1. I think, right now, Bill O’Brien is lying in the bed that he made. Two seasons ago he inherited a team two years removed from a 12-win season, with the best non-quarterback in football on the roster and the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. O’Brien hand-picked Romeo Crennel to oversee the defense, and right now that unit is overmatched despite some special individual talent. On the offensive side of the ball, O’Brien bypassed Derek Carr (and, it could be argued, Teddy Bridgewater) to draft to-this-point subpar guard Xavier Su’a-Filo with the first pick of the 2014 second round. He nudged Ryan Fitzpatrick out the door and replaced him with two quarterbacks he knew intimately from his time in New England, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. Many suspected Hoyer and Mallett would fail; O’Brien, of all people, should have known it. And for Mallett, who came into the league with more red flags than a parade in Leningrad, to flame out the way he did just underlines the absurdity of O’Brien’s plan.
I’m a big believer that any new coaching hire needs to be given at least three years for his program to find its footing. But through two years, O’Brien’s key decisions (about players and coaches he knows) have missed as badly as, well, a Ryan Mallett out route. O’Brien is a very good offensive mind. He just might not be a head coach.
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2. I think, speaking of O’Brien, maybe there’s a lesson to be learned about the Bill Belichick coaching tree from the New England years:
Charlie Weis: After a promising start at Notre Dame (19 wins, BCS bowl appearances in his first two seasons), went 16-21 over his final three seasons with the Irish. Went 6-22 over two-plus seasons in Kansas.
Romeo Crennel: Went 24-40 over four seasons in Cleveland, 4-15 in Kansas City (one full season after three games as an interim head coach after Todd Haley’s dismissal). One winning season, zero playoff appearances.
Eric Mangini: Won 10 games and went to the playoffs in his first season leading the Jets, but just 23-25 over his full three seasons with Gang Green. Went 10-22 in two seasons with the Browns.
Josh McDaniels: Went 11-17 (and spent a first-round pick on Tim Tebow) in Denver.
Bill O’Brien: Led Penn State to a respectable 15-9 record over two seasons in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. As for his stint with the Texans, see above. He enters this afternoon 11-12 over a season-plus.
Now, it should be noted that Belichick himself was 41-57 as a head coach BTB (Before Tom Brady), giving him only a percentage-points edge over Rich Kotite (40-56) in the all time coaching standings.
But for the next front office looking to pluck from a branch of the Belichick tree, you should probably understand that Tom Brady isn't coming along.
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3. I think, in light of the Boston Herald and PFT reports that a Jets complaint led to multiple Patriots sideline employees being interrogated by the NFL, the league is going to have to come up with a solution to have league employees and not team employees working with all officials' equipment. Fair or not, putting a Kraft employee in charge of any officials' equipment will forever be a bad look.
And for the folks throwing out the ol’ “Patriots are in their heads” hot take, this is Jets security bringing up the complaint, not the coaching staff. And this is a big reason why teams carry a security unit.
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4. Yeah, I mean, I think seven games into the season this old Tom Brady Simpsons screengrab is pretty much spot-on:
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5. I think sometimes I worry about Aaron Rodgers. I mean, not that much. He seems to have his life in order, with the Super Bowl ring and the MVPs and the ad deals (State Farm!) and the attractive movie-star girlfriend.
But, as I mentioned in this week’s Fantasy Check (you watched it, right?) the home/road splits for Rodgers are concerning.
|On the road||7.15||239.8||18||7||94.2|
The Packers have averaged 35.4 points per game and gone 13-0 at home over that span, while they've averaged 21.6 points and gone 6-5 on the road. They’ve only scored 30 points in two of those road games (both in the same place; you’ll never guess where).
The point of all this? The Packers have already played four home games this year, and their two road games were against the (currently two-win) Bears and 49ers. They’re on the road six more times this year, including Denver on Sunday Night Football.
Perhaps more importantly, they play at Carolina next week and at Arizona in Week 16. Along with Seattle, those are the two places they’d least like to visit in January. But if the offense continues to struggle on the road, and they drop those two games (and therefore give up the tiebreakers to those teams), the road to Super Bowl 50 might not be going through Green Bay like everyone expects.
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6. I think I often find myself wondering: At what age does Johnny Manziel become John Manziel? (Or does he go back to Jon? Or Jonathan?) I’m putting the over/under at 37.5.
