The 2020 NFL regular season is a week away from finishing up, and it’s time we give out the First Annual Kotite Awards for horrific coaching.
It’s been a remarkable year for terrible coaching.
We bid farewell to old friends and reliable punching bags Bill O’Brien, Matt Patricia and Dan Quinn. We got to know some new pals like Joe Judge and Matt Rhule. The 2020 season brought out the worst in a bunch of former Super Bowl winners like Jon Gruden, Doug Pederson, Mike McCarthy and even Bill Belichick.
And of course, Adam Gase was always there for us, like a warm blanket of belligerent idiocy to wrap ourselves in when we craved a heaping helping of soul-crushing incompetence.
Why are we doling out the 2020 C’mon Coach Kotite Awards after Week 16 instead of Week 17? Two reasons:
- Next week is the C’mon Coach Black Monday Extravaganza, when we will pour a little out for the coaches, coordinators and executives who get fired before players even clean out their lockers; andIt’s not like any of the coaches who earned this year’s awards are suddenly going to get smarter in Week 17, so why wait?
Enough with the chit-chat! Let’s hand out some awards!
Worst Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots
The McDaniels Method for getting through a season without Tom Brady around to make him look like the second coming of Bill Walsh:
Step 1: Graft a rinky-dink option package that would fool a JUCO defense onto what’s left of Brady’s geezer-pleaser offense.
Step 2: Watch Cam Newton absorb the blame for everything that goes wrong, even though he’s working with the kind of receiving corps the Jets would toss onto the field in the third quarter of a preseason game.
Step 3: Rest on laurels, wait for head coaching offers from terrible organizations.
Worst Defensive Coordinator: Mike Nolan, Dallas Cowboys
No, the Cowboys defense hasn’t been playing better in the second half of the season. Opponents like the Bengals and 49ers have just been spotting the Cowboys two fumbles per game in the first quarter lately, while other opponents took their feet off the gas when the Cowboys were dipping into their Obscure Starting Quarterback of the Week Club gift baskets.
Nolan’s defense nearly allowed a comeback to guys named C.J. Beathard and Rivers Cracraft in Week 15 just to remind everyone how soft and fundamentally unsound they have been all year.
The only question moving forward is whether head coach Mike McCarthy yeets him at season’s end to appease Jerry Jones or holds onto him to use as a sacrificial offering when things are going sideways early next year.
Worst Special Teams Coach: George Stewart, Los Angeles Chargers
Three blocked punts. One blocked field goal. One return touchdown. So. Many. Penalties.
Stewart was actually reassigned to “senior offensive assistant” (also known as “old pal the head coach doesn’t have the heart to fire”) before the epic Chargers special teams meltdown in their 45-0 loss to the Patriots. But the guy in charge when the building catches fire is still responsible when it finally collapses into a smoldering heap, even if he’s lucky enough to evacuate.
Worst Play Call, Offense: Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
We knew we were in for some Black Mirror-level s**t when the Chargers faced the Falcons in a battle to see who could blow an easy victory in the most reality-splintering manner. Sure enough, Lynn ruptured the fabric of space-time itself when he ordered Kalen Ballage to run up the gut on 3rd-and-1 from the Falcons 8-yard line with no timeouts and 22 seconds before halftime.
Lynn assumed Ballage picked up a first down, but Ballage did not. The Chargers milled around as the seconds ticked away. Then Justin Herbert tried to line them up for a fourth-down play while Lynn rushed the field goal unit onto the field.
There were about 15 Chargers running in random directions like a kindergarten dismissal when Michael Badgley drilled a short field goal (it happens occasionally) which was nullified because the Chargers were guilty of half the motion and formation penalties in the rulebook.
Lynn has done a marvelous job developing Herbert. He should just repeat that over and over again if he’s called into the owner’s office next Monday.
