Nov 6, 2018
By Tony Dunst
I’m sad to say it, but half the NFL regular season is behind us now. Financially, it’s been an incredible year for the NFL; scoring and ratings are up, gambling on games is (increasingly) legalized, and injuries to key players are down. It’s always fun to speculate on what an upcoming season holds, but now that we’re midway through, we can reflect on what we’ve learned so far.
1. Protecting the Quarterback is a Good Thing
As a Packer fan, I have every reason to complain about all the roughing-the-passer flags flying across the NFL…but as a football fan, I think these penalties have clearly been a positive change. Injuries to quarterbacks were so prevalent in previous years that we’d reach the playoffs and the first round would inevitably be the Titans’ backup quarterback vs the Texans’ third-stringer. My eyes would bleed as TJ Yates threw six completions over four quarters. Very few starting quarterbacks have suffered serious injuries this year, and the NFL is better for it.
2. Jon Gruden is a Joke
That was hardly a rare take before the season started, but after nine weeks it’s become obvious. I actually liked Gruden as a commentator; he was passionate, excitable, and barked coach-speak like “Spider-two banana!” on the reg. But, as a coach and GM, he’s clearly overwhelmed and behind the times. In any highly competitive field, it’s hard for anyone to stay at the top of the game longer than a few years. Expecting someone out of the game for a decade to still have an edge is just ridiculous, and the Raider’s abysmal 1-7 record is a glaring reminder.
3. Coaches are Learning Math
Although it’s years overdue, it’s refreshing to see that (some) coaches are finally learning that math dictates many football decisions. The most noticeable trend is teams going for it more on 4th down; both on the goal-line, and in punting scenarios where little is gained from changing field position. We’re also seeing more two-point conversion attempts, especially from coaches who understand that getting a tie or loss doesn’t harm their season as much as getting a win improves it.
4. Pat Mahomes Could be the Next GOAT
I’ll admit that crowning a new king after nine starts is preemptive, but in 25 years of watching football, I’ve never seen a start to a career quite like Mahomes. There have been a few recent quarterbacks who looked similarly promising in their first year—Robert Griffin III and DeShaun Watson come to mind but both those players relied on their legs in a way that routinely put them at risk. While Mahomes isn’t that fast, he’s equally mobile and already incredible at throwing on the run. I’ve been lucky to have Aaron Rodgers as my quarterback for the last decade, but I’ll admit to having a wandering eye for the future of Mahomes.