The Biggest Turkeys of the 2015 NFL Season
First things first. An early Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Enjoy your time with your family and friends, and appreciate everything all of us have.
Now, most of us know football is a part of Turkey Day as much as stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.
So allow us a little liberty with semantics. We’re not into name-calling but in this instance, we are using turkey as a synonym for disappointment. We have 10 examples of NFL teams, players and more (in no particular order) who have not lived up to billing this season both on and off the field.
It’s not personal. It’s just Thanksgiving. So keep what we’re doing here in the proper perspective.
Enjoy Thursday’s games, your early dinner and that mid-afternoon nap.
QB Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
It wasn’t long ago Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine was handing the team’s starting quarterback job to second-year pro Johnny Manziel for the remainder of the season.
That didn’t last long. This Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, veteran Josh McCown will open the game while Manziel has been demoted to third string. This after a recent video surfaced of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner “partying.”
"It was something that we felt had violated the trust that we had put in him before the bye coming out of the Pittsburgh game and it was a decision we made as a result of it,'' said Pettine on the Cleveland Browns radio network Tuesday (courtesy of Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com).
Later, the Browns sideline leader said in a statement:
"Everyone in this organization wants what is best for Johnny just like we do for every player in our locker room. I’m especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard. The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous, but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level. It goes well beyond the field. We are going to continue to support him in every way possible, but at this point, we've decided it's best to go with Josh as the starter going forward."
Going forward, the question most are asking is whether Manziel has a future with the Browns at all.
When watching an NFL game these days, it seems like we learn something new every week when it comes to the rules.
At times, it appears the officiating crews are doing the same.
All kidding aside, we have to throw the flag this season on too many of the flag-throwers. Be it controversial calls or even not understanding the rules at times, it’s been a rough year for the men in black and white.
We are not here to indict every official in the National Football League. But there is seemingly some sort of issue every week when it comes to the men in the striped shirts. From time running of the clock and going unnoticed (Steelers/Chargers) to batting balls out of the end zone (Lions/Seahawks) to inadvertent whistles (Bills/Patriots)—the latter recapped by Kevin Seifert of ESPN.
This season, to quote the great Roseanne Roseannadanna, “It’s always something.”
What a mess.
This offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles dealt LeSean McCoy (the NFL’s leading rusher in 2013) to Buffalo. He’s currently leading the Bills in rushing.
This offseason, the Eagles allowed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to test free agency. He passed with flying colors, inking a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. He currently leads the team in receiving and is one reason the club has won four games in a row.
Chip Kelly’s Birds have lost two straight games for the second time this season. Since owning a 16-3 first-quarter lead over the Miami Dolphins in Week 10, the Eagles have been outscored a combined 62-20 in an eventual loss to Miami (20-19) as well as Sunday’s 45-17 setback to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—both games at home.
You get the sense Philadelphia fans will spare Santa Claus the snowballs this winter and will save them for Kelly, who’s running the whole show in the City of Brotherly Love these days. So far in 2015, the Eagles are 4-6 (equaling their loss total from both 2013 and 2014, Kelly’s first two seasons).
Yes, in the wacky NFC East, Philadelphia is still very much in the playoff picture. But would even a division title make things better for this organization, which seems a little disheveled these days?
DE Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys
We are not going to go into the deplorable actions of defensive end Greg Hardy, decisions that led to him missing the final 15 games of the 2014 season with the Carolina Panthers and the first four games this season with the Dallas Cowboys.
In this instance, we want to focus on strictly his days with his new team, which have been filled with inexplicable statements, hard-to-explain thoughts via Twitter and inadvisable antics on the sidelines with his team. They have combined to shed him into a not-so-positive light.
These days, every player (or person) is under the microscope in this voyeuristic world we live in. That scrutiny increases when one has been accused and involved in such incidents as Hardy for the last year or so.
“Greg knows what’s expected and nobody is more aware of the scrutiny and nobody is more aware, now ever more so, of what we expect of him,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to Todd Archer of ESPN. “The good news is we go forward. We see if we get what’s expected of him, which I fully anticipate you would get. But we see how and what’s expected of him and we go from there.
Hardy has played in six games and leads the team with 4.5 sacks. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out going forward, if there is indeed a forward starting in 2016.
San Diego Chargers
It’s hard not to include the team with the league’s longest current losing streak on this list.
Following a 2-2 start, the San Diego Chargers have either found ways to lose games late or in a few instances, not really bothered to show up at all.
