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. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.
Geno Smith, QB - Jets
Like what happened Sunday against the Bills when Smith was worse than a Frankenstein amalgamation of Mark Sanchez with Tim Tebow's football IQ and Brooks Bollinger's arm strength.
When it was over, Smith was 8 of 23 for 103 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 10.1. Oh, and he also lost a fumble in the blowout loss. For some perspective, Smith's 34.8 completion percentage equaled Miguel Cabrera's batting average.
"Just bad, man," Smith said following his second four-turnover game this season. "The way I can sum this game up for myself is awful. I know I can play better. I know this isn't who I am or who I want to be."
For the year, Smith has 20 turnovers, including 16 picks.
But with no viable alternative -- Matt Simms isn't the long-term option and David Garrard will celebrate his 65th birthday next month -- coach Rex Ryan is sticking with the rookie. Which means that Smith will be under center when the Jets face the Ravens Sunday.
But should he be?
Usually, we're all for the "throw him out there and see what happens" theory of bringing a young quarterback along. But in Smith's case, we thought it made more sense for him to to begin the season on the bench behind Mark Sanchez. Not so much because Sanchez was better, but because back in August we thought this team was going to be so remarkably bad that Smith might not make it out of September with all his limbs intact.
But after Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason, that's exactly what happened. And, by the way, the Jets are way better than anybody -- us included -- figured. They're currently 5-5 and the AFC's No. 6 seed. Which means that if the season ended today they'd have the final wild-card spot.
Some of that has to do with Ryan coaching his ass off. Seriously, we figured he'd be the first coach fired once the season ended; instead, there's the very real possibly that he's back in 2014 -- and deservedly so. (Now watch the Jets lose out.)
And some of that has to do with Smith, who threw three touchdowns and completed 80 percent of his throws in the Jets' Week 5 win over the Falcons and threw for 331 yards against the Bills back in a Week 3 victory.
Realistically, the Jets aren't a legit playoff team this season. But benching Smith doesn't do anything other than rob him of much-needed experience. Of course, that doesn't mean Ryan can't mercy-bench him should he struggle, which is exactly what happened against the Bills.
“Obviously I want to be the starter here," Smith said Monday. "Never want to come out of games. Never want to not play in a game. Am I surprised [that I was benched]? No, I think every player in the NFL, everyone's job is on the line, every single person. That's day-to-day. No one's job is 100 percent secure.”
Simms, meanwhile, has Smith's back.
"Quarterback is the toughest position in the world in any sport," he said. "It's a constant grind. It's tough to be really consistent when you don't have a whole lot of experience, but I think Geno has done a good job of coming back and playing great after games he struggled. He's done that numerous times this year. We all expect him to bounce back and play great against Baltimore."
And if you're looking for other people -- or places -- to blame for what passed for football last Sunday, here are two more options: Ed Reed (turns out, he's still terrible!) and, obviously, Dave & Busters. (Because football players should never, ever be allowed to relax and have fun during the season. Pretty sure that's in the CBA.)
Robert Griffin III, QB - Redskins
That interception came with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Redskins trailing by eight. Phrases like "ill-advised" and "WHAT THE WHAT?!" immediately come to mind.
But RG3 can explain:
“We had a certain concept we were running, and nobody got open,” he said after the game. “So I was backing up, and in a situation where if you get a sack there it ends the game, trying to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. Didn't get to where I wanted it to go. Obviously I was on my heels, and it's something I can definitely learn from."
Sonny Jurgensen, a member of the Redskins radio broadcast and former Redskins quarterback, wasn't impressed.
"Why not play [Kirk] Cousins?" he asked during the game. ... “It's not pulling the plug, it's getting a change,” Jurgensen continued. “Make a change. Can it be any worse? You get four yards passing in a half? I would look at the other quarterback, see if he can make something happen. It's not the end of the world. They take out pitchers, don't they?”
Which brings us to something we mentioned back in Week 6: The Redskins gave up a lot for the chance to take RG3. And that came at the expense of addressing other needs, not just with the 2012 first-round pick (quarterback was theneed there), but with the 2012 second-rounder, and the two additional first-rounders in 2013 and 2014.
Let us put it this way: Assuming the Redskins didn't trade up for Griffin (full disclosure: we fully supported the move at the time), they could have stayed put and drafted Ryan Tannehill in the first round, then taken cornerback Janoris Jenkins in Round 2 (the Rams took Jenkins with the pick they acquired from the 'Skins). With their 2013 first-round pick, they could have had safety Matt Elam, who is now with the Ravens. Oh, and the Redskins would still have their 2014 first-rounder.
Or the organization can give up all that for Griffin.
Yes, we know, hindsight and all that. Still, it's worth discussing because nothing appears to be working in Washington. And while Griffin is part of the problem, he's not the only problem.
The NFL rule book
We don't have any real issues with two of the most controversial calls of the season, both of which happened in Week 11. First, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was flagged for hitting Drew Brees in the head and/or neck area.
And then, on Monday night, the officials picked up a flag after deciding that this wasn't pass interference because Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's pass intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski was woefully underthrown and deemed "uncatchable." Also: pay no attention to Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.
So this is how the Patriots-Panthers game ended. pic.twitter.com/37e5G5WhbE— Eye on Football (@EyeOnNFL) November 19, 2013
According to the rules, both calls were enforced properly.
And as for the no-call in the Pats-Panthers game, would the ruling have been the same in, say, the first quarter? Again, we're going with "Ha, good one! NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT."
And that's the point: Rules are rules and we can support that, but it's the enforcement of the rules that drives people insane.
Ryan Clark, S - Steelers
Steelers safety Ryan Clark has found his way into this space several times this season. On Sunday against the Lions, Clark appeared to have over-the-top responsibilities on Calvin Johnson but instead decided to jump and underneath route intended for first-year player Jeremy Ross.
Ross has five catches on the season for 62 yards. Johnson, meanwhile, answers to Megatron and had 79 yards -- and a touchdown -- on the play you see below, largely because a) Clark neglected his coverage duties and b) cornerback Ike Taylor couldn't tackle Johnson in the open field (see above).
We're sure Clark saw something on tape that indicated that quarterback Matthew Stafford would throw short (notice that every route other than Johnson's is to the right, and Stafford rolls that way after a play-action fake to the running back) but it obviously didn't happen. As Dick LeBeau likes to say, "Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you."
Well, on this play Clark got mauled.