After Week 12 of the NFL season finished last night, I had a think about what teams are in line to have some major changes to their side, whether it be with coaching personnel, starting QBs or any other issues. After looking through the conference standings, and having a think about certain sides’ performances when I’ve seen them this season, I came up with 5 teams which really struck me the most as needing changes.
Firstly, there was the Chargers. At 4-7 after Week 12, this is a side where changes are inevitably going to happen. Norv Turner is in his 6th season as Chargers head coach, but this season you’ve seen that the pressure is getting to him in regards to his job. After snapping at the media a few weeks ago when asked whether losing but playing well was acceptable, it does seem as if his days were numbered. Granted, it was a ridiculous question to ask after what had been a close game against the Buccaneers, but some coaches would have perhaps laughed off that question, but Norv clearly showed that he’s in no mood to be joking around right now.
This is a team that has Philip Rivers as it’s quarterback, and yet sits 25th in the league when it comes to offense, with an average of just 325 yards a game. Their defence has fared better, ranking 10th in the league with an average of 334 yards a game, but they’ve still had a poor season. An explanation for this could be found by looking at the Chargers’ losses this season. Apart from the Browns, who they lost to in a closely contested game 6-7, all of the other losses have gone against teams which are play-off bound, or in touching distance of a wildcard spot. 2 losses to the Broncos, Falcons, Ravens, Buccaneers and a rejuvenated Saints side in their 5th game, isn’t too much to be ashamed of. But Chargers fans will feel some of those losses should have been victories, especially with Rivers as starting QB. With the Bengals, Steelers, Panthers, Jets and Raiders to come, you would say all of those games were winnable, with only the Steelers having a winning record, but with Big Ben still suffering. However, even if they were to win 4 out of 5, that would still only give them a record of 8-8, which is the same as their 2011 record. This may not be deemed good enough for the Spanos and A.J. Smith, so expect to see some changes in San Diego this offseason.
The next team that caught my eye, and the only side in the NFC to get a mention, are the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a side who has struggled all season with an unreliable QB, and a coach who clearly is still dealing with personal problems. Andy Reid’s son Garrett was found dead on August 5th, less than a month before the season started, and there’s no doubt that this has effected Reid and the team.
The side currently have a 3-8 record after the loss to the Carolina Panthers on MNF, and this is most definitely a season to forget for Eagles fans. When you look at their stats for offense and defense, it actually isn’t too bad a reading. 14th in the league in offense, with an average of 357 yards per game, and 15th in the league in defense with an average of 345 yards per game. But the big problem for Philadelphia this season has been turning the ball over. After 11 games, they’ve had the ball intercepted 12 times, and fumbled 15 times. Compare this with the fact that they’ve only taken away the ball 10 times in 11 games, it’s no wonder they have a 3-8 record. Michael Vick hasn’t had a great season at all. After being attacked by the media and fans for his continued fumbling of the football, he promised to carry a ball around with him all week in practice, in order to limit the problem. Unfortunately, this was done in vain, and Vick suffered a severe concussion against the Cowboys, which has meant that Nick Foles has taken over the starting quarterback position.
It’s clear in Philadelphia that Foles is considered the future, and Vick is very much on his way out. In the off season Vick talked about a potential ‘dynasty’ happening with the Eagles, and yet he said this after not even winning a Super Bowl yet with the Eagles. It does seem very clear that Vick will be traded or released at the end of the season, with Andy Reid likely to follow. No one can blame Reid if he decides enough is enough, as I suspect he will, choosing to jump rather than be pushed. Being the longest serving head coach in the NFL will take its toll on anybody, and after 4 lost NFC Championship games, and 1 Super Bowl loss to the real dynasty that was the Patriots of the early 2000s, I’m sure Reid will look back on his time in Philly and regret the fact that he didn’t manage to win a Super Bowl with this team. With the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Bengals, Redskins & Giants left to come, the rest of the season is just about playing for pride for Eagles fans. Foles will most likely keep the starting QB position in anticipation for being the number 1 QB next year, and they’ll just look to go out and try to level their 2011 record of 8-8, which was considered a disaster by Eagles fans, and even that seems unlikely this season. After being potential Super Bowl contenders before the season started, it seems very likely that Jeffrey Lurie will look to mix it up in Philly, in order to try and bring some success to Philly in the future.
The next team I’ll look at is another AFC West side who quite frankly have had a rotten season. The Kansas City Chiefs. 1-10. The worst side in the NFL. The fact that their only win against a Saints side who were in crisis mode early on in the season, says an awful lot. Having said that though, you’d be surprised at where the Chiefs sit in the offense and defense standings. They sit 21st with their offense, averaging 336 yards a game, and 16th with their defense, with an average of 346 yards allowed per game. These figures wouldn’t suggest a 1-10 side, but that’s what they are. A side with QB Matt Cassell, the man who had 1 good season at the Patriots in 2008, when Tom Brady was out for the whole season. With the Chiefs likely to finish with the worst record in the league, you’d put good money on the fact that they’ll probably look to draft a QB. Matt Barkley and Geno Smith are the two who seem to be the highest rated in next years draft pool, so these could be options. The Chiefs will have seen how rookie QBs like RG3, Luck, Tannehill, Wilson and even Weeden, have had a great effect on each side, so I’m sure they’d look to have similar results with a young QB coming in.
