If the 2018 NFL mid-season awards were Will Ferrell movie quotes
Given that we’re (already) between Week 8 and Week 9 of the 2018 NFL season, and given that the season is 17 weeks long, we’re officially at the midway point of the season.
But instead of doling out the usual mid-season MVP and Coach of the Year and Rookie(s) of the Year awards, why not make this a little more interesting by bringing together two of America’s favorites: NFL football, and immensely quotable lines from Will Ferrell movies?
In other words, if Ricky Bobby or Ron Burgundy or Brennan Huff were handing out NFL mid-season awards, this is what they might look like.
“The Mighty Duck man, I swear to God, I was there. I was like, ‘Emilio!’” (A Night At The Roxbury)
Winner: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Our first award goes to Sean McVay — being the aforementioned “Emilio!” — and the Los Angeles Rams (being the aforementioned Mighty Ducks).
Let’s put aside, just for a moment, the fact that the Rams are on pace to score 528 points this season, which would put this team in the top-10 highest-scoring teams of all time, just ahead of — coincidentally— the 1999 “Greatest Show On Turf” St. Louis Rams.
The way McVay resurrected the Rams’ offense, which was one faint heartbeat away from being declared legally dead under the prehistoric offensive schemes of Jeff Fisher, is almost unfathomable.
Just look at this:
- Todd Gurley’s first two seasons (under Fisher), combined : 2,506 total yards, 16 total touchdowns
- Gurley’s production in Year 1 under McVay: 2,093 yards, 19 touchdowns
- Gurley’s (projected) production in Year 2 under McVay: 2,302 yards, 30 touchdowns
Gurley scored more touchdowns in one year under McVay than he did in two years under Fisher, with 80% of the same yardage output. This season, he’s on pace to double his touchdown production from what he had in TWO YEARS under Fisher (not to mention the fact that he’s flirting with breaking LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season touchdown record), and 90% of the total yardage from TWO YEARS under Fisher.
And let’s not forget Jared Goff, either. I said it before: Jared Goff getting to upgrade from Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay is like getting an upgrade on your personal computer from a Speak-and-Spell to an iMac. McVay almost single-handedly changed the narrative around Goff from “another first round quarterback bust coming out of a gimmick offense in college” to “highly skilled quarterback who’s only getting better each year.”
To me, McVay is the football version of a hybrid of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elon Musk: a born football-savant who’s redefining the way we approach the entire genre of offense in the NFL.
And given the fact that he’s still months away from his 33rd birthday, he’s better at making males in their 30s look like completely accomplishment-less failures than your stereotypical Asian parents (I would know: my dad still tells people that I’m a software engineer, so he doesn’t have to explain my nonsense profession of “marketing” — and feel the subsequent shame — to someone in the Indian community).
“Well let me just quote the late-great Colonel Sanders, who said: ’I’m too drunk to taste this chicken’.” (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)
Winner: Hue Jackson, (now formerly of the) Cleveland Browns
Can there really be anyone else more deserving of this award than Hue Jackson?
The numbers speak for themselves: Jackson’s career record as an NFL coach is 11–44–1, which translates to a winning percentage of .205. Of the 219 qualifying head coaches in the HISTORY of the NFL, Jackson’s winning percentage ranks 218th. In other words, he’s the second-worst head coach in the history of the league.
The Cleveland Browns are now 2–5–1 — dead last in the AFC North, of course — despite a league-leading +11 turnover ratio. Since 1975, there have been 71 teams with a +11 turnover margin or better through the first eight weeks of the season, and NONE of them had a losing record; I guess we gotta give credit to Jackson for being able to consistently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
And yet, Jackson’s obliviousness to said reality was breathtaking; the only people more oblivious to reality than Jackson is Fox News’ target viewing demographic. Somebody on Twitter said it best, so credit to that random Twitter user (whose tweet I can no longer find): Jackson has the same level of self-awareness as a cantaloupe, and this whole “I would’ve taken Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes if I was allowed to” media tour that he’s taking just reinforces the comparison between Jackson and said orange melon.
