Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter
On a first-and-10 from his own 1-yard line last Sunday, with a 14-3 lead and 12 minutes left in the third quarter, Aaron Rodgers dropped back seven yards deep into his own end zone and heaved a pass 40 yards downfield to Davante Adams.
If any other quarterback in the NFL, with the probable exceptions of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, had done the same thing, the appropriate reaction would have been, “What the hell is he doing?”
But this being Aaron Rodgers, of course, Adams managed to haul in the pass for a 42-yard gain, and the Packers proceeded to turn it into a 99-yard drive to take a 20-3 lead.
It’s a play that Rodgers, like Mahomes and Brady, has earned the right to make because he has earned the benefit of the doubt.
Compare that to Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was fired Monday after a decision he made blew up in spectacular fashion. With the Raiders 45 yards from the end zone with 13 seconds left and needing a touchdown, Williams sent an all-out blitz, rushing eight while leaving three defenders one-on-one against the Raiders wide receivers. Naturally, Henry Ruggs beat one of those defenders and hauled in a pass from Derek Carr for the game winning touchdown.
Conventional football wisdom says that in that situation, the one thing a defense can’t do is let a receiver get behind them, and most coaches will drop seven or eight men into coverage with two deep safeties to make sure no receiver gets open deep.
Never mind that on the previous play, Williams did precisely that, and yet, somehow, Raiders’ receiver Nelson Agholor got wide open behind the safeties and would have had a touchdown, except Carr badly overthrew him.
I have a friend who adamantly believes that on both plays, the Jets intentionally let the receiver get open deep, hoping to let the Raiders win and keep the Jets in line for the first overall draft pick. On the other hand, the all-out blitz has been Gregg Williams’ modus operandi during his entire career as a defensive coach in the NFL, including when he was implicated in the Bountygate scandal in New Orleans.
Either way, neither Williams as a coach, or the Jets as an organization, have done anything to earn anything resembling benefit of the doubt. Thus, whether Williams screwed up or was scapegoated is irrelevant. Nor would it have mattered if Rodgers had been sacked, or thrown an interception instead of a completion. The benefit of the doubt, like respect, is earned, not given.
Speaking of benefit of the doubt, my performance picking games this season has earned whatever is the term for the opposite of the benefit of the doubt. Whatever ridicule is thrown my way is well deserved.
The picks (Lines as of Thursday at William Hil):
Wake Forest (+1 ½) at Louisville: In a season as disjointed as this one has been, it’s impossible each week to find a game between two teams that are unaffected by Covid-19. Wake Forest hasn’t played since Nov. 14, but before that, they had covered five games in a row. Quarterback Sam Hartman was good last year and has been even better this year. Louisville won last year’s meeting 62-59, and the year before that it was 56-35 Wake Forest: In a game in this price range, asking the better team to simply make one stop more than the opponent isn’t unreasonable.
Boise St. (-11 ½) at Wyoming: Wyoming coach Craig Bohl called last week’s loss to New Mexico a “debacle” and I guess the word applies when you lose to a team that had lost 20 consecutive conference games and 14 in a row overall and was playing with a true freshman walk-on quarterback. But I watched every play of that game and I’m not sure how much more Wyoming is truly capable of. The Cowboys rank 120th in the country in passing offense, and that was before Levi Wiliams got hurt against New Mexico, which might leave them starting their own freshman this week. Bad news against a Boise St. team that is looking like it’s back to full strength. Boise can score in a hurry, and Wyoming can’t. This is one of my favorite late-season situations – a superior opponent with the motivation to play well and whose strength negates the opponent’s strength.
Colorado (-2 ½ over Utah): It may seem counterintuitive, but I thought that some of the better coached teams in the country would be the ones most affected by the disruptions this season and the lack of spring football and offseason conditioning. Yes, Utah has had its fair share of talent through the years, as players dotted on NFL rosters can attest. But the Utes have succeeded since joining the PAC-12 by playing disciplined, tough football and solid execution of sound schemes, not by overwhelming opponents with size or speed.
Kansas City (-7) at Miami: I love watching my cat chase mice. When she catches one, she will hold onto it for a while, then intentionally let it go, so she can catch it again. I’ve gotten that exact feeling watching the Chiefs play several times this season, but this looks like the kind of situation where they feel enough of a threat to go for the jugular, but the Dolphins aren’t yet developed enough to prevent it.
Buffalo (-2) over Pittsburgh: The Steelers loss to the Football Team was the most disappointing result of the season for me, and I didn’t even have a bet on the game. I have been looking ahead to this game as the one where the Steelers would falter. Instead of getting Buffalo plus a couple points, I have to lay a couple, but I’ve thought all season the Bills were the better team, and this week they will either prove it, or not.
