|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)|
Everybody but RG3 - Redskins
Not even Robert Griffin III could save the Redskins from themselves last Sunday. The Steelers dominated both sides of the ball thanks in no small part to 10 dropped passes by would-be Washington receivers, and the 11 cardboard cutouts posing as Washington defenders. It was enough to make the usually unflappable RG3 appear frustrated.
(Also not helping: the hare-brained decision to send Griffin, easily the 'Skins' best player -- and the franchise's only hope at something more than mediocrity -- out on a pass route, where he was promptly a) called for pass interference and b) blasted by Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Not to worry; coach Mike Shanahan feels awful about it.)
In general, the RG3 story has been one of the highlights of the first two months of the season. He has exceeded everyone's expectations, and it's only Halloween. Assuming Shanahan doesn't have grand designs on having Griffin play more wide receiver or maybe even return punts, he's only going to get better. After the Giants eked out a Week 7 win over the 'Skins, Osi Umenyiora said RG3 was "the best quarterback we've played this year." He was serious.
But here's the problem, one that was painfully obvious in Pittsburgh: Griffin has absolutely no help. Yes, there's rookie running back Alfred Morris, who's having a swell season, but beyond that who is there?
|Here's DeAngelo Hall getting steamrolled. (US Presswire)|
The Redskins have been victimized by injuries -- Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis on offense, and Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker on defense are huge losses -- but this is the NFL, every team is dealing with these issues. The difference: Washington doesn't have any depth. This has been a hallmark of the Dan Snyder 'Skins -- plenty of big names (historically, they've also been on the downside of good careers) but not much beyond that.
Under Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen things have been different, but the roster, as currently constituted, will be hard-pressed to win consistently. Unlike previous seasons with Jason Campbell or Donovan McNabb or the tag-team duo of Rex Grossman and John Beck, Griffin is legit. This team could be 5-3, maybe 6-2. But as Bill Parcells reminds us: "You are what your record says you are."
And for Washington, that means they'll need to get hot in the second half of the season to have a chance to sniff the playoffs. It also means Garcon needs to get healthy, tight end Logan Paulsen needs to magically morph into Fred Davis, and the other non-catching pass-catchers need to hold onto the ball with some regularity. But that's only half the problem. There's also that defense.
Usually, a defense is better in one phase of the game than another. The Redskins are so bad it's impossible to distinguish where they're worse. They were steamrolled by the Steelers' third-string back, Jonathan Dwyer, and went coverage-optional against one of the league's best young receiver corps in passing situations. The results were predictable: Pittsburgh dominated the time of possession, had scoring drives of 10, 11 and 12 plays, and the eminently sackable Ben Roethlisberger went untouched.
From the perspective of late October, RG3 is the rookie of the year. But if Washington wants be a playoff team, they're going to need to surround their franchise quarterback with … well, a lot.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin - Eagles defense
At least the Eagles are finding new and exciting ways to lose. If variety is the spice of life, Philly is a bowl of potpourri. Of course, critics might point out that it's to cover the stench of some truly dreadful football. After all, if coach Andy Reid, infallible after the bye, can't get his team to show up after a bye all hope is lost, right?
That was rhetorical; Reid's as good as gone. Barring a miracle along the lines of what Tim Tebow did for the Broncos last season, Reid will be looking for work in January if not sooner. And he won't be alone. There's a good chance quarterback Michael Vick will be right there with him.
The great irony, of course, is that with all the speculation that this is the week Vick finally loses his job (he sounds like he won't … for now), he's finally starting to take care of the ball and make better decisions. But this is how Reid operates, apparently.
Before the bye, when it was clear that the offense was the root of most of the Eagles' ills, Reid canned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. And after the D's no-show effort against the Falcons, it only makes sense that Vick's job would now be on the line.
Whatever, the reality is this: new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles somehow made things worse. Or maybe he just has terrible timing. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was signed to a $60 million deal before the 2011 season, was again victimized, this time by Julio Jones, the lowlight a 63-yard touchdown in which Jones blew past Asomugha off the line of scrimmage and easily outran him to the end zone.
"He just created separation and got it," Asomugha said later. "It was nothing special or anything particular that happened. He just got it."
