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TWO NFL COACHES WHO HAVE PUT THEIR TEAMS IN BAD SITUATIONS HEADING INTO THE PLAYOFFS

Picking apart NFL coaching after the fact is a national pastime. Did they go for it on 4th down and get stopped? Obviously they should have kicked the field goal! Did they go for it on 4th down and get it? Clearly going for it on 4th down is always the right call.


I'm not a fan of this kind of critique. But sometimes coaches do something that you know is stupid before the implications of their decision come to light. Last week two coaches in the NFL did just that.


Brandon Staley - LA Chargers

The Chargers went into last week's tilt with the vaunted Denver Broncos with absolutely nothing to play for. The Baltimore Ravens loss to the Bengals earlier in the day locked them into the #5 seed and a matchup with the winner of the AFC South.


But Brandon Staley is a FOOTBALL COACH damn it! So he rolled out all his starters, despite the fact that rest is proven to be a decided advantage for NFL teams. This included the oft-injured Mike Williams, a dominant receiver when healthy. And what happened? Somewhat predictably, Mike Williams went out with a back injury. Initially it was reported as back spasms and he was expected to play vs the Jags. But on Friday the news broke that he actually has a small fracture in his back and is out 2-3 weeks.


The only argument I can see for playing the starters in this game is momentum. I don't totally dismiss this idea. Teams on a roll do seem to play better at times. But if you give me the choice between a healthy team or a win over a hapless team in the last week of the season to build momentum it's a no-brainer.


With Mike Williams the Chargers had a shot at playing with the big boys in the AFC. Without him their prospects are iffy even against a team from the lowly AFC South.


Kevin O'Connell - Minnesota Vikings

On the surface, Kevin O'Connell's mistake appears to have been more forgivable. He played his starters in a game where they had a chance to capture the #2 seed in the NFC. Home-field advantage is massive for the Vikings, so the prospect of playing two games at home rather than one is worth playing for. But when you dive a little deeper it ends up being nearly as dense as Staley.


For the Vikings to capture the #2 seed they had to beat the second-string of the worst team in football who needed to lose to have a chance at the #1 pick in next year's draft. (In other words, they were going to do what they could to lose.) In addition, they needed the 49ers to lose to the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have struggled all year and were on their 4th QB. The chances of it happening were minuscule. And given the situation, even if the Vikings chose to play their second string it is very likely they would have stayed in the game.


One result of O'Connell's choice was an injury to right tackle Brian O'Neill. The Vikings are already on their third-string center, and like most teams, much of their success is dependent on the offensive line. Kirk Cousins does not fare well under pressure and seldom uses his feet to escape it like some of the elite QBs in the NFL. The Vikings already had almost no room for error, now their coach has put them in a place where they may need multiple things to break their way just to get out of the first round.

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