Blog Entry

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:19 am
Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Mike Martz, offensive coordinator, Bears. We don't know if Martz has designs on ever getting another head coaching gig, but you have to wonder if he's trying to get Lovie Smith fired with that game plan against the Saints Sunday. Martz has never been known as an OC particularly interested in protecting the quarterback, and that goes back to his days with Kurt Warner and the Rams in the late 1990s-early 2000s.

But it's a potentially lethal combination when you have Jay Cutler under center and a porous Bears offensive line in front of him. Making matters more problematic: facing the Saints and their defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has yet to meet a pressure scheme he wouldn't try.

So what did Martz do? Of the Bears' 63 offensive snaps, he called 52 pass plays. Which made for a Perfect Storm of Pain for Cutler, who was 19 for 45 for 244 yards and a touchdown. He also lost a fumble and was sacked six times.

Cue ESPN blogger Kevin Seifert: "Martz is well-known for his pass-happy ways, but his notable adjustment toward the running game last season was among the most important factors in the Bears' NFC North title. So it's worth noting that coach Lovie Smith rebuked Martz's approach Monday, in his own gentle way, and agreed it was not a formula for success."

Smith told reporters Monday that "I know the balance as far as running/pass wasn't there. All I can say is we'll get it better. You can't win football games with that type of balance."

Smith added: "It just happened. It happens like that sometimes and we'll clean it up. I'm not going to sit here and tell you the reason why. I'm just going to tell you we have to get the balance a lot better, and we will. We didn't do that [Sunday] for a lot of different reasons."

In case it's not blindingly obvious: Martz is the reason why.

It's only a matter of time before Jags fans start sporting 1.8 jerseys.

Luke McCown, quarterback, Jaguars. Here was the headline nine days ago, after the Jaguars defeated the Titans, 16-14, in the regular-season opener: "Luke McCown lauded for execution of Jaguars' game plan." The only way that headline would work two weeks in a row is if head coach Jack Del Rio admitted in the post-game presser that the team "Took an unconventional approach to getting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert on the field. Instead of just pulling McCown, we thought it made more sense to embarrass him out of a job. I think we accomplished that."

But Del Rio didn't say that. Instead, after watching McCown's clown college-inspired performance against the Jets, all the Jags coach could offer up was a pithy recounting of the obvious. “It was a good whooping."

Way to undersell it, Jack. It was so much more than that. McCown, the guy Del Rio installed as the starter after unceremoniously dumping David Garrard a day before the NFL season opened, was impossibly awful. By the time Del Rio pulled McCown from the game after three quarters, he had completed 6 of 19 passes for 59 yards and four interceptions. It gets worse: his passer rating was 1.8. To get a sense for how truly terrible that is, consider this: if McCown just took the snap from center and spiked the ball into the turf on all 19 of his pass attempts and finished the day 0 for 19 for 0 yards, 0 TDs and 0 INTs, his passer rating would be 39.6.

Maybe that's a flaw in the formula, but the the overall point remains: the Jaguars were markedly worse off when they let McCown try a forward pass.

“I’ve got to do better," McCown said, presumably with a straight face. 

Clearly. But it's unfair to blame him completely; it's not like we expected him to be anything other than a below-replacement-level NFL quarterback. Ultimately, fault lies with Del Rio, who seems to have a knack for inexplicable decisions while somehow managing not to lose his job.

"I guess the immediate next question is what are you gonna do going forward, and my answer is that we'll discuss that as a staff," Del Rio said after the Jets game. "I made the decision in this ballgame to let Blaine play and get some experience, and we'll go from there. ... We're gonna do the things that make sense for us to win on Sunday.""

We have a very hard time believing that last sentence given how the previous two weeks have played out. But it could be worse, Del Rio could be coaching the Chiefs. Which brings us to…

Matt Cassel, quarterback, Chiefs. Like McCown, Cassel is a victim of circumstance. He's also a grown man, an NFL quarterback and Pro Bowler so he should be able to handle the criticism, particularly after what the Chiefs have perpetrated against the game of football in recent weeks. Head coach Todd Haley, once hailed as an offensive mastermind, looks more like a guy just back from an alien abduction that has been programmed to set offenses back 100 years.

Haley's also the man who commandeered play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Charlie Weis before last season's playoff loss to the Ravens, an ugly game that foreshadowed life without Charlie, who bolted for the University of Florida in January. Now, two games into 2011 and the Chiefs are, by any measure, the worst team in the league.

It all starts with Cassel, who has a respectable completion percentage (63.8 percent on 37 of 58 passing), but is managing a paltry 4.3 yards per attempt, has just one touchdown and four interceptions, including a three-pick effort in the Chiefs' 48-3 no-show performance against the Lions Sunday. Cassel's passer rating through two weeks: 50.4. By comparison, he had just seven interceptions in 2010, and sported a passer rating of 93.0.

Another not-so-fun fact, courtesy of STATS: "Kansas City lost its first two games by a combined margin of 79 points, the worst scoring differential to start a season for the Chiefs since losing the first two games of the 2007 season by 27 points."

Ah, yes, the halcyon days of losing by an average of just 13.5 point a game.

While it's a tad unfair to lay the unending ineptitude at Cassel's feet, it's not completely Haley's fault, either. The Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger writes that "Blaming this entirely on Haley is both lazy and dishonest. You’re looking at the wrong guy. Focus away from the head coach for a moment, and look at the general manager."

We couldn't agree more. The problem: general manager Scott Pioli does the hiring and firing. If it comes down to canning himself or the head coach, we're guessing Haley will be the first to go. The only question is when (we have Halloween in the office pool). Cassel might get to the end of the season, but that has more to do with convenience than loyalty. The Chiefs have the great misfortune of being one of the league's worst teams playing one of the toughest schedules. Which means that the "Do we have a shot at Andrew Luck" conversations have begun in earnest. 

NFL Week 2

Seahawks wide receivers, cornerbacks (alo acceptable: players not named Earl Thomas). It's not like anyone expected Seattle to waltz into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers. Vegas listed the Seahawks as 14-point dogs, and the Steelers were motivated in their home-opener after an embarrassing loss in Baltimore in Week 1. Plus, it's not an exaggeration to suggest that, outside of safety Earl Thomas, Seattle doesn't have one legitimate playmaker. That severely limits your chances in a play-making league.

Also not helping: dropped passes and cornerbacks who either play 15-yard cushions or bump-and-run coverage without the bumping.

Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is in an untenable situation. Against the Steelers, the game plan involved quick, short passes and running the ball. Neither worked, so the few times Jackson attempted to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield, the play often ended with his receivers dropping the pass. This goes back to the lack of play-makers; Sidney Rice didn't play, and there's no reason to think that Mike Williams, who ate himself out of the league once before, or Chris Durham would suddenly morph into something other than possession receivers. Then again, Jackson's not Drew Brees whe in comes to accuracy,'s Doug Farrar joked during the game that "Jackson should be taken off the field for the safety of his receivers. He's hanging them out to dry all over the place."

So, yeah, terrible football a two-way street.

The excellent Field Gulls blog does a nice job of breaking down cornerback Brandon Browner's curious day.

"Most of his struggles are easy to explain as him lacking the speed and awareness to cover a wide receiver like Mike Wallace. 'Speed' here isn't just straight-line speed. Browner may be athletic enough to still play cornerback at 6'4", but he does not turn on a dime, he lacks the short-area quickness to go up against these smaller guys. …

"…[M]ore curious … the lack of jam from Browner. He was occasionally lined up five or six yards off the line, which in itself is an odd use of Browner's talents. Where [Marcus] Trufant used such cushions in this game to make sure he could at least contain against long runs, Browner looked inept trying to executed the same idea. And even when lined up right on his man, he seemed hesitant to put a hand on him, even just to shove him to the outside lane. I have no explanation there. Perhaps he was intimidated by the receivers' speed, perhaps he was instructed to be extra careful with his hands for fear of penalties."

No need to worry. This is all part of head coach Pete Carroll's yet-to-be-explained-in-detail Plan. We're guessing it involves comfortable khakis and Andrew Luck.

Offense, defense, special teams, Miami Dolphins. Upside: it's not all Chad Henne's fault. Bad news: the Dolphins are still 0-2 -- at home -- and the season could be over before the month is out. It also doesn't help when head coach Tony Sparano can only muster a "I don't have any answers" post-game response following the Dolpins' loss to the Texans Sunday. "It’s baffling to me," Sparano continued. "It really is … We’ve got to do a better job."

After a solid showing in Week 1 against the Pats, Henne looked more like himself against Houston, finishing the game 12 of 30 for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But the lack of points is an offense-wide problem.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything — mental mistakes, the fundamentals, executing,” running back Reggie Bush said, according to the Miami Herald. “When we have our opportunities, because we do have opportunities as we did out here [Sunday], we have to make them. That’s what the good teams do. They take advantage of their opportunities. And that’s what we don’t do very well.”

On the other side of the ball, the defense had the opposite problem. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, like Sparano doesn't have an explanation for the slow start.

“Right now I don’t know what to say,” he said. “We’ve got to win our one-on-one battles. If you win one-on-ones, eventually we’ll pull out a victory."

Theoretically, yes. But the the scoring issues are exacerbated when the most consistent player on the team, kicker Dan Carpenter, goes 2 for 4. Granted, the 22-yard chipshot that was blocked wasn't his fault, but he honked a 34-yarder, too. Six points doesn't matter when you lose by 10, but presumably the Dolphins aren't planning to lose every game by double-digit margins. Because if they don't get their act together Bill Parcells might actually walk through that door.

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Since: Oct 18, 2007
Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:43 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

I think Del Rio got asked to be fired when he cut Garrard.

Since: Aug 30, 2007
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:18 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

The coaching talent pool is pretty low right now. 

Since: Oct 31, 2009
Posted on: September 20, 2011 9:52 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

No mention of McNabb?????????

Since: Oct 31, 2009
Posted on: September 20, 2011 9:51 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

How much Guaranteed money did Scott Pioli give Matt Cassel?  I just want to know how shafted they will be when he is cut next year because the Chiefs can’t afford to pay him and Andrew Luck.  Pioli should have never given Cassel all that money; dude had one good season on the Patriots, who were pretty good despite Cassel not because of him.  Then he had a good year playing a powder puff schedule.  Now he has real completion, with little talent around him, and we are seeing his true “potential”.


I know KC lost Charles for the year and that won’t help save Haley’s job, but I think he should get one more year, last year was a fluke, and they weren’t that good, so he shouldn’t be punished for their landslide down the NFL.  Give him one more year; he’ll have Andrew Luck, Dwayne Bowie, and Jamal Charles.  Let’s see what he can do with that before his crucifixion.

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: September 20, 2011 8:18 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

You left out Oakland's DC, going away from the man coverage that got them to a 21-3 lead at half to settle in to the soft zone and "Prevent Us from Winning" defense that allowed the Bills 5 2nd half TDs.  And if that wasn't enough, you can add in Hue Jackson taking the plays from the Herm Edwards book of clock management.

Since: Oct 29, 2010
Posted on: September 20, 2011 8:00 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Lets see. Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, and Marshall Faulk. With a Hall of Fame team, anybody can be made to look like a genius.Chad Henne threw the ball all over the place in week one against the Pats and everyone is going to do that this year. (Lions preseason) Henne is the same guy as last year so they really haven't done anything to correct their biggest weakness. All the teams with QB problems are struggling so Miami, Jax, and Seattle will be no different.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: September 20, 2011 7:34 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Been saying this for years, Martz hasn't looked like an offensive genius since his third year as a head coach. Thats when he got comfortable and became the man he is instead of the man Vermeil made him be. The guy sucked the last half of his career in St. Louis, he sucked in San Fran, he had one decent year in Detroit (a year that didn't lead to him being retained) and now he sucks in Chicago, it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: September 20, 2011 4:40 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Magic 8 ball... Nice... could not agree more!

Since: Sep 20, 2011
Posted on: September 20, 2011 4:35 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

As for the Bears, as a long time fan. Lovie needs to leave and take his worthless tampa 2 defense with him. Martz are you kidding me, he must have a broken 8 ball in his office, everytime he asks it if he should call a run play it must say "certianly not". He was a joke as a head coach and a joke as an OC.  Lovie needs to keep him in check or preferably both leave. Cutler is NO Kurt Warner and never will be. 

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: September 20, 2011 12:00 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

At this point Gabbert needs to play. There is a reason McCowan has been a back-up. I don't know that it makes much difference either way but the kid needs playing time if he is going to be the "answer". How many year are we going to hear about Lovie Smith being on the hot seat? I like Smith but something has to give, as the head coach if you can recognize the unbalanced play calling step up and do something. Hopefully he will this week. I'm not really surprised by the Dolphins and can't imagine many are. Maybe they'll put something together but I wouldn't hold my breath. Seahawks - What can be said? Finally we have Matt Cassell, what in the world happened here? Feeling bad for the Chief's at the moment. You lose your best player, your quarterback has taken a considerable step back (I know its only been two games) and your defense isn't living up to expectations. Sorry Chief's fans sorry! Speaking of hot seats, how is that Del Rio is still coaching down there? He must be a really great guy to be around or something. No disrespect inteded because he has accomplished more than I could ever hope to but the man needs to move on and let the Jag's go a different direction. My opinion only. 

Sorry for bad grammar and mis-spellings! 

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