It has been noted in other contexts that the NFL, like other major sports, tends to recycle coaches who have shown at least once that they are capable of success. But there has been a lot of turnover recently, and quite a few new coaches have been added to the ranks. By my count there are five (oops!) rookie coaches this year: Payton of the Saints, Linehan of the Rams, Mangini of the Jets, Marinelli of the Lions, and Childress of the Vikings. Update: Ethan in the comments noted that I missed Kubiak of the Texans and McCarthy of Green Bay, both of whose teams took a beating. The rest of the post is slightly revised to adapt to this fact.
Yesterday the newcomers did pretty well. In all six games they were underdogs: Saints +4, Rams +3, Jets +3, Lions +4, Texans +3.5, and Packers +3. The first three won their game outright, and while the Lions lost they at least beat the spread. The rookies - not exactly endowed with powerhouse teams - thus have a 3-3 record going into tonight where the Vikings take on a recycled NFL legend, Joe Gibbs and the Redskins.
Oddly enough, Marinelli, one of the rookies who lost, did it the old-fashioned way. With three minutes left in a game tied 6-6, he opted to punt on 4th and 4 from the Seahawk 37. Some accounts suggest he might have opted for a game-winning field goal attempt, but the likely miss there would have left the Seahawks on their 44, in great shape. Even with a shaky offense, a risk-taking play for the first down seems warranted in this situation. As it turned out, the punt was next to useless (which happens all-too often....) The boot went out of the end zone, leaving the Hawks on their own 20 with plenty of time to drive for the game winning field goal.
Maybe the conservative Marinelli should have taken a page from his risk-taking assistant, the guy who chose to order a drive-through "burger in the buff" at Wendy's two weeks ago. On a more serious note, I'll be interested to see what William Krasker at Football Commentary says about the call. The tables at his site suggest this one might have been a coin flip.
Update 2: The rookie beat the legend on Monday night, 19-16. The week one tally is thus 4-3 straight up, and 5-2 vs. the spread. I expect both tallies will deteriorate rather quickly as the season progresses, but it will be interesting to see which of the rookie coaches can build a half-decent team.