As a former three sport high school coach, I believe that the line between a genius coach and a dumb coach is a thin one, and that line is success. If what a coach does works, for whatever reason, that coach is perceived as good. If what a coach does, for whatever reason, does not work, that coach is perceived as dumb. There are no degrees of talent for coaches, you are perceived as either great or awful. Most observers do not spend a whole lot of time considering the most important ingredient to a coach’s success-the skill and grit of the players.
That being said, I believe what separates coaches is a coach’s ability to put his players in the best possible position to succeed. How often do you see poor coaches ask their players to do things they are not suited to do? Contrast that to a great coach like Bill Belichick, who always seems to get his players to have their best years when they play for him. How many different styles (all successful) have the Patriots used during Belichick’s time in New England, both on offense and on defense? Great coaches let their players do what they do best.
All this brings me to last Sunday’s Raiders-Jets game.
Full disclosure, I bet the Jets on the moneyline, meaning I did not take the 8 ½ points the Jets were getting but rather, would get paid $42.00 on a $10.00 bet if the Jets won, but lose if they lost by any score. So I did lose on the outcome of that game, but admittedly, not as much as the Jets themselves lost. Maybe I’m bitter. Also, I do not like Jets’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams one bit, ever since Bountygate.
If you agree with the Jets Decision to all-out blitz Raiders QB Derek Carr on the final play or not, I hope you see that the Jets did not put their defense in the best position to succeed on that play. The Jets assigned undrafted rookie Lamar Jackson (not that one, the other one) to cover speedster Henry Ruggs one on one. I don’t know how Jackson played the rest of the game, but on that play, he got beat terribly by Ruggs, who had an absolutely awful game until the last play of the game. When I saw it unfolding live, and saw Ruggs two yards in front of Jackson and the ball floating right into his arms, I couldn’t believe there was no Jet back on the goal line. What did the Jets think the Raiders were going to do, considering that there were 13 seconds on the game clock when the play began and the Raiders had no time outs? The Raiders had to throw the ball into the end zone, but yet the Jets chose to defend their end zone with only one cement-footed defender against a world-class sprinter. And because of that, the Jets (and I) lost, although Derek Carr deserves a lot of credit.
Multiple Jets players openly questioned their “strategy” on that last fateful play, and NBC Sports reported on Monday that the Jets fired Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams. I think that if the Jets would have sacked Carr, Williams would be a hero today. Instead, because his play did not work, he’s fired. Consider that the real difference might be that the eight Jet rushers could not beat the seven Raider blockers, enabling Derek Carr enough time to make a great play. Maybe the Jets should also call out the eight who could not get by seven.
One last thing about this. This is exactly why players like Antonio Brown and Terrell Owens are in demand in the NFL, in spite of giant character problems. When the ball is in the air, Brown will do anything he can to catch it, while players like Henry Ruggs look for excuses to come up just short. I really believe that if the Jets defenders had the mental make up of Brown and Owens, they would have found a way to get to Carr. If you were an NFL coach whose living depended on your players making the plays to make you look good, who would you want on your team?
In spite of a 4-2 record last week, I again lost on the 49ers!!! I guess I could not be a member of the US Senate, because I’ll do everyone a favor and stick by what I said last week and offer no opinions on any game involving the 49ers for the rest of the year. (I mean season, because I won’t start again on Jan. 1) If you are one of the few who took my advice on any 49er game, take solace that there will be no more 49er incorrect predictions from me.
Luckily, there are 31 other teams for me to misunderstand. Here are my picks for Week 14 (the first week of fantasy playoffs in many leagues) against the spread on espn.com/nfl/lines
Houston Texans (-1 ½) at Chicago Bears It appears to me that the Bears have gone into early hibernation and some players are taking money under the pretext of giving 100% effort.
Cincinnati Bengals (+3 ½) vs. Dallas Cowboys See above because it applies to the Cowboys as well, except real Cowboys don’t hibernate.
Miami Dolphins (+7) vs. Kansas City Chiefs It bothers me, and maybe no one else, that the Chiefs only move the ball when they throw it.
New York Giants (+2) vs. Arizona Cardinals I see two teams moving in opposite directions, with the Giants going the right way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6 ½) vs Minnesota Vikings I think the Bucs will win by a lot for many reasons…Bucs coming off a bye, Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, Cook vs. the Bucs run defense, and Bucs receivers vs. the Vikings secondary to name a few off the top of my head.
NY Jets on the money line vs. Seattle…jk
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2 ½) at Buffalo Bills Many times, a loss like Pittsburgh had on Monday makes a team better. Or maybe it’s showing the world the flaws the Steelers have. I’ll bet the former.