Dear Giants: We Won’t Forget This.

There are moments that make and break a franchise. This is one of them.

The New York Giants, led by Ben McAdoo (HC) and Jerry Reese (GM), have decided to bench Eli Manning before next week’s game. Eli Manning is the active leader in consecutive starts at QB with 210, second all time only to Brett Favre at 297. He has started every game with the Giants since being drafted first overall in 2004. That will end next week. Eli also ranks 7th all time in passing yards with 50,625 and 7th all time in touchdown passes with 334. Oh, and he also won two Super Bowls for the Giants and was MVP of both. He’s one of eight Quarterbacks in NFL history that have won two Super Bowls. And he’s being benched for Geno Smith, a former New York Jet who once missed almost an entire season with a fractured jaw after being punched in the face during practice.

It’s true that the NFL is a business and a brutal one at that, and getting rid of star players at the end of their careers is often ugly. But there’s absolutely zero reason this had to happen the way it did.

When Peyton Manning left the Colts, he had missed a year due to injury, the team was in abysmal shape, the greatest QB since Peyton himself was going to be available to be drafted, the team was going through a massive organizational overhaul, and Peyton’s football future was in serious doubt due to his injury. When Favre left the Packers, it was because he had initially announced retirement and the team had wanted to move on with Aaron Rodgers, a guy they’d been grooming to start for 3 years. They only said no to Favre after he flip-flopped and decided he in fact wasn’t ready for retirement. When Romo left the Cowboys, he too had serious injury questions, and the Cowboys had struck gold with Dak Prescott, their fourth round pick who had ended up being a superstar and leading the Cowboys to the playoffs while Romo was injured.

All these situations were sad and harsh, but there were extenuating circumstances and reasoning behind them that made them maybe not justified, but understandable. What the hell do the Giants have to hang their hat on for this decision? No, Eli hasn’t been playing great. Yes, he’s 36 years old. But the Giants barely have a team out there as there have been so many injuries. There are very few Quarterbacks that would succeed in this situation. And who are you benching him for? Geno Smith? He’s been in this league since 2013. He has a track record. We know who he is, and it’s not good. Yes, he’s talented, but he’s been a backup QB for the majority of his career, and that’s not going to change, certainly not with this team. Then you have the third round rookie Davis Webb, who quite frankly, I don’t know much about, but I have trouble believing he’s the answer. It’s not like we need to see who this guy is. We’re 2-9, we’re going to have a top pick in the draft in what will be a very deep QB class. If we’re going to move on from Eli, odds are it will be for a guy we draft, not for Davis Webb.

And who are these coaches benching Eli? Ben McAdoo has been a head coach in the NFL for two years. That’s it!! This year he’s been nothing short of awful, both on the field and off it. We went to the playoffs last year despite an uncreative and non-productive offense (his supposed specialty) because we had a good defense and won a lot of close games. This year he sat idly by and made no adjustments as our team continued to descend further into oblivion, and he eventually lost his team as we had to suspend both our corners for conduct issues. He calls plays like a robot, his offense sucks and is easy to plan for, he can’t manage a team, and he shows all the emptiness and arrogance of Bill Belichick at a press conference–except he doesn’t have the track record or football acumen to back it up, and his players don’t respect him. And it’s not like he had a great resume before becoming a head coach either. Then there’s Jerry Reese, our shitshow General Manager who probably should have been gone years ago. He had that one good offseason when his head was on the chopping block where he got Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Rodgers-Cromartie. But definitely Jenkins and possibly DRC will be gone soon. Reese hit on Beckham (even though he’s a nutcase), hit on JPP, and had some good drafts wayyy back when, but outside of that he continually ignores positions of need, drafts flawed and questionable players, and refuses to make any big time moves. And like McAdoo, he too is an arrogant prick who refuses to take any responsibility.

These are the two men that benched the guy who’s been the face of our franchise for over a decade. For arguably no reason. It’s sickening, disrespectful, and classless. Eli is worth so much more to the NFL in the respect that he commands than those two combined will ever be. And what about our owner, John Mara? The Giants have long been considered one of the cornerstone franchises and ownerships in the NFL, with Mara being one of the good guys, but that may be coming to an end. I started to question Mara with his handling of the Josh Brown domestic abuse case last year, but on the field most have given him the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure there are those who will want to separate Mara from McAdoo and Reese, but I have trouble believing McAdoo and Reese would make this kind of move without Mara’s okay. Make no mistake, this move reflects in an awful way on the entire organization. And it’s not something inconsequential: It’s the end of the road for the most important player in franchise history. That’s why it’s so despicable.

Honestly it’s all sickening. There are ups and downs for every franchise, good times and bad, and star players falling from grace. But this isn’t just an “oops” that can be brushed by the wayside in due time. This will go down in history. This is the best Quarterback in franchise history, a guy who’s been nothing but a class act, that you benched for no reason for a garbage backup from a nobody coach in the middle of the god damn season. And look, I know Eli’s 36. If you had to move on at the end of the season, I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I’d get it. But benching him now?? As if it’s somehow his fault this sorry ass team can’t even pull themselves together enough to actually put in any effort on Sunday? Heck it was Eli Manning’s pre-game speech that supposedly hyped up the Giants enough to get their second win of the season vs the Chiefs just a few weeks ago. Say what you want about Eli. Has he been a perfect Quarterback? No, far from it. Is he overrated? Is he hall of fame worthy? We can have all those discussions later. But he’s been a consummate pro his whole career (and continues to be, even as he’s being slapped in the face), and he’s done as much for this franchise as anybody. He does not deserve this, and the Giants should be ashamed of themselves. He deserves to at least finish off the season as a Giant. And let me be clear: It’s not just that they’re benching him. It’s that they’re choosing to end his career, and this is how they do it. By throwing him to the curb, by kicking him on the way out the door, and for no apparent reason.

I’ve been a Giants fan since I started following Football. It hasn’t been that long, granted, but I’ve been with them for the highs and the lows. I put my heart into every game. I felt the joy when they hoisted that Lombardi over the Patriots, and I felt the anger when Desean Jackson ran that punt back and ended our season. I was born and bred in New York and I assumed I always would bleed blue.

But this? I’m not going to make any definitive statements, but I’m not sure this is forgivable. If this truly is the end for Eli in New York (which many are saying it is), and this is how the Giants chose to go about it? By benching him in the middle of a lost season for Geno Smith? I honestly might not be able to root for them anymore.

The Giants may be thinking about the future, but I know I speak for all of Big Blue Nation when I say this: Us fans won’t be forgetting this anytime soon.

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Where do the Giants go from here?

The Giants have been an absolute trainwreck this season. Words cannot explain what a disappointment it has been. It’s almost tough to fathom. They are probably the worst team in the NFL this point. For what’s supposed to be one of the marquee franchises in the NFL, it’s both embarrassing and inexplicable.

Earlier in the year, I was planning on writing about how the Giants absolutely needed to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese at the end of the season. However, at this point, that seems like a given. An even more pressing question is, can the Giants survive the rest of the season? Because right now they look like they simply don’t belong in the NFL.

