Blog Entry

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains

Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:58 am
Edited on: January 9, 2012 12:22 pm
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

With the regular season in the books, the coaching axe has fallen on several unfortunate souls around the league. Raheem Morris and Steve Spagnuolo joined Todd Haley, Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio among the ranks of former head coaches now looking for jobs. We won't address them here. Instead, we'll look at those performances from the final week of the regular season that could cost still-employed coaches their gigs at some point in the future.

Santonio Holmes - Jets

Your New York Jets team captain, everybody!
A brief history: the Steelers traded Holmes to the Jets just before the 2010 NFL Draft for a fifth-round pick. At the time, Pittsburgh fans were apoplectic because Holmes had been a first-rounder in 2006, and oh, right, he was the Super Bowl MVP in February 2009.

To send him packing for what amounted to a draft-day afterthought was, well, insane. Turns out, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is a lot smarter than any of us, just in case we needed reminding. Not only did he unload his problem on the Jets, that fifth-round pick he got in return? Colbert sent that to the Cardinals for cornerback Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick, which Pittsburgh used to take -- wait for it -- Antonio Brown. So, yes, things worked out just fine for the Steelers.

The Jets, meanwhile, are an unmitigated disaster. Head coach Rex Ryan named Holmes team captain in August, which might have been his most egregious coaching decision all year. (We don't say that lightly, though Ryan admitted at Monday's press conference that naming team captains was a mistake.) Everything came to a head Sunday in Miami, when Holmes was benched.

"Let's just say there were guys in the huddle that were unhappy with Tone's demeanor," veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of Holmes after the game. "When you have a group that's fighting their butts off, and one guy, for whatever reason, their demeanor's not with them, you're going to get some guys to say something to him and tell them how they feel. That's what you got today."

Again: that's the Jets team captain. There's more (of course there is). On Monday, after Holmes refused to talk to the media, there were reports that he and Mark Sanchez "feuded" in a team meeting in the days leading up to the Dolphins game.

"He went back and forth with Mark at the meeting," the source told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. "He was saying stuff like, "What am I even here for?" Then he blew off Mark by not even showing up the next day."

Another player called Holmes "a cancer" adding that "it's like dealing with a 10-year-old." And then, on Sunday, Holmes got into a shouting match with Sanchez in the huddle on two consecutive plays which prompted one player to tell him to "Go home, go to the sidelines."

As's Pete Prisco pointed out Sunday, this is all Mike Tannebaum and Rex Ryan's doing. It's all fun and games until a grown man cries in an end-of-year team meeting. Then reality sets in. The Jets are a mess.

There is a bright spot to all this, however: Holmes' antics have temporarily taken the white-hot interrogation lamp off Sanchez.

Terence Newman - Cowboys

Head-coaching material? Jason Garrett thinks so.
The Ryan family had quite a day Sunday. Rex's Jets team self-destructed and Rob, the defensive coordinator in Dallas, did his part to make sure the Cowboys missed the playoffs. Cornerback Terence Newman wasn't the only issue against a Giants offense that moved the ball at will all night, but his performance was indicative of a larger problem facing this defense: it's not much of a defense at all.

Newman has probably played his last game in Dallas, something that almost happened during training camp.'s Tim MacMahon recounts the weirdness:
It was quite a surreal scene: a giddy Jerry Jones handing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan his cellphone on the Alamodome sideline during practice, hoping Ryan could close the Cowboys' recruiting campaign on All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a conversation that happened about 10 yards away from where Newman and the other defensive backs ran drills.
That worked out.

Now it's fair to ask if Ryan will be back, too. Like his brother, Rob is never at a loss for words. The difference: Rex has been to two AFC Championship games in the last three seasons. It's easier to tolerate the gum-flapping when the team is winning. Rob's claim to fame, as best we can tell, is that his dad is Buddy and that he once was a position coach under Bill Belichick.

Rob's career as a defensive coordinator includes stints with the Raiders (2004-2008), Browns (2009-2010) and Cowboys (2011). The results, according to Football Outsiders' metrics:

2004: 26th-ranked defense
2005: 20th
2006: 8th
2007: 22nd
2008: 19th
2009: 30th
2010: 17th
2011: 17th

Not the type of numbers that should lead to a lot of bluster. Yet Rob still talks. And he very well may have talked himself out of not only head-coaching opportunities in 2012, but maybe even another defensive coordinator's gig should the Cowboys decide to move on.

Steve Johnson - Bills

Oh, Stevie Johnson. You seem like such a well-meaning dude. It's just that you can't stay out of your own way. Johnson wasn't the reason the Bills blew a 21-point lead against the Patriots Sunday, but his inability to avoid silly end zone-celebration penalties defy common sense.

Johnson found his name on this list back in Week 12, when his Plaxico Burress "I just shot myself" interpretive touchdown dance was predictably flagged. It got worse: later in that game against the Jets, Johnson dropped what could've been the go-ahead touchdown. Here's what we wrote at the time: "Johnson's TD dance: hilarious. Getting a 15-yard penalty: not hilarious. Dropping a perfect pass from Fitzpatrick on the Bills' last drive, one that would've given the Bills the lead: unacceptable, especially if you're going to mock the opposition."

