The OCHO: Week 15
Hail to thee Dan Campbell
Week 15 is in the books, let’s see what happened.
Surprising Thing Number One: Who needs kickers?
After decades of being extremely conservative with fourth down decision making, NFL coaches have vastly expanded their use of fourth down and the two point conversion in the last few years. Still, it feels like this has grown exponentially this season, culminating in the Ravens going for two twice in the last three games with the game on the line and losing both times when they could have tied the game. It’s super easy for people to question these decision, because almost half of these decisions end up not working out. One of the reasons coaches were so skeptical of the idea of risk-taking for so many years is the criticism it opens them up to if they fail. If Harbaugh kicks the extra point and the defense fails to stop Aaron Rodgers, then the defense gets blamed, not Harbaugh (at least not as much). Personally, I applaud the willingness of John Harbaugh to step up and make the tough choice with the game on the line. There are a lot of factors to consider with each decision, and I don’t see how either was egregiously right or wrong. One thing that has been on my mind lately is this, however. If you are taking big risks frequently, I wonder if it becomes harder, because you have fewer “special” plays to go to. The two point call the Ravens went to last night was hardly “special”. I wonder if teams are basing their decisions on the analytics of history, when teams were using their “best” plays, but running out mediocre plays because they used their “best” play back in week 2 on a fourth and two.
Expected Thing Number One: Injury luck evens out over time.
This is a funny tweet. But the reality is the Bucs offense hasn’t actually been that bad against the Saints in recent history. They got blown out in the first matchup last year, but the two matchups between that and last night, the offense was at least ok. Last night, however, the wheels came off and Tom Brady got shut out at home for the first time ever. While it is fun to suggest that the Saints have Tom’s number in the Bay (and I did), the truth is the Bucs fell apart because they were missing the parts of their offense that makes them the Bucs. By the end of the game, the offense was missing Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. The only real core offensive skill player left was Gronk. Brady and Gronk are just not enough to make an offense go at this point. The reason Brady left New England was this sort of absence of skill players. He knows he can’t do it himself at this point. Last season, a miraculous run of health lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl win with all of their pieces in place. This year, the luck has run out. With significant injuries on both sides of the ball, they will not be the same team.
Surprise Thing Number Two: If you know what is going on in the AFC, please, for the love of god, tell me.
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT EVEN. Another week, another bizarre series of outcomes that just muddles things further. If the Raiders beat the Browns tonight (a real possibility given the Browns’ COVID issues) there will be 12 teams separated by 2 games vying for 6 playoff spots. There are thousands of possible outcomes, including one that could see a team that was 1-7 just 7 weeks ago as the TOP SEED IN THE AFC. There are just 3 more games to play. This is highest level of parity I have ever seen in football. The NFC is showing a much clearer picture. While there is certainly a battle for the final spot or two in the NFC, I have no idea what the playoff picture in the AFC could look like. Just for fun, here is my definitely-going to-be-wrong final prediction:
Expected Thing Number Two: Some medium sodas did not save the Giants season
In the midst of a disastrous season that will likely end with the dismissal of Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman, the marketing engine behind the campaign for season ticket renewals had a brilliant idea. A free medium soda for all attendees who were current season ticket holders. After shelling out thousands of dollars for an absolute crap product, season ticket holders were on the verge of witnessing the Giants trot out Mike Glennon to be savaged by their most hated rivals, and the 3 marketeers did not want the suffering fans to feel the urge to vomit on an empty stomach. Sadly, it seems that was not the panacea they were hoping for. No one showed up, the Giants were methodically beaten and moved one step further toward the inevitable. So much for the Pepsi bump.
Surprise Thing Number Three: The Dolphins have won six straight football games.
Non-stop celebration machine, Christian Wilkins’ mood here reflects that of the Dolphins as a whole. A team everyone (including me) had left for dead has risen from the ashes to become a legitimate playoff contender. This is truly one of the best stories of the year, and has the potential to be one of the best ever if they can finish the job. They started the season 1-7, with losses to Jaguars and Falcons on their resume. With the team firmly committed to everything and everyone but their quarterback, it appeared to be business as usual for this highly dysfunctional organization. However, a miraculous run of six straight wins has put them just a game out of the playoffs and two games out of the division lead. I even noted above they COULD STILL BE THE NUMBER ONE SEED IN THE ENTIRE AFC. This has been a great run for them. The problem will be finishing the job. Back to back road games against feisty opponents in New Orleans and Tennessee will be a challenge and their final game against the Patriots feels like a final boss in a video game. Outside of the Ravens, the Dolphins haven’t beaten a good team since their week 1 win against the Patriots. They will need 3 straight if they want to go to the playoffs.
