Author

Brennan Quenneville

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Kickers are like toilets: You hardly notice them when they’re working but when they break down things get shitty in a hurry. And on Sunday kickers around the league broke down. How bad was it? Well, it was worse than the Browns’ strange decision to part ways with Josh Gordon due to a lack of “trust” after tolerating years of his off-field issues. And it was worse than Vontae Davis’s retirement which took place at halftime of a game that he was playing in. So, yeah, it was pretty bad.

Although this is probably still the headline of the week.

Two kickers had merely unfortunate days: With the Raiders playing a division rival in Denver, Raiders kicker Mike Nugent had an extra point blocked which would have been a disappointing but relatively uninspiring outcome save that Nugent’s team went on to lose by one, on a last-minute field goal, no less. (At least someone else is taking the blame for that blocked kick.) And earlier in the day, Packer’s kicker Mason Crosby1 booted what would have been a game-winning kick through the uprights as time expired only to have been iced just before the snap. He hooked the re-kick wide left and the Pack wound up settling for a tie.

In his first career start, Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions on 14 pass attempts. He was benched at halftime. In his second start, Peterman completed 50% of his passes1 for a total of 57 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter due to injury. On Sunday Peterman started for the third time in his NFL career. He completed five of 18 passes for 24 yards, two interceptions and a quarterback rating of zero. It was the type of horrible quarterbacking performance that keeps NFL coaches and executives up at night.

Coming off their first playoff appearance in nearly two decades, the Bills were riding a wave of positive momentum into the off-season but how they chose to handle that momentum was, let’s say, curious. The team decided, rather bizarrely, to chase Tyrod Taylor out of town, trashing the quarterback who got them to the playoffs in favor of trading multiple picks to draft the divisive Josh Allen. Whether or not you liked the selection of Allen, the Bills’ decision to take it slow with such a raw prospect was a sound one, especially after the team signed momentary-Browns-savior A.J. McCarron to be its bridge quarterback. And here’s where the wheels come off.

When I saw that the Dolphins had signed wideout Albert Wilson to a three-year contract worth $24 million I assumed that there must be some other much more successful Albert Wilson that I had somehow never heard of. Surely that contract with those terms couldn’t have been for the diminutive speedster who played his first four years in Kansas City. Let’s check the press release and—

Well, shit.

How exactly is it that Wilson, a former undrafted free agent who is all of 5’9” and whose career-best stat-line reads 42-554-3, found himself on the receiving end of more than $14 million guaranteed? Well, apparently middling wideouts are the new mediocre quarterbacks. This summer NFL teams were falling all over themselves to dole out huge sums of unearned cash to receivers whose performance simply doesn’t warrant it.

A little after 4pm on Sunday the Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, plunging them to the NFL’s second-ever 0-16 finish. The loss would have been soul crushing if only there had been any souls left to crush in Cleveland. Bad as the Browns season finale was, though, it wasn’t the worst of the day. There’s a strong case to be made that the Browns reached a new level of misery on Sunday but the drop from 1-15 to 0-16 is a lot less dramatic than the fall from making the playoffs to missing them.

Of all the teams with a chance to claim a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season, the Baltimore Ravens entered Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals with the best odds of making the postseason. Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Ravens had a 97% chance of making the playoffs on Sunday morning – almost 30% higher than the team with the next best odds – and with the game against Cincinnati winding down, the Ravens seemed to have it in the bag. After trailing all game, they had stormed back to take their first lead of the day late in the 4th quarter. With Cincinnati facing a 4th and 12 at the Baltimore 49-yard line, with 53 seconds on the clock and the Bengals out of timeouts, the Ravens needed just one stop to punch their ticket to the postseason.

On October 0th the San Francisco 49ers sent a 2nd round draft pick to the New England Patriots for Tom Brady’s understudy, Jimmy Garoppolo. As San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan opted to take things slow with his potential franchise quarterback, Garappolo didn’t start a game until December 3rd but since then, well, let’s just say that the 49ers have to be happy with how that trade worked out.

“Good thing that Brady trade didn’t work out.”

Going into Week 16, Garoppolo had led the 49ers to three straight victories despite the fact that he was taking over a team that was 1-10 and absolutely terrible at nearly every aspect of the game. In beating the Bears, Texans and Titans, Jimmy G. had shown a promising amount of star power but it was fair to wonder if his game had looked better than it actually was due to the quality – or, more specifically, the lack thereof – of his competition.