Worst Play Call, Defense: Gregg Williams, New York Jets
The most amazing part of Williams’ “Engage Eight” blitz that allowed Derek Carr to throw a game-winning Raiders touchdown to Henry Ruggs in the final seconds of Week 13 not that he made such a dangerous call in a situation where a competent coach would line up six defensive backs 30 yards deep and the team’s tallest wide receiver in the end zone.
It’s that Williams calls crazycakes blitzes in prevent situations so often that Carr had an audible ready when he saw it coming.
Here’s the Next Gen Stats “trippin’ dots” version of Williams’ employment-terminating blitz. What’s … what’s Dot #41 (Matthias Farley) doing? He’s not quite blitzing. He’s not quite covering the running back. Is he spying so Carr doesn’t morph into Michael Vick and run 51 yards?
Did anyone on the Jets defense know that if they allowed a 30-yard completion over the middle of the field, time would expire and they would win? Did Williams know?
We’ll never know. Or care, really.
Worst Play Call, Special Teams: Danny Crossman/Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins
Crossman and Flores (head coaches approve all fake punts and field goals) fooled the Philadelphia Eagles last season by spreading the kicking unit all across the field so punter Matt Haack could throw a touchdown to kicker Jason Sanders.
They tried something similar against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13, with Haack rushing for a touchdown behind a playground formation against an unprepared defense. But this time the Dolphins were unprepared too: rookie offensive linemen Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt neglected to report as eligible receivers on a play where they were on the ends of the line, drawing illegal formation penalties.
When one rookie makes a mistake, that’s on the rookie. When two of them make a mistake, that’s a coach not installing every element of the play (including the reporting rules) properly.
Worst Handling of a Quarterback Controversy: Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is the runner up for this award for dealing with Carson Wentz-v.-Jalen Hurts like he’s the showrunner for High School Musical VIII: Two Quarterbacks Too Many! and really wants to intensify the adolescent drama. But Marrone custom-built a quarterback drama out of the rusty scrap strewn around his front lawn.
Marrone spent the final quarter of the season struggling to choose between Gardner Minshew (scrappy bottom-tier starter/premium backup who makes things happen) and Mike Glennon (a JUGS machine with a jersey sewn onto it).
Minshew is younger, more elusive, more dynamic, far better under pressure, less expensive and more likely to either play a future role for the Jaguars or possess some trade value. But Glennon is tall. Gosh, how is a coach to decide?
Reckless Endangerment Award: Darrell Bevell, Detroit Lions
Matt Patricia was fired, and good riddance. General manager Bob Quinn is gone, and good riddance. But that left no one in the Lions organization with the authority to tell Matthew Stafford that he should not take the field and play out a meaningless season with a rib injury, a hand injury and the hilt of a broadsword jutting forth from between his shoulder pads.
Surely, interim coach Bevell wasn’t the one who is going to do it: that would mean staking his reputation on Chase Daniel or David Blough for a few weeks.
Stafford wanted to play, Bevell wanted him to play, and if it ended with Stafford suffering a foot injury in a 47-7 hammering by the Buccaneers and hopping to the locker room on one foot (there were no vehicles handy to cart him away safely, because it’s not like the Lions have any connections in the automotive industry), well, that’s how you build a franchise that wins one playoff game every half-century.
And yes, Bevell and much of his staff was quarantined on Saturday, forcing low-level assistants and team employees into coaching roles. All the more reason that he should have shut Stafford down via Zoom meeting on Thursday.
Pants on Fire Award: Adam Gase, New York Jets
Gase took play-calling duties back when offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains upstaged him for a few games, then made up a story about a new multi-step playcalling procedure that couldn’t have been more implausible if he claimed that Hugo Chavez was somehow involved.
When Gase fired Gregg Williams, he felt the need to explain how the Raiders catastrophe by saying he was distracted and did not hear the defensive play call in time to order a timeout (even though Derek Carr had time to audible).
