Tag:CoachKillers
Posted on: October 4, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: October 4, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 4: Big Ben needs body armor

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

Steelers offensive line. Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the offensive line three years ago, shortly after the team selected running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed with their first two picks in the 2008 draft, and his response was: there's more than one way to protect the quarterback -- with pass blockers or with a gaggle of phenomenal skill positions players.

To their credit, Pittsburgh has used high picks on o-linemen in recent drafts (center Maurkice Pouncey in '10 and tackle Marcus Gilbert this past April), but the fact remains that the unit is, to borrow a Tomlininsm, consistently "below the line" in terms of production. This is what happens when Jonathan Scott, the starting left tackle, generates absolutely zero interest on the free-agent market and ends up re-signing with the team for roughly $900,000.

In general, six figures is a nice little haul for a day's work. But Scott is one of the lowest paid left tackles in football who, by the way, is charged with protecting Pittsburgh's $100 million franchise quarterback. It gets worse: Scott was injured in Week 3 against the Colts and didn't play Sunday against the Texans. Which meant that Trai Essex, unemployed as recently as August and who admitted that he was afraid he had eaten himself out of the league, was the guy tasked with blocking Mario Williams.

It's a wonder Ben Roethlisberger made it out of Houston with just a sprained ankle. No one would've been surprised if the jaws of life were needed to un-embed him from the Reliant Stadium turf.

Week 4 Recap

To be fair, Pittsburgh's o-line has been victimized by injuries. In addition to Scott, who should be back in a week or two, right tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season after the Week 1 drubbing by the Ravens. It's the second time in as many seasons that Colon's has health kept him on the sidelines. Right guard Doug Legursky also missed the Texans game with an injury, and left guard Chris Kemoeatu has been battling knee issues through the offseason.

But, hey, it's football -- there isn't a completely healthy team in the NFL. It's just that the five guys charged with protecting Big Ben at the beginning of the season were considered an average unit at best. Now that they're down to backups at three of the five positions, it's more like a train wreck, one that usually meets in the backfield, on Big Ben, about 15 times a game. This could end badly.

Eagles defense. There were a lot of double-takes when Andy Reid announced that he had filled the defensive coordinator job with Juan Castillo. Not because of Castillo's awesome wig, but because he had been an offensive assistant in Philly since arriving in 1995. So it was something of a surprise when he replaced Sean McDermott in February.

Through four weeks, the Eagles' D looks, well, a lot like the Eagles' D we're used to seeing: soft, no-tackling units that lose the battle in the trenches and appear uninterested in stopping the run. This time, however, the problem is exacerbated by the all the offseason additions and the media running with Vince Young's throwaway "Dream Team" comment.

Two weeks ago, the Giants manhandled the Eagles and the 49ers (!) put on an encore performance Sunday. It's also worth pointing out that both games were at the Linc; if Philly can't win at home, not only will they be in danger of missing the playoffs, they might not be a .500 team.

Castillo isn't deserving of all the blame (for starters, we're guessing he doesn't teach his players how to miss tackles), and at least publicly, he has the support of head coach Andy Reid. When asked about the job Castillo's done through four weeks, Reid said "I think Juan's doing some good things. If you ask me the same question about myself or the other coaches and players, there's some good things we're all doing and there a lot of things we need to work on. So that's what we're doing. I'm telling you it's not one person, it's all of us pulling this thing together and doing our jobs a little bit better."

Reid's right. Which brings us to one play that might be worth taking out of the playbook forever: having running back Ronnie Brown throw a backward pass while getting tackled at the opponent's goal line.

"It was a designed play," Brown said. "I've just got to make a better decision with the ball. No matter if it's a pass or a run, I've just got to make a better decision. I was trying to out-think myself a little bit. It was a pass play and I was thinking, once the guy slipped off, just try to throw the ball away and give us another chance for fourth down - not take a loss where we can go for it on fourth down, if possible. I've just got to make a better decision with the ball."

Oh my.

Rob Ryan, Cowboys defensive coordinator. Perhaps in an effort to motivate his team, Ryan implied last week that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- one of the best players in the league -- would be the No. 3 wideout in Dallas. "We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant,” Ryan said, presumably while fighting back a "yeah, I'm BS-ing ya" grin.

