|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)|
Michael Vick, QB - Eagles
This is as much about quarterback Michael Vick as it is about coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Through the first three games, Vick has nine turnovers -- six picks and three fumbles. Vick played near-flawless football against the Giants in Week 4. Butterfingers returned when the Eagles met the Steelers on Sunday, and Vick lost two fumbles, including one from Pittsburgh's 1-yard line.
Reid was asked Monday if Vick improvised on a play that looked a lot like a designed run.
“It was called," Reid said. "It was a play. They're a big, two-man team. They two-man it then walk the linebackers up on the ball, or they bring the inside linebackers and exchange with the outside guys. We felt that as long as we got a body on a body there [it would be] smooth sailing. They did bring the inside guys, but we didn't get it taken care of so it didn't work out."
You know what might've worked out? Giving the ball to the guy you paid $45 million over five years. Except LeSean McCoy wasn't in the game. Vick lined up in the shotgun with three receivers to his left and fullback Stanley Havili next to him in the backfield. (For what it's worth, Havili laid a nice block on linebacker Larry Foote who, incidentally, recovered Vick's fumble in the end zone.)
So did McCoy standing on the sidelines have anything to do with his inability to score near the goal line in the Giants game?
"That was a third-down situation," Reid explained, "so that's when they [run the two-man and] we call a QB draw. It had nothing to do with the Giants. That's a play we've run before with [Vick], actually the year before. That's the same look, just opposite side. It's what we've had in before.”
But this is about more than one ill-conceived play near near the end zone. Vick, now in his 11th NFL season, still struggles with pre-snap reads.
During the first drive of the game, with the Eagles facing a second-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 43, Vick lined up in shotgun. The Steelers showed an overload blitz from Vick's right with LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Jeremy Maclin, lined up wide right, appeared to be the hot receiver on the play. Instead, Vick took the snap, immediately looked left, never realizing the pressure coming from his blindside. He avoided Timmons' initial pressure but was eventually brought down for no gain by Ziggy Hood.
If Vick had recognized the blitz before the snap, he could've delivered the easy pass to Maclin for a gain of eight to 10 yards. It's easy to point to the turnovers, but this is a big problem, too.
|Vick doesn't realize two blitzing linebackers are on his right. (FOX)|
|Vick's still looking left as the blitzers close in. Maclin, meanwhile, is wide open. (FOX)|
Jared Gaither, LT -- Chargers
Remember this offseason, following an undewhelming 8-8 season, when everybody was surprised that Norv Turner kept his job in San Diego? Well, it's guys like Jared Gaither who are ultimately going to get Turner canned.
Here's how the final 28 seconds of Sunday night's game against the Saints played out: With San Diego trailing 31-24 and the ball on New Orleans' 33-yard line, quarterback Philip Rivers throws incomplete. Fine. Incomplete passes happen all the time.
One problem: Gaither, the Chargers' left tackle, looks like he has been hit with a tranquilizer dart. NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth makes note of this, and he even says what anyone half-paying attention was already thinking: If Gaither stays in, he's going to get Rivers killed and the game is over.
Gaither stayed in. Rivers got killed. The game was over. Specifically, linebacker Martez Wilson ran by Gaither with all the skill required to pass a lamppost on the street, strip-sacked Rivers, and then recovered the fumble for good measure. Ballgame.
Here's the thing: Turner was unaware that Gaither came up lame in the Chargers' penultimate play.
“It wasn't brought to my attention,” he said Monday.
This isn't on Turner. You'd like to think that if a player is at, say, 12 percent of full strength in the game's most important moment, he'd have the decency to let someone know about it. That didn't happen.
“He's looking down from up above,” Turner said of Collinsworth's omnipresent ability to see what was about to happen. “It was actually in the third-to-last play he strained his groin a little bit. I would rather have him come out in that situation. He got back in the huddle. Obviously, there's no way you could see it. I think Cris saw it on the next play where Philip had to throw the ball away and the last play was the sack. You'd like Jared to come out of the game. We could have put [Mike] Harris in. It would have helped us. I think he wanted to fight through it and felt he could play.”
