Monday, November 3, 2008

we've hit the midpoint. my thoughts ...

I will probably eventually post a recap over yesterday's amazing, incredible football game. Frustrating? Sure. Disappointing? You betcha. Awesome to watch and witness live? (joe biden voice) you got that right, pal.

But for this post, I choose to look at where we're at as the season has hit its halfway mark.

(note: all stats other than the obvious ones (aka record), courtesy nfl.com/stats/team).

Record: 1-7 overall. 1-2 division, 1-4 conference, 0-3 non conference.
Thought(s): we've been competitive in half of our games -- at Patriots, vs broncos, at Jets, vs Bucs. We've not even bothered to show up in 3 others -- vs raiders, at Panthers, vs Titans. We showed up for the 2nd half in the remaining contest -- at Falcons. I'm not saying showing up for 9 halves of football (out of 16 plus an overtime possession) is good ... but considering what most folks thought entering the season, I can live with it. Especially given the last two weeks.

Offense:
* Points scored: 29th (126 total)
* Scoring average: 29th (15.8 pts / game)
* Plays / Scrimmage: T20th (488 total)
* Total Yards / Game: 26th (282.2 yds / game)
* Yards / Play: 29th (4.6 yds / play)
* First Downs / Game: 28th (15.2 FD / game)
* Third Down Percentage: 22nd (37%; 43 of 115)
* Fourth Down Percentage: 31st (17%; 1 of 6)
* Penalties Against: 6th (38 total)
* Penalty Yards Against: 6th (303 total)
* Time of Possession: 23rd (28:46 / game)
* Turnover Margin: 3rd (+7)

Thought(s): can't say any of those numbers surprise me, although compared to where they were entering the Jets game, they are trending upward. As you would hope to see as the season progresses. Whatever this offense's problems, and they're numerous, they aren't beating themselves with stupid stuff -- 6th best in penalties and penal yardage, 3rd best in turnover margin. They're beating themselves with injuries, youth, and inexperience, not necessarily in that order.

Defense:

* Points allowed: 29th (223 total)
* Scoring average: 29th (27.9 pts / game)
* Plays / Scrimmage: 14th (512 total)
* Total Yards / Game: 31st (407.0 yds / game)
* Yards / Play: 32nd (6.4 yds / play)
* First Downs / Game: T23rd (20.0 FD / game)
* Third Down Percentage: 32nd (50%; 54 of 107)
* Fourth Down Percentage: T23rd (67%; 2 of 3)
* Penalties Against: T14th (46 total)
* Penalty Yards Against: 5th (313 total)
* Time of Possession: 23rd (31:48 / game)

Thought(s): our inability to stop the run is killing us. Which goes against what you would think with a young defense -- you would think they would stop the run, and struggle against the pass, especially with every starter in the secondary either being a rookie (Flowers, Carr), or a 2nd year starter / 3rd year in the league (Page, Pollard). Simply put, the front seven, especially the front four, has been a gigantic waste of space. Only one sack from the defensive line so far, only 5 sacks total. In 8 games. The linebackers have had major injury issues, as (so far) all three projected starters three months ago have either missed starts, left games hurt, or been cut. For this unit to improve in the second half, the starting front four must start playing up to their vaulted draft status (all selected in the top two rounds of the last three drafts). Until they live up to the "hype" and their projected talent levels, this unit will continue to struggle.

Coaching thought(s): I really can only fault Herm for one things so far --

(1) Horrendous decision to run it three straight times in the Meadowlands, when the spread / shotgun offense had been what had the offense moving. To his credit, he did not repeat this mistake yesterday (and spare me the "we ran it on 3rd and 14 after TG's pass interference yesterday" comeback. You absolutely run it there, bleed the clock, and let your punter boom it away. 3rd and 14 is unmakeable what, 94, 95 percent of the time? Run the ball, bleed the clock, and let your punter boom it away. I was fine with that call ... as well as throwing it on 3rd and 4).

That brain fart of a decision certainly cost us a solid shot to win that game two weeks ago.