Ryan also indicated that the Cowboys' defensive strategy wouldn't change for one player, and that they wouldn't double-cover Johnson. We give Ryan credit for keeping his word, because Dallas lined up cornerback Terence Newman -- all by himself -- across from Johnson on the game's most important play, a fourth-quarter, goal-line situation in which the Lions needed to score a touchdown. Predictbably, quarterback Matt Stafford threw a jump-ball to Johnson who out-leapt Newman for it. Game over.

It gets better: after the game, Lions coach Jim Scwhartz, made with the funny and he did it without cracking a smile.

"I'm glad the third best wide reciever on the Cowboys is on our team," he said.

Johnson, as usual, seemed unfazed by the off-field gum-flapping.

“I don’t pay attention really, I hear about it from other people,’’ he said. “It doesn’t phase me, I just go out there and do what I have to do.’’

(Which, incidentally, is also Tony Romo's philosophy, except you're never quite certain which Romo is going to show up.)

Mark Sanchez, Jets QB. If you need more proof for just how good Ben Roethlisberger is, re-watch the Jets-Ravens game. New York's offensive line, usually a pretty good group, had some injuries and Baltimore exploited the mismatches all night long, usually while knocking Sanchez silly in the process. The difference between that matchup and your typical Steelers game, is that Roethlisberger is not only accustomed to the weekly beatings, he seems to welcome them.

It was clear early on that Sanchez doesn't like all the contact, as was evidenced by his chuck-and-duck approach to the passing game. By the way, when NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth says -- in the second quarter -- that "Sanchez has had enough" that's a euphemism for "Your QB is uninterested in continuing because the Ravens are beating the crap out of him."

We get that -- Baltimore was teeing off on Sanchez. But that's not a guy who will lead you to a Super Bowl. It's also the latest evidence that Sanchez, at least at this stage of his career, isn't Captain Comeback. He needs the defense and the running game to build a lead, and then the Jets' short, efficient passing game can take care of the rest.

Which brings us to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has faced criticism in the past for complicating what should be pretty simple: use the run to set up the pass. On Monday, head coach Rex Ryan didn't mince words.  "We've got to get a heck of a lot better here," he said. "We're a team that prides itself on running the football, being able to run and we haven't been successful so far."

As Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell observed on Twitter, "The Jets are really going to a run-happy offense before they play the Patriots? With that secondary? OK."

Whatever you do, DON'T kick to Devin Hester. Duh. (US PRESSWIRE)
Panthers special teams. Did we learn nothing from Mike Shanahan, or Tony Dungy or, more generally speaking, Tom Coughlin and Matt Dodge?

Evidently, not in Carolina, because the Panthers played well enough to beat the Bears in Chicago … if not for two bone-headed special teams miscues that involved kicking or punting the ball right to Hester. It doesn't take any talent to kick (hey, having Chicago start at the 40 is better than the alternative) or punt the ball out of bounds. Even Jimmy Clausen could do that (too much? Sorry Jimbo, force of habit). The thought, it seems, never occurred to Panthers special teams coach Brian Murphy.

Then again, it may not have been Murphy's call. First year head coach Ron Rivera defended the decision to kick to Hester (which is sorta like trying to defend the decision to put Terence Newman in single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson).

"I am [concerned about the coverage teams] to a degree. The bad thing about it is, again, on the punt return for a touchdown, we had guys in position to make tackles. And we didn't do it, unfortunately," Rivera said. "But we have to do it and we're going to find guys that are going to do it."

Or, you know, just kick it out of bounds.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 3: Ochocinco's rough patch

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

Justin King, CB, Rams. No one had a tougher day than King, who probably headed to work Sunday morning thinking, "Man, Lee Evans is out with an injury and the Ravens will have to put Torrey Smith out there against me. And he's a rookie!" By the time it was over (and it was over in record time), King would've happily taken his chances against Evans.

Instead he was torched (and we can't stress that enough) by Smith, who hauled in three first-quarter touchdowns of 18, 41 and 74 yards. Smith, who had seen limited action the first two weeks because somebody somewhere thought he wasn't comfortable enough in the offense, finished the day with five receptions for 152 yards.

