Oct. 15, 2019
Who Fed It And Who Ate It: 2019 Week 5
The NFL is living up to one of its alternative translations; Not For Long. Just when we think we have a handle of what the league hierarchy, it gets shaken up like an Etch-A-Sketch drawing. Today, we're talking about a passing of the expectations torch, a division champion in 2018 struggling to get on track in 2019, and a franchise hitting rock bottom as the first head coach dismissal of the year has occurred.
The Ass Kicking of the Week was delivered by the San Francisco 49ers in a dominating 31-3 performance over the Cleveland Browns Oh boy, is your humble scribe not looking forward to eating a double helping of crow. When it comes to the Browns, buying tickets on the hype train often ends in derailment, and looks to be what is happening now. Despite all the game innovations and rules changes to keep offenses wide open, games are still decided by who wins at the line of scrimmage. While we all focused on the highlight reel skill playing talent, we ignored the outtake caliber offensive line. And that issue became crystallized on Monday Night Football against the Niners. Browns QB Baker Mayfield had a dismal game; 8/22 for 100 yards & 2 INT's while being sacked 4 times and harassed all night long. Cleveland does not look like a division contender, even though the state of the AFC North make them the default competition for the leading Baltimore Ravens. But this game being played on the primetime stage almost gave the impression that the expectation torch was passed to the Scarlet and Gold. Your humble scribe had selected the 49ers to win their division last year (where San Francisco was destroyed by injuries as they love limped to a 4-12 mark), yet only projected them to be second in the NFC West (believing that the Los Angeles Rams would only regress so far while questions surrounded the return of QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the defense). It seems that the lost season of 2018 was a necessary development step for the Niners, as breakout players like TE George Kittle were found and were incorporated into the game plan in 2019. San Fran is standing tall at 4-0, but the Seattle Seahawks at 4-1 and the 3-2 Rams are directly behind them, with a crucial matchup against the Rams in LA on tap in Week 6. The Rams beat the brakes off the 49ers both times last year, so Frisco may be looking for a pound of flesh if the opportunity arises. But the best revenge would be putting on a 2 1/2 game lead while compromising a key tiebreaker. That promises a marquee game this coming week.
The Chicago Bears slid to 2-3 as they would lose to the Oakland Raiders in London 24-21, with struggles at the quarterback position standing front and center Entering 2019, the thought was that the Bears defense was a unit ripe for regression. Their 36 takeaways was going to difficult to replicate, while a new coordinator in Chuck Pagano could cause them to step back due to experiencing transition. However, the unit that has stepped back is the offense, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in particular. The unit in its entirety has fallen off a cliff, ranking in the lowest quarter of the league in most offensive statistical categories. The Bears have yet to pass for more than 210 yards and rushed for more than 100 yards only once. When Trubisky suffered a dislocated shoulder against Minnesota last week, there was a thought that career backup Chase Daniel coming in as a replacement could either shock the offense or Trubisky's convalescence could allow the third year pro a mental reset. The woes have continued, as the Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and had to rely on the defense making plays just to rally back. General manager Ryan Pace may have sealed his team's fate before they played a down in 2019 with the trade of RB Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles, as Howard was a bonafide first and second down back who could give the Bears favorable down and distance situations that could be exploited by head coach and offensive play caller Matt Nagy. The loss of Howard, in the opinion of this scribe, has left an insurmountable void that will remain visible until someone can begin to fill it in. In the meantime, the heat will only intensify on Nagy, Trubisky, and Daniel as Chicago struggles to score points and sustain drives.
The Washington Redskins fire head coach Jay Gruden It's no surprise that a coach who last qualified for a playoff berth three years ago would be on the hot seat. But what happens when the management structure above him puts said coach in difficult circumstances to win? This is what Gruden faced for five plus years as the head coach of the Washington Redskins. Working well with Kirk Cousins? Too bad, not worth the money, trade for Alex Smith, sign a lucrative contract extension, then watch him suffer a grotesque injury, where an injury guarantee cripples cap space. Like offensive tackle Trent Williams? He's holding out because the medical staff makes Josef Mengele look like Beverly Crusher. Have a good general manager in Scot McCloughan? He's shot out the door with his named smeared just to avoid paying his contract. With this level of chaos within the organization, it is doubtful the second coming of Vince Lombardi couldn't bring the Redskins out of their current malaise. Gruden's 35-49-1 record is impressive on the singular count that he was the longest tenured coach in the Daniel Snyder era. And for every Redskins fan, Snyder is the heart of the problem, with team president Bruce Allen right up there. Fans are pining for Allen's dismissal, because in their eyes, the arrivals and departures of coaches is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. After twenty years of stewardship of one of the NFL's signature franchises, the change of the fortunes of the Redskins reside within Snyder. If he wishes his franchise to return to past glories, he must do things he has shown an unwillingness to do. Snyder must hire a new top executive that will be truthful about the state of the franchise, who then in turn hires a GM who can focus on building the team's roster. Snyder must, not should, but must, be willing to spend money on other aspects of the organization other than player contracts. Otherwise, it's lather, rinse, and repeat in a matter of years. While Snyder is reportedly desiring a build a winning club once again in Washington, a lot of that has to do with how he conducts business. And until he is willing to change his ways, Snyder is doomed to a football life of irrelevance.