|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. (US Presswire)|
Greg Little, WR - Browns
It's rare that we include a player from a Thursday night game in Coach Killers. In NFL terms, it seems like years ago, but we're making an allowance for Greg Little's unexceptional effort in last Thursday's Browns-Ravens get-together. No one gave Cleveland a chance going into the game but if not for a few bad breaks -- several courtesy of Little -- they could be 1-3 right now. It's not much but it's something.
The 2011 second-round pick out of UNC is exactly what you'd want in a prototypical wide receiver -- big, strong, fast -- except that he's not much of a pass-catcher. Of all the attributes, that one's the most important. Leave it to the Browns to forget to tick that box when they scouted him. (Relax. That's a joke. We think.)
On the game's most important drive Thursday with the Browns trailing 23-13 and 4:45 left in the fourth quarter, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden hit Little in the hands for what should've been a 34-yard touchdown pass to cut Baltimore's lead to three points. Little dropped it.
Was it a tough catch? Yeah, sure. But this is the NFL, where Jerry Glanville once reminded folks stood for "Not for Long" if you don't do your job.
"(I'm supposed) to beat the guy and get through the middle of the field," Little said after the game. "(Weeden) moved around in the pocket, kept it alive and threw it up so that I could make a play on it. I just have to come down with it. It's a tough catch and I don't even know how to categorize it. It's a tough one but if you want to be a great player then you want to make plays that people will remember, and put your team in a position to come back and win the game.”
Little, who had 10 targets and three drops on the evening, hauled in a 43-yarder earlier in the game to set up the Browns' first touchdown, so there's that. But clearly, it's not enough. By almost any measure, he's ben a disappointment and if the Browns want win more than, well, no games this season, it's going to require a coordinated effort from everybody, including the team's alleged big-play wide receiver.
Jets run defense
Sanchez. Tebow. Tebow. Sanchez. This has been the storyline since the Jets got the bright idea to trade for Tim Tebow this spring. And now that that's come to a head, there isn't much else to talk about. But that doesn't mean there aren't countless other issues plaguing this team.
|Rex, at a loss for answers, just stares. (US Presswire)|
In fact, you could argue that the run defense is as big a liability to the Jets' success as that punchless offense. Consider these numbers: 195, 66, 185, 245. Those are the net rushing yards allowed by Rex Ryan's defense in four uninspired weeks. The Bills, Steelers, Dolphins, and most recently the 49ers.
More fun facts: Buffalo was five yards short of 200 despite trailing for virtually the entire game. Pittsburgh might have the worst running game in the league. And San Francisco's average yards per rush matched their average yards per pass (5.6).
Oh, and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh took time out from whipping the Jets to show Ryan how to properly run the wildcat with an athletic backup quarterback. Colin Kaepernick had five rushes for 50 yards, including a 30-yard run and a seven-yard touchdown.
Ryan hit the highlights in his post-game press conference, which turned into an impromptu stand-up act.
"Here's a recipe for gettin' your a-- kicked," he explained. "Two for 13 on third down, that's 15 percent. Four turnovers, a blocked punt when they rush one guy, and giving up 245 yards rushing. How's that for a recipe?"
Pretty good. There's one ingredient Ryan forgot: the defense quit. At least that's how 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers saw it.
"It kind of seemed like, after a while they just, I know, looking at their defense, they didn't want to be out there," Rogers said via NFL.com. "After that, it was like, man, these guys, they don't really want to play the game, you know it's [pretty much over. "It kind of shocked me just because, you know, a lot of guys said on the sideline, 'Oh, they don't want to tackle, they don't want to do this, they don't want to do that. That's a Rex Ryan defense, that's a Rex Ryan team. .. His defense, you know, plays throughout. That was the shocking point about it."
The solution, obviously: move Tebow to cornerback.
Tony Romo, QB - Cowboys
Here's what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said back in January, weeks after his team completed another uninspiring season and missed the playoffs.
“I thought (Tony) Romo was competing at a level that would've given us that opportunity (to be in the postseason) but the rest of us need to play better and get better before we can really gel the way the Giants are.”
After Romo's five-interception extravaganza against the Bears Monday night that dropped the Cowboys to 2-2, Jones sounded … well, surprisingly upbeat.
