Mission146
Posted by Mission146
Dec 19, 2023

Introduction

It’s possible that I’m just generally more salty than I used to be, but I have simply lost all interest in the NFL. Over the last couple of years, I’ve written a handful of NFL articles looking at moves that teams have made that went well, went poorly, draft decisions, salary caps, coaching changes and basically anything else you can think of.

Obviously, I’m not primarily a sports opinion writer by any stretch of the imagination, but it did help add some content to our Sports section and I was generally enjoying it.

I’m afraid that’s not the case any longer. I believe it’s likely I’ll still write the occasional article, or WoO page, that focuses on the NFL, but the main purpose of any future articles is going to be taking deep statistical dives, and doing analyses, with more of a sports betting lean. Fortunately, one doesn’t actually have to watch NFL games to do any of that, which is good, because I’ve watched maybe five minutes of actual games this year.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at how some of my earlier takes held up as relates to the 2023 NFL season…I think I did pretty well, certainly better than my futures win total picks have ever done…not that such is a high bar. (My win totals picks are just…always…so bad.)

THE NEW HEAD COACHES

Earlier this year, I penned an article about the NFL’s Head Coaching changes, which can be found here. As I stated in that article, teams that are doing extremely well don’t really tend to move on from their head coaches, but in terms of consistently fielding at least a decent unit, I opined that Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Shane Steichen, was inheriting the best team. Let’s recall my conclusion:

It’s difficult to predict any of these head coaches will enjoy any great success with their new organizations, but it comes as no surprise, as solid teams tend not to dismiss their coaches very often.

If you had to bet on one, then Shane Steichen is probably the closest thing to a decent bet as he is inheriting the team who, other than last season, has been the most consistent of late. In fact, but for the unexpected early retirement of Andrew Luck, the Colts would probably still be doing well and Reich would probably still be their coach.

It’s likely that at least one of these coaches will craft a team that enjoys a deep playoff run within the next few years, simply because there are five teams to choose from. If Payton is actually as good as his record with the Saints would appear, then he has a great defense and a solid franchise quarterback, so perhaps the best bet is the Broncos getting back to playoff form.

On the other hand, the Broncos have the misfortune of playing in the AFC West. There aren’t going to be any free wins in that division.

As far as the Colts go, they’re probably a franchise quarterback away from being a solid contender, so I think the question for them is of striking gold in the draft. It’s not a question of if they will draft a quarterback, it’s a question of who will they draft at quarterback?

I think both the Panthers and Texans are going to have to demonstrate a level of patience that they have not shown in recent years in order to be successful. The starting state for these coaches, especially for DeMeco Ryans of the Texans, is not promising. Both of these teams are teams that have been bad for awhile.

As far as the Cardinals go, I would expect a return to mediocrity. Kyler Murray’s contract, in my view, partially hamstrings the Cardinals to get what they need the most—high-level talent to support Kyler Murray on the offensive side.

Indianapolis Colts/Shane Steichen:

As we can see from the NFL Standings, Steichen and the Colts sit at 8-6, with three left to play, and are contenders to take the AFC South Division Crown, because fortunately for them, that division is aggressively mediocre and doesn’t have any real standouts. When we compare this to a Colts team that went 4-12-1 last season, with the coaching tandem of Frank Reich and Jeff Saturday, I would say my prediction of the Colts’ prospects was pretty spot on.

Neither Gardner Minchew nor Anthony Richardson has performed extremely well, but I don’t think anyone ever really expected them to be standout franchise quarterbacks. At the young age of 27, this is Minchew’s third NFL team in his five-year career. I think the Colts were expecting Richardson to be the guy for the season, but he didn’t impress in early performances, then suffered a season-ending injury just two games into his return.

At a minimum, in those games where he has appeared, Richardson hasn’t been that much worse than Minchew and still has plenty of time to develop. One expects that the Colts will have one of those two as the starter going into next season; they have to get consistency at that position as they’ve had a different starting quarterback, on opening day, for each of the last five seasons.

Denver Broncos/Sean Payton:

This is truly bizarre.

Granted, being 7-7 with three to go is certainly a better position than last year, wherein they finished 5-12 and fired their first-year Head Coach, whatever his name was*, before the season even ended. It probably didn’t help his cause that their top-tier defense got humiliated by Baker Mayfield, and the Los Angeles Rams, despite Mayfield basically being on the Rams for a grand total of seventeen minutes and being released by the Carolina Panthers, who got him at a huge discount. How’s Baker doing this season, Carolina? Oops! Looks like he wasn’t the problem; don’t worry, the Browns missed the memo on that too.

