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Eisenberg: Evidence NFL Is Utterly Obsessed With Offense


If you needed evidence that the NFL has become completely and utterly obsessed with offense, the recent round of coaching hires provided it. 

Seven teams were looking for a new head coach who could (they hope) make them winners and lead them deep into the playoffs. All seven hired offensive coordinators.

The New York Giants promoted Ben McAdoo, their incumbent OC. The Tampa Bay Bucs also promoted their OC, Dirk Koetter. The Miami Dolphins hired Chicago's OC, Adam Gase. The Philadelphia Eagles hired Kansas City's OC, Doug Pederson. The Cleveland Browns hired Cincinnati's OC, Hue Jackson. The San Francisco 49ers hired Chip Kelly, a renowned offensive guru if not a sitting OC.

The Tennessee Titans looked at a bunch of guys and ended up keeping their interim head coach, Mike Mularkey, who was an OC for three teams before becoming a head coach.

Defensive coaches got shut out. Remember that old adage about defense winning championships? It seems to have gone by the wayside, which is fine except a check of this year's statistics indicates the adage might still be true.

All four teams playing in Sunday's conference championship games ranked in the top third of the league in total defense in 2015. But that's not the case on the other side of the ball. Neither Carolina nor Denver made the top 10 in total offense.

Overall, the teams ranked first, second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth in total defense qualified for the postseason. But teams with high-flying offenses didn't fare nearly as well. Somewhat incredibly (if you ask me), six of the top 10 teams in total offense failed to make the playoffs. Yet teams ranked Nos. 11, 15, 16, 17, 19, 23, 27 and 29 in total offense all reached the postseason.

That's a blizzard of numbers (sorry, had to use that word), but here's the short version of what they mean: If you wanted to reach the playoffs this season, a strong defense was your surest ticket. (The Ravens, by the way, were an exception. They finished No. 8 in total defense but didn't sniff the playoffs.)

In other words, you can get where you want to go without anointing a new offensive genius and counting on his pinball attack. Sometimes, it's better just to play good, solid defense. Imagine that.

I'm not saying these seven teams were wrong to make these hires. Some bright coaches are getting a chance. The Ravens certainly respect Hue Jackson, who helped develop Joe Flacco when he coached here.

Hey, if the Arizona Cardinals, with the league's No. 1 offense, and the New England Patriots, ranked No. 6, ended up playing in the Super Bowl, it would send quite a message about the power of offensive football.

But there's no way the Super Bowl can't be a matchup of top defenses, with New England ranked the lowest at No. 9.

If any team stands for the enduring power of defense, it's the Ravens. They've finished in the top 10 in total defense for two straight years and 11 of the past 13, a period that coincides with a run of playoff appearances. That's how they roll, in good times and bad, and the stats suggest they're wise to do it.

I'm thinking at least a few of these teams that hired OCs are going to end up wishing they had focused more on the other side of the ball.

OK, here are my predictions for Sunday.

1) Carolina beats Arizona, 24-22. It's the Panthers' year.

2) New England beats Denver, 20-17. Brady/Manning is a mismatch at this point.

3) At least once during the doubleheader, the football nation will shake its head and grouse that the officials don't know what they're doing.

I'm not rooting for the latter. I'm rooting for the teams, not the refs, to decide the games. But officiating gaffes have been a talking point all season, so why stop now?

The refs take a lot of heat, but I like Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti's take on the subject. Asked about the state of NFL officiating at the team's end-of-season press conference, Bisciotti said he thought the refs were just as adept as a decade ago; the problem, he said, is the rule book has become unwieldy and sophisticated technology enables us to see so much more, including what the refs get wrong,

I agree 100 percent. The size and detail of the rulebook has made officiating close to impossible. You need a master's degree to understand the catch rule, just to name one problem spot.

Remember that when you're yelling at the refs tomorrow.

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