You hear it every year heading into that first week of an NFL season: Every team is undefeated. Every team is in first place. Optimism abounds. The opening game of a new campaign carries a special energy, excitement and anticipation -- it's the culmination of at least seven full months of team-building. You'll never have more time to prepare a game plan. And nothing energizes a franchise like a win in Week 1.
Of course, the corollary to all of that is less pleasant. After just one week's worth of games, half the teams are now winless and sitting in last place. And in today's overcaffeinated sports landscape, almost all the reactions after a Week 1 loss are overreactions. Coaches will deflect such noise with clichés ("It's a long season ... This was just one game"), or channel their inner-Belichick ("We're on to Cincinnati").
But in this public job, the head men have to deal with the fallout, both externally (with critical media, impatient owners and disappointed fans) and within the locker room.
It's instructive to take a quick look at the dichotomy between St. Louis and New Orleans this week. Both teams went 0-4 during the preseason. Then the Rams opened the season by knocking off the defending NFC champion Seahawks, instantly rendering their winless preseason irrelevant. But the Saints looked tepid while losing on the road to Arizona, and now all their talk about how the preseason doesn't matter seems like whistling past the graveyard. Suddenly, there's a perception that New Orleans is in crisis mode.
Simply put, this is a difficult week in a lot of places. But the aforementioned fallout will be most trying for these five coaches:
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks didn't surrender 34 points in a single game last season -- playoffs included -- but they did so against a Rams team that eclipsed 30 points just twice in 2014. St. Louis' offense is hardly a juggernaut, breaking in a new quarterback and playing without either of its top two running backs.
And it's not just me who's beginning to question this defense. If we're being honest, Carroll is doing so, as well. He might not say it publicly, but his actions speak volumes. Let's take the Seahawks at their word for a second and assume that the onside kick to start overtime was in fact a mishit pooch that was supposed to go over the front line. When the strength of your team is its defense, you don't gamble on a gimmick play and spot the other team critical yardage. That call is not even a consideration last year.
As Kam Chancellor watched his teammates struggle at St. Louis, he probably could feel his pockets getting heavier. If this holdout situation is a game of poker, Chancellor's cards got much better on Sunday. And he could very well throw down a royal flush after the undermanned "Legion of Boom" travels to Green Bay to face the best quarterback in the league on Sunday Night Football.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Although I picked Andrew Luck to win MVP this season, I picked the Bills to win this game. Buffalo's defense is very stout; I expected Luck to struggle some under the pressure of the Bills' front line. What I didn't expect: Buffalo rushing for 147 yards, and Tyrod Taylor completing 73.7 percent of his passes with a touchdown and no interceptions in his first NFL start. You would've hoped that the Colts' defense could have at least picked one phase of the Bills' offense to eliminate from the game.
Whether it's fair or not, the stigma of your previous coaching position follows you. For me, I was the "offensive genius" who couldn't develop a quarterback, and could only win in Baltimore with a dominating defense. For Chuck, he is perceived as the defensive coordinator who was gifted Andrew Luck. Despite leading the Colts to three straight playoff appearances, his job is on the line in 2015 -- and defensive performances like last week's are just more ammunition for those who want Indy to make a change.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Sure, there were obvious communication issues between coach, coordinator and quarterback, exacerbated by Eli Manning admitting that he told Rashad Jennings to not score late in Sunday night's tragic loss at Dallas. But if I were Tom Coughlin, I'd be spending just as much time this week with my defensive coordinator as my offensive coordinator.
More so than the brain-locked third-down debacle -- which I put more on Manning than Coughlin or Ben McAdoo -- I have an issue with the defense that let the Cowboys, minus Dez Bryant and minus a single timeout, cruise 72 yards in 87 seconds for the game-winning touchdown. The Giants surrendered 24 yards and then 16 yards on the first two plays of the drive. That is unacceptable in a two-minute situation.
Let's not overlook the impact of a tough divisional loss like this -- and how it can affect the locker room. This isn't something Coughlin can just dismiss. He will have to address it. And as we've seen in years past, when Coughlin is winning, he's viewed as authoritative, firm and the captain of the ship. When he's losing, he's perceived as an out-of-touch task master who's non-communicative with his players. Of course, the truth is, win or lose, Coughlin's really the same guy doing the same thing. Now, in the Giants' locker room, he has to get his team focused on a rejuvenated Falcons squad flying high after a Week 1 upset of Philadelphia.
Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
I've said it before: Chip Kelly didn't enter the NFL saying he was going to reinvent the way professional football is played. We, the media, did that for him. But after this past offseason, when he assumed all general manager responsibilities, he set himself up for the maximum amount of scrutiny. Following the sweeping personnel changes that Kelly was responsible for, every Eagles loss will be looked at through a microscope -- with the head coach squarely in the crosshairs.
Kelly shipped out LeSean McCoy ... and then got just 63 total rushing yards (including nine from the reigning NFL rushing king) against a defense that finished dead last in total D last season. He allowed his best receiver, Jeremy Maclin, to walk in free agency -- opting instead for a committee approach led by Jordan Matthews, who couldn't corral a perfectly thrown ball, allowing the Falcons to log the game-clinching interception. He bet the farm on Sam Bradford, who, despite his 336 yards passing, was wildly inaccurate in the first half, threw two interceptions and then finished the night in the X-ray room.
Not an ideal start to the season, that's for sure.
Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No shame in your rookie quarterback looking like ... well ... a rookie quarterback. But it becomes a tough pill to swallow when you look across the field and see the guy you passed up throwing more touchdown passes (four) than incompletions (three).
Like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III -- as well as Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf before them -- Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be linked forever. The first head-to-head battle was a clear win for the No. 2 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. And in Tampa, it raises the heat on Smith, who's already coaching on borrowed time following a 2-14 disaster in Year 1. Lovie simply doesn't have the time for Winston to gradually mature into the system; he needs it to happen this season.