Reality is setting in for a number of teams in the playoff race. We’re also seeing our perceptions challenged regarding teams who will be in the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints suffered a surprising loss, while the likes of the Seattle Seahawks had a major course correction that will help them immensely.
Beyond who’s in and out, it’s worth paying attention to who was a letdown. Several players and units, especially a handful of quarterbacks, really didn’t do themselves justice in Week 14. Here are the big disappointments.
Dan Bailey, K, Vikings
The only good news for Bailey on Sunday was that the 10 points he left on the board didn’t actually make up the difference in the game’s score. The Vikings kicker missed three field goals, including two from inside 50 yards, as well as an extra point, in Sunday’s 26-14 loss. That was a feat that no kicker has accomplished in nearly 60 years, ensuring Bailey’s unwanted place in NFL history. He may be on his way out after this one. It would be hard to call a possible dismissal undeserved.
Taysom Hill, QB, Saints
Sunday’s game was a reminder that despite all the hype, Hill is not Drew Brees. Hill is very raw in terms of his decision-making. Hill only had 65 passing yards in the first half, and he only managed to salvage his numbers once key Philadelphia defensive backs started going down with injuries in the second half. Hill was let down at times by his offensive line, but his decisions under pressure are questionable, and led in part to his two turnovers.
Daniel Jones, QB, Giants
Things were looking so good for the Giants last week. Now they just look bleak. Jones was crushed all day, getting sacked six times before finally being benched for his own good. Part of the problem was due to his offensive line, but some of it was on his slow recognition of pressure and his erratic play in general. The Giants now face an uphill fight to reclaim the top spot in the NFC East. Jones isn’t really consistent enough to be relied on to lead them there yet.
Nick Mullens, QB, 49ers
It’s not entirely clear what Kyle Shanahan sees in Mullens that has him convinced that backup C.J. Beathard would do any worse. Mullens started to fall apart late in the second quarter, when he fell victim to a Chase Young sack, fumbled, and saw Young return it for a touchdown. In the third quarter, he threw a pick-six to Kamren Curl that effectively put the game out of reach. Mullens misses open receivers and commits turnovers. His two turnovers on Sunday accounted for the difference in the game. That’s a no-go from a quarterback.
Las Vegas Raiders defense
The Raiders have faded significantly in the playoff race, and it’s almost entirely because of their defense. Raider opponents have averaged 391.5 total yards per game over the last six contests. The team has given up over 400 total yards seven times this season. That continued Sunday, when the Colts put up 456 total yards on the hapless Vegas defense. It was bad enough to get defensive coordinator Paul Guenther fired on Sunday night as the team’s playoff hopes flounder.
Nick Mullens was very impressive filling in for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, but it does not sound like there’s anything the backup can do to get the job permanently.
Coach Kyle Shanahan was asked Wednesday if there was any way Mullens could permanently earn the starting job in Garoppolo’s absence, and the answer was pretty clear.
Mullens went an impressive 25/36 for the Niners in their Week 3 win, throwing for 343 yards and a touchdown. However, he was playing a bad team in the New York Giants, and does not have a tremendous track record as a starter.
Garoppolo has not given the 49ers any reason to move away from him. In the game and a half before his ankle injury, he had completed 67.3 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no turnovers. There may be some questions lingering about whether he’s elite, but he did lead the Niners to the NFC title last season.
There was a time when Mullens was rumored to be pushing him for the starting job, but that’s no longer on the table.
When he’s not working on an NFL comeback, Dez Bryant enjoys playing the role of analyst on Twitter like the rest of us. And the former Dallas Cowboys receiver is VERY high on Nick Mullens.
While watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, Dez randomly tweeted that he thinks Mullens is a “star” NFL quarterback.
When some questioned whether that was Bryant’s way of saying Mullens should be starting for the San Francisco 49ers over Jimmy Garoppolo, Bryant said his opinion was independent of Jimmy G.
Mullens is the 49ers’ backup. Football fans became acquainted with him when he played last season due to a combination of Garoppolo’s knee injury and C.J. Beathard’s ineffectiveness. The former Southern Miss quarterback looked very good at times as he completed 64.2 percent of his passes in 8 games in 2018, with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He commanded attention with his 3-touchdown, no interception performance in his first career game — a 34-3 romp over the Raiders. He put together another good game in a win over Seattle, and the Niners went 3-5 under him.
Could he get it done as a starting quarterback? Maybe here or there while playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but we doubt he would be a star elsewhere as Bryant seems to think. The 49ers do believe in him though.
It would be unfair to expect Jimmy Garoppolo to come out of the gate looking sharp this season less than a year removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL, but to say the quarterback has looked rusty this offseason would be an understatement. If that turns into the new normal for Garoppolo, how long will the San Francisco 49ers stick with him?
