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Tag:CoachKillers
Posted on: November 29, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 12: beware of untested QBs

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

Steve Johnson, Bills

First things first: we have absolutely no issue with Stevie Johnson's touchdown skit. Up till the moment he fell to the ground, at which point it became a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration. Prior to that, it was original and funny, two things we could use more of in the staid environs of Roger Goodell's NFL.

We can't take our eyes off the cousin Eddie-inspired dickie.
In fact, the biggest travesty -- outside of the way Johnson played on the final drive -- was the mock incredulity and sanctimony from folks who found the dance offensive (Looks at Bob Costas, who we've taken to calling "Sprockets" after that black mock turtleneck number from Sunday night) because Johnson was making fun of Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the leg three years ago.

Here's the thing: Plax shot himself in the leg three years ago. It's not like Johnson was making fun of someone with a special-needs child, or a cancer survivor. He was clowning a dude who carried a gun to a night club, and inadvertently put a bullet in his thigh.

Oh, he also served nearly two years for the incident, on concealed weapons charges.


Buffalo Bills WR Stevie Johnson mocks Plaxico Burress' gun incident during a touchdown celebration against the New York Jets on Sunday.

To recap: 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.

Johnson apologized immediately after the game, which doesn't change the final score.

"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."

Head coach Chan Gailey, doing everything in his power not to blow a gasket with the cameras rolling, said "I think it was wrong. I told him so. What I hate is that game is remembered for his one action rather than a lot of good things he did in the game. I told him where I stand on it, and he knows exactly."

When asked about possible sanctions against Johnson, Gailey added: "If I were to discipline everybody (for dumb mistakes), there wouldn't be any players or coaches out there. Everybody makes mistakes."

On Monday, ESPN's Merril Hoge went so far as to suggest that Gailey should cut Johnson for his selfish behavior. That ain't happening because despite Johnson's horrible timing, as ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith pointed out on Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, Johnson is one of the few players who made Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis look human in coverage.


Burress, for his part, seemed unaffected by Johnson's end zone interpretive dance.

"I've seen worse, and I've heard worse," said Burress, who spent nearly two years in an upstate New York prison. "So, it doesn't bother me at all. The result I'm looking at is we won the football game ... and he turned around and dropped three wide-open balls to lose it for his team."

Curtis Painter, Colts

At this point, 11 games into the season and still searching for their first win, we're probably piling on. But the Colts don't have to be oh-fer-'11. Not only did they look like a proper football team against the Panthers Sunday, they had a legitimate chance to win an actual football game.

And then Curtis Painter, unable to get out of his own way, derailed those plans with two ill-timed throws -- both interceptions -- during a four-minute span late in the fourth quarter with Indianapolis trailing by eight points.

The first pick came at the Carolina four-yard line with four and a half minutes to go. After the Colts' defense forced a three-and-out, Painter led an 11-play drive that ended with another interception, this time in the Panthers' end zone with 35 seconds remaining.

It's impossible to imagine a scenario that would have Indy sitting at 0-11, even without Peyton Manning. And yet here we are. Painter Bears little of the responsibility for the organization's current predicament; that falls squarely at the feet of Bill Polian and Chris Polian, the architects of the current roster. That doesn't make the latest loss any easier to take.

"I don't know what you can call beyond frustrated," defensive end Robert Mathis said, via the Indianapolis Star.

And head coach Jim Caldwell, who could be looking for work after the season, leaned on feel-good bromides to get him through the latest defeat.

"You can't complain after the ballgame's over," he said. "You've just got to find a way to make it happen. …One of the things you'd like to do is give yourself a chance to win, that you're there at the end and it's just a matter of a play made here or there. I think we did that, but our goal is to win."

If you say so, Jim. We're guessing in your end-of-year meeting with owner Jim Irsay, aspiring to win won't be enough.

Caleb Hanie, Bears

There were certainly worse performance in Week 12, but the absolute worst play, in our estimation, had to be Hanie's delayed fake spike with seconds on the clock and the Bears trailing by five points. The thing is, a delayed fake spike isn't like your run-of-the-mill spike to stop the clock. Turns out, it's intentional grounding. Either you can fake the spike and throw the ball (made famous by Dan Marino), or, you know, actually spike it and stop the clock.

                                           HOW TO vs. HOW NOT TO PROPERLY EXECUTE THE FAKE SPIKE


‘‘We didn’t have any fakes or anything like that,’’ Hanie said afterwards. ‘‘That was just my fault." Forced into duty after Jay Cutler broke his thumb against the Chargers, Hanie also threw three first-half interceptions, which lead to this post-game observation. "It's just not a good time to have a learning experience."

Not helping Hanie's chances for success: offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the man who said he had no intentions of asking Hanie to be Kurt Warner (we thought that went without saying). Martz, it turns out, also had no intentions of crafting a game plan for an inexperienced backup.

Our good buddy Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com's Eye on Baseball blogger and diehard Bears fan, was pretty worked up with Hanie's third interception. Not because it happened near the Raiders' end zone, or that it resulted in three Oakland points before the half, but because Martz had Hanie sprint right before throwing a screen pass to his left across the field. It's not an easy play for veterans well-versed in the offense, never mind a kid making his first NFL start.

Tyler Palko, Chiefs

One word to describe Palko's play the last two weeks: mesmerizing. Clearly, we don't mean that in a "Stop what you're doing, Devin Hester's about to return a punt!" way. More like "Stop what you're doing, spectacular train wreck ahead." And Palko didn't disappoint. He's left-handed, and his throwing motion is reminscent of Tim Tebow's. The difference? Tebow has eight touchdowns to one interception. Palko has six picks in two games. Tebow also has better arm strength and is more accurate.

Tebow also doesn't blame his intended target whenever a pass invariably finds the unintended target, which is exactly what Palko did on three separate occasions Sunday night against the Steelers. It's one thing for a receiver to run the wrong route, or for miscommunication to lead to mistakes. But you watch these throws (here and here) and tell me how anybody but Palko is at fault.

But it was the Chiefs' final offensive play that proved to be the worst. Trailing 13-9 and with about 30 seconds to go, Kansas City was driving. And then Palko happened. Yep, another pick, this time to Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis. After the play, NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth thought Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe quit on the play.

You can judge for yourself below, but here's what we're thinking: the ball was so horribly off-target that Bowe went up, realized that he had absolutely no chance to get a finger on it much less catch it, and decided to protect himself. We have no problem with that. Bowe's career shouldn't hinge on the erratic whims of Palko's arm. As NFL Network's Deion Sanders pointed out Sunday night, Palko's the type of quarterback the opposing team make sure gets to the game. "You send a limo for him," Primetime said.


Palko's third and final interception Sunday night. Yep, that was his fault, too.

Facial Hair Fails

This has absolutely nothing to do with job security, but we noticed a sudden influx of mustachioed NFL players (or in Ricky Stanzi's case, hippies) over the weekend. (Click photos to see our best guess at their inspirations.)


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Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:00 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 11: Johnson returns to form

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 Yahoo.com. "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 PFT.com'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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Posted on: November 15, 2011 10:00 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 10: The Rex and Beck show

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

David Reed, Billy Cundiff - Ravens

See if this makes sense to you. Three weeks ago, the centerpiece of the Ravens offense, running back Ray Rice, was on the sidelines with the Grand Schemer, Cam Cameron, as quarterback Joe Flacco was winging the ball all over the yard against the god-awful Jaguars. By the time it was over, Rice had just eight carries, and Flacco ended up 21 of 38 for 137 yards and Baltimore lost to Jacksonville, 12-7.

On Sunday, it was an encore performance; Rice had five carries, Flacco threw the ball 52 times … and the Ravens loss to the Seahawks. But Cameron isn't solely responsible for what happened in Seattle. The brunt of the blame falls on kick returner David Reed, who had not one but two fumbles, both recovered by the Seahawks and converted into six points.


