The Boston College Eagles have had a history of success in their athletic program, especially in football. This past season they managed to lose every single conference game they played. To make matters worse, the Boston College basketball team also lost every single one of its conference games. The Eagles have seemed to slowly decline since they joined the ACC in 2005. As in previous years, the ACC was clearly trying to become more of a “football conference.” And, as in previous years, the program that they chose to add only became worse after becoming a part of the conference. This raises all sorts of questions about what happens to a team when they start playing ACC football, or any ACC sport, for that matter. So is it time to vote Boston College off the ACC Island? Well, I’m just going to go ahead and vote for everybody and say yes. Boston College, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.
Heisman Potential in ACC Football
The ACC had outstanding offensive talent scattered throughout the conference last season. Much of that talent is returning this year, leaving a pretty decent list of the conference’s top five Heisman Trophy candidates. This list obviously includes Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who I discussed in last week’s ACC football links. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was also clearly included in the list after being an integral part of the Seminole offensive attack last season. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was also included, as he had a solid season last year and is expected to grow even more under Mark Richt. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is on this list despite having a quiet season last year since he shared reps. Finishing out the list is North Carolina running back Elijah Hood, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. With players like these playing huge roles in each team’s offensive attack, I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year. I guess you could say that these guys are definitely not the weakest links.
Jimbo Fisher’s Toughest Schedule
Much has been said about Florida State’s strength of schedule in previous seasons. This year, the Seminoles are playing what is arguably their most difficult schedule since Jimbo Fisher took over the team in 2010. Florida State opens the season against Ole Miss and also plays Louisville, North Carolina, Miami, Clemson, and Florida. The teams on their schedule actually posted a combined record of 96-61 during last season, which puts them at a win percentage of over 61 percent. If Florida State can navigate their way through this schedule and win the ACC, there should be no argument about whether or not they deserve to be included in this year’s College Football Playoff. To continue with the theme of weakest links, clearly Florida State’s competition does not fit that bill.
Pittsburgh’s James Conner is Cancer-Free
Last December, Pittsburgh running back James Conner announced that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma. Conner was nursing a knee injury last year after having a great sophomore season in 2014. During that season alone, he ran for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. His fighting spirit has been an inspiration to Pittsburgh fans as well as many others throughout the country. Conner recently made an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show, only to be surprised by another football player who fought Hodgkin lymphoma, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry. Just a few days ago, he announced that his body is clean of cancer. Here’s to hoping he pulls an Eric Berry, coming back even stronger than he was before his battle with cancer. That would be scary for the rest of the ACC football teams. And James Conner, you are ACC football’s strongest link.
[(MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The Breeze will recap CFB’s Alabama-Clemson National Championship game on Tuesday, so this will be Professional Football-heavy, or College-Deflated, depending how you choose to see the glass re: -imisms) It’s near impossible to miss the unfolding humor in a reality that pits America’s Most Traditionally Revered NFL team against the steaming pile of toxic that has been Daniel Snyder’s Washington Trumps, in D.C., for a wild-card playoff game.
When you add the fact that a prominent Packer player is named “Ha Ha Clinton-Dix” while Hillary stumps for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, I mean, clearly Fate’s got a warped thing for the wickedly absurd. So what could prepare us for an NFL Wild-card weekend that lived up to its name? Where Ace Ventura jokes became re-relevant (“laces out”) making my heart gently weep for Minnesota’s Blair Walsh Project, where it seems everyone wants to be like ODB Jr whether it’s receivers vying for his “Best Ever Catch ‘Til Tomorrow” crown, or Vontaze’s Burfict crime-ing for his “Grossest Cheap Shot” frown, where all he does is Russell Wilson Seattle to wins (or perhaps Faith’s wind), while the Bengals missed Double-Deuce Dalton more than the time it takes to restore sore thumbs, Pack Nation slumbers well ’cause Aaron Rodgers remembered how to kinda throw again, some.
To playoff football let’s succumb. Enter to the beating drum of your heart’s hum and maybe find fun…
NFL PLAYOFFS PORTION OF THE PROGRAM
NFL Playoffs Games of the Week (Wild-card Round)Kansas City Chiefs 30 @ Houston Texans 0 So it was, ho hum, on the very first kickoff of the very first ho hum playoff game KNILE DAVIS EXPLODES THROUGH A MASSIVE HOLE AND ho hum RETURNS IT ONE-HUNDRED AND SIX FREAKING YARDS FOR THE TD. Houston was never really close on the majority of this play or for the rest of the game as Kansas City would never relinquish that lead, with the helpful, steady hand of Alex Smith leading the way and the woefully unsteady hand of Bryan Hoyer (4 picks, yikes!) leaving the Texans exposed like a butterfly filet of poor play.
Jon Gruden quote of the day: “JJ Watt’s battling a bad groin injury.” Look, Watt’s an incredible player, but even he can’t fight a Kansas City O-line AND tangle with one of those “bad groin injury” things at the same time.
Pittsburgh Steelers 18 @ Cincinnati Bengals 16 An enchanting, angry contest. Part 1 of “Insane Catches by Incredible Wideouts,” and Vontaze’s Rage. This story told with the help of Vine’s visuality. We’ll start with the uglier portions of the game and finish with the beauty of Martavis’ gorgeous holy-roller TD catch. In all, it seems Andy Dalton will still get blamed for another 1st round exit, even though he wasn’t playing. We begin with one Vontaze Burfict losing his famously hot-tempered mind, producing a near clone of the ODB Jr. cheap-ass headshot, this time on Antonio Brown…
…but thank all that’s True and Right in the world for Martavis Bryant’s incredible athleticism, focus, and brilliance all on display on this catch in the 3rd quarter, possibly trumping Beckham’s one-handed stab heard ’round the world…
Seattle Seahawks 10 @ Minnesota Vikings 9 This game will forever be remembered (by me) as “The Blair Walsh Project,” but it also included Part 2 of “Incredible Catches by Amazing Wideouts” and one of the more unlikely turning-point plays in recent history. First off, it looked cold as freezer burn in Minn-eh-sot-ah, -3 degrees for much of the game, with breath bursting from the entire stadium’s mouths like 80,000 proud vapers.
While their defense was its usual stout self, Seattle came out slightly resembling a steaming crater of ineptitude on offense. Then the play below happened, which appears to foreshadow more terror for Wilson and the ‘Hawks offense. Except he’s Macklemore uncommonly composed Russ Wilson, even in the face of certain peril, proving once again on this play why he’s so valuable to Mr. Pete Carroll and the ‘Hawks. For a little forced imagination, think of how 99.9% of the time the QB/center shotgun exchange is botched like this it results in, at best, a sack.
