Linebackers and defensive backs are tasked with delivering kill shots and slobber knockers, while maintaining zone discipline and good hip swivel and technique in coverage (hopefully disguised coverage), all while being careful not to get caught up in the wash. Bowing up in the red zone is critical, as is playing fast, whether the defense is in Cover Two or Cover Zero or Man Under. Most important, back seven defenders must not launch at defenseless receivers or lead with the crown of the helmet, or the league’s new concussion protocols will be invoked, and those who deliver a blow will be getting a FedEx package from the league office.

If the coach can use the full 53 while getting a competitive edge in personnel groupings, doesn’t misuse precious timeouts or blow a referee challenge, keep icing the kicker while using strong clock management, and send the proper message to his team, he can make the tournament and go on a deep postseason run. If he wins a Super Bowl, it might be yellow blazer time when he retires.

So long as the team plays them one game at a time, that is—that one never gets old.

 

Robert Weintraub is the author of The House That Ruth Built. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and Slate, and a television writer/producer based in Atlanta.