Injury prediction fulfillment

OK, so the Patriots probably weren’t going to win that game anyway, but when their best (really their only decent) CB Aqib Talib got knocked out with a knee injury, the game was over. Whether, Peyton would have been able to get the ball to Demaryus Thomas or not we’ll never know. He didn’t even seem to be looking at him before Talib went out.

This brings up another strike against Bill Belichick. His plan was to play man press coverage, but after losing Talib, that wasn’t going to work. Regardless, he didn’t do anything to adjust to the situation. This reminds me of the AFCC last year against the Ravens where he also seemed completely lost. I wonder how much of his difficulties are due to his having control over both Coaching and personnel. This set-up seems to be the Holy Grail of NFL coaches and has ruined almost all that have tried it. (Holmgren, Shanahan, Seifert). This frustration was on full display on Monday when he claimed that Wes Welker’s hit on Talib that caused the injury was a dirty play. Absolutely noone agrees with that sentiment, so it just makes Belichick even more of a poor sport.

So Peyton goes to another Super Bowl as the clear favorite. The Seattle QB Russell Wilson has not played well the last several games, so it may not even be close. The Broncos have so many weapons on offense and their OL has been one of the best even *after* losing their Pro Bowl Left Tackle and starting Center. Of course, the Seahawks have the best defense in the league, so we’ll see another installment of the Irresistible Force vs the Immovable Object trope.

On the other side, the Bronco’s run defense has played surprisingly well over the last few weeks and their defensive backfield looks to be getting healthier and just overall better. If Bronco DT Terence Knighton continues to play at an all-pro level, it could be a LONG day for the Seahawks fans.

Peyton vs Brady

I recently figured out the real difference between Peyton Maning and Tom Brady.

Peyton is a perfectionist who wants to be able to play the perfect game. So, when it comes down to the playoffs, it’s just like any other game to him – he wants to play the best he can. In contrast, Tom Brady HATES losing, just like his coach. I think this provides a more meaningful emotional lift in the big games for Brady (and Belichek). I think that it also explains why people don’t like Brady as much – his win-at-all-cost attitude is rather off-putting. (Shout out to Judy Batista of the NFL Network who led me to this conclusion).

Championship Sunday

I want to talk more about certain teams’ decision to fire or not to fire their coaches/GMs. But first I want to put down here some of my thoughts about the upcoming games between the Broncos and Patriots and the 49ers / Seahawks.

The first thing that no-one is talking about in their analysis of these games is the significance of injuries during the games. In every playoff game so far this year, there have been one or several key players that have been knocked out and, hence, totally changes the complexion of the game. Starting with KC losing Jamaal Charles and his back-up as well as them losing their best Defensive back. After which they could neither score nor stop Indianapolis from scoring. Similarly, with New Orleans  losing their best defensive player.

So, whoever you think will win these games, the football gods probably have other plans.

Manning vs. Brady:
Both of these guys are unquestionably Hall-of-Fame QBs. The question is where do they fall amongst the paradigm of QB immortals. Unitas, Montana, Elway, Marino, Favre, then Manning and Brady?? (jk)
There has been a lot of talk about how Peyton has choked in the big games, so if he loses this one it will cement his reputation for all posterity. However, consider the conversation if Peyton wins and Tom Brady loses another AFC championship (or even if Brady wins and looses in the Super Bowl). A) Although Manning had played in one system his entire career in Indianapolis, his coach was always the low-key Tony Dungy and then Jim Caldwell. It’s hard to remember who his Offensive Coordinators were. Instead, Peyton has seemed to do it all on his own. Meanwhile, whenever anyone mentions the greatness of Tom Brady, they always manage to add Bill Belichick into the conversation somewhere. Although he has had a continuous flow of OCs and the players around him, the one constant has always been Belicheck. 
This can also be seen from the other direction: Bill Belichek has not done anything as a head coach without Tom Brady as his QB. He flopped in Cleveland, and after the NY Jets HC fumble, he didn’t light the world on fire in NE until Bledsoe got knocked out of the game and Tom Brady came in and led them to the SuperBowl. All of Belichek’s ‘greatness’ can then be seen ONLY when he had Brady as his QB.

Another possible knock on Brady is that he won 3 Super Bowls in his first 4 years as a starter when he was still learning the game and the rest of the team carried him. Since then it’s hasn’t been very different between him and Peyton. They’ve both been made the post-season almost every year, but only been to 2 SB’s (Peyton 1-1, Brady 0-2).

 

Update: Munchak fired

Well, the other shoe has started to drop. I have to give the new Tennessee Titans management props for taking their time, unlike their predecessor Bud Adams. New owner Thomas Smith went over everything with GM Ruston Webster and Coach Munchak. They had some conclusions that required some changes by Munchak – obviously changes to the coaching staff. Mike Munchak had the night to think it over and obviously refused; so he was fired. Whether you think this is right or not appears to be a point of disagreement. Many people think that he’s right to stand by his assistant coaches; others that they needed changes and he was wrong to refuse them. I guess it stands on who you trust to make those decisions. Either you trust your Head Coach or you don’t so you fire him.