Instead, picture this reality where Wilson recovers smoothly, calmly baseball slides, retrieving the ball and springing back up in one swift motion, rolls away from oncoming defenders, looks downfield and fires a strike to a wide-open Tyler Lockett for the game-changing play. Seattle would go on to a TD and huge momentum swing, injecting life into their moribund offense and turning the tides of what was shaping up to be a certain Viking victory.
Yeah, I believe in momentum, F Nate Silver on this topic, and this was a huge swing in a game largely dictated by field position.
…although Chase Coffman proves there should be some kinda permit receivers have to earn to attempt one-handed catch, like a driver’s license, ’cause he tries to be like Doug B. but instead makes an interception so easy…
Trailing Seattle 10-9 very late in the 4th quarter, Kyle Rudolph beat Kam Chancellor in man coverage for a huge first down catch (vindication for Chancellor getting away with a clear hold on Rudolph earlier), putting the Vikings in money-FG position for the certain game-winner. It was a kick that 99.6% of the time would’ve been a Blair Walsh layup 3-pointer. In a kinder, gentler reality Walsh nails the kick, the Vikings win, slay the 2-time Super Bowl Seahawks and move on to the next round.
In this harsher, cruel, coooold reality Walsh shanks the kick so badly left of the uprights, like a boomerang that didn’t go where it was supposed to and never came back, allowing America to brush the 8-inch thick dust off every Scott Norwood and Ace Ventura joke no longer forgotten to mankind. I understand Walsh is a professional, paid a ton of money to make that kick. He has to make that kick. But damn, I just feel bad for him.
Green Bay Packers 35 @ Washington Cousins/Trumps 18
This game started with a bizarre “DeSean Jackson scores but doesn’t” on a catch and run where he crossed the goal line near the pylon but crossed too far and stepped first out of bounds while holding the ball back pre-goal line. Green Bay went on to hold Washington to a field goal and early momentum. However, Green Bay’s offense was dormant for much of the first half until Aaron Rodgers started hooking up hardcore with Davante Adams and James Jones (don’t worry, Olivia Munn) and headed into halftime up 17-11 after giving up a safety.
In the second half, the Packers could not cover Washington’s Jordan Reed, who played incredibly (9 catches, 120 yards) with Kirk Cousins putting the Washingtons up 18-17 with a QB run. As the second half wore on though, Green Bay wrested control away, shutting down Washington’s attack, pounding Washington’s D with a steady diet of Lacy and Starks, and squeezing just enough juice out of A-Rod’s recovering air raid to coast comfortably into the next round. Kirk Cousins and the Washingtons were kinda like Leo here, at the Golden Globes: they won their division, had home-field against the Pack, everyone was lauding them for pulling through the RGIII fiasco.
They’re laughing, they’re having a good time, sitting nearer the top than they’ve been in a while. Meanwhile Rodgers and the Pack were like Lady Gaga: they just hadn’t looked like their typically dangerous self after blazing to a 6-0 start to the season before dropping 4 of their next 5 and finishing 2nd in the NFC North.
But oh, never forget about the beautiful power of Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, as they approach laughing Leo/Washington all the way from the forgotten back, shimmering the entire way as they (purposefully?) knock the Snyder’s over-extended elbow out of the way, smirking a triumphant return to the next round with a future full of promise, leaving Leo and the Snyders meekly grimacing in their wake.
After being married to my gorgeous wife for going on four years now I’ve learned two valuable lessons; when to know you’re wrong and then apologize for it. Thanks to this lesson, I have no problem admitting that I was dead wrong about the Kansas City Chiefs after their week six loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
At 1-5 on the season the Chiefs playoff hopes where down to less than 5% and showed no signs of a potential turn around in the future. In the Super Bowl Era only one NFL team has made the playoffs after starting 1-5 or worse and that was the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals. Before the season I had predicted the Chiefs to go 11-5 and get their first playoff win since 1993. After the Vikings loss the record prediction looked impossible and the chance of even making the playoffs had dropped to less than 5%.
It was out of frustration and anger for the Chiefs playing so far below my expectations that I was ready to blow up the 2015 season. I saw no reason to hope they could recover this season to do anything but hurt their draft position. With that in mind I was ready to phone it in the rest of the year. I called for Aaron Murray to be the Chiefs starting quarterback for the rest of the season. I wanted any veteran not likely to return next year to get benched for young players who needed a long look to see if they could be building blocks for 2016.
I had decided that I wanted Andy Reid fired at the end of the season. After week six it was clear to me that the league had passed him by with his offense averaging less than fifteen points a game. Even if Reid was allowed to keep his job I was sure he at least needed to hand the play calling duties over to offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. The other glaring hole on the coaching staff had come on the defensive side as most of Kansas City was calling for defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to get fired after his defense had been torched all year. I don’t want to say it was as bad as the 2012 season where banners were being flown over the stadium before games calling for major changes. That team went 4-12 and saw the general manager and coaching staff being fired. Even at 1-5 this season wasn’t as bad as that year, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if banner flying companies hadn’t been at least contacted about prices.
Something happened after that week six loss to the Vikings, as since that defeat the Chiefs have won six games in a row. During their six game winning streak the Chiefs offense is averaging over thirty points per game while the defense is only giving up an average of less than fourteen points a game. The Chiefs offense has not only been putting up points but it has been fun to watch for the first time in years. Despite losing Jamaal Charles for the season to a torn ACL, backups Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have combined for over a 100 yards a game since he went down. Alex Smith has not only stopped turning the ball over (305 pass attempts in a row without an INT) but he’s done it while throwing the ball down field more than he has in the previous three seasons combined.
The defense has become the shutdown defense most fans expected before the season started. Derrick Johnson has gotten in his groove and is back to blowing up running backs in the backfield. The Chiefs pass rush has been found and is applying pressure to quarterbacks on almost every play. Eric Berry seems to have fully recovered from cancer and currently ranked as the number one safety in the league according to the Pro Football Focus ranking system. First round draft choice Marcus Peters is making a strong case to be the defensive rookie of the year while playing opposite the Chiefs other shutdown corner Sean Smith.
As week fourteen kicks off, the Chiefs have to be considered one of the best teams in football. This is a far cry from their 1-5 start in which I was calling for a house cleaning at the end of the season. As I’ve had to say many times to my wife, I would like to tell the Chiefs that I was wrong and I apologize for my lack of faith. As a Kansas City fan I should have known better. I just watched the Kansas City Royals win the World Series for the first time in 30 years. The Royals won the title by having many come from behind wins in the playoffs as well as being overlooked for most of the season as a fluke team. The Chiefs are now doing the same thing and I should have never doubted them. So I am sorry Andy, Alex and the rest of the Chiefs. This season has been a roller coaster and with the playoffs in sight it should only get better. So I’m strapping myself in and ready to go on this ride no matter where it takes me.
