Commentary

Fame, fortune, constant pressure

Coaching profession has become more stressful than ever; many factors at play

Originally Published: September 28, 2012
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

Anyone who ever has looked at before and after pictures from the time a U.S. president takes office until the time he leaves it can see the full toll the job takes. It is, in a word, extreme.

It is not much different than the toll it takes to be an NFL head coach. A job that provides fame and fortune also provides untold stress and pressure -- see the before and after pictures of Dan Reeves from the time the Broncos hired him as their head coach in 1981 to the time they fired him in 1992.

Even before Monday night's Inaccurate Reception or Fail Mary or whatever football historians will dub it and the NFL-NFLRA settlement, the pressures head coaches now face have been ratcheted up to DEFCON levels higher than ever.

For starters, head coaches had to deal with replacement officials who did not know the rules as well as the coaches do. Nothing makes a head coach's blood pressure rise and neck veins pop quite like an official's questionable call -- and the NFL never has had more of them through three weeks. A bad call such as the one we all saw Monday night can cost a team a game, which can cost it a playoff spot -- which can cost the coach his job.

Coaches also must deal with more TV shows, radio shows, websites, blogs and social media questioning and criticizing every single one of their moves. Other than being president, there might not be another job as closely scrutinized as being an NFL head coach.

Players are bigger, faster and stronger, which contributes to the types of injuries that rack and rock a team and a coach's season. Jets coach Rex Ryan just lost Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, his best player, maybe the finest player in franchise history, to a non-contact, season-ending knee injury. Other coaches lose players vital to their schemes.

Then there's the matter of today's players, who don't always listen. Look no further than the Redskins' team meeting the Saturday night before they played the Rams. Redskins coaches played a 10-minute video that covered the past three years of late hits and incidents in which St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan has baited opponents into penalties. After playing the video, Redskins coaches warned their players: Do not retaliate. Do not react. This is what Finnegan has done for years, and he will try to do it again.

So what happens? Finnegan shoves Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan, Morgan retaliates and the Redskins attempt to tie the score with a 62-yard field goal rather than a more manageable 47-yard try. A Washington loss, and more stress.

Head-coaching jobs are jobs of a lifetime, with many rewards. Coaches are paid a lot, but they also pay a lot to do it. They always have. But they never have had to pay the price they do today.

Being an NFL head coach always has been tough. But it never has been tougher.

On to this week's 10 Spot:

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Kevin Reece/Icon SMIAaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense have yet to hit their stride.

1. Pack lacking punch: Lost in the Monday night madness was the fact Green Bay's supposedly high-powered offense has scored only four touchdowns in three games. Green Bay failed to score at all during Monday night's first half, when it was limited to 87 total yards and gave up eight sacks. Aaron Rodgers looks like just another quarterback, not the MVP he was last season. And coming off a season in which the Packers' defense failed them, this season the offense has failed the team so far. It's why Green Bay already has lost more games this season than it did during the entire 2011 regular season.

2. Jetting New York? Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis already is out for the year. He soon could be done with the Jets all together. The four-year, $46 million contract that Revis signed after his September 2010 holdout includes a clause that prevents the Jets from using their franchise tag on him when the deal expires after next season.

Now mix in his knee injury. It will be difficult for the Jets to pay Revis the type of money he wants when he is damaged goods. Thus the Jets are likely to allow him to enter the last year of his contract without an extension, just one season away from unrestricted free agency, no strings attached. It sets up a different type of showdown than the one the two sides experienced in the summer of 2010. But ultimately, this is the one that could lead to the end of Revis' Jets career.

3. Coughlin closes in: For their longevity alone, Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid have been questioned and criticized as much as any head coaches in the game. At various points, fans in each city have called for each head coach's job. But what Coughlin has done is a lesson in patience and perseverance.

When Coughlin leads his team into Philadelphia to play Reid's Eagles on Sunday night, he will be going for his 85th victory with the Giants (including playoffs), which would tie Bill Parcells for the second most coaching wins in franchise history. Each led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins, and each has a clean and well-lighted place in New York sports history. And yet, neither Parcells nor Coughlin is close to the Giants' all-time coaching wins leader, Steve Owen, who won 153.

4. Kick-starting careers: Turns out that quarterback is not the only position at which rookies are making an immediate and dramatic impact this season. Rookie kickers are doing it, too. It's difficult to remember the last time this many young, strong-legged kickers arrived on the scene at once, helping their teams so early. Baltimore's Justin Tucker kicked well enough to supplant former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff and give the Ravens a long-range threat they haven't had in recent seasons, as evidenced by the 56-yard field goal he booted against the Eagles. St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein has been so impressive with his regular 50- and 60-yard field goals during practice that the Rams already refer to him as "Greg The Leg." And Minnesota's Blair Walsh connected on 50-plus-yard field goals in each of his first three games, making the Vikings forget that they ever relied on veteran Ryan Longwell.

And this list doesn't even include former Texas A&M standout Randy Bullock, whom the Houston Texans made the first kicker drafted last April, taking him in the fifth round, but who now is on injured reserve. One general manager said he didn't know why it is, but kickers have stronger legs than ever before. Another predicted that this would be the year that someone breaks the 63-yard record that Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam, Sebastian Janikowski and David Akers share for the longest field goal in NFL history. The time to shatter that mark is coming. The ball isn't juiced in football. It feels as if the kickers' legs are.