“I was kind of hoping that it would go like this, where they wouldn't feature [the run] as much [and] they wouldn't be balanced out,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “We got up enough and at halftime, they decided they were going to throw the football, so that we didn't see much of the running game at all. … I thought that helped us a little bit."

To recap: Cameron played right into Carroll's (!) hands. Let that sink in for a moment.

Here's something else we don't understand: Rice fumbled early in the Jags game and found himself on the bench. He's probably one of the most important players on the roster. Reed fumbles … and head coach John Harbaugh sends him right back out there. And he fumbles again. Reed might be the 52nd or 53rd most important player on the roster.

Carroll: "Tell Jim I said hi!"

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Harbaugh said. (Just ask Ray Rice, who was benched against the Jags.) “I mean, hey, this is the NFL, and you’ve got to protect the football. He knows that. And he will, he will. David Reed’s a tough guy, he’s a competitive guy, he’s been there before. I’ve got a lot of confidence in David, a lot of respect for David. He’s one of our guys.”

Kicker Billy Cundiff also honked two field-goal attempts, a 50 and 52-yarder. Yes, those are long-range opportunities and it's hardly shocking that he missed them both. But Baltimore signed him to a five-year, $15 million contract in the offseason, the type of money you pay guys to make tough kicks.

Finally, as our CBSSports.com colleague Will Brinson pointed out in his weekly Sorting the Sunday Pile column: this is unfortunate for Ray Lewis, his knees, ankles and all 10 toes.


Upside: We applaud Ray-Ray for his impromptu Carlton homage. Didn't see that coming.

Juan Castillo, Nnamdi Asomugha (but mostly Castillo) - Eagles

The dream is dead, the team is done and Philly should probably spend the final seven weeks of the season figuring out who's worth keeping around for 2012. To borrow one of Emmitt Smith's favorite words, the latest debaclement came against the lowly Cardinals, who showed up at the Linc for the Kevin Kolb Bowl -- without Kolb -- and proceeded to beat the Eagles with the mighty John Skelton.

We found out Monday that Michael Vick suffered a few broken ribs during the game and that my explain why the offense sputtered, but the defense has been a disaster all year. Some might say that this is what happens when you promote your offensive assistant to defensive coordinator.

Recapping Week 10

But presumably Juan Castillo doesn't teach his players to blow coverages, miss tackles or avoid contact altogether. At some point, the players have to, you know, execute. Which brings us to Nnamdi Asomugha. He's not the Eagle's biggest problem (far from it, in fact), but he came to Philly as one of the league's best cornerbacks with reputation for shutting down the opponent's best receiver.

This season, he's been miscast (which we can blame on Castillo). Brinson likes to say the Eagles want Asomugha to be Charles Woodson 2.0 when it makes much more sense to let him be the original Nnamdi. In the fourth quarter of Sunday's Cardinals game, Asomugha lined up offsides (seriously, how does that happen to veteran defensive back?) allowing Arizona to convert on third down. He also dropped a fourth-quarter interception.

The biggest crime, however, was that he wasn't super-glued to Larry Fitzgerald all day. And that again falls on Castillo.

"It would've been nice to be on him in that situation," Asomugha said. "I've done it before. With him. With others. Done it before. Chase guys. Follow guys."

Not Sunday. Instead, Castillo's gameplan seemed to involve letting Fitzgerald get open, which happened seven times for 146 yards, including two touchdowns.

One score came in the second quarter when Castillo got the bright idea to cover Fitzgerald with … rookie linebacker Brian Rolle.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald snagged a ball that deflected off Joselio Hanson's hand's and he walked into the end zone for the game-tying score. On the game-winning drive, rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was in coverage on Fitzgerald on two of his receptions.

Asked after the game why Jarrett -- and not, I don't know, Asomugha -- was covering Fitzgerald at that point in the proceedings, Castillo said "Because I gotta do a better job."

This is the sort of answer you expect from an eight-year-old who forgets to take out the trash, not a grown man in charge of coordinating up a defense that happens to have a legit shutdown corner at his disposal.

Ryan Pontbriand, Phil Dawson -- Browns

It's not really fair to blame the Browns' latest loss on two of their best players, Ryan Pontbriand and Phil Dawson. But the fact that two of their best players are a long-snapper and a kicker tells you all you need to know about the current state of the franchise.

The West Coast offense isn't suited for the Rust Belt, especially when everybody knows what's coming (we talked about this phenomenon plenty last week). It was more of the same against the Rams, but the Browns, trailing 13-12, had a chance to take the lead with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Instead, Dawson shanked a 22-yarder. Replays showed that Pontbriand's snap his the foot of left guard Alex Mack, causing the ball to skip back to holder Brad Maynard, throwing off Dawson's timing in the process.


Browns football, everybody!

“This is one of the lows of my career,” Maynard said, via the Columbus Dispatch.

Pontbriand added: “I pretty much cost our team the victory. I’m pretty numb right now.”

Four years ago, Pontbriand earned an honorable-mention nod as one of Cleveland's top-five athletes. And that probably still holds. It's just that he had an off-day Sunday. Most amazing, perhaps, is that it hasn't happened more frequently. This is Cleveland after all.

Rex Grossman, QB, Washington

Last week, John Beck got the nod in this space. And we suspect that whoever head coach Mike Shanahan starts next week will end up here, too. The takeaway isn't that Grossman and Beck are bad (they are), it's that the Redskins organization is a complete and utter disaster. This comes as news to exactly no one, except maybe Shanahan, who somehow finds a way each week to look more exasperated than when we last saw him after the previous loss.

The latest demoralizing setback came in Miami against the Dolphins, a team that won its first game of the season last week. Miami notched win No. 2 Sunday against the Skins. Grossman finished the day 21 of 32 for 215 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. And the offense consisted of three Graham Gano field goals. Not exactly reminiscent of those heady Shanahan days in Denver with John Elway.

“It’s the same thing each and every week,” wide receiver Jabar Gaffney lamented, via the Washington Post. “That’s what’s really, like, frustrating. We work on it, think we have it controlled and figured out. Then we come back out and we still have the same problems.”

Shanahan decided to reinstall Grossman as the starter after Beck went winless in three games, citing some nonsense about injuries and Beck's inexperience.

“You go with more of an experienced guy that has dealt with these situations,” Shanahan said in explaining his switch to Grossman. “I didn’t want to put John in a situation where we had a number of guys down, and with his experience, especially over the last two weeks, I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”

Uh huh.

We said it last week but it Bears repeating: the Redskins could lose out. They're that bad. But they're also cursed and/or unlucky -- even if they go 3-13, they ain't getting Andrew Luck because there's no way the Colts are winning three games.

Defense, San Diego

For once this season, Philip Rivers wasn't the reason San Diego lost. Last Thursday, Rivers was adequate (which is an improvement over his recent performances) but the Chargers' defense -- their run defense, in particular -- was a no-show.

This might be understandable if Darren McFadden was in the backfield wreaking havoc. He was not. Instead, Michael Bush did the heavy lifting, rushing 30 times for 157 yards and a score, and hauling in three passes for 85 receiving yards.

If the Chargers don't get better, they can expect more performances like the one Michael Bush put on them last Thursday.

The Raiders' offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, Bush took full advantage, and ultimately, Carson Palmer was the beneficiary.

San Diego's now 4-5 and tied with the Broncos (!) for second in the AFC West. Credit to Rivers for taking the glass-half-full approach.

“We’ve been worse,” he said after the Raiders loss.

Safety Eric Weddle was more direct in his assessment of what happened.

“We got our butts kicked. Every facet of the game. They ran the ball at will. We gave up too many deep plays.”

It gets more depressing. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee wrote Friday that only 18 times in Chargers history had they surrendered more yards than the 489 the Raiders had in Week 10.

Can San Diego get it together and make a late playoff push like they do every year?

“You know, every man can say they messed up here and there, didn’t play the way they’re capable of playing,” Weddle said. “And that’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to get a beat down like we did.”

