Fire Jeff Fisher. Don’t make him Uber home after dismissing him at halftime of the Los Angeles Rams ‘ season-opener Sunday at the Coliseum. Don’t leave him on the tarmac after the Rams’ next road
game loss. Jeff Fisher doesn’t deserve such an elaborate, memorable firing.
Fisher (Les Snead, too) deserves to be called into Stan Kroenke’s office, where he’ll take a seat across from the Rams owner, who will tell him very simply and kindly that the team is going to move forward in a different direction before thanking him for helping the team relocate from St. Louis to Los Angeles. That’s the firing Fisher deserves. No dramatic departure, no bickering — just a normal dismissal like the ones we see on “Hard Knocks” every summer.
It’s not fun writing that. The act of calling for a coach’s job shouldn’t be abused. It shouldn’t be done casually. These are real people with real families depending on real money. I have nothing against Fisher as a person. I’ve never met him. He seems like a nice man. I won’t pretend to know him.
I do know, however, that Fisher is not a good football coach. For that, I’ll rely entirely on statistics and nothing else, tossing aside the fact that he once ignored a player’s obvious concussion and kept him in the game. There’s 21 years and one game of evidence that proves his incompetence.
In Fisher’s career as an NFL head coach, he’s won less than 52 percent of his games. He’s been to the playoffs six times and one Super Bowl. That championship appearance came more than 15 years ago. His teams haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2008. In 2008, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley couldn’t legally drive a car, Case Keenum threw 44 touchdowns at Houston, Matt Ryan won Rookie of the Year, and the Miami Dolphins — not the New England Patriots — won the AFC East.
So yeah, it’s been awhile.
In his coaching career with the Rams, Fisher hasn’t ever been a .500 coach. He’s 10 games under .500 with zero playoff appearances. And then there’s what happened Monday night.
On Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers — a game that Fisher had the entire offseason to prepare for — the Rams truly set back football a century. The Rams’ drives ended in a punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, turnover on downs, and a kneel down to mercifully end the game. They lost 28-0 to a 49ers team devoid of talent.
The Los Angeles Rams have still not scored a point since Dec. 24, 1994.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 13, 2016
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 13, 2016
Tavon Austin , the receiver the Rams just handed a contract worth $25.5 million guaranteed, was targeted 12 times and gained 13 yards. Todd Gurley, the league’s best running back, carried the ball 17 times and gained 47 yards. Jared Goff, the quarterback that cost the Rams a bundle of draft picks, stood on the sideline as Case Keenum completed less than 50 percent of his passes and averaged 3.7 yards per attempt.
And really, those last two reasons are why the Rams need to move on Fisher and his staff.
After Monday, it’s clear that even Gurley needs a halfway decent passing game to succeed. As our Chris Towers wrote:
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Gurley ranked eighth among all running backs in yards after contact in Week 1; he ranked only 25th in rushing yards overall. Gurley rushed for 47 yards from scrimmage, but picked up 52 after contact, breaking seven tackles on his way there, the second-highest total in the NFL.
After a summer, it’s clear that Goff isn’t ready to play in the NFL. You could blame the player, but I’ll also blame the coaching staff and front office that deemed Goff worthy of two first-rounders and the No. 1 overall pick and then failed to coach him up to a level higher than that of Case Keenum and Sean Mannion .
If your #1 overall pick/QB is struggling with the excessive wordiness of your predictable offense, maybe you should consider simplifying it.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) September 14, 2016
Firing any other other coach this early in the season would cause an uproar filled by questions of “Why so soon?” and “Did he really get enough time?” But firing Fisher at this point in time would cause an uproar consumed by a single question: “What took so damn long?”
It shouldn’t take any longer. The development of their potential franchise savior, Goff, is at stake. Gurley’s career as a running back will only last so long. The Rams can’t afford to waste any more of Goff and Gurley with Fisher coaching them up.
Look, there is no argument for keeping Fisher for the remainder of the season, well, other than this: Fisher is nine wins away from becoming the most losing-est coach in the history of the league.
Note: I wrote the portion above Wednesday afternoon. Later that night, ESPN’s John Clayton speculated that the Rams were ready to give Jeff Fisher a contract extension.
This is why this ¯_(ツ)_/¯ was created.
1. Last weekend: Fun
Football is back. And it started in pretty much the best possible way.
According to NFL.com, six Week 1 games came down two points or fewer (the most of any week in NFL history) and nine games included fourth-quarter comeback wins (the most in Week 1 history).
