I wonder if Ravens head coach John Harbaugh believes he will discover lightning in a bottle like he did in 2012 when Cam Cameron was fired as offensive coordinator with three weeks left in the season and replaced by Jim Caldwell, now head coach of the Lions. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.
Marty Mornhinweg is now the team’s fifth offensive coordinator since the start of the 2012 season after Harbaugh fired Marc Trestman earlier this week. The fifth was Gary Kubiak in 2014 after being fired as the Texans head coach during the 2013 season.
Harbaugh acknowledged the offense wouldn’t change when he said, “We’re not putting in a new playbook or anything. Marty Mornhinweg and the whole staff have been here the whole time. You’re not going to change everything. I’m sure the way the plays are called, perhaps, or the way Marty operates during the week with the coaches, and the game plan will have his imprint on it.”
Harbaugh got a tad salty when asked whether he was hoping for a surge of energy after the move. He said, “I’m not into all that philosophical, esoteric analysis of why you do something like that right now. To me, it doesn’t have any value and it’s a waste of energy for us. It’s good for you guys to do it. I think it is entertaining and it’s worth looking at, but I don’t really have the time or the inclination to delve into all of that.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco, however, was willing to “delve” when he said, “I think Marty just brings a sense – it is tough to say what personality-wise — but he is definitely a confident person, he is sure in what he is going to do. I think we are going to pare things down, we are going to do things that we are good at and he is going to be confident about it. There are a few things that he is used to as a play-caller in the league and a few changes that have to be made because of that, just so that he is comfortable with calling the plays and getting a feel for the game, so I think there will be a few tweaks here and there. I don’t really want to get into too much specifics, but Marty brings a definite energy and a lot of confidence.”
I hope other head coaches become as honest as Dirk Koetter of the Bucs, who took a veiled shot at ESPN analyst Jon Gruden after Tampa Bay defeated Carolina this past Monday night. With the score tied at 14, the Bucs faced a third-and-9 play from the Panthers 27-yard line with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game.
On the previous play, quarterback Jameis Winston forced a pass to wide receiver Mike Evans that was nearly intercepted. On the third-down play, Koetter called a run to Jacquizz Rodgers, who lost 1 yard and kicker Roberto Aguayo then missed badly on a 46-yard field-goal attempt. Gruden noted the play was called because Koetter lost faith in Winston and didn’t want to risk a turnover.
When asked the next day if the play call was because of a lack of confidence in Winston, Koetter said, “That wasn’t a lack of confidence. Again, when analysts say stuff like that, that’s like – when Jon was coaching and someone said that about him, you know what he’d be standing up here saying? ‘That guy doesn’t know what I’m thinking or anything about my team.’ He gets paid to talk on TV. I get paid to coach the Bucs. Those guys can say whatever they want.
“Yeah, we ran it on third-and-9. You know what? We also ran it on third-and-3 and third-and-5 and we were two out of three running the ball on third down and we weren’t nearly that successful throwing the ball. It had no reflection at all on my confidence in Jameis Winston. There can be no person on this planet, other than his parents, that’s more confident in Jameis Winston than me.”
I know Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is stoked to have a dual threat at tight end with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. It must remind him of the halcyon days when Gronkowski teamed with Aaron Hernandez to give the Patriots a virtually unstoppable duo at the position.
In Brady’s first game after returning from his four-game suspension last Sunday, 11 of his 28 completions were to Bennett and Gronkowski. Bennett caught 6 of 8 targets for 67 yards (11.2 per catch) with 3 touchdowns including one of 37 yards. Gronkowski also had a long of 37, catching 5 of 7 targets for 109 yards (21.8-yard average).
Said Brady, “Martellus has been so productive, being here for such a short time. Gronk, what he did last week and him kind of getting back to where he wants to be is such a big part of our offense because those guys are so dynamic. They’re tough matchups, they’re both 6-foot-6-plus, 270 pounds-plus. They’re hard matchups for anybody because they’re just very unique players. It’s great because like on the touchdown to Martellus, one of them, they focused all their coverage on Gronk, and then Martellus gets the 1-on-1 and he gets the ball.
“That’s what makes a good offense. If they’re going to double-cover someone, it means other guys have single coverage. If you’re playing with a guy like Gronk, it’s great for you because you’re not the one getting double-covered, so you’ll have opportunities and you have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them.”