How do you react to one of your lifelong favorite sports franchises winning a championship? I always hear people say “act like you’ve been there before”. Well, I’ve never been here before.
I‘ve been a Royals, Kansas City Chiefs and Missouri Tigers fan my whole life. The Tigers have never won a National Championship in the main sports or football and basketball. The Chiefs haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1969, shoot they haven’t even won a playoff game since 1993. The last time the Royals won the World Series was in 1985, when as a three year old, the only I remember is my dad jumping up and down on our coffee table.
My wife has been asking me what I would do and how I would feel if the Royals won since last year’s playoff run. My wife was not raised to be a sports fanatic the way I was. She knew what the World Series and the big events were, and could name all the big teams and local teams, but that was about it for her sports knowledge. Trying to explain to her what myself fan and a lot of other Royals fans are going through is hard.
It isn’t just the fact that the one of my teams is winning a championship, which in Kansas City is shocking enough. It’s the added fact that this is last of those teams you would have said would win it. The Royals have been the laughing stock of baseball for twenty years. Not only did they not win, they lost in the most miserable fashions imaginable. It was so bad that people got to the point where they referred to bad plays as a “Royals-type play”.
Now not only is that team one game away from winning the World Series, but baseball men like Joe Buck are referring to them as the best World Series team in the last eighteen years. How are you supposed to act and feel when something you never thought would happen for thirty years has happened?
I finally figured out the best way to describe it to my wife was to say it’s like winning the lottery. You’ve played your numbers every week for thirty years. You never thought you’d win, but at the same time, you can’t win if you don’t play. Then one day, your numbers are called and you win the big jackpot. It’s so rare and unthinkable you can’t plan how to react to that.
So, the Royals are one game from a World Series victory that may close down the entire Kansas City metro area the next day. It would be great if that was tonight in New York; just win it and let’s party. If not, than you have Tuesday and Wednesday (if necessary) to in the friendly confines of the K. Either way I don’t have the funds or free time to be anywhere but my living room couch surrounded by family. If the Royals win, I just hope they do not hold whatever I do against me. I may cry, I may run down the street screaming at the top of my lungs, or I may just sit shocked. I may throw on some goggles and let the champagne fly or I may not waste a drop and drink the night away. One thing I know for sure, whatever happens that night if the Royals do clinch, I won’t regret it one bit. No matter how I feel the next morning or what I have to clean up, knowing the Kansas City Royals won the World Series will make any celebration something to remember the rest of my life. Thirty years later, I still remember my dad jumping up and down like a mad man on the coffee table. What will be your celebration story be if the Royals win one more game?
One thing about the Cleveland Browns – since they’ve returned in 1999, they’ve found more inventive and heart-breaking ways to lose games than any other NFL team.
Last Sunday’s last-second 30-27 loss by the Browns to the San Diego Chargers was the latest in a long line of “Only In Cleveland” improbable losses.
After the Browns tied the game with 2:09 remaining on a Josh McCown touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge and subsequent two-point conversion pass from McCown to Taylor Gabriel, the Chargers – missing three starting offensive linemen and with just two healthy wide receivers – drove down to the Browns 21 in eight plays, going 57 yards. Rookie kicker Josh Lambo lined up for a game-winning 39-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left and kicked it wide right. However, the Browns’ Tramon Williams jumped offside, giving Lambo and the Chargers one last chance five yards closer.
This time, and with no time on the clock, Lambo delivered from 34 yards out, giving San Diego an improbable win that dropped the Browns to 1-3.
Andrew Clayman from the site Waiting For Next Year compiled a list of all 41 instances in which the Browns had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the final minute since the franchise returned in 1999. Whatever you do, avoid being around sharp objects or listening to songs from The Cure while reading this article (http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/09/heres-every-last-minute-browns-loss-since-1999) because chances are good you may feel suicidal when you are done.
What I’ve decided to do is take that list of 41 and whittle it down to the 10 most memorable (or most heartbreaking) of those last-second losses. The more unique the circumstance, the better chance it got on the list. I did not include the Browns’ 36-33 loss in the 2002 playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers because I wanted to limit it to regular season games (and, also, because that game is still a sore subject).
Because it’s so new, I did not include Sunday’s loss in this list. Instead, and because I feel like torturing myself and you, I found 10 others. Enjoy.
10. Dec. 2, 2007: Cardinals 27, Browns 21 – Nowadays, there is no such thing as a force out – defenders can shove a receiver out of bounds on a catch and, as long as his feet don’t touch inbounds, it’s considered an incomplete pass. But back in 2007, defenders weren’t allowed to do this maneuver. This came into question on the last play of this late-season game in Glendale. Derek Anderson, who threw for 304 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, took over at his own 18 with 1:48 remaining and began to put together a nice drive. The Browns drove to the Arizona 37 with 22 seconds left, but Anderson threw three straight incomplete passes. On fourth-and-10 with six seconds left, Anderson found tight end Kellen Winslow in the left corner of the end zone, but Winslow was shoved out of bounds before he could get his feet in. The play was not overturned by a replay review, and, in a season in which the Browns just missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record, this loss loomed large.
9. Nov. 14, 2010: Jets 26, Browns 20 (OT) – The Browns were surging under rookie quarterback Colt McCoy after he engineered two shocking upsets over the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. Playing with confidence in a charged up stadium that booed the returning Braylon Edwards every time a pass was thrown his way, the Browns forced overtime when McCoy found Mohamed Massaquoi for a 3-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. In overtime, a Chansi Stuckey fumble at the Jets 30 after a long completion prevented the Browns from attempting a potential game-winning field goal. And, an interception by rookie Joe Haden at the 3 with 1:35 left appeared to seal a tie game. But, in typical Browns fashion, they wound up punting the ball back to the Jets, who took over at their own 37 with no timeouts and 24 seconds left. On the first play, Sanchez found Ohio State product Santonio Holmes, who broke an Eric Wright tackle and ran into the end zone for a walkoff touchdown. The Browns wound up going 5-11 and Mangini was fired.
8. Sept. 23, 2007: Raiders 26, Browns 24 – Another narrow loss in the 2007 season that loomed large because the Browns came up an eyelash short of a playoff berth. The Raiders, quarterbacked by Josh McCown – yes, THAT Josh McCown – jumped out to a 16-0 first half lead before Anderson and the Browns came battling back. A 21-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards in the third quarter gave the Browns a 17-16 lead, and a 1-yard sneak from Anderson with 3:33 left cut the deficit to 26-24. Getting the ball back at their own 9 with no timeouts and 1:04 left, Anderson drove the Browns into field goal range on a 13-yard completion to Joe Jurevicius with 3 seconds left. As Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal, rookie head coach Lane Kiffin called timeout just before the ball was snapped. Having to re-do it, Dawson’s second attempt was blocked by Oakland’s Tommy Kelly.
