Mike McCarthy has the NFL flummoxed, a new name emerges in the MVP race and the Bills need someone, anyone, who can throw the ball. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.
1. Packers' plan is confusing, and that's saying it nicely
For the past several years, Mike McCarthy's offense in Green Bay has come under criticism from some of his fellow coaches for its lack of imagination and over-reliance on Aaron Rodgers.
The voices of doubt have now become harsher, louder and more rampant than they have ever been.
It would be unfair to run a bunch of anonymous quotes ripping McCarthy, but the general tone of criticism for what is going on in Green Bay is fair and notable.
Much of it centers around how some assistant coaches and other NFL team sources believe McCarthy's offensive system and play-calling haven't evolved with modern times. And that, in turn, is ruining Rodgers' prime years, the criticism goes.
While there is validity to that line of thinking, which we'll get to in a moment, it's only fair to note that McCarthy has been incredibly productive in Green Bay, going 124-74-2 with the Packers. He's also won a Super Bowl. That's not all too common, and he deserves respect for that. He's also well-liked, and for good reason. He's decent, respectful and professional. He gets the back of his players and coaches.
Also, remember, every coach thinks they could win 400 Super Bowls with Rodgers. So there is some jealousy in play here.
Yet none of that should make McCarthy immune to criticism, which breaks down mainly on two fronts:
A. McCarthy's offense limits the number of easy throws Rodgers can make, coaches say.
The reason it seems receivers on teams like the Rams, Saints and Chiefs are always open is because they are open. And that's because their teams and coaches deploy schemes to make them so.
It makes for an abundance of easy throws for the likes of Jared Goff, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes. Rodgers, on the other hand, is required to make fantastical throws on a regular basis. Not because he wants to, but because he has to.
Is Patrick Mahomes a better quarterback than Rodgers? No. And while it's true the Chiefs and Saints have more talent, the effortlessness of how those offenses run is a function of systems far more slick and creative than what McCarthy does. Sean Payton and Andy Reid are Hall of Fame-caliber coaches, in part, because they create myriad easy throws for their quarterbacks.
B. McCarthy's offense lacks creativity.
This was painfully evident when the Packers lost to the Patriots on Sunday night. New England ran trick plays, a hurry-up offense and deployed players in unconventional ways. It's not that McCarthy never does that. It's that he rarely does. A quarterback as talented as Rodgers opens the door to so much more for an offense, but with his skills needed just to accomplish the expected, the opportunities are rare to do the unexpected, to make the Packers special.
"We were running the same plays," he said. "There's no innovation. There's no creativity. There's no Andy Reid-like effect."
Jennings gave an example I've heard before: While Davante Adams can get off the press on his own, why not make it easier for Adams to do that by setting him in motion more, or finding ways to make it easier for Adams to use his skills?
With the Dolphins up next for Green Bay, the pressure on McCarthy should ease a bit, but with another lackluster performance, the dissection of his offense will get only worse.
2. Are McCarthy and the Browns a match?
One NFC front office executive believes that McCarthy could get fired this season if the Packers continue to stumble. The executive also thinks McCarthy would then be hired by the Browns.
That's a lot of ifs and who-the-hell-knows. My guess is McCarthy would be a candidate in a number of places looking for a head coach.
No matter who gets it, the Browns job is a highly desirable one for coaches. There's a lot of talent on that roster and the front office is capable. It's why former Arizona coach Bruce Arians said the only job he'd come out of retirement for is Cleveland's.
That's not something anyone would have said even a year ago.
3. Don't count out Bouye or his Jaguars
Jaguars defensive back A.J. Bouye was never supposed to make it to the NFL.
His mother died around his second birthday from cancer. On his mom's deathbed, Bouye's father promised her that their son would be cared for. He was.
Bouye was minimally recruited at the University of Central Florida and went undrafted. Yet here he is, in the NFL, and playing for the Jaguars.
"I like to keep proving people wrong because I've been doing it my whole life," he said in an interview with B/R.
Bouye is one of the NFL's good guys, and he represents a tough Jaguars team that, while down, should not be dismissed.