Gailey says he still wants Johnson back.
And here's what Johnson said at the time: "I was just having fun, and part of having fun ended up being a penalty and a touchdown for the Jets," he said. "It was a stupid decision by myself." Lesson learned, right? Uh, no. Johnson scored in the first quarter Sunday and pulled up his jersey to reveal the words "Happy New Year 2012!!!" scribbled on his t-shirt. About as benign a "celebration" we can think of but it's still a penalty.

On Sunday, Bills coach Chan Gailey benched Johnson for the rest of the game and Buffalo went on to lose, 49-21.

Here's Johnson afterwards:

"I didn’t know it was going to draw a penalty. At the end of the day, what I did was what I did, and I am going to try and bring in the New Year. Ultimately, it hurt my teammates and that is the thing that is hurting me the most. The fact is that it hurt my team.

"The coach told me I was out of the game. He said for the rest of the game and I have to respect his decision. He made it and that is what it is. I can’t complain about it or whine or pout. He made his decision and I am going with it. It really doesn’t matter why or how it happened at the end of the day, what I did hurt my teammates and I have to take that and I will."

Gailey pointed out that Johnson had relayed a message via t-shirt last year without incident, which makes the NFL rules on the matter unclear (shocking, we know).

"I am disappointed," Gaily said. "What happens is, it happened last year, he put a message on his shirt, showed his shirt and didn’t get a flag. And he does it this year, and he gets a flag. Which one is it, you know? It puts me in a bind because I make the statement and if I say it, I’m going to [punish players who hurt our team]. So, I could not argue the gray area of that. So, yeah, I’m disappointed and if it hurts the team, then I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do."

Defense - Raiders

Raiders head coach Hue Jackson is responsible for giving up a first- and second-round pick to land Carson Palmer and it blew up in his face. Yes, you can argue that the Raiders have Palmer going forward, but that wasn't a "looking to the future" transaction. The plan was for Oakland to make their playoff run now.

It didn't happen for any number of reasons, Palmer's play and an inconsistent defense among them. After Sunday's loss to the Chargers that eliminated the Raiders from the playoffs, Jackson told the media that he was "pissed at my team." (He should also be pissed at himself; now Oakland doesn't have a first-round pick in April.)

“I’m going to take a stronger hand in this whole team, in this whole organization,” Jackson said. “There ain’t no way that I’m going to feel like I feel today a year from now. I promise you that."

Duly noted, Hue. He wasn't done.

“There’s no question. Defensively, offensively and special teams. I ain’t feeling like this no more. This is a joke. To have a chance at home to beat a football team that is reeling after being beaten by Detroit, is one of your rivals, and come in and beat us like that . . . yeah, I’m going to take a hand in everything that goes on here.”

But it's the defense that appears to be the true focus of his ire.

"I think (defensive coordinator) Chuck (Bresnahan) knows how I feel,'' Jackson said while not commenting directly on Bresnahan's status for next season. "I'm disappointed over there. I have been. It's not like we haven't had conversations. Chuck knows what I feel, and it's not good enough.''

The Oakland Tribune's Jerry McDonald writes that the Raiders "ended the season allowing 433 points, the second most in franchise history, an average of 27.1 points per game. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' three touchdown passes brought the total to 31 against the Raiders this season, the most in club history."

Too bad the Raiders can't address their defensive needs in the first round of the 2012 draft.

Tim Tebow - Broncos

Tebow makes back-to-back appearances in Coach Killers after taking an 11-week break while the Broncos went from 1-4 to 8-5. Last week we wrote "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."

Yes, it appears so. Tebow was just 6 of 22 for 60 yards (0 TDs, 1 INT) but head coach John Fox says the passing woes don't fall solely on the quarterback. (No idea if Fox actually believes this.)

Has Tebow performed his last miracle?
"There's a lot of moving parts to the pass game," Fox told reporters Monday. "You've got protection, route, timing. You have to throw the ball sometimes to tight windows. We've had had our moments this season. We'll just continue to try to improve. It's not just the quarterback."

Fox continued: "He's trying to do the best he can to help us win. He had a little bit of a struggle yesterday throwing the ball. That happens sometimes. You have to give credit to the Kansas City Chiefs. They've got a pretty good defense. They made a pretty good Green Bay Packer offense have some struggles. We're onto next week and trying to get better."

And the Broncos will need to get better because they're facing one of the league's best defenses when the Steelers come to town.

Last week, Broncos executive vice president John Elway said that Tebow would be the team's quarterback in 2012.

"Tim Tebow's not going anywhere," Elway told the Associated Press. "I mean, he's going to be a Bronco and we're going to do everything we can and hopefully he's that guy."