If you focus just on Russell Wilson, then you’d think the Broncos are having an outstanding year, right? Let’s check out his stats, courtesy of Pro Football Reference, which I still love, despite not really caring about the NFL anymore:

Season Completions Attempts Completion Percentage Yards Per Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions QB RATE
2022 292 483 60.5% 7.3 16 11 84.4
2023 272 410 66.3% 6.9 24 8 97.5

That’s the Russell Wilson we knew and loved! With how outstanding the Broncos defense was last year, if their numbers are anywhere close to what they were doing then, the Broncos are doubtlessly a Super Bowl contender, right?

Season Rankings Points Allowed Turnovers Passing TD Allowed Rushing TD Allowed Points Per Drive (Allowed) Average Drive Time (Allowed) Yards (Allowed)
2022 14th 14th 10th 10th ​7th 5th 7th
2023 30th 3rd 28th 22nd 29th 26th 30th

Oh.

What the hell happened!? We knew they basically traded the equivalent of two drafts for Russell Wilson, and are also paying him a ton of guaranteed money, but this defense has utterly collapsed! In 2022, the big problem was that the offense simply wasn’t scoring (worst in the league) and had a pathetic average drive time (third worst in the league), but now the offense is finally producing a bit (14th in points per drive) and holds the ball a reasonable amount of the time (ranked 19th).

Last year, the Broncos defense was all but constantly on the field and didn’t have any offensive scoring support; this year, that has improved, but the defense sucks at everything except being ball hawks. They aren’t stopping anything. They couldn’t stop traffic if you gave them all yellow vests and signs.

Opponents have actually only scored 28+ on these Broncos five times (which is still pretty bad), but the numbers are a bit skewed by the Miami Dolphins (as the high school team) playing a game against the middle school team of their district (the Broncos) in which they mercilessly pummeled them by a score of 70-20. That game wasn’t even competitive for a second.

I guess the Broncos are going to have to work on that defense now. Of course, they’re upside down on salary cap (Wilson alone is a 35.4M cap hit) and don’t have a second-round pick, as of right now, but at least they’ll have a first rounder this time.

In any event, they are in Playoff contention for a Wildcard spot. It’s unlikely that they take the division against a 9-5 Chiefs team, but they are on the Wildcard bubble, despite needing a ton of help and to win some games. They split the series with the Chiefs 1-1, but are 2-2 in Division (two to play) while the Chiefs are 3-1 in Division (also two to play) and have a better Conference Record. It’s unlikely that the Broncos close out 3-0 in the first place and perhaps even less likely that the Chiefs end the season by dropping their next three games.

The Broncos have about the softest schedule you could ever ask for to end the season, so going 3-0 remains a possibility and should secure them a Wildcard spot (at 10-7) if they can pull it off. Even 9-8 might do given that they beat Buffalo head-to-head, but they did lose to the Texans, who are a game ahead of them.

Houston Texans/DeMeco Ryans:

Well, swing and a miss.

The Houston Texans, who I thought had the least promise, are 8-6 and very much a Playoff contender. The AFC South is home to three teams who currently sit at 8-6, with three games to go. This record also puts the Texans very much in the wildcard picture.

C.J. Stroud (second in the draft) has had a remarkably good rookie season; he’s certainly had a better season than Deshaun Watson has and has shown tremendous patience in the pocket. With a 4-1 Touchdown to Interception ratio (20 to 5), Stroud has been simultaneously very safe and reasonably effective. His QB Rating is sitting at just under 100 and he’s averaging more tha eight yards per attempt.

Nico Collins has had an amazing third year in the NFL; as Stroud’s favorite receiving target, Collins has averaged more than four yards per target each time he’s been targeted this year and, with three games left to play, has already eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on the season.

The Texans are right in the middle of the pack defensively, in almost all aspects; the main variations are that they’ve allowed the fewest passing TD’s in the league, but they make up for that by allowing the 7th most rushing touchdowns. The team is +8 on turnovers this year and might have a chance to make some noise in the Playoffs, if they can make it there.

Carolina Panthers/Frank Reich:

Frank Reich got fired after a 1-10 start to the season. The interim Head Coach is Chris Tabor, under whom the team has gone 1-2. They have no offense to speak of.

