Notes from the Commish 2016- Playoffs, Part 2

So with a team that was largely mediocre, I guess a run to the semi-finals was probably as much as I could have expected. More, actually. And yes, I could be bitter that Carol again defeated me in a close game that seemed to be the result of my guys failing to show up more than her team doing anything particularly stunning. But the fact is, she beat me three times this season. Whether I like it or not, she has the better team. Even if I’m left feeling this sort of thing could only happen in a world ruled by blind, stupid, clueless, unfair, worthless, hopeless, doo-da LUCK. Thankfully, I am not bitter.

All right, let’s do this…

AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH

FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Jack

Got to hand it to the man. After scraping into the playoffs, Jack’s managed to knock off our defending champion (Stoner) and the league’s best regular season team (Hal’s). While Jack’s lineup was certainly clicking this week, thanks to the work of Russell Wilson, LeSean McCoy and Adam Vinatari, I’m inclined to think it was less Jack’s savvy and more…

KICK IN THE NUTS AWARD: Hal

While I’ve been openly trying to jinx Hal for a couple of weeks, I never believed it would actually work (and if I truly believed I had this kind of power, I might feel guilty.) But the Fantasy Gods rogered Hal good this week. It’s been a few years since we’ve had one of these cases, but you see it in fantasy football all the time: the team that utterly dominates the regular season, then has a once-in-a-lifetime donut hole of a week in the playoffs. Jack clearly was the beneficiary, but the truth is Hal wouldn’t have beaten ANY of the other playoff teams this week. An ignoble end to an otherwise great season. I look forward to Hal leaving a flaming bag on the Fantasy Gods’ front steps.

FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DaVonta Freeman

Back at the fantasy draft, I gave Carol a little grief about her choice of Freeman, feeling she had misplaced her loyalty in a guy who did decent work for her the year before but was probably going to fade badly this year. This week, Freeman paid back my skepticism by scoring three TDs, rushing for close to 140 yards, keying my car, stealing my girlfriend, punching out my cats, pissing on my couch and propositioning my mother. I may have to pick him in next year’s draft.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Jim Harbaugh

The Michigan head coach/Insane Person on rumors that he’s leaving Michigan for the NFL: “A lot of this talk is coming from our enemies. We know them as jive turkeys.”

I don’t know what’s more ridiculously fun: that quote or its source. I DO know that it’s much more fun if you picture Harbaugh wearing his usual straight-brim Michigan hat, his 1950’s nerd glasses…and the biggest, baddest fur coat 1973 had to offer.

ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: Richard Sherman

It continues to baffle me that some people will defend Sherman, who’s positively Ndamukong Suh-like in his ability to act like an unhinged lunatic and then bend reality in knots to make it seem like a rational response. Y’know, rather than just admit he acted like a dink. This past week, Sherman threw a fit on the sidelines when Seattle OC Darrell Bevel called a pass play when Seattle had the ball on the Rams’ one yard line. Afterwards, Sherman justified his hissyfit by saying, “We go out there, we sacrifice, we battle. We don’t give away our battle. You honor our sacrifice.” Apparently, he confused a meaningless Thursday night game with the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Dishonorable mention: Seattle coach Pete Carroll, ever the stern disciplinarian, had a long talk with Sherman the morning after the game and then punished him by buying him an ice cream cone.

THE BOMB THAT DIDN’T GO OFF AWARD: Adrian Peterson

The Vikings RB/Child Abuser (or did we all agree to just forget about that?) returned from a September knee injury as the Vikings were fighting for their playoff lives against the Colts. Well, “fighting” might be a strong word. “Voiding their bowels” is more accurate. The Vikings responded to the playoff pressure and Peterson’s return by turning in their worst performance of the season, getting slapped around 34-6. Peterson contributed–and again, “contributed” is a little strong–22 yards rushing and a fumble in the effort. Actually, “effort” might a little strong.  Y’know what? I could do this all day. The Vikings sucked.  Let’s move on.

And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (Jon, we need you right now, brother) I give you…

YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The AFC Coaching Carousel

As previously stated, the coaching carousel is my favorite part of the season. Last week, I looked at the NFC’s who’s staying/who’s going drama, so this week I turn my reckless speculation to the AFC.

AFC EAST

Rex Ryan (Buffalo)

It’s probably a mark of Sexy Rexy’s tenure in Buffalo that he’s been there two seasons and wound up on the hot seat for both of them. But there are plenty of reasons for this. In 2014, the Bills had the league’s 4th rated defense. Since the arrival of Rex Ryan (a defensive specialist, mind you) the Bills have moved to 13th in 2015 and 18th this season. As I pointed out last year, the Bills do not have a track record of patience with coaches. Right now, they’re the 3rd best team in the AFC East and don’t appear on track to change that. The Bills are still at .500 and there’s two games left, so maybe (MAYbe) Rex saves his job if he wins out. But don’t bet the farm on it.