As Scott Kascmar of Football Outsiders pointed out on Twitter today, the type of regression the Giants are experiencing after a playoff season is truly unprecedented. It’s been a complete, utter, and total collapse.

But it’s not just that they’re losing. It’s the product that they’ve put on the field (as well as the things that have happened off of it). It’s been total dysfunction. The folks at BigBlueView, SB Nation’s NYG blog, touched on this after the loss. It’s not that the Giants are playing hard but losing. It’s not that their players aren’t that good. It’s that they look entirely disinterested in playing football. They have been undisciplined and unfocused both on the field and off of it.

Coming into the season and at the beginning of the season I had complaints about McAdoo specifically as a football coach: how he approached offense, where the team lacked improvement, etc. But now the problems go beyond that: It seems that the job of Head Coach is just simply too big for McAdoo, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. While no one can really say unless they’re in the locker room, it seems pretty evident that McAdoo has lost the team. I think we’ve now had both corners be suspended off the field? I can’t even keep track anymore.

Conor Orr of the MMQB wrote about what the Giants will do next after yesterday’s loss, and it’s a bit of a scary thought. Yes, the 49ers were better than their 0-8 record indicated prior to this game. Yes, (some) zero win teams tend to be hungrier than usual. Still though, the Giants made CJ Beathard look like Aaron Rodgers. Imagine what will happen when we actually play good teams. Here is the remaining Giants schedule for the rest of the year: Chiefs, @Redskins, @Raiders, Cowboys, Eagles, @Cardinals, @Redskins. For some reason, the Redskins game will be on NBC Primetime during Thanksgiving, so the whole nation will get to see what an embarrassment the New York Giants have become.

The Giants really aren’t a team right now. They’re a bunch of individuals that are dragging themselves to work and barely going through the motions. It’s alarming to see a team that has already quit with almost half the season left and a really tough schedule. If the Giants fire McAdoo midseason (unlikely knowing them), who will takeover? And for whoever does takeover, how will they find a way to right the ship and manage a team that is already so splintered? Both the BBV article and MMQB article allude to this dilemma. Yes, the Giants could promote someone like defensive coordinator Spagnolo to interim Head Coach, but he’s already got his own issues on defense. Then there’s someone like Mike Sullivan, the offensive coordinator, former QB coach. Is a fairly low level coach like that apt to handle this mess? So say we stay with McAdoo. Judging from his press conferences and the results on field, here’s a guy that is totally in over his head, and has no clue how to fix the team and regain their trust. So whatever we do, it seems we’re doomed.

At the end of the day, this is just an embarrassment. The Giants are supposed to be one of the cornerstone, more respected franchises in the NFL. Because of that, they seem to sort of be getting a free pass on things like this. But we cannot deny how poorly this reflects on the organization. On the one hand there’s the results on the field: 1-7 and one of, if not the, worst team in the league, after a playoff year. Then there’s the disfunction: The players quitting, players getting suspended, players leaking rumors to ESPN, etc etc. Those things simply aren’t supposed to happen to the Giants. They’re supposed to be a disciplined, tightly run, no nonsense, respectable organization. And yet, here we are.

Let’s for a second imagine that the Jets or the Browns were going through this type of disfunction. It’d be all over the headlines. You wouldn’t hear enough about it. I remember when the Jets were imploding late in the Rex Ryan era with Tebow and Sanchez. It wasn’t pretty. And their organization deserved every bit of what they got.

But here you have the New York Giants, arguably the worst and most dysfunctional team and organization in the NFL right now. Yes losing happens. No, you can’t win the Superbowl every year. But the Giants should not be getting a free pass for this. It reflects horribly on the organization. This is Big Blue. This is New York, some say the greatest city in the world. These are the New York Football Giants, established August 1, 1925, 92 years ago. It’s supposed to be better than this.

At this point, let’s just batten down the hatches and hope we get through the rest of the season and finish games, and then find a way to fix this horrendous and utter mess. Until then, the Giants organization has some serious explaining to do.

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NFL Check In: Trades, QBs, and More

We’re around the midpoint of the NFL season, and it hasn’t been too exciting a season. Maybe it’s because I’m a Giants fan and the Giants have been an absolute trainwreck this year. Maybe it’s because after all these years of following and watching, I’m finally getting sick of it. Maybe it’s because the NFL as a whole has just been in decline, which I think there are plenty of reasons for. But that’s another conversation. (And no, players kneeling during the anthem isn’t one of them. Seriously, if that bothers you, you need to get over yourself.) Nonetheless, there have been some things going on around the league that I think are worth going over. Let’s start with some surprising trades we’ve witnessed over the past week, starting with the Pats trading away their backup QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second round pick.

Normally this wouldn’t be that unusual for the Pats. They’ve dealt good backups as well as good starters before without so much as a bat of an eye. It’s only surprising now because Tom Brady is near the end of his career (even if his play on the field doesn’t indicate it), and there were many indications throughout the offseason that Garoppolo would be the guy to succeed Brady. After filling in very admirably for Brady to start the season last year, it would have been a very Patriots-like thing to do to trade him. There were whispers about the Browns, and the Patriots would have likely been able to get decent value for him. The general understanding was that the Pats chose to stick with Garoppolo because they truly did believe that Brady was close to the end and that he could be the guy to succeed Brady. The Pats clearly thought very highly of him, as confirmed by how Belichick reacted to losing him this week. Judging based off that explanation that Belichick gave, which was unusually revealing for him, it seemed like the Pats wanted to keep Garoppolo, but with Brady playing at such a high level, they couldn’t afford to sign a backup to a long term contract, even if they did like him. Which makes sense on their part. It’s just puzzling at first because if that was the logic all along, then you would have figured they would have traded him during the offseason. But I think it was also a question mark as to whether Brady would play as well as he is. As Belichick said, they tried to keep Jimmy as long as they could but just couldn’t make it work, likely because of what they would have had to pay him.

As for the niners, it’s a bit puzzling on their part as well. They’re winless to start the season, but there have been signs of progress. 5 of their 8 losses have been by 3 points or less. At the end of the day, the logic behind giving Shanahan and John Lynch long term contracts seemed to be that this was going to be a long term rebuilding project that was going to take time. No one was really expecting results this year. It’s why Shanahan came into the season with Hoyer as the starter. The understanding was that he just needed someone to hold the ship down and run the offense and then next year, the niners would likely draft a QB. Hoyer hasn’t been that good, which is why he was benched for CJ Beathard, the niners 3rd round pick from this year’s draft. But with Hoyer’s release, it’s clear that Garoppolo will now be the starter.

What I’m wondering is, why now, and what does this mean for the niners long term? Certainly if Garoppolo stinks up the joint this year they have no obligation to keep him. Obviously as a coach your number 1 goal is to win games, but still, if this was going to be a rebuilding year without a QB, why bring in Garoppolo midseason? Are they just seeing if he has the potential to be a franchise guy, and if not they’ll cut and run (like the Bears did with Glennon)? Do they want him to be their starter long term? At this point you’re 0-8, so you’re already on the fast track for the number 1 pick in the draft. It just doesn’t make sense to me to change the course. If Garoppolo plays well enough, they could fall off that path. We already haven’t seen enough of Beathard to know who he is. He’s probably not the guy, but why not let him finish up the season just to see and then draft a guy next year?