Though the team is 3-5 and has been one of the more disappointing of the first half of the season, Bouye says that coming off a bye, the Jaguars will do what he has done his entire life: rise above the circumstances.
"I'm excited about coming off the bye and getting back to work," Bouye said. "I think we will prove the people who think we're done wrong. This is a great opportunity to show doubters we are still a good team."
4. All for one
The record is only one issue the Jaguars have had to deal with this season. Also tricky has been the attention Bouye's teammate, Jalen Ramsey, has created with his frank assessments of opposing players.
"We got Jalen's back," Bouye said. "Jalen knows how much everyone in our locker room loves him. We accept it. It's never become anything negative on our end. The thing is, we understand that when you're successful, people want to see you fail. It's that way with us as a team, and it's that way individually with Jalen."
5. A new contender joins the MVP race
The thing that is most striking about Alvin Kamara, the Saints' electric running back, is how he can run through the smallest of holes. He can turn the quickest of corners and turn a two-yard gain into a 10-yard scamper. No one in the NFL now is as effective a runner.
No, not even Todd Gurley.
Kamara has somewhat quietly had a remarkable season—in many ways, an MVP one. After scoring three touchdowns last Sunday against the Rams, Kamara joined the great Jim Brown in a unique statistical club, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
And as the tweet says, Brown did it in 1958. That year, he was named the MVP.
6. Picking up where he left off
Kamara isn't the only young player working himself into conversations among the game's greats. Take this note from ESPN Stats & Info about Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson:
Dan Marino and Kurt Warner. Maybe you've heard of them.
Some scouts believed last year that when Watson was healthy again, he'd be a force in the NFL. They were right.
7. You don't have to score to dominate
Falcons receiver Julio Jones scored his first touchdown of the year this past week. That still shouldn't take away from the year Jones is having. It's been quietly spectacular.
Jones has five 100-yard receiving games this season and is second in the NFL with 933 receiving yards. He's about to have his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Yes, there seems to be an abundance of great, young receivers, like the Saints' Michael Thomas and the Vikings' Adam Thielen. Just don't forget about Jones. He's still there and thriving.
8. You are what your record says you are
Matthew Stafford is in his 10th season with the Lions, and they are, as they often are, sorta, kinda interesting. They're 3-5 with wins over New England and Green Bay but also with losses to the Jets and 49ers. No one would mistake them for a contender. Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, speaking on CBS' NFL Monday QB, laid the reason at the feet of Detroit's franchise QB:
"I'm getting sick and tired of talking about Matthew Stafford. The guy is overpaid. ... He's been one of the highest-paid quarterbacks over the last four or five years, and he's a stat king. He picks up a lot of yards and production in garbage time. ... At some point, you are what your record says you are. They haven't been competitive enough in this division. ... The reason why the Lions are not a better football team—a big reason why—is the lack of production from Stafford in the first quarter to the third quarter. ... He just doesn't put his team in position to be competitive and win close games."
It is rare for one quarterback to speak about another in such critical terms. But in reference to a quarterback who has led his team to the playoffs only three times in his career and has yet to win in the postseason, it's clear Gannon is right.
9. Show us a bad QB, and we'll show you a bad team
The Bills have the three worst quarterbacks in football. This isn't me talking. This is what the data says. Nathan Peterman's quarterback rating is 30.7, Derek Anderson's is 56 and Josh Allen's is 61.8.
I'm not certain, but that has to be the absolute worst trio of team quarterback ratings in recent NFL history. The Bills have hope in Allen. He's a rookie and can get better. But after that...whew.
Buffalo faces a near-complete rebuild of its quarterback room. And if Allen turns out to be bad, the Bills could be set back for years.
10. A first-ballot fantasy Hall of Famer
Chris Johnson retired this week. It was a quiet departure for the veteran running back after 10 years in the sport.
Johnson isn't a Hall of Famer, but he still had a significant impact on the sport. Only seven players have rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season: Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, O.J. Simpson and Johnson.
In addition to the 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns Johnson posted in 2009, he added 50 catches for 503 yards and two more touchdowns.
Johnson was fun to watch and had fun playing. And he was one of those players who helped to energize fantasy football. He may not be on the fantasy football Mt. Rushmore with players like Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson, but he's close.