Yesterday's Week 1 slate showed why the NFL is the king of American sports. Apart from the Patriots' embarrassing no-show performance in Miami that included a (defensive) breakdown worse Ezra Miller's, most of the 1 pm games were incredible.
Like, how can you not love Jameis?
By the witching hour, all my bets were deader than the Queen, but that's okay. It's a marathon, not a sprint. We'll rebound. But one game left me wondering: what if a moron coaches the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals?
Player performance obviously plays a significant role in the outcome of games. Everybody knows that. Zac Taylor didn't turn the ball over five times like potential hardo Joe Burrow. This interview answer really rubbed me the wrong way.
But once great coaches like Bill Belichick will tell you, players win games and coaches lose them. Putting someone in the best spot to succeed is just as important as God and anabolic-given talent. I've always hated the phrase "a good carpenter doesn't blame his tools" because that's bull shit to me. The quality of your materials definitely matters. The best guitar players in the world would sound like shit if you gave them a two-string, out-of-tune axe. You can't shovel a driveway with a soup spoon.
Yesterday, I was stuck using one screen switching back and forth like Ray Allen between the Pats broadcast and RedZone, so I didn't get to see everything in real-time, but Zac Taylor had two of the most inexcusable coaching mistakes that I've ever seen.
The first occurred with little less than three minutes left in the game. The Bengals were trailing 20-14, but despite their rocky start, were positioned to take the lead. To his credit, after a rough day, Joe Burrow (who, again, I like but am worried is going to become an unlikable hardo with shit like that video I included) connected with former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase on a pass that should've been ruled a touchdown.
However, the officials ruled that Chase was out at the 1-yard line. The Bengals didn't challenge the clearly blown call and ended up not scoring after a -2 yard run, an incomplete pass, a 1-yard gain, and another incomplete pass.
Here's what Taylor had to say about the should-be touchdown and why he opted not to challenge it.
Not exactly what you want to hear out of a head coach. "It's hard with all the craziness to just stop," bro, you're an NFL head coach. Your literal job is to handle all the craziness. Imagine if Belichick, Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin, or John Harbaugh said that. But it gets even better!
Why would you want to go "tempo" when you're on the goal line with less than 3 minutes to play? Milk that clock.
Speaking of clock milking, after the Bengals forced OT thanks to a Burrow to Chase connection that did count---
---late in OT, the Bengals did the now timeout-less Steelers a bigger favor than driving them to an out-of-state airport by inexplicably punting with 15 seconds left on the play clock.
Now I'll give NFL head coaches some credit. They (likely) know more about football than me. I'm sure they could school me on route concepts and how to attack a Tampa-2 defense, but sometimes regular fans see the game better than you. Any idiot who's ever played more than two games of Madden knows there are certain situations where you drain as much time as possible. With a minute left in overtime and neither team has timeouts, if you're forced to punt with a running clock, don't snap the ball with 15+ seconds left on the play clock.
Hell, you're at midfield. Taking the delay of game doesn't really hurt you here; if anything, it makes a touchback less probable. Drain the full play-clock, take the five yards and go from there.
Instead, the Bengals gave the Steelers an extra 15 valuable seconds that ended up coming back to haunt them when Chris Boswell nailed a 53-yard game-winner. Again, the Steelers were out of timeouts.
Pittsburgh ended up getting the ball with 56 seconds left at their own 20-yard line thanks to a touchback instead of what should've been closer to 40 seconds. Who knows if taking the delay of game sets up the Bengals to better pin the Steelers deep in their own territory, but it undoubtedly would've given Pittsburgh less time to get into field goal range.
Now to be fair to Zac Taylor's blunders, an injury to long snapper Clark Harris meant emergency long snapper Chris Wilcox had to snap for the potential game-winning PAT after Chase's touchdown. The protection could've been better, but a slow snap allowed Minkah Fitzpatrick to block the PAT and force overtime.
Then in OT, the usually clutch Evan McPherson shanked a chip shot 29-yarder due to another poor snap.
Kickers miss kicks all the time due to their own poor aim, but that miss was on the snap and hold, which ruined the timing. Earlier in the game, when Harris was still playing, McPherson banged a 59-yarder.
Last season, the Bengals had a miracle run to the Super Bowl thanks to outstanding play from Burrow, Chase, McPherson and many other PLAYERS on the roster, but did they really do anything from a scheme point during that run that made you go "wow what a coach?" Maybe they did and my depression brain already forgot, but I think most would agree that their talent got them to Super Bowl LVI, not the game plan of Zac Taylor (career record: 16-33-1). Taylor said they rushed the snap because of the back-up long snapper situation and they were more concerned with getting the snap off, but being prepared for that situation would've been what a good head coach does. How often do they practice what would happen if the long snapper got hurt? Plus, if they took the delay of game, the clock would've stopped, so there would be no need to rush the snap just to make sure it got back cleanly.
Good coaches like Andy Reid/the Chiefs special team had Justin Reid ready if Harrison Butker were to go down, which happened like <10 minutes into their season.
Do you think a team that always takes the cheap and easy way out really practices what would happen if the long snapper got hurt? If they do, good for them, but as a betting man, I doubt it.
In sports, sometimes you need to be bold. Like, sure, it's kinda crazy the Raiders cut Alex Leatherwood one year after drafting him in the first round (I know it's different coaching staffs), but you have to give them a little credit for moving on from someone they didn't believe in. It's like the Ravens not bringing back Trent Dilfer despite "leading them" to a Super Bowl.
After letting Marvin Lewis hang around for too long, I doubt the Bengals are even considering making a change, but if you want to get the most out of this Super Bowl window, it might not hurt to look yourselves in the mirror and ask if you've got the right coach. NBA teams move on from "successful" coaches all the time if it's not the right fit. After yesterday's blunders, I think it's fair to warm that seat up.
The Bengals came out flat in a home-opener against arguably their most hated rival. That's on the coach. Joe Burrow had a bad day, and a large part of that is on him, but Zac Taylor's game mismanagement cost the Bengals more, IMO. Cincy should've won that game, or at the very least, tied. Cincinnati is one of the most talented teams in the league, but we've seen how hard it is to duplicate success year after year. The Russell Wilson-Legion of Boom Seahawks only won one Super Bowl (thanks, Pete!). The LT Chargers were regularly among the most talented rosters in the league and never even made a Super Bowl. Championship windows close quickly. Look at the Washington Nationals. Coaching matters, and based on his miscues yesterday, the Bengals should be worried if Zac Taylor is the right guy to lead this loaded team.
I like this Bengals team. One of my best friends is a Bengals fan, so as a hashtag good guy, I want to see them do well. Taylor's mistakes were inexcusable yesterday, but he's far from the only coach to fuck up and cost his team. Last year's AFC #1 seed, Tennessee Titans, lost to the lowly New York Giants yesterday. There are plenty of reasons why, but none stick out, like the idiotic decision to run a TIGHT END SWEEP on 3rd and 1 instead of giving the ball to one of the best running backs of the 21st century.