Blog Entry

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:00 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.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Mark Sanchez, Jets

It's been five days since Tim Tebow led the Broncos on a 95-yard game-winning drive against the Jets. The other, perhaps more important storylines to come out of that game: Von Miller is scary, Denver's defense is improving, and Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback on the field last Thursday.

That's not hyperbole. Sanchez looks the part and has the pedigree but nearly three years into his NFL career and he's a replacement-level quarterback. That would be one thing if he were, say, a former seventh-round pick like Ryan Fitzpatrick (pre-shiny new deal, obviously). It's a different story altogether given that the Jets traded up from No. 17 to No. 5 to take Sanchez in the 2009 NFL Draft.

When New York's defense is one of the best in the league and the running game is working, Sanchez has been good. But that's sort of the point: you don't draft a franchise quarterback to man the controls when everything is going well. You draft a franchise quarterback to win those games that you were previously losing. The Jets are 5-5 and a big part of that is because of Sanchez.

Late in the third quarter of the Broncos game, with the Jets leading 10-3 and facing a third and short, Sanchez threw a pick-six. It wasn't a tipped pass, or a 50-yard bomb that was effectively a third-down punt. It was a jerk route to Plaxico Burress. Typically, the joke is that the defender in coverage ends up looking like a jerk on such plays.

Not this time. Sanchez's throw was off target, Burress didn't come back to the ball, and cornerback Andre Goodman jumped the route. Twenty-six yards later, the score was 10-10. And then Tebow happened.

Mark Sanchez has thrown three pick-sixes this season.

Head coach Rex Ryan defended Sanchez (Because, really, what's he going to say? "I'm happy to announce that Mark Brunell, 52 years young, will now lead us to the playoffs!")

"This is our quarterback," Ryan said at his Friday press conference. "He’s going to be our quarterback for as long as I’m here, which I hope is a long, long time. He can make all the throws. He’s a competitive guy. Has it been perfect? No, absolutely. But it hasn’t been perfect for our entire team."

But Rex, what about the children!?

Graham Gano, DeAngelo Hall - Redskins

It may seem unfair to blame Gano for the Redskins' latest loss, but let's be honest: he's the team's best offensive player. (And, hell, he might even be the team's best quarterback. We haven't seen him throw but we have seen the Rex and Becks show. It can't be worse than that.) If Washington is going to win, Gano will have to make everything, including the out-of-zip-code attempts. Instead, he missed two field goals Sunday against the Cowboys, the first from 49 yards, the last from 52. And it was that last miss in overtime that allowed Dallas to march down the field for a game-winning kick of their own.

Now, for your unintentional comedy interlude, courtesy of Redskins' Radio Network (featuring Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff and by way of DC Sports Bog)…
The missed Gano field goal

Larry: We are ready, this is it, from 52 yards out. The kick is on the way, he’s got the distance, and heeeeeeeee…
Sam: He’s got it!
Larry: He missed it! He missed it wide right!
Sam: He missed it?
Larry: He missed it wide right, so the Cowboys will take over.
Sam: I thought it went through?
Larry: Wide right.
We've been saying for several weeks that there's a decent chance the Redskins lose out. They're now 3-7 and six weeks closer to that reality. Silver lining: players are taking responsibility. In fact, cornerback DeAngelo Hall thinks he should be cut. We won't disagree with him.

“It’s frustrating, but I can’t point a finger at anybody but myself,” Hall said, via the Washington Times. “The way I’m playing right now, they need to go cut me because I’m definitely not worth what I’m getting. It’s frustrating. Hopefully they see something in me and they bring me back next year, but the way things are going right now, I’m definitely not playing up to par.”

Could the Redskins really lose out?

We know Hall wasn't responsible for a wide-open Jason Witten sprinting to the end zone on a 59-yard reception midway through the fourth quarter. But Hall didn't exactly track Witten down, either. For a former "NFL's Fastest Man" champion, he sure looked slow (but not quite as slow as the time Hines Ward, wearing one shoe, outran him to the end zone).

One last thing: former NFL quarterback turned handball aficionado Jake Plummer spoke recently about playing for Mike Shanahan. The two were together in Denver from 2003-2006 until Plummer retired after it became clear that Jay Cutler would be the starter.