To his credit, King took responsibility for what Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and Smith did to him.

Week 3 Recap
"You know what, I just could have made the play,'' King said when asked what he could have done differently in the Rams' 37-7 loss to the Ravens on Sunday. "That's what I get paid to do. I'm paid to man-up on guys. He made (plays) and I got beat. I have to show character now and get back to work and fix the mistakes.''

King also verbalized what became apparent about two plays into the game. "I didn't give [Flacco] a reason not to throw it at me,'' he said.

No, no you didn't. But we applaud the positive attitude.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets. Cromartie has been a perfectly adequate cornerback for the Jets, which would make him a really could CB on most other teams. But because he plays opposite Darrelle Revis, he's usually the guy offenses target. Eventually, that means you're due for a rough stretch, and Cromartie found it against the Raiders.

He was called for four penalties (two for pass interference and two for holding), two of which came on Oakland touchdown drives. But it was a special teams faux paus that doomed the Jets.

Following a Raiders touchdown that gave them a 24-17 lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter, Cromartie muffed a Sebastian Janikowski kickoff that was -- you guessed it -- recovered by Oakland. Two plays later, Michael Bush scored from a yard out, the Raiders led 31-17 and the Jets' afternoon, for all intents and purposes, was over.

Making an already crappy day worse for Cromartie? He suffered bruised ribs and lungs in the loss.

Regarding the muffed kickoff, head coach Rex Ryan was able to succinctly put things into perspective. “When you look at it in hindsight … obviously, [Cromartie] should have let it go,” Ryan said. “At the time, the guy’s trying to make a play.”

Coincidentally, Raiders owner Al Davis tried to sign Cromartie prior to training camp, and reportedly offered him more than the four-year, $32 million deal he ended up signing to return to New York. On Sunday, it was almost as if Cromartie was playing for Oakland because he sure played a big role in their win.

Bears pass-catchers/running game/o-line. Basically everybody but Jay Cutler, who we've never cared much for but feel obligated to defend because he's suddenly become the poster boy for the wussification of the quarterback position. Even though, by virtue of taking 400 hits a week, might be one of the NFL's toughest players. (Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger may disagree, but we're quite certain they're the only QBs who'd have a legitimate gripe.)

Last week, we highlighted Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz in this space because he thought it would be a swell idea to pass the ball on 82 percent of the offensive snaps which, predictably, led to Cutler taking six sacks against the Saints, countless hits and an admission that he didn't know if he'd survive the season.

Against the Packers, Cutler's pass-catchers didn't do him any favors. Roy Williams, Johnny Knox and Kellen Davis all dropped what should've been easy receptions. And running back Matt Forte, who recently announced that the team clearly doesn't consider him an elite back sought to prove just that by rushing for two (!) yards on nine carries. (Related: Cutler led the team in rushing with 11 yards on three attempts.)

Nothing went right for Chicago, including what should have been the niftiest special teams touchdown we can remember. Unfortunately, the officials threw a flag on … something and the play was called back. We can't even blame Martz for that.


Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. This is the first time in Coach Killers history that a player from the winning team has made the list, but Johnson has been nothing short of dreadful since signing that fat contract just in time for the regular season. In three games, CJ's rushed for 98 yards on 46 carries, which works out to a mind-blowing 2.1 yards per carry. The next touchdown he scores will be his first.

We had him unofficially hitting rock bottom following the Titans' victory over the Broncos Sunday. Tennessee's two leading rushers? Johnson and … punter Brett Kern, who both galloped for 21 yards. It gets worse: Johnson needed 12 more carries than Kern, who managed to run 21 yards at one time after bobbling a poor snap during a fourth-down play in which he had every intention of punting the ball. Instead, he fielded the short-hop, ran down the sidelines, and 21 yards later, the Titans had a first down and quite possibly a new threat in the running game.

In case we haven't reminded you in 15 minutes, there's a reason you shouldn't overpay running backs. Silver lining to the dark cloud of losing Kenny Britt: Johnson did catch four passes for 54 receiving yards. Maybe the Titans should give serious consideration to splitting him out wide. It's not like he can get worse, right?