So you're telling me there's a chance?

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: November 9, 2011 1:21 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 9: The curse of Carson Palmer

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

Oakland defense (added bonus: dumb penalties!)

We can forgive Carson Palmer for looking rusty. He spent the previous nine months kicking it in his La-Z-Boy, probably figuring that there was no way Bengals owner Mike Brown would trade him. Plus, it's not Palmer's fault that Raiders head coach Hue Jackson gave up a first- and (likely) second-round pick for him, and then inserted him into an actual game after a week of practice. The results were equal parts slapstick and dramedy.

But there's no excuse for Oakland's defense, which seemed completely unprepared for the possibility that Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow might actually run the ball. Because, really, there isn't any evidence that Tebow is quick to take off, especially if it means he doesn't have to flutter a medicine ball in the vicinity of would-be targets.

Tebow, who had two more rushes than completions, finished the afternoon with 118 yards on the ground on 10 carries, including runs of 32 and 28 yards, the last of which set up a Willis McGahee "this game is officially a blowout" touchdown late in the fourth quarter. McGahee, by the way, rushed for 163 yards and two scores and Oakland was helpless to stop it.


"I'm shocked," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said, according to the Oakland Tribune. "Ain't no way I thought that team could put 38 points on us with that quarterback. This hurt more than Buffalo. … And I thought we were past this (expletive)."

"You have to do your job," defensive tackle Richard Seymour added. "The things that happened out there today ... it's Football 101."

As long as the Raiders are going back to basics, maybe they should review what are and aren't penalties. They were flagged 15 times for 130 yards Sunday, including two of the "wait, that didn't just happen" penalties on fourth down late in the first half.

With 22 seconds before halftime and the Broncos facing a 52-yard field goal, rookie Taiwan Jones jumped offsides. Undeterred, Jones was flagged on the next play for roughing the kicker. Broncos first down. Denver kicker Matt Prater would end up missing a subsequent kick three plays later, but Jones' two miscues encapsulated the Raiders' day nicely.

"I think we're not a very intelligent football team right now," head coach Hue Jackson said. "We're not playing very intelligently when it comes to penalties. Some of them are uncalled for.

"We're going to continue to address it. I don't want anyone to think we haven't. We emphasize it, and we're not going to stop. It might be Game 16 when we get it fixed, I don't know."

Nothing to worry about, people: Jackson will get it fixed, even if it takes all year.

New England secondary

Unless Bill Belichick gets ahold of some magic beans New England could have a permanent home on Coach Killers. Which is ironic since Belichick is solely responsible for the team's current personnel plight.

Yes, we know: Leigh Bodden wasn't happy with his role and Darius Butler and Brandon Meriweather were high-round disappointments. But would the Patriots be a better team with them on the field than, say, Sergio Brown, Phillip Adams or Antwaun Molden? Well, they couldn't be much worse. 

Reviewing Week 9

Belichick knows better than anybody that his defense is in shambles. He tried to pressure Eli Manning Sunday and it blew up in his face. The Giants picked up the blitz and Manning carved up the secondary (just like Ben Roethlisberger did the week before). It's easy to just blame it all on inexperience but the Patriots traded for Albert Haynesworth in the offseason to shore up the run D and as an antidote for any deficiencies in the defensive backfield. Haynesworth was last seen on the field Sunday with 9:10 left on the clock in the third quarter.

(We're midway through the season and it's not too early to suggest that Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco -- the Pats' two "big" acquisitions -- have been among the NFL's biggest busts in 2011.)

Tom Brady took some heat Monday for not displaying his usual super-human awesomeness. He looked rattled at times but he also led New England on a go-ahead touchdown drive with 1:27 on the clock. That was more than enough time for Manning, who hooked up with tight end Jake Ballard twice on the final drive: once for a 28-yard gain on 3rd and 10, and again for a one-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left. Ballard, by the way, wears No. 85, which belonged to David Tyree, Giants folk hero and unassuming Patriots nemesis.

John Beck, QB, Washington

Washington's inability to regularly score points isn't because of Beck. Don't misunderstand: he's not good, but no matter what Norman Einstein says, neither is Rex Grossman. The problem starts with Mike Shanahan, who traded for Donovan McNabb last season and dumped him in favor of Beck and Grossman this season. No one's surprised that the Skins are 3-5 and as our collegue Will Brinson pointed out Monday, there's the very real possibility that Washington could lose out.

It sounds like an overreaction, but this is the same crew that was shut out last week in Buffalo, and needed a 59-yard field goal against the 49ers Sunday to get on the board after nearly seven quarters of goose eggs.

“Right now you take a look at the offense and it’s tough to take. It’s tough to take for me,” Shanahan said. “But I understand how this thing works. We’ve got a lot of young guys with talent, and we’re not all collective on the same page right now. . . . Everybody wants wins. . . . Everybody wants the answer. I wish I had the answer, but that’s as close as I can get.”

Interesting. You know who's coordinating the offense that Shanahan has so much trouble taking? His son, Kyle.

Beck, meanwhile, struggled to do the things even average NFL quarterback can manage: throwing accurately, connecting on the occasional deep ball and he was at his best on short throws and screen passes (Hmm, we've read that scouting report before somewhere…).

More demoralizing details via the Washington Post's Mike Jones:

"For the game, Beck went 30 for 47 for 254 yards, a touchdown and an interception. None of his passes traveled longer than 16 yards. And a 17-yard gain came when Helu caught a batted ball and scampered up the field before he was run out of bounds.

"The offense generated only 303 yards and did not get closer to the end zone than the San Francisco 37 until Beck completed his nine-yard touchdown pass to Gaffney with 1:10 left. Beck then hit Leonard Hankerson on the two-point conversion to give his team its 11 points."

When Tebowing goes very, very wrong. (US PRESSWIRE)

Perhaps the saddest part of all this is that even if the Redskins lose out, they still won't be in position to get Andrew Luck because there's now way the Colts are winning three games.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego

Rivers might not admit it publicly, but something's wrong with the guy. Whether it's a sore arm, a bum shoulder, a goiter -- something has to be bothering him. Because you don't go from one of the NFL's most prolific, accurate passers, to Kurt Warner when he was with the Giants unless there are underlying issues.

“I appreciate everyone trying to come up with a theory and a reason that I'm hurt," Rivers said Sunday. “I’m not hurt. I’ve thrown a handful of picks that I normally don’t throw and I’ll probably throw some more throughout my career. There won’t always be a reason why.”

So Rivers is fine according to … well, Rivers and that's about it. Even team owner Dean Spanos admitted after the Chargers' latest loss that his franchise quarterback is having an "off year." “Sometimes you just have [one]” Spanos told NBC's Alex Flanagan. “That is what Philip Rivers is having so far.”

By the way, "a handful of picks" is one thing. Rivers has 14 interceptions through eight games. The most he's ever thrown in a 16-game season is 15.

He added three more against the Packers, all of the groan-inducing variety. Sometimes balls are tipped, or receivers run the wrong route. Neither was the case Sunday. Rivers' first interception went off a Packers' defender before Charlie Peprah hauled it in and ran through approximately 27 arm-tackles (everybody but Rivers attempted to bring him down at least twice) on his way to the end zone. The second pick was worse: Tramon Williams jumped a route near the sidelines and could've done the electric slide into the end zone there was so much distance between him and the nearest defender. The final interception was on San Diego's last drive, one that could've tied the score after a furious second-half comeback. Instead, Rivers underthrew his receiver by a good 10 yards and Peprah was there again to make the play.

Sure, Phil, everything's fine. If you say so.

Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland

Like Beck above, McCoy doesn't deserve all the blame. But after a surprising rookie season in 2010, when he outplayed everyone's expectations, he's regressed in 2011. A lof of that has to do with the Browns' West Coast scheme, and that there aren't any playmakers to speak of.