How’s Baker Mayfield doing, again?

Arizona Cardinals/Johnathan Gannon:

They suck. The Arizona Cardinals are 3-11 this season.

The massive amount of money they paid Kyler Murray…might have been better spent, but more on that later.

In any event, the Cardinals are 3-11, have the fourth-fewest passing yards on offense and are in the bottom quarter of the league in scoring, despite that they allow the second most points to opponents. They’re awful. Opposing offenses have the longest average drive time in the entire league.

The rushing attack has been quite good, and James Conner is having a nice year, but having a highly reliable ground attack only matters when your defense isn’t hot garbage.

Overall, I think I got that article mostly right. I felt that Steichen (Colts) entered the league in the best position to succeed (the job that since fired from the Raiders, Josh McDaniels, accepted and then changed his mind on, by the way) and the Colts are in the wildcard and divisional hunts at 8-6. Of course, so are the Texans, which is the team that I got very wrong; C.J. Stroud has been outstanding and fans should look forward to his continued development. The Texans should also be able to continue to improve in free agency and the draft.

I didn’t expect the Panthers or Cardinals to do anything, which is exactly what they’ve done. You could resurrect Lombardi or Walsh and there wouldn’t be jack either of those guys could do with either of those teams in one season.

The Broncos I got right and wrong simultaneously. I thought that Wilson would improve under Payton (correct), but expected that they’d have a great season if the defense played anywhere close to the level it did last season, which it absolutely has not.

THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS

This was inevitable. Hold on, be right back…

…I apologize for the delay, I just had to find a garbage can to spit in because I puke in my mouth, a little bit, every time I think about the Steelers’ offense.

My most recent Steelers article was my end of the season one from last year, a season in which they went 9-8 and missed the Playoffs. I said that I expected more of the same, and they’re 7-7 so far, so I’d say that I got that one right regardless of what happens the rest of the way out.

Kenny Pickett has also only thrown six touchdowns in twelve starts and has a QB RATE that’s barely in the 80’s, so more of the same there.

Actually, five of those touchdowns came in as many games, which were also his first five games of the 2023 season, so in effect, he has thrown exactly one touchdown in his last seven starts. In those starts, he’s also averaged well under 200 passing yards, only breaking the 200 yard mark once. Somehow, the Steelers (as a team) are only the fifth-worst in the league in passing yards (with three games to go), though they are the second-worst in passing touchdowns.

The ground attack is extremely mediocre, statistically speaking, but the Steelers remain the fifth-worst team in all key elements of offensive production, except for plays per drive, in which they are the third worst team in the league.

In that article, I opined about keeping Matt Canada around:

At least, that’s what Steelers Offensive Coordinator, Matt Canada, is hoping for. I gave plenty of details as to why I thought that Canada sucks in this article, but the Steelers organizational philosophy places a heavy emphasis on stability, with Art Rooney stating that he’s keeping Canada around so that Pickett doesn’t have to start over with a new OC.

Naturally, this decision comes directly from Art Rooney, but I am also hoping that Pickett does well in 2023 because this will quickly be forgotten, if not, and the segment of the fanbase mentioned in the above section will, once again, likely be calling for Tomlin’s head otherwise.

The first link in that quote is an article that I wrote, in its entirety, to explain why Matt Canada sucks. Evidently, I was right, because the Steelers FINALLY parted ways with Canada going into Week 14.

In addition to Kenny Pickett arguably performing worse this season (his QB Rate is slightly improved, compared to last year, but he has a worse QBR); Kenny Pickett has only engineered one of those exciting comeback fourth-quarter drives that he became almost synonymous with in the last few games of the 2022 campaign.

Either way, I expected the Steelers to win at least ten games this season, so it looks like I’m going to be wrong on that account, unless they can end this year with wins over the Bengals, Seahawks and Ravens…which I very much doubt and think they’ll be lucky to win two of.

The offense hasn’t improved since Canada’s unceremonious dismissal, but there was no reason to expect it to do so. When you’re about two-thirds of the way into the season, there’s simply no abandoning the general offensive scheme (essentially, to play NOT to lose) that was in place. More than that, Pickett also got injured and has missed the last few weeks. In his place, Mitch Trubisky has performed worse than last season (though, it’s a limited sample size and so has the offense, overall) and Mason Rudolph is poised to get the Week 16 start unless Pickett (Questionable) is healthy enough to play.