And what if Garoppolo isn’t the guy long term? I guess it’s not a huge risk move, but I’m not entirely sold on Garoppolo yet. Obviously he’s played well with New England. And yes, he seems better than backups they’ve had in the past that haven’t gone on to do well. He’s more talented than Cassel and Hoyer, and he’s more disciplined than Mallett, who was never a great fit for the Pats. Still, you have to mention those guys. Cassel especially, but also Hoyer, both played well for New England, and they couldn’t keep it up elsewhere. In fact, the sample size overall for backup QBs that went on to be starters elsewhere because of good play in good systems with limited action isn’t great. Outside of Cassel and Hoyer in New England you have Kevin Kolb from Philly, Matt Flynn from Green Bay, and most recently Brock Osweiler from Denver. Now obviously the Pats thought highly of Garoppolo so that’s worth something, but it’s no given that he’s a starter in this league. The sample size is way too small. He’s had a game and a half of regular season action as a starter. So for the niners, it’s not a very high risk move, but I just don’t see the logic behind it. Why not see what Beathard has, ride out the rest of the season, and draft Darnold No 1 overall next year? Then again, as Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com suggested this morning, maybe the niners just don’t like the incoming college QB crop.

The other two big trades were even more headscratching. Let’s start in Carolina where the Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin had a great rookie season and has been inconsistent since, although Cam Newton and the passing game have also been inconsistent and erratic and it’s always hard to separate receiver performance from the guy throwing to him. Benjamin was meant to be a big receiver with a big catch radius, a guy who can give Cam Newton margin for error. It’s the same profile as Devin Funchess, their other WR, which is why some on NFL Network last night suggested that the Panthers felt they could get rid of him. Funchess certainly has come on recent, but I don’t know about that theory either. Because the Panthers knew what they were getting in both Benjamin and Funchess. They purposely picked both those receivers with that profile because they knew it fit Cam Newton’s playing style. The Panthers GM recently said that this move was about making the offense faster. It’s a bit of a headscratcher, but at the end of the day, it’s likely that they felt good about Curtis Samuel (their 2nd round pick from this year) and Christian McCaffrey, and thought that they had other holes they needed to fill that they could with the draft resources they got from this trade. Maybe they also didn’t want to pay Benjamin once his contract was up. At the end of the day, a lot of these moves are about value relative to cost.

And then there’s Jay Ajayi from the Bears to the Eagles, another headscratcher. The Dolphins offense had been one of the worst in the league and their passing game with Jay Cutler is pretty much nonexistent. Ajayi can be somewhat of a week to week proposition, but there’s no doubt that he’s talented and one of the tougher grinders in this league. Their offensive line hadn’t been playing well, but without Ajayi they have basically nothing to hang their hat on on offense. Maybe Gase wants to go full on rebuild? Doesn’t seem like him. Maybe there were just off the field issues or philosophical differences. I’ve heard some whispers about that. Ajayi is somewhat inconsistent, but for an offense that’s been that bad and has had absolutely no passing game, it doesn’t entirely make sense.

In other news, the Broncos just benched Trevor Siemian for Brock Osweiler. It’s likely not a move they wanted to make, but Siemian just hasn’t been cutting it in recent weeks. It’s unfortunate, as I’ve liked Siemian. He has a decent foundation and wasn’t the main issue last year. I always thought with a good surrounding cast he can play well. He started the year off well but the Broncos are currently in a 3 game losing skid, and the Broncos likely felt that with a defense as good as theirs, they couldn’t have their Quarterback holding them back. It’s true that Siemian simply hasn’t been playing well enough. At his best he’s an Andy Dalton type player, a ball distributor who won’t wow you and won’t carry your offense by himself but can run your offense if you give him a team. But he’s made some very poor decisions in the past few weeks. I’ve also noticed that the ball isn’t coming out of his hands with quite as much zip as I’m used to seeing from him.

It’s unfortunate, because he really is their best option. Brock Osweiler did flash at times when Kubiak was head coach, but he was one of the worst Quarterbacks in the league last year, and he’s not going to do much for you. His flaws are tough to work around. It’s alarming that Paxton Lynch hasn’t been given an opportunity. They wanted him to win the job in the preseason and drafted him high enough to tell you that they thought he could be their guy in the future. That he couldn’t even beat out Siemian, a 7th rounder, and that they aren’t turning to him now, shows that they know something we don’t, and he hasn’t progressed the way they may have hoped.

Still… I’m extremely skeptical that Osweiler will provide them with anything. Maybe we’ll see Lynch in the future. Who knows. This should have been Siemian’s job to run with and I don’t see the switch helping them, but unfortunately he hasn’t been good enough, and when that happens in this league, you’re going to lose your job.

On the other end of the spectrum, how good has Deshaun Watson been in Houston? It’s really crazy to watch. I don’t think anyone saw this coming. Of course, he’s far from a finished product. O’Brien is helping him a lot, and defenses will figure out ways to stop him. But still, the aggressiveness and playmaking prowess is refreshing in this age of checkdowns. And he’s passed so many really really hard tests. He was inches from beating New England in New England, Seattle at Seattle, and Kansas City. And he’s started the seasons with 19 touchdowns (breaking Kurt Warner’s record of most for the first 7 games of a career) and 8.3 yards per attempt. He’s escaping, throwing down the field, and making Andrew Luck type tight window throws down the field. But he doesn’t have anywhere near the arm Andrew Luck has. Physically, he’s not that different from where scouts had him. He’s just making the plays. Kudos to him. After years of QB purgatory post Schaub era, it seems like the Texans have their guy. It will be interesting to see where things go moving forward.

Lastly, let’s wrap things up by looking at who the marquee teams are around the league right now. This year has been as we’re starting to see a shift in the guard of who’s good in the NFL. The Tom Brady wave of QBs will retire soon. Rodgers is hurt. The patriots defensive losses finally seem to have caught up to them. Brees is still great but on the tail end. The Chargers have been blowing leads and comebacks for 5+ years now. And the Steelers passing game hasn’t matriculated as we would have expected. Overall, it seems like a crappy year for the league. Cardinals, Panthers, Falcons, Giants, a lot of names that have been in it recently are not this year. But we’re also seeing some new teams rise up to take their place. The Eagles are looking very good with Carson Wentz. Obviously his development has been great but its the whole team that looks very complete right now. Then you have to love what the Chiefs are doing with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. And Alex Smith is playing differently than he ever has. It seems like the drafting of Pat Mahomes really lit a fire under him and he was sick of everyone saying he doesn’t throw down the field enough. They are the cream of the crop this year, and I would love to see them take out PIT and/or NE in the playoffs. And I don’t expect them to go too far with their QB and being in the same division in the Patriots, but the Bills have been quite the surprise under Sean McDermott this year. They are now 5-2 which is shocking, to be honest. Even the Jets, who looked about as close to committing to tank as any team could be, are 3-5 and fighting hard every week. I won’t say I’m excited for it, but this week’s Bills Jets matchup on Thursday night might even be worth watching a bit.

The league is always in flux and things have certainly been changing as of recent. But at midseason, the contenders and pretenders are starting to sort out, and it will be interesting to see where things go moving forward.

