Brock Osweiler is so bad he makes me briefly reconsider my stance on labor issues. I firmly believe that NFL players should have guaranteed contracts, and yet Osweiler's is so awful, I almost feel for Houston's extremely foolish front office. Then I come to my senses.
Osweiler's contract isn't even fully guaranteed. Far from it. Only $37 million, slightly more than half of the $72 million contract he signed this past off-season, is guaranteed, and that runs out after 2017. It still means, however, that the Texans are stuck with him for at least another full season unless they feel like eating $25 million in dead cap money, an exorbitant amount few teams would ever dare to write off.
Head coach Bill O'Brien has said that money won't affect his decision over who to start, and that may be true for the remainder of this season. But while Tom Savage came off the bench to lead Houston to victory on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team is essentially compelled to give Osweiler more chances, lest they be stuck with the league's most expensive backup in 2017.
After Sunday's game, Osweiler was asked how he felt about his status as starter, to which he replied, "If I start, I start." To people concerned about leadership and various other traditional NFL solemnities, that's not the right message to send. It's a perfectly understandable one, though—if I were in Osweiler's position, I'd be perfectly happy to sit my ass on the bench for a year and change and make $37 million. His football career would be effectively over at that point, but hey, he would have made a ton of money and spared himself a good deal of potential head trauma.
Very few NFL players are ever in the position that Osweiler is in, because most have zero leverage in their dealings with executives. The NFL says it has a salary cap to ensure that all its teams can stay competitive, and that's true to some degree, but it's also in place to suppress wages. Most players can be cut at any time at little consequence to the team. Rare is the opportunity when a player can repeatedly cash in, given that the average NFL career is over in just over three years.
The quarterback position tends to be an exception to this rule, since it's the most important commodity in the game, and the NFL's evolution as an increasingly passer-friendly league has only intensified this market dynamic. There are so few good quarterbacks that teams are willing to give anything for one of them; even average QBs can fetch a ransom in money or draft picks, which is why the Minnesota Vikings dealt a first-round pick for Sam Bradford just before the start of the 2016 season.
Osweiler only started seven games in four seasons prior to 2016, and didn't even play that well. His current pay is high given his output and ability relative to some other quarterbacks, but this is a market with no basis in reality. The Texans paid for pure potential.
So while it's understandable for Houston fans to be frustrated at the judgment of their front office and the risk that they took, there's little reason to take it out on Osweiler. Like Matt Flynn, he's just another quarterback who exploited the demand for his particular position.
Jaguars-Texans Should Have Been the AFC South Season Finale
In true AFC South fashion, Jaguars-Texans was pure comedy of errors that not only resulted in Osweiler getting benchedm but also Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley getting fired. It tied together so many of the season's narrative arcs that to keep going is to betray the sense of closure we have right now.
The game was decided by one point, and you could argue that the difference was a safety Jacksonville incurred by committing a holding penalty in their own end zone in the second quarter. Of course, the Jags were ahead 13-0 at that point, and there was plenty more bad football to be played. Still, this is the most hapless way to frame things, and you can't convince me that the Jaguars are deserving of anything less.
Fuck Yinz Towel, Fuck Y'all Towel, Fuck ALL Y'all Towel
Speaking from experience as an annoying Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I can admit there are many obnoxious qualities about STILLER NATION, as there are about any other NFL team's fan base. Unique among Steelers fans, however, is the belief that any opposing player who tarnishes a Terrible Towel brings upon himself a sinister curse that immediately strikes down his franchise. It happened to LenDale White. It happened to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. By gum, it happened to Jeremy Hill.
After scoring a touchdown on Sunday to give Cincinnati a 21-3 lead in the first half, the Bengals running back celebrated by attempting to rip a Terrible Towel in half and then throw it on the ground. The ground! Like it's some sort of common towel and not a sacred yellow fan towel! Anyway, the Steelers rallied back to win because finding ways to lose to Pittsburgh is what Cincinnati does best. Also, head coach Marvin Lewis doesn't seem to have the best grasp of what is going on.
Naturally, Steelers fans rushed to Twitter to remind Hill of the consequences of his crime against Myron Cope's beloved rag, to which Hill replied in a now-deleted tweet, "Fuck y'all towel." This, I hope, becomes mantra for all Steelers haters. It has my blessing.