I’d expect that the Steelers would keep Mitch around rather than exercise the out in his current three-year contract. If, for no other reason, the cap hit from cutting him is more than half the cap hit they’re going to take keeping him would be. He was also never expected to be the Steelers’ #1 option and remains reasonably priced for a backup quarterback who would now be considered a veteran.

If Mason Rudolph gets the start, it’s difficult to imagine that he’ll be staying after this season, regardless of how he performs. He already wanted out, but didn’t have any takers and ended up signing a one year contract with the team. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Steelers would pay significantly more (next season) to keep him around, but if they do, then Mitch is probably gone. If Rudolph starts and has a great game, then maybe he can fetch more in free agency as a potential QB2 somewhere.

Kenny Pickett remains cheaper than Trubisky and, at this point, should get another year as a starter. I know that seems strange given how nothing he has been through most of this season, but both of his years were under Matt Canada, who has been fired, so Kenny should at least get a shot at a full season under a different Offensive Coordinator in, hopefully, an offensive scheme that is at least a bit more aggressive.

All season I’ve been saying, “If the Steelers’ opponents score twenty points in a game, and the Steelers have no defensive touchdowns, then they just lose.” The Steelers have averaged not even fifteen points per game this season, of which only just under fourteen have come from the offense. The defense has been solid enough, overall, but they’re being asked to do too much as they don’t even get time of possession help from the office (fifth worst in the league in drive time), so there’s simply no way anyone can win with an offense that is this anemic. It’s honestly a shock that such a team would even be 7-7.

TERRIBLE QUARTERBACK VALUE

Probably the most fun I had writing an NFL Article last season was my article that looked at teams getting the best value for their quarterbacks last season.

Since I’m a bit of a salt monster lately, I’m going to focus on the part of that article discussing which teams were getting the worst value out of their quarterbacks, just to see how those guys are doing and what may have changed.

Deshaun Watson:

From the linked article:

#1 Worst Value, DeShaun Watson-Cleveland Browns:

Contract: Five Years, 230M, Guaranteed

2022 Salary: 1.035M (Base), 8.993 (Bonus), 402.5k (Guaranteed)

Mechanism: Trade (Texans)

Browns Get: Deshaun Watson, 2024 6th Round Pick

Texans Get: 2022 1st Round Pick, 2023 & 2024 First Round Picks, 2022 Fourth Round Pick, 2023 Third Round Pick and 2024 Fourth Round Pick

Haha, suck it, Watson.

No, not literally. Down, boy. Don’t get excited over there.

I’ll spare the reiteration of why I’m not a huge fan of Deshaun Watson, the Browns’ move they made to get him or what has gone on with all of the teams and players involved in that move.

Actually, we will be discussing Baker Mayfield in a bit. We’ve already discussed the Houston Texans who are, at 8-6, very much in the AFC South Division Championship hunt as well as the wildcard hunt…mostly courtesy of one, C.J. Stroud, their rookie quarterback taken with the second pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.

I know, I know, they didn’t technically pick him with any of the first round Picks they got from the Cleveland Browns, but how immaculate would it be if they had?

Watson is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Perhaps his shoulder wasn’t limber enough because the Browns, understandably, might have been hesitant to even let Watson be in the same ZIP Code as a private masseuse. Naturally, I would typically hate to see any player sustain a season-ending injury, especially one that requires surgery.

Typically.

For the second season in a row, the Cleveland Browns only got six games out of Watson. Granted, he did go 5-1 as a starter, but that really doesn’t have a hell of a lot to do with anything that he did. The Browns would have almost certainly won some of those games anyway.

In his six games (snickers), DeShaun Watson managed seven touchdowns against four interceptions, 6.5 yards per attempt (tied with 2022, with the Browns, for a career low) 185.8 yards per game (not even two yards better than last year) for a 84.3 QB Rate (with his 79.1 last year being the only season worse).

With that, in his limited appearances the last two seasons, after sitting an entire season out, Watson has essentially played to the level that you’d expect from an extremely mediocre backup. He’s barely better than Kenny Pickett who, in comparison, plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers for free. He’s had a significantly worse year than C.J. Stroud who, by comparison, the Houston Texans are also getting for free. He’s also had a much worse season than Baker Mayfield, who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are as much as getting for free. More on him later.

I don’t know what to expect from Watson next year; he has played all of twelve games in the last three NFL Seasons. Of those, one has been outstanding, two really good, one basically average and the rest were hot garbage. Money well spent, Cleveland!

