Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Nov. 28

Let's get to it:

MARC SIMON FROM NAPLES, FL: What makes an NFL coach a great coach? Multiple championship winning coaches include Vince Lombardi with Bart Starr, Don Shula with Bob Griese, Bill Belichick with Tom Brady, Chuck Noll with Terry Bradshaw, Bill Walsh with Joe Montana and Steve Young, Jimmy Johnson with Troy Aikman, Tom Coughlin with Eli Manning. What do they all have in common? Hall of Fame quarterbacks. So, does the quarterback make the coach, or does the coach make the quarterback?
ANSWER: My belief is that the NFL is a players' league, and college football is the one that's the coaches' league. And in the NFL, it goes beyond a coach having a Hall of Fame quarterback, because Shula had Dan Marino for 17 seasons and only got to one Super Bowl and lost it. Jimmy Johnson won national championships at the University of Miami, and he won with Aikman in Dallas, but he couldn't win with Marino in Miami because the other components of the Dolphins' roster wasn't good enough. Steve Spurrier could win national championships at Florida via offensive schemes – multiple wide receivers with Danny Wuerffel at quarterback and then with a dual threat quarterback in Tim Tebow – but that couldn't work for him when Dan Snyder hired him to coach in Washington, D.C. There is an old, grammatically incorrect saying about Bear Bryant, that he could "take his'n and beat your'n, and then take your'n and beat his'n." Not even Bear would be able to make that kind of magic work in the NFL. In the Sunday League, you win with players, and in the vast majority of instances it starts with the quarterback.

CHRISTOPHER GIBSON FROM MANALAPAN, NJ: As I understand it, blocked punts and kicks are not recorded as team turnovers or takeaways, but are they credited to the players involved as "forced fumbles" and "fumble recoveries?" If not, where do these stats show up in the box score?
ANSWER: Too often those statistics – detailing which player blocked a kick – cannot be found in a traditional box score. What are listed are the punters or placekickers who have a kicked blocked, but you have to go into the detailed play-by-play of the game and hope the guy who blocked the kick is listed in the description of the play.

JON WHITE FROM LANCASTER, LANCASHIRE, UK: I was quite surprised – and disappointed – that Benny Snell saw no carries after Jaylen Warren went down, which resulted in a high workload on Kenny Pickett's arm and the offense grinding to a halt in the third quarter. If Snell isn't trusted as a complementary runner and only as a special teamer, is the one-two punch at running back that fans have enjoyed only possible with Najee Harris and Warren? Or perhaps Harris and Master Teague, who I'm glad to see being signed to the practice squad?
ANSWER: This isn't a video game, where things are plug-and-play. Players are on the roster for certain things they can contribute, and not everyone at the same position should be expected to do what everyone else at the position is able to do. Benny Snell is a key special teams component and building a playoff-caliber roster depends on having guys like him. But Snell is not Warren, nor is Warren like Snell. Finding a Jaylen Warren for running back depth is not easy and being expected to have another one after Warren is unrealistic when an injury happens during a game.

ROBERT MONTAGUE FROM ASHLAND, KY: During the second half of the Bengals game last Sunday, the combo of Joe Burrow to Tee Higgins torched the Steelers repeatedly. It looked like the Steelers secondary was out of position on most of those plays, often being behind the targeted receiver instead of in front of him or at his side. Do you think that more man coverage rather than zone is the right fix?
ANSWER: As I wrote in an answer that appears above, the NFL in a players' league, and the Steelers coverage personnel wasn't as good as the Bengals' pass offense personnel last Sunday. The Steelers had some success at times lining up Minkah Fitzpatrick on top of Higgins with some kind of zone shell deeper in the secondary, but Joe Borrow is a really good quarterback with excellent accuracy, and he was seeing things very well in the second half of that game. And just saying – as well as the Burrow-to-Higgins connection worked for the Bengals, if the Steelers had done a better job controlling Cincinnati's backup running back, maybe some of those second half touchdowns end up only being field goals.

SCOTT ROGERS FROM CENTERVILLE, OH: I listen to The Drive on SNR frequently, and I noticed Dale Lolley and Matt Williamson talk about the snap-share counts for inside linebackers Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane. We fans are not experts, nor attending practices, but I'm sure I'm speaking for many other fans when I say I'm confused as to why the split is so equal, as opposed to Jack and Bush playing the higher percentage of the snaps. Do you have any inside knowledge on the strengths that the coaches think Spillane brings to the defense that us fans may not know about?
ANSWER: Robert Spillane is viewed as a smart player and good communicator, which is a factor in getting everyone lined up properly and understanding and communicating the checks that take place once the offense aligns on the line of scrimmage. That's the best I can tell you.

COLE SCHLATTER FROM BISMARCK, ND: I have not been to any of the Steelers' games in Pittsburgh this year. Have they tried playing Renegade by Styx yet?
ANSWER: Yes, it's played every game and that usually happens at some stage of the fourth quarter, but nobody from Styx can line up and cover Tee Higgins, either.

DAN MELCHIOR FROM SAN DIEGO, CA: Obviously the game is just one component of the work that players do during the season. About how many hours a week do the players put in when you consider practice, meetings, weight room, training room, media time, travel, etc., and of course games? I'm guessing it's a pretty significant amount of time.
ANSWER: It is a significant amount of time during the season, and to have a good career there is a consistent time commitment required during the offseason to prepare oneself for the regular season. "We're not paid by the hour; we're paid based on results," Coach Mike Tomlin has said. "Some guys are quick studies, and some guys aren't. Some guys can be duly prepared simply by coming to work and doing what's required while they're at work. Some guys need to do extra on the front end to tee up performance during the course of the work-week. Some people study with a review mentality, with a look back at the data they just executed as opposed to the front-end work. The key as a professional is to know what group you're in and what's best for you and then to do what's appropriate. Like I mentioned, we're not paid by the hour. If you're not a quick study, then you have to make the commitment, whatever that is in an effort to be ready to perform."

JIM WOLFE FROM ARLINGTON, TN: Did the NFL change the rules around flexing games? Can they now flex Monday night games as well?
ANSWER: As of this season, the NFL will not flex Monday night games, but next year that will be on the menu. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that during Weeks 14-18 of the 2023 NFL regular season, the league will be able to flex Monday night games.

"And then the real interesting thing about Monday Night Football next year, is that as part of the new (broadcast) deals, the Monday Night Football games in December are subject to flexible scheduling," said Mike North, the league's vice president of broadcast scheduling. "We'll treat it just like we treat Sunday night. We're gonna put a game on the schedule, and it's gonna be a game that we're counting on, and planning on, and expecting to play. We wouldn't have put it there otherwise. Everybody's got this notion of all the uncertainty about Sunday-night flex. We flex, maybe, once a year. We didn't flex at all last year, certainly not in December."

North added that the hope is to avoid having to flex games late in the year, but the league is willing to do what needs to be done to spotlight the best games of each week.

"Hopefully the crystal ball is clear and the games we pick for prime time late in the season hold up and are worthwhile and have playoff implications when we get there," North said. "But if they don't, we're not doing anybody any favors by leaving a game in prime time if it's not compelling."

North emphasized that all nationally broadcast games in Weeks 14, 15, 16 and 17 will be subject to flexible scheduling in 2023. Week 18, the league's most flexible week, won't finalize broadcast times until later in the year.

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