Todd Bowles (New York Jets)

Bowles has truly gone from the penthouse to the outhouse. Last year, he was a Coach of the Year candidate after nearly taking the Jets to the playoffs. This year, the playoffs were out the window before Thanksgiving…Canadian Thanksgiving. Now, the Jets organization is a bit of a mess, so Bowles can’t be blamed for all of its woes and should be given another shot. But the Jets’ players have shown every indication of giving up on the season; highlighted by Matt Freakin’ Moore picking them apart in a blowout loss to the Dolphins. Players don’t tend to tune out coaches and then get back on board the following summer…unless there’s a new group of players. That may be Bowles’ only hope of surviving to another season.

AFC NORTH

Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati)

If Lewis does, in fact, get tossed out of the canoe, then he’s a victim of his own success. In 14 seasons, Lewis’ teams have made the playoffs 7 times and won 4 division titles. No, they haven’t won a playoff game in all that time and yes, there have been a few 4 win stinkbombs in there. But he’s been successful enough, long enough that people have forgotten how, for a decade and a half prior to his arrival, the Bengals were the organizational dumpster fire by which all other organizational dumpster fires were measured. When Lewis guided the Bengals to an 8-8 record in his first season, Tony Kornheiser said, not entirely jokingly, that Lewis was the second coming of Vince Lombardi. After 14 years, it’s reasonable to wonder if Lewis has overstayed his welcome or if simply getting a team to the playoffs is as far as he’s capable of going. But given how awful the team was prior to his arrival–and given that he’s got a pretty good relationship with Bengals owner/GM/Idiot Manchild Mike Brown–he’s earned an opportunity to turn things around.

Hue Jackson (Cleveland)

I applauded Jackson’s hiring last January, feeling it could be a culture-changing move for an organization that has been a wreck since its revival in 1999. I still feel that way and certainly after Jackson gutted the roster as the first step toward rebuilding it, no one could have expected a particularly good season. Losing TWO starting QBs to injury within the first three weeks didn’t help, either. So it would be easy to simply give Jackson a Mulligan for this season and see what he could do with the future.

But…

As we sit here now, the Browns are 0-14 and no one likes the odds of them winning either of their last two games. Only one coach in NFL history has authored an 0-16 season. That was Rod Marinelli with the Lions and his employment didn’t survive the experience. Now, that situation doesn’t really compare to Jackson’s. Marinelli was in his third season and the Lions had never really thrived under his leadership. And yes, you can point out that Jimmy Johnson was 1-15 in his first season with the Cowboys and just a few years later, they were the definitive team of the 1990’s. In fact, you can point to a number of great coaches (Tom Landry and John McKay among them) whose first seasons were awful. Certainly, a bad season at the beginning of someone’s tenure is not the end of the world.

Still…

What kind of message would you send if you kept a coach who went 0-16? While a step back was expected, a step off a cliff was not. If you bring back Jackson, how fast does the turnaround need to be next season? You’d have to, at worst, start 2-2 in order to justify keeping him around, right? But if the Browns get rid of Jackson, they’ll go in search of yet another coach (their ninth since 1999) and one who would have to take over a depleted roster due to a half-completed rebuild. Whatever the situation, Cleveland fans are not going to be feeling great about their team.

Again.

AFC SOUTH

Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis)

Pagano and his GM, Ryan Grigson, were dead men walking last season. The Colts had declined from AFC title contenders to runners-up in a terrible division. Worse, Pagano and Grigson were rumored to be at each other’s throats. It seemed a mortal lock that one or both would be sent packing. Instead, Colts owner/recreational pharmaceuticals fan Jim Irsay retained BOTH and told them to make it work. And it’s worked so well that we’re right back where we were a year ago: the Colts are struggling to win a terrible division, Pagano and Grigson don’t get along and their employment appears to be dangling by a thread. The only thing that HAS changed is the perception of Pagano. A year ago, I firmly believed he could walk out of the Colts job and right into another one. I’m not as certain this time, as another mediocre season has damaged his reputation. If he DOES get canned on Black Monday and DOESN’T get another head coaching gig after that, he can thank the owner who “saved” him.

Gus Bradley (Jacksonville)

I’m a tad late with this one, though really, I could’ve written it in November. Bradley’s firing was the ONE mortal lock of the coaching carousel season and Jags owner Shahid Khan ended the suspense on Sunday by dismissing him. A shame, since Bradley’s considered one of the really good guys in the league, but totally justified. He’s wasted a team with a) plenty of good pieces in place and b) residence in a division that will produce a winner only because it is contractually obligated to do so. Also, the Jags have to hope Bradley’s tenure hasn’t damaged QB Blake Bortles, who went into full regression mode this season. That would make the rebuilding job for Bradley’s successor that much harder.

AFC WEST

Mike McCoy (San Diego)

Like Bradley, McCoy is considered a good guy; the kind people WANT to see succeed. Maybe that’s why the Chargers retained him after last season’s 4-12 stinkfest. If so, he hasn’t exactly paid back that faith. The Chargers are guaranteed their second straight losing season and third straight without a playoff appearance. Worse for McCoy, they’re the odd team out in a division that is suddenly one of the best in football. And the Chargers’ move to L.A. next season is all but a done deal. They’re going to have enough trouble drawing fans without bringing along a coach that has the team on a downward trajectory. In this case, good guys finish last…and on the unemployment line.

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