Heck, the Thursday and Sunday night games were decided by missed game-winning field goals at the final gun, and the Sunday day games included an Alex “Check Down” Smith 21-point comeback, a successful Oakland Raiders two-point conversion that math didn’t agree with, the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly beating the Green Bay Packers , the Dolphins almost topping the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle, and the Minnesota Vikings ‘ defense outgaining Adrian Peterson .
Even the Rams-49ers game couldn’t erase all of that.
2. The next Von Miller ?
One of those fourth-quarter comebacks involved the Houston Texans scoring 10 points in the final frame to beat the visiting Chicago Bears by nine. It also nearly involved the demise of Jay Cutler .
On the day, the Texans brought down Cutler five times and racked up 12 quarterback hits. J.J. Watt , who returned after offseason back surgery, didn’t do much of anything, but that’s OK, because Whitney Mercilus didn’t need the help.
Mercilus sacked Cutler twice. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Since the sixth game of 2015, Mercilus has been Von Miller-esque.
Since the 6th game of 2015, and counting 1 playoff, Mercilus has 17 sacks in 13 games. Von Miller has 14 in 15 games (2 more playoff games)
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) September 12, 2016
Mercilus and the Texans’ defense faces the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The Chiefs surrendered three sacks to the San Diego Chargers last week and will deal with a much more formidable defensive front this week.
3. Aaron Rodgers has a problem
Much of Aaron Rodgers’ struggles a year ago were chalked up to Jordy Nelson ‘s absence. Nelson, who tore his ACL last August, returned to the field against the Jaguars on Sunday. So, how’d Rodgers fare?
At first glance, it looks like Rodgers returned to his normal level of play — think Daenerys’ dragons fire-blasting the Sons of the Harpy.
He completed 59 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns and zero picks, and added another touchdown on the ground. He did this:
Those two GIFs are totally the same, by the way. Just imagine the spear that hits Drogon is actually Jalen Ramsey hitting Rodgers. Neither did much — if any — damage.
So, anyway, Rodgers is back, right?
Not quite. He averaged 5.85 yards per attempt. That’s awful. That’s also what happened all of last season, when Rodgers averaged 6.68 yards per attempt, the lowest average of his career since he took over as Green Bay’s starter and one of the lowest averages in the league among qualified quarterbacks (30th out of 34).
This is an alarming trend.
Rodgers has hit 7 YPA in 2 of Green Bay’s last 13 games, and that includes the Hail Mary boost.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 12, 2016
Aaron Rodgers: 18 career starts with passing YPA under 6.0
He’s done it in 5 of his last 6 games.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 12, 2016
Of course, nobody is expecting the Packers to miss the playoffs. They’re the clear favorite to win the NFC North.But that doesn’t mean all is well in Green Bay.
It’s a stat worth monitoring. So that’s what we’ll do moving forward. This week, the Packers get a Vikings defense that scored all of its team’s touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans .
4. More of the Seahawks’ madness
If you head over to the leftovers section of this column, you’ll see a few of the Seahawks’ ridiculous streaks. Here’s a new one, which the Seahawks barely kept going against the Dolphins when Russell Wilson found Doug Baldwin in the end zone with 31 seconds remaining in the game.
The last time the Seahawks were held w/out an offensive TD in a game was Week 7 of 2012 against the 49ers
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 11, 2016
The streak lives on.
5-A. The Patriots don’t blow late leads
Entering the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals , the Patriots held a 17-14 lead. That lead, which the Patriots briefly extended to six points, evaporated when Larry Fitzgerald came down with his 100th career touchdown on one of his greatest catches.
But the Patriots still won the game, relying on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal (and some poor clock management by Bill Belichick), and a missed field goal by Chandler Catanzaro in the closing seconds. Of course that all happened, because the Patriots blow late three-point leads as often as they’ve failed to win the AFC East in the past 13 seasons.
#Patriots are 35-1 in their last 36 games when leading by 3 or more points entering the 4th quarter. (1 loss to Broncos in Week 12, 2015)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 12, 2016
And that leads us to …
5-B. Do not bet against the underdog Patriots
Bill Belichick went into Arizona against a Super Bowl contender without Tom Brady , Rob Gronkowski , Rob Ninkovich , and multiple offensive linemen. He won.
Never bet against Bill Belichick, especially when he has an entire offseason to prepare for an opponent, especially when he’s a heavy underdog.
6. Mariota doesn’t work well with Mularkey
Someone please rescue Marcus Mariota , because he’s trapped in the worst possible offense for his skill set. Mariota, a talented thrower when he’s not asked to go deep, is stuck in Mike Mularkey’s exotic smashmouth system, which sounds like great fun, but really results in 5.9 yards per pass, 2.9 yards per rush, and 16 points.