NFC East Preview Podcast

So I was walking the dog around the block, and I figured why not try out an NFL preview podcast before the season starts? I ended up only doing the NFC East because I talked for so long, but… nonetheless, give a listen!!

Timestamps:

0:00 Intro

3:34 Giants

24:20 Cowboys

27:40 Redskins

31:51 Eagles

41:05 Wrap Up

Will anyone ever challenge the Patriots?

Victories by Atlanta and New England today wrapped up one of the most noncompetitive postseasons we’ve seen in recent memory. Let’s only hope the ATL-NE Superbowl will be better. I think it definitely has the potential to be, but let’s save that discussion for another day. Right now I want to focus on the team everyone loves to hate, the New England Patriots.

Brady and Belichick will now head to their seventh (!!) Superbowl after clinching their what has to be a record fourteenth division title. I just want to ask a simple question: Why is it that nobody can ever beat, or even compete with, this team? It honestly feels like they can get to the Superbowl without even trying.

No, I’m not a fan of the New England Patriots. But I’m also not hating on them just for the pure sake of hating. As a fan, I want to see good football. Yes, I know the Patriots are good. They’re clearly one of the best coached teams and their players are some of the best at executing in the NFL. But still, it’s the NFL. Someone should be able to figure out how to beat them. They may be the Patriots, but they’re not impossible to beat. You just have to, obviously not make mistakes, but also, know how to play them.

But for the Patriots it’s not just that they win, but it’s that they win without barely any resistance. Lose Tom Brady for four games? It doesn’t matter. Lose your second stringer also? Doesn’t matter. Trade away your best defensive player? Doesn’t matter. I thought losing Gronkowski would be what would do them in as that’s what usually does, but it hasn’t stopped them yet.

In the divisional round, the Patriots played a sloppy game offensively… and still won by 18 points. And then we get to the Steelers today. It was a pretty sad showing; what was a 17-9 game at the half got out of hand pretty quickly and ended at 36-17, with the Steelers final score coming when the game was already out of reach. A couple years ago, when the Colts got crushed at New England, I chastised them for doing a generally terrible job defending the Pats offense, not just in that game, but throughout the decade. For the Steelers, it’s the same story. Teams just can’t get out of their own way vs New England.

I was pessimistic about this matchup for the Steelers from the start, not just the start of this game, but for most of the season as well–that is, if the Steelers were going to end up going to New England, I did not think they would succeed. That’s because the Steelers rarely ever play the Patriots well, and especially not at New England. This has been the case since about 2004, and regardless of what players are on the team, it rarely ever changes. You see Pittsburgh looking just as lousy, making the same mistakes, and not giving the kind of challenge to New England that they should for a team of their caliber.

Today we saw more of the same from Pittsburgh. More of the same ineffective tactics for defending the New England offense. Pittsburgh seemed largely overwhelmed with and unprepared for New England’s hurry up offense. They were often shuffling to line up and there were blown assignments and wide open receivers–not the first time that’s happened with these two. As usual, they played way too soft, gave receivers on the outside huge cushions, which allowed easy pitch and catches on quick outs and hitches, and allowed receivers to sit down in between zones (Edelman especially–we often saw sticks routes on 3rd and long) as well as run across the field on over routes through zones (no tackling by PIT) and run over the top of man. As usual, NE had little success running but had great success with play action and the spread game. Pittsburgh offensively wasn’t much better. Ben started off throwing the ball well, but they were overly stubborn with the run, showed no tempo late in the game, had a lot of drops, ran draws at the goal line, failed to get their playmakers involved, weren’t aggressive on 4th down, and had balls contested at the catch point in man-to-man coverage. The 4th and goal stop was a horrendous play call– a low percentage fade throw over the top from a tight formation that PIT had shown a couple times and NE had covered well.

Overall the main recurring problems for PIT against NE are the defense is way too passive with their zones and large cushions and often looks overwhelmed with NE’s spread tempo and ends up busting coverages. Some might say I’m being unfair because PIT was without Leveon Bell, but you can’t put the whole game on that, since these are issues for PIT that go back years before Bell was around, and more importantly, they’ve played well offensively without Bell plenty of times in the past. In fact, it almost seems like half their team gets suspended for drug use every year and they still find a way to put it together usually.

For Pittsburgh, I wonder if people are ever going to start questioning if coaching is a problem. I’m not saying it definitely is, but even though this is a good team, it just seems like a team that underwhelms to me so often. As I’ve mentioned, they always falter against NE. They also always have a few games a year where they play down to the competition (like their loss on the road to Miami this year). These few games either keep them out of the playoffs entirely or keep them out of homefield advantage. PIT isn’t going anywhere, but for a team with a hall of fame QB and an otherwise solid foundation, they should be making the playoffs every year and making deep playoff runs every few years, and that doesn’t seem to be happening.

For New England, it’s another trip to the Superbowl, and it’s just annoying to sit and watch teams make the same mistakes against them over and over again. They have such a good home field advantage (check out some of these stats at the middle of the page) that with HFA throughout the playoffs they’re basically a lock to at least the AFC Championship if not the Superbowl, and in that division they’re basically a lock for the playoffs. You look at the AFC at the beginning of the year and ask, who can challenge them? PIT is never up to the task. With KC, Andy Reid always seems to choke in the playoffs and struggle with some clock management issue. The Jets had some success against them in the Ryan era, and they play NE well about half the time (and get blown out the other half), but they’re not going to be anywhere near the playoffs for a while. Peyton Manning’s retired, so he’s not stopping anymore Brady runs like he did in 06, 13, and 15. The Ravens and Giants both play NE very well, but half of the time they’re not even making the playoffs. Andrew Luck could be the guy eventually, but his team’s not even good enough to get him to the playoffs, and his coaching staff certainly isn’t good enough to match up with Bill Belichick. Brady will probably be retired by the time his Colts are ready to challenge for the AFC Title. (Although once Brady does retire, he could have multiple rings in his sight. They have to get the team together first though.)

So off New England goes to Houston to play Atlanta for Superbowl LI. For the sake of all of us NFL fans, I ask you, Atlanta, please give us a game that’s worth watching, and don’t hand this thing over to NE.

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Giants Blow Big Opportunity by Losing to Redskins

Through two weeks, it had looked as though the Giants were a different team than they had been in the past. We were coming out on the winning side of things. We weren’t making mistakes late. The team looked improved, and our draft picks were actually contributing. They weren’t super impressive wins, and they could have gone either way, but the fact is they went in the W direction, which is more than Giants fans have been seeing in recent years.

Today, the Giants looked like the team we’ve come to expect. This loss pissed me off, and it was very troubling for lots of reasons.

This is the kind of loss that could bite the Giants in the ass down the road. Wins don’t come easy in the NFL, and this is a game that the giants should have, could have, and needed to win. We were facing a division rival that was 0-2 coming in. We were at home. We came out in front to a big lead. But there were mistakes. There were fumbles, interceptions, and some of the poorest tackling I have ever seen, it made me want to vomit. I’m talking literally 3 or 4 guys having their hands around a guy and not wrapping up. The big punt return stands out, but there was another play in there as well. And I didn’t even watch the whole game. This is just from the highlights. And for gods sake, how many times is Desean Jackson going to beat us deep? Regardless of what team he’s with, it’s the same result. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of it.

