Worst QBs Ever, Marvin’s Fate, and Tainted Victory: Wild Card Weekend Recap

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A wild and crazy Wild Card Weekend has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Ryan Lindley’s place in history, the failure of our rivals, the logic in keeping Marvin Lewis, the reasons the Lions lost, and the Divisional games we’re most looking forward to.


 

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Derek: Is Ryan Lindley the worst quarterback you’ve ever seen?

Will: Hoo boy, we’re starting with the big questions. Considering that, when you Google “Ryan Lindley highlights,” the first result that comes back is a game in which he threw four interceptions…yeah, he’s pretty bad.

The “worst quarterback” title is generally given to high draft picks that flamed out, the JaMarcus Russells and Ryan Leaves of the world. Without wanting to dive too deep into the world of quarterbacking cow dung, I did a brief comparison of Lindley to Russell and Leaf, as they unofficially share the dubious Golden Raspberry of football throwing.

Perhaps surprisingly, Russell shines when thrown in with this lot. He had one season in which he threw more touchdowns than interceptions, which immediately disqualifies him from this conversation. He only went 5-10 as the Oakland starter in 2008, but his numbers weren’t that bad: 53.8 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, 8 picks, 5.7 yards per attempt. He is to bad quarterbacking what Harvard is to Ivy League football.

Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports

Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports

Leaf vs. Lindley, however, is a dogfight. I had forgotten how miserable Leaf’s rookie year was: 2 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 10 total games. He was sacked on nine percent of all dropbacks in his career, and completed just 48.4 percent of his passes when he managed to get it away. He threw interceptions on 5.5 percent of his passes, and touchdowns on just 2.1 percent. Impressive.

Lindley is no slouch himself. He has thrown 2 touchdowns against 11 INTs in his nine career games. His 50.8 career completion percentage is right down there with Leaf’s. His yards per attempt are even lower—5.0 for Lindley, 5.6 for Leaf. Their yards per game stats are nearly identical, with Lindley at 146.0 and Leaf at 146.6.

This is like deciding between Monet and Renoir, Beethoven and Mozart, peanut butter and jelly. I simply can’t choose. I hereby pass the buck back to you: Is Ryan Lindley the worst quarterback you’ve ever seen? And to what non-football player would you compare his brand of stink?

Derek: I think he might be.

When you consider someone’s greatness, signature moments can override all. If someone asks why Joe Montana is great, you can start listing his signature plays and signature drives in big moments. Either of us could do it, and he had the most success when we were infants or before. And while he did a lot of great things, when you talk about Montana, you think of either “The Catch” or his game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII. Those were his Mona Lisa performances. Every great athlete has them.

So, naturally, the reverse is true. If we’re going to talk worst of all time, I’m going to need signature moments or signature games. Mark Sanchez gave us the Butt Fumble. Ryan Leaf gave us “Knock it Off!” Jake Delhomme was intercepted five times and lost a fumble in a home playoff game. They may not be the worst quarterbacks ever, but their signature moments get them in the conversation, just like Joe Namath is pretty much only in the Hall of Fame because of Super Bowl III.

Lindley hadn’t given us his Mona Lisa. He was consistently bad, sure. But lots of quarterbacks are consistently bad, and we’ll never remember them as the worst because we simply forgot them. Have you ever heard of Rick Norton? Because I hadn’t until about five minutes ago when I was reading about bad quarterbacks. In five seasons, he threw seven touchdowns and 30 interceptions for a career QB rating of 30. That is absolutely abominable and, despite being fairly engrossed in football for most of my life, I had no idea who he was because his bad play was not immortalized in any way. Lindley was destined for the same.

Not anymore! He was the leader of the worst offensive showing in NFL playoff history, and he looked bad doing it. He averaged 2.9 yards per attempt. TWO. POINT. NINE. How is it possible that an NFL quarterback could, on average, complete three straight passes and still be more than a yard shy of a first down?!?! I mean, do you remember how much crap Rex Grossman used to get? He’s ten times better than Lindley!

The most deserving candidate we haven’t mentioned yet may very well be Logan Thomas. Remember when the Cardinals benched Lindley for Thomas, then immediately benched Thomas again after one practice? I’ve previously mentioned my curiosity about what happened in that practice, but now I feel we all have a right to know. I hope we find out one day. It could change everything.

Okay, enough of that. Did you manage to get any happiness out of the Steelers-Ravens game?

Will: I did. It was sort of guaranteed, as a Ravens or a Steelers loss is a lock to bring me a modicum of enjoyment, even if it’s at the hands of the other. I have more distaste for the Steelers than I do the Ravens, and the same is true of Ben Roethlisberger compared to Joe Flacco. I hope the Patriots wallop Baltimore in round two so that I can further delight in AFC North schaudenfreude.

More than that game, I took solace in the fact that I went 4-0 on our wildcard picks. 4-0! Four-and-oh! Perfect! I say this all with tongue firmly in cheek, as these picks are nothing other than pure crapshoot and I just stumbled into it, but still! FOUR AND OH.

Ahem. Did you take any joy in Arizona’s defeat? Do Seahawks fans have any beef with the Cardinals? Or did their limp to the finish line make rooting for their defeat like rooting against a dyslexic kid in the spelling bee?