It sure seemed that way on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at home as Andy Reid’s club left California with a 33-3 win. It marked the sixth straight loss for the Bolts and their fourth consecutive setback at Qualcomm Stadium. In two losses to their division rivals from Oakland (37-29) and Kansas City (33-3), the Chargers have surrendered a combined 70 points.
With a running game that has gained the third-fewest yards in the league and a defense ranked 24th in the NFL total yards allowed per game, even a super-sharp Philip Rivers would have a hard time leading this club to a successful season.
Yes, we realize Dennis Allen is currently the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. We wish him good luck trying to fix a unit that has allowed the most total yards in the league this season to date.
Of course, he’s replacing Rob Ryan, who was let go by the team following a miserable 47-14 loss to the Washington Redskins. “They made my bye week turn into a bye-bye week,” said Ryan last weekend on NFL Network (recapped by Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post).
And then the much-maligned coach went a little too far.
“Everything in New Orleans is being blamed on me including Katrina, and I think it’s a little far-fetched,” added Ryan. “So the bottom line is this: I’ll hold my head high and walk out into the sunset, but believe me, I’m coming back with a vengeance.”
We’re not sure why he had to bring up the tragedies of 10 years ago. An ill-advised attempt at humor. It will be interesting to see if Ryan once again coaches in the league. Back in 2012 (the season head coach Sean Payton was suspended), then-Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was at the helm of a unit that allowed the most total yards in a season in NFL history.
The latter is currently the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.
LBs Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee Titans
Are the producers of “Dancing With the Stars” looking for new judges these days?
We suggest Tennessee Titans linebackers Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard, although they may not be inclined to give out very positive grades if recent events are any indication.
Back in Week 10 in Nashville on the way to a 27-10 loss to the undefeated Carolina Panthers, the Titans defenders took exception to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's dance moves following a touchdown run late in the game.
It really was no harm and no foul on the part of Newton, who didn’t seem to have so many boisterous critics the previous five times he himself reached the end zone this season.
It was obviously just signs of frustration on the part of Williamson and Woodyard as the Titans are in the midst of a 2-8 season. But it’s a topic that has gained a lot of momentum these days.
As for Newton, he has given many much more important food for thought (via Will Brinson of CBS Sports).
PK Josh Scobee
Like former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, kicker Josh Scobee isn’t employed by an NFL team at the moment. But his brief appearance in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers proved to be difficult to watch.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert orchestrated a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars to bring in Scobee after both veteran Shaun Suisham and later eventual-replacement Garrett Hartley went down with injuries.
The all-time scoring leader’s stint in the Steel City lasted but four games as he was a mere six-of-10 on field-goal attempts (including a pair of misses in a Week 4 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens). Scobee also missed a PAT during the four-game stretch with the club, and after the home loss to the Ravens he was given his walking papers.
On Thursday during Thanksgiving dinner, when someone asks for the leg, you can bet it won't be Scobee's.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
Most of us have seen the photos of the maimed hand of New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who required surgery following a fireworks accident during the Fourth of July weekend.
But even before that, getting the former Pro Bowl defender back into the fold was proving to be an issue. Off a season in which he totaled a team-high 12.5 sacks, the organization had slapped the franchise tag on the free-agent-to-be and as the summer began, he was the lone of the designated players around the league not to sign his tender.
Then came July and the not-so-advisable decision on the part of Pierre-Paul. His 2015 resume reads two games, two tackles and one pass defensed—probably not what the Giants were counting on when they opted to keep him under wraps via the franchise tag.
San Francisco 49ers
Remember when the San Francisco 49ers were making NFC Championship Games an annual event?
Looks like that tradition may be done for a bit.
In what proved to be the final season for head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Niners finished 8-8 in 2014 after reaching the conference title game in 2011 and 2013 (losses to the Giants and Seahawks, respectively) and Super Bowl XLVII in 2012 (a 34-31 setback to the Ravens).
The list of players that were with the club in 2014 that are no longer with the organization is impressive and sad.
From running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, tight end Vernon Davis and offensive linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis to defenders Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Chris Borland, Aldon Smith, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox.
The results are a 3-7 season and a team that had benched quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Head coach Jim Tomsula’s club has certainly enjoyed a few bright moments, but this is a club that is averaging a league-low 13.9 points per game and has been overwhelmed on defense at times this season.