By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
Thank god for Mike Shanahan, my favorite fraud coach, for giving me another opportunity to write about how massively overrated he really is after benching his handpicked quarterback, Donovan McNabb, with just under two minutes left in last week’s Redskins loss at Detroit with the game’s outcome still in doubt. He’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Trailing 30-25 with 1:50 left at Ford Field (and only having 25 points because he inexplicably went for a two-point conversion in the third quarter, watched his team fail to convert, then was forced to chase points for the remainder of the game because of it), Shanahan yanked McNabb. He inserted Rex Grossman, the same Rex Grossman who played himself out of a job in Chicago a couple years ago and is roundly perceived as an emblem of futility. Naturally, Grossman was sacked and fumbled on his first snap; the ball was recovered by the Lions and run back for a TD which effectively ended the game. Afterward, Shanahan said he made the decision because Grossman, “was more familiar with the team’s two-minute offense.” It was a ludicrous excuse that essentially meant that he thinks McNabb is a moron. Then the next day, he doubled back and said he made the decision because he didn’t believe McNabb had the “cardiovascular endurance” to be on the field at that point (although he’d rushed for a team high 45 yards in the game), which essentially meant that he thinks McNabb is fat and in lousy shape. McNabb has taken the high road through it all, just as he always did in Philadelphia when silly, soap opera-y stuff like this came his way. In private, however, he probably wants to strangle Shanahan and while we don’t condone anything like that here at Patriots Daily, someone may well need to smack a little sense into the guy who has one exactly one playoff game since 1999 but is still for some reason thought of as an elite, top echelon head coach.
Now it’s entirely conceivable that Shanahan doesn’t think McNabb is that good (note: he’s not) and was looking for a reason to bench him anyway, regardless of the 12-year veteran being his personal choice to lead the team. But to do it the way he did it, humiliating McNabb in the midst of a winnable game in the process, as well as likely causing at least a handful of his players to scratch their heads, was just dumb. Furthermore, to come out after the game and the next day with those asinine excuses was even dumber – doing so robbed him of a great deal of credibility and likely cast even more doubt into the heads of his players about whether he knows what he’s doing.
Shanahan has total control of the entire football operation in Washington even though he hasn’t accomplished anything in over a decade. It seems he’ll be able to cash in the currency he was awarded by being in the right place at the right time for John Elway’s ascension to Super Bowl champion at the tail end of his career for all of eternity. Still, despite having all the power, he seems intent on continuously reminding everyone of it, from his ongoing public embarrassment of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth pretty much since the start of training camp to this fiasco with McNabb. It was refreshing to actually see some media types rip him for his actions (I’m certain I even heard the word stupid bandied about) instead of just gush about what an all-time great mastermind he is, though there was plenty of that too. The bottom line is that Mike Shanahan is no different than pretty much any other coach in the NFL, he’s just treated like he is. Maybe when the Redskins miss the playoffs this season and another year is added to this stretch in which he’s done absolutely nothing, that will start to change.
This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. New England: Tom Brady looking like MVP, Bill Belichick looking like Coach of the Year and they’re surrounded by guys named Deaderick, Brace, Ninkovich, Green-Ellis, Woodhead and Tate (not to mention Branch and Welker). It’s all a little Back to the Futurey, isn’t it?
2. Pittsburgh: The Steelers had a little setback in New Orleans on Halloween with Ben Roethlisberger still looking rusty in his third game back from suspension and the vaunted defense looking leaky in getting carved up by Drew Brees, who was 20-of-22 in the second half. Was likely a blip on the radar for such a talented group; we’ll know for sure after divisional game at Cincinnati on Monday night.
3. New York Giants: The Giants sort of seem like the best team in the NFC almost by default. But it’s not a fluke – their numbers on both sides of the ball over their four-game winning streak were as good as at any point since their ‘07 Super Bowl run. They are third in offense and second in defense overall and could well run away with the NFC East with wins against Dallas in Week 10 and Philly in Week 11.
4. Indianapolis: There are the Colts, still hanging around with Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Joseph Addai out. They pounded the Texans last week with Peyton Manning having a typical game despite throwing to untypical receivers (Jacob Tamme, Blair White) and Dwight Freeney terrorizing Houston QB Matt Schaub
5. The NFC South (except Carolina): Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all have five wins, making this division, along with the AFC East, the most formidable in the league. The Falcons and Bucs play this week, in Atlanta, and that should be the truest test of the season so far for Tampa, which has won seven of its last 11 games since starting 2009 1-11. Atlanta should be rested and healthy coming off their bye and the Saints can build on any momentum gathered from the Steelers win with a matchup against the lowly Panthers.
This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. Dallas: Not only did the Cowboys piss away any pride they might have had left with a 35-17 home loss to Jacksonville of all teams, they let David Garrard, a journeyman QB if there ever was one, go 17-of-21 for 260 yards and four TDs, then tell Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, “It just looked like they weren’t into the game like an NFL team should be. There was a woe-is-me attitude with some of the players.” Ouch. The Dallas Cowboys are the biggest joke in the NFL.
2. Buffalo: The Bills are rapidly becoming my new favorite bad team despite being in the same division as the Pats. How can you not like them and be pulling for them? They made the Chiefs play almost a full extra session in barely last week, the second straight week they’ve gone down on an OT field goal on the road against a potential playoff team. They still can’t come close to stopping the run, giving up 274 more to Kansas City (their fifth straight game allowing at least 200 yards on the ground), but man are they getting closer and closer. In fact, it says here they put one in the win column this week against the woeful Bears.