The fact is that the Chiefs numbers may read well when it comes to yards, but they’re not scoring enough points. Cassell has only thrown for 6 touchdowns this season, with double the amount of interceptions. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that they’re at 1-10. Last season’s 7-9 record, and 2010’s 10-6 record seem a long way away for Chiefs fans, after what’s been an abysmal season so far. However, Romeo Crennel is a new coach, having taken over as interim coach last season, and so there won’t be any coaching changes just yet. But with the Chiefs’ success rate in the N-zone being so poor, I’d expect to see a change at QB, with a draft pick or a trade with another side for a QB that isn’t needed i.e. Matt Flynn in Seattle, or maybe even Alex Smith at the 49ers if Kaepernick remains the starter. With games against the Panthers, Browns, Raiders, Colts & Broncos to come, there is room to maybe get 2 or 3 more wins to make the campaign seem a bit better. However, with a worse record guaranteeing a better draft pick, the Chiefs may just write off the rest of the season, and start preparing for next year, potentially with a new/rookie QB.
Next I move onto the circus that is the New York Jets. In fighting, slating of a QB that never plays, and Sanchez having yet another terrible season. With a record of 4-7, this is another side who’s season hasn’t gone as planned. After finishing 8-8 in 2011, and having gone to the AFC Championship Game in 2 consecutive years in 2009 & 2010, Jets fans wondered what this season would bring. In the off season they went out and got Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos, after his performances in the second half of the season led the Broncos to a Championship play-off game against the Patriots. Tebow actually constructed a game winning drive against the Jets themselves which effectively ended their chances of making the play-offs themselves. The circus and media attention that surrounds Tim Tebow came to New York, with many questioning whether this meant that Sanchez’s reign as starting QB was over.
Sanchez has failed to win over many of the Jets fans, despite those 2 Championship games in his first 2 seasons as a starting QB, with many pointing to the fact that Sanchez hasn’t made any progress as a QB. With a passing completion percentage of 55.4% for the season so far, this is very similar to his figures for the last 3 seasons (53.8, 54.8 & 56.7). As a quarterback, you should expect to see improvements in your game after a few years, rather than a continued trend of normality. His total fumbles for the year so far, 10, are as many as he had in his last 3 seasons, and there’s still 5 games to go. I don’t think the Tebow situation has helped at all, but still the stats don’t like that Sanchez just isn’t improving. 12 TDs and 10 interceptions for the year doesn’t make happy reading. But also Sanchez’s fumble vs Patriots which was returned for a fumble, is a moment that won’t be forgotten by football fans for a while.
Moving away from Sanchez, the Jets have also had to contend with injuries to CB Darrelle Revis & WR Santonio Holmes for the season, who were both lost early on. With Holmes gone, this left Sanchez with one less weapon in offence, so it’s no wonder he’s struggled. But the defense haven’t performed either. There are 4 losses that really stick out. Losing to the 49ers 34-0, the Dolphins 30-9, the Seahawks 28-7 and the thanksgiving day massacre by the Patriots, 49-19. These are big losses for the Jets, with 2 of them being divisional games. The latest loss may have been too much for even their most loyal fan, Fireman Ed, who said he would no longer be attending the game as Fireman Ed, citing ‘arguments with fans’, although it may be down to the lack of form the team are showing. With games against the Cardinals, Jaguars, Titans, Chargers, and Bills to come, there are room for more wins for the Jets, but this may not be enough for Woody Johnson after another below par season. It may be Tebow time sooner rather than later, if Sanchez’s performances don’t improve.
Finally, there’s the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are 2-9. Recently purchased by Shahid Khan and with new head coach Mike Mularkey, this is a side which is the worst in the league, stats wise at least. The offense is ranked bottom of the league, with a total of 286 yards per game, and the defense is ranked 31st, allowing an average of 410 yards per game. However, 2-9 does seem harsh when you look at some of their losses this season. The Jags have had 3 close losses this year, with one of them being in OT to the Texans when they really should have won the game. If these games had been won, we’re talking about a 5-6 team who are on course to have a better year than 2011’s 5-11. In the past few weeks however, there’s been optimism that all may be well in the future. After Blaine Gabbert was taken out of the game against the Texans, Chad Henne came in and threw for 354 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions with a QB rating of 126.8. Not a bad record at all against a side which are being tipped to go to the Super Bowl.
It’s clear that under Gabbert it hasn’t really worked, and Henne most definitely has the hot hand now, so if he can pull a few more wins out for the Jags, he could make that starting QB position his own come next season. With new owner Shahid Khan taking the team to London for a home game for the next 4 years, there’s a desire to build a brand in the UK, which will only come if the team coming over to visit London, is competitive. With Henne at QB, and exciting number 5 pick rookie Justin Blackmon in the side, there’s the onus that these 2 players will be what the side are built around in the future. The good news for Jags fans is that next year can only really be better, with the Jags likely to get another high draft pick, therefore able to boost their team even more. With the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Patriots & the Titans to come, like the Chiefs, they may well just write off the season and look forward to another draft class which will hopefully improve the side. However, 4 of those games are very winnable for this rejuvenated Jags side, so we may well see a bit of fight from this young side, with the determination being to finish strong.
So there we have it, the 5 teams in the NFL who I feel will have the most changes in the off season, after all having disappointing seasons up until this point. Special mentions for the Cardinals and the Raiders who haven’t been much better than these 5, but for these teams the season just can’t seem to end quick enough, and they’ll go again in 2013.