Meanwhile, I also know Brady doesn’t have any plans of stepping away from the game anytime soon. When someone wondered how he just seems to get better as he approaches the age of 40, Brady said, “Well, I kind of just do the best I can do. I think every year I’ve learned just different ways to prepare myself and try to take care of myself because I love playing football and I want to do it for a long time, and I think with that comes certain decisions that you have to make. I think the lifestyle that I’ve chosen and all of the decisions that I make are centered on how I can be the best football player I can be. I’ve just got a good routine. Hopefully I can share that with other athletes because I feel like I’ve learned a lot of great things and a lot of lessons that I would love to give other athletes. Really I’ve already started doing that, and I’d love to be able to do it for the rest of my life.”
So, Tom, how long do you think you can play? He said, “I think as long as I’m willing to make the commitment to the lifestyle choices that I’ve got. So I think it’s a lot of things that go into play. As an athlete your body is your asset; that’s all you have. So you’ve got to be able to treat your body the right way and no athlete wants to go out there and get hurt all the time. The only way I can help the team is if I’m out there playing. There’s just a lot of ways that athletes prepare themselves. Everybody does it a little differently. I think I’m quite different than everybody else. Like I said, I look forward to sharing that at some point with all of the athletes and other people that want to learn and try to sustain their peak performance.”
Finally, he was asked to reflect on the final game for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and whether it makes him think of his own retirement. Not so fast, Brady said.
“He had a great career and he had a great season,” Brady said. “He’s been a great player for the league and for the city. I mean he’s meant so much, been a part of three championship teams here. Baseball is huge here in Boston and really in New England. I mean they love the Red Sox. It’s obviously sad to see him retire. I hope he comes back and keeps playing because he had a great year, but everyone’s going to make the choice whenever it feels right.” For Brady, that doesn’t appear to be anytime soon.
I wonder if there will be any ramifications for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s surprising public comments when he called out head coach Mike Tomlin for having too many physical practices in training camp and the regular season. Nine players were declared out of the team’s game last Sunday against the Jets. Then, defensive Cam Heyward suffered a hamstring injury during the game. For this week’s game at Miami, six players, including Heyward, are out. Roethlisberger believes the amount of injuries is related to the way the team practices.
He said, “We go as hard as anyone in training camp and during the season. Obviously, I’m not one to complain because I don’t get hit, but I will stand up for the guys up front and the running backs and guys who take a pounding every day during a long season. The season is super long as it is and super physical. When you’re doing it over and over and shoulders are getting sore and hips and knees and quads and hamstrings and things, and then they reoccur, then maybe you have to take a look at what you’re doing. But I know we pride ourselves on being a physical football team, so it’s a fine line you have to walk.”
When asked about a solution, Roethlisberger clammed up and said, “I don’t know. I’m not the coach, an owner or the league. I’m just a player.”
I hope Browns head coach Hue Jackson realizes the can of worms he opened when former Baylor head coach Art Briles was his guest at practice earlier this week. Briles was fired by Baylor amid allegations he tried to cover up allegations of sexual assault against some of his players.
Asked about his comfort level with how Briles departed Baylor, Jackson seemed to minimize the situation when he said almost nonchalantly, “First of all, he is here as my guest. As you guys know, I have brought guests here. I have gotten to know coach Briles. He is a tremendous offensive minded football coach. I’m always looking at different ways of doing things and preparing things. What happened at Baylor is at Baylor. I respect what you are saying and understand that trail, but at the same time, I think everybody deserves an opportunity to kind of do what they do. I respect everybody’s feelings and I don’t condone anything or not, but that is not for me to judge. The opportunity to pick his brain and to have him be around and talk to him and get to know him outside of all of that in a different capacity was what was important to me.”
Jackson has taken strong stances about character, and when that thought was directed at him, he said, “Absolutely, yeah, a strong stance with the people within our organization. This happened at a different time and not here so I can’t judge that. I understand everybody has an opinion about it, but I get to judge here and what goes on here in our building, and I don’t think those things have affected our building that way. Nothing happened here so I think I have to be able to judge by my relationship with him and what he is here doing for me now. I think that is what is important. Again, he is a guest. I hope you understand what the term guest means. It does not mean anybody is coaching anything, doing anything. Are they in our building around our players? Yes, but I think that is seen as a kind of loose term by everybody.
