Blue Sunday and Black Monday: NFL Week 17 RecapPosted: December 30, 2014
A wild and crazy Week 17 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks securing the top seed, the Browns soap opera, the Black Monday firings, the final playoff pairings, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.
Derek: What’s with all of this noise coming out of Cleveland? Is this seemingly sudden descent into anarchy being overblown?
Will: Yes. Very much yes. The Browns have been trying to build a culture of accountability, if you can believe it. Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon stories make for big headlines, but there have been a number of quieter challenges made to Browns players, most notably Terrance West and Justin Gilbert being benched for shoddy practice habits. Mike Pettine and Co. are making guys earn their spots. The franchise is trying to institute a mentality of “Play like a Brown,” and to not have that mean taking a crap on the fifty. I’m ultimately encouraged by this.
Derek: What are you hoping the Browns will address in the offseason?
Will: As always, they need to find a quarterback. I have exactly zero idea how they should go about that. Hoyer is all but gone, Manziel is all but responsible, and they’ll have two mid-first round picks. Again, I have exactly zero idea what they can or should do with this. Maybe they’ll go after a placeholder like Jake Locker. Maybe they’ll try to trade up for Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. Maybe they believe that Johnny can turn it around.
The rest of the team is solid. The defensive line could use some fresh blood, and the receiving corps needs a shot in the arm. Beyond that, they’re really not bad. Of course, I’ve talked myself into this for the past 15 offseasons, so take all of this with a whole shaker of salt.
Let me ask you, a non-Clevelander: What do you make of this team?
Derek: It’s tough to say. They seemed like a pretty decent team after they beat up on the Bengals in Week 10. Sure, Brian Hoyer’s play didn’t exactly inspire confidence, but I can’t be the only person who is kind of shocked that they finished the season so poorly. It seems like a long time ago now, but they were 6-3 after that Bengals game.
The quarterback problem lingers yet again, as you say. Johnny had just about the worst season he could have had. If he had simply torn his ACL in training camp, would that have been better? At least then you could dream about the unknown. In his limited time on the field, he was mostly awful. He seemed to find a way into the news each week for something he did off the field. There are those who think the Browns should just cut Johnny (and Josh Gordon) and get it over with. It seems strange to give up on him after one season and seven quarters, but has he done anything at all to prove he’s the guy? It’s just been red flag after red flag.
Another huge problem that surprised me: the Browns finished the year giving up 141.6 rushing yards per game, which was the worst in the league. Teams ran the ball against the Browns 500 times this season, which was second only to the Titans. That could mean many things, and none of them are good.
So unless the Browns can somehow score Mariota or Winston (I selfishly hope it’s Winston. Can you imagine him and Johnny being teammates?!) I imagine run defense will be heavily addressed. The good news is the Browns have picks 12 and 19 in the first round. And we all know who went 12th last year:
So I’m not really sure what to make of them. They looked like a playoff team the first half of the season and weren’t competitive the second half. It seems possible that they could be a playoff team with improved quarterback play and run defense. Easier said than done, but at least they have two first round picks. It could be worse.
Let’s get to Black Monday news. Who were the most and least deserving people to lose their jobs?
Will: The most deserving seems to be Marc Trestman. The Bears may be overreacting in firing him after just two seasons, but was there anything good coming out of Chicago? The defense was a mess, the offense was inconsistent, and the whole team had a stink about it.
Trestman’s greatest sin, however, was hitching his wagon to the Jay Cutler Express. Trestman entered the league as an alleged offensive guru, so the idea of Cutler flinging it to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery under Trestman’s tutelage was like a jar of honey to Bears fans. Alas, Cutler is more femme fatale than Super Bowl QB, and his shortcomings became Trestman’s firing.
I suppose the least deserving was Jim Harbaugh. He was 49-22-1 in San Francisco, and he led the Niners to three NFC Championship games. Considering that San Francisco’s last pre-Harbaugh winning season was in 2002, it seems like he did a good job.
But coaching is more than winning games. It’s also not being a dick. Jim Harbaugh seems like a dick. Have fun with that, Michigan.
Let me flip it around a bit: Is there anyone you think should have been fired but wasn’t?
Derek: I’m a little surprised Joe Philbin didn’t get the axe. His teams haven’t been bad, but the Dolphins have been in the news for embarrassing reasons far too often. There was his involvement in the Jonathan Martin fiasco and this developing Mike Wallace thing. They’ve blown leads and folded at the end of the season when they were in playoff contention. Last year, they lost their final two games by a combined score of 39-7 to finish 8-8. This year, they dropped three of their last four (each loss was by 13 or more) to finish 8-8 again.