"I like where we are with Romo at quarterback," he said via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "No one learns more from his experiences than Tony. This time last year with Detroit in the fourth game, point noted. He came back and never played better. I think the Detroit game had something to do with that. If we can get the same kind of response he had last year when he had a downer. If he can come back and do that we will be fine."
Using Jones' logic, Romo has a wealth of knowledge to draw on as he tries to get the Cowboys back on track (again).
We have a soft spot for Romo -- we've long though that he was a top-10(ish) quarterback and figured he was a terrible person in a previous life based on what's happened to him in this one. The bigger concern may be wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose bouts with consistency flared up against the Bears. He dropped passes and an apparent miscommunication with Romo led directly to a Chicago pick-6 and an early 10-0 deficit. Despit Romo and Bryant appearing to acknowledge a change in the coverage prior to the snap, after the game they both sounded like they had been victimized by a great play from Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.
"Just got to give credit to the DB," Bryant said via ESPNDallas.com. "We thought he was going to go in something else and he stopped and he played it and he just made a good play on me."
Romo added: "You just have to give great credit to the defensive back. We thought that he was going (to press) and he stopped and he played it (zone) and he just made a good play on (the ball)."
Lucky for Jones and the Cowboys, Romo responds well after a beatdown.
A few things to know about the Chiefs. In their latest loss, a blowout at the hands of the Chargers, Kansas City's offense had six turnovers. Five in the first half. There's more: we're now at the point in the season when coach Romeo Crennel has to consider benching Matt Cassel for … Brady Quinn.
“At some point, as a coach, you go through and you see what's happening in the game and how a guy is reacting and how he's responding to what's happening in the game,” Crennel said Monday. “If you feel he's inept, constantly making poor decisions, bad choices, then that's when you move on from him and give someone else a chance.”
And before you say "Yeah, but despite all those turnovers, the Chiefs out-gained the Chargers and Jamaal Charles ran for 92 yards!" (JC also had two fumbles. Just saying), we'd point out that that's whatever's worse than putting lipstick on a pig. According to Football Outsiders, Kansas City's offense ranks 30th in the league ahead of the juggernauts in New York (the Jets, obviously) and St. Louis.
While the running game is a respectable 17th, the passing game is somehow worse than the Jets -- and every other team in the league. (Worse than Jacksonville?! Yep. Worse than Cleveland?! Yes sir.) That's as clear a sign as you're going to get that something has to change. And maybe it's not just Cassel, whose career has been one long struggle with inconsistency.
When your coach questions your mental toughness it's a sign that if you haven't hit rock bottom it's not far off. The good news: despite two blowout losses at the hands of division opponents, Buffalo's 2-2. The bad news: they were blown out -- twice -- by division opponents and it's a troubling development.
|Mario says 'something's up.' Yeah, it is. (US Presswire)|
"You can't be ahead 21-7 in the third quarter, if we're mentally tough like we need to be, that game doesn't end up the way it ended up," coach Chan Gailey said. "That's my responsibility, to work on the mental toughness and the mindset of this football team."
Second-year defensive lineman Marcell Dareus didn't disagree.
"Mental toughness we've still got to work on it,” he said. “I really think it can be developed. When I was in college it was grown. In college (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban instilled it in players and that's where we are now."
Not only did Buffalo allowed two Patriots receivers to gain for 100 yards, they also gave up 100 yards on the ground to two different running backs.
"One of our goals was to stop the run," said linebacker Bryan Scott. "Obviously it was an epic failure when it comes to that."
Epic fail, indeed.
Mario Williams, who signed a $100 million contract this offseason, says it's about holding everyone accountable.
"Something's up," he said. "We've definitely got to come into the room, have a reality check and see what is going on. We need it. We definitely need it."
Here's a great solution, courtesy of CBSSports.com commenter Retiarius27: "Work on mental toughness, tackling, press coverage, zone coverage, man coverage, blitzing, pass rushing, gap assignment, and containment and they'll be all right."
It would be a good start, anyway. Next up: the 49ers, who are fresh off whipping up on the Jets. So, yeah, things could get worse before they get better.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.