“I truly believe (he) is going to get back to doing what he does at some point in time. We have all been kind of knocked down before. I have, too. I have been unfairly judged before and judged correctly, too. I try not to do that with people. I try to take people for face value and who they are and what they are. I just know I have met him and have talked to him extensively, and I think, again, whatever has happened at Baylor, I am not condoning or him being here says that we condone anything. I have talked this through with our upper management because I asked is it OK for him to be here with me as my guest, and I got the OK. It was a good conversation with our people here and I think they understood where I was coming from. I don’t want to make it seem like, well, I’m trying to extend the olive branch. I’m trying to learn some other things that I think are good, but also getting to know somebody on a whole different level, which I think is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
I know Giants running back Rashad Jennings doesn’t agree with most analysts that usually try to focus all comments about the success of an offense on the quarterback. No questions were being asked when the Giants started 2-0. But, now that they have lost three straight, the critics are piling on quarterback Eli Manning. Again.
With a question about Manning failing to execute plays, Jennings said, “Eli is a tremendous quarterback. He understands the position and a lot of the times the success and failures for most critics go to the quarterback, but our quarterback ratings and stats are collectively a team stat, so we have to play better. It is not all on one person at all, especially Eli.”
Jennings really got animated when a reporter noted the criticism now revolves around Manning’s age. Manning is 35, but, of course, Brady is 39, Drew Brees of the Saints 37 and San Diego’s Philip Ruivers will be 35 in December.
Said Jennings, “Whoever says that and goes with a stereotype, ‘Let me pull this out, the idioms of the world,’ that is just easy. If you really study the game and know how the game operates, you understand that the quarterback position is expressed as a team, so that is just an immature statement and no, he is not on the decline at all.
“Eli is a tremendous quarterback and we will continue to win with him and so, obviously we have had losses, he has big shoulders and I am sure – being in the locker beside him for three years, he is always the one that takes ownership and looks at himself in the mirror first, but we can’t do that to him, no, it is definitely the team and the offensive side of the ball that needs to step it up too.”
I wonder if Bills running back LeSean McCoy realizes how confusing he sounded when he talked this week about the difference in the offense with Anthony Lynn as coordinator after the firing of Greg Roman after Week 2.
Asked about changes that were made, McCoy first said, “I think the biggest thing is just simplifying the offense, let talent find its place and just let us play. Taking the thinking part out of it and also he gives you so many things to prepare for in the running game.”
Hmmm. It’s simplified, but in the next breath, McCoy claims there are “so many things to prepare for.” He amplified on that by continuing, “There’s times where I’m behind the quarterback, I’m behind the fullback, running shotgun, running center. He does a lot of different mix ups; he even does the option. So as a defense you gotta watch us play, you gotta account for everything. You know I think that’s the most dangerous thing that he does he just gives the defense different looks to prepare for.”
You figure that one out.
I hope everyone realizes and accepts how much turnover numbers correlate to winning and losing in the NFL. It’s always been that way and always will be.
The five teams with the best turnover ratios entering Week 6 have a combined record of 19-5. Minnesota, plus-11, is 5-0; Buffalo, plus-9 is 3-2; Oakland, plus-7, is 4-1; Philadelphia, plus-5, is 3-1 and New England, plus-4 is 4-1. Those five teams have a total of only 12 turnovers with just 5 interceptions. The Vikings and Patriots don’t have an interception this season. The Vikings have 1 turnover, while Buffalo and Philadelphia have 2, Oakland 3 and New England 4. It’s also noteworthy that 4-1 Dallas has just 3 turnovers and no interceptions, but their ratio is plus-2 because they don’t have many takeaways.
At the bottom of the list, the five teams with the worst ratios are a combined 9-22: the Jets, minus-9, are 1-4; the Giants at minus-7 are 2-3, while Carolina and Miami are minus-7 and 1-4. Tampa Bay is minus-5 and is 2-3. Those five teams, plus Arizona (2-3) and San Diego (2-4), are the only teams with double-digit turnovers. Carolina has 14, the Jets and San Diego 13 (including Thursday night), Miami and Tampa Bay 11 and the Giants 10.
