by Ryan Meehan
Aside from all of the great action that we’ve seen so far in the 2014-15 NFL playoffs so far, there are a few other stories that have needed to be addressed. Now that the league is winding down and only three games remain, The Deep Six is going to be showing up here at FOH much more often. Therefore, it seems like the perfect transitional piece to go deep six on some of what’s been happening around the league. Let’s get started…
1. The Denver Broncos are a mess
On Monday the Denver Broncos “mutually agreed” to part ways with head coach John Fox, which is a fancy way of saying he was fired and shortly thereafter presented with a very large severance package. This was just a day after the Broncos lost at home to a Colts team that they probably should have beaten, and when it went down questions began to arise about the future of this franchise. It’s very possible that the Denver Broncos could be virtually unrecognizable next year. Both Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas are free agents at the conclusion of this season, and if I’m New England or Seattle no matter what happens over the next three weeks I’m going after one or both of those guys and offering the kind of money that the Patriots will give a player they plan to dispose of a couple years down the road. We have no idea what’s going to happen with Manning, but if you take a step back and look at the fact that the Chargers and Chiefs have gotten better (and that the Raiders can’t possibly get any worse) there’s a very real possibility that we won’t be seeing the Broncos in the playoffs next season and maybe even the season after that. I believe that Manning will still be back, but he will no longer be the player who can lead his team to 12-4 and 13-3 seasons. And if getting into the playoffs next year will be the real struggle, how difficult will it be for him to make something happen once he gets there – if he gets there – with all of his recent playoff struggles and the way that the past three postseasons have ended for him? Denver has a lot of problems and if you love watching a good train wreck, just wait and pay attention to how quickly this team falls apart before September.
1 1/2. Everybody plays hurt
Also on Monday, news began to circulate that Peyton Manning played Sunday’s entire game and also the last month of the regular season with a tear in his quadricep. I couldn’t even fathom the pain of having to play a pro football game with that kind of injury, but I also know this: Guys play with injuries like this all of the time. To me, this seems like a well executed PR move and a very well-timed excuse for yet another poor playoff performance from Peyton Manning. I guarantee you that there were at least three other dudes on either team that had some sort of injury either like that or comparable to that on the pain scale. Regardless of the toughness of his ability to actually go out and play that game, it kind of makes him look like a whiner. Speaking of whining…
2. John Harbaugh’s whining about the formations that the Patriots were using in Saturday’s game makes him look like a sore loser
Excuses about losing in the playoffs always come off as weak, but then when they throw it back to Bristol you’ll always hear guys like Berman and Jackson say something like “Emotions were running high during that press conference” and then for a second it quells the madness. That didn’t necessarily work this past weekend, and I thought that Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looked really dumb on Saturday Night when he informed the media about all of these “illegal formations” in the Patriots-Ravens game. Of course the big problem here is, none of them were illegal and Coach Belichick knew that – that’s why he ended up running them to begin with. I would think that if you were known to be a very defensive-minded coach and you’re running this rough and tumble Baltimore Ravens team that prides itself on defensive prowess, the last thing you would be doing would be whining to the press about how when it comes down to it – you were out-coached. That’s precisely what happened, and if the Ravens are so hardcore how come they couldn’t adjust to those changes at the line of scrimmage? Know the rules, know peace. If you aren’t aware of the rules, then you have no say in the matter. It’s probably illegal to go around town whipping the less fortunate with large sex toys, but it’s not a law that you’ve gone down to the city and re-read so that you know the intricacies of that hypothetical situation. Ignorance of the law will be no excuse when you’re standing outside of the local Salvation Army holding a twelve inch dildo covered in blood, because you’re going to jail.
3. The competition committee needs to review the entire rule book as opposed to just correcting the few unfair calls that were made this year
So far the playoffs have involved a lot of questionable calls, not just on specific plays but with regards to how certain rules are defined. It would seem like the solution here would be to start picking these rules apart and fixing them so that you don’t have a studio full of Boomer Esiasons saying dumb shit like “It’s a bad rule, but it’s the right call”. That’s not what needs to happen here. The competition committee needs to slowly go over everything, and I genuinely mean that. They literally need to start from page one and go over everything with a fine tooth comb. Come up with every single hypothetical situation possible, put yourself in the fans’ position and examine every potential “That doesn’t seem right…” seed of doubt planted in that board room. I don’t want to hear how long this takes, I don’t want to hear about how this doesn’t give guys time to properly prepare their squads for two-a-days: Get it right. There’s plenty of time for you to do so, and I don’t want to be back in the same seat this time next year complaining about a ruling that should have been looked at by the CC when they just tweaked the rules of what kind of plays did happen on the field this year. Go over absolutely everything so we can minimize the amount of garbage calls that are occurring at crucial moments in the season.