“It just seemed like every game I could have completed these four more passes or these five more shots here and it would have been perfect," Plummer said, via "And that just wasn’t my personality....But Shanahan wanted perfection and he wore a lot of us down there.”

We're guessing Shanahan would do just about anything to have such problems now. To Plummer's credit, he didn't take pleasure in Shanahan's current predicament (at least not publicly).

“Yeah and you know what, I don’t like to see that,” he said. “I mean I don’t want to see anybody struggle. And I’m not sitting here gloating or feeling better about his lack of success down there. As time goes you learn more things. … Hey, I was lucky to get the opportunity to play for Shanahan. He helped turn my career around and gave me a chance to show that I was a winner, regardless of how things went down."

Chris Johnson, Titans

First, some background: the Lions selected running back Kevin Smith in the the third round of the 2008 draft. After suffering late-season injuries in '09 and '10, the team chose not to re-sign him. He was out of football until two weeks ago when Detroit, in dire need of warm bodies in the backfield, gave him a call. Against the Panthers Sunday, Smith ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and added another 61 receiving yards and a score.

Recapping Week 11

We mention this because after Chris Johnson treaded the Panthers for 130 rushing yards last week, there were some rumblings of him "being back." Turns out, that performance was an aberration and unless the Titans are facing the Panthers every week from here on out, Johnson continues to be one of the worst backs in the league.

Back during training camp, when Johnson was parked on his couch waiting for a new deal, one of the reasons his supporters gave for paying him was that Johnson's presence in the backfield would take pressure off rookie quarterback Jake Locker. Well, Locker saw extensive action against the Falcons and he looked just fine. And he did it without anything resembling a running game.

Maybe the Titans should sign this Kevin Smith.

Which brings us back to CJ. He carried the ball 12 times in Atlanta for a grand total of 13 yards. That works out to a nifty 1.08 yards per carry. Put differently: Matt Hasselbeck, who left the game with an arm injury and probably travels 40 yards in closer to six seconds than five, was the Titans' leading rusher with 17 yards on the afternoon.

(Even more embarrassing, courtesy of colleague Will Brinson's Sorting the Sunday Pile: "There were nine -- NINE! -- quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Johnson in Week 11.")

“I know we didn’t execute some plays that we could have,” Johnson said, via the Tennessean. “They are a pretty good defense, and they made a lot of plays out there. I’m sure if we would have executed better, then we could have had a better day in the running game.”

Or, as we mentioned above, the Titans could just petition the league to face the Panthers every week.

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars

Let's be honest: Blaine Gabbert Bears very little responsibility for the Jags' 3-7 season. He's a rookie quarterback on one of the NFL's worst offensive teams, and Jack Del Rio is a lame-duck coach who'll likely ring in the new year looking for a new job.

Jacksonville's final drive against the Browns Sunday was a microcosm of their offense and their season. Trailing 14-10 and on the Browns' 2-yard-line with 13 seconds to go, the Jaguars ran the following three plays:

1st and goal: Maurice Jones-Drew 1-yard run (eight seconds remaining).
2nd and goal: Gabbert throws incomplete to Jason Hill (three seconds remaining).
3rd and goal: Gabbert throws incomplete to Mike Thomas (game over, thanks for coming).

So that happened. When Del Rio was asked after the game why he didn't get the ball to the Jags' best playmaker, MJD, this happened:

“Our offensive coordinator [Dirk Koetter] calls the plays. I can’t speak to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him,” he said via the Florida Times-Union.

Translation: "I checked out of this job in September and I'm just going through the motions until I'm officially canned. I almost forgot we had a game Sunday."

What makes Del Rio's comment even more bizarre: Jacksonville called timeout with eight seconds left. Presumably, he had some say in the final-play strategy.

“We certainly talked about those things through the course of the drive. We got down and took our crack. You can make a case for doing that. You can guess any number of plays when you don’t connect. [It’s] a missed opportunity,” Del Rio said.

As's Gregg Rosenthal noted Monday: "Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and Mike Smith would all be involved in a call like that. They are defensive coaches, but they make big decisions on offense. It’s their team."

You know what else those three coaches have in common? They ain't getting fired in two months.