Cue Joe Flacco…who just keeps reappearing! In his three starts with the Browns, Flacco has produced roughly the same QB Rate as Watson, but has already thrown as many touchdowns. Flacco’s just out there having a ball and airing it out all over the place. He’s thrown five picks against those seven touchdowns, but he’s also throwing for about 130 yards more per game than Watson had this season.

I’ll tell you what I would just love: I’d love for the Browns to make it to the playoffs and make a deep run, with Joe Flacco. What do you do at that point? I guess nothing gets you off of Watson with the amount of money he’s being paid, but what if Flacco (this is absolutely not going to happen) somehow led the Browns to a Super Bowl win?

Russell Wilson:

Wilson is interesting in that he’s having a very productive year, as evidenced by his 24 Touchdowns against Eight Interceptions and 97.5 QB Rate (which is thirteen points better than last year). His average yards per game is at a career-low and his average yards per attempt is his second-worst career performance, with only last year being worse, but there’s no question he’s been effective.

The question is: At what cost?

The Broncos’ defense sucks this year and they only have limited draft capital that they might use to improve that state of affairs. Their free agency moves will also be a bit hampered due to the fact that they are already upside down on salary cap going into next season. Russell Wilson has been on the field for every snap this season, so at least they’re getting that out of him, but unless he’s going to carry the entire team on his back, this defense is going to have to significantly improve for the Broncos to do much of anything in upcoming seasons.

Between this season and last year, I still don’t think he’s been that great of a value for the team. When you look at what quarterbacks such as C.J. Stroud are doing, who is practically playing for free, then you’d really expect a better overall result when you’re paying Wilson the kind of money he’s making.

Basically, the Broncos paid him the way they did, and gave up what they did, with the hopes of making a Super Bowl run LAST YEAR. Not only was last year an unmitigated disaster that saw their first year head coach, Nathaniel Hackett, fail to complete his first campaign before being dismissed, but add to it, the Broncos will be lucky to even make the Playoffs this season.

In short, Wilson’s having a very nice year, but still isn’t a great value.

Carson Wentz:

Carson Wentz is no longer with the Washington Commanders. He’s currently with the Los Angeles Rams as a QB3, has been on the field for three snaps and hasn’t produced any stats this season. Basically, my article from last year stands and said:

It’s pretty difficult, and almost seems unfair, to factor the fact that Wentz is injured into my ranking, but I suppose it is relevant. Even then, there were a wide variety of reports to the extent that Wentz’s former teammates on the Colts did not particularly like him. I don’t know whether or not those reports are just, but they are based directly on what some past teammates of Wentz have said.

Even without that, I don’t know that Wentz’s play justifies his salary, had he continued at the quip that he was on. Taylor Heinecke has stepped in to fill-in for the injured Wentz and has played to the same level, actually, his QB RATE is slightly better, so that’s not what you want out of a starter making that kind of money.

The biggest head-scratcher for me, however, is why the Commanders would ever want to give anything for Wentz, in terms of draft capital. Personally, I think the Colts should have been happy just to not have to pay that kind of money for that sort of production, so there is no question that the Colts got the better end of this trade. They aren’t doing terribly well so far this season, but they weren’t going to anyway.

In six games, Wentz’s stat line is 144-FOR-232 (62.1%), 1,489 Yards (6.4 Y/A), ten touchdowns and six picks for a 84.1 QB RATE.

Anyway, last season was the last season of the contract that the Commanders inherited from the Colts, when they traded for Wentz. Needless to say, I feel quite justified in suggesting that they didn’t really get any value for Wentz’s massive salary.

Baker Mayfield:

YES!!!

First of all, I suggested that the Panthers didn’t get any value out of him last year; he’d already been waived from the team:

#4 Worst Value: Baker Mayfield (Carolina Panthers)

Contract: Dead. 3.5M Paid by Panthers, 10.5M by Browns

2022 Salary: Base: 3.5 Million Paid by Panthers

Mechanism: Trade (To Carolina) Waived (By Carolina)

Panthers Get: Baker Mayfield

Browns Get: Conditional 4th/5th Round Pick

The Browns represented that they would not release Mayfield, which would have made acquiring his services even cheaper for alternative teams. That being the case, the Panthers and Browns eventually reached an agreement, which had to include a draft pick of some sort, because you can’t ship someone to another team without getting something back for him.