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7. I think, nay, I know I am calling shenanigans on presidential candidate Jeb Bush. In Wednesday’s "debate," Bush claimed his fantasy team, led by Gronk and Ryan Tannehill, sits at 7-0. I say: C’mon, guy. When Gronk had his bye in Week 4, Tannehill (who has been a pretty mediocre fantasy starter with the exception of Weeks 2 and 7) was a mess against the Jets, throwing for only 198 yards with two INTs. Who did you stream at tight end that week? Are you sitting there with Devonta Freeman? Because if you are, you buried the lede. America needs answers. (Well, I mean, America doesn’t need answers, but since no one in this race is answering any actual questions, why not answer this one).
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8. I think, while you’re counting down the hours to kickoff, you should spend some time with The MMQB Reads of the Week. I’m actually going to give you a double dose of Andy Benoit, plus one more for those who don’t lean so X’s and O’s.
First, there’s watching film with A.J. Green (which includes a wonderful cameo from one of my favorite people in NFL history, Ike Taylor). You’re going to learn a lot about football and about one of the game’s often-overlooked superstars. And as a bonus, it’s a pretty breezy read as well.
Second, for Texans fans (or 49ers fans?), there’s Andy’s film room breakdown of Cal quarterback Jared Goff, the best quarterback prospect for the 2016 draft. I’m a draft snob (some would say draft dork), and this is the most thorough breakdown I’ve seen on the many pros and few cons of Goff’s game.
And finally, Angie Six, part of our Fan Network, wrote a gem this week. It’s a bittersweet essay on how a Colts diehard is reconciling ChuckStrong with what has become of Pagano’s performance on the sidelines this season.
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9. Twelve-plus things I think about Sunday’s 12 games:
a. Whatever you thought of the job Joe Lombardi did calling plays in Detroit, it’s pretty clear that this roster is woefully constructed on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve mentioned the ridiculous investment in failed running backs; well one of the consequences of those misses is the sieve offensive line in front of a big-armed quarterback who needs time to get the ball downfield. Either way, the mess is Jim Bob Cooter’s to clean up as the team heads to London for a winnable game against the Chiefs.
b. Atlanta’s 2015 schedule, brought to you by Betty Crocker, rolls on when the Falcons host the Bucs. Tampa has at least been competitive on the road this year, with a win in New Orleans and a last-minute loss in Washington. (Of course, they also lost to the Ryan Mallett-led Texans, so…)
c. Hmmm… the Cardinals have to travel back east after a Monday Night game. Not kind, schedule makers. The Browns have a chance to steal one.
d. There will be no clarity on Colin Kaepernick until his offensive line can buy him some time. And that o-line is going to be overwhelmed in St. Louis on Sunday.
e. The instinct is to point and laugh when you see “first-place New York Giants,” but really, they would be sitting at 6-1 right now had they not given away the first two games of the year (and if they would just throw the ball to Odell Beckham in the second half of games). They’ll get Jason Pierre-Paul back soon, a boost to their biggest weakness: the pass rush. Sunday will be a tester though, going to New Orleans to face a Saints team that has looked better of late.
f. If the Vikings are going to go to the postseason, Sunday's game at Soldier Field is the kind of game they have to win. They figure to be battling the NFC South and West runners-up for one of the two Wild-Card spots.
g. Stunning to think that Chargers at Ravens is all but meaningless. It should still be fun to watch Philip Rivers orchestrate an offense against a struggling Ravens D.
h. The return of Ben Roethlisberger is obviously huge in a game the Steelers need to win if they’re going to catch Cincinnati in the NFC North. But I’ll be more curious to see what Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler and a unit under the radar will do against this Bengals offense.
i. With Zach Mettenberger under center for a second straight week, Titans-Texans has to be the least watchable game of 2015 so far.
j. Oh man, Amari Cooper versus Darrelle Revis is worth the price of admission in Oakland today.
k. The Cowboys’ front five pushed the Seahawks’ front seven around pretty good in Seattle last year. Of course, this year Kam Chancellor can set up camp in the box since it’s Matt Cassel under center and Dez Bryant at less than 100%. I think the Seahawks scrape out a win in what should be a street brawl.
l. My concerns about the Packers on the road are addressed above. But I’m also worried about how the Green Bay receivers minus Jordy Nelson shake open against a very good Broncos secondary. For all the hand-wringing over Peyton Manning, people tend to forget that this Denver defense is unbelievably good.
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10. I think, at 12:58 p.m. ET, you should turn your volume all the way up and press play…