3. Carolina: One week after actually looking like a competent offensive team in winning their first game of the season, they went to St. Louis and ran for just 25 yards while QB Matt Moore completed just four passes longer that 10 yards in throwing for only 194 yards on a whopping 37 attempts with three picks in a 20-10 loss to the Rams.
4. Denver: It doesn’t get any better for the Broncos. They lost 24-16 to the equally bad 49ers in London last week, allowing a third-string QB who hadn’t started a game in almost three years gash them for 196 yards on just 12 completions. A punt return for the game-tying TD was called back due to a penalty and another late score that got them back in the game preceded a blocked extra point. There probably aren’t many teams in the NFL as relieved to have their bye week than the Broncos, now with their worst record at midseason (2-6) since they finished 6-10 in 1999.
5. Cincinnati: There are plenty of teams that could be in this spot but I’m choosing the Bengals by virtue of their failed expectations. After going 6-0 in the AFC North en route to winning the division last year, they are 2-5 and looking rudderless. Carson Palmer is a shell of himself, they have major injuries on defense that they aren’t responding to the other teams in similar boats like say, the Packers, are and they can’t seem to maintain rhythm in games. Last week against the Dolphins, they opened the game with an 87-yard TD drive, then had 89 yards on their next eight drives put together.
- The Lions: Love the Lions! They have as many wins against the Redskins (two) as they do against the rest of the league since 2007. On Sunday, their high draft picks beat the crap out of Washington with QB Matthew Stafford throwing four TD passes, receiver Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron) catching nine passes for 101 yards and three TDs and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had two sacks, two more hits on the QB, a forced fumble and a 17-yard fumble return for a TD. Their offense has scored at least 30 points in three straight home games. It’s onward and upward in Detroit.
- The Raiders Offense: In perhaps the hardest current story to believe, the Raiders are actually at .500 thanks to their second straight blowout win, a 33-3 stomping of Seattle. Even more amazing, in running up 545 yards on the Seahawks, they posted their second straight game with 500+ total and have scored 92 points the past two weeks. These being the Raiders, coach Tom Cable announced he will bench QB Jason Campbell in favor of initial starter Bruce Gradkowski as soon as Gradkowski is recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered during the game in which Oakland started its current run despite the record totals the offense is putting up with Campbell at the helm. But it’s been so long since the Raiders were even remotely relevant and not a laughingstock that I’m willing to give Cable the benefit of the doubt.
- Dan Carpenter, Dolphins: Five field goals last week. Five field goals the week before that and three the week before that. No misses over that stretch and only two misses all year long (18-for-20). Miami’s kicker is it’s most valuable player. And how often do you see that?
- The Jets: So the Jets spent their bye week boasting (for a change) that their 5-1 record obviously made them the best team in the league. Then they went out and got whitewashed by Green Bay, a team with five defensive starters out for the year, at home. In the process, they called for a fake punt on 4th-and-18 from deep in their own end (it failed) and got a 2009-esque game out of QB Mark Sanchez (16-of-38, two INTs). Oddly enough, none of their loud mouths have said a word all week. Enjoy the silence.
- The Seahawks Defense: When Seattle, riding high after two straight wins made them 4-2 and the leaders of the NFC West, gave up those 545 yards to Oakland, it was the most it’d allowed since 2002. They also allowed 10 plays of more than 20 yards. Yikes.
- The Chargers Special Teams: The Chargers finally won last week but their atrocious special teams tried to cost them yet again. Another blocked punt (that’s four in eight games if you’re scoring at home) and a missed extra point yet somehow, coordinator Steve Crosby still has his job. The Chargers and their No. 1 ranked offense and defense, would likely be at least 5-3 and not 3-5 if not for this phase of the game and how bad they are at it.
Just a quick couple more cents on Randy Moss. After the initial shock of hearing he’d been waived this past Monday, the fact that he got himself fired after just four games became a little easier to understand. Having never stepped into line throughout his career until he arrived in Foxboro, the Pats smartly got rid of him the instant it appeared he would potentially step out of it. And he wound up in a place that is the polar opposite of New England – a sinking ship on which there is no institutional control, the inmates run the asylum and the head coach is loathed by some, disrespected by most. The only real surprise regarding the fact that Moss went off the way he did following last Sunday’s game was that it hadn’t happened sooner. And the Patriots proved once again that they are smarter than everyone else by actually getting something valuable in exchange for him, whereas the Vikings and their nitwit of a coach panicked and just tossed him overboard. Brad Childress, the nitwit in question, is not long for his job and he knows it, which may explain why he seems to be trying to go out guns blazing (ripping BrettFavre to the media after a recent loss to Green Bay, bringing up Spygate leading up to the game against the Pats, unilaterally getting rid of Moss for nothing as opposed to deliberating with his staff or his superiors, etc.). And the big winners in all of this? Well the Pats, of course. But also Moss himself. He was claimed by Tennessee, which is in a tie for its division lead, seems headed for the playoffs and has a very regimented, solid foundation and power structure in place that’s headed up by a coach in Jeff Fisher who may not have the success of a Bill Belichick on his resume, but has been in place for 17 years and has as much job security as anyone. And that’s that. Now can we just move on, pretty please?