It’s a system that doesn’t suit Mariota’s strengths. Cian Fahey of PreSnapReads.com covered this in depth on Wednesday with an extensive film breakdown, so go read that. Here’s a quick sample:
Mularkey is mixing in plays that suit Mariota’s skill set, but the prominence of vertical routes, hard play action and tight formations is doing a disservice to his quarterback. On the Titans’ first three drives of the game, Mariota was on the field for 21 snaps. Those 21 snaps featured 10 snaps where the Titans had a fullback on the field, three where they had two fullbacks, six plays where there wasn’t a receiver on or outside the numbers to either side of the field and six plays that used play action. Two of the play action plays were play fakes on runs. They also used two screens.
This might serve as further evidence of Mariota’s effectiveness as a short-to-medium-range passer, via Pro Football Focus:
When Mariota released the ball in under 2.5 seconds he completed 69 percent of his passes and had a QB rating of 111.9. However those numbers dropped drastically when he held the ball over 2.5 seconds — Mariota was only able to complete 41.7 percent of his passes with a QB rating of only 25.3.
Maybe the Titans should use some quick passes against a Detroit Lions defense that was gouged for 385 yards by Andrew Luck . They also might want to target middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead , who was targeted by Luck on 11 different occasions. Luck completed nine of those passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus.
The point being, there should be chances for Mariota to exploit a porous defense, so long as the coaching staff puts him in the right situations. Based on Sunday, I’m not optimistic.
In Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus, Mariota attempted 23 passes behind or within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage. On those passes, he went 19 of 23 for 176 yards. He also attempted 16 passes that traveled beyond 9 yards of the line of scrimmage. He finished 6 of 16 for 95 yards on those passes.
7. The Washington Redskins ‘ playoff woes
The Redskins lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. They lost bad. Kirk Cousins looked like, well, Kirk Cousins before he played some of the worst defenses in football during the final stretch of last season.
I already wrote about this before the Redskins loss, so here’s a quick summary of his 2015 season:
- In games 9-16, mostly against inferior defenses, Cousins lit up the scoreboard with a 126.1 passer rating.
- In games 1-8, against better competition, he posted a 82.9 passer rating.
- Cousins’ improvement from the first eight games to the second half of the season was less about his actual progression as a passer and more about the level of competition he faced.
On Monday night, Cousins looked like games 1-8 Cousins. Funnily enough, he completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts — the exact same percentage he completed in 2015 when he led the league in that statistical category. That’s where the good ended. Cousins failed to reach the end zone and threw two picks, one of which looked like vintage bad Cousins.
His final passer rating? A Colt McCoy-esque 72.7.
According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins struggled when he wasn’t under pressure. On 32 un-pressured dropbacks, Cousins completed 23 passes, but two of his nine incompletions were picked. That’s surprising, given it was the complete opposite a year ago. Last season, Cousins accumulated a passer rating of 72.3 when under pressure and a passer rating of 114.7 when he was well protected.
His accuracy — which his supporters like to claim is his strong suit — remained consistent in that it simply didn’t exist.
While there’s no reason to panic over one bad game, there is reason to grow concerned about a quarterback who’s posted below-average statistics in the majority of his career. Unfortunately for Cousins, eight great games weren’t enough to convince the Redskins front office to hand him a lucrative multi-year contract. Unfortunately for Cousins, general manager Scot McCloughan probably realized that Cousins most likely wouldn’t replicate what he put forth in the second half of the year over a stretch of 16 games in 2016.
With that being said, that also doesn’t bode well for the Redskins’ chances to break a streak.
Redskins: trying to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since making 3 straight playoff appearances from 1990-92.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 12, 2016
Cousins will, at least, get the chance to tee off against the Dallas Cowboys ‘ defense on Sunday.
And now: An important Jay Cutler hair update
Even J.J. Watt couldn’t get enough, so he came back for a little something something after the game.
Week 1 score: 10.o. Yep, that’s perfect.
Back to the stats …
8. I love the New York Giants ‘ offense
Rightly so, much of the attention surrounding the Giants’ productive offseason went to their efforts to retool a defense that actually finished behind the New Orleans Saints ‘ defense for the most yards allowed. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Giants featured the third-worst defense in all the land.
The Giants supposedly fixed those issues by signing Olivier Vernon , Janoris Jenkins and Damon “Snacks” Harrison, and drafting Eli Apple . Against the Cowboys on Sunday, they held their NFC East rivals (albeit a team without its starting quarterback, Tony Romo ) to 19 points. So, so far, so good.
