|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.|
By Ryan Wilson
|Is Sanchez in NY's future? Rex says yes. (AP Photo)|
In 2011, the rushing attack and the vaunted defense has been inconsistent, New York has fallen behind, and Sanchez hasn't been able to get the Jets in the end zone late in games. The result: eight wins against seven losses -- the latest coming Saturday against the Giants -- and the very real possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in Rex Ryan's tenure as head coach.
“They were definitely the better team this year,” Ryan said after the 29-14 loss to the Giants. “Clearly, I was wrong. I will take the responsibility. It is on my shoulders and it should be. That’s just the way it is.”
That's what Ryan has to say -- the buck stops with him, after all -- but he's not calling offensive plays. That falls to Brian Schottenheimer, who dialed up 59 (fifty-nine!) pass plays. Sanchez completed just 30 attempts (51 percent), threw one touchdown vs. two interceptions and was sacked five times. By the end of the day, he looked out of sorts and out of confidence.
It's so bad that we're again hearing murmurs that Sanchez may not be the longterm answer at quarterback for the Jets, sentiments that come up a half-dozen times each season. CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman writes Monday that Schottenheimer's job is probably less secure than Sanchez's at this point.
"The inevitable Sanchez microscopic exam started immediately after that Giants loss. The site Profootballtalk.com reported the Jets were having doubts about Sanchez. The New York Post loosely reported that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might be coaching for his job this week. The latter, I’m told by someone I trust, is more likely the truth."
Wherever reality lies -- and Rex has both Mark and Brian's back-- the point remains: Sanchez has yet to prove that he's a capable NFL quarterback. He thrives as a complimentary piece within a system but he's not the guy you want trying to bring the team back from a late-game deficit. Maybe he'll evolve into that player someday, but through nearly three NFL seasons, he's more game manager than game winner. Steelers or Ravens.
For now, though, the big issue is if defenses have figured out how to stop Denver's option attack and whether the offense has an answer to it.
The Bills, with nothing to play for after having lost seven in a row, intercepted Tebow four times (returning two for touchdowns). And while Tebow's numbers are troubling (13 of 30 for 185 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs and 3 sacks) he wasn't the same guy who was manhandled by the Lions back in Week 8. That Tebow looked confused all afternoon; this Tebow struggled with the Bills' scheme but wasn't overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. That scheme, by the way, wasn't some complicated Dick LeBeau zone blitz concoction. It was a stout four-man rush with seven men in coverage (including a quarterback spy). Tebow wasn't allowed to run for large chunks but was forced to stay in the pocket and win the game with his arm. Obviously, he couldn't do it.
Now the Broncos have a week to work out the kinks and hope everything's clicking should they make it into the postseason. Because if they don't … well, God help us because we're going to spend the spring and summer wondering who will be Denver's starting quarterback in 2012. And, really, nobody wants that.
|Taylor's gaffe was costly. (Getty Images)|
After stuffing running back Ray Rice on third down, Baltimore faced a fourth-and-2 at the Browns' 37-yard line with just under two minutes to go in the game. The Ravens' options: attempting a 55-yard field goal, going for it on fourth down or punting. After a timeout, Baltimore's offense took the field, presumably to draw the Browns offside and keep the drive alive. Cleveland's defensive coaches warned players of as much … moments before Joe Flacco hard-counted and coaxed Taylor into jumping early. First down Ravens, game over.
"It was the first hard count and we stayed onside. The second time, I just jumped," Taylor told The Associated Press. "Of course you feel bad but you just got to move on."
For the Browns, that means moving on to Week 17 where they will face the Steelers in a game Pittsburgh would like to win, even if it means doing so without starter Ben Roethlisberger, who was injured the first time these teams met in Week 14. (If the Ravens lose to the Bengals and Pittsburgh prevails in Cleveland, the Steelers would win the AFC North and get a first-round bye.)
Flacco, who has taken his share of criticism this season, was shocked Taylor fell for the hard count (it's the NFL equivalent of falling for the "pitcher fakes to third before throwing to first" routine in baseball).
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in position for that to happen," Flacco said. "It’s never worked.”
There's a first time for everything, especially when you're facing the Browns.
The specifics: facing 4th and 5 from the Bengals 17-yard line with 1:16 to go and trailing 23-16, Cardinals quarterback John Skelton threw to what appeared to be a wide open Doucet. Except he tripped and fell, as did Arizona's dwindling playoff hopes.
Turf monster avoids the pass interference call despite tripping Early Doucet.
It gets worse: the father of teammate Larry Fitzgerald called Doucet out, first on Twitter ("Doucet bombed this year he drops to many passes not a dependable No.2. Needs to work harder at his job. He dropped 5 TDs this year.") then to ESPN.com's Mike Sando.
“I just know that Larry invited him to come and work out with him this summer and some guys take initiative and do it, some guys don’t,” Larry Fitzgerald Sr. said. “But with the lockout, I thought he would have worked on it a little harder. That is me. People criticize me because they think I talk too much. That is just how I see it.”
On Monday, the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers wrote that "from previous conversations with Doucet and coaches, the Cardinals were happy with Doucet's off-season work. He was rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, and the Cardinals approved of his program. Receivers coach John McNulty complimented Doucet on reporting to training camp in shape."
Not to worry. Fitzgerald Sr. says he "wasn't picking on" Doucet. “I track when he drops the ball in critical situations. They use Larry the way they are going to use him, so they know others are going to be singled [in coverage]. The Ravens game, he dropped one on the goal line. I remember other games. Now that they’re out of the playoffs, I’m putting it out there.”
Can't wait to hear what Senior thinks about Kevin Kolb and/or John Skelton.
Panthers. On the Bucs' very first offensive play, Blount muffed the handoff from quarterback Josh Freeman. When an NFL team struggles with something as basic as a handoff it's probably time to hit the reset button. Which is exactly what will happen to Morris shortly after the season ends, and possibly to plenty of names currently on the roster, Blount included.
"To not get that play executed on the first play of the football game is unacceptable,'' Morris said according to the Tampa Tribune. "You're obviously not ready to play. I'm not ready to give up on him (Blount), but you can't let your team down that way.''
Blount was just as frank when asked about the play and the subsequent benching.
"It happens. Whenever you feel like something is not going your way, you've got to look somewhere else. If a back's been giving up the ball the whole season, you've got to find someone else to do the job. It was a miscommunication. We fumbled the ball.''
Meanwhile, veteran cornerback Ronde Barber, wholly unimpressed with the Bucs' defense, says that the same team that won 10 games last season is now full of players looking out for themselves. Such is the destiny for four-win clubs.
"That was an embarrassing performance, really, in the run game," Barber said after Tampa Bay allowed 270 yards rushing. "It's frustrating to watch because you know what the problems are. It looks like guys want to do their own thing. You've got to believe the guy next to you is going to do his job. … They didn't even need [Steve Smith] today. That just shows how far they've come and how far we've gotten away from what we used to be.''
(To be fair, the Panthers did have Cam, who has come so far, so fast, he's already ascended to one-word-name status). Which is why when we see the Bucs in 2012 they'll look nothing like the team that limped to the finish in 2011.
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