The Giants looked undisciplined, unprepared, and quite frankly, unprofessional. There were more extracurriculars off the field, including Weston Richburg’s god awful penalty that led to his ejection, where he ran to the pile and flung himself off the ground into Josh Norman way late. Truthfully, I don’t have any animosity towards Norman. In the game last year vs Carolina, Beckham acted like an absolute child. You just wonder if the Giants came into this game cocky, thinking they were the shit because they were 2-0. They didn’t play as a team. They made mistakes all over the place, multiple times. It was an absolute comedy of errors.

This is so Giants. How often have we lost the games we should have won? Particularly vs the Redskins. They’re a division opponent. You should be preparing extra hard for them. We had a chance to essentially bury this team at 0-3. But this is classic Giants. Even in 2011, when we won the Superbowl, we had these moments. We lost 10-17 and 10-23 home games to the Vince Young led Eagles and the Rex Grossman led Redskins. Those games almost kept us out of the playoffs. This game didn’t have quite the awful lack of offensive output we’ve seen in the past, like when we went to Washington last year, but it was still a game that we easily could have won considering the opportunities we had. The low point might have been Washington’s fake punt pass on 4th and 12. The punter took his time (he had way more time than he should have) and threw up a pass with very poor mechanics, but the receiver had position just running straight down the field, and the defender was unable to stop him, even while committing pass interference. Seriously? That’s not even a play that works in Madden…

Eli Manning threw two interceptions. The first was a seam route from the TE at the goal line, but there was good coverage and the safety blocked the TE from getting body position up the seam. I think Will Tye’s done some okay things at times, but this is a reminder that, while we are 3 deep at WR, we essentially don’t have a high level TE on the roster. I know he’s flashed at times, but I really don’t think Larry Donnell’s the guy. He’s too inconsistent and makes too many mistakes/too many plays where the effort isn’t there. And Tye just doesn’t seem to be anything more than an average athlete. These plays are also the kind of mistakes we made last year. Not being able to close games offensively after getting a lead, often due to turnovers / settling for FGs in the redzone. Often, we also saw plays where big time incompletions/interceptions occurred because timing/routes weren’t right between QB and WR, similar to here.

Troy Aikman was talking up Eli for the 2 min drill, but I had my doubts. Eli’s had a lot of great moments in these situations no doubt, but he’s also had a lot of failures. And the late comebacks seemed to be happening less and less as of late, even though we did start the season with two.

The pick Eli threw was not a good play. It was an arrow/texas route out of the backfield for Shane Vereen. A savvy route runner, he should have been able to get open easier than he did. But the LB was in good position and he jammed him before he came out of his break. The timing was thrown off. But Eli was set on that option. He stared it down, and because the timing was off, he double clutched the ball. By the time he threw it was too late though. The defender was right there, and Vereen was already sinking down the field. If that route isn’t thrown on time, then it can’t be thrown-if there’s an underneath defender, which there was. It was a bad decision by Eli. Not horrendous, and not entirely his fault, but he should have come off the read, instead of throwing the ball anyway after double clutching it. At that point he was staring it down, and it was an easy pick for the LB, who was reading him like a book.

Eli Manning has been pretty good this year. And I don’t think he was most of the problem today. But, the guy should not be immune to criticism, like he seems to be among a lot of Giants fans and beat writers. Despite the numbers, which would indicate it was a career year, 2015 was not a good year for Eli Manning, who was a big reason for our struggling to close games and not being able to add on more scores. Most of his numbers came from the Saints game and the Dolphins game, which skewed his totals. He had something like 7 or 8 games below 60% completion last year, which is pretty bad for a high percentage throw offense. So let’s please stop acting like the only reason he struggled early in his career was because of Kevin Gilbride. No, he did not have a lot of help last year. But everyone just talked about how close we were to being a winning team if the defense had held some leads. BS. We were in the easiest division in football and we couldn’t get over 500. The bigger picture was that, too often we put our defense in bad positions at the end of games due to our offense being unable to close.

I don’t mean to pick on Eli. I love the guy. And that’s not the big story of today or this game. But the point is, A) he shouldn’t be immune to criticism, and B) he’s gotta make that drive at the end of the game. I also skimmed the pro football focus post game grades, and they said his struggles were largely against blitz and pressure. This has been a problem with Eli for a few years ongoing now, and it’s not a good sign–although I never thought he was a great QB under pressure, save his spectacular 2011 season.

True, it’s just one loss. But it may be one the Giants will come to regret. It’s a division game. The Eagles won today, they are now 3-0. The Redskins move to 1-2 while we move to 2-1. Dallas, if they can hold the lead against Chicago, will move to 2-1. Our next two weeks are on the road in Minnesota and on the road against Green Bay. Those could both very well be losses, which is why games like these that are winnable matter so much.

The life of a fan is a struggle. Week to week, you’re often either ecstatic, or miserable. 3 weeks in is way too early to draw too many conclusions or make too many broad statements. Nonetheless, I’m pissed. I don’t like losing, and the Giants should have won this game. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Sterling Shepard continues to play at a very high level, which is not always the case for first year WRs. But the Giants cannot go forward with this level of ineptitude, lack of discipline, and making of mistakes. If so, they will face the same fate they’ve faced for the last four years. The Giants better cleanse these habits out of their system and find their new identity fast. Because us fans are sick of losing.

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Monday Football Primer: Your Guide to Week 2 NFL Action

The NFL is back and in full swing! Here are some of my thoughts and observations after two weeks of action.

Packers-Vikings: Bradford Shines, Rodgers Struggles

Sam Bradford has always been a bit of an enigma. He’s always had the skillset, and he looks like a prototypical strong-armed, rhythm, dropback, pocket passer. He’s just never really lived up to expectations. He’s played in a ton of different offenses, has struggled with injuries, and has often been surrounded by subpar supporting casts. Nonetheless, he just always leaves you wanting a little more. He’s never proven that he can really elevate his supporting cast, or that he can produce wins consistently (or that he can stay healthy).

History would tell you to be skeptical that Sam Bradford can be anything more than average. Nonetheless, I find myself wanting to be optimistic about Sam Bradford. That’s because, when you watch him, you see why he was a No 1 overall pick. He’s a really natural and easy thrower of the ball. His arm strength is significantly above average, and he has a quick, effortless release.

On the one hand, a Bradford skeptic could argue that last night’s win over the Packers really wasn’t anything too significant. It was only one game, and it was a 17-14 win that was mostly defensive driven. Still, two throws in particular stand out to me: The play action deep shot to Diggs, and the TD pass to Diggs running up the seam while Bradford was being hit. Those are two throws that Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t make.

I think Sam Bradford has the potential to be an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater, at least as Bridgewater is at this point in this career. (That’s not to say that he will be, or that the Vikings should abandon Bridgewater.) I know a lot of people like Bridgewater. The folks at Football Outsiders are really high on him. But one reason why I thought the Bradford trade sort of made sense, and why I didn’t think the Vikings were necessarily doomed when Bridgewater went down, is because I don’t think Bridgewater played particularly well last year. That Vikings team went to the playoffs because of Peterson and the defense, for the most part. Bridgewater threw for 3231 yards, 14 TD, and 9 INT for a passer rating of 88.7. His 65.3% completion and 7.2 y/a are okay, but for the most part, those numbers aren’t very good.