Unless Wilson was supposed to fall down, there's no way that Gaither was going to stop him. And while it's swell that Gaither wanted to grit it out, it was to the detriment of his team. That doesn't make Gaither a bad player or morph the Chargers suddenly into the Chiefs, but this is an outfit with a fondness for underachievement in recent seasons. And Turner doesn't have a lot of room for screw-ups that potentially cost his team games.
Cardinals offensive line
If Jared Gaither is looking for a bright side to how his evening ended Sunday, there's always this: at least he's not a part of Arizona's offensive line. The Cardinals faced the Rams last Thursday night in a game that saw quarterback Kevin Kolb sacked nine times. The week before, Kolb went down eight times against the Dolphins. Running for your life isn't the way to instill confidence in a quarterback who already has confidence issues.
But credit to Kolb for getting up every time he got knocked into the dirt. He's still all over the place in terms of consistency, but you can't question his toughness. Unfortunately for Arizona, injuries and iffy personnel decisions might doom what has been a great start to the Cardinals' season. They're 4-1. But without five guys who can protect the quarterback, this season is about to take a turn for the worse.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt won't blame the O-line (he points out this group only allowed five sacks through the first three games). Instead, he thinks at this stage of the season rest might be the best things for the Cardinals.
“Physically, it really wouldn't be productive for us right now [to practice],” he said last Friday. “We've got too many injuries. With only 53 guys, I don't know how many guys it would be smart to try and make practice today. Sometimes you have to think about getting them rest and health so you don't have to deal with these things all season.”
(And this was before the Cards lost running back Ryan Williams for the season with a shoulder injury.)
Whisenhunt might not want to point fingers, but the reality is this: Arizona has to do something. ProFootballFocus.com charts every play of every game and noted that "The three worst offenders, Bobby Massie, D'Anthony Batiste, and Adam Snyder were in their customary level of performance this week (against the Rams). Each player allowed at least five pressures and both Batiste and Snyder accounted for a trio of sacks allowed apiece."
Whether you want to admit it or not, that's a huge issue.
With the way that things are going, this is going to turn into a recurring segment. The Bills were featured in this space last week after taking a 14-point lead on the Patriots only to watch New England go on a 44-14 run. Not wanting to be outdone, the 49ers continued the beatdown, hanging 45 points on the Bills in a game that was essentially over by halftime.
|This is not Chan Gailey's happy face. (US Presswire)|
More fun with numbers:
* The 49ers gained 601 yards, a single-game franchise record. (Think about that for a second. We're not talking about Joe Montana or Jerry Rice or Steve Young. This is Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis.)
* The Bills' defense has allowed 89 points in the last six quarters.
It's so bad that the guy who assembled the roster, general manager Buddy Nix, has no explanation for what the hell is going on.
"What I see is not enough intensity and urgency," Nix said during a conference call. "When you miss tackles, usually it's one of two things: It's talent or lack of effort. And we've seen these guys do it before, so I think they can. But we've got to get that urgency back somehow."
It better not be talent -- the Bills forked over $100 million for Mario Williams who, to date, has been slightly more effective than Shawne Merriman, who was released in August. But according to the general manager this is about more than one player.
"There's really no excuse for losing the way we did," Nix continued. "It's not just Mario. Mario actually plays better than people give him credit for. Not to defend him; he can play better. We expect him to, but so can everybody else. I mean, we all need to play better. ... I don't care who's getting paid what; none of us have earned it the last couple weeks."
On this we all can agree.
The Bills, who face the Cardinals on Sunday in what could be a game of attrition, stayed out west this week instead of traveling across the country twice. The Buffalo News' Tim Graham asked quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick if a team trip to Sedona, Ariz., land of good energy and upscale hippie boutiques, was on the schedule.
"Light some incense," Fitzpatrick said, "and just put a triangle above my head and do all that stuff."
And if the Bills' defense continues to play like, well, the Bills' defense, be prepared to light some matches, too.
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