|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.
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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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