Granted, the records aren’t bad. If you just look at that, he deserves another year. But seeing as he presided over that stupid bullying scandal, players don’t seem to treat him with a ton of respect, and his teams have struggled in the fourth quarter and at the end of seasons … well, let’s just say he had more reasons to get fired than some of the guys who actually did.
Let’s move onto the playoffs. Which Wild Card game are you most excited for?
Will: I suppose I should say Ravens-Steelers, but that game will just make me sad. Same for Bengals-Colts; I don’t want to watch any AFC North teams.
You know what? I’m not excited for any of them. These games all suck. Playoff football bums me out. It’s just a reminder that the Browns didn’t make it. I tire of the relentless intensity that is the NFL’s television presentation, so I might just take a break for a while. Tell me that isn’t the saddest thing you’ve ever heard.
You have a more grounded sense of things and perhaps a healthier worldview. What game has caught your eye?
Derek: No, you’re right. They’re not all that interesting.
I’m naturally more focused on the NFC, since any of those teams (except Dallas) could face the Seahawks next week. The Cowboys and Lions will meet in the Thanksgiving Bowl, which is probably the most interesting for me. Dallas finished December undefeated and have been celebrated throughout the season. The Lions were very close to being NFC North champions, and are the best of the non-Dallas NFC teams playing this weekend. It’s also interesting from a historical perspective, since both teams have notorious (if very different) recent playoff histories. I’m curious to see how it plays out.
Other than that … I mean, I’ll probably watch them, but I’m not exactly clearing my schedule. I only care about Cardinals-Panthers for Seahawks purposes. The Steelers seem likely to beat up on the Ravens. The winner of the Colts-Bengals game is probably going to get killed next week anyway, so it sort of feels like one of those play-in games for the #16 seed in March Madness. Next weekend should be more fun.
Who’s your favorite to win it all right now?
Will: The Packers and Patriots first come to mind, as great quarterbacks are always safe bets. That said, I think those teams are too shaky on defense, and you need defense to win. To that end, I pick your stupid Seahawks with their stupid colors and their stupid jerseys and stupid Pete Carroll’s stupid gum. I hate football.
Let’s assume that you favor the Seahawks to win it all. What NFC team scares you the most?
Derek: Thanks! Truthfully, none of these teams should beat the Seahawks in a win-or-go-home situation at CenturyLink Field. I’m certainly not saying they can’t, but none of them should.
If I had to pick one, it would be Dallas. The Cowboys gave the Seahawks their only home loss of the season back in Week 6. They have a good offensive line and good running backs. Teams that have had success against the Seahawks have dominated time of possession, much like the Cowboys did in their first meeting. It isn’t too much of a stretch to think they could do it again. The Packers have been a different team on the road, and Aaron Rodgers struggled in his 2012 and 2014 games in Seattle. Arizona and Carolina have too many holes. The Lions are talented and have a good defense, but they have struggled in big road games. Dallas looks to be the team most capable of pulling the upset in Seattle.
Let’s move on to Gentlemen of the Week! I can’t choose, so I’m going with co-Gentlemen.
First is 49ers CEO Jed York. York kindly removed Jim Harbaugh from the NFC West. Now the 49ers will undoubtedly take a downgrade to appease his ego. Thanks, Jed.
Second is J.J. Watt. He probably won’t win MVP because a quarterback has to be chosen. As a consolation prize, he’s my co-Gentleman of the Week. Watt is unreal. I never watch the ball when the Texans are on defense–just him. He’s incredible.
Whom do you fancy?
Will: I fancy Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who announced that head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer will be back for a second season! Huzzah! This is progress!
Ugh. Who’s your Most Hungover Fan Base?
Derek: This will probably be our final installment of “Most Hungover Fan Base” since it will be too easy to just pick one of the playoff losers next week and beyond. But hey, at least those teams made it. The San Diego Chargers simply needed to beat the Chase Daniel-led Kansas City Chiefs to make the playoffs. Not only did they fail to do so, but they looked horrible in the process. Not a fun way for a team that started the season 5-1 to finish. Chargers supporters likely had an extra double IPA or two Sunday night.
Who’ve you got?
Will: I’m taking Texans fans, for both good and bad reasons. The bad is that they missed the playoffs, and just barely. That has to sting, especially since they got nothing out of Jadeveon Clowney this year. Worse, they were quarterbacked by the unholy combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage.
The good is that they got to watch J.J. Watt all season long, including Sunday’s destruction of Jacksonville. There are few players who inspire more joyous beer swilling than Justin James Watt. He’s the type of man that Stone Cold Steve Austin would enjoy. Here’s to you, Houston. Better luck next year.