Expected Thing Number Three: Florida man interrupts worst game ever
This week, a very inebriated Jaguars “fan” tried to interrupt an extremely rare Jaguars touchdown with a brief appearance. Sadly, he could not interrupt the Texans, who crushed the Jaguars for the second time this season with a roster I have charitably described as the “worst I have ever seen”. This week, the Jaguars finally broke down and let Urban Meyer go, when it was reported he was physically abusing the players. I assume that he was let go now because the Jaguars hope this is enough to file under termination with cause so they don’t have to pay him. Meyer’s tenure was disastrous and could probably be summed up best by the team motto being “own it” while the head coach owned absolutely nothing about the team’s failures. Failure starts at the top and started with Urban’s inability to own failure. It ends with him being unable to own failure. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are left in total chaos. This team needs a total organizational reboot, one year after a total organizational reboot. Florida men need time to recover from the former Florida coach.
Surprise thing Number Four: Urban Meyer isn’t alone…
Urban Meyer is, and probably forever will be, the name associated with the egotistical college coach that goes pro and discovers in apocalyptic fashion that you can’t just cower everyone into submission. He is certainly not alone in this realm, however. On Sunday, the Panthers ran the above play, that was presumably called by head coach Matt Rhule. The best description of this play would have to be “pure garbage”. As a concept, this is just a total no go. You need one yard, and you have set up a situation where you require basically a perfect execution from 3 people, and luck. You have to have a perfect throw, perfect catch and run, and perfect WR block. Plus, you have to hope the defense doesn’t just jump the route. Literally none of these things happens, and Cam Newton prevents a BILLS touchdown by dumping the ball in the turf. So you would assume Panther’s coach Matt Rhule would recognize that, at best, this wasn’t a great play call. Nope.
Matt blames the ENTIRE thing on his players, specifically Cam Newton, by suggesting he should have just handed off. Of course, you can clearly see from this VIDEO EVIDENCE that a handoff would have lead to a three yard loss. This is sort of besides the point, however. Blaming the players for failure to deflect from yourself is the definitive attribute of the egomaniacal college coach that doesn’t realize that player buy in is a REQUIREMENT in the pros. Blasting them publicly (especially unnecessarily) because you think you are above everyone will end your tenure faster than you can blink. Matt Rhule isn’t the level of poisonous that Urban Meyer is, but having a cobra that bites you isn’t really much better than having a Taipan that bites you.
Expected Thing Number Four: Football is really dangerous, but not as dangerous as listening to Joe Buck
This was a very difficult week in the NFL. On Thursday night Donald Parham Jr. suffered a very severe concussion and had a horrendous bodily reaction that included a blackout, his arms going into fencing position, and, finally, his whole body going into decorticate posturing while shaking as he was wheeled off. I will spare you watching this horror, unlike the Fox broadcast which showed it repeatedly, close up, and in slow motion. This was an extremely serious injury, where his life was in danger. Reading the NIH article I linked to above will reveal the prognosis for someone that shows decorticate posturing is that there is a 37 percent survival rate. Now, we know NOW that it is likely that Donald Parham Jr. will be ok, at least in the short term. Of course, long term brain damage was discovered this week in the brains of Vincent Jackson and Philip Adams (who killed 6 people), and the recent death of Demaryius Thomas will certainly be under the microscope. I say all of this to say, this was a very, very serious situation that warranted a compassionate, concerned and thoughtful response. Joe Buck got off on the right foot, suggesting it was unwise to speculate on the status of Parham. He then suggested that Parham’s physical symptoms might have meant… he was cold?!?!?! I really don’t know what to say here. This was unquestionably the stupidest, most ill-timed comment I have ever heard, ONE WEEK after Cris Collinsworth declared Aaron Rodgers to be the beacon of honesty in football. What is even worse, is that this smacks of the NFL’s never ending campaign to pretend head injuries aren’t real, even though we know, WITHOUT QUESTION they are. Joe Buck is the ABSOLUTE WORST. Congratulations on un-seating Cris Collinsworth in ONE WEEK for the stupidest comment in broadcast history.