I think that the Browns got way more out of Mayfield than they should have, and since Carolina is hopeless this season and has already waived the quarterback, it’s difficult to say that they really got any value out of this trade acquisition.

In terms of performance, Mayfield had a starting record of 1-5 with the Panthers, went 119-FOR-206 (57.8%), 1,313 Yards, six touchdowns, six interceptions, 6.4 Y/A and had a QB RATE of 74.4.

Quite frankly, that performance does not have value for ANY NFL QB, even for a third-string quarterback, so teams shouldn’t ever want to pay anything, much less give up a draft pick in ANY round, for that kind of performance. The Rams would pick up Mayfield from waivers and he has appeared in one game, as of the time of this writing, looking much better than his typical game in a Panthers uniform.

Mayfield would briefly find himself as the starting quarterback for the 2022 St. Louis Rams, and he delivered the team the gift of scoring, absolutely lighting up the Denver Broncos defense (back when that actually meant something) on Christmas Day. The Broncos performance led to first-year Head Coach, Nathaniel Hackett, being fired.

With that, I said the Panthers didn’t get any value out of Mayfield, which is true, but they wouldn’t have got value out of anyone! As you can see above, they’re just awful.

In the meantime, Baker Mayfield is arguably the comeback player of the year!!!

Mayfield would sign a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for which he is being compensated a total sum of four million dollars, which is substantially less than the 46 million dollars DeShaun Watson was paid by the Cleveland Browns to mostly suck and then miss the majority of the season due to injury, after he was done sucking.

In contrast, Baker Mayfield has a 63.5% completion rate (near career high), has thrown 24 touchdowns (three more will tie his career high, with the Browns), only has eight interceptions (3:1) ratio and has amassed, so far, a 94.7 QB Rate, which would be the second-highest of his career if he finishes the season with that. The Buccaneers sit atop of the (again putrid) NFC South, at 7-7, and have a very real chance of making the Playoffs, where they’ll likely be bounced in the first round…but when Mayfield is playing just as well as Brady did last year, at least arguably, that’s great value.

Suck it, Watson. I still don’t mean literally.

Matt Ryan:

He’s retired. There’s not much to say there. I’d say my assertion that the Colts didn’t get much value out of him held up, except they were also a dysfunctional mess who made Jeff Saturday, who had no coaching experience beyond the High School level, an interim Head Coach. In Saturday’s only coaching win, he did manage to beat a Josh McDaniels headed Las Vegas Raiders team. Sweet, sweet, justice.

THE LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! And YES!!!

It happened several weeks back, but ultimately, Josh McDaniels was enough of a toxic human being that Mark Davis had finally seen enough and gave him his walking papers midseason.

This event relates back to my Coaching Carousel article going into the 2022 NFL Season, which I didn’t necessarily expect to revisit, but I’m glad we get to. Here’s what I said then:

Rich Bisaccia (Interim)--->Josh McDaniels:

Okay, so this one is really bizarre to me. You have Rich Bisaccia, who filled in as interim coach when former Raiders (for the second time) Head Coach, Jon Gruden, was terminated under…let’s say unusual…circumstances. Feel free to read that article for more detail, but I would also add that in his second stint as Raiders Head Coach (22-31), the Raiders didn’t perform particularly well under Gruden anyway.

Admittedly, the Raiders would start the 2021 season with a record of 3-2, Gruden would be fired for reasons unrelated to on field performance (though, the termination was rightfully so), Bisaccia would come in…other things would happen involving Raiders players that year that would make Gruden’s midseason dismissal trivial, by comparison…the team would somehow amass a 7-5 record under Bisaccia, go 10-7 overall, go on a four game winning streak to end the season, advance to the Playoffs, and then lose to the team that won the AFC Championship.

Um…so, what did Bisaccia do wrong, here? It seems to me that this whole thing is going pretty well, especially given some highly unusual circumstances, right?

Apparently, not well enough, as Rich Bisaccia is going into the 2022 NFL season as the Special Teams Coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.

Make this make sense.

Oh, wait, it’s the Raiders. The Raiders are owned by Mark Davis. It’s not supposed to make sense.

Replacing Bisaccia, for whatever reason, is Brady/Belichick coattail rider and longtime (twice) Offensive Coordinator of the New England Patriots, Josh McDaniels. McDaniels only other Head Coaching tenure with the Denver Broncos apparently went so well that they just HAD to replace an interim coach that led the team to the playoffs with him. How could you not?