7. Sept. 29, 2002: Steelers 16, Browns 13 (OT) – The Browns went 0-3 against the Steelers in this playoff season, with all three losses coming by three points apiece. Other than the playoff defeat, this one was probably the most bizarre. At Heinz Field, Tommy Maddux relieved an ineffective Kordell Stewart in the fourth quarter and found Plaxico Burress for a game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 remaining to send the game into overtime. After Andra Davis intercepted Maddux on the first play of overtime at the Steelers 34, Dawson missed a game-winning 45-yard field goal. Given new life, Maddux and the Steelers drove inside the Browns’ 10-yard line. Pittsburgh elected to try to kick a game-winning 24-yard field goal on second down – remember that, folks. However, Todd Peterson’s kick was blocked by Alvin McKinley. Peterson recovered the kick, and his fumble was pounced on by Steelers lineman John Fiala. Because the kick did not cross the line of scrimmage, and because the kick didn’t occur on fourth down, the Steelers got another chance. This time, Peterson kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the bad guys the win.
6. Oct. 10, 1999: Bengals 18, Browns 17 – In the 1999 NFL Draft, the two quarterbacks the Browns were torn over for the first pick were Tim Couch out of Kentucky and Akili Smith out of Oregon. Both QBs were photographed together wearing Browns jerseys with John “Big Dawg” Thompson for the cover of Sports Illustrated. Couch wound up being the pick and Smith wound up being taken third-overall by the rival Cincinnati Bengals. Both quarterbacks didn’t amount to much in the NFL, but Smith’s career was more miserable than Couch’s. However, for one afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Smith showed up Couch and the Browns’ braintrust who passed on him. On a day when rookie kicker Dawson scored the first – and only – rushing touchdown of his career, and the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Browns, the young hosts clung to a 17-12 lead late in the game. Smith took over at his own 20 with two timeouts and 2:04 remaining and drove his team down to the Browns’ 2 thanks to a 9-yard pass to Darnay Scott on fourth down and a pass interference penalty on Corey Fuller at the 2. On third down and with nine seconds on the clock, Smith found Carl Pickens on a fade route to rob the expansion Browns of their first win of the season. Smith only finished with five TD passes in his career and only won three games in four years, adding insult in injury.
5. Dec. 8, 2013: Patriots 27, Browns 26 – The Browns really had no business being in this game. But, thanks to receiver Josh Gordon’s 151 receiving yards and quarterback Jason Campbell – who wasn’t cleared to start until two days prior to kickoff – and his 391 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, Cleveland led throughout and took a 26-14 lead with 2:39 left on a four-yard pass from Campbell to tight end Jordan Cameron. At that point, the Patriots’ win probability was 0.1 percent. But that doesn’t factor in the team they were playing. Tom Brady threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 remaining to cut the deficit to 26-21. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Jordan Poyer on the touchdown allowed the Patriots to kickoff 15 yards closer than normal. Then, Fozzy Whitaker fumbled the ensuing onside kick, which was recovered by kicker Stephen Gostkowski at the Cleveland 30. A pass interference penalty on rookie Leon McFadden in the end zone put the ball on the 1, where Brady found Danny Amendola for what turned out to be the improbable game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. Amazingly, the Browns had a chance to win on the last play of the game. But Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal fell just short.
4. Nov. 4, 2001: Bears 27, Browns 21 (OT) – After winning just five games in the two previous years, the Browns were 4-2 under first-year coach Butch Davis heading into this showdown at Soldier Field. And, a 25-yard fumble recovery by former No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown just 55 seconds into the game gave the Browns an early 7-0 lead. A 55-yard touchdown pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson late in the third quarter gave the Browns a 21-7 lead, and, with less than a minute remaining, that lead appeared to be safe. But that’s when things got really weird. Bears quarterback Shane Matthews, the regular backup, found Marty Booker on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left to cut the deficit to 21-14. Then, Chicago recovered an onside kick at the Browns 47. After two short completions, Matthews flung a Hail Mary pass that was tipped in the air and caught in the back of the end zone by running back James Allen for a stunning 34-yard touchdown with no time remaining. Then, before anyone realized what was truly happening, the game was over. After the Browns stopped the Bears in overtime, a Couch pass on their third offensive play was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by safety Mike Brown, who returned the gift 23 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
3. Nov. 22, 2009: Lions 38, Browns 37 – Former first-round pick Brady Quinn had, by far, his best game as a pro on this afternoon at Ford Field, throwing for 304 yards with four touchdowns. It was a shootout with rookie top-overall pick Matthew Stafford, who wound up throwing for 422 yards and five touchdowns. The Browns blew a 24-3 first-quarter lead, but a two-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Michael Gaines – and a two-point conversion from Jamal Lewis – gave Cleveland a 37-31 lead with five minutes remaining. A Brodney Pool interception in the end zone with 3:40 remaining appeared to be enough to get the Browns just their second win of the season, and, when Detroit got the ball back, it had to drive 88 yards in 1:46 without any timeouts. With eight seconds left and the ball on the Cleveland 32, Stafford threw a Hail Mary into the end zone that was picked off by Pool with no time on the clock. However, officials flagged Hank Poteat for pass interference – officials rarely flag defenders for interference on a jump ball, but they did on this day. Because coach Eric Mangini called a timeout, Stafford – who separated his shoulder on the throw – was able to reenter the game and find Brandon Pettigrew for the game-winning touchdown. Typical Browns.
2. Sept. 8, 2002: Chiefs 40, Browns 39 – Browns backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb, starting for an injured Couch, burst on the scene with a 329-yard, three-touchdown performance in the season opener. Holcomb completed 27-of-39 passes in his first start as a Brown, and the Browns threw four touchdown passes in the game (one from receiver Kevin Johnson). A 41-yard field goal from Dawson with 29 seconds remaining appeared to give the Browns a wild 39-37 win. However, as Trent Green tried to throw a Hail Mary pass with no time remaining, linebacker Dwayne Rudd got to him and appeared to sack him. Green was able to pitch the ball to lineman John Tait just before he went down, but that didn’t stop Rudd from running to midfield and flinging his helmet off in celebration. In the meantime, the 320-pound Tait was rumbling down the sideline, and the officials flagged Rudd for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet on the field of play. That gave the Chiefs one last play with no time remaining, and veteran Morten Andersen made a 30-yard field goal to give the visitors an improbable win. Rudd will always be remembered in Cleveland for this boneheaded maneuver.