Some updated info on the New York Giants. In light of their horrendous offense this season, Mara was going to demand that Coughlin fire OC Kenneth Gilbride. Coughlin told him that he would fight that. How far that would have gone we’ll never know, because Gilbride has decided to retire instead. So, it looks like Coughlin is still in charge for at least another year.

Post-Black Monday Results

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So it’s the week after the end of the season and 6 coaches have been fired so far including one after only a year. There still maybe one or two more to go – possibly even a team that made the playoffs. [Note: although it may seem callous to write about this, these guys a) all know the score and b) will all be hired onto other teams within a year, if not immediately, or whenever they’re ready to return. Or they can always go into broadcasting. (Billick, Mariuchi, Gruden, Jimmy Johnson, Cowher, also GM Charley Casserly)]

Here’s my analysis of each situation.

Houston – McNair kept the GM Rick Smith which I think is a mistake. However, he has shown that he is nothing if not patient, perhaps overly so. He gave Kubiak a couple of extra years when people said he should’ve been fired and he eventually got them to the playoffs the past 2 years before imploding this year. The Texans have now hired Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien to be the 3rd Head Coach in their history. The Houston Texans are now on the clock.

Detroit – No surprise here. The GM Martin Mayhew was kept as he should have been based on how stocked with talent this team is.

Minnesota – Again, no surprise, although I think that it should’ve started with Spielman.

Tampa Bay – Both Greg Schiano and the GM Mark Dominik were fired. Schiano claims that he had been led to believe that they were being kept. After going 0-8 the first half of the season, TB won 4 out of their next 5 games, before dropping their last 3 to SF, New Orleans and St Louis. No definitive word on why they were let go, but the fact that the GM was also fired leads one to think that the Freeman debacle had at least something to do with it.

Washington – We’ll see if Snyder is actually going to pay up Mike Shanahan.

Cleveland – I should have expected that with the large number of first year coaches, at least one might be fired. In my defense I did say that “Every year there are surprises”. I also had Chudzinski as the first year coach most likely to be fired. According to reports, the determining factor was when a few weeks ago the front office wanted Chud to release WR Greg Little (the worst WR in the league according to at least one football stat service) and QB Brandon Weeden (arguably the worst starting QB in the league) as a demonstration of accountability and Chud refused. Add in that the team hadn’t won a single game since week 9 when they were 4-5, and that does sound reasonable.

Still on the Bubble:
These coaches have not been formally announced as returning. One or more may still be fired.

Mike Munchak (Tennessee) – Since Thomas Smith just took over when his father-in-law Bud Adams died in October, he is proceeding more cautiously, which is a good thing. I admit to being caught up in the hype about Munchak being fired – it still may happen, but it wasn’t as cut and dried as I had said.

Joe Philbin (Miami) – Owner Stephen Ross has still not given a firm indication that Philbin will be kept. Losing handily to division foes Buffalo and the NY Jets the last 2 weeks of the season when a win would have put them in the playoffs, doesn’t seem to have sit will with Ross. Still they were a surprising 8-8 and Ryan Tannenhill looks like he’s coming into his own.

Dennis Allen (Oakland) – Nothing definitive out of Oakland, but it appears that Allen will be returning. After 2 years of “deconstruction”, he word is that their expecting 2 years of “reconstruction”.

Tom Coughlin (New York Football Giants) – Coughlin is set to meet with ownership next week. It has been reported that Coughlin will be able to determine his own fate at the end of the season. It may still be a forced retirement or maybe a planned retirement after one last year (but don’t expect that to be announced). Winning 2 Super Bowls does buy one a LOT of good will.

Announced Returning:

Rex Ryan – GM John Idzak appears to be smart enough to know what his predecessor Tannenbaum left him with. Everyone agreed that Rex did enough to earn more time, but they just weren’t sure whether Idzak agreed. So Rex will be getting a short-term extension, although he was looking for a long term one. Next year will be better as the salary cap will be much more manageable.

Jason Garrett (Dallas) – Losing Tony Romo for the last game of the season makes it a little easier for Jerry Jones to stay with Garrett. He has too much invested in him (both financially and emotionally) to fire him anyway. But if you look at the “Tony Romo-ish” way that the Eagle game ended, maybe it’s not Romo? Why are you trying to pass in that situation anyway?

No one is talking about Mike Smith being let go, so it looks like I’m jumping the gun on that. I will definitely be watching to see how this team reacts next year.

Playoffs – It remains to be seen if any of the teams that made the playoffs will fire the coach if they flame out. Possible firings – Payton (NO), McCarthy (GB) [Note that I am not predicting these firings, only mentioning the possibility.]

In Summary:
Gone – 3 out of 4 have been fired, the 4th has not yet been decided (I think he stays).
On the Bubble – 1 out of 5 has been fired, 1 still not definitive, although he also looks to return.Likely Safe – 1 out of 4 has been fired, with 2 others not definitive yet.
First Years – 1 out of 9 (including Pagano) has been fired.
No one from the Safe (6) or Untouchable (4) has been fired or retired.