Five quick takes on the first week of the NFL season:
1. What else is there left to say about Aaron Rodgers? He’s a competitor and brings back memories of the line about Bobby Layne that he never lost, but sometimes ran out of time. Is there anybody better in a one-score game late in the fourth quarter than Rodgers?
2. Deshaun Watson has the excuse that he is coming off a torn ACL, but nobody should be surprised that he and Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t pick up where they left off last year. Teams had an offseason to study them. And nobody should get too carried away with Sam Darnold’s first game. He showed poise by coming back from a pick-six on his first throw, but he is still likely to suffer rookie growing pains going forward.
3. Nobody should be surprised that the rookie head coaches went 0-7 in their coaching debuts. New head coaches often take on bad teams. Remember Chuck Noll started out 1-13 and Bill Walsh 2-14. But don’t be surprised if there’s not another Noll or Walsh in this group of new coaches.
4. Of the new coaches, the one who had the most embarrassing debut was Jon Gruden. The miserable showing of the Oakland Raiders defense in the second half against the Los Angeles Rams in Gruden’s debut came after he traded Khalil Mack, who had an impressive debut with the Chicago Bears. That raised more questions about whether owner Mark Davis made a mistake giving Gruden a $100 million deal. First, Gruden said they couldn’t afford Mack. Then he said Mack didn’t want to play for the Raiders. Trading one of the league’s best pass rushers in his prime makes no sense, regardless of Gruden’s explanations.
5. Nobody should be surprised at the sloppy play in the first week of the season. Coaches are so afraid of injuries that they don’t play their top players enough in the preseason, so they’re not ready to play at a top level for the first couple weeks of the season. Coaches should stop worrying so much about injuries and give their top players more playing time in the preseason.