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.
Matt Schaub, QB - Texans
For Texans fans and quarterback Matt Schaub, it all came to a head with 2:51 to go in the fourth quarter and the Texans leading the Seahawks 20-13. We've seen the play hundreds of times before: the naked bootleg, the receiver running free, and Schaub finding him for easy yards that keeps the clock running and the chains moving. Except the Seahawks have seen this play hundreds of times, too.
It's why blitzing safety Kam Chancellor didn't flinch on the play-action fake to running back Arian Foster and was in Schaub's face the moment the quarterback looked upfield. It's also why cornerback Richard Sherman sat on his route with his eyes trained on Schaub instead of tight end Owen Daniels.
The play was doomed long before Schaub's arm-punt found it's way into Sherman's hands for a game-tying pick-six, but the details didn't matter to an apoplectic fan base fed up with Schaub's consistently poor decisions and impeccably poor timing.
You've no doubt seen the play. Below is the .gif version of the interception and what followed:
Adding insult to injury: FOX Sports play-by-play man Chris Myers' call as the disaster unfolded:
"Schaub has it, throws … AND IT'S INTERCEPTED BY RICHARD SHERMAN! HE'S GOING DOWN THE SIDELINES, HE HAS FOLLOWERS AND NOT JUST ON TWITTER! TOUCHDOWN, SEAHAWKS!"
Meanwhile, Myers' partner in the booth, Tim Ryan, wasn't surprised by a) the play call or b) the outcome. If he knew what was coming then why would Texans coach Gary Kubiak think the Seahawks would be caught off guard?
"That is Matt Schaub acting on his behavior pattern, knowing that he is going to bootleg out, and he's just going to throw that out route and Richard Sherman played it the whole way," Ryan said.
"No. 1, they hem [Schaub] up in the pocket [with a rushing Kam Chancellor] as he peels out, but Sherman is just going to poach this route. He knew it was coming to tight end Owen Daniels and of course there's nobody catching Richard Sherman with the pick-six house-call touchdown.
"That is a bad decision by Matt Schaub to throw that ball in that situation," Ryan continued. "… He's been playing too long to make that kind of mental error. Take the sack and punt it away and trust your defense. … That's just an awful decision to unload that ball. ... I asked Sherman about [the Texans' play-calling]. I said, 'Matt Schaub is so good pre-snap -- where he wants to go with it -- but you guys also know where he wants to go with the ball. Will you be poaching any of [those] behavior patterns?' He said, 'Absolutely.'"
It's hard to disagree with any of that, and the fact that Schaub now has four pick-sixes since January (and 11 for his career) is beyond troubling. But this isn't all on him. Kubiak, when asked if Schaub could have audibled out of the play, said “No, once we called it, started the motion, it was game on. So we just had a very, very poor play like I told you.”
If Schaub takes the sack, the Texans probably go on to win. And instead of all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over Houston's franchise quarterback problem, we're talking about a 3-1 club that just beat the NFC's best team.
One of the worst "shoulda been a win" losses I can remember from the texans ever. Reminiscent of the rosencopter loss to Colts. Terrible.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) September 29, 2013
“I can't give you an exact reason (for why it happened),” Schaub said. “And I know I should be able do that. But it just hurts so bad right now that it's hard to come up with an answer for you.”
So we're left with fans forking over $200 for a Schaub jersey for the express purpose of setting it on fire. Our advice: Save your money and your time because Schaub, who signed a four-year, $62 million extension in Sept. 2012, ain't going anywhere for now.
“How short of a leash is he on? He's our quarterback," Kubiak said. "Like I said, we've all got to do things a little better.”
So what did Kubiak tell Schaub after the game?
"I think the biggest thing you want is you want players to know that you're human," the coach said. "You know how they're feeling. You know what they've just been through. I basically expressed to him exactly what I told y'all after the game. I felt really bad from my own standpoint with the position that I put him in. I've been coaching quarterbacks for a long time. I just try to talk through the situation while it's fresh. I understand how our guy is feeling, what he's fixing to go home to and what that evening is going to be like and start preparing for that right away and move forward. You just want him to know that you're there for him more than anything.”
We won't have to wait long to see how the Texans respond from one of the most demoralizing losses of the young NFL season. They travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers on Sunday night. If things go south there -- and the Colts and Titans continue to play well -- former Texans' first-round bust Travis Johnson might have to revise his proclamation about Matt Schaub being better than Tony Romo.
Seriously: A word of warning, Texans fans. Be careful what you ask for. Schaub can be frustrating as hell at times, but what's your plan beyond "GET RID OF HIM NOW!"? Because once you get past the unhinged rage, that's sort of an important question.
Jay Cutler, QB - Bears
Remember last week, when we made the case that Jay Cutler finally looked like a franchise quarterback? We might need to revisit that.
At the time, Cutler had appeared to buy into first-year coach Marc Trestman's precision passing game that relied on short drops, getting the ball out quickly, all while avoiding the crushing hits that punctuated the offensive philosophies of previous Bears' coordinators Mike Martz and Mike Tice.