I’ll never get over the pure stupidity of a head coach — who’s won ONE game in two years (at that point) — telling his top lieutenants what it’s like to sit in the head coach’s chair, when 1) those two lieutenants were previously both head coaches, and 2) one of those coaches led his team to a non-losing season, and the other one actually took a team to the playoffs (like Jackson did on this season of HBO’s Hard Knocks).
In today’s fast-paced corporate world, where countless books are written about how leaders need to manage their team and build a culture within it, Jackson provided a masterclass in literally the exact opposite things you want to see from a head coach
- He didn’t establish anything remotely resembling a vision and/or a culture.
- He didn’t surround himself with people aligned on the same vision.
- He didn’t empower the people he hired to best perform their duties.
- He DEFINITELY didn’t inspire the people working for him with the way he went about things.
- He didn’t take any responsibility when things went wrong, and publicly threw his subordinates under the proverbial bus.
If Jackson really accomplished one thing, it was making Todd Haley — an established, world-class prick who wears out his welcome literally everywhere he’s been — look like the only sane person in the Browns’ coaches meeting room. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Baker Mayfield, just over two months into his NFL career, basically had seen enough of Jackson to where “he [wasn’t] going to exactly miss Hue Jackson” upon learning his coach was dismissed.
Now, all that’s left is for us to sit and watch how Browns owner Jimmy Haslam — an under-mentioned bottom-10 owner in professional sports himself — short circuits General Manager John Dorsey’s search for a new head coach, only perpetuating the Browns’ factory of sadness.
Also, if you think University of Oklahoma football head coach Lincoln Riley — who’ll have all sorts of NFL teams doing the coaching-search equivalent of sliding into Riley’s Instagram DMs with ultra-slutty photos — would actually choose to take Browns’ job this offseason (make no mistake: they’ll go after him HARD), you’re fooling yourself.
“I feel like a lightning bolt hit the tip of my p*nis!” (Step Brothers)
Winner: Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
C’mon. As a fan of your 5–2, NFC EAST-LEADING Washington Redskins (man that felt great to say), I gotta get at least one entry in this list for my guys.
Although, as a Redskins fan, I don’t even want to think about just how anemic this offense would look like without Peterson, which is a rather ironic considering nobody would’ve ever fathomed his contribution to this team as recently as early August. If it weren’t for a confluence of events that included the Redskins losing Derrius Guice to a season-ending ACL injury, and Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams going rogue and bringing Peterson in for a workout without telling his Lloyd Christmas & Harry Dunn-caliber bosses (team president Bruce Allen and team owner Dan Snyder), Peterson might still be unemployed.
Instead, Peterson is not only the centerpiece of the Redskins offense, but arguably the team’s Co-MVP, alongside safety D.J. Swearinger. Even though he’s over 33-and-a-half years old, it’s amazing to watch just how much of an improvement Peterson is over the running backs the Redskins previously trotted out in recent years, like Rob (“just a guy”) Kelley and Samaje (“twinkle toes”) Perine.
Peterson currently 5th in the NFL in rushing yards, and on pace to finish with over 1,340 yards rushing. Watching him plow through hapless defenders on the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants over the last two weeks was an absolute thing of beauty.
“I’m gonna punch you in the ovary, that’s what I’m gonna do.” (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
Winner: Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
To be more specific, this award is for what Jon Gruden is doing to all the long-suffering fans of the Oakland Raiders. Literally every single thing he’s done, upon his return to the NFL, has been like a straight shot to the baby maker of fans of the silver-and-black.
I mean, where do you start?
Is it the open-stated desire to have the Raiders play the style of football that was prevalent 20 years ago? Is it showing his players — many of whom were born in the 1990s — highlights of guys who played for the Raiders close to four decades ago? Is it when he traded out of a top-10 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, in a spot where he could’ve taken a stud linebacker like Tremaine Edmunds or a super freak defensive back like Derwin James, and instead take an athletic offensive tackle project in Kolton Miller, who might very well have slipped into the second round (or found comparable value)? Is it publicly stating that he wouldn’t trade away Khalil Mack, and then trading away Khalil Mack? Is it publicly stating that he wouldn’t trade wide receiver Amari Cooper, then trading away Amari Cooper, and then not telling his team that he traded Cooper, only to have them find out the news via social media? Is it when he signed past-their-prime guys like Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin, and then traded away a 3rd-round pick for Martavis Bryant, despite the fact that another substance suspension could end his NFL career?
