By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
There are a bunch of NFL owners who are stupid, it’s a wonder they made the billions of dollars required to own a franchise. This week, three of those nincompoops – Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie, San Diego’s Dean Spanos and (for the grand prize) Dallas’s Jerry Jones, were in the news for all the wrong, albeit hilarious, reasons. They’re the gifts that keep on giving.
Let’s start in Philly, where Lurie called a press conference to tell the assembled masses that despite his team missing the playoffs and suffering through one of the more humiliating seasons any team has experienced in recent memory even though it spent wads of cash on seemingly every available high-profile free agent during the off-season, he’d be retaining head coach/GM/best friend Andy Reid for a mind-boggling 14th season. Reid, who has never won a title, only advanced to one Super Bowl and lost five NFC Championship games (three of them at home) as well as countless other big games during his tenure, seems to have enough cache in the Eagles organization to set fire to Lincoln Financial Field and still keep his job and all the personnel power that comes with it. Not only has Reid never won anything, he tried to succeed this year by assembling a fantasy team on the fly while simultaneously making his offensive line coach into his defensive coordinator. The Eagles subsequently lost eight of their first 12 games and looked pathetic in doing so, but hey, they won their last four, so why not keep the guy for yet another year. Reid, who would have been fired by most teams at least five years ago, has to have incriminating photos of Lurie or something. It’s hard to imagine being a fan of this team and being sold the same bill of goods (we’re continually OK with being just good enough to never, ever win) year after year. At this point, seeing Lurie actually hold Reid accountable and fire him would be more of a surprise than ever seeing him actually lead his team somewhere special.
Next, we move on to San Diego, where Spanos didn’t fire head coach Norv Turner or GM A.J. Smith despite two straight non-playoff years, declining ticket sales and a steadily aging, rotting core of players on both sides of the ball. Not only that, he actually said, “Bottom line, I believe these two men give us the best chance to win. A.J. Smith is the best man to improve this roster and Norv Turner is the best man to lead that roster onto the field.” No one must have told Spanos that Turner’s career record is below .500 and has made just four trips to the playoffs in 15 seasons as a head coach in San Diego, Oakland and Washington. Or that Smith has presided over four playoff teams that have won a grand total of two playoff games. Even more inexplicably, Spanos told Pro Football Talk, “I’m sure it will be a challenge,” in regard to selling tickets after defending his decision to keep Turner and Smith. In other words, look for the Chargers to continue to not only be nowhere near winning a championship, but keep drifting further from even having a chance to.
And then there’s Dallas, where the court jester Jones, after watching his team lose yet another must-win game and miss the playoffs altogether for the third time in four years, said that the thought of removing himself from the position of his team’s GM has never once crossed his mind. Jones, likely the biggest egomaniac in the NFL, basically came out and said that the main focus of any GM is to procure good coaching and good personnel and that the Cowboys have both of those so therefore, why should he even consider giving up the job? Apparently to Jones, winning one playoff game in 17 years is all the evidence he needs that he’s procured good coaching and personnel. Jones, a glorified carnival barker who cares more about stoking his own ego and selling sponsorships for his $1 billion stadium than winning, is a lost cause. The only coach he’s ever employed who had the sack to stand up to him (and won two Super Bowls doing it) was Jimmy Johnson and he quit rather than continue to work for Jones despite all of his success. Cowboys fans must have been thrilled to see Jones respond to his team missing the playoffs again with his news about staying on as GM. Hey, they’re only about 15 years from their next playoff win. Maybe Jones will have figured out by then that his style doesn’t work. Then again, maybe he won’t.
This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. Green Bay: How good is the Packers offense? With QB/MVP shoo-in Aaron Ridgers sitting out a meaningless game, his backup, former seventh-round pick Matt Flynn, only threw for 480 yards and six, count ‘em, six TDs, setting a couple of new franchise records in a 45-41 win over the Lions.