Something else we should probably pay attention to: The Giants’ offense, which figures to rank among the league’s best by the time winter comes. Odell Beckham Jr. is a big-enough name that a certain HBO star made the mistake of social media-ing about him, Victor Cruz is finally back from an injury that stole his past season and a half, and then there’s Sterling Shepard .
After the Giants fixed the defense with their first-rounder, they added another weapon for Eli Manning with their second-rounder. Shepard is the newest member of the Giants receiving corps and he’s already fitting in. In his NFL debut, Shepard was targeted just four times, but he made the most of those chances, catching three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Whenever the Giants passed, he was involved.
The Giants ran 30 pass plays yesterday. OBJ, Cruz and Shepard were on the field for all 30 plays. McAdoo all about that ’11’ life.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 12, 2016
It’d be nice for the Giants to actually use Shane Vereen (Go Bears!) in the passing game, but I guess I’ll settle for their three-receiver pronged attack.
9. What awakening?
According to pretty much every one of his coaches and teammates, Seahawks running back Christine Michael underwent an awakening this offseason. After flopping with the Seahawks, Cowboys, and Seahawks again, Michael lit up the preseason with some downright gaudy numbers, averaging a nifty 6.0 yards per carry. Ahead of Week 1, Pete Carroll even handed him the starting job ahead of rookie sensation Thomas Rawls , who actually made the forever faithful (since 2012, anyway) 12th man (or is it “12s” now?) forget about Beast Mode.
True to the his word, Carroll handed the bulk of the workload to Michael. As ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia reported, Michael was featured on 63 percent of the Seahawks’ snaps and garnered 17 touches. Rawls, on the other hand, was on the field for 27 percent of the Seahawks’ snaps, totaling 15 touches. Michael fared better than Rawls, but he failed to impress, averaging a fine 4.4 yards per carry and adding 5 yards through the air. Rawls averaged 2.7 yards per carry and added 26 yards in the passing game.
After all that talk, this ended up being the awakening: 71 yards from scrimmage. And that might be all it’ll end up amounting to. Rawls will start for the Seahawks in Los Angeles this week.
10. The Cleveland Browns : Forever stuck in quarterback hell
The Browns’ history of quarterbacks is sad. It’s not about to get better anytime soon.
According to Elias, the Browns are set to become the first team to use more than one starting quarterback in 15 consecutive seasons. With RG3 on injured reserve, Josh McCown will start for the Browns in their Week 2 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens .
In Week 2 the Browns will become the first team in NFL history to use multiple starting QB’s in 15 straight seasons, per Elias.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 13, 2016
Here’s the complete list of Cleveland’s starting quarterbacks by year:
- 2001: Tim Couch
- 2002: Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb
- 2003: Kelly Holcomb, Tim Couch
- 2004: Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Kelly Holcomb
- 2005: Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye
- 2006: Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson
- 2007: Derek Anderson , Charlie Frye
- 2008: Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski
- 2009: Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson
- 2010: Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace
- 2011: Colt McCoy , Seneca Wallace
- 2012: Brandon Weeden , Thaddeus Lewis
- 2013: Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer
- 2014: Brian Hoyer , Johnny Manziel , Connor Shaw
- 2015: Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis
- 2016: RG3, Josh McCown (so far)
11. Andy Reid can tie Mike Holmgren
The Chiefs have won 11 consecutive regular-season games. A 12th consecutive win — against the Texans — will allow Andy Reid to join his pal, Mike Holmgren, on the NFL coaching leaderboard.
For as often as we (I) rib Reid for his complete lack of clock management — time moves in half speed in Reid’s mind — he’s a coach who consistently wins. He’s made the playoffs in 11 of his 17 seasons as a head coach.
12. The Jim Bob Cooter effect
On Sunday, Matthew Stafford continued his surge under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. The Jim Bob Cooter effect is real, as I wrote a week ago:
When the Lions promoted Cooter to offensive coordinator and playcaller in late-October, they were 1-6 and quarterback Matthew Stafford was completing 65.02 percent of his passes, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt, throwing a touchdown on 4.56 percent of his passes, and getting picked off on 3.42 percent of his passes. His passer rating? 86.8.
In the final nine games of the season in Cooter’s offense, the Lions went 6-3. Stafford completed a very nice 69 percent of his passes, averaged 7.28 yards per attempt, threw a touchdown on 6.08 percent of his passes, and got picked off on 1.22 percent of his passes. His passer rating? 105.1. Again, the Jim Bob Cooter hype is real.
Against the Indianapolis Colts , Stafford went 31 of 39 (two of those were passes thrown away, per Pro Football Focus) for 340 yards, three touchdowns, and a 128.6 rating. He did most of his damage in the middle of the field and within 0-9 yards of the line of scrimmage, completing 10-12 passes for 120 yards, a touchdown, and a 136.1 rating. In fact, Stafford went 18-20 on passes thrown 0-9 yards from the line of scrimmage.