Gruden can talk about “establishing a culture” and trying to “build a championship football team” all he wants, but it just seems like he’s doing to anything General Manager Reggie McKenzie had previously done what Donald Trump is doing to anything enacted by President Obama (I refuse to call the former my president): repealing it just because it was put in place by his predecessor. If McKenzie somehow discovered the cure for cancer in the offseason, Gruden would probably try and trade it away to the North Koreans, and then publicly lament how he wished we had found a cure for cancer.
And what are the early returns on this unmitigated disaster? How about losing to the one-win San Francisco 49ers, who are starting a third-string quarterback named Nate Mullens (who literally 99.99% of the sports world had never heard of prior to this week).
I’d say that Gruden is about another week away from losing the locker room, but given the way things are going right now, any and all of the guys in said locker room might not even be with the team by the end of the year anyway.
But right now, literally everything Gruden does is like the equivalent of screaming “LET GO OF MY PURSE, I DON’T KNOW YOU” and kicking every fan of the Oakland Raiders in the groin (that video clip never stops being hilarious).
“From now on, it’s Magic Man and El Diablo.” (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)
Winner: Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid is bringing some Dr. Strange-level sorcery to the NFL, and it’s been absolutely incredible to watch. And what Reid has unleashed on the NFL, in the form of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is downright terrifying.
We saw flashes of what Mahomes was capable of in the preseason, but at least through the first eight games of this year, Mahomes basically looks like a quarterback version of Cthulhu, sent from the dark dimension — or, in this case, Whitehouse, Texas — to vaporize opposing offenses.
Mahomes is on pace to throw 52 touchdowns. FIFTY TWO. That would put him in second-place, all-time, for most touchdown passes thrown in a season, and would exceed Tom Brady’s total in 2007, when the New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season, ruthlessly burying opponents week after week. And there aren’t any statistical outliers misrepresenting Mahomes’ touchdown numbers — he threw 13 touchdown passes in September, then again threw 13 touchdown passes in October. Eight different NFL quarterbacks who’ve started every game for their team this year haven’t even thrown 13 touchdown passes all season.
I’ll fully admit that I was hilariously wrong about Patrick Mahomes, when he was coming out of Texas Tech in last year’s NFL Draft (I urge you to go click on that link and read what I wrote about Mahomes; forget putting my foot in my mouth, I basically ingested my entire leg with that freezing cold take).
But if there’s any salvage value in the atrocity of my draft analysis, it’s that you could argue that Mahomes is still a bit more “gunslinger” than “polished pocket passer.” Considering he’s going to make only his 10th regular season start this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (I can’t wait to see Gregg Williams’ design an eight-men-in-the-box game plan to try and stop Mahomes), that’s completely understandable.
And yet, Reid did something that’s virtually unfathomable to the 85% of coaches who’ll finish their careers with losing records: he designed an innovative offense geared towards taking Mahomes’ “gunslinging” prowess and building upon that. Instead of going with the status quo of “that Air Raid stuff will never work in the NFL,” instead of realizing that the rules of today’s NFL are completely conducive to pass-happy offenses like the Air Raid scheme, Reid actually tested out such a hypothesis.
Incorporating elements of what a quarterback did in college, to help ease his transition to the NFL? What a genius concept! Designing a scheme around a player’s strength? Imagine that! Incorporating concepts that are increasingly ubiquitous in the college game, instead of poo-poo’ing them with the clichéd “that’s not how we do things in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE” ?!? Brilliant!
Make no mistake: Mahomes has been f-cking fantastic, and looks very much like “the real deal.”
But credit has to be given to the confluence of circumstances — Mahomes’ combination of growing up with a father who played professional baseball, the great genes he inherited, the near-eidetic-level football acumen, the one-year “red shirt” where he got to learn under Alex Smith (who served as a willing — and invaluable — mentor), and Reid’s outside-the-box approach to designing his offense — that made Mahomes into the destroyer of NFL defenses he’s become.
