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Grid Iron Audible—Put Up or Pack Up
Posted By Steve Massey On Jul 11 2013 @ 5:27 pm In NFL | 2 Comments
Grid Iron Audible—Put Up or Pack Up
As the summer season heightens and the mercury continues to rise, as the UV rays promise cancerous lesions and the ice cold drinks can no longer thin out the thick humid air, I find myself looking forward to autumn.
Autumn brings welcome changes. The fishing picks up, the cottontails begin to run about at sunset, and the mosquitoes go…well, wherever it is that mosquitoes go. The white-tail deer become lively, perhaps in anticipation of the approaching hunting season, the weather begins to cool, and the leaves promise a panorama of color that would shame even the greatest of the masters.
The best changes of all, perhaps, occur in America’s two favorite sports. Baseball, long referred to as our national pastime, goes through its own version of autumn, when we begin to see the long grind of the regular season transform into the beauty of the pennant chase. In this final stretch we’ll see the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders, who is clutch and who is choke, and ultimately, which team is worthy of being called World Champions.
As baseball is winding down, football is just kicking off with plenty of its own changes. The NFL, after all, is a league of parity, and last year’s chumps might well be this year’s champs…at this time of year anything is possible. We’ve all seen the worst-to-first and first-to-worst phenomena, and for fans of subpar teams, this is our greatest hope at this time of year.
As training camps break, and the weather begins to cool, some league personnel and players should be feeling the heat. We can only speculate who will remain cool while perched in the hot seat, and who will go down in flames. The following coaches and players need be aware that the time has come to turn or burn. For these men the 2013 NFL season will be a time for them to put up or pack up.
Jason Garrett, Head Coach, Dallas Cowboys
6-10, 8-8 and 8-8, this pretty well says it all about the Cowboys last three seasons. I can’t see another middle of the road season keeping Jerry Jones lid from blowing. He’s been fairly patient with Garrett for a couple of years now, but anything short of a post season berth in 2013 should send Jones scrambling to lure a big name out of retirement…say someone like a Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.
Rex Ryan, Head Coach, New York Jets
After making it to the AFC championship game in his first two seasons (’09-’10) at the helm of the Jets, the slimmed down, new look Rex will probably have to beef up his team’s performance to remain their leader. Last season’s 6-10 record was down from the lackluster 8-8 of 2011 when he promised to win the Super Bowl before later admitting that he had lost the “pulse” of his locker room. Quarterback competitions and team dysfunction aside, anything short of a return to the playoffs this year, then the man with exactly the same amount of Super Bowl rings as Norv Turner may find himself either looking for work as a DC or running with the bulls, but he won’t be with the J-E-T-S.
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Ryan’s fate is undoubtedly handcuffed with that of his signal-caller, Mark Sanchez. With his career QB rating at a paltry 71.7, and a touchdown to interception ratio at a pedestrian 68-69, Sanchez is in all likelihood faced with his last opportunity to be a starter in this league. That opportunity comes with the presumption that he beats out rookie Geno Smith for the job come training camp and preseason, and the caveat that he plays the position at an NFL level, something that he, to date, has struggled to do. Another ho-hum season from the USC Alum will bring about the old heave-ho.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
The talk about how great Cutler’s arm is has been all the rage for about seven years now. The same can be said for the talk about Jay’s athletic ability and his potential to be great. After four years in black and orange, the football messiah talk in Chitown has died down to back room murmuring. Although they signed Brandon Marshall to revitalize the spark that Cutler displayed (at least for one season) in Denver, Jay still plays at a just above average level for this league. His 84.0 career QB rating is probably right around where it will be when he retires, but you never know. As the pressure builds, perhaps he will finally realize that much discussed potential. Do keep in mind, however, that in his best season (’08 Denver), Jay was sacked only 11 times. With the Bears he has been taken down an average of 37 times a season.
While improved line play will help, what may serve him better are a couple of things that he can control. He can start to improve his play by learning not to throw when his primary target is covered. This is something I noticed about Jay long ago; when he’s made his mind up where he wants to throw, he doesn’t care how covered his guy is, or how small the window for a completion. Changing this one thing will cut down the unnecessary picks and up his rating. The second place Cutler can improve his game is in his body language. The time for pouting passed him by sometime before enrolling at Vanderbilt. His teammates can see this as well as the rest of us—and it’s just not good leadership.
Another average season probably won’t get him run out of town, but it should certainly quell any talk about how great he will ever be, and the comparisons to Jeff George will be much more justified.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers traded up to get Mathews with the 12th pick in the 2010 draft, excited that they had found an immediate replacement for the great L.T. Three seasons later, Mathews has proven that a second T in his surname is not all that he is missing.
His game has been average for those considered gifted enough to be feature-backs in the NFL. Averaging just 825 yards a season, Ryan has missed ten full games due to injuries in three seasons. Although his yards per carry average (4.4) is respectable, his 12 fumbles have offset his 14 touchdowns. Last season, Mathews broke one more collarbone than he scored touchdowns, and the grumblings of “injury bust” are carrying across the continent.
He’s a gifted receiver, but the addition of Danny Woodhead to the San Diego backfield this offseason have some speculating that new head coach Mike McCoy is not sold on his third down skills. This truly could be Mathews’ last chance in blue and gold, and maybe in the league.
And ever on it goes, one season follows the next, each with its own awe and wonder. But this autumn, I wonder who will awe us, and I wonder who will fall.
That’s a wrap on my hot seat for the 2013 season. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and as always, your feedback is greatly appreciated~Steve
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