While wondering if Week 2 games will be as compelling as Week 1 when the first 14 were decided by a total of 72 points, although that was followed by the two Monday night games being decided by a total of 50.
I wonder if Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan realizes what a bad look it is when he fires offensive coordinator Greg Roman after two games this season and 18 overall after joining Ryan in Buffalo last year. Or, if he does realize, whether he cares. Roman had success during the San Francisco 49ers’ stretch with Jim Harbaugh as head coach, and during Friday’s press conference after the firing, Ryan referred to Roman as “a great” coach five times and “tremendous” one other. The bad look, of course, is that Roman wasn’t one of Rex’s “guys,” which most of his assistants are, including new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who previously was assistant head coach/running backs. Lynn, like seven other coaches on his staff, was with Ryan previously with the New York Jets.
Of course, one of those is defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, whose group didn’t exactly acquit itself very well in Thursday night’s loss to the Jets. Then, there’s brother Rob, the team’s assistant head coach/defense, who in his 12 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator has had teams in the top half of the league in points allowed twice and yards allowed three times. Conversely, there have been six rankings of 30th or worse. Here are the unflattering results, with the first figure representing points allowed the second, yards:
Oakland, 2004-2008: 31/30, 25/27, 18/3, 26/22, 24/27. Total: 124/109. Average: 24.8/21.8
Cleveland, 2009-2010: 21/31, 13/22. Total: 34/53. Average: 17.00/26.5
Dallas, 2011-2012: 16/14, 24/19. Total: 40/33. Average: 20.0/16.5
New Orleans, 2013-2105: 4/4, 28/31, 32/31. Total: 64/66. Average: 21.3/22.0
Amazingly, the 12 years of rankings totals 262/261, an everage of 21.8 for both.
Finally, there were answers to these questions Friday:
Q: You had a speech to your players that said if things didn’t go right, you were going to be the first one to go. Now that Greg’s the first one to go, do you worry that the message might ring a little bit hollow?
A: Well I think, first off, I’m accountable for everything that goes on and that’s everything on the field, everything in here, offense, defense, special teams, I’m accountable. I’m also accountable for making these decisions, and that does fall on me, there’s no doubt about it, and I accept that responsibility.
Q: People will look at the defense’s performance last night instead of the offense’s and wonder how the offensive coordinator gets fired. How do you respond to that?
A: Well I understand. I understand and certainly the defense has to improve, there is no doubt about that. But I think if it was appropriate to do something else, then I would’ve, but to me I thought this was the move that I felt that we needed to make to help our team moving forward.
A bad look, indeed.
I hope that Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor gets a chance to play a little quarterback in special situations Sunday against Baltimore. Head coach Hue Jackson, who coached Pryor when he was a quarterback with the Oakland Raiders, hinted at that when he was asked if rookie quarterback Kevin Hogan would be elevated from the practice squad to the active roster after Robert Griffin III was placed on injured reserve this week. Said Jackson, “No, I have not made that decision yet. I think it is a little too early. We have to let these guys work and see where we are. We have a plan in place in case we needed a third quarterback. I think I got a pretty good one on the roster. I just stashed him away a little bit. He is doing other things. I’m sure you guys will figure that one out, but we will be OK.”
I know that Jackson hopes Josh McCown, the replacement for Griffin, can play even close to as well as he did last season when he passed for 457 yards in an overtime win over Baltimore, his only victory as a starter last season. The Browns’ home opener is Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Acknowledging he watched the film/tape/tablet of the game, Jackson said, “I said this a long time ago: I think any guy that can stay in this league for 15 years, when you have those kind of skins on the wall, that says a lot just right there. Obviously to watch him play in the game a year ago, the way he played was outstanding. I have a lot of respect for Josh, and I think you guys all know that. I’m full-speed ahead with Josh. I think he will go out and play well, extremely well, and help lead our offense and get us to playing football the way we need to play and give us an opportunity. We expect him to do that. That is why we kept him here.”
Jackson then encouraged fans that have experienced consistent losing and organizational dysfunction in recent seasons. He said, “I can’t worry about what everybody has been through here. I’m being very honest. I think you guys know me, I don’t worry about what everybody else has done, been through, what people should not say, what they should say. I am going to do the best job that I can do. That is all Hue Jackson can do. The fans might not like me for a while, but they are going to love me here pretty soon.
