The inevitable front office shakeup of the Oakland Raiders has begun.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has informed the team’s scouting staff that he has been fired, effective immediately. McKenzie reportedly turned down the opportunity to remain in the job until the end of the season.
#Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie had a meeting with his scouts today where he informed them he was fired, per me and @TomPelissero. He was given the chance to stay the season, but is not expected to do so.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 10, 2018
Widespread media reports on Sunday indicated that McKenzie would leave at the end of the season, but he and the organization haven’t bothered to wait it out.
Someone had to take the fall for a truly awful season in Oakland. More realistically, however, is the fact that despite McKenzie’s denials, coach Jon Gruden is running the show organizationally and was already putting together his own staff of scouts. McKenzie can now go find a job elsewhere where he won’t be essentially subordinate to his head coach. It makes sense for all parties to move on.
All that chatter about a potential Noah Syndergaard trade appears to have been for naught.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, executives who have inquired with the New York Mets about Sundergaard have found that the team would need to be overwhelmed to even consider trading him now. The combination of the Robinson Cano trade and the fact that Syndergaard could be put on the market ahead of the deadline if the Mets fail to make an impact have led to the stance.
Sherman notes that at least five teams, including the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, asked the Mets about Syndergaard before being rebuffed.
The team’s stance is roughly in line with what their new GM laid out publicly last week. The Mets are trying to win in 2019, and if that’s the case, trading Syndergaard makes little sense unless they’re getting remarkable offers.
Week 14 of the NFL season featured one of the games of the year in Dallas, but there was much more going on other than that. Upset losses imperiled some teams on the playoff bubble and one contender previously expected to cruise into the playoffs is suddenly looking a lot shakier. All in all, the business end of the season is proving as excited as expected.
Here’s a look at the 15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 14.
Jared Goff, QB, Rams
The Chicago Bears are a very good defensive team, but there’s no real excuse for what the Rams failed to do Sunday night. Los Angeles was dreadful on offense in pretty much every aspect, Todd Gurley included, but the real nightmare was Goff. The star quarterback managed just 180 passing yards while being picked off three times, having completed less than half of his passes. The vaunted Los Angeles offense failed to find the end zone even once, which was the difference between themselves and a Chicago offense that wasn’t much better. The Rams, however, came in with high expectations as one of the best units in the league. That unit managed only 13 first downs and 195 total yards. They were simply awful, especially at quarterback.
The Redskins were in trouble the moment they had to start Mark Sanchez in this game, and the fact that they lost to the New York Giants isn’t shocking in context. Few, however, could have foreseen a 34-0 halftime deficit coming. Sanchez was terrible and Josh Johnson was slightly better, but the defense showed no fight or ability to hold off a Giants team that has looked very weak at times this season. It was as if the back-to-back injuries to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy had defeated the team mentally, and the performance they turned in Sunday had all the hallmarks of a team that has checked out for the season.
Jeff Driskel and the Cincinnati Bengals lost a touchdown during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers on a controversial overturned call.
With just under six minutes to go in the first half, Cincinnati was trailing the Chargers 14-3. The Bengals had a 3rd-and-goal at the 1 and ran a bootleg. Driskel tucked the ball and tried to run in for a score and appeared to do so. He dived into the end zone and the officials called it a touchdown. However, the scoring play was reviewed and overturned.
Here’s a look at the play:
They ruled Jeff Driskel gave himself up and thus didn’t score here. The NFL is so stupid pic.twitter.com/nRF5hBlcf3
— Road Dogg Appreciator (@ConfirmedShoot) December 9, 2018
In real time, it looked like a clear touchdown with Driskel rushing for a 1-yard score. There seemed to be little doubt. But on review, the officials overturned the call, citing a new league rule. The new rule treats head-first dives by a quarterback just like slides. QBs are viewed as giving themselves up and the ball is marked where their bodypart hits the ground.
NFL rules analyst for CBS Sports Gene Steratore explained the ruling in more detail:
— Gene Steratore (@GeneSteratore) December 9, 2018
And here is the explanation from the officials after the game.
Explanation behind the Driskel call pic.twitter.com/wgWZJIPTP5
— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) December 10, 2018
As long as the ball was shy of the goal line when Driskel’s knee was down, then the overturned call was correct based on the new rule. And most fans probably hate the rule, just like they hated the excessive roughing the passer calls this season.
All of these rules seem to be aimed at protecting quarterbacks. They don’t want QBs getting hit. Whether a QB slides or dives, they want quarterbacks protected, which is why they enact these rules.
But then there’s a big loophole: Why are QB sneaks at the goal line allowed if they don’t want quarterbacks diving forward and taking hits? Maybe the league needs to apply some common sense to the inconsistency. There should be an exception for plays at the goal line, where a QB’s clear intent is to be a rusher and score, and when a defender should be allowed to hit them. No way this should have been anything other than a touchdown.
