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With half the season to go, some NFL teams are already in evaluation mode

The Tennessee Titans were beaten 51-20 by the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and owner Bud Adams wasn't happy about it. In fact, Adams was so unhappy that, according to The Tennesseean, he was in the air on his private jet back to his home in Houston by the third quarter of the game. 

When reached by The Tennesseean after the game, Adams had this to say.

“In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans,’’ Adams told the paper. “We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish today.

“At this time, all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated, including front office, coaches and players, over the next seven games. If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a playoff and championship football team.”

The 2012 Titans stand at 3-6, but still have nearly half their schedule ahead of them. Head coach Mike Munchak and his staff are in their second season with the Titans and are coming off a 9-7 campaign in 2011. There is also a history of mid-season rallies in the organization. The Titans started 0-6 in 2009, capped by a 59-0 loss to the New England Patriots, before rallying to win eight of their final 10 games. 

Adams, however, is unlike NFL owners. This is a man who has twice been caught on camera extending his middle finger to fans. 

Evaluation season is not exclusive to Tennessee, however. Washington Redskins had this to say after a 21-6 loss on Sunday.

"When you lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who is going to be on your football team for years to come," Shanahan said. "Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at."

Shanahan's statement is already not playing well in the locker room.

"I'm not thinking about next year; that's an offseason thing for me," said Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. "But you know it's hard when you see yourself in that type of position, and your head coach is saying those types of things. It's disappointing."

Like the Titans, Washington finds itself at 3-6 this season. And like the Titans, Washington still has seven games left this season. 

This is the NFL, after all. Nearly half of all games are decided by a touchdown or less. With nearly two full months left in the season, a late-season rally is not at all outside the realm of possibility. 

Brian Kelly: "I've never had a team win because they were lucky"

On Saturday, Notre Dame had to rally back from a 20-6 deficit and put up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter (including a two points conversion following a missed PAT) to send the game overtime before escaping with a triple overtime win against Pitt.

The ball bounced Notre Dame's direction a handful of times, the defense came up big when it needed to, and Pitt had a handful of great opportunities to escape South Bend with a win, but the Irish successfully dodged a few bullets and came out on top when it mattered the most.

If you ask Brian Kelly, his 9-0 Fighting Irish didn't get lucky on Saturday. The way that he sees it, winning teams make the most of their opportunities and earn everything they get.

"Most of the time you're making your luck and you're playing through some rough spots. I've never had a team that's won because it was lucky. But I've had many teams that were fortunate because they were good football teams and they found a way to win." Kelly told reporters yesterday during their weekly teleconference. 

"I don't think that I've ever had a lucky football team, I think I've had a team that's gotten some breaks along the way, but generally those teams have earned them along the way." he added.

Over the next three weeks Notre Dame will travel to Boston College, host Wake Forest in South Bend, and then head to sunny southern California for their season finale against USC.

 

Is "He's too young" really valid?

In the coming weeks and months a new crop of assistant coaches should have the opportunity to become first-time head coaches. A group of successful assistant coaches that could graduate to head coaching positions in the not-too-distant future includes Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (36), Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (41), Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (39), Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman (37), Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel (37), Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris (43), Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich (39), Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin (35), Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury (33) and Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown (31). Jason Gesser (33), the interim head coach at Idaho, is also in close proximity to a full-time head coaching job.

The problem with those names, according to some, is that they're too young. As in "not old enough to run for president" young in some cases. 

But the question we have at FootballScoop is, is age really a valid concern?

Over the weekend we took a look at the youngest FBS head coaches, and our results indicate that the 40-and-under crowd is winning in a big way.

Head coach Age School Record
Matt Campbell 32 Toledo 8-1
Willie Taggart 36 Western Kentucky 6-3
Justin Fuente 36 Memphis 1-8
Lane Kiffin 37 USC 6-3
Pat Fitzgerald 37 Northwestern 7-2
Steve Sarkisian 38 Washington 5-4
Garrick McGee 39 UAB 2-7
David Shaw 40 Stanford 7-2
Dave Doeren 40 Northern Illinois 9-1
James Franklin 40 Vanderbilt 5-4
Dan Mullen 40 Mississippi State 7-2
Tony Levine 40 Houston 4-5

Overall, that group is 67-42 (.615) this season. If you consider that Fuente and McGee are in their first seasons in situations where Vince Lombardi would struggle to win, the record improves to a stellar 64-27 (.703). 