On Sunday, Bad Jay returned. Poor decisions, off-balance throws, and incomprehensible turnovers served as a stark reminder that it will take more than an offseason in a new offense to rid Cutler of a lifetime of bad habits.
One glaring example that came with six minutes to go in the first half. The Bears trailed 16-10 and it was 1st-and-10 from their own 19-yard line. Cutler dropped back, stared down Brandon Marshall, and despite no pressure, threw off his back foot. Safety Glover Quin, who was playing centerfield and had Cutler helpfully lead him to the play, made the interception.
After the game, Cutler said his mistakes were physical, not mental.
“I felt good about my decision making,” he said. “I just missed some throws.”
And this is why the Bears were smart to let Cutler play out his contract. There's no reason to give him a franchise quarterback deal when he may not, in fact, be a franchise quarterback.
The good news is that the Bears are 3-1 and tied for first in the division. The bad news is that their three wins came against teams that are a combined 3-9.
Mike Adams, LT - Steelers
Left tackle Mike Adams, a 2012 second-round pick, played so poorly in Week 2 that coach Mike Tomlin decided to platoon him in the next game with 2012 seventh-rounder Kelvin Beachum. Beachum, it's worth pointing out, has played both tackle positions, left guard, center and tight end this season. It tells you everything you need to know about the current state of the Steelers' offensive line.
Against the Vikings Sunday, the plan was the same: Have Beachum come in and spell Adams. Except that left guard Ramon Foster suffered an arm injury and Beachum had to replace him. Which meant Adams was tasked with slowing defensive end Jared Allen.
Unless an asteroid fell from the heavens to put Adams out of his misery, we're not sure how things could have gone worse. Allen spent the afternoon abusing Adams in various ways, sometimes beating him to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger without Adams so much as getting a hand on him. It was a clinic in how sound pass-rushing moves will beat shoddy pass-blocking every time.
“It was one of those games where you want to keep rushing, keep rushing,” Allen said afterwards, stating the obvious. “I felt across the board, our rush today was pretty nasty.”
There were plenty of lowlights for Adams, who is ranked 70 out of 73 left tackles by ProFootballFocus.com. One of which came early in the second quarter. Allen easily beat Adams around the outside and 2.54 seconds later (we timed it), Roethlisberger was on the ground wondering what happened.
Adams allowed 3.5 sacks on the day and was also flagged for holding. But unlike the Giants, who realized early in Week 3's game against the Panthers that left tackle Will Beatty had no shot at blocking defensive end Greg Hardy, the Steelers didn't give Adams any help.
"Only six times out of Ben Roethlisberger's 56 drop backs did Adams get a chip from a running back or tight end," wrote the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly. "Three of the sacks came when Adams didn't get any help from a chip."
It's easy to blame the front office for the general mess that is the O-line. But not only did they see it coming, they tried to address it. Adams and right tackle Marcus Gilbert are second-round picks, and center Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro are first-rounders. Pouncey's out for the year with a knee injury and the others haven't come close to playing up to their draft pedigree. And there's not much the Steelers can do about it now, which is why things will almost certainly get worse before they get better.
Joe Flacco, QB - Ravens
Go ahead, we'll wait for you to point out that this is the real Joe Flacco. The maddening inconsistencies from one game to the next, the "WHY DID YOU JUST MAKE THAT THROW?!" interceptions, and the general sense that he'd rather be anywhere but on a football field.
We're not going to argue that Flacco isn't afraid to lay an egg every now and again, but we're not especially worried by it. Since he arrived in Baltimore in 2008, the Ravens have made the playoffs every year. And, you may remember, Flacco put the team on his back last postseason all the way to a Super Bowl title.
Still, it's concerning when your franchise quarterback throws five interceptions in a game, which is exactly what Flacco in Sunday's loss to the Bills. If it's any consolation, only three were his fault, the result of bad mechanics and even worse decisions. The other two, however, were the direct consequence of tight end Ed Dickson's ongoing battle to catch the ball.
“We don't point fingers around here, but the last person I'm worried about is Joe Flacco,” said Ravens running back Ray Rice. “He's a Super Bowl MVP. As long as Joe goes, we go. As bad as we played, Joe Flacco still let us march down the field.”
The part about not pointing fingers isn't entirely true, Ray.
Still, the point remains: Flacco isn't the Ravens' only issue. Also not helping: The lack of legit receiving threats outside of Torrey Smith, and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell taking a page from the Cam Cameron "Pass, pass, then pass some more" playbook.
Ravens stats: 9 rushing attempts, 5 INT's, 3 for 16 on 3rd down….It's hard to believe they only lost by 3 points.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) September 29, 2013
The loss dropped the Ravens to 2-2, which puts them in a three-way tie for first place in the division alongside the Browns and Bengals. Given the state of the division, we don't see any reason to think Baltimore won't still win it. Cleveland's a great story but neither Brian Hoyer nor Brandon Weeden is the short-term answer, and we refuse to buy into Cincinnati until Andy Dalton wins a big game.
And, no, beating a winless Steelers team doesn't count.