One thing that concerns me about Bridgewater, which Greg Cosell of NFL Films brought up during the pre-draft process and which hasn’t really changed, is his arm strength and throwing process. Bridgewater throws a very slow ball, and he’s not a natural thrower of the football. He pushes it way more than he flicks it. It looks like he’s trying really hard to throw it, like I often do when I play in the backyard. One reason for this, I believe, is his small hands, which prevent him from spinning the football and really getting torque on it. People talk about his struggles with the deep ball and lack of aggressiveness, but this is all tied into arm strength. You’re not going to make throws into tight windows if you don’t think that you are physically capable of getting the ball there.

This isn’t to say that Bridgewater can’t become a serviceable quarterback. But it’s just one more thing he has to compensate for, and it limits how high his ceiling can be. Bradford, as I mentioned, has no such issue. Not only is he a better natural thrower of the ball, but he’s taller and he plays taller, with a more over the top delivery and less bend in his knees.

The Vikings are a good team built on a strong defensive foundation by head coach Mike Zimmer. Bradford in many ways has become an easy target for criticism because of some of his history– the multiple huge contracts he’s signed and inability to produce that kind of return, the demanding of a trade in Philadelphia, the fact that he’s incredibly injury prone… but as a player, there’s no doubt that he’s talented. And there’s no doubt that Minnesota can make the playoffs with him at the helm. Whether or not they will? That, only time will tell.

Now onto the Pack. Over the past few days, Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders has tweeted some interesting stats about Rodgers. He is now going on a 14 game streak without a 100+ passer rating. His yards per attempt was 6.7 in 2015 (career is 8.0) and through two games in 2016 is 5.9. He is 6-8 as a starter in his last 14 games, including the Playoffs. As Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com pointed out within the last few weeks, Brady and Manning never had streaks of futility like this in their primes.

Now, Rodgers is certainly not all to blame, and he certainly has not been horrible. But the TD/INT ratio (31/8 in 2015) does not tell the story of what a poor offense this has been recently and how poorly Rodgers has been playing.

Again, Rodgers hasn’t been awful, and he still has had a spectacular career, but you wonder how long this can go before he starts being criticized. There have been a lot of times where I’ve felt that Rodgers has been overrated and that he often gets a pass for poor play. Yes, I had him at No 1 for my QB Rankings coming into the 2015 season. Yes, he’s still probably the most talented Quarterback in the league in terms of arm strength, although that’s always a tough call to make. But people for years have taken it for granted that he’s been the best QB in the league, and many have gone on to claim that he’s on his way to being the greatest that’s ever played this game. That’s ridiculous. He’s only been playing since 2008, and he has one Superbowl ring and has been average in the playoffs since. In terms of the all time argument, he’s still in the shadows of Brady, Peyton, and arguably even Ben Roethlisberger, as well as several guys that are now retired.

But that’s beside the point. On a more micro level, what’s always bothered me most about Rodgers is the degree to which he just isn’t a rhythm player. He holds onto the ball way longer than he should at times, and he takes a lot of sacks, WAY more than the Brady/Mannings. That should play into the picture when talking about his phenomenal TD/INT ratio.

We’ve seen this lack of rhythm come to haunt Rodgers at times during losses and against high level defenses, but for the most part he’s had an effective career and done a fantastic jab of walking a fine line between structure and improvisation.

But that’s not how he’s been playing recently. Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders was talking about how the Green Bay Offense just looks broken. How it used to run so smoothly and efficiently, like a tightly oiled machine, like we used to see with those perfectly timed back shoulder fades. But recently, it’s just been so out of sync. It essentially relies entirely on broken plays. Last year, I bet if you took out of Rodgers’ numbers screens and plays where he got the defense to jump offsides to get a free play, they would be a lot worse.

This is how Rodgers is playing recently. There is no timing or play-to-play execution involved in the GB offense. He’s arguably the best in the league at making improvisational plays, but that can’t be your whole game. Every play can’t be backyard football. That’s not high level quarterbacking and that doesn’t lead to consistent execution. That’s why the GB offense has been inconsistent and struggling. It seems like almost every time Rodgers drops back, he’s running around or moving around in the pocket to try to buy time and “make a play”, or wait for something to happen.

Rodgers is consistently looked at as having great pocket movement, but it’s different than that of guys like Brady and Brees. When they move in the pocket, it is measured and methodical. And it’s fairly consistent. It’s drop back, step up, deliver. Slide left or slide right occasionally if needed. Rodgers is by no means frenetic in the pocket, and he certainly has a great feel for finding the empty space… but his movement seems more random than that of those guys. It’s a little more all over the place. It seems like he’s buying time/extending the play just for the sake of extending the play. When he moves in the pocket, it looks like he’s trying to complete a madden challenge where you’re asked to stay in the pocket without getting sacked as long as you can. It’s not very calculated movement.

In Week 1 against the Jaguars, Rodgers made an absolutely ridiculous touchdown pass. He threw it with precision down the field with a defender practically tackling him. But the talking heads were so caught up with talking about that play, that they ignored the bigger picture of how out of sync the GB offense has been. And that’s been the story for the past year it seems like with Rodgers. People just talk about the crazy broken plays, and ignore how inconsistent Rodgers has been when he’s not making those plays. Sometimes, you just have to drop back and get rid of it for a short gain. Those plays aren’t exciting and they don’t make the highlight reels. But the great ones are going to make those every time. Rodgers tries to improvise so much, that he leaves a lot of plays on the field.

And then there are the comeback woes, which reared their ugly head again on Sunday. As Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders (who keeps track of QB 4th Quarter Comeback records) has written about time and time again, Aaron Rodgers is essentially a frontrunner. This means if it’s the 4th Quarter and the Packers are behind, they aren’t likely to comeback with Rodgers at the helm. No one in the media talks about this, but if you look at his track record, it’s surprisingly accurate. Rodgers’ last pick in the Minnesota game was bad (although the receiver might share the blame), and so was the fumble before that, another example of Rodgers holding onto the ball too long (also poor RT play). 4th Quarter Comebacks have been a problem for Rodgers every year since his rookie year, so this aspect of his game is unlikely to change even if he does get back to MVP form. Some QBs just aren’t comeback QBs. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a great QB–Kurt Warner, one of my favorite QBs, is an all time great, and he too was a notorious frontrunner–but when guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and even guys like Eli Manning, are spectacular in this department, it’s worth at least mentioning

Now, the poor GB offense certainly isn’t all on Rodgers. The O-line has struggled at times. The run game has been hit and miss. And most importantly, the receivers have been below average and have often been unable to separate. The GB receiving core has lost pieces throughout the years (Jones got old, Driver retired, Jennings left/got old, Finley got hurt), and it just isn’t what it used to be. Cobb really struggled without Jordy Nelson in the lineup. And Davante Adams is not a good No. 3. Everyone thought he’d be so good in 2015, but people were fixated on what were essentially only two good games for him (DAL and NE) out of the whole 2014 season. Greg Cosell of NFL Films was talking about, a while back, how it seems Rodgers doesn’t trust Davante Adams when he’s running the slant (the slant-flat is a staple route combination in the GB offense), because often he didn’t pull the trigger on those throws. And I’ve seen a few times where a slant to Adams almost ended up getting picked from the defender cutting in front of him. That kind of stuff messes with a QB’s head. The QB needs to trust that the receiver is going to be where he needs him to be. Otherwise, he either doesn’t throw it at all, or throws it a clutch too late, which is the difference between a completion and an incompletion/INT in this league.