Josh Cribbs is a dynamic returner but he's not a No. 1 wide receiver. Perhaps Greg Little can grow into that role, but he's not there yet. And there's Peyton Hillis, of course, the basket case who has gone from fan favorite to public pariah all because he wants a new contract.

We mentioned last week that the Browns are so married to their offensive philosophy that even the blind know what's coming (we're only half-kidding). Via the NFL Network's Mike Lombardi:

"Writing about the Browns offense leads me to a game I play every week at NFL Films. I sit in my office in Mt Laurel, N.J., put the Browns offense on my screen and call a friend who was a coach in the league, but is now in between successes. I tell my friend the personnel group, the formation, where the ball is located on the field and what hash mark and describe the motion -- if there is any -- and ask him to tell me the exact play that will be run," Lombardi writes.

A former coach can predict the Browns' offensive play call 95 percent of the time. (Getty Images)

"He is correct about 95 percent of the time. No lie. The Browns are so integrated into the West Coast system that their predictability is becoming legendary around the league."

This, along with the shortage of big-play threats, explains why McCoy ends up on the turf after most plays. If a former coach hearing the pre-snap formations knows what's coming, what do you think opposing defensive coordinators will have planned?

McCoy was blitzed often Sunday in Houston, sacked four times and hit eight more times after he threw the ball. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot points out that McCoy's been hit 52 times after the throw -- fifth most in the NFL. Which led left tackle Joe Thomas to marvel at his quarterback's resilience.

"He's a super-tough kid," Thomas said. "Not many guys in the league would be able to take a hit like he did on that long pass [a fourth-quarter sideline throw to Greg Little] and be able to come back, but he's a guy that wants to be out there competing. He plays big and that's all you can ask for."

That and some playmakers. (In related news: Hillis has already been ruled out for next week. We were shocked, too.) Which reminds us...

After watching Julio Jones go off on the Colts, anybody else think that the Browns should've just drafted him instead of taking all those picks from the Falcons? We're guessing McCoy does.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: November 1, 2011 11:54 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 8, Rob Ryan silenced

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

Rob Ryan, Dallas defensive coordinator

Just a thought, but maybe Ryan should stop talking. Yes, we know, he's a maverick, he speaks his mind, he wears his heart on his sleeve -- and our favorite: he knows how to motivate his players.

But here's the thing: he's twice flapped his gums this season … and the Cowboys promptly loss. In Week 4, Ryan made some silly comments about the Lions' Calvin Johnson, then got the bright idea not to double-team Johnson on a decisive goal-line play. Predictably, Matthew Stafford threw a jump-ball to Megatron in the end zone. Touchdown. Game over.

It might be in Ryan's best interest to zip it. (Getty Images)
Ryan's remarks leading up to Sunday night's Eagles' game are well documented. So you'd expect that Dallas would show up if for no other reason than to defend their defensive coordinator's honor.

Nope, they couldn't even be bothered to do that. Instead, they were steamrolled by an Eagles team that had lost four of their first six games.  Philly rushed for 239 yards (including LeSean McCoy's 185) and Dallas watched them do it. Good news, though: Ryan takes responsibility for the D's no-show performance.

"The whole thing is I got outcoached by [Andy] Reid and their staff," he said late Sunday night. "I mean, it's ridiculous. I never gave our guys a chance. The whole [expletive] thing was on me. If I gave them any extra motivation, hell, I certainly never backed it up. I gave our guys a lousy plan. We had no chance, and it's all on me."

That's what you want to hear from an assistant coach who views discretion the same way he looks at a salad.

"Andy Reid was reading my mail," Ryan continued. "He kicked my ass. I've just got to go back and work harder. I've got to be smarter than this. That's all it comes down to. …

"Hell, if I don't say anything, then I don't really believe," Ryan said. "Hopefully, it will be the last time it ever happens. But whatever happened, it was all my fault."

It wasn't entirely Ryan's fault. He wasn't out there missing tackles and blowing assignments, but he makes himself an inviting target when he chooses bluster for silence. Rob: some free advice

Arizona offense, defense

The Cardinals are bad and they're showing no signs of getting better. It's one thing to have a poor outing -- it happens to every team every season -- but it's something else entirely to drop $63 million on a franchise quarterback who proves to be something (much, much, much) less than that. And worse: surrounding said quarterback with no offensive line to speak of and a defense that is equally suspect against the run and the pass.

So when the Cards went up 21 points in Baltimore -- thanks largely to their defense -- there was still an impending sense of doom because … well, these are the Cards. There is no lead they can't squander and that proved to be the case against the Ravens. So who was to blame? Where to start…

The secondary was three times called for pass interference, twice in the end zone, and none of the Cards' cornerbacks could stop Anquan Boldin in the second half. The offensive line has a lot to do with Kevin Kolb's erratic play, particularly tackle Levi Brown. You know, the guy Arizona selected with the fifth-overall pick in the 2007 draft ahead of guys like Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis. And unless the Cards can magically find a No. 2 receiver, Larry Fitzgerald is in for a long, frustrating season.

"I'm not stunned," Cardinals linebacker Paris Lenon said after the Ravens outscored them 24-3 in the second half. "It wasn't like they made a miraculous Hail Mary catch. They adjusted their game plan, and they executed, and we have to get better at finishing."

It's diconcerting that Lenon seemed unsurprised by the chain of events that led to the loss. Then again, he's seen the Cards play. Silver lining: head coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't heard any jeers from disgruntled fans when he ventures out in public.

"Actually … hearing more positive things," he said. "I know there is a group that's very dissatisfied but I still get a lot of positive comments as well."

So there's that. Of course, if things doesn't change, Whisenhunt won't have to worry about what fans think.

New England secondary

It's wholly unfair to blame Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and the two other guys only recognizable to their close family and friends who were thrust into the Pats' secondary Sunday against the Steelers (Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams were their given names). It's almost as if head coach Bill Belichick was more interested in sending the message that no one player is bigger than the team … to spite his team.

Yes, the D stinks, but that's all on Belichick.  (Getty Images)
Last Friday, New England released their most productive cornerback, Leigh Bodden, reportedly because Bodden was unhappy as the team's No. 3 corner. A day later, the team placed rookie CB Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve. That means the Pats' already bottom-of-the-barrel pass defense was now worse. And the Steelers' offense, taking a page from New England's playbook, featured short and intermediate passes for 50 of their 80 snaps and the Pats were helpless to stop them. That led to one long Pittsburgh drive after another, a lopsided time-of-possession differential (40 minutes to 20 minutes), and ultimately, a convincing New England loss.

"You watch that tape and it’s nothing we want to represent us as a defense," Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said. "As a team, we watched that, and everyone had that look on their face, like, 'That isn’t us.' What we put on tape isn’t us. We’ll correct that, and come out next week ready to show how the New England Patriots play defense."

We don't doubt that the Patriots players work hard and are well coached. The problem: Belichick, the general manager, isn't nearly as good at his job as Belichick, the head coach.

Pats fan and Football Outsiders head honcho Aaron Schatz wrote about this Monday.

"The Pats haven't exactly done much with the defensive players they have drafted early. This is the biggest problem with this team. The late-season defensive improvement that was supposed to carry over from last year has disappeared instead, or even gone backwards. The idea was "young talent, will improve." Instead it's "young talent, barely playing." So many of these players never developed -- Terrence Wheatley is gone, Darius Butler is gone, Jonathan Wilhite is gone, Jermaine Cunningham is barely playing, Ron Brace hasn't played much and is still on PUP ... Belichick's defensive drafting has just been terrible the last couple years. Even Devin McCourty is sophomore slumping."

That doesn't mean the Patriots still aren't one of the NFL's best teams, or that they won't be in the playoffs, or that they won't get hot down the stretch. A decade's worth of games suggests those are all distinct possibilities. It's just that some of the shine is off the "In Belichick We Trust" meme after a series of poor drafts have left New England's defense in shambles.

