After 15 hours of singing the postgame blues, I decided it's time to take another look at the game. First positive was that we played to within 7 against a winning team with a short week. Physically, we were at a disadvantage. Andre Holmes certainly got my attention.But after this brief respite from yet another winnable loss, I went back to a comment that RaiderPride20 made in the opening game thread after the Jennings TD. He didn't like the call. At the time, I was excited and I pointed out to him that we executed it perfectly. I know why he didn't like it. Right side, long run to the sidelines, typical stop for loss scenario. Except everybody did their jobs and it looked like a piece of work. I called it a confidence booster. I was wrong.
I can understand what RP20 was getting at about the play. It just as easily could have blown up in our face like later plays in the game. It didn't because it was well executed. My pet peeve on this site is the "talentless team" argument for our under-performances. I fee like a team who's backup QB has the NFL rushing yards record and can pick up a FA who makes a TD on the first play of his first game may have more talent than people give them credit for. But I will say that we do not have the talent to rely on execution alone. What RP20 didn't like about that play is most likely the fact that the only way it was going to work was with precise execution. It could just have easily been a stop for 3-4 as the play developed. Since we rushed for just 51 yards pre-game stats are irrelevant. In fact, our inability to run demonstrates the precariousness of that TD run. There was a call late in the game for a draw to Jennings on 3rd and long that I questioned for similar reasons. The jump ball to the shortest receiver sealed the deal.
DA has made "execution" his focus and the mantra of every presser. We've seen positive examples of this from the team especially on special teams. In my opinion, ST is where we're seeing a positive blend of talent and coaching. We're making big plays on a constant basis. As a result, we're seeing consistent execution.The first play of the game highlights what having a well coached and talented ST can mean.
Defense, however, is increasingly adopting the schizophrenic nature that had previously been reserved for the offense. There are some who wish to split the blame between the DC and HC, but I think, in all fairness, you have to look at the HC. If an offensive line coach-turned-head coach can demote his OC and take over playcalling in his first full year as a head coach, a defensive coordinator-turned-head coach can certainly change whatever wrong tune his DC is calling. Middle of the game isn't the time for diplomacy, with players or coaches. DA certainly had no problems keeping TJ or Ford on the sidelines after they fumbled a couple of times. It's clear that there is talent on the defense and just as clear that the team plays very inconsistent in a way that is remarkably consistent with our past defenses. This run defense is capable of being stout except when the game is on the line. We are as vulnerable today to the 1:00 minute TD drive as when Bresnahan was in his prime. Coverage is just as capable of lapses today as when we were showing other teams the Routt to the end zone. We still know how to make a big stop and then give up a 15 yard penalty for the first down. The team is different but the results are the same.
Offense is why we weep and have nightmares late at night. Since the departure of Hue, the offensive schemes and focus seemed to have been designed by Sisyphus. Which may explain the loud proclamations every time even the most modest of offensive accomplishments are achieved. One common theme in all of our offensive decisions has been how negatively they seem to impact later decisions. The decision to hire Knapp switched our offensive line to zone which impacted our ability to use DMC until his usual mid-season injury which impacted our ability to correctly evaluate whether we should continue designing a blocking scheme around an oft-injured running back. Which impacted any other thoughts of the running game beyond DMC. Our decision to play 16 million dollars of dead money in 12 losing games impacted our ability to look at the 3rd string backup which impacted our decision on who to start the next year which impacted our decision on who to get which impacted our decision on what the F**k to do now that we got what we decided to get.
First off I'm glad Eminem's in. He brings an accuracy to the passing game that's sorely needed to continue evaluation for next season. We need to bring more out of this season than another losing record. We have to have a clear idea about the direction of the offense before we start spending money. TP's tuition was getting too expensive and it's that simple. What we were trying to do after the regression became apparent was what we should have been doing last year. TP's background put him in a position where his athleticism was emphasized over his mechanics to his detriment. But his development has to remain close to competitive on the field. It was not and as a result, he was not developing into a competitive QB. This hindered our most important goal of bringing the rest of the offense up to speed. That said, we;re no more settled at the QB position than when we picked up the Green Bust Packhead. Eminem is only outplaying TP, who we just agreed was not playing at competitive level. That's not the stuff of legends.Nice as a rookie so far but I'm much more concerned about ceilings at this point because of next year. If he improves by the end of the year, he'll probably be it for next year unless TP goes back to Gandalf for some more of that mechanics magic and Gandalf decides to skip the placebo this time. But if the rest of the season mirrors the game, I'm far from sold long term.
Which brings up the interesting fact of having the NFL record holder for QB run for TD and a porous run defense that stifles you for 51 yards. Nothing to do about that? Call me silly, but damn, I would have preferred having the Cowgirls stare at TP, Eminem and Reece rather than a single eyeball on Jenning on a 3rd and 13, if I'm thinking run.
Just like TP's regression hindered the ability to evaluate the offensive players, the coaching staff is making it difficult to evaluate where the team really is and what needs to be done. The problem I have with "they need to execute better" is the assumption that proper execution leads to success. That's BS. No matter how well I execute a run into a brick wall, I most likely will not achieve my goal to break through it. It's the coaches job to remove the brick walls on the field. The uncertainty of what the other team will do. The pressure of the clock. The hostile environment and the injuries. That's what coaching is about. When a team's player goes down and it's next man up, ti's the coach's responsibility to do more than pretend Calvin Johnson is still on the field. He needs to adjust his gameplan and position his players to win.
I think there is a problem with the coaching and as a result, I think the real issue is whether or not the problem is fixable. Two years into the rebuild, the decision to continue anything has be made based upon the evidence at hand. Otherwise, why waste two years collecting evidence if you're not going to use it? Given the anticipated roster upgrade next year, we cannot afford to entertain any more uncertainty about the coaching direction or the quality of the individual players. The fixable part refers to the ability to retain the coaching staff and still develop into championship team. It's obvious that certain individuals (OL coach and ST coach) have distinguished themselves enough to warrant no further discussion. Depending on which side of the "who's to blame for the defensive meltdowns?" you're on pretty much determines what you think about JT as a DC (or whether you like boring pressers or exciting pressers). Greg Olson has had the challenge of preparing for 3 different QBs this year so certain limitations of the playbook have to be excused. However, the inexplicable absence of Reece from all but one game, the misuse of DMC and the ability to call Knapp-like drives puts a huge question mark on the future of this OC. Like all the individuals, he's done a lot of good with what he's got. However, many times, his playcalling has felt like a 12th man for the opponent's defense.
I think the final few games will clarify whether or not it is a Coaching Problem. More, importantly, I think we'll be much clearer on whether or not we can move forward (fixable) with what we have or whether it's time to bite the bullet. Either way, it does need to get answered now.