I think 2015 was a perfect storm of factors for Rodgers. Somewhat similar to 2013 for Eli Manning. That year on the Giants there was no run game, the o-line was awful, the receivers were inconsistent, and the pass game concepts weren’t helping the issue. When Rodgers is uncomfortable, he plays fast at times (goes through his reads too fast/moves around too soon), holds onto the ball too long, and leaves plays on the field. When Eli gets uncomfortable, he chucks up absurdly dumb interceptions. Yes, it’s good that Rodgers has managed to avoid throwing picks throughout this slump, but that doesn’t mean he’s been playing well. There’s more to good quarterbacking than not throwing picks. Now, Eli did not at all have a good supporting cast in 2013, but he was part of the problem. A big part. By no means has Rodgers been as bad as Eli was then, but the GB offense has been bad, and that includes him. He too has been part of the problem. The bottom line is, it can’t all be about Jordy.

And it may seem like I’m overstating the issue (and perhaps I am), but this is the part of it that gets me. If I had a penny every time I heard someone talk about Jordy Nelson coming back and him being gone last year and the impact of that on the offense, I’d be rich. I know it matters. I know he’s a great WR, and I know the comfort level with Rodgers is huge. But there has to be more to it than that. Rodgers is supposed to be one of the best in the game. Does the production of the best QB in the game entirely depend on the presence of one WR? Does that also mean that when Rodgers has been so good in the past, it’s just been because of his receivers? Of course not. When Rodgers has been great, it’s been because of him. Why can’t we acknowledge that when he’s been not so great, it’s also because of him? Again, that’s not saying there aren’t other factors. It’s simply saying that he is one of the factors.

A guy like Peyton Manning, no matter who he was throwing to, would always get rid of the football quickly. That’s simply the type of player he is. Rodgers doesn’t have to run around for ten minutes every time he drops back. He needs to be more disciplined in the pocket, and he needs to be mentally sharper. That’s on him, and not anyone else.

Rodgers is one of the best in the game and one of the best to ever do it. And there’s a very good chance he bounces back. I was thinking similar things about him at the beginning of the 2014 season, and he responded by deservedly winning his second MVP award after telling everybody to R-E-L-A-X. But right now, he’s in a slump, and he’s struggling a bit. Let’s not be afraid to admit that, instead of just talking about Jordy Nelson and fawning over every time a broken play just happens to work out positively for him.

The Giants are 2-0 Thanks to Improved Defense and the Return of Victor Cruz

As a passionate Giants fan, it’s hard not to get over-excited about this. Yes, it’s just two games. Both were close games that included some mistakes and that really could have gone either way. But the thing is, we won. And that’s what the Giants haven’t been doing recently. If my memory is correct, this is our first 2-0 start since the 2010 season. That’s six years! That’s big, especially for a young, rookie head coach. Even more exciting is why we’re winning. The defense is looking better than it did a year ago, and Victor Cruz is back and contributing big time. He caught the go-ahead TD in week 1 on a great play to get open after the initial look was covered, and he caught a huge 3rd down in the fourth quarter this past week. He was running straight down the sideline, and the cornerback was right with him as he fought for position. Eli threw it up softly, and Cruz aggressively went after the ball and wrestled it away from the defender, who was in perfect position. That first down allowed the Giants to run the clock down before kicking the go ahead FG, so that they didn’t have to give Drew Brees the ball back.

It cannot be understated how big Cruz was in helping us win the SB in the 2011 season. Not to mention, he was undrafted and wasn’t even starting at the beginning of the 2011 season. And if you’ve ever seen or heard him talk, he’s a really great kid. I’m really happy that he’s come back from injury to be productive. He was out for a long time. And I bet he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. There were a lot of people saying he wouldn’t be the same guy coming back. But I didn’t have much doubt. Every time he’s been healthy since 2011, he’s contributed. Really cool to see him back and on the field. Not to mention, Sterling Shepard is looking good as well. What’s interesting is that Shepard was a slot guy coming out of college, with questions about whether he could play on the outside. But Cruz was looked at as being primarily a slot guy as well, and most assumed he would take the slot while Shepard would go to the outside opposite Beckham. But from what I can tell, it looks as if Cruz has been playing outside with Shepard in the slot. I’m sure Ben McAdoo will mix it up–he even put Odell in the slot at times the past few years, from which he’s been very productive, just like he is everywhere else on the field–but this is an interesting move. For all the talk of Cruz being a slot guy, he did play on the outside a fair bit in 2011 with all the WR injuries we had. And he was pretty good from there as well. If Shepard can be a productive slot WR (which it looks like he can), we have a pretty good 3 deep WR core. We thought this was the case back in 2013. But Nicks wasn’t the same after injury, Cruz started getting injured, and Randle just was always a bit of a mess. But this is exciting going forward if you’re a Giants fan, no doubt.

Texans Putting Osweiler in Position to Succeed

I’m rooting for Osweiler, if not just because like Bradford has been in the past, he’s another guy that’s going to be under the microscope after signing a big contract. The Texans are 2-0 so far. He played pretty well in week 1 and was eh in week 2. There’s certainly no guarantee he’ll succeed this season. It’s early in the year. QBs really make their money in December. Hoyer in 2014, Fitzpatrick in 2011, and Orton in 2009 were all QBs who started the season well only to implode in the second half. Having said that, I’m cautiously optimistic, and I like what the Texans are doing with Osweiler.

Osweiler, like most QBs, is a system QB. He likely needs to be in a good situation to succeed. When you look at other free agent QB deals that have gone poorly in the past, it’s because these QBs were system QBs that were in over their head and asked to do too much. Kevin Kolb succeeded as a backup in Andy Reid’s system (which has been proven to be QB friendly) throwing to Maclin and Jackson. He wasn’t going to dig the post Kurt Warner Cardinals out of nothingness. Matt Flynn excelled in the GB West Coast with talented pass catchers, but the Raiders were no good when he went there. The same can be said for Matt Cassel in New England. Outside of one very game manager-ish year in KC, he was mostly a bust there.

Yes, these QBs didn’t play well on their respective new teams. But they were brought in to make losing franchises winners again. Usually, those types of Quarterbacks need to come from the draft.

