Which first year NFL head coaches "must-win" | Bonehead Picks

Which first year NFL head coaches face “must-win” Week 2 situations?

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The first week of the NFL season was as exciting as anticipated. There were exciting performances like Aaron Rodgers playing on one leg on Sunday night, surprising production from players like Ryan Fitzpatrick torching the Saints, and weird outcomes like the Pittsburgh Steelers tying their game with the Cleveland Browns after numerous blunders by both teams down the stretch of the game. One of the strangest facts from Week 1 of the NFL season is that every NFL team, all seven, that had a new head coach for the 2018 NFL season lost. Jon Gruden, Matt Nagy, Matt Patricia, Frank Reich, Pat Shurmur, Mike Vrabel, and Steve Wilks all left their respective fans with a disappointing impression after their team’s first game but which coaches face the dreaded “must-win” situation going into Week 2? This is the ranking of “must-win” situations for the upcoming Week 2 that the NFL’s newest head coaches have to walk away from with a victory starting with the head coach with least pressure to the head coach with the most pressure to win in Week 2.

#7. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts) at Washington

The best news for Frank Reich after the Colts lost a home game to the Bengals was that star quarterback Andrew Luck made it through the game in one piece after missing 17 of the previous 32 games the last two NFL seasons. Reich is fortunate that neither of his first two games has been against AFC South opponents which gives them some cushion in the event they cannot go into Washington and defeat a team that played well in defeating Arizona in Week 1.

#6. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears) vs Seattle Seahawks

Matt Nagy’s Bears had arguably the best team performance of the new NFL head coaches in their 23-24 loss to the Packers on Sunday night so that should give the Bears and their fans some confidence that things are turning in a better direction in an interesting division. Although Mitchell Trubisky was shaky overall, he played well enough that Aaron Rodgers had to pull a Willis Reed to get the Packers a win and things bode well that Khalil Mack had an eye popping performance while still trying to adjust to his new team.

#5 Steve Wilks (Arizona Cardinals) at Los Angeles Rams

The Cardinals and Steve Wilks are in a weird place right now. They aren’t expected to contend with the Rams for the NFC West so it would not be surprising if they lost on Sunday but they also want to send future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald on a good note before his retirement by being relevant in the playoff chase late in the year.  The Cardinals’ loss to Washington was lifeless and represents what could happen this season if the team doesn’t show improvement but there is a little time for patience.

#4 Pat Shurmur (New York Giants) at Dallas Cowboys

It is might be surprising that Pat Shurmur is right in the middle on the pressure scale among first year NFL coaches particularly in New York. However, the Giants showed some fight against the Jaguars, highlighted by some playmaking by Odell Beckham Jr and Saquon Barkley. It is important that it was just a loss to an AFC team and that next is a road game in the NFC East against a Cowboys team expected to be better than them.

#3 Jon Gruden (Oakland Raiders) at Denver Broncos

It was a unfulfilling return to the NFL for Jon Gruden as his team was outplayed in the second half of the Raiders’ loss to the Rams. If we are being honest, the Rams were simply a more talented team and going to Denver is no easy task. However, no new coach is being paid anywhere near what Gruden is and he knows the importance of winning AFC West games in a highly competitive division. That makes for a pretty important game in Colorado.

#2 Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans) vs Houston Texans

The Titans played one of the more unusual games of Week 2 due to the weather delay against the Dolphins. They will face a desperate Texans team coming off a loss and if Mike Vrabel loses to the Dolphins and the Texans those could potentially be tie breakers in AFC playoff positioning later on. Adding the pressure is the continuing injury situations that quarterback Marcus Mariota has found himself in during his NFL career that continued on Week 1.

#1 Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions) at San Francisco 49ers

The Detroit Lions’ loss against the New York Jets seemed so bad that it seemed to count for 2 losses in the standings. Matt Patricia, known as an important member of the Patriots staff during his tenure, looked stunned as his team was outplayed in all facets and now his team faces a cross country trip against a matchup opponent that should be their equal in terms of talent. Neither the 49ers or the Lions look like serious contenders in their division so they need to beat opponents of similar talent and this is their chance or risk the chances of falling to 0-2.


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