Coach Killers, Week 16: Maybe Sanchez wasn't the only problem

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Jets QB Greg McElroy found himself in this position a lot last Sunday. (US Presswire)

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.

Jets pass-blockers

Even when Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are on the sidelines fighting over the clipboard, the Jets still manage to ratchet up the futility to preposterous levels. This time, though, it had little to do with the quarterback.

Greg McElroy, the former seventh-round pick and third-stringer the last two seasons, was able to do what the two guys ahead of him on the depth chart struggled with for months: look like a proper NFL passer. McElroy finished Sunday's game 14 of 24 for 185 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Nothing particularly noteworthy but that in itself is, well, noteworthy. There were no butt fumbles or balls fired 40 feet over the head of intended targets. Just your garden-variety, average quarterbackin' afternoon.

What hadn't changed: the horrendous pass protection. McElroy was sacked 11 times -- in 35 drop backs -- which tied a team record. Rex Ryan, who has some experience with what it means to describe what awful football looks like, called it "ridiculous."

As ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini noted earlier this week, the Chargers defense didn't do anything particularly exotic. Six sacks came on four-man rushes, four sacks came on five-man rushes and one sack came on a six-man rush. Cimini (subjectively -- his word) assigned the blame thusly: RT Austin Howard, 2.0 sacks; LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson 2.0; RG Brandon Moore, 1.5; LG Vladimir Ducasse, 1.0; miscellaneous, 4.5.

Part of "miscellaneous" includes McElroy, who wasn't totally without blame. No, there wasn't anything as egregious as a typical Sanchez outing, but Cimini pointed out that the first-time starter was guilty of holding the ball too long; six sacks came after McElroy had been in the pocket at least four seconds. Cimini added: "At times, he didn't sense the pressure; other times, he sensed it but slid the wrong way in the pocket," which is a weekly occurrence for this offense no matter who's starting.

Mercifully, there's one week left in the season. There's a lot to sort through in the coming months, chief among them will be finding a quarterback. Sanchez and his $8.25 million guaranteed salary will likely be back but will he be the starter or the league's most well compensated backup? It's the type of dilemma you'd expect to find in "The Book of Questions."

Ben Roethlisberger

The Steelers haven't won a game since Roethlisberger returned from the rib and shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for three weeks. Oh-for-three with losses to the Chargers, Cowboys and Bengals, and two-thirds of those losses are a direct result of a late-game Big Ben mistake.

Cincy had little trouble slowing Big Ben. (US Presswire)

Against Dallas, Roethlisberger threw an overtime interception that led to the Cowboys' game-winning field goal. And last Sunday, with 14 seconds left in regulation and the game tied, Roethlisberger airmailed a pass that was again intercepted. Cincy's offense, which had been stymied for most of the afternoon, needed two plays and 21 yards to get into field-goal range. Josh Brown striped the 43-yarder and that, as they say, was that for the game and the Steelers' season.

It's silly to suggest Roethlisberger isn't somehow still Pittsburgh's best player, but it's reasonable to point out that he was something less than his usual self after the injury. In the nine-plus games before he left the Week 10 get-together with the Chiefs, Big Ben had completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,287 yards, with 17 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, a 99.2 passer rating and 13 sacks. In the three games since he returned in Week 14: 54.5 percent, 844 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs, an 80.0 passer rating and 10 sacks.

The takeaway: he wasn't completely healthy. Less of an issue: the perception that he and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn't see eye to eye on playcalling and that had something to do with the results on the field. We'd again point out Roethlisberger's pre-injury numbers above. He had made his way into MVP conversations and rightfully so.

Now there's a meaningless game left with the Browns before the Steelers' offseason officially begins. And as always, the goal should be to get Ben healthy and do everything to keep him that way next season. Heading into 2012, Pittsburgh had good intentions -- they used first- and second-round picks on o-linemen and moved one of their best players from right tackle to left guard … only to watch injuries decimate the unit.

But, hey, that's the nature of football. If Roethlisberger hadn't ben injured against the Chiefs he may have been able to overcome injuries elsewhere on the roster. But he didn't and the Steelers are a 7-8 team as a result.

The whole Titans organization

Last week, quarterback Jake Locker got a name-check in this space but the reality is that the Titans' issues extend well beyond one position. Even 89-year-old owner Bud Adams can see this. Fed up with what passes for football in Tennessee, Adams chose to find a more productive way to spend his Sunday afternoon than watching the Titans get throttled by the Packers, 55-7.

Bud Adams is unimpressed with his team. (US Presswire)

“I was pretty upset,” Adams told the Tennessean. “I just didn't want to watch any more of that mess.”

The latest beatdown comes almost two months after the Titans no-showed for a Bears game that ended in a 51-20 loss. After that whupping, Adams was, as you might've guesses, unimpressed.

“In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans," he said at the time. "We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish.”

The Titans head into Week 17 with a 5-10 record, but have been outscored 451-292. On a per-game basis, that works out to an average point differential of 30-19 per week. That's shameful. So what does this mean for coach Mike Munchak's future?

“I like Mike, I really do," Adams has said previoulsy. "But liking him and getting the job done are two different things. If he is not getting the job done, that is what I have to find out. Right now, we are not looking very good. Something is wrong and I want to find out what the problem is and what needs to be done to fix it.”

If only Peyton Manning had signed with Tennessee last offseason.

Giants offense

Man, the Giants have really let themselves go. Yes, we know, they won in Week 17 a year ago to get to 9-7, backdoored their way into the playoffs and won another Super Bowl. But despite the same record as the 2011 team, the 2012 squad is a mess. Eli Manning looks like he's stuck in 2004 and the offense seems incapable of doing anything.

Last Sunday, the team was thoroughly embarrassed by a reeling Ravens group and now New York will need some help to make the postseason. But realistically, even if the Giants do sneak in it won't much matter.

We've seen this face before. (US Presswire)

"We did nothing offensively," coach Tom Coughlin said after the game.

"I don't even want to talk about it," wideout Hakeem Nicks added. "I don't know what it was."

Manning gave the defense credit but admitted what everybody already knew: "We couldn't get anything going. The Ravens did a very good job on defense. They put a lot of pressure on me, and they gave us a lot of different looks. They made it hard for us."

We talked about Manning's struggles during the Giants' bye week. And unlike previous second-half comebacks, Manning's numbers were low by historical standards and it made us wonder if this just wasn't New York's year. Here's what we wrote back on November 14:

But he'll be fine in a few weeks, right? Not necessarily.

* In 2010, Manning's passer rating in December was 74.7, down from 89.1 in Sept.-Oct. and 96.3 in November.

* In 2011, his December passer rating was 87.0, slightly better than his 84.6 November number but well below the 101.8 he posted the first two months of the season.

* This year, Manning's Sept.-Oct. passer rating was 88.6. It's 48.6 in November. That's Mark Sanchez territory.

"What has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very difficult to explain," Coughlin earlier this week. "We had a resounding win against New Orleans and felt real good about ourselves, and then I have no explanation as to why we're in the position that we're in."

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.

 
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