"You had a makeshift secondary back there [against the Steelers] that didn't look like it knew what it was doing," ESPN analyst and former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi said Monday. "If they continue to shuffle their starting lineup in the defensive backfield, expect this type of performance."

Washington offense, defense

If nothing else, the Redskins were consistent against the Bills Sunday. Consistently awful, but still. Washington was outplayed and outcoached in every phase and it was reflected in the 23-0 shellacking.

“That’s as bad as I’ve been involved with from an offensive side as an assistant or a head coach,” head coach Mike Shanahan said after the loss. “... To score no points, I don’t think I’ve ever had that since I’ve been a coach — assistant or head coach, college or professionally. So it’s pretty humbling to take that.”

Week 8 Recap
In recent weeks on the podcast, we've talked about how the Skins, despite the fast start, are destined for the NFC East basement. Yes, if the defense plays well, Washington will be in most games. But anyone who thinks that any combination of Rex Grossman and John Beck can lead an NFL team to the playoffs is either delusional or a horrible judge of character. Shanahan's track record suggests it's the former, but his detractors are happy to point out that his two Super Bowls came with John Elway under center in Denver.

Whatever, John Elway ain't walkin' through that door (he's got his own problems). And Sunday in Toronto, the Bills sacked John Beck nine times (you knew this was coming). When asked to explain what happened, Beck was at a loss.

“This is a tricky one to try to give answers for right now, because I kind of don’t have any answers right now,” he said. “I’m trying to figure that out myself.”

The reshuffling along Washington's offensive line obviously has a lot to do with it. And while that's a legitimate excuse, the 'Skins aren't the only team in the league affected by injuries and inconsistent play. The difference between playoff teams and also-rans is less about big-name players as it is about the depth behind them.

Owner Dan Snyder spent his first decade in Washington treating the Redskins like a glorified game of Madden. Plenty of stars and absolutely no depth behind them, and year after year, they'd miss the playoffs by miles. Consolation prize: they were annually crowned the offseason Super Bowl champs.

The takeaway: this is now Shanahan's mess. He's in his second season, he traded for -- and then traded -- Donovan McNabb, he got rid of Albert Haynesworth, and he made the decision to go with Grossman and Beck. But it's not just the offense. The defense stunk, too.

Bills' QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was clinical, completing 21 of 27 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Fred Jackson rushed for 120 yards and had another 74 yards receiving.

“Disappointment, shock, sadness — little bit of everything,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said afterward. “I don’t know what happened out there on that field. Definitely didn’t look like us. They had our jerseys on, but I don’t know.”

Hey, it's Halloween -- maybe they were zombies. Because the 'Skins sure looked like the walking dead Sunday. They're just going to have to find another non-holiday-related excuse the next time it happens.

Denver defense

It would be easy to just type "Tim Tebow" and move on. But the guy has taken more of a beating after Denver's 45-10 loss than he did at any point during the game. And the Lions sacked him six times, harassed him all day, forced fumbles, and added a pick-six for good measure.

But as bad as Tebow was -- and there's no disputing that he was abysmal -- Denver's defense might have been worse. Detroit's first touchdown of the game came on a blown coverage the likes of which has never been seen.


Titus Young redefines what it means to be open.

Titus Young was so wide open on that play that his biggest issues was having too much time to think about catching the pass.

"This week felt more like a reality check," cornerback Andre Goodman said. "Facing a good Detroit Lions team, we could gauge where we are, and right now, we're not a very good team."

Safety Brian Dawkins admitted that miscommunication with Goodman led to Young not having a defender within 30 yards of him.

It was straight downhill from there. Detroit's offense had three more scoring drives in the first half, then hit cruise control in the second half while the defense took care of the rest.

"Our record speaks for itself. I'm not trying to be negative about my team, I'm just speaking the facts," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "If we don't win, and we keep getting blown out, we're not a good football team."

Champ, we got some bad news for you.

"Whatever we think we're doing, we have to do it 100 times better," Elvis Dumervil added.

Better make it 1000 times better. Just to be safe.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 9:57 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 7: Carson Boller, everybody!

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

Raiders quarterbacks (take your pick)
Remember Raiders head coach Hue Jackson in the days leading up to the Chargers game, joking about about drinking irish coffee before deciding on his quarterback? He was coy and evasive about whether Carson Palmer would start less than a week after Jackson swapped two first-rounders for him and save Oakland's season. Carson had spent the previous nine months on his couch refusing to play for the Bengals, and while the Raiders was a better situation for him (think about that for a moment), he didn't know the offense or his teammates, and would no doubt be rusty from having taken nearly a year off.

The QB changed, the results didn't (Getty Images)
So when the Raiders took the field Sunday, it was with backup Kyle Boller. Not ideal, but it's what you have to do given the circumstances. What you can't do, no matter how bad things get against a division rival: you absolutely can not bring Palmer in.

First, because, as we've established: HE'S NOT READY. Second, long-suffering Raiders fans have something this October that they haven't possessed in a decade: hope. (The Raiders entered Sunday's game with a 4-2 record. Since 2002, the last time they went to the Super Bowl, Oakland won four games or fewer for an entire season four times. And they haven't had a winning record since 2002.)  After gazing on Palmer in all his unmitigated awfulness, now that's been taken away from them, too.

Jackson panicked. Boller threw three first-half interceptions, the Raiders got down early, and Jackson, perhaps finally realizing that he had mortgaged Oakland's future, decided to get Palmer some work against a Chiefs team that suddenly looked like defending division champs.

Bad idea. Because when Palmer entered the game in the third quarter, he picked up right where Boller left off, tossing three interceptions of his own. And all the talk about the zip on his throws? He must've left that on the practice field, too, because our first glimpse at 2011 Palmer looked a lot like the 2010 Palmer that struggled with the Bengals.

Yes, we get it, that was his first game action since last season. But that's our point: don't even subject him, his fragile psyche and the fans' hopes and dreams to that in the first place. Not now. It's okay to lose convincingly with Boller. People expect it. But to throw Palmer in the mix and to have that happen … well, that's bad. Really, really, bad.

Not to worry, though.

"This football team is not going to blink," Jackson said after the game. "We've got to play better. We've got to play better offensively. I take full responsibility, because this is a team that I lead, and we didn't play like the Raiders can play."

Um, okay. It gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective).

"We knew they had a quarterback controversy," said the Chiefs' Kendrick Lewis, who pick-sixed Boller's first pass of the afternoon. "We studied film and studied their routes and knew they would have a limited playbook. When we had the opportunity to make big plays and capitalize, that's what we did."

No argument here.


The 4th interception of the day for the Kansas City defense was a pick six off of the newest member of the Oakland Raiders Carson Palmer.

Chargers' two-minute offense
San Diego scored 21 points in the first half against the Jets, and led New York for three and a half quarters. And then, when they needed to score a touchdown with just under two minutes to go, the offense showed all the urgency of a team trying to run out the clock. It was only slightly more inexplicable than the defense's decision to cover Plaxico Burress until he got into the red zone because quarterback Phil Rivers, one of the league's best quarterbacks, is supposed to excel in these late-game situations. Sunday, he did not.

A recap:

* 1:29 on the clock, ball on Chargers' 24-yard line. Rivers to Antonio Gates for 18 yards. Perfect start. We've seen this before, right?

* With no timeouts remaining, Rivers sashays up to the line of scrimmage like it's the first drive of the first quarter. Compounding matters: head coach Norv Turner appears to be in no rush to get the play call into Rivers. Twenty-nine seconds later, the Chargers finally snap the ball. Rivers, perhaps drawing inspiration from Tim Tebow, takes a deep drop before throwing a four-yard pass nowhere near the sidelines. Patrick Crayton makes the catch, the clock continues to run.

* Rivers liked the previous play so much, he runs it again, but only after 46 seconds have elapsed. Seriously.