As a result, the 2018 Chiefs are on pace to score 590 points this year, which would be the second-highest total of all time. And every defensive coordinator who has to face Kansas City each weekend is probably looking at their game film, and thinking it’s Spanish for a fighting chicken.
“And here’s the thing: it would give us so much extra space in our room to do activities!” (Step Brothers)
Winner: The New Orleans Saints offense
At 39 years old (he’ll turn the big 4–0 this upcoming January), Drew Brees is not only on pace to throw for more than 4,500 yards and 30+ touchdown passes this season, but he’s averaging 8.19 yards per attempt this year, which is the second-highest average of his career.
But the difference with this year’s version of the New Orleans Saints’ offense versus editions we’ve seen in the past is that Brees has gone from the guy who’s single-handedly running the offense to someone who’s orchestrating the offense, and distributing the ball to perhaps the deepest group of skill position guys he’s ever had.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas slowed down a bit after his red-hot start to the season, but he’s firmly established himself as a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL (if not higher), and the best receiver Brees’ has had in New Orleans. Running back Alvin Kamara has over 800 combined yards and nine touchdowns in seven games. Fellow running back Mark Ingram is now back from suspension, and playing rather well, even if the stat sheet says otherwise.
But it’s not just the “big name” guys. Head coach Sean Payton has done a brilliant job with this offense, incorporating new wrinkles literally every week and making it virtually impossible for opposing defenses to stop the Saints. One week, rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith pops off for over 100 yards and two touchdowns. Another week, tight end Benjamin Watson has two redzone touchdown catches. Week after week, they’re figuring out new and innovative ways to use backup quarterback Taysom Hill in anything from Wildcat formations to punting situations, allowing for potential fakes in the latter.
The Saints take on the 8–0 Los Angeles Rams this weekend, in one of the headliners of a slate filled with fantastic football on Sunday. Because we’re all so fixated on the Rams and the Chiefs and the Patriots, we forget that since the fluky Week one loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans hasn’t lost a single game. If they were to hand the Rams their first “L” of the season, we should not only be talking about the Saints as the best team in the NFC, but maybe the entire league.
“WE CANT HAVE ANYONE FREAKING OUT OUT THERE, OK? WE HAVE TO KEEP OUR COMPOSURE!” (Old School)
Winner: Eli Manning, New York Giants
If there’s a single past-his-athletic-prime NFL player who thinks he can still jump through a hoop that’s lit on fire, only to fail miserably and end up with burns all over his body, yet still think he has the credibility to lead and inspire his teammates, it’s gotta be Eli Manning.
Father time is merciless with NFL quarterbacks. One day, you might be a just-past-his-prime athlete who’s good enough to help your team compete, and the next day you’re basically the old guy at your local health club who walks around the locker room naked and bow-legged, sore from the 20 minutes you just put in on the exercise bike.
In a locker room that’s getting increasingly younger for the New York Giants, Manning is the old guy walking around with his balls dangling low and being batted around by both knees.
And here’s the dirty secret: he’s been that terrible since the start of the 2017 season. New York Giants’ owner John Mara knew this, and that’s why he demanded that Manning be benched in favor of Geno Smith, but had his spineless lackey of a General Manager (Jerry Reese) and total buffoon of a head coach (Ben McAdoo) make the decision, and take the fall for the ensuing PR disaster that resulted (side note: how bleak must things be if you actually convince yourself that Geno Smith is a better option than the guy you currently have at quarterback? If you arrive at Geno Smith as the answer, you’re asking the wrong question).
The Giants are 1–7, and a top contender … for the #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Ironically, said draft appears to be painfully thin at elite quarterback talent, especially if the University of Oregon’s Justin Herbert decides to stay in school. In other words, there’s a legitimate chance the Giants could actually trot out Manning for yet another season in 2019, since they won’t really have any other good options.
“Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.” (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
Winner: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
If I have to say something nice about Jason Garrett, it’s that he’s mastered putting on the façade of being really smart and a good organizational CEO, even though it’s increasingly apparent that he’s absolutely clueless (I get a kick out of every time former NFL General Manager Michael Lombardi says on his GM Street Podcast: “Don’t you know Jason Garrett is really smart? He went to Princeton!”).