[+] EnlargeJones-Drew
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireA training camp no-show, Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew has been productive early.

5. No camp, no problem: The only thing more overrated than strength of schedule is training camp. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, the two highest-profile training camp holdouts, already have proved their camp absences had no ill effects. Coming off a 177-yard performance against the Colts, Jones-Drew is now 9 yards behind Jamaal Charles for the NFL's rushing lead. Jones-Drew makes it a point to draft himself in fantasy football each year, and he continually rewards his owners, starting with himself.

Wallace already has caught 17 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns, one more touchdown than he had through three games in each of the past two seasons. While learning a new offense, Wallace has continued to be the same old playmaker. And this should be remembered next summer. When some key disgruntled player fails to show for training camp, no one should be overly alarmed. Coaches need not overreact and fantasy-football values should not be affected greatly. The great players keep making great plays.

6. Finally an answer at RB? It almost feels as though the Lions haven't had a dependable running back since Barry Sanders. But in Week 3, coming off a two-game suspension this year and a torn Achilles last year, Lions running back Mikel Leshoure gave Detroit a dose of hope.

Leshoure carried 26 times for 100 yards, becoming the first Lions running back to gain 100 yards in his debut since Billy Sims did it Sept. 7, 1980. Leshoure also became the first running back with 25 carries, 100 yards and one touchdown in his NFL debut since Cadillac Williams did it in 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The point is, when Detroit hosts Minnesota on Sunday, the Lions finally might have a runner to complement wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

7. Drop-off for Brees, Rodgers: It didn't happen this past offseason, but in the previous two offseasons, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Saints quarterback Drew Brees trained together in Del Mar, Calif. "We have been buddies for a few years now," Rodgers told reporters this week. They squared off in the regular-season opener last year, when Rodgers and Brees were the two best quarterbacks in football. But this year they have been as off as the replacement refs. They have struggled in ways few predicted.

From the first three games last season to the first three games this season, Rodgers' completion percentage has dropped from 71.8 to 67.8 while Brees' has dropped from 68.5 to 54.7. Rodgers' passing yards per game have gone from an average of 305.7 in the first three games last year to 248.3 this year; Brees' output has gone from 353.3 yards per game to 301.3. Rodgers threw eight touchdowns and one interception during the first three games last year and has thrown three touchdowns and two interceptions this year. Brees has gone from a nine-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio last year to a seven-to-five ratio this year. When the two square off again Sunday in Green Bay, one quarterback will emerge victorious and the other will have even more questions shadowing him.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Hawkins
Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun/Getty ImagesThe elusive Andrew Hawkins has made life easier for Bengals QB Andy Dalton.

8. Green has help: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green received the hype, the signing bonus and the accolades, and deservingly so. But he is playing opposite two undrafted free agents, Armon Binns and Andrew Hawkins, who have made their own mark on Cincinnati and on this season.

Binns and Hawkins each has caught 12 passes -- Binns for 157 yards and one touchdown, Hawkins for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Each has been able to consistently make plays while defenses have keyed on shutting down Green. Binns is bigger, Hawkins more elusive, but they have given quarterback Andy Dalton a plethora of targets to throw to and answered the offseason question regarding who would be the player to emerge as Cincinnati's No. 2 wide receiver. The answer is each is more than capable.

9. Return of Raheem: Very quietly, former Buccaneers head coach and current Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris returns to Tampa this weekend to take on the team that fired him. Morris was rankled at how willingly Tampa Bay spent money this offseason, something it didn't always seem to do while he was the head coach. So it will be personal for Morris, but personnel for the Redskins. Washington has asked Morris all about his former team in the hopes he can provide an advantage. "He knows the personnel inside and out, so it always helps to get some inside information on what the strengths and weaknesses of some guys are," Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan admitted.

10. Don't overlook these feats: With almost all talk focused on the Monday night debacle and replacement referees, there has been little discussion about the NFL's last three unbeaten teams: the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals. Few observers are mentioning that Houston's J.J. Watt has turned into a defensive superstar, Atlanta's defense has caught up with its offense and Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb now has gone five straight games without throwing an interception. Overlooked are running backs such as Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson, who have successfully fought back from knee injuries that have ended some players' careers. The discussion continues to center on replacing the replacement referees and the way it has affected the integrity and safety of the game. For a league so concerned about image, this was not the image the NFL wanted to present. But now it's back to the regular officials, and regular referee Ed Hochuli told the Los Angeles Times, "I dropped down on the floor and started doing pushups" when he heard an agreement was in place.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the week: New York Giants at Philadelphia -- Giants coming off of one of the most impressive road games a team has played this season, Eagles coming off one of the least impressive road games a team has played. They meet again.

Player of the week: Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas -- Oakland lacks the defensive backs to match up with him.

Upset of the week: St. Louis over Seattle -- After an emotional win Monday night, the Seahawks now head east to play an early game against an underrated and feisty Jeff Fisher-led team.