Philip Rivers, Chargers

There is very little to be excited about in San Diego but there is this: Philip Rivers has played much better the last two weeks. Moral victories are for losers, but … well, the Chargers are exactly that. Unfortunately, "Not Bad" Rivers in 2011 isn't a top-5 quarterback. In fact, he might crack the top-15. But unless he can play defense, special teams and coach, San Diego's five-game slide isn't entirely on him. That said, he leads the league in interceptions, and he threw two more Sunday -- both in the fourth quarter, both in critical situations.

The first pick was another miscommunication with Vincent Jackson in the end zone (it happened in Week 10 against the Raiders). The second was inexplicably bad. Rivers, flushed from the pocket, went to throw the ball away. Somehow instead of, you know, throwing the ball away, the pass sailed right into the arms of Bears defensive back Corey Graham.

The 2011 Chargers: where not even incompletions are routine

When you're incapable of throwing an incompletion, it portends bad things for the season.

After a 4-1 start, the Chargers are now 4-6. Next up: the 5-5 Tebows are coming to town and Rivers is reduced to saying things like this:

“We’ve got to find a way to think that we have a one-game season against Denver at our place,” he said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And let’s find a way to win that game.”

There are six games left in the 2011 season and barring a miraculous turnaround and a ton of luck, San Diego will miss the postseason. And that, according to the Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee, could mean curtains for Norv Turner.

"At this point, it is apparent only a drastic turnaround will save Turner, as the Chargers have lost five straight and are in last place in the AFC West, in grave danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season. [Team owner Dean] Spanos also has wondered about repeated game management decisions, and after five years it is possible Turner has been given enough time to get done what no Chargers coach ever has – win a Super Bowl."

Maybe Rex Ryan was onto something.

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Since: Oct 19, 2006
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:34 am

Coach Suicide...

...Jack Del Rio. 1st and goal vs. the Browns. For the win. Maurice Jones Drew 3 times? No.
Gabbert. Yes, then Oh No.
Jags could have won that game if Maurice was given the ball. Thanks for the win, buddy!

Go Browns!

Since: Nov 23, 2011
Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:10 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Nov 8, 2010
Posted on: November 23, 2011 3:25 am

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

When you're the 32nd-ranked rushing team in the NFL it can't just be the fault of the running back. Pretty much everyone on the offense is to blame. I think the lack of offseason coupled with the almost completely new coaching staff impacted the running game more than any other facet of the team. One bad season doesn't erase the fact that he averaged a little over 1500 yards and 11 TDs each of his first three years in the league. Why do quarterbacks having a bad year get a pass (i.e. Phillip Rivers, Kevin Kolb) but running backs don't? Kolb got a s***-ton of money this year, too. It's just the media's bias against Tennessee that has pretty much always existed.

Since: Oct 31, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:42 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

Below is Brees' stat line from Rivers' first two years in the league. Brees was finally beginning to show himself to be a talented QB, but then in the last game of 2005 he suffered a serious injury to his right shoulder that, combined with Rivers being a high draft pick in 2004, led the Chargers to let Brees go in Free Agency. He was not traded. Several teams looked at him, but the Saints were the only team to give him a chance. At the time I was hoping that my Vikings would sign him, as I had been a fan of his since he was in Purdue, but that would have made too much sense. Obviously an old and dinky Brad Johnson made way more sense than a 27 QB, and that is not hindsight, it is something I have been saying for years.

2004 65.5 3159 27 TD 7 INT 7.9 Y/A
2005 64.6 3576 24 TD 15 INT 7.2 Y/A

Rivers is not a bad quarterback, he is just having a bad year. All QBs are prone to lay goose eggs on occasion. Favre's '99 season was essentially a goose egg year, as was his 2005 year. If you watch Rivers you can tell that something is wrong with his throwing motion, and while there has always been something wrong with his throwing motion, he seems to be in pain a lot when he throws. Perhaps he damaged his rotator cuff.

