by the Pigskin Pundit
What a season the NFL has endured in 2017. The league has seen its stock plummet with every kneeldown by malcontented players who cannot seem to articulate clearly why the heck they are so ready to disrespect the nation’s flag and anthem. Note to the owners, players, idiot commissioner and sponsors: we everyday fans tune in to watch football in order to ESCAPE this kind of crap, not be subject to more of it. One thing has become alarmingly clear this season — there is no real leadership at the league level. Period.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the teams. This was a year where Pete Rozelle’s dream of parity among teams has bloomed. Although mediocrity was to be found through the majority of this year, the last quarter of the season, and especially the final week, provided a delightful array of meaningful games with a substantial number of teams competing to get into the playoffs. Even the top two teams in the AFC had home field advantage up for grabs in their final tilts. And it is good so see some clubs who have been long absent from the playoffs make it back (Buffalo, Tennessee, Jacksonville & the Rams).
There are always a barrage of coaching changes at season’s end, and this year may be higher than average. The stumbling Colts finally chucked Pagano, after too many seasons of his underachieving teams. Yes, I know they have injuries at key positions, but this once-proud team has been mediocre for too long, and Irsay was overdue to sober up and release his team for their own torpor.
The Mara family allowed the Giants franchise to be reduced to a punch line this season, with the ridiculous Eli demotion-resurrection debacle. Ben McAdoo’s team was a lot better than their record … always a hanging verdict where the head coach is concerned. I’m no Eli fan, due to the mediocrity of his career win/loss record, but he didn’t deserve the humiliation he underwent this season while McAdoof replaced him with Geno Smith. And then Davis Webb, who is so green he resembles the Geico gecko. I don’t know what film footage of Smith Bouffant Ben was watching, to trigger such a seismic roster shift, but it was a colorful career suicide.
Jack Del Rio is back on the bricks again, as Mark Davis rescued his Raiders from further folly. I don’t know how Del Rio has held head coaching jobs in this league, as he has never produced appreciable success anywhere. He develops brainlock everywhere he coaches, and as a result his coaches and teams have no strategic adaptability when faced with versatile opponents.
It is long overdue for Marvin Lewis to leave Cincy, and maybe the NFL. His Bengal legacy is one of recruiting undisciplined players (Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, Brandon Joiner, Cedric Benson, Rey Maualuga, Jerome Simpson, the deceased Chris Henry, to name a few) who cannot seem to avoid running afoul of the rules on the field and the law off it. Lewis’ teams have made the playoffs 7 times in his 15 years as head coach, which looks like a decent performance until you realize he is 0-7 in those games. Marvin has provided irrefutable proof that he doesn’t have what it takes to get to the next level.
Here’s a few predictions for the coming year:
Jimmy Garoppolo will continue to help turn around the 49ers, making them the darling team of 2018. He’s the real deal — and my Pats gave him away for an equivalent pick in 2018. But it’s not a wash, because Garoppolo has shown what he can do. The pick is just another gamble. One of Belicheck’s very few sizeable blunders.
Roger Goodell will continue to make the league look feckless at the ownership level. This is their chosen guy — just ask Jerry Jones. He has the butt-whip marks to prove it.
Colin Kaepernick will never play pro football again. It no longer matters whether he can still play or not. His focus is not on the game, and that is why he lost his job in the first place. This league doesn’t run on demonstrations. It is results-driven. He stopped delivering results a couple years ago. Football results, anyway.
Kirk Cousins will wind up as the next Sam Bradford, bouncing around in free agency. Pretty good, not great.
The Steelers will lose the 2018 AFC championship game in Foxboro to the Patriots. In his after game interview, Mike Tomlin will blame the loss on the Patriots’ manipulating the earth’s rotation, thereby throwing off Roethlisberger’s delivery. The league office will investigate, consuming 6 months and $11 million dollars.
John Gruden will continue to enjoy the eyelash-batting glances of have-not teams in search of a head coach, even though he is overrated as both coach and analyst.
The Cleveland Browns will win one game next year. 100% improvement. They will also expend their #1 overall draft pick on the next Johnny Manziel. It’s tradition.
Enjoy the playoffs.