Blog Entry

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:19 am
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 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,'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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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 16, 2012 5:49 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: December 25, 2011 7:02 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

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Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:46 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 23, 2011 11:18 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: September 21, 2011 4:43 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Can we at least put blame in the right place?  Brandon Browner doesn't get to choose where he lines up.  If he's told to jam, he'll jam (or at least attempt).  It's the coaching staff's fault for falling in love with tall defensive backs, then having them play like they're midgets.  Same reason they kept a scrub like Durham when he was outplayed in the preseasons.  "Well, he's tall."  It's like they asked fans to put together the team for them.  (Seattle fans have whined about short DBs and not having a 7 foot tall receiver for several seasons, ignoring the fact that talent is still required over size).

I am still floored that the Seahawks signed Tarvaris Jackson and named him the starter because "he knows the offense".  Big deal.  If he sucks in that offense, what good does knowing it do?  It's not even that he doesn't go through his progressions, even though that's bad enough.  It's that he starts with his #3 option and rarely completes a pass more than 5 yards downfield.  He brings a whole new level of suck to the position.  It's sickening that he's so afraid of making a mistake that he won't even attempt to make a play.  The prediction before the season started was that after an 0-3 start Jackson would play his way to the bench.  With more physical talent than the last couple of seasons, maybe fans will start to realize that coaching and QB play matter, and the QB they gave up is a lot better than the one they got.

On a brighter note, way to sign your own epitaph, Tony Sparano.  When the head coach says he doesn't have any answers, who does?  That's kind of one of the requirements of the job.  On the good side for the Dolphins, at least Henne is better than the Seahawks' Jackson.

Since: Sep 19, 2007
Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:07 pm

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

How kind of you not to mention the Colts.

Since: Sep 7, 2007
Posted on: September 21, 2011 10:39 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Hey Reggie, How do ya like playing with those Dolphins so far?

Since: Jan 20, 2007
Posted on: September 21, 2011 10:22 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

8Cowboys22, You must really like African Amercian quarterbacks if you said that David Garrard is a pretty good starter and Tavaras Jackson is decent.  You have them up one level each.  Garrard is decent and Tavaris is bad.  Stick with the good ones like Vick, McNabb (a few years ago) and Josh Freeman.  Jason Campbell is decent as well. 

Since: May 22, 2007
Posted on: September 21, 2011 7:59 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Let's face it, the Jaguars gave up any chance of a winning season when they cut QB David Garrard...a pretty good starter, I might add. What's even more surprising is no one has picked him up. He's got to be a s good or better than Kerry Collins. Which reminds me, why aren't the Colts coaches on this list, or was that last week? Either way with the Jags, Luke McCown is a stiff, always has been and always will be.

As for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks...he ran away from the NFL once and this ain't college baby. The evidence is obvious...adding Tavaras Jackson to be your starter and then signing Sidney Rice would be too much for anyone. Jackson is decent, but they had better options...resigning Matt Hasselback was one of them.

Since: Nov 7, 2010
Posted on: September 21, 2011 3:24 am

Coach Killers, Week 2: McCown's magnificent 1.8

Haley was a mastermind when had Warner/Fitz?faneca on OL coached by Grimm!!!..
Luke McCown was nothing special before and i don't think this August transformed him in a NFL starter
how about Carroll and Seattle?i think too much power to Carroll..he's changin personals every day...stability in one of the key for NFL team...this team could have a better success ran a 3-4 because of lack a good rusher DEs(mebane,bryant,branch fit 3-4DE..cole was a perfect NT...Clemons/Curry as OLB)...just safeties look very good!..
Seattle give the key of the team to Tav Jackson, Mike Williams..what a joke...M.Lynch 6 carries?when you have Jackson as QB and the only good reciever on the sideline!!...wonderful work of Carroll!!...
trade Jennings for DL McDonald? comment
Seattle is at the top of the this standings

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