It’s extremely hard to win in the NFL on a regular basis … parity always reigns supreme. Getting 53 players, a litany of coaches, and a game plan to work consistently takes hard work, skill, and luck. This is the very reason head coaches are paid massive amounts and garner celebrity status if they’re successful. For some reason this year it is even harder for head coach to put a winning product on the field if his team wears green.
Team: Green Bay
Head coach: Mike McCarthy
What gives: McCarthy’s boys seem to be having a prolonged hangover from last years’ playoff beat down by the New York Giants. Aaron Rodgers looks fantastic as usual, but he’s been the lone bright spot.
- The receivers have been a major disappointment- #1 wideout Greg Jennings has been battling a groin injury all season, and has been featured in more television commercials than he has endzone celebrations. Breakout star Jordy Nelson had been mainly bottled up by defenses before a career game Sunday night against the Texans. James Jones continues to be an enigma, producing a highlight reel catch just as often as making a bone head play. Athletic freak Jermichael Finley has maintained his 4 year run of failing to realize his potential.
- No rushing attack- If wide receiver Randall Cobb’s two runs are taken out of the total, the Pack is averaging only 3.8 yards per rush this season. New acquisition Cedric Benson hasn’t been the stud the team has expected, but he happens to have half of the team’s rushing touchdowns on the season (for full disclosure, he has one TD). As dynamic as the team can be through the air, some semblance of balance is necessary to have playoff success.
- Injuries- Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, BJ Raji, and Cedric Benson have missed good amounts of time. That’s a lot of star power on the sidelines in street clothes.
- Defense is still suspect- This year they are currently ranked 18 in the league. A rank of 18 certainly isn’t good, but it’s much better than 2011’s ranking of dead last in the league. Clay Matthews is back to his old form, but team wide consistency has not been good enough.
Solution: Just stay the course. Other than Benson, the injured stars should return to their usual form, and that will be huge boost to the team. Jennings has really only played in 2 games so far this year (he played only minutes of a third game), so his health will make the offense buzz again. If the defense can hover around the mid teens in the league, the offense should be good enough to do damage in the playoffs. There’s no need to panic here.
Greg Jennings has been doing this a lot more than he has been catching passes this season
Team: New York Jets
Head coach: Rex Ryan
What gives: Essentially the career prospects of Coach Ryan are tied to the success of Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow. I don’t like his chances.
- The circus- Ryan created a circus, but unfortunately he didn’t employ enough lion tamers. His bluster and confidence is charming and infectious when the team is winning, but it just comes off as idiocy since the team is crappy.
- Quarterback transplant- If Tim Tebow had Mark Sanchez’s arm and delivery the team would be just fine (or if Sanchez had Tebow’s mind and heart). There’s no way to swap body parts, so the team is stuck with two subpar QBs in a passing league. There is nothing that can change this fact no matter if the team runs the wildcat or not.
- Injuries- This team cannot win without Darrell Revis. His loss cannot be understated. Losing the one reliable receiver Santonio Holmes for the entire year is also a killer.
- Ground and pound is dead- For a team that wants to run the ball it’s quite embarrassing that they only average 3.8 yards per carry (compared to the league average of 4.7). This isn’t wholly surprising as that was their average last season, and they’ve done nothing to upgrade this area. Shonn Greene is just not a franchise back and they need to realize it now.
Solution: They can be respectable, but they have no chance at a playoff berth. With their injuries and lack of overall talent they just can’t compete with the elite teams. The Sanchez/Tebow fiasco is only going to get worse as the losses mount, so they need to figure out some sort of damage control. This team is a mess, and I honestly believe that Rex Ryan will never get a head coaching job in the NFL again because this is going to get ugly.
Exhibit #’s 1 and 2 on why the Jets suck
Head coach: Andy Reid
What gives: Despite having several All-Pros on both sides of the ball, this team has managed to score more than 20 points only twice this year (23 points twice). On the surface the talent is there, so obviously something has to be wrong.
- All hope in Vick- I think it’s now fair to say that Michael Vick is fool’s gold. The argument used to be that his receivers and coaches in Atlanta were so terrible he had no chance to succeed. In Philly he’s having the exact same problems as he did since leaving the penitentiary. In his career he has completed over 60% of his passes only once, he has thrown over 20 TDs just twice (high of 21), and he’s rather turnover prone. What’s worse is that now he’s a little bit older and slower his dynamic rushing plays are becoming less and less frequent. I sure bet the Eagles regret giving him that $100 million contract.
- Still no balance- Andy Reid has done a much better job with his run/pass balance, but he still has to do better. Lesean McCoy is a stud, but has only had 30 total rushes in the last two games combined (the Eagles lost those games by a combined 5 points). Furthermore, there needs to be more creativity to the offense so maybe McCoy can see the endzone again. He’s only got one rushing TD all season, clearly that’s not going to cut it.
- Receivers are overrated- Sorry to break it to everyone, but Desean Jackson is nothing close to a #1 receiver. He has never scored double figure touchdowns in a season, he has never caught more than 62 passes in a season, and now that he doesn’t really return punts and kickoffs, his value is severely diminished. Jeremy Maclin is not the speedster Jackson is, but he is clearly Vick’s favorite target. Neither guy is above 6 feet tall or near 200 lbs, so they’re never going to out jump or use their body to outmuscle a defender for the football. Having little receivers works for the Patriots because they run a spread offense like a college team from the Big 12 conference. What the Eagles are trying to do just doesn’t work.
- RIP Jim Johnson- Ever since the legendary defensive coordinator resigned in 2009, the Eagles defense has been in shambles. Starting last year they decided to abandon their decade’s long calling card of being heavy blitzers because they added corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Pro Bowler Asante Samuel. Fast forward a year and a half: Samuel was traded, Asomugha is being lit up like a Christmas tree, and the team gets zero pass rush on the quarterback. The team fired the defensive coordinator after only 6 games, and finger pointing is inevitable.
Solution: Finding balance on offense is primary. The more McCoy gets going the less of a beating Vick will take. In addition Vick would get the opportunity to exploit the simpler throws that come from play action (and the chance at going for deep strikes down field). Defensively the team needs to go back to blitzing. Playing safe has gotten them to a 3-3 record, and being outscored by their opponents overall. Blitzing will require Asomugha to play better in man-to-man coverage, but maybe he needs the motivation. Longer term the team will ultimately need to cut ties to Vick, Desean Jackson, and Andy Reid. Vick and Jackson are highly overpaid, and not in the top 10 in the league at their positions despite being paid that way. Reid is a good enough coach to get his team in or near the playoffs, but he’ll never get this bunch over the hump. I can see him being an offensive coordinator after the Eagles axe him, but his head coaching days are done I believe.