1. Dec. 16, 2001: Jaguars 15, Browns 10 – This game will forever be known simply as “Bottlegate.”
Trailing by five with under a minute to go, Couch drove the Browns deep into Jacksonville territory. Believe it not, the 6-6 Browns still had a chance to make the playoffs, but needed a win. On fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 10, Couch connected with Quincy Morgan for three yards and a first down. After Couch spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down, referee Terry McAuley decided to have another look at the Morgan catch – which is forbidden by NFL rules. When McAuley decided to reverse the catch, giving Jacksonville possession with no timeouts remaining, confused and angry Browns fans decided to let the refs know they weren’t happy by throwing whatever they had available onto the playing field. That was mostly hundreds of plastic beer bottles that were, at the time, served at the games. McAuley further broke more NFL rules by deciding to call the game with 48 seconds remaining, but was forced to return to the field, along with both teams, to run two more plays 30 minutes after the game was initially called. The riot from fans makes this one more memorable, but overshadows the fact that McAuley and his officials broke an NFL rule. The Browns wound up finishing 7-9. It’s still the only time that play has been reviewed after another play had already been run.
As you can see, the Browns found 10 very inventive ways to lose a game in this list. It’s not uncommon for a franchise to fall victim to one of these types of losses. Maybe two or three. But 10? And when you realize this is only the tip of the 41 last-second loss iceberg, it only gets more nauseating. I don’t know what forces are at work when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, but I think they’ve made their point by now, don’t you?
Week three of the NFL season will conclude tonight as the Kansas City Chiefs go into Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. The Packers role into tonight as one of the best teams in football having won their first two games in convincing fashion. The Chiefs come into tonight’s game after one of the worst regular season losses in franchise history.
Last week the Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos in primetime on national TV. It wasn’t just that they lost to a division rival, it was how they lost. The Chiefs squandered an early fourteen point lead by giving the Broncos and Peyton Manning five turnovers. The final turnover was a Jamaal Charles fumble, on a pointless running play with thirty seconds left in regulation that the Broncos returned for a game winning touchdown. It was Charles second fumble of the game and just one of many questionable play calls by head coach Andy Reid. The defense looked great early but could find no answer for Manning in the fourth quarter. Alex Smith was pretty much what Chiefs fans have come to expect from Alex Smith. He had one bad interception and a couple more tip balls that could be the fault of any number of factors. Otherwise, Smith had his usual “check-down Charlie” game plan. And for those keeping track at home, they did not throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver bringing that consecutive game streak to nineteen.
The odd thing about the game last week though, despite how horrible the Chiefs played, they still should have won. I feel confident in saying that the Chiefs were the better team on Thursday night. They gave Manning five extra possessions and were still in line for the win with under a minute to go in the game. It was the first time in NFL history that a team had scored two touchdowns in under one minute to first tie and then win the game. So what does that all mean for the Chiefs going forward?
For starters I believe it means that the Chiefs are a good football team. They have a top ten defense that will only get stronger with the return of corner Sean Smith next week. They have one of the best trios of offensive threats in the league with Travis Kelce, Charles and Jeremy Maclin. Smith has proven he can win when he’s surrounded with talent and as long as the offensive line can play decent than he should be able to find those weapons. A lot of people around Kansas City and in the national media expect the Chiefs to compete with Broncos for the AFC West crown while at worse being a wild card team. Being 1-1 after two weeks should not change those expectations for anyone.
The question is; as good as these Chiefs may be, are they ready for primetime? The Chiefs biggest problem since Reid took over three years ago is winning the games that mean the most. Everyone remembers the historic collapse against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 playoffs. The historic collapse last week is fresh in everyone’s mind. Reid is also 0-5 against the Broncos since he came to KC. The end of the season when teams hope to be playing their best ball, the Chiefs are 5-10 from week eleven on under Reid. The Chiefs did win a couple big games last season becoming the only team in NFL history to beat both Super Bowl contestants in the same season. But, the Chiefs also lost to the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans who combined to win only three other games all season.
That question will get answered tonight in Green Bay. The Chiefs don’t have to win this game to silence their critics, but they do need to look good. Smith can’t look frazzled and scared as he did against Denver. Reid can’t try to be cute and make crazy play calls trying to outsmart the other team. The defense needs to play at the top of their game for an entire game not just the first half. When the game ends tonight, whether the Chiefs win or lose, they need to show that they are a good team and that the moment is not too big for them. If the Chiefs can show that tonight than a lot more fans will jump on the band wagon and start to believe that this team could be something special. But, if the Chiefs perform the same way they did against Denver, than there will be a lot of warm seats in Arrowhead Stadium starting with Reid and Smith.
The Kansas City Chiefs will start the 2015 NFL season on Sunday with the highest expectations the franchise has had since 2005. This will be the third season under head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey whom together has built this team up from the ashes left over after the Scott Pioli era. In 2013 the Chiefs shocked the world by going from a two win team to a ten win team and a playoff appearance. Unfortunately they weren’t able to win their first playoff game since 1993, but still was a successful first season under Reid and Dorsey. 2014 was a sophomore slump as they lost bad games to the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders while having one of the worst offensive lines they’ve seen in Kansas City since the 1980’s. The Chiefs even set a NFL record by not having a single touchdown from the wide receiver position. While the team still finished a respectable 9-7, the season wasn’t as good as the record would have you think. But the Chiefs learned from that disappointing season and went to work in the off season to fix the weaknesses that cost them.
While the Chiefs needed to fill many holes in their lineup this off season, the number one hole was at wide receiver. Coming off a season that saw no wide receiver catch a touchdown, the Chiefs had to get better at that position. They parted ways with long time Chief Dwayne Bowe in a move I saw as addition by subtraction. Then they brought in former Philadelphia Eagle Jeremy Maclin via free agency. Maclin comes to KC as one of the top receivers in football as well as knowing the offense having played for Reid in Philly . Maclin also comes to Kansas City as a fan favorite from his days at the University of Missouri. The Chiefs will fill out the rest of their wide receiving core with returning players Jason Avant, Albert Wilson and DeAnthony Thomas; as well as rookie third round draft pick Chris Conley.
The second most glaring need for the Chiefs coming into 2015 is the offensive line. To say the Chiefs line was bad in 2014 would be generous, it was horrible. The Chiefs went to work hard in the off season and have made moves to fix that need. The Chiefs first traded for guard Ben Grubbs from the New Orleans Saints. Shortly after that the team signed guard Paul Fanaika via free agency. Grubbs was a pro-bowl guard for the Saints, while Fanaika started all sixteen games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014. They Chiefs then looked to the draft as they used their second round pick on Mizzou center Mitch Morse. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Fanaika got hurt in the pre-season so will miss the season. Even with out Fanaika, the Chiefs starting line will have new faces and will be better than last season. Donald Stephenson starts at left tackle next to Grubbs at left guard, Morse at center, second year player Laurent Duvemay-Tardif at right guard and former number one pick Eric Fisher at right tackle. This isn’t the 2003 Chiefs offensive line, but it should be an average line which is a large improvement over the garbage they played with last year.