Perhaps not very long at all.
Michael Silver of NFL Network was asked during an interview with 97.5 The Game on Monday which Bay Area quarterback is facing more pressure this season — Garoppolo or Derek Carr. Silver chose Garoppolo because he believes the Niners consider backup Nick Mullens to be a “very viable alternative.”
Mullens, whom San Francisco signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, burst onto the national scene last year when he had a huge game replacing an injured CJ Beathard. He ended up playing in eight games and had some ups and downs, finishing with 2,227 yards passing, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The 49ers went 2-5 in the seven games he started.
Garoppolo threw interceptions on five consecutive passes during training camp at one point this summer. While practice means very little, that is obviously a sign that he is rusty and not making proper reads. He also completed just 1-of-6 pass attempts and threw an interception in a preseason game against the Denver Broncos. Again, fairly meaningless, but probably not a great sign.
Even if the Niners weren’t enamored with Mullens, the five-year, $137.5 million contract Garoppolo signed last year is structured in such a way that he could be released next offseason with just $1.4 million in dead cap money each of the next three seasons if he’s designated a post-June 1 cut. He counted a whopping $37 million against the salary cap last season, and the 49ers gave him most of his money up front. If they don’t think he is capable of leading them to the playoffs, the team has a very feasible path to moving on from Garoppolo.
Ideally, Garoppolo will round into form. He has admitted to being frustrated with coming back from a torn ACL, but 49ers GM John Lynch does not seem concerned about that. While it’d be hard to imagine a team cutting bait with a player they invested that much money in without giving him more than a full season post-ACL surgery, it certainly doesn’t seem out of the question.
The penultimate week of the 2018 NFL regular season offered no shortage of thrills and memorable moments. That includes a dramatic game in New Orleans and massive playoff implications across the league that is setting up an even more intriguing Week 17.
For now, though, we’re still focused on this week and some of the teams and players that had big letdowns. Here are 15 big disappointments from NFL Week 16.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ ball control
If Pittsburgh does not make the playoffs this season, Stevan Ridley and JuJu Smith-Schuster will relive their final touches in New Orleans in their nightmares for an entire offseason. Ridley came first, fumbling at the New Orleans 34 and potentially costing the Steelers three points at a minimum in a game they lost by that margin. With 41 seconds left and the Steelers driving to stay alive — and nearing field goal range — Smith-Schuster lost the football, leading to a Saints recovery and the end of the game. Would the Steelers have tied or won the game? It’s entirely possible. They definitely left points on the board all because of two horribly-timed fumbles, and it probably cost them a playoff berth.
Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, Week 12 of the NFL season was spread out a bit more, with three games on Thursday. It did nothing to dampen the action, however, with the playoff picture in both conferences generally growing more muddled and more exciting as we head toward the business end of the season.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t disappointments — in fact, there were a number. Here are 15 of the biggest from the weekend.
The Bengals giving up 35 points to the Cleveland Browns can’t be pinned solely on Jackson. They were bad defensively before he got there and his arrival hasn’t changed much. But Jackson appears here mostly because of how thoroughly embarrassing this day was for him. He was trolled by one of former players during the game, and criticized by another after the game. He was brought in to help give the Bengals an advantage against AFC North teams, and instead he’s become the common denominator in the Browns and Bengals’ respective losing ways.
Nick Mullens arrived on the national scene Thursday night and received the ultimate social media respect.
Mullens started at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in place of CJ Beathard, who was dealing with a wrist/thumb injury. Mullens was incredible. He threw for touchdown passes on his first two drives and had 260 yards and three touchdowns over the first three quarters of play, leading to a fiery reaction from viewers.
He did so well that Twitter went ahead and verified his Twitter profile mid-game.
San Francisco may have to take Twitter’s lead and verify Mullens as their starter even after Beathard gets better.
Nick Mullens came out on fire against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night and had Twitter lit up.
Mullens, an undrafted second-year player out of Southern Miss, got the start against the Raiders because CJ Beathard was hurt. He led the San Francisco 49ers on consecutive touchdown drives, throwing for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The impressive display led to some great tweets about the greatness of Mullens:
Jimmy Garoppolo might need to watch his back in San Francisco!
The San Francisco 49ers will be digging deep at the quarterback position on Thursday night.
The Niners will start Nick Mullens at quarterback against the Oakland Raiders. Mullens was originally the team’s third-string quarterback behind Jimmy Garoppolo and CJ Beathard, but injuries to both players have forced Mullens into action.
Mullens is in his second season since going undrafted out of Southern Miss. He was 31/43 for 396 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions during the preseason. He also rushed for two scores.
Beathard will still suit up for the game but as the backup. He has a wrist and thumb injury, and his hand was so swollen he was unable to grip a football on Monday and Tuesday.