For those of you that don’t know me, let me preface this by saying I’m a die hard Patriots fan. Like most people though, I also follow the rest of the landscape of the NFL. When your favorite team in the league has won 5 Super Bowls since the start of the 2001 season, you gain an appreciation for great coaching. For the last year or two I’ve been persistent that the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough good QB’s in the NFL like a lot of people argue… It’s that the coaching flat out SUCKS!
Let’s get to the 2 teams that really are the driving force behind my thoughts and frustrations in this blog. The Pittsburgh Steelers ended up being the same damn old story this year. They’re led by who I consider the most overrated coach in the NFL, Mike Tomlin. When I look at the Steelers roster top to bottom I think they may have the most talented roster in the NFL. With them it’s always a matter of focus. Take for example this interview with Tony Dungy back in November https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zyv1-xEEj4 Start at 18:00 and listen to what Mike Tomlin says about the Steelers game with the Patriots in a few weeks down the road. It’s clear he’s overlooking his upcoming schedule.
Now in fairness the Steelers would go on to win their next 3 games after this interview before the showdown against the Pats. Let’s be honest though… the Packers with Brett Hundley going into Heinz Field had no right hanging around and almost stealing that Sunday night game from the Steelers. The typical Steelers who are notoriously known for playing down to their competition, slept walk their way through the first half of that game, only to come roaring back in the end and get a 3 point win… despite being huge 14 point favorites. The next week was a lot of the same story. The Steelers traveled to Cincinnati to take on a Bengals team whose season had come undone. Once again the Steelers slept walk their way through the first half, woke up in the second half and stole the game from the Bengals. This has been the problem with Pittsburgh for years. They continuously play down to their competition. They always illustrate a lack of focus throughout points of the season, which starts with the coach.
Now let’s talk about the Patriots game. I was extremely impressed with the Steelers back on that Sunday in mid-December. It’s clear they were ready to play and had a good game plan. But as you all know they crapped their pants on the fake spike play. As bad of a decision it was by Big Ben to throw the ball, what I couldn’t get over was the fact the Steelers didn’t have 2 or 3 plays ready to go after the Jesse James TD was overturned and ruled incomplete. Instead Ben got up to the line of scrimmage after a short completion to JuJu Smith Schuster, and didn’t have a play ready to run on 3rd down. He then ended up making the costly decision to cost the Steelers the game. For me it still goes back to coaching though. Tomlin (and offensive coordinator Todd Haley) had a few minutes during the Jesse James review to have a few plays ready for Ben. Instead it was obvious they didn’t plan to have a few plays ready during the review and the disastrous interception then occurred. The picture below illustrates just how confused everyone on the field was for the Steelers during that play.
I’m not going to go in depth with my analysis on Pittsburgh’s and Tomlin’s performance yesterday. They’re catching a lot of grief for the onside kick, 4th down and 1 calls, and vanilla zone defensive gameplan. My bigger issue is that it was so evident they overlooked the Jaguars and were focused on the Patriots and a rematch based on comments made the last month or so and even this past week. Why they would overlook a team that humiliated them 30-9 a few months earlier is beyond me. They gave up 45 points to Blake Bortles and the Jags… let that sink in for a second.. FORTY-FIVE POINTS TO BLAKE BORTLES. That is unforgivable in my opinion. To me it’s a lack of readiness and preparation by the players, organization, and once again…coaching staff. At the end of the day if anyone told you Big Ben would throw for 5 TDs and almost 500 yards against the Jags, you would have said “wow the Steelers won that game.” If you picked the Jaguars to win the game, it was because you thought their defense was elite and would shut the Steelers down… not because you thought the offense would explode for 45 points. There’s just no excuse for the Steelers to lose a playoff game at home as 7 point favorites and scoring 42 points against the best defense in this league. This coach and organization is so damn dumb!
Alright… now for the Atlanta Falcons. Just another team that I do not understand. By now we all know about “28-3.” Listen, let’s call a spade a spade. The Falcons puked all over themselves and should of won the Super Bowl last year. I won’t sit here and critique all the play calling almost a year later. The one thing that needs to be said though is their head coach Dan Quinn has never got enough blame for that loss. As the head coach, you should always have the last call on the headset. He should of jumped in and told Kyle Shannahan “do not throw the ball here Kyle.. run the ball.” He didn’t and the rest is now history.
Let’s talk about the Falcons this season a little. Through the first 3 games of the season, they had looked like the same powerhouse they were in the 2016-2017 season. They rolled through the Bears, Packers, and Lions scoring an average of almost 30 points a game and a 3-0 start. After that, they had 2 of the more pathetic losses you’ll see. They lost back to back games at home to Tyrod Taylor’s Buffalo Bills and Jay Cutler’s Miami Dolphins. As a Patriots fan all I can do is laugh about those 2 losses considering the ass whooping the Pats have put on those 2 teams the last 17 years. As an NFL fan. all I can say is “what the fu**!? Tyrod bleeping Taylor and Jay Smokin Cutler!?”
Much like the Steelers, the Falcons have one of the most talented rosters top to bottom, yet they largely underachieved this year. I was fortunate enough to attend the Falcons vs. Patriots Sunday Night game back on October 22nd. I watched the Falcons make head scratching decision after head scratching decision. Whether it was going for it on 4th down multiple times on their own side of the field in the first half, running Jet Sweeps to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel on 4th and goal plays, or taking both stud running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field on plays in the red zone. I was so god damn perplexed by this team that I called Boston Sports talk radio on the ride home from the game and sat on hold for an hour just to rip the Falcons to pieces on the lack of passion and dumb decisions I’ve seen out of this team for over a year now.
The Falcons should be one of the best teams in the NFL for the next 5 years with that up and coming young defense, a potential Hall of Fame quarterback to wide receiver duo, and maybe the best running back situation in the league. Instead I’m sitting here today writing about another heartbreaking playoff loss in the last two years. Except unlike advancing to the Super Bowl last year, they couldn’t even host a damn playoff game this year as they finished with the 6th seed in the NFC.
Once again people in the sports media are talking about the pathetic play calling this team had in the 4th quarter of a playoff game. Why you call a QB rollout to one side of the field on 4th and goal… totally shrinking how much of the field you can use in the red zone and essentially making it a one man route (Julio ran it) is just BEYOND DUMB!!! A lot of people will blame former Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan for the play calling last year in the Super Bowl and new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian for his play selection this past Saturday… and for good reason. At the end of the day though, if these things were happening for the Patriots it all falls on the head coach for me and I’d be criticizing Bill.
If you don’t know me, you might think I’m trolling. How easy is it to sit here in Boston and write a blog about the Steelers and Falcons demons after both had heartbreaking losses this past weekend in the playoffs? On the other hand, if you know me well, I’ve been ripping the Steelers, Falcons, Tomlin, and Dan Quinn for months. My overall point here is that the coaching in the NFL is a major problem. I’ll leave you with this question to ponder. Who the hell is the second best coach in the league after Bill Belichick?