The biggest constants returning for the Chiefs on offense are Jamaal Charles, who is still one of the top running backs in the league, and Travis Kelce who many consider a top three tight end. Charles is 100% healthy and has shown no effects from past injuries or his increasing age as he turns twenty-nine this season. Kelce is in his third year and appears to be as healthy as he’s ever been in his career. With the addition of Maclin as an offensive weapon and the improvements of the offensive line, both Kelce and Charles are primed to have career years.
The biggest question mark on offense continues to be quarterback Alex Smith. While Smith is not a bad quarterback, he is not a great quarterback either. If you looked up “game manager” in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Smith by it. In two years with the Chiefs Smith has shown the unwillingness to throw the ball over thirty yards. This is because Smith does not have the arm strength or accuracy to throw a good hard deep ball. Add in Smith’s tendency to not throw into any kind of tight coverage, means defenses will be sitting on the short routes. For the Chiefs to be successful in 2015, Smith will have to loosen up and be willing to take chances. If he is the same old Smith we’ve seen for two years in Kansas City, than the Chiefs will be an average team at best.
One thing that may be able to overcome even a bad Smith is the Chiefs defense. This will be a defense like the Chiefs had in the 90’s. A great pass rush, ball hawking secondary a bunch of guys who just like to hit people. The pass rushing duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali will fly around the edges as nose tackle Dontari Poe shoves the middle back. The leader of the defense, middle linebacker Derrick Johnson, is back after missing all 2014 with a torn Achilles. His presence, along with returning Mike DeVito on the defensive line, should bolster the run defense. The secondary is young but talented with rookie Marcus Peters and second year guys Phillip Gains and Marcus Cooper. Mix in veteran Sean Smith when he returns from a three game suspension and the Chiefs corners are locked in. At safety the Chiefs have what is one of the best story of the season as Eric Berry returns to football after an eight month battle with cancer. The team has rallied around Berry and his strength and resilience, as has the whole city.
If Reid is the head coach that the media and fans of Kansas City think he is than this should be an 11-5 to 12-4 football team. He should be able to let loose on the offense and turn it into a top ten group while the defense should just show up and do their jobs and also be top ten. If you have a top ten offense and top ten defense then you should make the playoffs and give KC their first playoff win since 1993. I think the offense will be a top fifteen offense and Peyton Manning will have a final good run left in his arm. This means I have the Chiefs finishing with a 10-6 record and getting a spot in the playoffs as a wild card team. As former general manager Carl Peterson once said, “Once you get in the tournament anything can happen”. Well the Chiefs should make the tournament this year in what could be the greatest year for pro sports in Kansas City. This could be the first time that the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs made the playoffs in the same season. Not a bad time to be a sports fan in Kansas City.
Some NFL teams know that they’re in. Some know that they’re out, but many players and coaches around the league don’t know whether or not they can make plans for January just yet. Our focus this week was all about who is jockeying for playoff position, and in some cases, it’s all about survival. Mike Burgermeister is back once again for the Cheddar Bay segment; this time he’s joined by Jeff Geisinger, better known as “HitTheHorns” in Cheddar Bay circles. Jeff approaches picks carefully and it shows in the results.
We also welcome Alex Squires back to the podcast. Alex focuses on Fantasy Football for More Than a Fan, but he is truly a jack of many trades, and wears whatever hat he’s asked to wear. Alex and Jeff Rich discuss a few Fantasy stars from Week 15, analyze a few players you might want to have in your Fantasy Championship, and then just go wherever the wind takes them in the conversation. Note to fans, Johnny Manziel might not be your option at quarterback, but you never know.
Now we are going to stay out west and take a look and see what the AFC has to offer from a fantasy perspective. I found in my last column that I spent too much time on certain players only giving real information about a couple guys per team; this time around I am going to broaden the horizon and take a look at more fantasy relevant players per team but spend less time on them. As I mentioned in my NFC West lookout, I am new at this, and I am still working out the kinks so I appreciate your patience. Let us start with a team last year that the majority of the fantasy landscape seemed to revolve around. I am of course talking about the AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
In starting with the Denver Broncos we might as well start with the proverbial straw that stirs the drink, “Papa” John Schnatter’s BFF, Peyton Manning. It seems to me that in every non-PPR league there is going to be some lunatic who takes Peyton in the first round based on what he did last year. I am not going to be that lunatic. We know the regression is coming, it simply has to. The fact of the matter is that 5500 yards and 55 touchdowns doesn’t come around that often, if ever again. Especially when you lose Eric Decker – a lot of folks believe it was Gase’s system and Manning’s blinding greatness that led to Deck’s 87-1288-11 2013 line – but I tend to lean toward the school of thought teaching that it was what some consider the greatest pass-catching group in NFL history that led to Manning’s ridiculous 2013. Even minus Decker, Peyton should be a shoe in for 5000 yards and 40 TDs and is locked in as a slam dunk top-3 QB in 2014.
Demaryius Thomas is Manning’s favorite and most explosive option, one of the most explosive options in the game in fact. One would imagine he is likely to see even more targets this year without Decker lining up on the other side of the field, though that same factor could lead to more double teams, thus cancelling each other out, more or less. He remains an elite WR1 and probably the number two WR off the board in his 3rd season with Peyton, looking to build on the 2864 yards and 24 TDs he compiled the previous two. Wes Welker really tailed off last year after a smokin’ hot start. After catching eight TDs in Denver’s first 6 games of 2013, he went on to catch only 2 from weeks 7-14, not playing the final three weeks of the season. Welker also did not record over 100 yards in a single game last year. Now 33 years old, Welker’s targets should see a slight increase in 2014 if he can remain on the field, but still remains a TD dependent WR2/3 in most formats. Julius Thomas exploded on the scene last year in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens to the tune of 5 catches 110 yards and 2 TDs, and he never looked back. Thomas played only one year of college ball and caught just 1 ball his first two seasons before his 2013 campaign – with those gaudy numbers of said campaign in the forefront of conversation it is easy to forget just how raw this kid still is. I expect a little bit of regression here but he will remain the 3rd TE off the board and can easily cash in double digit TDs on shear freakish size and athleticism.
