I’ve returned from my relaxing stretch in the Pacific Northwest (read: sitting around my house, and a few days in southern Indiana and Missouri). And what do I find waiting for me upon my return? That’s right – a passel of bad coaches doing battle for the rights to call themselves the worst coach of a winning team in the NFL. This Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! It’s the ultimate Norv Turner smackdown!
To set the tone, I had some friends over to watch the San Diego/Tennessee tilt and mock Norv. Our mantra was (spoken in Norv’s grumbly, blank interior voice): “Norv likes to pass!” They actually did give the ball to Tomlinson a lot, but it was still fucking funny. Here was the San Diego playbook: 1 yard pass, 1 yard run, 50 yard bomb. They ran these three plays over and over like clockwork. And when they did have a run play dialed up, it was one of those unimaginative, “Tomlinson right into the teeth of the defense” runs. By the end I was just tuning the game out unless it looked like P. Rivers* was about to heave one downfield – then I perked up like my cats when I start digging in the cabinet that holds all their cans of disgusting food. What would it be this time? A comical interception? A miracle catch-and-run? These were the only exciting plays in a predictably boring slugfest between the disappointing Chargers and the overmatched, badly injured Titans. Can you think of a game more dull than one that is 3-0 at the half and then a blowout at the end? (No, me either.)
Norv thinking: I’m going to put on this headset; and then I’m going to call a pass.
The real tragedy was that the best coach in the wildcard round, Tennesee’s Jeff Fisher, was sent unceremoniously packing, and the far inferior Norv – he should start using his first name only, like Madonna or Master Chief – was able to live to see another game courtesy of his superior roster. There is no justice! …At least until next weekend, when Norv and the boys go to Indianapolis to play the Colts. Then, there will be Justice with a capital J. I look forward to it.
In the weekend’s other AFC matchup, we had Omar Epps leading the Steely McBeams to an ignominious defeat against Her Name Is Rio and his plucky band of Thundercats. The game was far more interesting, but the coaching was far worse, which made for a fascinating game. Here are the two questions that kept popping into my mind as I watched the end of this epic tilt:
– Say Omar: I understand why you’d go for 2 when you just scored a touchdown that made the score 28-23 Jaguars. Obviously it puts you within 3, and then a field goal will tie the game. However, there were ten minutes left in that game, and you just took a ten yard penalty that made it essentially one twelve yard play for those two points. Don’t go for two in that situation, the odds are impossibly against you! Just take the singlet and if you score a touchdown later, then you’ll be UP by three. So take a guess what happened to the Steelers: they missed the impossible two point conversion, then they scored a touchdown that put them up one and went for two again and missed it. And then the Jags kicked a field goal that won the game, but should have only tied it. Ingenius!
Omar Epps and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: two brothers from different mothers
– Say Mr. Del Rio: perhaps you can tell me why, with your team averaging almost 5 yards a rush, and QB David Garrard having tossed an interception and very few completions through the 4th quarter, you called the following plays: with the score 28-17 Jaguars (and theoretically wanting to run some clock), three passes and no runs (result: punt). Then with the score 28-23 Jaguars (and now even more wanting to run some clock), two runs and a pass (the pass was intercepted). Then with the score 29-28 Steelers and plenty of time left, FIVE passes and one run (result: punt). And finally after getting the ball back, score still 29-28, four passes in a row until you got in field goal range – then three runs. Ultimately the Jags called 13 passes to only six runs in a fourth quarter in which they generally had the lead or were only down one point, and this strategy allowed Pittsburgh to 1. have plenty of time to make their comeback attempt; and 2. intercept the ball once and force two punts. If you remove the three runs the Jaguars made when they were already in field goal range at the end, they called 13 passes to only THREE runs. Excellent work, Mr. Del Rio. You definitely want to ride the hot hand of a guy whose stats through three quarters were 5 of 11 with one pick.
Jags coach Del Rio screams: WHY AM I SO BAD?? WHY, GOD?!?!?
In the weekend’s NFC games, we had the Bucs and Jon Gruden (a decent coach) vs. the Giants and Tom Coughlin (an outmoded disciplinarian type who is better at screaming than winning, and whose team quits on him almost annually). No major coaching errors were made, although you could hypothesize that the insistence on letting Eli Manning try to win the game for the Giants is pretty stupid. Don’t they have any passing plays that don’t involve Eli taking a seven step drop and then throwing up a prayer as the pass rush breaks his collarbone? The Seattle/Washington game featured a matchup between walrus lookalike Bristly McMoustache** and senior citizen Joe Gibbs – he of the recent, infamous double timeout that gave the other team 15 crucial yards on a game-winning field goal try. Naturally the walrus frightened and confused the senior citizen with a series of loud barks and clapping his fins, and the Seahawks won going away. (Full disclosure: I did not watch any of this game.)
You’d be scared too, if this man was barking at you about diabeetus.
So that’s wildcard round 1, viewers 0; Norv 1, good coaching 0; Jack Del Rio and Mike Tomlin, 0-0 (tie); and the AFC 1, NFC 0. A weekend full of total non-surprises. Tune in next week, Diane, when a few real coaches and their teams will actually be playing, and the games will actually be interesting. Dungy vs. Norv! Belichick vs. Del Rio! The NFL playoffs, baby!
* We decided this was the best first initial/last name combination ever.
** Obviously not his real name. His real name is Bristly McWhiskers.