2. New Orleans: The Saints offensive express kept chugging, rolling up 617 more yards and 45 more points and setting a slew of team and league records in the process while stomping on the Panthers, 45-17. New Orleans should have little trouble with Detroit in this weekend’s Wild Card game; its truest test will be the following weekend at San Francisco, outdoors, against a great defense.
3. New England: Another woeful start, another massive comeback, another win for the Pats who beat Buffalo 49-21 for their eighth straight win. It’s probably safe to say that Pats coaches, players and fans alike are all now huge Cincinnati fans, as the Bengals will be the Divisional Round opponent next Saturday night in Foxboro if they beat Houston tomorrow.
4. San Francisco: The Niners lost their edge a bit late in their 34-27 win over St. Louis, allowing the hideous Rams offense to run off 17 fourth quarter points. But in securing a home game and a bye week, along with their ferocious defense and power run game, there aren’t many other teams who look as traditionally title-ready that San Francisco.
5. Baltimore: The Ravens needed to beat a desperate Cincinnati team on the road to secure the AFC North and a No. 2 seed and they did just that, getting another big game out of Ray Rice (24 carries, 191 yards, two TDs) and ensuring that when they inevitably play the Steelers in the playoffs once again, the game will be in Baltimore.
This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. Tampa Bay: The Bucs, losers of 10 in a row to end the season, quit on their coach, their fans and each other so completely, they trailed the Falcons 42-0 with just under seven minutes to play in the first half on Sunday. Raheem Morris, who was fired the next day (but conceivably could have gotten the gate at halftime of the game against Atlanta) had to have at least partly breathed a sigh of relief to be rid of such a heartless group.
2. Indianapolis: The Colts remembered that winning would cost them the No. 1 overall pick so they packed it in after a two-game win streak and fell to the Jaguars, ensuring themselves the right to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck in a few months. Then on Monday, owner Jim Irsay fired insufferable GM Bill Polian and his son Chris, making it the first smart move Indy has made all year.
3. St. Louis: Give the Rams some credit for not rolling over on now fired coach Steve Spagnuolo, who’s unemployment as of Monday morning was about the surest thing in the league. But at the end of the day, winning 10 of 48 games in three years with seven of those wins coming in year two, was the death knell for Spags.
4. Minnesota: The Vikings showed some decent resilience down the stretch, especially with Adrian Peterson missing so much time. And Jared Allen, who’s 22 sacks would be a record had BrettFavre not literally laid down for Michael Strahan some years ago, is a superstar. But man, has this team fallen far since nearly going to the Super Bowl just two years ago. There’s a long road ahead for Minnesota.
5. Cleveland: Just realized this past week that head coach Pat Shurmer, in his first year at that job, was also the Browns offensive coordinator. Um, that’s a lot of responsibility for anyone, let alone a coach who’s never, you know, coached before. Maybe that’s why the Browns puked up yet another 4-12 season and continue to be one of the league’s darkest outposts.
- The Giants: Sure, it was against the Cowboys, who would have found a way to lose to a college team if the game really meant something. But winning on Sunday night to clinch the NFC East and capping off a three-game win streak to take into the playoffs was a real achievement for the Giants. That defensive line looks as fearsome as it did in (gulp) 2007.
- The Bengals: They may have had just a 1-6 record against winning teams and backed into the playoffs. But the fact remains that Cincinnati completely distanced itself for the last days of the putrid Palmer/Ochocinco/ T.O./Jail Bengals era to become relevant once again with a rookie QB and a completely revamped defense. They may not go anywhere (even if they beat Houston tomorrow, it will be all over next week against the Pats) but who cares? Congrats to them on an amazing turnaround.
- The Cardinals: Did you know that Arizona started the year 1-6 but finished it 8-8, just a game out of the post-season? And that they did it with this John Skelton guy taking most of the snaps at QB? There may be something afoot in the desert. Watch out for this team next season.