But with Osweiler it’s different. The Texans made the playoffs last year with Brian Hoyer at QB and came close the year before with Ryan Fitzpatrick. So they’re already a good team. If Osweiler can prove to be even a marginal upgrade over those guys, then the trade is justified. Furthermore, lots of people were worried about how Houston might remain a contender with Brock getting so much money. But he has lots of team around him. We all know about JJ Watt. There’s also Clowney on that line, who definitely has talent. Bill O Brien wants to rely on defense, and has proven that he’s capable of doing so in the past. (He’s also a good coach, which wasn’t always the case with the other free agent situations I mentioned.) But offensively, they drafted Braxton Miller, a pretty good prospect at the slot position, as well as the speedster Will Fuller, to go along with Deandre Hopkins, one of the best X-ISO receivers in football. They also traded for Lamar Miller, who definitely showed flashes in Miami. They can mix him along with Alfred Blue, who’s proven to be a capable backup. Lastly, Bill O Brien comes from New England, and his pass game is very well schemed. It’s multiple, and aims to get the ball out quickly. All of this puts Osweiler in a very good position to succeed. Yes, he got the big contract. Yes, he likely will have the spotlight on him. But the investments look to be paying off two weeks in. He doesn’t have to be Tom Brady at this point. He just has to be Andy Dalton: efficient and smart.

~

Quick Hits

-It’s unfortunate that Garoppolo got hurt. Because I thought he looked really, really good against Miami.

-I was glad to see Matt Ryan bounce back against the Raiders. They came away with a W, but more importantly, he was aggressive throwing the ball downfield and confident, two things that have been missing from his game recently.

-It certainly doesn’t look like Cam Newton and the Panthers are taking a step back this season. Cam looks just as good as he did last year, and the addition of Kelvin Benjamin makes this offense scary. He’s quickly becoming one of the best young wide receivers in the league. What’s so impressive is his big body and catch radius, which gives Cam Newton margin for error. Then you have Devin Funchess as well, who people didn’t mention last year. WR often take a few years to develop, but he was a big time draft prospect. If he can become something too, then watch out. You also have Greg Olsen, one of the top receiving tight ends in the league, Corey Brown and Ted Ginn for deep shots, and then you ALSO have J. Stewart and that dominant O-Line… AND Mike Shula’s multiple option scheme which is so hard to defend. I don’t like Carolina, but it looks like they could be here to stay. If they play at their peak, they’re tough to defend.

-The Bills firing of OC Greg Roman struck me as a little strange, especially only two games into the season. He fits what they want to do in terms of being run first and then using Tyrod’s athleticism. Also, their problems over the last year seem to be more about defense than offense.

-Josh McCown gave us the usual Josh McCown treatment. Some nice gunslinger throws while under pressure (see the TD pass), and some bad gunslinger INT’s while under pressure (see the game ender). He did okay for himself last year, and should have been the starter this year (which isn’t saying much when RG3 is your other QB). But now he’s hurt, and the Browns might have to draft another QB next year. What number is that, now? Not to mention, they could have taken Wentz this year (who looks like he has the makings to be a star, at least based on week 1), but they traded the pick to Philly. They even spoke negatively about Wentz in the process (because the Browns are sooo good at evaluating Quarterbacks). What an embarrassment of a franchise.

-Can Chip Kelly and his offense succeed in the NFL? The jury is still out. On Sunday, we saw both sides of the equation. On the one hand, SF allowed 46 points. Yes, CAR is a very good offense, but as we’ve seen time and time again with Chip, when your offense plays so fast, you a) get into holes quickly if your offense isn’t producing, and b) your defense tends to suck. On the other hand, the 49ers were within one score of tying it in the 4th quarter. Before the Blaine Gabbert pick that basically sealed it, there was a dropped past by the niners that could have gone for a TD and tied it. Blaine Gabbert hasn’t played well by any means, but the offense has produced, albeit inconsistently. It’s hard to see anywhere else where Blaine Gabbert could go and even come close to this kind of offensive production. But that’s the Chip offense. They play fast, they get the ball out, and they get completions. Gabbert plays fast (wayyyy too fast), but the Chip Kelly offense is a good fit for him, because Chip wants the ball out. And when you have Blaine Gabbert as your QB (and Torrey Smith as your No. 1), you have to scheme offense. There’s nowhere Gabbert could go where they could huddle up, line-up, and simply out execute the defense. But Chip’s offense is at least giving these guys a chance, with a guy that is essentially a backup QB and a below average WR corps. And we’ve seen that with Chip in the past, where guys like Foles and Sanchez have looked serviceable. It hasn’t translated to wins consistently, but it does have the potential to morph offensive production.

-Speaking of Gabbert, he’s another guy that, like Bradford, can be frustrating. Like I said, at this point, he’s ideally a backup. He plays way too fast, and is way too overreactive to pressure. Because of that, his lower body mechanics become compromised, which leads to inaccuracy and missing throws he needs to make. It’s always been a problem with him, and pocket presence isn’t really something you can teach. But he also is capable of making really impressive throws. His TD throw this past week to Torrey Smith was an example. You do see the arm talent and the type of throws that explain why he was a first round pick. It’s just the other stuff that keeps him from being good.

-It looks like Mike Tirico is replacing Bob Costas as the host of pre and post-game Sunday Night Football. It’s unfortunate; I think Costas is better. I was never a big Tirico fan. He’s definitely a professional; I just don’t really like his voice or his style. But after the NFL told NBC they couldn’t put Tirico on Thursday Night broadcasts, they probably wanted to find something for him to do.

-We’re in the golden age of passing in the NFL, and we might be in the golden age of Quarterbacking as well. From vets to young guns, there’s a lot of talent in the NFL. I saw it all over the highlights this past sunday. Like I said earlier, Matt Ryan made some really impressive throws. Derek Carr as well. Marcus Mariota’s game winning TD pass was phenomenal, and Flacco’s TD to Mike Wallace was nice as well. Then as I mentioned there was Jimmy Garoppolo who looked really good, but Tanehill, although he’s dabbled in mediocrity, has a big time arm and is capable of big time throws as well, which can be seen with his TD pass to Jordan Cameron in the endzone. And Carson Palmer is back to MVP form; he continues to be a tremendous asset for Arizona.

-If it’s the golden age for passing, it might be the golden age for receivers as well. The NFL is full of physical specimens that we didn’t use to see, and these guys attack the ball. Late in the game, Amari Cooper went up for a first down catch on a short hitch that was spectacular. The ball was high and his arm extension was crazy. I was wrong when I said Larry Fitzgerald was done a few years ago, he’s rejuvenated with Palmer and is an absolute dog, attacking the football and running after the catch. Then there’s Julio Jones. A lot of people have been mentioning Antonio Brown’s name as best WR in the NFL, but don’t forget about this guy. Hardly anyone draws as much defensive attention as he does on the Falcons, yet he continues to make plays. He has a lethal combination of size and explosiveness. On a lot of those in-breaking routes, he reminds me of Andre Johnson, because he’s practically impossible to stop. He’s such a big target and so strong to the ball. Then there was the deep ball he caught from Ryan on the second and one deep shot. The ball placement was perfect, but his closing speed to the ball was ridiculous. He was double covered and behind the ball when the camera closed in on him, but by the time the ball got there, he ran through the double coverage and right into the ball. Phenomenal stuff.

Hopefully there’s plenty more great football on its way! Continue to stay tuned in to the blog to keep getting updates and analysis.

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