With Knowshon Moreno taking his talents to South Beach – SB being the only suitor interested in his talents – that leaves second year back Montee Ball to pick up where Moreno left off. Ball is a far superior talent toting the rock, and averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his sporadic playing time last year. Assuming his recovery from an August 4th appendectomy goes smoothly, Ball should be a candidate for 300 carries as a three down back in an offense that should play with the lead more often than not. Ronnie Hillman should be the number two back and Ball’s primary handcuff considering he has run ahead of C.J. Anderson for the majority of camp and reportedly has made real significant steps forward. As for the number three WR job in Denver, for now it belongs to newly acquired speedster, Emmanuel Sanders. Though, the Broncos spent a second round draft pick on rookie WR Cody Latimer and he could potentially close the gap between he and Sanders before the end of August, if not making it considerably smaller on a guy who has yet to have a 1000 yard receiving season with Pittsburgh in Todd Haley’s questionable but still pass-first offense. Latimer is currently listed as the 3rd string X receiver for Adam Gase behind Andre Caldwell but ran with the first team when Demaryius Thomas missed four days dealing with a personal matter, and should thrust into a starting role in 3 WR sets if Thomas, Welker, or Sanders should go down, flirting with WR2 status.
The Oakland Raiders have stayed true to their name of “The Black Hole” when it comes to fantasy football, serving as an Orlando FL type outfit, where careers go to die. I do not see that changing in the case of Maurice Jones-Drew, and appears to have already taken its toll of Darren McFadden. If in a pinch, MJD is clearly the back to own in this offense with the front office seeing enough of DMC. Jones-Drew will turn 30 in March and it is yet to be seen how much he has left in the tank. With an improved offensive line MJD could make for a sneaky weekly flex play, but I don’t want anything to do with him as a RB2, especially at his current 7th round ADP. Speaking of dead careers the Oakland Raiders went out this offseason and acquired 2013 pick-six machine, Matt Schaub. Schaub is a guy I kept a pretty close eye on last year and really saw nothing that to me doesn’t warrant the Raiders also spending a second round draft pick on Derek Carr. Schaub will start for Oakland, barring an injury, but I can hear the “We Want Carr” chants already. The Oakland Raider QB situation is one to avoid all together in 1 QB leagues, you can do better.
Now there is a bit of excitement when it comes to the Raider’s WR corps. Third year WR Andre Holmes has reportedly impressed everyone at Raiders camp, turning heads left and right. This kid goes 6’ 4” 210 and has legit frontline wheels. Coach Dennis Allen spoke about Holmes, raving about his ability to play up to his stature considering a lot of big WRs don’t play as big as they are, Holmes does showing tremendous high-pointing ability and the strength to over-power defenders at that catch point. You throw in his speed he could be a nice flier as a WR4/5 with WR2/3 upside if Oakland gets even serviceable QB play, I guess that’s kind of a big if though. Rod Streater is another guy that can offer upside if not plagued by erratic QB play. Streater, like Holmes, is entering his third year, and will look to build on his solid 60-888-4 2013 line. He was definitely the most solid and trustworthy of the Oakland receivers last year and will be their opening day starter across from Holmes, leaving James Jones, Denarius Moore, and Greg Little all jockeying for looks in 3 WR sets.
The San Diego Chargers of 2013 scared the ever living out of me pre-draft and boy was I wrong. Under their new head coach Mike McCoy, Philip Rivers really turned things around after a disappointing 2012 campaign, completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 4478 yards and 32 TDs while throwing only 11 interceptions. I look for more of the same from Rivers this year with Keenan Allen in his second year and a healthy Malcom Floyd, I have him right at the top of that third tier of 6-8 round QBs with the likes of Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Keenan Allen burst on to the scene as a Rookie last year posting a line of 71-1046-8, catching 5 of his 8 TDs in the final 4 regular season games and putting up 5 100+ yard efforts. I look for Allen to regress a bit this year given that Rivers should look to spread the ball around a bit more this year as he locked in to feeding the ball to Allen a lot last year. Although I like guys like Antonio Brown, Victor Cruz and Randall Cobb whole hell of a lot more, Allen should put up number similar to his rookie numbers and be just fine as a WR2. Malcom Floyd appears to have recovered from his offseason neck surgery quite nicely as he was named the “MVP” of the Bolts offseason activities. Assuming he stays healthy he will be an every down WR that still has the ability to fight for balls downfield and pick up chunk yardage in a downfield passing attack, though his talent has obviously diminished a bit with age, the volume Floyd should receive should make him draftable as a WR4/5 in most leagues.
Now allow me a gush a little bit… I have always been a monstrous Ryan Mathews fan, from Fresno State up until his first game in the NFL and beyond. Yes, I was the guy – in most of my leagues – who took Mathews in the first round in 2012 as he was talked up as an ultra-talented three down back who promised to see massive volume. Ha. To put things in perspective for 2012, he ended up with 1 touchdown, and two broken clavicles while continuing to fumble the football at an alarming rate. The hope tree I planted in 2012 finally bore fruit in 2013 as Mathews rolled up 1444 yards from scrimmage on 311 touches while scoring 7 touchdowns. He also played in every game and lost only one fumble all season. He did lose the majority of passing-down work to more suitable backs Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown, a trend I expect to continue in 2014, especially with the addition of Donald Brown.
Mathews is locked in as San Diego’s early down and goal-line back, but everything outside of that is going to be divvied up between Brown and Woodhead, capping his upside. I still like Mathews as a solid RB2 because this offense is going to run the ball and one would expect them to play with more leads having bulked up their defense a bit. Bump Woodhead up a round or two in PPR formats. Ladarius Green is a guy I am very excited about drafting this year, in a year we could see a tide changing between he and Antonio Gates. Gates started off hot last year but as a 33 year old plodder, he really slowed down as the season carried on. I do not expect much of a bounce back year for him with the freakish Green looming behind him. Green goes about 6’ 6” 240 pounds but as the wheels to hang with most defensive back. It is that kind of athleticism and dominating power that makes Eric William’s statement of Antonio Gates “remaining the most targeted tight end on San Diego’s roster” something I am simply going to have to see to believe. I love Ladarius Green as a TE2 with legit elite TE1 upside, especially if Gates were to miss any time.
Let us now discuss the Kansas City Chefs. I mean the Kansas City Chiefs. Actually, for our purposes, let’s just call them the Kansas City Jamaal Charles’. Believe it or not JC actually saw 26 less carries from 2012 to 2013, going from 285 to 259. But with Andy Reid at the helm we saw his production in the passing game sky-rocket. Charles caught 70 balls for 693 yards and 7 touchdowns in Reid’s west coast style dink and dunk offense to average just under 10 yards per catch, along with averaging 5 yards per carry. He was an absolute statistical freak and I see no reason why he cannot put together a season very similar to his 2013 effort flirting with 260-270 carries and 60-70 receptions. We know JC is going to see massive volume and his speed and vision makes me not worry too much about a seemingly downgraded offensive line, making Charles my hands-down number one overall fantasy player for 2014.