We are officially living in a world that includes an efficient Matthew Stafford. And for that, we should thank Jim Bob Cooter — decent name, too.
13. Peyton Manning will be missed
The last time Peyton Manning wasn’t playing in a Colts-Broncos game, I had existed on planet earth for one single year, “Jurassic Park” won the box office, and John Elway was playing football as a Super Bowl-less quarterback.
This will be the first Colts-Broncos game without Peyton Manning involved since Week 5, 1993, when John Elway was the Broncos starting QB
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) September 14, 2016
“Jurassic Park” definitely still holds up, by the way.
14. Derek Carr ‘s blitz issue
I’ve been hard on Derek Carr in the past — here, specifically — so this section probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. After going back and watching film of Carr’s 2015 season, which many called his breakout season, I came away unimpressed with how Carr dealt with pressure and cramped pockets, not to mention his career average yards per pass is alarming. That doesn’t mean I think Carr is doomed as an NFL quarterback, it just means that I think he’s got a long ways to go until he reaches the upper echelon of quarterbacks.
Moving onto his 2016 season, in his season opener against the Saints, Carr completed a game-winning fade in the final minutes to steal a win over the Saints. That pass might obscure something that — like Aaron Rodgers’ YPA problem — warrants monitoring moving forward.
Carr had issues when the Saints blitzed him.
The Saints blitzed Derek Carr 43% of the time in Week 1, and he was just 6/16 with a 53.1 passer rating on that plays.
— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) September 15, 2016
Significant departure from last season, when he had a 108.6 passer rating against the blitz. https://t.co/58wFPwtOeb
— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) September 15, 2016
To be clear, this is one game’s worth of data. There’s no reason to assume that this will continue over the course of the entire season.
Next up for Carr is a Atlanta Falcons ‘ defense that blitzed on 30.6 percent of the passing plays they defended last week. According to Pro Football Focus, NFL defenses — on average — blitzed on 29.9 percent of passing plays a year ago. So, the Falcons’ use of the blitz last weekend was hardly unordinary.
The Saints, on the other hand, blitzed the Raiders on 44.7 percent of passing plays, per Pro Football Focus. And Carr struggled when they did.
Fantasy stat of the week
If your starting lineup last week featured Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, and Brandon Marshall — mine did — you did not fare well. Those three players combined for 10.5 points in standard-scoring leagues.
On Thursday night, Marshall survived what appeared to be a catastrophic knee injury to score 10.1 points. So, in the words of Aaron Rodgers, r-e-l-a-x.
Just kidding. Gurley is still stuck in Jeff Fisher’s offense.
- With Kirk Cousins failing to throw for a touchdown against the Steelers, his touchdown streak ends at 16 games. Blaine Gabbert now has the second-longest streak at 11 games, a streak that dates back to 2013. Russell Wilson leads the way with a 17-game touchdown streak.
- In 89 straight games, the Seahawks have been within one score in the fourth quarter. That’s the longest streak in NFL history, per Football Outsiders’ 2016 Almanac, which you can acquire here. The Seahawks also haven’t lost a game by more than 10 points since Oct. 30, 2011, including the postseason.
- Russell Wilson is the middle of the fourth longest starting streak to start a career, according to Football Outsiders’ Scott Kacsmar.
- The Cowboys are 1-14 in the past three seasons without Romo under center.
- With four more catches, Larry Fitzgerald (1,026) will move past Jason Witten (1,029) for the ninth-most receptions of all time.
Drinking game of the week
The drinking game of the season remains the Jared Goff sad face drinking game, which means you should drink every time Goff looks like this:
The drinking game of Week 2 is to drink whenever Cam Newton doesn’t get a call that every other quarterback in the league would’ve gotten. Prepare many drinks ahead of time.
Quote of the week (the Bennett Bros’ space)
Martellus Bennett is back.
Martellus Bennett wearing a NASA hat says he’s a fan & after watching ‘The Martian’ he’s “trying to science the f*** out of this game plan.”
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) September 14, 2016
In your face, Matt Damon.
Bad quote of the week (Russell Wilson’s space)
The Jaguars fought.
Lol people quick to want a story so here you go: ZERO completions on me. I back up my talk. I play for the Lord and my teammates! We fought!
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) September 11, 2016
If you’re going to quote “Game of Thrones,” at least get it right.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Jeff Fisher’s mediocrity, Aaron Rodgers’ YPA problem: 14 stats to know for Week 2