Who handles running backs better: Mike Shanahan or Bill Belichick?

Kyle Williams, Shane Vereen

Bill Belichick turned to Shane Vereen, above running from the Bills’ Kyle Williams, after Stevan Ridley fumbled. (Bill Wippert/Associated Press)

openingkicklogoThe Patriots host the Jets tonight, and New England Coach Bill Belichick will likely have no choice but to start Stevan Ridley at running back again.

The talented third-year player had nine carries for 46 yards during the first half of New England’s opener last week against Buffalo, but after his fumble was returned for a Bills touchdown in the second quarter, he didn’t see the field the rest of the afternoon.

Backup Shane Vereen compiled 159 total yards, but he will be out until at least Week 11 with a wrist injury, so Belichick is essentially forced to end Ridley’s punishment whether he’s ready to or not.

Belichick has long had little tolerance for fumbles, and rightfully so, but the way he so starkly moved away from Ridley on Sunday brings to mind an interesting topic for debate:

How should a head coach handle a running back who fumbles?

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, for example, has never shied away from rotating running backs, but he stuck with Alfred Morris on Monday night even after Morris fumbled on his first carry and dropped a tough pitch from Robert Griffin III later in the first quarter.

“They could’ve pulled me, but that showed the faith and trust the coaches have in me,” Morris told Mike Jones.

Giants Coach Tom Coughlin fell somewhere between Belichick and Shanahan on Sunday night, giving David Wilson a second chance after an early fumble, only to see him fumble again early in the second half before taking him out of the game.

Last year, Wilson fumbled on his second carry in the first game of his rookie season, and wasn’t a major factor in New York’s offense again until Week 14.

During Week 1 this year, eight running backs lost a fumble. Ridley and Wilson were the only ones who were benched, and Wilson was taken out only after his second one.

So, what do you think is the better way to handle a loose-with-the-ball running back? Let him work through it and redeem himself? Or teach him a lesson by making him sit for at least the rest of the game?

Greg Schimmel is a copy editor who contributes his NFL insights to Opening Kick on Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter at @Greg_Schimmel.

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From around the Web

● On TheMMQB.com, Andy Benoit writes that the “read option as we know it is dead,” using the Redskins as an example. As teams figure out how to stop some elements of the system, he says the read-option offense will have to continue to evolve.

● The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story about 7,000 new end zone seats at Lambeau Field that may make life more difficult for opposing offenses starting this week.

● According to Pro Football Talk, the Seahawks announced undercover policemen will wear 49ers jerseys at CenturyLink Field during the game there Sunday night. Seattle fans will have to think twice before they pick a fight with that guy in the Kaepernick jersey, or before brandishing a shive.

What’s ahead:

● A blog post every hour through at least 1 p.m., including the Redskins looking forward to playing at Lambeau Field.

● The Redskins practice Thursday at 1 p.m. Both coordinators plan to talk to reporters today.

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