The secondary's job would be decidedly easier if there was something resembling a pass rush. Which brings us to another high-priced player, defensive end Jason Babin. A year ago, he had 18 sacks and 12.5 in 2010. Through seven games, Babin has three -- and none in the last four outings. The drop in productivity could explain why Babin was on the field for a season-low 33 snaps against Atlanta.
"You know what, that's the way it goes," Babin said according to CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank. "I'm going to keep fighting, I'm going to bring my A-game every day, and if that's what coach wants to do, it's his decision. He's the boss. We're sruggling as a whole defensive line to get sacks. It's obvious. So he's just trying to figure out a way, whether it's by design or to influence or to motivate.
"You don't know what his rationale is, but I can't get upset, I can't get mad. I've got to keep working and be more productive."
You better hurry up because in three months, this Eagles team could look completely different.
Jets special teams
There isn't a lot to say about the Jets at this point. They're the league's most scrutinized team with most of the focus usually on the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow quarterbackin' melodrama. But it's not just the offense that explains this team's 3-5 start. The run defense has been a joke and the special teams has occasionally been worse. Like, say, against the Dolphins.
How about this for a first half:
11:02, 1st quarter: After a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, the Dolphins successfully converted an onside kick but not before the ball went through the hands of defensive back Josh Bush.
4:03, 1st quarter: Following a Sanchez sack due to a poor pre-snap blitz read (see the gruesome details here) that set up fourth down, Dolphins cornerback Jimmy Wilson blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown. Miami 10, New York 0.
:53, 2nd quarter: A play earlier, Sanchez misses Stephen Hill for what would've been a touchdown. Nick Folk's field-goal attempt is promptly blocked (of course it is). Miami 20, New York 0.
11:53, 3rd quarter: The Jets finally get on the board with a field goal. The ensuing kickoff is returned 57 yards to the New York 40-yard line. Six player later, Miami scores again. Nice momentum killer. Miami 27, New York 3
This reminds us of a Rex Ryan-ism following the Week 4 beatdown at the hands of the 49ers.
"He're a recipe for gettin' your ass kicked," he said. "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?"
The Jets were slightly better on third downs (5 for 17), only had one turnover, and held the Dolphins to just 97 rushing yards, but the blocked punt was present and accounted for.
Obviously, this is Tebow's fault.
Philip Rivers, QB - Chargers
Chargers wide receiver Robert Meachem easily could've gotten the name-check here -- he did drop one of the rare on-target downfield passes from Philip Rivers in Sunday's loss to the Browns. But that was one play. A big one, for sure, but something's wrong with Rivers and he's playing no small part in this team's race to the bottom.
|There are no words. (US Presswire)|
Don't get us wrong, it's not entirely his fault; there's team president Dean Spanos, general manager A.J. Smith and, of course, coach Norv Turner. Together they deserve three-quarters of the blame. The other 25 percent can be spread among the players with Rivers bearing the most responsibility.
We had the great misfortune of sitting through every snap of the Chargers-Browns game, a 7-6 thriller that was somehow worse than the score indicated. San Diego's first drive ended when the offense couldn't get one yard on 4th-and-1 and it got worse from there. Here's one of the notes we made in the second half:
"It's safe to say that Rivers has wrestled the title Captain Checkdown from Trent Edwards. Yes, Peyton, Brees and Brady have had a lot of success checking the ball down, but it's obvious that Rivers can't complete a pass more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage -- and the one time he makes an accurate downfield throw Meachem drops it."
Fittingly, the Chargers' afternoon ended with four straight incompletions, which led to the inglorious site of the Browns' offense assuming the victory formation. (Anytime you see that as an opposing coach, it's a harbinger of things to come.)
So what's wrong with Rivers? It's one of life's great mysteries. We wrote about it Monday, but one theory is that his sudden lack of arm strength is a function of shoddy footwork. His accuracy, particularly on downfield throws, has been embarrassing (his other nickname, after Capt. Checkdown, is "Arm Punter"), and maybe that can be fixed with better footwork, too. The biggest concern, though, is Rivers' decision-making.
Maybe he's pressing, maybe he's in fear of his life because of that suspect offensive line, or maybe he's just not the player he once was. Whatever the reason, the Chargers are one of the league's worst teams. This isn't hyperbole -- they just lost to the Browns -- and it's not clear that will change anytime soon.
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.