Expand the criteria to coaches in their early-40's and the youth movement looks even stronger.

Head coach Age School Record
Will Muschamp 41 Florida 8-1
Kyle Flood 41 Rutgers 7-1
Dana Holgorsen 41 West Virginia 5-3
Pete Lembo 42 Ball State 6-3
Mario Cristobal 42 Florida International 1-8
Sonny Dykes 42 Louisiana Tech 8-1
Dabo Swinney 42 Clemson 8-1
Bill O'Brien 43 Penn State 6-3

As a whole, this group is 49-21 (.700). Coupled with the group above and young head coaches enjoy a composite 116-63 (.648) record. 

In college football, winning begins with recruiting better players than your opponent. With that in mind, imagine you are a 16-year-old recruit. Who are you more likely to relate to, a 35-year-old coach or a 65-year-old coach?

The success of young head coaches are having so early in their careers has to be making athletic directors across the country asking themselves if youth is really a bad thing. 

 

Would Sean Payton really leave the Saints?

The events of the past 24 hours have many people in the coaching profession (and beyond) asking if Sean Payton would really leave the New Orleans Saints.

Honestly, these days you never really know.

Payton has compiled a 67-37 record since 2006 as a head coach, including a 5-3 mark in the postseason which was highlighted with their 2009 Super Bowl XLIV win, and is very loved amongst the New Orleans and greater Louisiana community for all that he does on an off the field. But that doesn't make him a lock to stick around...crazier things have happened in the coaching profession.

Yesterday, Adam Schefter reported that the contract extension that Sean Payton had apparently signed in September of 2011 was never officially approved by the NFL. So right now it looks like Payton will become a free agent after his suspension is up at the conclusion of the season

Sports Illustrated's Peter King has a great take on the whole situation.

In short, King explains that both Philadelphia and Dallas would be interested if Payton does indeed become available (Payton previously served as an assistant coach with both organizations). The link to the whole article has plenty more quality insight from King.

If we were asked to lay money on the table, we'd still place it on Payton coaching the Saints next year; but in this day and age, who knows. Seeing how ineffective the Saints have been without him, Tom Benson has little choice but to pay up. 

Wins and losses don't always tell the whole story

Coming into this season, D-II Livingstone College had won a total of one game in the previous two years. In 2010, their closest loss was a 13 point loss in their season finale. In 2011 they made significant strides, with three of their losses coming by less than ten points (with one being a three point loss in overtime).

When head coach Elvin James took the job back in December of 2009, the program had the second longest losing streak in the country, and hadn't had a win in front of their home crowd since 2008.

In their first two seasons on campus, the offense ranked last in the conference, and totaled about 1,500 yards each season (1,356  yards in 2010 and 1,177 yards in 2011). In 2010, the team found the end zone just seven times. That number nearly doubled to 13 the next season.

The 2012 season has been a different story, written in a completely different book. The offense has really clicked, accounting for 3,665 yards and 33 touchdowns, while averaging 386 yards per game. Their total yardage this season eclipsed their combined total from the past two seasons. 2012 also marked the first time since 2007 that a running back had over 1,000 all purpose yards (1,073) and four receivers combined for over 140 receptions and 13 touchdowns. 

Livingstone also entered uncharted territory with back to backs wins (by a combined seven points) in weeks four and five of the season. It's also worth mentioning that they're getting all this done with a freshman quarterback under center who has set numerous school records (some that have stood for nearly 50 years).

The Bears have really closed the gap on their competition on the field, and finding a way to win the close games is a mark of a program on the rise. Additionally, the play of their young quarterback and other young players shows that the staff is doing an impressive job evaluating talent and getting them on campus and coaching them up.

While 2-8 doesn't show the results that any coaching staff would like to see, it's evident that Coach James and his staff have laid a solid foundation, and the program should be in great shape moving forward in 2013. 

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