Red Kettle at Night, Ezekiel's Delight
Good news on Monday morning, as the NFL has reportedly decided not to fine Ezekiel Elliott for hopping into The Salvation Army kettle after scoring a touchdown on Sunday night. Having that thing sitting there next to the end zone should be considered entrapment. Nevertheless, the Dallas Cowboys running back was still penalized for doing so, which is a situation so inane that it inspired Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, of all people, to make a telling statement about the state of joy-having in the NFL:
"You can jump into the stands in Green Bay, but you can't jump in a Salvation Army bucket in Dallas. You gotta be careful about snow angels."
Snow angels, man. I tell ya, they're a dicey situation. For those not availed of the weirdly specific NFL celebration rules, you can do snow angels as a celebration, but only if you happen to already be on the ground when you score. If not, that's a bad, bad snow angel.
For what it's worth, the kettle thing isn't without precedent. Reggie Brown did it when he was playing for the Eagles in 2007. The NFL should just allow it, or at least fill the kettle with mousetraps to make a literal fun trap for any player too exuberant to resist jumping in there.
Odell Beckham Doesn't Need Any Help Making Catches
One of the more hilari-bad calls of the day came on the third play from scrimmage in the Detroit Lions-New York Giants game. As you can see above, the ball very clearly hit the ground, and yet New York's Odell Beckham was awarded a reception on the play. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell caught a little grief from fans online for not challenging the ruling, though it's difficult to justify using a potentially important challenge on a four-yard play that early in the game. It's a just a reminder that officials can be as awful as they want provided it isn't a scoring play, a turnover, or inside the final two minutes of a half. Beyond that, it's up to the coaches to decide whether it's worth challenging officials on one play at the risk of losing a chance to call them on an error later in the game. In this case, it wasn't. Also, you have to respect Caldwell for not challenging just to pad his stats, since this was a gimme. No glory-boy coach is he.
What Can Make Romo to the Jets Even Sadder?
I won't profess to know where Tony Romo is going after the 2016 season. Technically, he's still under contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Getting another team to take on his massive deal will be no small feat, though given the lack of quality NFL quarterbacks mentioned above, some franchise will do it. A logical choice would be the New York Jets, since their QB situation is a mess and their draft position is likely to be high but not quite at the top of the draft. Plus, Romo in New York just seems like a thing that should happen.
On Saturday, amid another Jets pant-shitting against the Miami Dolphins, Joe Namath condemned the franchise that made him famous by saying even Romo is too smart to don a Jets jersey for what surely would be an unfortunate year or two. I know the Jets are down right now, but chin up. They're as deserving of that regrettable choice as any organization. Surely as much as the San Francisco 49ers.
Fan of the Week
Santa had to spend a few hours in lockup on Sunday after getting wee bit wild at an Arrowhead Stadium tailgate. Not to worry: Christmas should still be good to go by the weekend. If a few presents have vomit on them, hey, those presents are free, and you should consider yourself fortunate that Santa considers you worthy of receiving them. Also, Santa has to breathe into a little device on the ignition before the reindeer take off.
Five Winners Who Covered Their Bloodline in Glory
1. Odell Beckham, New York Giants. Another one-handed highlight catch put the game on ice in the fourth quarter, as New York turned away Detroit in a pivotal NFC matchup. Beckham only had six catches for 64 yards on the day, though two of those catches came on the key fourth-quarter scoring drive. Plus, he managed not to get penalized for a nice end zone celebration, which is as incredible accomplishment as any in the NFL these days.
2. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers. Montgomery has adapted so well from receiver to the running back position that idiots like me will are convinced that the transition is much easier than it actually is. In the Packers' win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Montgomery averaged more than ten yards a carry, totaling 162 on the ground for the day, to go with two touchdowns. And it wasn't just a couple instances of the back hitting daylight untouched. He had seven broken tackles and averaged 9.8 yards after contact.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints. The Saints' 48-41 shootout win over the Arizona Cardinals didn't get much attention, possibly on account of both teams being out of the playoff chase. It was a vintage Brees performance, though, as he threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns. He had excellent protection on the day and made Arizona pay for trying to create pressure by throwing for three of his scores and completing 75 percent of his passes against the blitz.
4. Trey Flowers, New England Patriots. That Bill Belichick has been willing to trade away significant pieces of his front seven over the past year speaks of his confidence in what remains. On Sunday, the Pats defense had little trouble clamping down on a mediocre Denver Broncos offense. Flowers has emerged as the team's best edge rusher now that Chandler Jones is gone; against the Broncos he had two sacks and three hurries. His seven sacks on the season have all come in the last seven games. New England's defense is starting to gel as the playoffs approach.
