First Impressions: Game 16 (@ Baltimore)

What’s the Matter With Kids Today?

My constant worry, as I get older, is that I’m going to turn into my parents– intolerant of the current generation; blind to problems that didn’t exist when I was their age.

But the thought that kept running continually through my head during the game was “How the #%$@# can the Ravens– and the Chargers– be playing this badly with a playoff game on the line???”

Granted the 74-0 projection in the preview (the score is a reference to the most lopsided NFL championship in history) was hyperbole… but I assumed Baltimore would come out with fire in their eyes, taking control of the game from the opening kickoff.

Instead, they played as if the game was a meaningless exhibition, not taking control of the game until halfway through the fourth quarter.

Had Cleveland had more talent, that would have been way too late, The Browns would have taken control of the game well before that.

And for the Chargers to lose to Kansas City… behind a backup quarterback… As Popeye used to say “I is disgustipated!”

Coach of the Day…

The performance the Browns put on, given the season they have had– and the week of bad events they had just endured– was astonishing. For the second week in a row, a badly-undergunned outfit, facing a team with playoff chances if they won, bit, clawed, scratched and hung on until halfway through the fourth quarter.

It’s amazing that a team whose best three receivers are under 5’9″– whose secondary started Buster Skrine (a nickel corner being asked to cover Pro Bowl receivers) and Jim Leonhard (who is small, slow and light)– without a single defensive lineman capable of starting for a good team– with a scrub quarterback– could manage to come that close to a win.

If the Justice Department convicts Jimmy Haslam (as it should be able to do), so that he can’t meddle in the running of the team… If the new owner fires Ray Farmer and finds a general manager who can draft better… If someone could get head coach Mike Pettine some players to coach… he could win an awful lot of games.

Why Connor Shaw Must Die

The headline isn’t entirely serious– as is the line about firing Farmer. An awful lot of charges and countercharges have been made in the last 48 hours. In the next week or so, we’ll learn whether Haslam really blocked a trade of Puff Gordon, whether he did push the team to pick Johnny Football, and how much part which people played in the various personnel fiascoes.

But here is the part I am serious about: There is absolutely no chance that Connor Shaw has a chance to be a successful NFL quarterback. He simply doesn’t have the arm strength. I don’t believe a quarterback needs a rifle– I’m almost always opposed to the guys like Christian Ponder, where the arm is 96% of his ability. But you have to be able to throw better than he did today:

  • There were at least four receivers open that he couldn’t get the ball to.
  • He underthrew several passes– most notably the one to Isaiah Crowell.
  • Another underthrown pass (a sideline incompletion to Andrew Hawkins) just missed being intercepted, because the defender wasn’t expecting it to be underthrown.
  • He floated a couple of balls.

By the end of the game– after a dozen blasts from the Raven defenders–  his velocity had visibly dropped.

If defenses got to watch a few game films of him, they’d be able to jump his routes and make him into a turnover machine.

It’s a shame because Shaw clearly understands the game at a level that Johnny Jamboogie (it’s the name from the Snickers commercial he did, by the way) doesn’t. If he could throw harder, he’d be impossible to defend.

But, of course, that’s why he wasn’t drafted.

Not to say that you can’t keep the guy around– that was an awfully good emergency QB performance. But I’d just as soon have Thad Lewis or Bruce Gradkowski.

Players Wanted– Must Have Work Ethic

It’s nice that Terrance West (18 carries, 94 yards, a TD) had a good game. The hitch is that they had to hold him out of last week’s game– and start him in a game played in the city where he grew up. To have value, West needs to have those games every week.

I’m picking on the kid a little… but he really should have won the job. Instead he had:

  • Six games where his rushing average was acceptable (4.4 per carry or better).
  • Three games where he contributed 75 yards or more rushing.

In only two of those games (the first and last) did both those things happen. He was a non-factor in the receiving game (9-52-1), didn’t really block and had trouble hanging onto the ball.

That doesn’t mean they should cut him, but they need to look for another back. They absolutely should not assume that the position is settled.

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