* On third down, the ball is snapped with 17 seconds left in the game and the Chargers having gained a grand total of 25 yards. Thankfully, Rivers throws the ball a) downfield and b) to the sidelines. It falls incomplete. If nothing else, the clock stops.

* On fourth down, needing 51 yards and with just 11 seconds to do it, the Chargers will undoubtedly call a play that gets them a quick first down and then take one last chance in the end zone. Because, really, they're out of other options at this point, right? Turns out, not exactly. Rivers did something nobody expected: he throws the ball … out of bounds.  And we don't mean in a position near the sideline where only his receiver can make a play. We mean: over the bench, almost into the crowd.

So, yeah, that happened.

"Very disorganized," Tony Dungy said Sunday during NBC's Football Night in America. "You expect more Philip Rivers and that offense." Yes, yes you do, Tony.

Chargers tight end Randy McMichael agrees.

“We had them down and took our foot off the gas,” he said. “I’m not giving credit to anybody. This is our fault. Nothing to do with the play calling … Their secondary isn’t anything. It’s our fault. The guys in this locker room, we lost the game. The San Diego Chargers beat the San Diego Chargers. Nothing to do with the New York Jets. It’s embarrassing.”

Unfortunately, the San Diego Chargers don't get a win and a loss for beating themselves.

Jets cornerback (and former Coach Killers honoree!) Antonio Cromartie had a different take.

"When you're up by 11 points in the fourth quarter, and you can't even finish the game up, that shows what kind of team you are: a team that can't finish," Cromartie told The Newark Star-Ledger. "And that’s been San Diego the whole time. There it is."

And Rex Ryan's response when he was asked about McMichael's comments? "Stay classy, San Diego." We're not kidding.

Week 7 Recap

Kevin Kolb, quarterback, Arizona
You think the Cardinals regret a) trading a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kolb, and b) then giving Kolb a $62 million extension? Because we're almost positive Arizona could go 1-5 with pretty much any combination of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton.

Against the Steelers, Kolb looked like … well, the same dude we saw behind Donovan McNabb in Philly. We were confused when the Cards gave up so much (and then paid so much) to get him in free agency since Kolb hadn't shown that he was anything other than a quality backup and spot starter.

Kolb threw an interception on Arizona's first possession, which led to seven Steelers' points, and he now has just as many TDs as picks (7) this season. He's also completing just 58 percent of his passes, and missing wide-open targets. On Sunday, he short-hopped a ball to tight end Rob Housler on what should've been a first-half touchdown, and the TD pass he did throw -- a 73-yarder to LaRod Stephens-Howling -- was a Tebow special: the ball traveled 10 yards and Stephens-Howling did the heavy lifting for the final 63 yards to the end zone.

As long as we're making comparisons, here's one more: through six games, Kolb is basically Kyle Boller with a permed mullet. This is not a compliment. (Upside: if there's ever a movie about his life, Danny McBride's getting the lead role, though Kenny Powers might have a better arm.)

Like he did in the team's previous loss, Whisenhunt vowed to examine what the Cards are doing and who's doing it. Clearly, Kolb is part of that examination, although there has been no discussion of replacing him. "I"m not saying that," Whisenhunt told the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers when he brought up the possibility. This is what happens when you pay guys $62 million and you're not really sure if they're going to pan out: you have to play them while you find out. Through six games, Kolb's struggling.

That said, he said after the Steelers loss that he felt he was making progress.

"When you have lost five games in a row, I don't think anybody is progressing at the rate we need," Whisenhunt said when apprised of Kolb's remarks.

"I think you're naïve if you say that. I'm not saying Kevin is naïve to say that. Kevin has made progress in some areas, but I think all know there have been some plays he's left out there."

We don't think Kevin's naive, either. Saying "I'm progressing!" is a coping mechanism.

Titans offense, defense
The biggest game of the season against a hated division rival and Tennessee decides to take the afternoon off. That sums up nicely what we can expect from this team the rest of the season. The Titans stumbled out of the gate losing to the Jags, then beat the Ravens in Week 2, got to 3-1 and then were smoked by the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Following their Week 6 bye, they came out wholly unprepared against a team they see twice a year every year, and following a 41-7 beatdown are now 3-3.

And there were no bright spots Sunday. Texans running back Arian Foster, not happy to just run all over the Titans, added an arial assault to the whipping. He had 115 receiving yards in the first half, including a 68-yard pitch and catch from Matt Schaub. By the time it was over, he had 119 yards receiving and another 115 rushing and three touchdowns.

“We got embarrassed in our own backyard. That’s the tough thing about it,” safety Michael Griffin said. “It can get worse. No team is going to look at us as a team that won three straight games. They’re going to look at us as a team that was 0-and-2 against good teams. We’ve got to turn this thing around.”

Luckily, Chris Johnson and his Amazing Disappearing Act, isn't to blame. At least according to Chris Johnson.

“Basically, if you are watching the game and you really can’t tell what is going on with the run game then I would say you really don’t know football,’’ Johnson said. “I wouldn’t say I am the issue. I am very confident I have been doing the things … I do.”

And in 2011, "doing the things I do" means rushing for 18 yards on 10 carries. Yes, Chris, keep doing that. It's a huge help.

Kyle Boller haunted the Ravens on MNF. (Getty Images)
Tie: Rams defense/Ravens offense
Lord have mercy on both these units. It's the unstoppable force and the immovable object having taken the shape of ridiculously bad football. The Rams, an admittedly dreadful team, got steamrolled by a Cowboys' run defense that, prior to Week 7, didn't exist. Remember: Dallas couldn't run the ball late in the game last week against the Pats' porous D. Against the Rams? It looked like Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith joined forces, hopped in a time machine, and went off.

Instead they just lived vicariously through rookie DeMarco Murray, Dallas' third-round pick. Murray's first touch of the game came on the Cowboys' first possession, on first and 19 from the Dallas nine-yard-line. Ninety-one yards later … touchdown. That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Murray, who saw extended action because Felix Jones was out with an injury, rushed 25 times for 253 (TWO-HUNDRED FIFTY-THREE!) yards.

Jeff Gordon's Rams Report Card in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is … well, about what you'd expect: Defensive line - F, linebackers - F, secondary - D-minus (woo hoo! passing!).

Head coach Steve Spagnuolo got an "F" too. "Spagnuolo was supposed to build this team from the lines out . . . and yet the Rams keep getting manhandled in the trenches, despite heavy investments there. Overall sloppiness remains pervasive six games into this winless season. … The death march continued."

And that's about the best thing you can say about the 2011 Rams.

The Ravens, meanwhile, entered Monday night's game as one of the best teams in the AFC, with their always-stout defense and a young offense that was supposedly improving. Other than the Week 1 hurting they put on the Steelers (which included seven Pittsburgh turnovers and great field position for Baltimore's offense), and the hapless Rams, the Ravens' offense looks to be right out of the era prior to the invention of the forward pass.

And that's fine if offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is feeding the ball to Ray Rice, easily the team's best weapon. But against the Jags, Rice fumbled early and ended up spending much of the evening on the bench. Predictably, Baltimore's offense faltered. (By the way, if Joe Flacco was benched every time he had a turnover he'd be on the practice squad by now.)

By the time it was over, Rice had eight carries for the night. In related news: the Ravens scored seven points, and that came on the next-to-last drive. Ironically: Flacco threw one of the worst interceptions you'll ever see on the last drive, sealing the win for the Jags.

“It's about as bad as you can play on offense,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said afterwards. “I don't know if we could play any worse than that until that [late] drive."

You can't. We checked. The Ravens didn't get their first first down until the third quarter.

“If we don't get the consistency on offense, we're not going anywhere," Harbaugh continued. "You can't play like we played tonight on offense and expect to win. We all know it. We got our butts handed to us from that sense, and we'll go back to work just like we always do.”

Linebacker Terrell Suggs, like everybody else, has no idea what the offense was doing.