I have never been one of these people always defending Alex Smith. I think he is boring and I think he has always played not to lose and never put anything on the line to try and win a game for his teammates. I am not sure whether every offensive coordinator he has ever had has just told him not to throw the ball down the field or if he himself has been afraid to, either way with a lack of offensive weapons and no heart or guts keeps him a low upside QB2 and in my opinion downright undraftable in 1 QB formats. Now keeping with the theme of KC’s glaring lack of weapons outside of JC, we really only have one other player to talk about, that being Dwayne Bowe. With Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins, and Junior Hemmingway being just guys lining up next to him, and the 30 year old Anthony Fasano still being listed as the starting tight end ahead of a much more talented Travis Kelce, Bowe promises to see his fair share of double teams. Couple that with Alex Smith’s inability or unwillingness to throw the ball down field and that Bowe averaged a career worst 11.8 yards per catch last year without going over 100 yards in a single game, makes the only real draftable Chief outside of Jamaal Charles a middling WR3/4 that will probably create more headaches than anything else week to week.
That’s it, that’s the NFC South and its impact on Fantasy Football. To see the all of the conference Fantasy Football Forecasts, check out my author profile!
On Monday, I started a series that focused on the Browns and, specifically, statistical analysis that could help to clear things up for next season.
The series of statistical analysis continues today with a look at Brandon Weeden throw by throw. No, literally.
Dennis Manaloff, does an UNBELIEVABLE job every week of the Browns season of creating a chart grading every Brandon Weeden pass. This chart covers everything from the amount of pass rush, to the formation, to the quality of the throw. It is thanks to him that I was able to do this research and put this article together.
Thanks to Mr. Manaloff, I was able to analyze literally each and every one of Brandon Weeden’s throws.
In Manaloff’s weekly “Brandon Weeden Report Card”, there was analysis that looks a little something like this.
I knew this existed, so I used it to my advantage.
I knew that Mr. Manaloff, incredibly, graded each and every throw on a scale of 1-5. A “one”, in more cases than not, was an obviously thrown interception, a “two” was an inaccurate throw, a “three” was your run-of-the-mill pitch and catch, a “four” was a very accurate and well thrown ball, and a “five” was your perfect, on the money, strike.
As you can imagine, there weren’t all that many ones or all that many fives. Instead, the range was essentially from two to four, for the most part.
On top of dissecting the quality of each throw, the great Manaloff inserted into their chart whether the throw was from under center or from the shotgun.
Using these two incredibly useful tools, I was able to start my analysis.
Mr. Manaloff again made it easy for me, as they had a search tool to look through each throw from a certain category. I simply pressed the shotgun button and “BOOM!” there was every shotgun throw that Weeden made for the entire season, graded and explained.
There were five pages of fifty throws, so I added the ratings from each throw together, divided them by 50 and my results were as follows:
Throw Rating from Shotgun
3.045 average rating on first 50 throws.
3.0 average rating on second 50 throws.
2.8 average rating on third 50 throws.
3.175 average rating on fourth 50 throws.
2.926 average rating on fifth 50 throws.
2.989 average rating on 250 attempts from the shotgun.
Of 517 attempts, Weeden was in the shotgun 250 times. 48% of the time, Weeden was in the shotgun.
So, you can see most of Weeden’s throws from the shotgun were just around average. Obviously there were good and there were bad, but for a shotgun throw, I’ll take average all day. Average in the shotgun is analogous to below average under center, keep that in mind…
Unfortunately, under center wasn’t so easy to analyze. I tried to click the “under center” button to sort through every under center throw, but it wouldn’t work. Instead, I went game by game and manually counted the number of under center throws, added up the grades, and divided the sum of the grades by the number of throws in that game. The results were as follows:
Throw Rating from Under Center:
2.72 against Philadelphia
3.368 against Cincinnati
2.708 against Buffalo
2.925 against Baltimore
2.933 against New York
3.23 against Cincinnati
3.117 against Indianapolis
3.0 against San Diego
2.64 against Baltimore
2.63 against Dallas
2.78 against Pittsburgh
3.14 against Oakland
3.071 against Kansas City
2.4 against Washington
2.75 against Denver
2.894 average rating on 267 attempts from under center.
Of 517 attempts, Weeden was under center 267 times. 52% of the time, Weeden was under center.
With more attempts, Weeden was still .1 under his average from the shotgun. While it doesn’t seem like a huge difference, with 267 attempts, .1 percent is much larger than you think.
Throws from under center are generally shorter, easier throws. The number of quality throws under center should be much higher than that of the shotgun throws, but not in Weeden’s case. Weeden is much better throwing from the shotgun, regardless of the risky and down-field throws that come with the formation.
He was clearly uncomfortable at times under center, allowing for below average throw after below average throw. Weeden was a “square peg” trying to fit into the offense of Pat Shurmur that was a “round hole”. For as bad a fit as it was, Weeden didn’t do a bad job. All things considered, Weeden was hurt by Shurmur’s offense, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it should have been, because Weeden is a good and coachable quarterback.
This season, however, Weeden is going to be one of the better second-year quarterbacks, all in thanks to Rob Chudzinski.
Rob Chudzinski is the anti-Shurmur. Aggressive, smart, and willing to fit his system to his players strengths, rather than having them fit into a specific set of parameters. Chudzinski also happens to be a great offensive mind who believes in a shotgun-based, down-field passing game. It is just a tremendously helpful coincidence that Chudzinski and Weeden’s old coach, Dana Holgorsen, share the same philosophies when it comes to offense: pass a lot, and pass from the shotgun.
With a comfortable Weeden, a down-field system, and more overall talent, the sky is the limit for Brandon. I’m expecting big things from him this year. If he can’t thrive in this system, I would be completely on board with drafting a quarterback in next year’s QB-heavy draft. I am fully confident, however, that Weeden is going to blow people away with his performance.
I’ll put it this way: you don’t put Carlos Santana as your leadoff hitter or Dion Waiters as your center, just like you don’t put Brandon Weeden under the center for more than 40% of his passes. He’s never been there before, so why try to change him now? Especially when he isn’t going to be in the league as long as most rookies, thanks to his age.
Imagine what will happen with a more experienced Weeden, a better offensive line, a better Trent Richardson, and a down-field, shotgun-based offensive passing system. Weeden will be marginally better than he was last season.
Again, thanks to Dennis Manaloff of Cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer for helping me, unintentionally, with my analysis. @dmansworld474 did an absolutely incredible job.
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