- The Broncos: Denver didn’t need to win on Sunday at home against the Chiefs to win the awful AFC West. But even though they made it through the back door, losing that game, at home, by a score of 7-3? Pretty disgusting. Tim Tebow is pretty much over, as evidenced by these last three Broncos losses. Next stop, the off-season and a whole new round of questions about Tebow after the Steelers vaporize him and his teammates on Sunday.
- The Raiders: Oakland needed a win to get in so it promptly went out and gave up 38 points at home in a loss to the going nowhere Chargers, setting a new league record for most penalties in a season in the process. What was even better was the enxt day when coach Hue Jackson (who, remember, traded a first and a second round pick for Carson Palmer), ripped his team after the loss while taking zero responsibility for his own complicity in the Raiders 1-4 finish. Jackson seems to be a bit of a power tripper, which likely won’t serve him too well when the team hires a new general manager to oversee his wacky personnel decisions next year. Yep, same ol’ Raiders. Even when they’re better, they’re still a mess.
- The Bears: A day after finishing the season having lost six of seven and missing the playoffs, Chicago fired its general manager but retained head coach Lovie Smith. Not that Smith deserved the gate, but how in the hell is that supposed to work? Even if the new GM doesn’t fire Smith the minute he gets the job and keeps him on as head coach for say, a year (a la Mike Holmgren and Eric Mangini in Cleveland), how does Smith survive long-term? And how will he get through to his players the same way if they know his fate is at the mercy of the new GM who didn’t hire him? If you’re going to clean house, clean house. Don’t half-ass it like the Bears just did.
A fond farewell to out favorite bullies/assholes, the Jets, who saw yet another blustery guarantee by coach Rex Ryan go up in smoke with a 19-17 loss to the Dolphins. It was the third straight loss for the Jets, who will miss the playoffs for the first time under Ryan, meaning that it will be at least a couple of hours before he guarantees they win the Super Bowl next year.
In the end, along with an awful performance by GM Mike Tannenbaum in providing depth for the roster headed into this season, the Jets were undone by the culture fostered by Ryan since his arrival in New York three years ago. Players have always been allowed to run amok in the Jets locker room, spouting off whatever comes to mind, respect for anyone else be damned. Ryan has behaved in much the same way over his tenure, routinely shit talking anyone and everyone without stopping for even a second to think about the consequences of his behavior.
Now, the inmates are running the asylum. “Captain” Santonio Holmes basically quit in the middle of the game against Miami, being screamed at to get off the field in the huddle by some of his teammates, then lambasted in the press afterward for being a total selfish piece of shit all season long. It got so bad that even rookie, seventh-round pick Greg McElroy, a QB out of Alabama who didn’t see the field all year, ripped the team’s culture, declaring a “corrupt mindset” had infested the locker room, and discussing instances of players not caring about wins or losses so long as they got theirs. It didn’t help the Jets that they have a terrible quarterback who is worse now than he was as a rookie, have a mediocre running game and play a defense that can’t generate any pressure on opposing QBs even though drawing that up is supposedly Ryan’s strong suit. But the biggest reason why the Jets failed so spectacularly this season is because of Ryan himself and the attitude he encourages from his players every time he opens his big mouth.
The day after his season ended, Ryan was typically defiant. He said, “I’m always going to chase a Super Bowl. I get criticized for it beyond belief. But if you don’t, you’re probably a loser. I’m not a loser.” Oh but you are, Rex. Because what you don’t get is that you get criticized beyond belief not for chasing a Super Bowl, something every coach and player in the league also does. You get criticized beyond belief because you can’t help yourself from constantly talking about it, something very few of those other players and coaches don’t do. If Ryan ever learns to control himself, behave with even an iota of humility and without so much of the unnecessary bombast, maybe he will lead a team to a title one day. From the sounds of it, this disaster of a season did not teach him that, or anything for that matter. So get ready for that guarantee for next year. It’s coming around the bend.