“Eventually, they will love me. I promise you that because I do plan on winning here. I do get it. I know with every loss there is another dagger that just drags you down another few feet deeper. That is OK. I’ve been there before. I am a fighter so we are going to get back up and we are going to keep swinging. We are going to be fine.”
I wonder when the entire NFL world will realize there is a rising star playing middle linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last season, rookie fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander was second on the team with 93 tackles — in 12 games. He added 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles and 9 passes defensed. He missed the final four games of the season for violating the NFL policy on PEDs. At the time of the suspension, the Bucs were 6-6, had won three of their previous four games and had dreams of a playoff berth. Without Alexander, the Bucs lost their last four games and allowed 119 points (29.8 per game). An argument could be made that it contributed to head coach Lovie Smith losing his job.
So, what did Alexander do in Tampa Bay’s 31-24 win over Atlanta in Week 1? Merely amass 17 tackles (15 unassisted), with a sack, 2 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback hits. Asked the following day about Alexander’s growth, head coach Dirk Koetter said, “What’s different is Kwon’s not a rookie and he wants to take more ownership of the defense, which is great. You want that from all your guys. We already have talked at other press conferences where Kwon spent all that time in training camp up there meeting with Smitty (defensive coordinator Mike Smith) every single morning.
“Last night on the plane, I walked to the back of the plane, players were laughing and messing around; Kwon was watching the game on his Surface. I walked through the locker room pregame, when some guys are stretching, some guys are seeing how cool they look in their uniform; Kwon was watching tape on his Surface. That’s preparation and he’s doing a good job of that. I think guys that want to be great, they find ways as they go from rookies into how they become better pros. And when you’re a pro, you find ways to get better.”
Sunday, the Bucs will play their second consecutive home game, against 0-1 Arizona.
I hope Ravens head coach John Harbaugh doesn’t feel compelled to talk about eating boogers ever again. Yes, he did that this week after the Internet went crazy with videos and alleged evidence that his brother Jim, Michigan’s head coach, had eaten a booger.
The conversation started when John was asked about referring to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco being “tough as a $2 steak.” Asked where that originated, he said with his father Jack. John said, “That is Jack Harbaugh. I think it is (from) a western movie somewhere along the way, maybe (former actor) Jimmy Stewart, I’m guessing, but my brother and I heard that regularly growing up all the time. That was like the ultimate compliment if he said that we played as tough as a $2 steak. I have heard Jim say it before. I figured I needed to get in on the fun.”
Of course, mentioning his brother, John had to chime in on the booger controversy without even being asked. He said. “Hey, can I just say something for the record since we are talking about Cleveland and there is a lot of family in the area? My brother has never eaten a booger (laughter). I went back and looked at the whole (tape). I actually saw it live and then put it into review, threw the red flag, put it into review, went back and watched some slow motion. It definitely was a nose rub, nothing came out and a fingernail chew. I think it is important that we set the record straight on that. Are we laughing, are we having fun with that or is everybody taking it serious? Or are we just stunned writing it down? I don’t know, I can’t see you guys (more laughter).”
Making matters worse, a reporter then felt compelled to ask if he had ever eaten a booger. Said John, “Never. That is forbidden. You know, occasionally in private you might – start to use a Kleenex, put it that way (laughter). You have to draw the line there. What would be the point? What would you gain from that? I don’t understand that. I’m not going any further with that. It is funny because I had this very conversation with (Ravens safety) Eric Weddle before practice, and we drilled deep on it about why that could ever even happen. We both had friends that it did happen with. It was really usually paying 50 cents or something, but after that, I just don’t see the advantage. I don’t see where that could take you.”
I know that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made a generous gesture when he talked about Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson coming back from a torn ACL. Peterson, of course, had a historic season in 2012 after tearing anACL late in the 2011 season. He not only made it back for the season opener, but then came just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards in a season. Dickerson averaged 6.0 yards per attempt and scored 12 touchdowns.
In a conference call with Packers media this week in advance of Sunday night’s game between the two teams, Peterson said of Nelson, “He has to mentally understand that his ACL, that ligament in particular, is stronger than the one he didn’t tear. So, pass that message on to him — that the one he tore is stronger than the one he didn’t tear, so go out there and just cut it loose. You’ve got to play fast, you’ve got to have that confidence to understand that piece of it and know that I can go all out and not be impotent and I’m still going to be good.”