Derek: Yeah, I didn’t really care. It would have been funny if it happened to the 49ers, and Colin Kaepernick had Lindley’s performance, and that was the final game of Harbaugh’s tenure, but I guess I shouldn’t be too greedy with so much 49ers dysfunction. I wanted revenge after the Cardinals were the Seahawks’ only home loss last season, but after two blowouts this season they’ve settled back into their usual home as the NFC West rival I hate the least.

Let’s head back to the AFC North. Should the Bengals do away with Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton?

Will: My first thought is yes. The Bengals, for all their regular season success under Lewis, have won exactly zero playoff games since 1990. They alone hold the record for the longest playoff win drought, at 24 seasons. That means that the Lions, Browns, and Raiders have won playoff games more recently, along with literally every other franchise in the NFL.

AP Photo/AJ Mast

AP Photo/AJ Mast

That said, at least they’re in the playoffs from time to time. Marvin and Andy Dalton are a decent bet to at least get you that far. They’re sort of like the Atlanta Hawks: good enough to make it to the postseason, but absolute roadkill once they get there. For some owners, there’s value in that.

It’s a question of choosing a great unknown quantity over a passable known one. Canning Lewis and Dalton would likely lower the team’s potential basement; is possibly raising the ceiling worth it?

I would say yes. I think most NFL fans would say yes. I think you would say yes. I think they will say no. Do you, in fact, say yes?

Derek: I do. The NBA analogy is very appropriate. What’s the point of toiling as a bottom seed every year and getting bounced in the first round?

I can’t say I blame them so much this time. A.J. Green didn’t play, and they lost Rey Maualuga and Dre Kirkpatrick over the course of the game. It wasn’t like the last few times, when they lost as home favorites. They were supposed to lose.

Still, Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in the playoffs. His regular season record is a respectable 100-89-2 (.529), but that doesn’t seem good enough to keep him around with his playoff record. For comparison, let’s look at the most famous example of a coach who won in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs: Marty Schottenheimer. Marty’s record in the playoffs was 5-13 (.277), but his regular season record was 200-126-1 (.613). Marty also got much closer to the Super Bowl than Lewis has. So it’s a bit surprising that Lewis has been with the Bengals since 2003, while Marty bounced around with Cleveland (1984-1988), Kansas City (1989-1998), Washington (2001), and San Diego (2002-2006).

So from an overall performance standpoint, Lewis should probably go. But if they didn’t let him go last year after losing as home favorites to the Chargers, why would they let him go after the Bengals lost a game they were supposed to lose after some crippling injuries? I say give him one more year. Why not? He’s still got a year left on his contract anyway.

Let’s take a look at the final Wild Card game. Was the Cowboys’ victory tainted?!

Richard W. Rodriguez/AP

Richard W. Rodriguez/AP

Will: It did have a whiff of taint to it. The pass interference no-call pictured above, with Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens defending Detroit’s Brandon Pettigrew, was perhaps the most impactful play of the day. I was socialized into football under the impression that face-guarding merited a flag in the NFL, but that was not the case Sunday.

That call aside, the Lions had all kinds of chances to win this game. They had a two touchdown lead after 13 minutes of play. If they managed more than two field goals in the final three quarters, they would still be playing. As late as midway through the third quarter, Detroit had an 88.7 percent chance of winning, per Pro Football Reference’s win probability chart. Yes, that call sucked, but so did Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense for much of the game.

How say you? Who blew it: the refs or the Lions?

Derek: Both? Is that an acceptable answer? The call was atrocious for reasons that have been covered pretty thoroughly in the last 48 hours. Conspiracy theorists among us were unsurprisingly calling shenanigans. But the Lions still had golden opportunities.

For starters, they elected to punt after that play, even though it was 4th-and-1 and they were in Dallas territory. Not only did they punt but, sadly, fellow Appalachian State alumnus Sam Martin could only manage a 10 yard punt — and that was after the Lions took a delay of game penalty. It looked bad at the time and looks even worse in hindsight.

I feel for Lions fans, though. I know what they’re going through. All the way down to the “the NFL wanted the other team to win” part. I just hope the bitterness will go away since it was only a Wild Card game. My blood still boils every time someone refers to Bill Cowher as a Super Bowl champion.

I’m obviously biased, so I’ll pass this one on to you: what’s the marquee matchup of the Divisional round?

Will: I’m a child of the AFC, and it’s tempting to pick the Pats-Ravens showdown. These teams have met in the playoffs three times since 2009, with Baltimore ending New England’s season twice. There’s a lot to like in that matchup, including the bizarre notion that Joe Flacco is somehow just better in the playoffs.

However, I’m going with Cowboys at Packers. Mostly, this is because it’s just too fun to watch and wonder if Dallas can keep it together. The Cowboys went 8-0 on the road this season—no other team was better than 5-3—and now they head to Lambeau in January to take on Aaron Rodgers and company. The teams did not meet this season, and have played just six times since 2004. It is something of a rivalry regardless, even if that rivalry is still built on a nearly 50 year-old Ice Bowl matchup.

The Cowboys are the most entertaining team left, and I don’t think it’s close. Win or lose, especially if when Tony Romo does something crazy to put Dallas over the top or under the bus, the narrative will be delightful, and I cannot wait to be a part of it.



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