What the AFC West Coaches Are Saying About the 2017 Season
The AFC West is one of the older divisions in the NFL, full of history and teams that make for exciting games. The Kansas City Chiefs took the AFC West division first place last year, but let’s not forget that high profile teams like the Raiders and the Broncos are also in this division.This year there are some changes in the division, with the Chargers moving back to Los Angeles for the first time since 1960. Although it can be hard to get many words out of coaches at this stage of the season, we can still get some glimpses into what might come in the season ahead.
Denver Broncos Head Coach Vance Joseph
The Broncos finished the 2016 season with a positive record of 9 – 7, but failed to qualify in the Playoffs and placed only third in the AFC West division. This year, they will start the season with new head coach Vance Joseph, hoping to improve their record. Joseph started off the season with plenty of news, regarding both the coaching structure and the team’s quarterbacks. Speaking about quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, he said that he was absolutely committed to them, and elaborated that “They’re both smart guys. Obviously different skill sets, but I’m committed to both of those kids. They’re good football players and we’ve got to build around those guys. That’s going to help those guys play better. Obviously up front, protecting those guys better, helping them play better.”Joseph has a good record in the NFL, being instrumental in the recent success of the Miami Dolphins. His new job as Head Coach for the Broncos will reveal how his skills can be applied across a whole team, rather than just as defensive coordinator.
Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid
The Chiefs had a strong record in 2016, ending up with 12 – 4 and placing first in the AFC West. Unfortunately, they lost in the Divisional Playoffs by just two points to the Steelers. They continue this year with Andy Reid, and have a strong lineup which could see them perform well in 2017. The most important news for the Chiefs so far is that Andy Reid has received a five-year contract extension, giving the team the opportunity to maintain continuity in the coaching structure. Many will see this as a good move, as the Chiefs have performed well in recent years. Reid has been relatively quiet in recent months, but he did speak earlier this year about the potential for last year’s rookie Tyreek Hill to make an impression in 2017. Speaking about Hill, Reid said that “He was averaging 35 plays a game. Maybe he can double that or at least take it up a couple notches and allow him to get in more in a starting role. He’s innately a smart kid. I’d expect him to learn that whole playbook by the end of all the OTAs and training camp and then be even more of a threat.”
Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn
The Chargers have moved from San Diego to Los Angeles for 2017, which is where they were based for their inaugural 2016 season. Although not in the same division, they’ll now share the city with the Los Angeles Rams. 2017 will be a first season with new head coach Anthony Lynn, and the team will hope to address their poor performance with a 5 – 11 record in 2016. Lynn sees his new tenure at the team as an opportunity to start developing new players. He has a lot of respect for veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, but wants to start nurturing new talent. Earlier this year he told reporters that “I think we do have to get a young quarterback on campus and start to develop someone, because we have two veteran quarterbacks and both of them are long in the tooth. I think they have some good years left in them, don’t get me wrong, but you have to start thinking about down the line, too. I would love for a young quarterback to get in here and learn from Philip. Philip is the ultimate pro in my opinion, so it would be a good situation for a young quarterback that doesn’t have to come in and play right now, but can sit, watch and learn.” Is this an indication of a new era and a mild rebuild for the team? Or, is Lynn just making sure that the Chargers have a long term plan? Lynn has the confidence of the players, with Travis Benjamin saying recently that Lynn is laid back, calm and cool, collected, and respected. A new city and a new coach will mean an interesting new phase for the Chargers.
Oakland Raiders AFC West Head Coach Jack Del Rio
The raiders came out of 2016 with an impressive 12 – 4 record, but only placed second in the division and lost their Wild Card Playoffs game against the Texans. This year it will be their third season with head coach Jack Del Rio, who will try to coach the team towards a better finishing result.Anyone watching this team closely will note that Del Rio has been quite vocal in the lead up to the season, leaving us with plenty to think about.He thinks the team has depth in the right tackle, telling fans and reporters that “We signed a veteran from the Giants, we’ve got Vadal Alexander returning, and we drafted a young man out of Florida, David Sharpe, who will get an opportunity to compete over there. We still have a guy that’s mending in Austin Howard, so we’ve got four candidates; I think Denver Kirkland would be mad if I didn’t mention his name. Really five guys over there that can play right tackle, so I think we’ll have a real good competition.”Overall, he’s optimistic about the team that’s in place. “I think the biggest thing is to never take anything for granted, and I don’t think we do. We’re a good football team with a lot of work to do. I think for us it’s really about embracing the process of just doing the work, don’t take each other for granted. You have to work on the chemistry, you have to work on the respect and the appreciation you have for your environment, for your teammates, for your team,” he said in May of this year.Even with a lot of positivity, Del Rio is not getting ahead of the season. He said in another interview that “We have so much to do and so far to go and so much work ahead of us, that we can’t really worry about anything like expectations or how good we can be or thoughts about where we are going to play.”Many consider the Raiders to be strong contenders this year. We’ll need to wait and see for 2017.