NFL Monday Morning Ramblings: Black Monday Will Surely Be Interesting

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NFL Monday Morning Ramblings:  Black Monday Will Surely Be Interesting
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Expect Norv Turner to be fired by the San Diego Chargers this week

Everybody gets amped up for Black Friday when it comes to retail.  But football fans are always intrigued by what happens in the NFL every Black Monday. 

That’s the Monday after the regular-season finale where we see the first head coaches on the hot seat get burned.  Although no coaches had been axed as of this writing, that won’t stop me from speculating as to which NFL teams will be showing coaches the door.

According to reports, St. Louis head man Steve Spagnuolo is the first to be shown the door, and rightfully so.  Under Spagnuolo’s guidance, the Rams had two 2-14 campaigns in three seasons. 

Yes, they were much maligned with injuries, but that’s not much of an excuse in explaining how pathetic the Rams were offensively in 2011. 

And while the Rams were respectable on defense under Spagnuolo, that unit wasn’t able to save the former Giants defensive coordinator’s job.  Maybe the final nail in the coffin was the fact that first-year 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh turned a six-win team into a 13-win force in just one season in San Francisco.  Harbaugh’s quick turnaround made Spagnuolo’s lack of progression look that much worse.

I expect San Diego’s Norv Turner to join Spagnuolo in the NFL unemployment line this week.  The Chargers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season under Turner’s watch.

That’s simply unacceptable for a team boasting as much talent—including an all-world quarterback in Philip Rivers—as the Chargers do. 

Turner has been bounced from head coaching gigs with the Redskins, Raiders and now likely the Chargers, barring an incredible change of heart from the Spanos family.  That’s three strikes and likely the end of Norvell’s run as an NFL head coach.

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It’s good to boast youth on an NFL team, but too much youth can be detrimental.  A perfect example of this is the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Expect Raheem Morris, the league’s youngest coach, to be the fall guy in Tampa’s disastrous end to the season.  The Bucs were blown out in Atlanta by the Falcons on Sunday, their 10th consecutive defeat. 

It’s probably best for the Bucs to go in a different direction and hire a veteran head coach to mold a Tampa roster stocked with young talent.  Because if Morris’ Buccaneers tenure has proven anything, it’s that the young leading the young is a dangerous direction for an NFL team to take.

Now it’s onto coaches who probably won’t be fired but should be, in my eyes.  People have been praising Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell for keeping his team competitive throughout a tough season.

But exactly how can you call a 2-14 team competitive?  Here are some of the lopsided scores that the Colts were on the short end of in 2011:  62-7 (against the Saints); 34-7 (Texans); 31-7 (Falcons); and 27-10 (Titans). 

Yes, Indianapolis did play with competitive fire at the end of the year, but that was when their season was well out of hand.  I’m sure Caldwell is a nice guy.  However, I always thought he was a puppet coach, and 2011 only further confirmed my premonitions. 

Mike Shanahan is being paid very handsomely by Dan Snyder to coach the Redskins—$7 million per year, to be exact.  Yet for all of that money, Shanahan has accrued a meager 11-21 record his first two seasons in the nation’s capital. 

Jim Caldwell has been blasted for coasting on Peyton Manning’s talent, and Shanahan continues to build a reputation as a guy who rode John Elway’s coattails to two Super Bowls in Denver.  I realize that coaches need talent to have any success.  Still, when you’re making the kind of paycheck that Shanahan is, he needs to be better than 11-21.

I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Snyder gets trigger happy again this offseason and looks for another head coach.  No matter who gets a pink slip, it promises to be another intriguing Black Monday in the NFL.

 

Quick Slants

It looks like the New York Giants are ready to party like it’s 2007.  The Giants got red-hot down the stretch when they won it all in 2007 and are on fire once again heading into the 2011 postseason.

Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and company dismantled the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night 31-14 to win the NFC East division.  The NFC looks loaded in these playoffs, but it’s not that far-fetched to believe Big Blue can get back to the Super Bowl.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is getting healthy at the right time.  Cruz has had arguably the most impressive breakout season in modern NFL history (how is he not in the Pro Bowl?).  And New York’s ferocious defensive line—the game’s best—continues to give opposing quarterbacks fits. 

Plus, the Giants actually stack up pretty well against the NFC’s elite right now.  Although they lost to both the Packers and 49ers already this season, the Giants were neck-and-neck with both teams in those games.  Yes, they were outclassed by the Saints in the Superdome a few Monday nights ago.  But that’s when Tom Coughlin’s team was playing inconsistent football.  They’re playing very impressive football right now, and at the perfect time. 

Maybe the Giants get the better of the Saints in a playoff rematch.  Maybe, just maybe, we have a 2007 Giants revival on our hands...

The NFL is such an ironic league when it comes to directions.  You can have teams move ahead by backing up, or backing in. 

The last Sunday of the regular season saw a couple of teams move ahead into the postseason by backing their way into it.  Once again, Tim Tebow had an absolutely awful day at the office passing-wise (60 yards in a must-win game? Really?).

Yet as only Tim Tebow can, his team still comes up roses and wins the AFC West on the heels of a three-game losing streak.  Even without Rashad Mendenhall and possibly Ryan Clark, I still expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to emerge from Denver victorious in their wild-card clash with the Broncos.

Magic or no magic, Tebow can’t throw his way out of a paper bag right now.  The stingy Steelers defense isn’t about to let him start lighting it up through the air.

Another AFC team that found its way to the playoffs after a loss was the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals lost to the Baltimore Ravens 24-16 on Sunday, yet they are still playoff bound thanks to the Raiders and Jets both laying duds.  Unlike the Broncos, though, I think the Bengals emerge from their wild-card clash with the Houston Texans victorious. 

Whether it’s T.J. Yates, Jake Delhomme or a combination of both, I think Houston’s quarterback situation will handcuff them against the Bengals…

Under Rex Ryan, the New York Jets usually peak at the right time.  They got hot at the end to reach the AFC Championship game in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Instead of peaking, Gang Green failed miserably down the stretch this season.  Their 2011 collapse was completed with an ugly 19-17 loss to the rival Dolphins in Miami on Sunday. 

Now it’s looking like the once-boisterous Ryan is gradually losing control of his locker room.  Star wide receiver—and team captain—Santonio Holmes was benched by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (not Ryan) in the game’s waning minutes Sunday for his sulky attitude.

And after the game, there was plenty of finger pointing amongst players about who was to blame for the Jets’ collapse.

If Ryan, the lax player’s coach, can’t rein in his troops and quarterback Mark Sanchez can’t make significant strides in 2012, then Ryan may not be making empty Super Bowl claims for the Jets much longer…

If this is the way the New England Patriots are going to win in the playoffs, then so be it.  For the third straight weekend, the Pats overcame a very sluggish start to defeat an opponent.

This time they scored 49 unanswered to steamroll the Buffalo Bills and secure the AFC’s top seed on Sunday in Foxborough.  Obviously, if the Patriots continue this trend of starting very slow in the playoffs, it will be a quick stay, especially if they run into the Steelers in the divisional round or the Ravens in the AFC Championship game. 

But if they can get over their early jitters, this team can definitely get to the Super Bowl—even with the porous defense they boast.  Tom Brady and his elite passing offense can be held in check only for so long, as they have proven pretty much all season. 

In my mind, it’s going to be tough for opposing AFC defenses to stop Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for an entire 60-minute span—especially within the confines of Gillette Stadium.  And I know that the Patriots have been one-and-done in their last two playoff appearances.

However, I’m the firm believer that each season is its own separate entity.  This 2011 Patriots team seems much tougher and more battle-tested than its 2009 and 2010 counterparts.  That toughness may propel them back to the Super Bowl…

If you want one glaring example of how the NFL has transformed into a total passing league these days, look no further than Matthew Stafford.  The Lions quarterback has thrown for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, and he didn’t make the Pro Bowl.

If you’re a running-based offense in this NFL era, good luck making it to the Super Bowl…

It looks like Matt Flynn has played his last game in a Packers uniform.  Teams looking for a starting quarterback in 2012 will (and should) come calling for Green Bay’s backup quarterback, especially after the game he had against the Lions on Sunday.

Flynn absolutely tormented Detroit’s defense, throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns in relief of a resting Aaron Rodgers.  Flynn has played very well in his first two career NFL starts against Detroit and New England last year. 

The verdict is still out on whether Flynn’s success is due to his skill or Mike McCarthy’s offensive system.  Either way, Flynn has earned the opportunity to start full time for a team next season.

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