That proclamation may have been written in pencil, however. On Monday,'s Mike Freeman had this: "While I'm sure Elway wasn't lying I'm told by several league and team officials that Elway continues to have significant concerns about whether or not Tebow can be a franchise quarterback despite Elway's public protestations to the contrary."

If the Broncos lose to the Steelers to drop their fourth game in a row we should expect those rumors to intensify.

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Since: Mar 26, 2008
Posted on: January 13, 2012 8:36 pm

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains


Wow, you are really lacking in reading comprehension.  The only thing you should have taken from this article was that Hue Jackson blamed his teams lack of success on everybody but himself.  He said he is going to make sure that he controls every aspect of the team from now on as if he is the only person on the staff capable of doing anything right.  He blamed the defensive coordinator for the teams problems and he blamed the players for their lack of execution, but no where in his rant do I see him accepting any blame.  So I am curious.  Which quotes of Jackson's make you think that he is taking credit for his teams problems.  Even you seem to think it is his teams fault rather than his.  There is plenty of talent on that team.  If you gave all of these players to Bill Belicheck, or any other great coach, they would make this team an instant contender.  Rex Ryan could probably make that defense a top 10 unit starting with that solid defensive line.  The fact is, that team was very undisciplined.  Even if they do have a lack of talent it doesn't make up for the fact that they had more penalties than any team in the history of the league.  That many penalties is a direct result of poor discipline, which comes back to the coach, not untalented players.

Since: Oct 17, 2010
Posted on: January 4, 2012 12:40 pm

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains

A couple of things 1) Steve Johnson- I am not saying I agree with him but if what he did is a penalty then the NFL is going too far with the garbage rules they are coming up with. 2) Tim Tebow is exactly the same QB he was in college and the same QB the Mile high morons were yammering for and he did what he could by trying to not lose games while at the same time counting on his defense to win them. Good luck Tim I am sure you are a great guy and an even better team mate but if this defense had played like this while Orton was still there than Tebow time may not have ever come or past they way it did.

Since: Jul 21, 2008
Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:35 pm

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains

I have been a long time Cowboy fan.  I think it is apparent that not only do the Cowboys need some upgrades of Defense, they also need upgrade on the defensive coaching staff.  Dave Campo has to go.  DBs have been outplayed and out of position for several seasons now and under different coordinators.  Campo has not and is not getting the job done. Fire him immediately and then draft some secondary help in addition to another LB that can cover someone.  When your best cover player is a LB (Lee) you have serious problems competing with NY and Philly. 

Since: Sep 28, 2007
Posted on: January 3, 2012 1:27 pm

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains

Wow great call Serphnx, you def hit the nail on the head Undecided

Im pretty sure Rex Ryan has a clue what the problem is alot more than you assume. Its just a Media show, hes not gonna start calling people out to the media untill they make a decision, so incase something changes they cant be called on a contradiction. Guess Ryan finally learned to keep his mouth closed about things, because unlike what you say, in most cases he's very honest about what the problem is.

Also, Jackson very obviously called out his DC, it even says it in the article so I guess you dont read well. 

Since: Sep 28, 2007
Posted on: January 3, 2012 1:27 pm

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains

Wow great call Serphnx, you def hit the nail on the head Undecided

Im pretty sure Rex Ryan has a clue what the problem is alot more than you assume. Its just a Media show, hes not gonna start calling people out to the media untill they make a decision, so incase something changes they cant be called on a contradiction. Guess Ryan finally learned to keep his mouth closed about things, because unlike what you say, in most cases he's very honest about what the problem is.

Also, Jackson very obviously called out his DC, it even says it in the article so I guess you dont read well. 

Since: Jan 3, 2012
Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:50 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Sep 25, 2009
Posted on: January 3, 2012 11:56 am

Coach Killers, Week 17: Say no to team captains

I like Hue Jackson. Compare and contrast him with Rex Ryan. Jackson doesn't really talk, or if he does it's nothing like Ryan, and both men are coming off 8-8 seasons missing the playoffs with late season swoons. But look at how the two deal with it. Ryan cries in the locker room, says he loves his OC, QB and problem WR, and blames having captains as the problem. Nowhere does he take responsibility or show he gets it.

Meanwhile Jackson is angry and has fire, and absolutely refuses to let it happen again. He puts the emphasis on himself, vowing to be more involved and do a better job in all phases. He doesn't throw anybody under the bus but he identifies the biggest weakness, the defense, and owns up to it. He manages to criticize while still supporting the staff and players!

Rex Ryan refuses to admit there are any problems with any of the units. His offense sucked, but the defense wasn't as good as previous years either. Rex Ryan has no idea what goes on with the offense, he takes ZERO interest in it and doesn't put any work into it.

With Jackson, the problem is his team is rather lacking in talent. They will get better, because the talent is young and will improve, and with a full training camp and maybe less injuries, they can make the playoffs next year. With Ryan, it's pretty much the coaching, and if there is a talent problem, it won't be fixed because that franchise refuses to admit there is a problem, and refuses to get more players in to compete.

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