4. Rex Ryan to the Bills makes no sense to me whatsoever
Listen, I get that the Bills were right on the cusp of making the playoffs heading into week sixteen. After a magnificent performance against the Packers which allowed Buffalo to be on the lips of almost every sports analyst in America – if but just for that week – the Bills went right back to being irrelevant again. All the while, the New York Jets were staring up at the top of the AFC East and wishing they had the defensive explosiveness that the Bills did. With the myriad of problems that the Jets were having, it’s hard to imagine that the Bills would want the guy in charge of a team whom they crushed in Detroit 38-3 a couple of days before Thanksgiving and went on to lose four of their last six games. They went out and hired a guy from a 4-12 team (that was in actuality much worse than that) and they used the excuse that he can take their defense to the next level by doing so. Unless “the next level” is Seattle – a level which they are not going to reach – there is no way for Rex to come in there and make an already good defense even better. And given Rex’s less than impressive track record of working with successful quarterbacks, it’s hard to believe he’s going to go up there and make a first-ballot Hall of Famer out of E.J. Manuel. It’s just a stupid hire from every angle. To me, the Falcons job was all Rex. He could have built that defense to his specifications, and for once in his head coaching career he would have a decent quarterback on the other side of the ball.
5. Maybe there is no good fit for the Bears job
Now that former Denver Broncos head coach John Fox is available, he has expressed some interest in potentially taking the Chicago job if it is offered to him. Over the past four years he’s had an incredible regular season record (46-18) but his teams have faltered in the postseason. When I I say “faltered” I really mean “choked in a series of embarrassing sequences”, and that does fall on the head coach. The Chicago Bears are getting really hungry for some postseason success, and for some odd reason I just don’t see the combination of Jay Cutler and John Fox as the duo that will lead them to the promised land. The Bears have two great receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but they have nobody to block for Cutler at the moment. And even if they did, it’s still unthinkable that Smokin’ Jay would be able to use those two extremely tall guys to the best of their ability. When Marc Trestman was fired, John Fox was not available yet so I was seeing a lot of posts on Facebook about how Bears fans in my area were glad he was out of the picture. Even then, I felt like saying “Why? So you can go ahead and hire a coach of that same caliber?” It didn’t make any sense to me. Unless they get Fox (who still won’t be able to fix all of their problems) I would have to think that the next guy they get is going to be a lot like Marc Trestman. Look, both Trestman and Lovie Smith didn’t work in Chicago because those two guys were not what you think of when you think of a stereotypical “Chicago Bears” coach. They’re way too passive and both of them are much better suited being associated with an organization like the University of Minnesota than a pro football team who used to refer to themselves as the “Monsters of the Midway”. So why don’t more high profile coordinators and available college coaches have an interest in the Bears job? Because it’s a bad job, plain and simple. It’s going to be a bad job until they make a change at quarterback or Jay Cutler retires from football and takes up something like windsurfing. There may not be a good fit for this position until that happens, and because of that in the meantime you’re going to be stuck with a lot of middle-of-the-road guys who are going to have a hard time getting a much larger group of middle-of-the-road guys on the football field.
6. I see no reason why New England shouldn’t be the favorite to win the Super Bowl
This isn’t just me trying to pander to Koz or any of the Turtle Riders up in Worcester, this is real talk. I believe that right now, even the mighty Seattle Seahawks couldn’t hold a candle to the Patriots if those two teams were going to meet in the Super Bowl. And if Green Bay happens to somehow sneak through the Legion of Boom, there’s no way they are going to be able to stop this offensive juggernaut. I’ve discussed New England’s play calling in recent weeks, and talked about how Belichick knows exactly to call what works. Picture it this way: Say that you were an opposing coach and you were facing the Patriots. Your defense gets up to the line of scrimmage and from the sideline. At first glance, this play looks like you’d better call a timeout otherwise you’re screwed until your defense picks up the design. To save the timeout, you tell yourself “Well, we should be fine as long as they don’t run a ___________”. And then of course, they run that exact play you weren’t hoping they’d run and the next thing you know your defense is walking off the field down yet another touchdown. That’s Coach B for you, so prepared and so ahead of the curve. In fact, I’m so convinced that he is the master of all play calling in the NFL today that I’d be willing to say that if he had a team full of nobodies he could still go 11-5 with no issue whatsoever. But here’s the thing about that – the Patriots are hardly a team of nobodies. Not only do you have your three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback at the top of his game, but he has a solid class of developing young running backs that can be pulled out at any point in time at his disposal. Then you have a defense who is not exactly top-notch, but at times this year has looked as intimidating as they come. Then you pile on the fact that Gronkowski is finally healthy and Julian Edelman is becoming one of the most reliable receivers in the league…and oh yeah he also returns punts too. So even if Belichick didn’t have this arsenal of weapons he’d still be very much in control of the situation, but let’s remember he does have all of these guys. Out of the four teams remaining in the dance, the Patriots are probably better equipped to deal with an injury to one of their position players than all three of the other teams combined. That’s precisely why everyone should be scared to death of New England.
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