After the TD was overturned, Cincinnati had a false start that backed them up, and they settled for a field goal to make it 14-6. They lost 26-21.
- Jeff Driskel
Tom Brady made an uncharacteristic mistake in the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and admitted after the game that he simply made a mental error.
The Patriots got the ball at the Miami 15 with 30 seconds left before halftime following a tipped/blocked punt. Brady threw an incompletion on first down and then completed a 13-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski on second down. The Pats used their final timeout after that play.
Then the Pats threw two straight incompletions to set up a 3rd-and-goal with 14 seconds left. After a timeout by Miami to set up for the critical third-down play, Brady inexplicably took a sack, which allowed the clock to run out in the half. The Patriots went from having a sure three points to getting nothing.
Brady said after the game that he mismanaged the play because he thought the Pats had another timeout.
— Chad Amaral (@Chad_Amaral) December 9, 2018
That’s the kind of mental mistake rookies make or opponents make to give away games to the Patriots. You don’t see Brady do that.
Between that error by Brady and the miracle final play they allowed, the Patriots really earned that loss.
- Tom Brady
Joe Philbin served as the Green Bay Packers’ head coach on Sunday for the first time this season, and it would be safe to say he could not have gotten off to much worse of a start.
Somehow, some way, Philbin managed to blow both of his coach’s challenges less than two minutes into his team’s game against the Falcons. He challenged two Julio Jones catches that were ruled completions, and both plays were upheld upon review. You can understand why Philbin challenged the first, as it appeared questionable at best that Jones had possession before the ball popped loose:
Julio Jones and Jaire Alexander will be a fun matchup to watch all day.
This 28-yard reception by Jones with Jaire covering is currently under review. pic.twitter.com/8TrweAlnRf
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) December 9, 2018
The second was also close, but Philbin probably should have resisted the urge to challenge it only because he had already lost one challenge and it was so early in the game.
We're at it again. Another Julio Jones reception with Jaire Alexander in coverage is being challenged. pic.twitter.com/t5N8Wr3xxy
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) December 9, 2018
The end result was two lost challenges and two timeouts burned in a stunning 1:23 of play. The Falcons scored a touchdown on the drive on a pass from Matt Ryan to Jones. Twitter was not kind to Philbin:
This actually happened? How is that possible?!? https://t.co/gGoAqYhjsS
— nick wright (@getnickwright) December 9, 2018
Joe Philbin gonna get fired as an interim coach
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 9, 2018
Packers HC Joe Philbin has used both challenges 87 seconds into the game… and lost them both pic.twitter.com/I0RK5MrMmT
— trey wingo (@wingoz) December 9, 2018
Joe Philbin is out of challenges… 1:23 INTO THE GAME.
— Master (@MasterTes) December 9, 2018
Mike McCarthy watching Joe Philbin blow 2 challenges in less than 90 seconds. pic.twitter.com/IYGZUCvDLZ
— M.G. (@MarcasG) December 9, 2018
Nobody seemed to remember all week that Joe Philbin is a terrible head coach. https://t.co/cCl1QZTUNm
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 9, 2018
Joe Philbin was sure up to the challenge of being the Packers head coach. He wasted two replay challenges in 83 seconds
— John Clayton (@JohnClaytonNFL) December 9, 2018
The Packers probably don’t have any intention of having Philbin stay on as their head coach in 2019, but that isn’t going to help.
- Joe Philbin
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said during the week that the team discussed the possibility of signing Colin Kaepernick in the wake of injuries to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy, but those discussions never got to the point where they reached out to the quarterback or his agent.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, neither the Redskins nor any other NFL team has tried to contact Kaepernick to discuss signing him or bringing him in for a workout. Gruden said this week that Washington talked about bringing in Kaepernick but there would have been “a greater possibility” of him being an option if the injuries to Smith and Colt McCoy happened before the season.
Gruden added that Washington would have to change its offense too much to cater to Kaepernick’s skillset, which is something we have heard from other teams in the past. He insisted the team took nothing but football into consideration when opting to pass on the 31-year-old.
“When you’re talking about a backup quarterback this late in the game you want someone with a similar skill set to the quarterback you have,” Gruden said. “Not that Colin can’t do some of the things we’ve talked about, but we want someone with a little more familiarity.”
The Redskins ended up signing Mark Sanchez as a backup behind Colt McCoy, and they added Josh Johnson after McCoy suffered an injury in last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kaepernick’s agent said recently that two NFL teams had expressed interest in signing the former San Francisco 49ers star, but that seems like it was just an attempt to drum up interest. Kaepernick has almost certainly played his last snap in the NFL at this point.
- Colin Kaepernick