’s all for me, folks! If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Be sure to tune in to my shows this week! Scoreboards and Soundwaves runs every Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and Anchor Talk (with superstar co-hosts Jack Morris and Owen Andreas) runs on Fridays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.