I feel bad for the guy. I almost hesitate to write that ... because I hate to agree with Jason Whitlock on anything ... but I do like Coach Herm. I agree his offensive philosophy is too conservative to win repeatedly in the modern NFL ... but he's starting to overcome that, as witnessed by the last couple weeks, and denver a couple weeks earlier. (Plus most of his tenure in New York, and a large part of 2006. When you give the guy a QB he believes can win him a game, he lets the guy play. Otherwise, he attempts to put his team in the best position it can to win by playing it close to the vest. Believe it or not ... I'm good with that).

Herm likely is gone in 56 days, a sad casualty of Carl Peterson refusing to tear this thing down the day after we lost 23-8 in Indy in the 2006 wildcard round. (I will never fault Carl for holding together a 10 win team, that had won 30 of its previous 48 games, for one final run in 2006. That was the right call, as evidenced by the incredible wildcard berth).

As for the coordinators ... I won't fault Chan Gailey. When Herm has turned him loose (Huard's healthy game vs denver, the "what the hell, why not" outings the last two weeks), Gailey has shown the brilliance I expected when he was hired. (He also had a solid game plan in New England, as well as the 2nd half against Atlanta). Gailey deserves the 2nd half before we judge him. (And yes, I am flat out saying, you can do worse as an OC or a head coach than a man who, until this year, had never failed to win at least 9 games as an OC or head coach in this league ...)

Gunther though ... look it. (steve sighing). I love the man. I friggin love the man. The reason I hated Vermeil so much was because he replaced Gun. When Gunther was hired in 1999 ... (steve revealing too much) ... I was driving to a service call at the job I had then in beautiful Lyons, Kansas. And I literally pulled over as the press conference started and cried. Gunther getting the head coaching job, was a win for the working guy, a win for those of us who show up every day, get sh*t dumped on us, and come back the next morning for more.

When we rehired him as defensive coordinator after we failed to make the Colts punt in a playoff loss, I was so ecstatic I bought the first two rounds that night at P Otts after work.

But this tenure, something ain't working. I don't know if its the assistants, or if Gunther's philosophy ain't working ... but something's wrong. He's got 56 days left, if only to once again serve as a scapegoat for Carl's failed drafts and free agent signings.

Special teams, I'll cut Priefer a pass. The punting units are solid, the kickoff coverage is good. Our return game isn't great, but we don't exactly have a rock solid returner back there. And our field goal units haven't cost us a game yet, an improvement over the past few years. (And I wholeheartedly agree with signing Connor Barth, who should have won the job coming out of training camp).

Front office thought(s): I'll admit, I'm torn.

I'm not torn on Carl: the time for him to assume the Jack Steadman Memorial Role as "man who draws paycheck for lifetime of service" has arrived. He has no business running the day to day operations of a NFL franchise anymore.

But the rest of the front office ... look it. I don't want to read too much into two solid performances the last couple weeks. But the kids are starting to come around. (And we'll know for sure if we've turned a corner this week, as the Chargers break in a new defensive coordinator and are reeling at 3-5, in a must win at home. If we once again have the ball with a shot to clinch or rally to win with 2:30 to go, we'll know we've turned the corner).

And the credit to that would have to go to Bill Kuharick, to his scouting staff, and his spies / informants in the college ranks. Kuharick never got the credit he deserved for building some decent Saints teams in the early 2000s (including the first Saints team to win a playoff game). I fear the same might happen here.

If I was Clark Hunt ... and God, I wish I was ... I'd kick Carl upstairs. Promote Kuharick, keep Denny Thum for contracts and cap management. I'd try to bring back Terry Bradway from the Jets to replace Kuharick in the scouting / assistant GM role he had under Carl in the mid to late 90s (the 1996 Chiefs draft, seriously folks. Good God. Arguably the best in franchise history. The brainchild of Terry Bradway. Ditto Bradway in NY in 2000 and 2002, two more incredible drafts. The man knows his stuff. Bring him back).

I'd also keep the support staff, the ticket sales staff, the every day common folk who are taking far, far, far more abuse than they deserve from us p*ssed off season ticket holders. Hang in there guys. Help should be on the way shortly ... even if said help is the end of the regular season ...

Coming later tonight ... or tomorrow ... or more likely later this week since tomorrow is the election ... my individual player thoughts.

No comments: