“Big Games, Big Moments”| The Different Ways NFL Coaches Are Preparing For The Draft

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An NFL head coach’s job is never really done. There’s no such thing as a mental vacation, because the operation of NFL football is a 24-7, 365-days-a-year task. 

Each year, 14 head coaches are fortunate enough to make the NFL postseason. But those teams and the 18 less fortunate franchises are still busy with player exit meetings, tape reviews of prospective draft picks, their own free agents, NFL Combine, college pro days, player meetings, culminating with the NFL draft. 

 

Denver Broncos NFL draft war room 2019. (Photo: Getty Images)

After all of that, head coaches then have to manage people, personalities and egos. 

Being an NFL head coach means you have no real offseason. For many, the pressure is on to find those final pieces that will hopefully lead to a Super Bowl run. For others, it’s about acquiring young talent and as many future picks as possible to rebuild the roster.

As with any sport, the only team truly satisfied at season’s end is the one hoisting the championship trophy. Coaches will often find the silver lining in a season that has fallen short of expectations. When it comes to title contenders, however, owners and general managers want results, not moral victories. 

That was what the current Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams were hoping to avoid after going for broke with some blockbuster moves during the 2021 offseason. A moral victory for them — like simply advancing to the Super Bowl — would’ve been considered a complete failure. Being a head coach is stressful and time-consuming. The handsome financial compensation doesn’t lessen the physical and mental strain on the emotional psyche.

Offseason preparation and selecting valuable draft picks are elements of team building that make and break a coach.

Coaches Of Contenders Use NFL Draft To Round Out Championship Caliber Roster

The Rams are the odds-on favorites to repeat as 2023 Super Bowl champions. In order to fulfill such lofty goals, head coach Sean McVay and staff will have to replace stalwart offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, who retired, and defensive end Von Miller, a future Hall of Famer who left via free agency.

(Photo: Youtube/LA Rams)

Which is why McVay has spent countless hours watching film on prospective left tackles and edge rushers. His face-to-face meetings at the NFL Combine were offensive line- and edge rusher-heavy as well. Those two pieces have to be filled in order for McVay to feel comfortable heading into 2022.

Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs have been at the center of offseason rumors, conversations and criticisms, following Reid’s AFC Championship game collapse, a game in which KC blew a 21-3 lead at home to the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Having an all-world quarterback in Patrick Mahomes under center makes the Chiefs an annual Super Bowl contender, but the team also traded Mahomes’ most dangerous weapon Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins when the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on a lucrative extension for the game-breaking “Cheetah.” 

One season after fixing an offensive line that gave up the most combined QB pressures (62) in back-to-back Super Bowls, Reid and staff have spent this offseason trying to up their passing game after trading Hill. Enhancing the passing attack and improving a leaky secondary are two vital areas that Reid desperately wants the team to address. 

In 2018, when Reid was gung-ho on drafting Mahomes, he was smitten by Mahomes’ ability to play off schedule and making throws under duress. Reid was so enamored with Mahomes’ skill set from all the pre-draft meetings, film and workouts that he even changed his offensive scheme to maximize Mahomes’ talents. 

He went from more of a West Coast quick passing game to West Coast spread. Taking more shots downfield, something he’d been wanting to do for years to adapt to how the game was being played. He even told his former boss, Eagles GM Joe Banner, what his plan was. While Reid implemented it somewhat during his time coaching Michael Vick, he really went all in with Mahomes at the helm.

“He started talking about integrating spread college elements into a West Coast pro offense at least 10-12 years ago,” Banner said. “You can see if you go back and look at the tape. Andy is fearless and passionately believes in being aggressive, and I think he recognizes that occasionally being aggressive will blow up in your face. But the benefits massively outweigh the times it can blow up in your face.”

Other contenders around the league, like Mike McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys, Todd Bowles’ Buccaneers, Sean McDermott’s Buffalo Bills, Brandon Staley’s Los Angeles Chargers, Matt LaFleur’s Green Bay Packers, and Zac Brown’s Cincinnati Bengals, take similar approaches as it pertains to the draft. 

Dallas Cowboys NFL draft war room. (Photo: Getty Images)

Because all of those teams have elite quarterbacks they trust can carry the load, those front offices put complementary pieces in place via the draft or free agency.

Coaches Of Rebuilding Teams Take Different Approach To The Draft And Events Leading Up To It

Struggling franchises such as the Jacksonville Jaguars are less particular about their needs because accumulating talent is usually first priority. Jacksonville has a new Super Bowl-winning coach in Doug Pederson, who was hired following a 13-game debacle of a tenure under Urban Meyer. 

Pederson came in and hit the road running. His major chore is putting quality pieces around franchise QB Trevor Lawrence. Pederson has some experience in that department, as he turned Carson Wentz into the 2017 MVP favorite. Pederson has been looking for offensive lineman to keep Lawrence upright and receivers to make plays for him.

That’s been his main focus and restoring some belief and positive vibes back into the Jags following Meyer’s disastrous stint. Pederson, considered a shrewd strategist and talent evaluator, is looking forward to Thursday, as he once again will have the chance to prove he can run an NFL team, beginning with the draft.

Another team in rebuild mode is the Houston Texans and head coach Lovie Smith, who recently traded franchise QB Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns. The team played without Watson all of last season as he continued to deal with a myriad of legal issues. Houston went with unproven rookie Davis Mills under center, and he played well for a guy with not much talent around him.

The Texans will now be looking to add talent using the haul of picks secured in trading Watson to the Browns. Their future is down the line, and building draft capital is mandatory. 

Other head coaches from teams that are rebuilding, such as the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons will be doing the same. 

 

The NFL draft is traditionally the first big moment of the new NFL calendar year, where players will see their dreams come to fruition. NFL coaches will be under the gun to make the winning recipe work come mini-camps, training camps and the season. So, for coaches, this is where the workload escalates a few more notches as preparation for the 2022 NFL season begins.