Ochocinco might not be long for New England (Getty Images)
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots. If Ochocinco and Terrell Owens were Batman and Robin a year ago in Cincinnati, the 2011 Ochocinco is the NFL pass-catching equivalent of Wile E. Coyote. The man can't catch a break -- or a pass -- and on Sunday you could make the case that it played a non-trivial part in the Patriots losing to the Bills.

With Aaron Hernandez and Taylor Price out with injuries, Week 3 was supposed to be Ochocinco's opportunity to show that he had a grasp of the Patriots' offense and had earned Tom Brady's trust. Instead, he looked lost, as he often has this season, and in addition to running the wrong route (that led to one of Brady's four interceptions), he also had a huge drop in the fourth quarter that would've been an easy touchdown.

(If New England gets rid of Ochocinco -- and at this point we don't think it would surprise anyone if they did -- perhaps they can unload him on the Bears, who seem eager to corner the market on no-catching wideouts.)

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:19 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

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

Posted by Ryan Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL Week 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: September 13, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: September 13, 2011 7:03 pm
 

Coach Killers, week 1: Haley takes the blame

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

Todd Haley, Chiefs head coach. Week 1 of the regular season looked a lot like the previous four weeks of preseason football for Kansas City's offense. Which is to say: it existed in name only. And it's not like the Chiefs were facing the Patriots on the road. They had the Bills -- the Bills -- at Arrowhead Stadium. Instead of playing like the defending AFC West champs, Kansas City instead looked like the sad-sack outfit that won six games in the final two seasons of Herm Edwards' tenure.
Todd Haley wants you to know that he blames Todd Haley. (Getty Images)

Buffalo led 14-0 after a quarter, went up 34-7 after three quarters, and ended up winning 41-7. And the Chiefs are left to wonder where to go from here.

Yes, it's only one game -- the first game of a long season -- but Sunday's offense looked a lot like the one that got steamrolled by the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Game last January.

It's easy to blame quarterback Matt Cassel, especially after you take a gander at his stat line from Sunday: 22 of 36 for 116 yards. That works out to 3.2 yards per attempt, which means that if the Chiefs threw on every down, they'd go three-and-out every series (which isn't far from the truth). But Cassel isn't calling the plays or assembling the roster. The latter is Scott Pioli's job, but since he's pretty high up on the org chart, that leaves Todd Haley, who puts together the game plan (if you want to call it that).

“I’m taking 100 percent responsibility for our team not being ready to go,” he said after the game. “OK? You can point the finger right at Todd Haley. OK? I’m taking 100 percent responsibility.”

Uh oh. Haley went Costanza on us and started referring to himself in the third person. Not a good sign.

And while it's swell that he's holding himself accountable, that won't do much to keep him gainfully employed. The Chiefs look completely lost without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who left for the University of Florida before the Ravens playoff game. Maybe it's coincidence, or perhaps there's a correlation, but it's not like Haley didn't get the head-coaching gig because of his ability to -- and apologies in advance to Hank Stram -- matriculate the ball down the field.

Either way, if the Chiefs don't find a way to score points, Haley won't make it to Halloween.

Jim Caldwell, Colts head coach. It's simple, really. Caldwell, who took over for Tony Dungy after the 2008 season, is only as good as his quarterback. Yes, that holds for most coaches (most notably Bill Belichick and Tom Brady -- although Belichick went 11-5 with Cassel in '08), but Caldwell can't use that as an excuse when Bill Polian inevitably calls him into his office and asks why he shouldn't be fired.

Week 1 in Review

For the sake of discussion, let's say Manning shuts it down for the season, and Indy wins five or six games with some combination of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, Brett Favre and/or David Garrard (joke!). Isn't Caldwell ultimately responsible? (Of course, Caldwell might point out that Polian should've found a competent backup QB long ago, but he can't very well say that out loud.) Put differently: if Caldwell's coaching skills are directly related to whether his Hall of Fame quarterback is on the field, he's not bringing much to the table. Belichick, with or without Brady, is worth , what, three wins a season all by himself? Same with Mike Tomlin or Mike McCarthy.