5. David Irving, Dallas Cowboys. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had ample opportunities to pull off the upset in Dallas, but ultimately the Cowboys were able to survive in large part thanks to Irving, who posted two sacks and four hurries. With the game tied at 20 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, Irving got his hand on Jameis Winston's arm just as he released a pass that ended up being intercepted. Dallas kicked a field goal to take a lead they never lost, and Irving kept the pressure on the rest of the way to make sure the Bucs never responded.
Five Losers Bathing in the Hard Water of Infinite Shame
1. Jordan Norwood. Denver had enough problems generating offense when they were able to start drives, and the Broncos punt returner ensured they had limited opportunities to do even that by muffing the opening kick, which the Patriots recovered and converted into a field goal for the first points of the game. With Tom Brady unable to complete a pass in the first quarter, Denver had an opportunity to build a lead. Instead, they spotted the Pats three points in a game in which only 19 total points were scored. Norwood fumbled again after a pass reception in the final minute of the game, when the outcome was no longer in doubt, providing another reason not to trust the receiver. The defending Super Bowl champs need to win out and get some help in order to return to the playoffs.
Sarcastic crowd at Mile High gives Jordan Norwood a big cheer for a successful fair catch.
— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones)December 18, 2016
2. Kenneth Farrow. The undrafted rookie got his first NFL start on Sunday. It definitely could have gone better, as he only totaled 39 yards on 15 carries. Farrow became an integral part of yet another Chargers late-game collapse when he fumbled deep in his own end of the field at the start of the fourth quarter, with San Diego leading 16-13 over Oakland. The Raiders wound up winning 19-16.
3. Alex Smith. Kansas City blew a 17-7 halftime lead and lost to the Titans 19-17. Midway through the third quarter, the Chiefs were in the red zone with a chance to pad their lead when Smith stared down Jeremy Maclin and was intercepted in the end zone by LeShaun Sims. The supposed advantage to having Smith under center is that he rarely turns the ball over. When he does, however, the team has a hard time overcoming it. This is the second end-zone interception for Smith this season. (Meanwhile, Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota has yet to throw a red-zone interception in his career.)
4. Brock Osweiler. I've said enough bad things about the Brocktopus for this week, so I will concede that he still excels at being very tall.
5. The Minnesota Vikings defense. The supposed strength of this rapidly fading Minnesota team mostly didn't show up on Sunday, aside from Linval Joseph and Anthony Harris. There's underwhelming, and then there's whelming so low you manage to make the Indianapolis Colts' usually woeful line look impressive, and that's exactly what the Vikes did. It was especially bad in the run game, as almost half of Indy's rushing yards came before contact.
As for Tonight…
Kirk Cousins might not be pulling in that big-time Gatorade endorsement yet, but he will sell the shit out of some staplers. A thinking man's quarterback knows that when you have a stack of papers you need bound together, you don't go running for the masking tape or the glue. No, no. You staple them sumbitches. And because he plays for a team that absolutely must brand everything in creation, you, too, can have offensive office supplies without having to resort to buying one of those pens that shows a naked lady when you turn it a certain way.
Anyway, Tampa losing in Dallas means Washington remains in line for the NFC sixth seed, provided they do stuff like continue winning. The three times that the 'Skins have made the postseason in the past decade, it has been after they've started the season with an abysmal record only to make an improbable run and just barely squeak into the playoffs. Being kind of good all season is a departure from that M.O., so we'll see if they can make it work.
Both Carolina and Washington are having serious issues in their secondary, and conditions in Raljon, Maryland, aren't supposed to be especially windy, so there's potential for a shootout between Cam Newton and Cousins. Josh Norman has played well in his first year in Washington, but the rest of Washington's defensive backfield is a mess, so it shouldn't be too difficult for the Panthers to stay away from their former teammate.
With the Panthers officially eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday, the main point of suspense for Carolina fans (and all football fans, really) is seeing what Cam is going to wear on gameday. The social media roasting of his gameday attire is one of the few reliable sources of joy left in the NFL. We have to figure out what we're going to do in January once the Panthers are done playing. I may have no fashion bona fides of my own, but I still delight in the savage ripping of others' bold looks.
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