Other head coaches play out the final games before their dismissal with honesty and dignity. But honesty and dignity will always be two-touchdown favorites against Adam Gase.
John Fox Memorial Ultra-Conservatism Award: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Belichick put himself in the running for this award by allowing the Patriots to downshift to a service academy offense and hoping no one would catch on. But he clinched the award for settling for 36, 42, 45 and 45-yard field goals in a 22-12 Week 15 loss to the Dolphins with the playoffs on the line.
Most of those field goal attempts came on 4th-and-short, with Cam Newton under center and still very capable of short-yardage conversions.
Best New Artist: Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers
Rhule would call for a 22-yard field goal on 4th-and-inches while trailing by 12 points late in the fourth quarter, given the opportunity. In fact, he might even do so on 1st-and-inches.
Bad Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award: Gregg Williams
Bountygate should have doomed Williams to a late career as an assistant linebackers coach for some D-III college surrounded by tumbleweeds and prairie dogs. But Williams is well connected to the Old Boy Network, so he slipped onto the bottom of Mike Munchak’s outgoing Tennessee Titans staff for a year, saw that the coast was clear, and joined Jeff Fisher with the Rams.
After three years helping Fisher become a meme, Williams joined Hue Jackson after a 1-15 season for the Cleveland Browns. Williams helped Jackson achieve an 0-16 season, then surfed a tidal wave of organizational coups to the safe shores of a cushy interim head-coaching gig. That qualified Williams to become Gase’s top lieutenant for the Jets, a role he kept until he broke out the ol’ Attack Kill Destroy blitz in a Hail Mary situation.
Fisher. Jackson. Gase. Williams has mastered the art of lending his name recognition and reputation to terrible head coaches seeking a defensive coordinator who offers more credibility than quality. Williams kept his hand on the stick shift as those coaches steered for the nearest cliff.
Until a few weeks ago, he emerged from each wreck unscathed. He no doubt hoped he would survive the season in New York, watch Gase take all the blame, and land a job on Mike McCarthy’s staff or an interview with Jack Easterby. He would have gotten away with it too, if not for Gase’s indomitable self-preservation instinct.
Williams is a terrible tactician who makes up for it by not being particularly ethical. Yet he will be coordinating NFL defenses until he chooses to retire. That, dear friends, is the ultimate Lifetime Achievement Award.
Worst Coach of the Year: Jon Gruden, Las Vegas Raiders
Surprise! Were you expecting Gase? Well, Bill Belichick stopped winning AP Coach of the Year awards in 2010 because voters just started taking his greatness for granted and honoring lesser coaches like Ron Rivera, Sean McVay or (LOL) Jason Garrett in 2016 instead.
The Kotite Awards are putting Gase on his own personal Mount Rushmore of Failure so we can “honor” someone having a uniquely miserable year.
Gruden’s Raiders started the season 6-3 but then went 1-5 down the stretch, with their only win coming against the Jets thanks to Gregg Williams’ late-game button mashing. Gruden fired longtime coordinator and carpool buddy Paul Guenther on a short preparation week with a Wild Card berth on the line, even though he acknowledged that Guenther’s defense was plagued by injuries and COVID issues.
The Raiders have since lost 30-27 to the Chargers and suffered a fourth-quarter defensive catastrophe in a 26-25 loss to the Dolphins which knocked them out of the playoffs.
Three years into a 10-year, $100-million commitment, Gruden’s Raiders are still a not-ready-for-Wild-Card-contention team with no direction and more built-in circuit breakers to protect Gruden from accountability (Derek Carr, then GM Mike Mayock, will go the way of Guenther in the next two years as the team continues to founder) than reasons for hope. They’re a well-camouflaged money and resource trap, and Gruden is the biggest loss leader.
Gase will be gone in a few days, giving Jets fans some hope. Gruden will be displaying this award on his mantle for years to come.
In the end, the worst coach is not the one with the worst record, but the one a team just cannot get rid of.