Oh, wait, McDaniels was also Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts for about four and a half minutes; the long and short of that is that he accepted the HC gig in 2018, the Colts announced him as their HC, then McDaniels changed his mind and decided to stay in New England.

Hmm…maybe he really did learn something from Belichick.

On the one hand, Belichick at least appeared at the Jets’ facilities as Head Coach of the team. On the other hand, the Jets hadn’t yet formally announced that he was the coach, so history didn’t exactly repeat there.

McDaniels would be the Head Coach of the Denver Broncos only slightly longer. He coached for 1.75 seasons, during which time he amassed a record of 11-17 with the organization. The team went 8-8 in his first year, but he was dismissed after a 3-9 start the following season.

That said, Kyle Orton had the best pair of seasons of his career (only including ones where he started more than one game) under McDaniels, which is to say that he was very average those years.

Granted, the Broncos were average under McDaniels his first year, with the 8-8 record, but they could have just stayed with Mike Shanahan if a .500 record is what they wanted, as that was Shanahan’s record over the three previous seasons, combined. (Shanahan and the Broncos were much better in the years before that).

The Broncos would finish McDaniels’ second, and final, season with the team with a record of 4-12, of which, 3-9 was under McDaniels. After that, the team would make the Playoffs the next five consecutive years, (including one year with Tim Tebow as the starter) appear in two Super Bowls and win one.

I don’t know. Watch the Raiders go 13-4, win the Division and at least make it to the Super Bowl and prove me entirely wrong, but I hope not.

History repeats. Of course, while the Raiders dismissed McDaniels midseason, as the Broncos did, 3-5 and an abysmal offense after dismissing franchise quarterback, Derek Carr, and picking up Jimmy Garoppolo, who managed seven touchdowns and nine interceptions (78.1 QB Rate) in his six starts with the team. Good gravy! At least he was really good with the 49ers, when he did play.

McDaniels’ tenure with the Raiders would see the team go 9-16 under his stewardship, which brings his overall Head Coaching record to 20-33…which is pretty bad. The worst aspect of that is he inherited decent teams in both of his stints. In the Broncos’ case, they’d averaged an 8-8 record over the three seasons prior to McDaniels’ arrival; in the case of the Raiders, they finished 2021 on a four game winning streak, under an interim Head Coach and went to the Playoffs.

In any event, McDaniels and the Raiders did not prove me wrong; they did the exact opposite. They won six games, in 2022, and were pretty much on pace to have a similar season under McDaniels. Since McDaniels’ dismissal, they’ve gone 3-3 to improve to 6-8 and will probably miss the Playoffs, once again.

I don’t know that Antonio Pierce will go from being their interim Head Coach to getting the Head Coaching gig next season, but it’s a good thing for him that the Raiders will almost definitely miss the Playoffs, or there’d be no chance of that happening. Mark Davis hates coaches that take his Raiders to the Playoffs-just ask Jack Del Rio and Rich Bisaccia.

THE POLITICS ARE INESCAPABLE

As with most other things, the political division in this country is also what caused me to no longer care to follow the NFL. Granted, it’s probably not through any fault of the NFL itself, but it seems like there’s always some catalyst, loosely tied to the NFL, that creates divisive political discourse.

Seriously, society, is it really so much to ask just to have one thing that we can enjoy for its own sake without getting politics involved?

I think it basically started with Colin Kaepernick, who had a huge hubbub created around him given his protest of kneeling during the National Anthem.

As I’d previously discussed, unlike the NBA, the NFL didn’t have any official rules regarding player conduct during the National Anthem. However, at the time, I also opined that the field of play wasn’t necessarily the forum for political protest, especially if the 49ers organization had wanted him to stand for the anthem.

Of course, I don’t really blame Kaepernick for how much of an issue his kneeling became. Honestly, it was Donald Trump who made a major production out of it, calling out the NFL for allowing it. After that, Kaepernick was arguably blackballed from the league, but then made half-hearted attempts to make comebacks well after the fact. As I recall, he almost went to the Seattle Seahawks, but that fell through when he felt he should have competed for a starting job…the Seahawks had Russell Wilson at the time.