"I don't really know what the game plan was," he told CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco after the game. "When I have a Pro Bowl running back, and he's not getting his touches, I'm going to feel some kind of way about it. He wants the ball. And I think we should feed him. Ray Rice is a phenomenal player. You have to use your phenomenal players. I have to question how many touches Anquan [Boldin] had. We've got guys on this team that can do some great things. We have to use those guys. It's that simple."

And this is why the torch-and-pitchfork crowd will be mobilizing this week and calling for Cameron to be fired (it's a weekly occurrence, but the cries should be especially loud this week after losing to the previously 1-5 Jaguars).


Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 105 yards against the NFL's best run defense, Josh Scobee kicked four field goals and the Jaguars snapped a five-game slide with a 12-7 victory over the Ravens on Monday night.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:29 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 10:28 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

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

Jason Garrett, head coach, Dallas Cowboys. It says it right in the tag line: "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." Usually, that's the result of something a player, a unit or even an assistant coach did (or didn't do) that cost a team a win. It reflects poorly on the head coach -- and might ultimately get him canned -- but only because the buck stops with him, not because he was the one actually doing the damage.

Garrett, who also serves as the Cowboys offensive coordinator, is the exception this week. He has the unenviable task of calling plays that maximize the team's chances of winning while also minimizing a game-changing Tony Romo interception.

It's a delicate balance. Romo tossed two pick-sixes against the Lions in Week 4, and after taking bye week to regroup, Romo came out and threw another interception in his first series against the Patriots Sunday.

So it's certainly reasonable to think that Garrett's fourth-quarter play-calling was affected by the possibility that Romo might start firing passes at the other team. With Dallas leading 16-13 late in the fourth quarter, that meant running the ball on three straight downs, punting to the Patriots, and hoping for the best. And hope is pretty much all you have when Tom Brady's on the field preparing to mount a late-game comeback.

Predictably, the Cowboys lost. Upside: it wasn't because of a Romo errant pass.

Immediately after the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones questioned the "run, run, run, punt" strategy.

“When you get in a situation like that, you’ve got to go for the kill,” Jones said. “I felt like we could’ve been more aggressive. Our defense had been good all day, but you knew Brady had a length-of-the-field drive in him -- so it didn’t surprise me at all when he took them down at the end.”

Put differently: even Jones knew this was doomed.

Week 6 Recap

On Monday, Garrett explained the offensive game plan, particularly the decision turtle up.

"When you look at it, what we were trying to do was really just manage the situation," Garrett said. "Certainly, in that case, you want to make a first down; you want to end the game right there. But we just felt like it was important at that time to try to run the ball, get the clock moving, force them to use their timeouts, and then hopefully get yourself in a manageable third-down situation where you can run it or you can throw it and try to end the game right there by making a first down. Hopefully, you execute the plays early in that sequence to get yourself in a manageable third down. We didn't do that."

No, no you didn't.

By the way, remember back in 2008, when Garrett, then an up-and-coming coordinator with the Cowboys, turned down head coaching gigs with the Ravens and Falcons? Think he regrets that now? Think the Ravens and Falcons regret it? 

Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins. The issue isn't that Grossman tossed four interceptions in Washington's loss to division-rival Philadelphia Sunday. Or that he completed 41 percent of his attempts, or that his passer rating was 23.7 (he's done worse -- on three different occasions!). It's the idea that anybody with a passing interest in football would be surprised that we saw BAD REX.

Before replacing Donovan McNabb for the final quarter of the 2010 season, Grossman never had a passer rating above 75.0 for a season. He also has 46 career touchdowns to 49 career interceptions. If there was ever a case for a game-managing quarterback to get out of his own way long enough for the defense to keep things close, the Redskins are it. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's unit is a top-5 defense, an effort that was wasted on Grossman Sunday.

But that's part of the problem -- there are no warning signs that BAD REX is on his way. He just shows up, unannounced, wreaking havoc and ruining seasons. And before there's a chance to make a change, the damage is done.

Of course, you could also argue that head coach Mike Shanahan had no business putting Grossman on the field in the first place. When Kurt Coleman, the safety for an Eagles' defense that has been ridiculed for much of the season, intercepts Grossman three times and admits later that "I was able to read Rex all day … I had a great feeling for where he was going to all of his wide receivers," it's probably time to switch things up.


Is it too early to start talking about an undefeated season with the Packers? Is it time for Christian Ponder to take over in Minnesota? Pete Prisco joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

Shanahan might just do that. Then again, he might not. "I believe in Rex, and I believe in [backup QB] John Beck," Shanahan said Monday. "I told you that from Day 1. Both guys, I'm hoping, are going to be here for a long time. … I've been around quarterbacks in the National Football League for a long time, and I know these guys have got what it takes."

That last sentence, perhaps more than any other Shanahan has uttered since taking the 'Skins job, should worry fans most. Because even if there's a hint of truth to the notion that a former first-round flop and a guy who last started an NFL game in 2007 "have what it takes," Washington is in worst shape than we thought.

This could be good news for the 2-4 Eagles, who may not have to worry about the Cowboys (2-3) or the Redskins (3-2) in the NFC East. Both teams seem to be doing a fine job of blowing up their seasons without any assistance.

Miami Dolphins passing offense. Head coach Tony Sparano isn't long for Miami. If that wasn't the case before the Dolphins' Week 5 bye, it is now, after watching what transpired on Monday night against the Jets. If Miami could've scraped together even a mildly awful offense they might've won that game. Instead, we were treated to something a particularly sadistic Mike Martz might draw up in an effort to get his quarterback maimed.

It would be easy to just point the finger at Matt Moore and move on. But he was put in a lose-lose situation (and he delivered), replacing an injured Chad Henne in an offense that was so inept that, by comparison, Mark Sanchez occasionally looked competent.

Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall made some mid-week comments about playing with so much passion he'd probably be ejected by the second quarter of Monday's game.

Neither passion nor ejection happened, though Marshall spent the evening dropping passes (including his fifth dropped touchdown pass on the season), along with just about everybody else on the roster -- Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Devone Bess even mixed in a fumble.

It didn't help that Moore seemed to seek out Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who ended the night with two interceptions, including a pick-six early in the game that should've given the Dolphins a 6-0 lead at worse (and just about any other team would've been up 14-0 against a reeling Jets outfit). But Moore could have been serviceable if he'd just gotten some help from his pass-catchers. Or the Dolphins pass-rushers, who barely touched Sanchez all night. Or cornerback Sean Smith, who looked like a Miami wideout when he dropped a Sanchez pass in the end zone.

We suppose it was only fitting that the game ended on a Moore sack. Though we wouldn't have been surprised if it had been an incomplete pass.

Minnesota Vikings pass rush. The Vikings are one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league. So, naturally, they were absolutely stymied against the Bears Sunday night. This is the same Bears team that couldn't protect Jay Cutler from tackling dummies in previous weeks. But Sunday, he had gobs of time to find receivers and dutifully played his part in running up the score.

"It's humiliating," Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. "It's the only word I can think of right now. It's simply humiliating."

"Embarrassing," cornerback Asher Allen added. "After the way we played last week and to have the progress we thought we were making, this came out of nowhere."

It really did. Not so much Minnesota's offense -- we all know that there are plenty of issues there, starting with the quarterback situation. But the inability to get to Cutler (a guy who spends most Sunday's frowning and running for his life who not only looked comfortable in the pocket against the Vikings, but absolutely upbeat about the prospects of dropping back to throw) was a little more than troubling. 

It's one thing to bench McNabb for rookie Christian Ponder. That will quiet the masses, even if it may not have much of an impact on actually winning football games. But if Minnesota is going to be competitive, they'll need their defense -- particularly their pass rush -- to show up. We figured that went without saying. 

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:25 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 5: Eagles D is in name only

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

Eagles defense. This is becoming a weekly occurrence for Philly, a team with high hopes in August, now sitting at 1-4, which could now be ecstatic to go 8-8 and forget 2011 ever happened. All the big-name free-agent acquisitions are well documented, and they're arrival had everything to do with the preseason Dream Team hype (thanks, Vince!).