We’ll see if Peterson regrets the advice Sunday night.
I wonder if Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum will play better Sunday in the team’s home opener against Seattle than he did Monday night at San Francisco. Of course, it wouldn’t be very difficult to show improvement. In a league that featured 15 quarterbacks with a passer rating of 95.1 or more in Week 1 and with seven of those 100 or better, Keenum had a dismal 34.2 rating. He did have a creative way of describing what happened that night.
“I over-thought a lot of things,” he said. “You know, if the word over-prepare is something, I think that I was seeing ghosts; I was seeing things that weren’t there. I wasn’t trusting myself and my abilities. I tried too hard. Just have to let the game come to me, take what the defense gives me, trust my teammates – they do a great job, and get the ball out of my hands to the right place.” Ah, ghosts. He might see a lot of them Sunday in the Coliseum, especially those from Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s past at the Coliseum when he was with Southern Cal.
I hope Broncos running back Devontae Booker has a better beginning of the game Sunday against Indianapolis than he did in the season opener against Carolina. On his first rushing attempt as a pro, the fourth-round pick fumbled on the opening possession of the game. He had just two more carries the rest of the half and didn’t touch the ball in the final two quarters. He played just six snaps, and gained 8 rushing yards. Running back C.J. Anderson said he counseled Booker. “We just told him things are a lot faster, things are a little different,” Anderson said. “There are some things that he can correct that (running backs coach Eric) Studesville spoke about. There are some things that he can definitely correct because he’s used to carrying it a certain way in college, because in college you get holes and in the NFL you get creases, so you don’t have too much time to play around with the ball. That’s just something that we told him and he sees that now and he’ll be ready to go.”
I know that players and coaches often have amusing answers to off-the-wall questions from the media.
*After giving a non-answer to a question regarding reports that the 49ers were being ripped apart by player protests begun by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, quarterback Blaine Gabbert was asked if he disagreed that the fabric of the team has been ripped. Said Gabbert, “I don’t know who personally said the fabric’s been ripped, but none of my fabric’s been ripped. My shirts are intact.”
*Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known to give non-answers or no answers to subjects he doesn’t want to talk about. When it comes to football, however, if he likes the question, he can go on for 972 words as did earlier this week discussing the use of timeouts at the end of games. Other subjects? That’s where we get the classic Belichick.
*Q: Since Sunday night, how many calls have you taken from teams about potential trades for Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady?
A: Yeah, we’re really just focused on getting ready for Miami. That’s what we’ve been working on. That’s what we plan on working on all week.
*Q: When you look back at last season, how much do you second-guess the approach you took going into that game down in Miami last year?
BB: Right now we’re focused on playing them this week. The 2015 review, I’m sure you did that. That was great. I’m sure you did a great job on it. We’re really past it. We’re on to 2016. We’re playing the Dolphins.
Q: I only bring it up because you have referenced the game down there last year.
A: I’m referencing the game that we competed against them. I’d say that’s relevant. Last time we played that team it didn’t go very well, so I hope we can play them more competitively this year.
Q: How much of that game’s outcome last year was due to the approach you took going into it?
A: We approach every game differently. I mean we have different players, they have different players, they have different coaches. It’s obviously going to be different. Every game is going to be different. Just like a doubleheader in baseball is different. You’ve got two different pitchers pitching. Yeah, it’s different.
Q: You seemed to have a really balanced attack this past Sunday. How do you keep that going this week?
BB: Well, we’re playing Miami this week so it’ll be a whole new challenge, whole different team. Everything’s different. We’re going to have to do a good job against Miami. It doesn’t matter what we did some other week, some other game. It doesn’t matter. (For those counting, he said the word different 11 times.)
*Q: Have you ever gone wild at a Bruce Springsteen concert?
A: I’ve seen a few wild Springsteen concerts, yeah.
*Q: Did you have anything to do with the Tom Brady banner coming down in preparation for the home opener?
BB: We’re talking about Miami.
Q: But in preparation for the Miami game did you have any discussion about it coming down?
A: In preparation for Miami, I’ve been talking about Miami and working on Miami. I don’t do concerts, I don’t do banners, I don’t do parking, I don’t do concessions. I just try to coach the team.