I know Lions head coach Jim Caldwell wishes he could put the genie back in the bottle after answering a question this week about young quarterbacks playing.
Very innocently, Caldwell was asked about the decision a coach makes regarding when a rookie quarterback is ready to play. Immersed in the current game, he might not have put two and two together and realized he was indirectly being asked about Rams No. 1 pick Jared Goff, who is on the bench while other rookie quarterbacks in the league are playing well. The Rams and Lions play Sunday.
Caldwell first said, “I think often times it depends on the young man. Depends on your situation. There are a lot of factors that go into it. What’s the supporting cast that you have around him? If they can assist in keeping him out of harm’s way, there’s a lot of different factors that you have to look at and determine. But usually, when you have a real talented young quarterback, it’s a pretty good problem to have.”
When the follow-up question referenced whether it would be an organizational or coaching decision, Caldwell quickly realized the hole he had begun digging for himself. So trying to extricate himself from the hole was what he did. He said, “Often times you guys probably notice that I try to stay away from certain subject matter. I see right now I should have stayed away from that one, because I’m not in position to talk to you about what they do, all those kinds of things. I could tell you if it happened to be me, but you guys will write it as if I said something in relationship to their situation, which I certainly don’t want to do.
“It’s probably a better question to ask Jeff (Fisher), it’s probably a better question to ask the guys that are dealing with those young guys. We haven’t had to deal with it in recent years. I can certainly surmise, I can certainly relate to back to some other situations that I’ve seen in the league. But, I think it’s out of place to be honest with you, because it’s dealing with them and their situation. Regardless of how you write it, it won’t look good, so let me backtrack on that statement.”
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz on what he has learned from backup Chase Daniel that he didn’t do in college: “Probably just the routine. You know, in college I was big on preparing but I was kind of all over the place depending on what the day brought. Obviously, here you don’t have school and everything so you really just get a routine and start getting used to it with how you prepare and how you go about watching tape and breaking it down. So that’s really what I’ve learned through Chase.”
Wentz on pronouncing new starting right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s name: “I don’t even want to try. It’s ‘Big V’ since I got here.”
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on what impressed him about Vaitai when he was selected in the fifth round of the draft in April: “He’s big, athletic. I mean, he swallowed up a lot of defensive ends in college. Very athletic. Versatile. And when you get to meet him and know him, and you get to see how smart and intelligent, the football intelligence, the IQ is there. Shake his hand. He’s got big, powerful, strong hands. Those are all things that intrigued us back when we had the opportunity to draft him.”
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien when asked for a comment on those that believe the AFC South is the weakest division in the NFL: “I don’t even know where that comes from. Whoever says that has never coached or played football. I think people that say that don’t understand how difficult it is to win in this league, regardless of who you’re playing, where you’re playing, what conference or what division. I don’t even understand that question.”
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on reactions to winning and losing in the NFL: “When you win games it makes it a lot easier for everyone around. When you lose, everyone wants to point the finger somewhere. Things have to be written and things need to be said. That’s just how it is, whether it’s the truth or not. That’s just the way the world works. You win and it’s like nothing ever happened.”
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles on hopefully having a significant role this week and how he feels about his knee: “It feels good. It’s time and it’s here. There’s no more hiding or peeking — I’ll be out there. You never know until you go out there and play. I can’t be worrying about my knee like that. If I worry about it, my focus isn’t going to be on the game. I’m going to out there, play and try to be who I used to be. I know how to ride now. It’s time to take the training wheels off and let me ride.”
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on whether his baby boy helps when he’s had a tough day: “He definitely helps. Everyone knows there have been some tough times here at work lately. It’s always nice to be able to go home – even if it is late – and get a smile before bed. It really caps off the day in a nice way. The nice thing is he doesn’t care. It’s like a better version of a dog. (laughter) Dogs don’t care what happened on your day. They’re happy to see you no matter what. A kid is the same thing, just even better.”
Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on presidential candidate Donald Trump claiming his comments caught on tape were “locker-room talk”: “We don’t say that stuff, though, what he said. We keep it clean. I got to check him on that. We don’t use that tone in here.”