The problem: despite the league's best efforts, tackling is still a big part of the game … except in Philly, it seems. In fact, based on the way the Eagles' defense has performed through five weeks, tackling is frowned upon.

Sunday's effort against the Bills is the latest indictment. And this aversion to tackling isn't isolated; it's an epidemic. The diagnosis via ProFootballFocus.com:

"We always knew that Asante Samuel can’t tackle his way out of a wet paper bag, but that problem seems to be catching on amongst the Eagles’ defense. Samuel, along with three other Philadelphia defenders, missed a pair of tackles that would have gone a long way in crushing Buffalo’s momentum. While this isn’t an unusual mark for Samuel, it was Jarrad Page that took the top billing. … In addition to that, Page also took some pretty awful angles on running plays, especially on Fred Jackson’s touchdown run in the first quarter. A week of some basic and fundamental tackling instruction would go a long way to help improve this underperforming defense."

Week 5 Recap

It gets worse: the Eagles missed 14 (!) tackles Sunday in Buffalo.

The inability to bring down Bills ball-carriers wasn't the low point, however. It was the Eagles' defense, facing fourth and 1 during a critical series late in the fourth quarter with the game still in the balance, jumping offsides on a hard count. That one play encapsulated the season to date.

So where does Philly go from here? Well, if you're head coach Andy Reid, the man responsible for hiring his assistants -- including defensive coordinator Juan Castillo (who, it's worth mentioning, previously had been an Eagles' offensive assistant since the mid-'90s) -- it means throwing around the idea of bringing in a "defensive consultant" during the team's bye week.

Translation: Please look away while we bang on this panic button.

Look, we agree that it was a little peculiar to hire a lifetime offensive coach as the defensive coordinator. But for Reid to admit halfway through the season that it was a huge mistake makes him look even more out of touch, which isn't easy to do given how the season has unfolded so far.

Also: the last time we heard mention of "consultants" was two seasons ago when then-Redskins general manager Vinny Cerrato brought in Sherman Lewis to "offer a fresh set of eyes" for head coach Jim Zorn. who had never called plays in an NFL game before Washington hired him. Oh, yeah, prior to coming out of retirement, Lewis was calling bingo games. So, yes, this could end badly.

Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos. Denver fans finally got what they wanted: Tebow under center in a meaningful game. Never mind that he managed to complete just 4 of 10 throws for 79 yards. Or that the same issues that have plagued him since coming into the league in 2010 remain: the long stride, the Byron Leftwich windup with half the arm strength, the inability to consistently read defenses.

There's no question that he's good for the city, at least in the sense that he gives fans something they haven't had in awhile: hope. But after the Tebow Euphoria wears off, the reality is that he's a below average quarterback. (We know, we know: there isn't a stat that measures Tebow's heart … although we suspect ESPN is working on that. In related news: Merril Hoge disapproves of ESPN's efforts to lionize Tebow.) Orton is, in general, a better player, though his performance in recent weeks has earned him the right to get benched. Not only that, but he'll be a free agent in January.

Then again, it's not like the Broncos' playoff hopes rest on this decision. Whoever ends up under center will be leading a team destined for another losing season. The only question is who would benefit most from the experience. Common sense says Tebow because he's younger, and the team's former top pick. The problem with that: Fox has previously stated, on more than one occasion, that Orton was his guy and Tebow wasn't ready for the gig. He now looks like he a) is going back on his word or b) isn't much of a talent evaluator. Either way, he looks bad.

We're guessing Broncos fans will be willing to overlook all that as long as Tebow plays. They just want change and Tebow is certainly that.

(click images to enlarge)


Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets. Like the Eagles' D, this isn't Cromartie's first Coach Killer rodeo. His special teams gaffe against the Raiders helped propel the Jets to a Week 3 loss, and now, two weeks later, he did his part to get New York to 2-3. It's also well documented that he's not much of a Tom Brady fan, telling the media last week that “I hope I’m a target this game. I want to be a target every game.” As CBS' Shannon Sharpe pointed out on NFL Today before kickoff, "You're going to be a target every game because nobody's throwing at Darrelle Revis."

The Jets defense did limit Brady to just 321 passing yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But the one time Brady found Deion Branch in the end zone, it was with Cromartie in coverage, although we mean that in the loosest sense. Cromartie got caught looking in the backfield as Branch broke off his route and ran to the back pylon. It was a throw so easy Tim Tebow could've made it.

Jaguars special teams. Five weeks into the 2011 season and the biggest surprise isn't that the Lions are undefeated or that the Dream Team needs some Inception-style intervention to fix things. It's that Jack Del Rio still has a job. The latest nail in a coffin that probably doesn't have much room for more nails came against the Bengals Sunday, in a game the Jags should've won but didn't … because they're the Jags.

This week, it was the special teams that did their part to guarantee the loss.

First, rookie returner Cecil Shorts didn't field a punt late in the game and the Bengals downed the ball at the Jags' two-yard line. Four plays later, Matt Turk got off a 22-yard punt which, when coupled with a five-yard penalty, meant that Cincy would be starting at the Jags' 23. The Bengals scored a touchdown on the drive and that was that.

Turk's day was a microcosm of Jacksonville's season; he launched a 32-yard punt in the third quarter and was booed by the fans as he made his way off the field.

"Not even close to good enough in either phase," Del Rio, not doubt shocked to still be employed, said of his special teams. …

"It was windy and tough conditions, but I'm not going to sit here and make an excuse. It's nowhere near acceptable to allow a ball to be uncaught and roll to the 2-yard line when we could have caught it at the 30 or 25."

Another fun fact, courtesy of Jacksonville.com: have been outscored 68-13 in the second half this season.

Levi Brown, OL, Cardinals/Cardinals defense (The Curse of McNabb Edition). We talked about it on Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, but is Ken Whisenhunt on the ol' hot seat? He did lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008. Of course, Arizona managed just five wins last season, and in July gave up cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to get quarterback Kevin Kolb (and then gave him a $63 million extension). Now the Cards are 1-4, fresh off a loss to the previously winless Vikings.

Kolbs has looked … well, like a guy who came into the season with seven career NFL starts. Which is to say that, despite all the offseason media hype, he has a long way to go. The problem: the Cards gave up a lot to get him and don't have time to wait around. Not helping: Levi Brown -- the guy Arizona drafted while Adrian Peterson was still on the board -- has been a pass protector in name only.

ProFootballFocus notes thats "These struggles at tackle are nothing new for the Cardinals but continuing to turn a blind eye to these issues won’t do them any good. With Kurt Warner under center they had a QB with an innate feeling for pressure similar to that of Peyton Manning. Someone who could cope with pressure and still make plays. But they no longer have that and for the past two seasons this has crippled the Cardinals’ offense. This season Arizona offensive tackles have now conceded nine sacks, three hits and 36 pressures. Kevin Kolb has been a disappointment but behind these tackles is he getting a fair chance?"

Perhaps more embarrassing: this pregame note from the s/playerpage/133361">Donovan McNabb gathered teammates outside the locker room before the game against the Cardinals and told them, ">Arizona Republic's Kent Somers: "It seemed laughable on Sunday when Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb gathered teammates outside the locker room before the game against the Cardinals and told them, 'Ain't no reason we shouldn't blow these guys out.'"

Given the way the Vikings -- and McNabb in particular -- had played in recent weeks, laughing was the right response. Except that Minnesota led 28-0 after the first quarter.

The solution? Get better. No, seriously.

"That's the problem. It's not one person making a lot of mistakes; it's all of us making one or two mistakes," Kolb said after the loss. "That's where details come in. The head coach hit the nail on the head: We've got to get back to detail-oriented football. It starts with meetings. It starts with showing up to work on time, getting in early, getting your work done. All of the stuff that a professional is supposed to do."

Shouldn't you guys have been doing that from the start?

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com