In a feature literally named after the NFL’s penchant for constant, unyielding incompetence, you might’ve guessed that today we’d be honoring1 the League itself again. And yet, even as both the Raiders and Steelers lost their games due to controversial-but-true-to-the-rulebook verdicts from their referees, there’s only one place truly deserving of our incompetent gaze. I’m looking at you, Seattle.

And what I’m seeing is an unholy abomination.

The Seahawks have a well-established reputation as a dominant team, their hype built on the foundation of two recent Super Bowl appearances – including one victory – and a multiyear run as one of the greatest defenses of all-time. Injuries to their defense and ineffectiveness along the offensive line have somewhat dampened Seattle’s reputation for excellence this year but they remain a formidable foe, especially at home where they’ve had one of the only legitimate home-field advantages in the sport over the last few years. Even as 2017 seemed to be turning into a down year for the franchise, Russell Wilson vaulted himself into the MVP discussion with a series of masterful performances including an impressive defeat of fellow MVP-candidate Carson Wentz’s up-and-coming Eagles squad in Week 13.

When a yellow flag landed it was immediately clear what the call was going to be. It was also immediately clear that it was going to be the wrong call.

Detroit Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs had just leveled Tampa Bay’s O.J. Howard, causing a fumble that was recovered by Detroit’s Glover Quin. As broadcaster Ronde Barber predicted,1 Diggs was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, his hit deemed a shot to the head of a defenseless receiver. As Barber also noted, this was the wrong call, mainly because the receiver wasn’t defenseless (per NFL rules) and because Diggs didn’t hit him in the head.

Every Monday I play beer league hockey with a bunch of physically underwhelming and tactically inept schlubs like myself. In our darker moments, when our utter lack of coaching and ability rears its ugly, toothless head our defensive schemes devolve into little more than puck-chasing. As defensive strategies go, this one tends to be disastrous. It’s also the technique that the San Francisco 49ers utilized in pursuing Tarik Cohen, the Bears’ diminutive rookie running back, as he scored one of the more remarkable touchdowns of the year.

Cohen’s brilliance on this play is undeniable. His speed, acceleration and agility are simply off the charts. He makes a cut at the 30-yard line that leaves Aldrick Robinson – a freaky fast dude himself – flailing his arms and falling way behind the play. The whole play, in which Cohen outmaneuvers an entire professional football team, makes for a reasonable facsimile of the “Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl” technique that shouldn’t work in real life and seems borderline unfair.

After Tyrod Taylor was his predictably solid self during Buffalo’s 16-10 defeat of Kansas City on Sunday, I was tempted to give this week’s Incompetence Trophy to Bills coach Sean McDermott for the second consecutive week because, again, what the hell was he doing starting Nathan Peterman in an NFL game? But McDermott at least didn’t make the same mistake twice and kept the overmatched Peterman on the bench in Week 12. Things were not so simple on the opposite sideline.

After absolutely shredding the Patriots in the season’s Thursday night opener, the Chiefs rattled off four more wins, looking like a league superpower as they cruised to a 5-0 record. Since then they’ve only managed to win one game and that came against a Broncos team that’s currently quarterbacked by a revolving crew of what appear to be three sentient mannequins. (This throw sums up what if feels like to have Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch as your team’s quarterbacks.)

Lookin’ good, Brock.

Despite an off-season filled with moves that seemed to indicate that Buffalo’s new front office was punting on the present in the hopes of building a better future, the Bills started this year with a surprising 5-2 record. Even after a puzzling loss to the Jets and an absolute thrashing at the hands of the resurgent Saints, the Bills were 5-4 and sitting in the AFC’s last playoff spot. Considering what was expected of the team heading into this season and that – as I am contractually obligated to tell you – the Bills haven’t made the postseason since 1999, it was hard to consider Buffalo’s 5-4 start as anything but a success.

Unless, apparently, you’re Sean McDermott, Buffalo’s first year head coach. After his team was pummeled 47-10 by the Saints, McDermott decided that the steady if unspectacular play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor simply wasn’t cutting it and instead inserted rookie Nathan Peterman (a.k.a. a guy that no one had ever heard of) into the starting lineup. It, um, didn’t go very well.