Eli won the super bowl in 2007 because of his defense and because Asante Samuel does not know how to hang onto a pick six on the most pivotal drive of what would have been an undefeated season for the NE Patriots. Of course, it can be said that he dropped it because he did not look it into his hands and was instead focusing on the endzone and all the extra millions returning the game-clinching INT for a TD in the Super Bowl would bring him during the following free agency period.    &nbs

Since: Jan 5, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:12 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

You can add Desean Jackson to this list.  Most immature guy in the league from the word go.  If the Giants would get a punter who doesn't kick it to him, he'd be remembered for dropping the ball at the one and the fifty-yarder he voided by flipping the ball at a Giant coach after going out of bounds.

Since: Feb 2, 2007
Posted on: November 22, 2011 7:43 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

I love Chris Johnson statement "I’m sure if we would have executed better, then we could have had a better day in the running game". 

Really Chris, I am sure if YOU would have executed better you would have had a better day in the running game. 

The Titans should just cut this guy already.  I am not sure if there has EVER been a player fall so far so fast as Chris Johnson.

Since: Jan 14, 2010
Posted on: November 22, 2011 7:08 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

I respect your opinion, and you do make valid points. But I dont necessarily think that Rivers was a bigger gamble than Brees. Keep in mind that up to that point, Brees hadnt shown anything to make them think he could be a franshise QB. So they traded him. That is what any sensible organization would have done .

As for Rivers, I wouldnt say he has been a failure. He has actually been a very good QB over the past few years, and statistically one of the best in the NFL. Things just have not panned out for the Chargers, but you can Blame Norv Turner, and the organization as much as you can Phillip Rivers, due to the lack of speed offensively, and the lack of a good running game since LT left.

Since: Nov 2, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2011 6:29 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

Okay, now Drew Brees
1)Yes, Drew Brees showed potential in San Diego, but his best seasons came in New Orleans, and in San Diego he was criricized for not having the strongest arm.
2)No one could have predicted that Drew Brees would be as good as he became (especially not off of his body of work in San Diego)
3)Drew Brees is very good, but he is also a product of having alot of playmakers around him during his time in San Diego. Im not saying that is why he is successful, but that is a part of it.

Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to blast an organization from the outside looking in. But no once can predict how good a player will be. We can only project. So people need to give the chargers front office a break

When the Chargers let Brees go, they had one of the best if not the best running back (LT) in his prime. You can say Brees' limitations but when you have LT, do you really need a quarterback that can win or one that just won't cost you a game? The last thing you want with a top running back is an unproven rookie quarterback. I don't care how talented Rivers was. JaMarcus Russell was talented. So was Ryan Leaf. Rivers may be hitting his prime now but LT is in New York and the rest of the Chargers suck. They needed to win when LT was in his prime. They gambled on Philip Rivers and they failed. If Brees can win a Super Bowl with Reggie Bush, he certainly could've won a Super Bowl with LT and Gates.

I agree with you on Eli. But they absolutely were idiots letting Brees go for a Rivers that was a question mark and I said that before Drew won a Super Bowl. The window on the Chargers closed when LT left and clearly Philip Rivers can't lead a team by himself.

Since: Jan 14, 2010
Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:36 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

Im not a chargers fan by any means, but anyone who blasts their front office for letting Brees walk to start rivers, or trading Eli are very ill informed or just are not paying attention.

Lets start with Eli
1) Eli didnt want to play their, and openly stated that he would hold out if they drafted (forgot about that one didnt you?)
2)Eli's success has been the product of a good defense over the past few years
3)Eli throws alot of interceptions
4)Phillip Rivers was a highly touted prospect coming out of college, and the Giants gave up alot to get Eli from them. You would have to be stupid not to make that deal.

Okay, now Drew Brees
1)Yes, Drew Brees showed potential in San Diego, but his best seasons came in New Orleans, and in San Diego he was criricized for not having the strongest arm.
2)No one could have predicted that Drew Brees would be as good as he became (especially not off of his body of work in San Diego)
3)Drew Brees is very good, but he is also a product of having alot of playmakers around him during his time in San Diego. Im not saying that is why he is successful, but that is a part of it.

Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to blast an organization from the outside looking in. But no once can predict how good a player will be. We can only project. So people need to give the chargers front office a break

Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:21 pm

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

How do you know Johnson is "back in form". He had one good week and ur saying hes back in form. Give him like 3 weeks, not 1 game.

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