Ignoring the Washington Redskins being renamed the Commanders, because really, who cares? The next major hubbub came when Jon Gruden was dismissed as Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Really, this shouldn’t have been seen as a political issue at all as the E-Mails, one would think, would lead to anyone being terminated from such a position were they to become public knowledge. What was really the most interesting aspect of the NFL’s investigation (and the leaked E-Mails), to me, was the fact that the entire investigation resulted in the Head Coach of a totally different team, who wasn’t an NFL employee at the time the E-Mails occurred, getting fired whilst the E-Mails were to a former Commanders’ General Manager, Bruce Allen, who was no longer with the organization.

All of this seemed a bit nice and neat for an investigation that was supposed to be on the Commanders’ organization. Of course, Dan Snyder no longer owns the team and Jon Gruden is suing the NFL over all of this, so it remains to be seen how all of that unfolds.

Most recently, Deadspin published an article that attacked a small child who attended a Kansas City Chiefs game accusing the actual child himself of being a racist, cultural appropriation and expressing hate to two cultures at once due to his wearing black and red face paint, as well as wearing a war headdress.

As it turns out, the kid is actually Native American, so unless he was culturally appropriating himself, that didn’t happen. After weeks of standing behind the article, Deadspin and the Senior Writer responsible, Carron J. Phillips, finally edited the article to what has been linked above.

Of course, this was only after the family threatened to sue and has, in fact, retained counsel. I doubt if I will continue to follow the story, at this point, but I might.

Either way, the kid was actually pictured in the original article (with only the black side of his face paint showing and him being referred to as wearing, ‘Blackface’) and he was accused of doing all of this as a result of his (again, a small child’s) racism and hatred.

The article was patently ridiculous and I was going to write an entire article ripping it apart, but I became too invested in attacking Deadspin, on Twitter, at every opportunity and never got around to it. I’d also been busy attacking Carron J. Phillips, but he eventually blocked me.

I’m not going to say anything else about the Deadspin article as I eventually got what I wanted, which was the retraction and, sort of, apology. What happens in court, if there is a lawsuit, will just be what happens in court.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, it’s 2023 and all joy must be sucked out of everything by politics, which includes the NFL. I could have also addressed the fact that the NFL is actively working on new ways to make the game suck and even they have as much as admitted that making it too beneficial not to attempt kickoff returns (in addition to how easy it is to naturally kick a touchback anyway), and the fact that only some 20% of kickoffs are returned, is bad for the game.

I felt that addressing that was a bit unnecessary because it’s a bit of piling on, and more than that, the continued injection of divisive politics into what is supposed to be an enjoyable pastime is already too much for me.

Beyond that, while I tend to enjoy being right, it remains annoying to see teams just make abysmal moves (such as with Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson) or abysmal Head Coaching decisions (not giving Rich Bisaccia, who got them to the Playoffs, at least one full season and opting, instead, for Josh McDaniels) when these are highly predictable outcomes.

Of course, I’d probably just bask in being right about those things if not for the politics. I don’t expect society to ever quit using NFL happenings as an excuse for political bickering, so for me, all joy in following the NFL is simply gone.

Comments

odiousgambit
odiousgambit Dec 20, 2023

"I have simply lost all interest in the NFL."
Says the guy who's heading for the You Suck award.... seems convenient to sort of say "I was yawning like hell and that's how it happened" .... JUST KIDDING!

Here's a theory for why the NFL just doesn't seem to be what it used to be: Many parents naturally started preventing their kids from playing when all the information started coming out about concussions. That would be hitting the NFL about now, wouldn't it? I wonder if the NFL is getting a smaller a smaller contingent of the best athletes, and the game is suffering. OK, yeah, politics and crap like that isn't helping. But this thought has occurred to me.

Mission146
Mission146 Dec 20, 2023

OdiousGambit,

LOL! I've been trying to make losing Picks since Week 3, after my 3-9 start, but you don't really have to watch too many games to make reasonable picks if you know general trends (GAME TOTAL-OVER is typically a bad bet, on average) and have also watched a ton of football the last several seasons before this one.

I don't know. I know that I don't like the rule changes over the last several years, but I'm not sure the quality of the on-field product, in terms of athleticism, has actually declined.

billryan
billryan Dec 23, 2023

Why be upset with the NFL for what a magazine wrote about an incident at one of their games?

Mission146
Mission146 Dec 26, 2023

Itís not the NFLís fault, per se, BillRyan. Iíd say that the Ďleaksí that led to Grudenís firing were highly suspicious because one has to wonder what the NFL turned up that wasnít leaked.

The balance isnít the NFLís fault, but having to run into these things all the time sucks any joy out of following the game.

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