That said, we don't expect Caldwell to lose his job no matter how bad things turn out for Indy this season. The man did go 14-2 in his first season and take the Colts to the Super Bowl. And Indy was 10-6 a year ago. Then again, his detractors are quick to point out that Caldwell was 26-63 during his eight years as the Wake Forest head coach. That's not exactly something you put at the top of the resume.

Pete Carroll, Seahawks head coach. Carroll has talked about "the plan," presumably one that entails making the team better. But based on some of his offseason moves -- notably, signing Tarvaris Jackson a year after trading for Charlie Whitehurst and weeks after letting Matt Hasselbeck walk -- we're starting to think that this plan involves positioning the team for a run at Andrew Luck. (Which, technically, will make the team better, just not this season.) 

Seattle did win the NFC West last season, but they also went 7-9. That's like being the prettiest ugly girl or the skinniest fat dude. When people say, "They won the division by winning just seven games!" it's not a compliment. They're mocking you. So, no, it's not something to brag about, especially since this year's team somehow looks worse.

The Seahawks lost to the 49ers, 33-17, Sunday, but the game was out of reach well before that. San Francisco led 16-0, and Seattle appeared to be running some version of the Chiefs' offense. And things don't get any easier because the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh this week. We joked yesterday that the Steelers could play the same sloppy game they did against the Ravens and have little trouble beating this Seattle team. That's how bad it was. Maybe somebody should ask Carroll what his deal is.

Jack Del Rio is quite familiar with the hot seat in Jacksonville. (Getty Images)
Jack Del Rio, Jaguars head coach. The Jags dumped David Garrard just before the season opener and we can all agree that a) the move was probably long overdue and b) the organization has an awful sense of timing.

Whatever, life after Garrard got off to a good start: Jacksonville, with Luke McCown under center, outlasted the Titans, 16-14. But this is the NFL, where fortunes change weekly, and it's not a stretch to think that the Jags' success could be short-lived. Partly because they haven't had a winning season since 2007, but also because their quarterback of the future is currently a rookie sitting behind McCown on the depth chart.

Not only that, it's not like Del Rio hasn't been in the "you're almost certainly getting canned" crosshairs in previous seasons. And his dilemma in 2011 is that if McCown plays just well enough to keep the gig, the Jags might again finish 8-8. But if McCown stumbles and Blaine Gabbert gets the keys to the offense, then it's a rebuilding year. While not an official stat, we think Del Rio is all out of "rebuilding year" mulligans. As it stands, his job security rests with McCown's ability to play better than he has at any point in his NFL career. We wonder if Del Rio will get to keep that black leather jacket as a parting gift.

Tony Romo, Cowboys quarterback. In general, this list will be populated with players who single-handedly torpedoed a team's chances or underachieving units (like the Chargers' special teams any week last season). So it's unusual that the first four names above are all coaches. But Haley, Caldwell, Carroll and Del Rio are as responsible for the fate that awaits them than any miscue their players might make that would ultimately reflect poorly on them.

And that brings us to Romo, who admitted after Sunday night's loss to the Jets, that the blame was his and his alone. That's not completely true, although a fumble at the Jets' goal line and that pass intended for a hobbled Dez Bryant that found Darrelle Revis on the next-to-last drive didn't help matters.

On Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, we talked about how the perception is that Romo's a choker, and Sunday night was the latest example. We don't actually believe that; if anything Romo's unlucky. Look no further than his counterpart in Week 1; Romo outplayed the Jets' Mark Sanchez but Sanchez has a knack for avoiding mistakes at critical junctures while Romo seems drawn to them. And it's not solely a function of his style of play or decision-making process. It genuinely seems like the gods of chance hate Romo. We think this has something to do with that whole Jessica Simpson thing.

But could his ill-timed miscuses be enough to cost Jason Garrett his job? Nah. Partly because we've seen what the Cowboys look like without Romo, but also because he's a top-10 quarterback. Does he take chances? Yeah, sure. Does he sometimes get burned? Yep. But he has the ability to put a ton of points on the board, and that overrides the occasional mistakes.

Now there's no doubt in our minds that Jerry Jones will some day fire Garrett. But it won't be because of Romo. In fact, Romo will probably end up saving Garrett's job a couple times before it's all said and done.

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