As the pressure heats up around the holiday season, we were once again reminded that being an NFL head coach is far more stressful than any of the shopping you still haven’t completed. This week offered plenty more decisions to be second-guessed, especially by teams that can’t afford a loss right now.
Gary Kubiak was left playing bouncer between the Broncos offense and defense following their disappointing 16-3 loss to New England. The divide between the two units is understandable; Aqib Talib and the defense snuffed out the Patriots offense but Denver’s attack once again failed to show up, getting as many first downs in the second half as points on the day. It’s fitting Kubiak should have to break up that fight, not just because he’s the leader of the team, but because his passive play calling is the main reason Denver has been so poor.
Kubiak continues to call a predictable game, running the ball long after it’s effective. And his unwillingness to take chances was on full display Sunday, opting not to use any of the three timeouts he had left after Denver stopped the Patriots offense with 1:20 left in the first half! He wasn’t the only coach in the AFC West to have a bad day though.
Andy Reid became the umpteenth different coach to get burned by “icing the kicker,” allowing Ryan Succop a second chance at a 53-yarder that sealed the Titans’ 19-17 upset win over Kansas City. And while Reid should be given flack for his decision – because there has always been substantial evidence that icing the kicker doesn’t work – it just goes to show how the end result will always alter how your mistake is viewed.
By his own admission, John Harbaugh’s choice to call a pass play late against Philly was “an all-time worst call ever.” But since the Ravens still squeaked out a 27-26 win, the mistake he’s owning up to doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things; it just makes him look noble that he’ll admit when he’s wrong.
The biggest coaching decision of the week, seemed like an obvious one to make. And even though it worked out for Bill O’Brien in the end, it can’t have been easy to pull the trigger. After two first half interceptions, he finally sat his $72-million, third-down punter Brock Osweiler in favor of Tom Savage. Anytime a quarterback is making that kind of coin, they’re going to get a longer leash than most. But considering how the Texans are a winning football team, making a change of that magnitude this late in the season is certainly uncommon.
After all, Savage had only thrown 19 passes in the NFL before yesterday. Now, he’ll likely be the guy for Houston’s playoff push down the stretch. After O’Brien had four different quarterbacks running his offense last year, he must’ve thought Osweiler would bring an end to his QB juggling days. Instead, Houston enters the final two weeks with both optimism and uncertainty under center. Texans fans will likely be fine with that, because at least Savage attempts to get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins.
Savage’s comeback amounted to the final straw for Gus Bradley’s doomed tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to Mike Florio, the Jags had decided to move on last week, but waited until yesterday to begin their search for a replacement. While he’s going to be remembered for his atrocious win-percentage (ahead of only Bert Bell for worst all-time), don’t forget that Bradley did have a good defensive background coming into the job. This was the first season Jacksonville actually provided him with a roster to work with in his area of expertise, and the team responded with some noticeable improvements on that side of the ball, currently seventh in yards allowed and 15th in DVOA. He’s going to land a job somewhere.
As for his replacement, it’s clear Jacksonville is going to zag after Bradley’s zig and bring in an offensive-minded coach. Whether this person will attempt a Blake Bortles reclamation project, or simply move on, it’s no secret that turnovers are the biggest issue the Jags need to address. Only when they stop beating themselves will the Jaguars starting beating someone else.
With how hectic this week was, I’m sure most of these coaches can’t wait until they can relax with their families on Christmas next week … oh wait, most of them will be fighting for their playoff lives that day. Well, I guess that’s a silver lining for Bradley; while he’s on his third helping of turkey, Kubiak and Reid will be right back in the crosshairs, trying to avoid the goat horns again.
Week 15 in a Nutshell
Shout-out of the Week
Matt Moore, QB; Miami Dolphins
Torching the Jets isn’t a very impressive feat lately. But when the man sparking the flame-thrower hasn’t made an NFL start in nearly five years, it reflects well on the entire team and coaching staff.
The last time Matt Moore was “the guy” for the Dolphins, he was handing the ball off to Steve Slaton and throwing to Brandon Marshall. Despite having a serviceable season in 2011, he accepted the role as Ryan Tannehill’s backup, and has held that position for four up and down seasons behind the Fins’ enigmatic starter. Even after he was given the opportunity to pursue other opportunities this offseason, Moore re-signed with Miami, and was well on his way to never playing any more than mop-up duty before Tannehill got injured last week.
Called into action on a short week and in the thick of the Dolphins’ quest to break their eight-year playoff drought (and after celebrating the birth of his third son), Moore was not just another backup QB on Saturday night. He took downfield shots against the Jets’ blitzes, utilizing the speed Miami has on the outside. Adam Gase also trusted his quarterback to take to the air on the goal line, twice throwing one-yard scores to Dion Sims.
While a nice play by Jarvis Landry may have inflated his stats, his final line of 12 of 18 for 236 yards, four touchdowns, and one pick was one of the best passing efforts of the week (an extra big kick in the teeth during fantasy playoffs).
Overall this game was one of the biggest signs that Gase is changing the way things are done in South Beach. Losing late-season games to an inferior Jets team was a staple of the Joe Philbin era. This year, even without their top passer, this new Dolphins bunch wouldn’t falter.
Other Great Things From Week 15
The Raiders officially ending their streak.
Bitterly disappointed by my fantasy playoff loss this weekend, it was hard to get much enjoyment out of football. But I am glad that the Raiders officially clinched a spot in the dance this weekend, ending a 13-year playoff absence. Congrats, Raider Nation!
Other Bad Things From Week 15
Losing teams not going for it.
The Philadelphia Eagles did it right on Sunday, even if their game-winning two-point attempt fell short. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re eliminated from the playoffs. Don’t play for OT, play to go home with a result; who cares what it is. Even Chip Kelly understood that, going for it on fourth down in OT against the Jets last week. But somehow, that common knowledge has escaped John Fox.
Against the rival Packers, with a chance to shatter their playoff hopes, the coach of the (now 3-11) Bears opted to kick a game-tying field goal from Green Bay’s four-yard line rather than chase the win. Nevermind that it was one of the coldest games in Chicago history, and playing for overtime should’ve been deemed a form of torture, but the Bears offense also had all the momentum, scoring touchdowns on both prior drives. Instead, Fox played it boring. Thankfully, Aaron Rodgers put fans out of their misery, leading a field goal drive before time expired.
Whether it was karma for Pete Carroll running up the score, the Rams’ jealousy for Seattle stealing their favorite play (the fake punt), or the final confirmation that punters aren’t really players, Jon Ryan’s run on Thursday was just awful.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) December 16, 2016
Hopefully the Seahawks don’t have to run anymore trick plays in the playoffs, because their secret weapon may be a little gun shy.
Dak ending the Cowboys’ drama before it could really begin.
I was soooo looking forward to weeks of debate surrounding who the Cowboys would start in the Divisional Round. Jerry Jones probably was, too. But after another outstanding effort from Dak Prescott (32 of 36 for 279 yards), even Jones had to admit that The Real Quarterbacks of Dallas wouldn’t make it past the pilot stage. Looks like Travis Kelce is still the best source of trashy TV in the NFL.