As a Redskins fan, I hope Jerral Wayne Jones — in his increasing senility — suddenly decides to appoint Garrett as “head coach for life,” because i’m 99.999% confident that with Garrett as coach, the Cowboys won’t win a damn thing. I genuinely wonder whether Garrett spends his week playing Backgammon against himself (because have you ever actually seen anyone actually play Backgammon) or ripping through books of Sudoku, because he sure as hell isn’t doing anything related to coaching the Cowboys. In fact, if you fired Garrett today, and simply replaced him with Rod Marinelli as the interim head coach, that change alone would be worth three additional wins for Dallas.
Every knows that Garrett is little more than Jerral’s lapdog, and has only lasted this long because Jerral wants a spineless sycophant to run this team, as opposed to a real head coach (who might dare to believe he has as much — if not more — to do with any Cowboys’ wins than Jerry himself).
So i’ll leave you with the below, just one last time, for old time’s sake — something to look back and remember the good times, when Lincoln Riley is making $8 per year next year to be undermined at every step by the clueless Jones (also known as coaching the Dallas Cowboys).
“I have a belly full of white dog crap in me, and now you lay this sh*t on me?!? “ (Step Brothers)
Winner: The San Francisco 49ers.
Look, the football gods have not been kind to the San Francisco 49ers this season.
Though, in fairness, we should have seen it coming. They were among the trendiest picks for “losing team in 2017 that’ll make the playoffs in 2018.” Some people event thought they’d end up with double-digit wins — and i’ll admit to being one of them.
For instance: I thought Kyle Shanahan would turn Jerrick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin into scarlet-and-gold version(s) of Devonta Freeman and DeSean Jackson, and guide (the impossibly-handsome) Jimmy Garoppolo into a top 10 quarterback this season. I wasn’t as bullish on the defense (the Richard Sherman signing smacked of desperation and nobody knows if Reuben Foster can keep his head on straight), but I thought Solomon Thomas was primed to have a breakout year, and DeForest Buckner was primed to become a star.
… Yeah, so much for all of that.
First, McKinnon blows out his knee in the preseason. Then they get off to a miserable 1–3 start, admittedly losing to three of the better teams in the NFL (depending on how you feel about the Minnesota Vikings). The last of those three losses, of course, is when their 2018 season had the misfortune of running into Chris Gardocki (the fictional teenager — not the former NFL punter), when Garoppolo went down with a season-ending ACL tear. Hell, even their backup quarterback (C.J. Beathard) got injured.
On defense, Buckner has been good, but Thomas? Oh boy. At least as of right now, he might be the leader in the clubhouse for “worst 1st round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft” (side note: Thomas’ lack of development is what happens when you follow the doctrine of “draft the best player available, regardless of scheme fit, and find a way to make him fit,” and the follow it up by not actually finding a way to make him fit, and/or jamming the proverbial square peg in a round hole)
Unsurprisingly, the 49ers haven’t won a single game since mid-September. Last Sunday, against the just-as-hapless Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers had a 15–3 lead early in the 4th quarter of the game, and even had an 86% win probability with 2:16 left in the 4th quarter. But San Francisco allowed 184 of Arizona’s 321 total yards in the 4th quarter, allowing the Cardinals to come back and win by an 18–15 score.
The panacea for the 49ers is that they have games against the Raiders, Giants, and Buccaneers over the next three weeks — three teams that are in just-as-dire-straits as San Francisco. But even if they run the table through those three, there’s still a very good chance they finish with an even worse record than last year’s 6–10 finish.
Week 9 Picks
Oakland at San Francisco (-2.5) — pick made yesterday evening
Atlanta at Washington (-1.5)
Detroit at Minnesota (-4.5)
Kansas City (-8.5) at Cleveland
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-3)
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-6.5)
NY Jets at Miami (-3)
Chicago (-10) at Buffalo
Houston at Denver (-1)
LA Chargers at Seattle (-1.5)
LA Rams at New Orleans (-1)
Green Bay at New England (-5.5)
Tennessee at Dallas (-6)
Last Week: 9–5
Current Record: 47–54–4