I never really know what I’m going to type when I start typing…just a few notes on an index card. Sometimes, I slip into a stream of (un)consciousness and veer off into the weeds. This is one of those recaps. Enjoy, if you can make any sense out of it…
Green Bay came into this game as 14-point underdogs, but took a lead early on and then tied the game 28-28 with 2+ minutes left and eventually fell to the Steelers on a last second FG…a 53-yard FG, because 50+ yard FGs are not possible at Heinz Field.
What I want to touch on is this narrative, pushed mostly by Colin Cowherd, who I love, that the Steelers are faulty based on the notion that they ‘almost’ lost to Green Bay and ‘almost’ lost the Colts the week prior…and the real reason they’re faulty is because Mike Tomlin is a terrible coach with no plan who just uses emotions and is lucky he has ‘stars’ to get him by…because he’s terrible.
First, off…is anyone ever happy with anything in football? Good Lord…one week the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in football the next week a Patrick Mahomes revolution is underway. One of the reasons the NFL is arguably the worst run business in all of America is because of us whiny fans/the whiny media (and me) -- and thus a reactionary to all then whininess by the coaches, GM, and ownership.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 18-2 in their last 20 regular-season games…BUT they aren’t winning by a lot/the way some want them to/by 50+ points every game right now so BOO FREAKIN HOO. You wish your NFL team was 18-2 in their last 20 games. You wish your NFL team was 9-2 and considered one of the three best teams in football.
Mike Tomlin isn’t ‘doing football’ the same dull way every two-bit hack NFL coach or NFL analyst is used to, so they squawk about it…WHEN THEY LOSE…or WHEN THEY DON’T WIN BY A LOT. What is so wrong with what Tomlin is doing? These damn cellphones and the kids and their texting, why don’t they just talk to people like we used to do? They probably would talk to more people but they’re too busy ordering off of Amazon and creating all kinds of other new, better technologies and businesses putting Sears, J.C. Penney, taxi services, etc., out to pasture with fresh ideas. Mike Tomlin is letting starts be stars…how terrible. I know fans and especially the media wants to worship at the altar of old, rugged NFL coaches but have you listened to any ex-head coach on any sports TV, radio, etc., and ever marveled at what they had to say about anything pregame/post-game? Sure, they have a great behind-the-scenes story or two…but in actual football strategy and player analysis, you have as much understanding as they do…probably more/deeper awareness as a fantasy aficionado.
Mike Tomlin should be credited with looking at his situations, and deciding to get the ball to his playmakers over and over, even if you know it’s coming. I see Antonio Brown’s and Le’Veon Bell’s numbers…apparently they’re able to thrive despite everyone knowing it’s coming. So, why not just lean on talent over playbook? Who said ‘playbook’ and ‘stocism’ is the key to NFL coaching success. Tomlin is proving right now it’s not the only way.
So, what if Mike Tomlin is ‘looking ahead’ to the Patriots? What’s it to you, media? You know I bet the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills say all the right things every week…and none of them have won the AFC East in over a decade…but THEY DO IT THE RIGHT WAY. Child, please. Credit Tomlin for trying a different path than the 31 other NFL coaches. Credit Tomlin for passing the ball late in games instead of telegraphing running plays to wind the clock down. Credit Tomlin for ‘going for two’ early games more than any other team (which is easy because all of them are piss-their-pants afraid to do so). Credit Tomlin for acknowledging a big Patriots game ahead that we all, and his players know, is coming. How could the Steelers not be looking ahead?
I’m sure Tomlin is not sitting in the meeting room talking all Patriots this week and forgetting prep for Cincy. He’s just acknowledging the obvious…and likely stoking his team. Hell, doesn’t every team clamor about how it’s all about winning the Super Bowl in the preseason? Aren’t they already looking 20 games ahead?
The criticism of Tomlin is a window into the soul of the criticizer. No one can look at Tomlin’s recent record and not marvel/pay respect…but many do not. They pick at certain plays or strategies that didn’t work. They pick at the fact that they can’t beat the Patriots. Hey, you know who else can’t beat the Patriots? Every team on the planet…for most of a decade. Worst case, how can you be bad at what you do if you’re the second best in the world at it? I know…if you ain’t first you’re last…
I hope two teams win the Super Bowl, actually make that three…
Dallas…because I picked them, so I’ll look smart if they do and that’s a priority.
LA Rams…because I want the NFL world to be humiliated by a 30-year old rookie head coach taking over a dog-s team and taking them right to the title year one.
Pittsburgh…because they let stars be stars, and they take more on-field, in-game chances AT WINNING than any other team in the NFL. All the other teams play NOT TO LOSE. Not the Steelers. Sometimes they will still lose, but not for lack of coaching effort. You know all those ‘sit on a lead’ strategies…those guys lose too…a lot…a lot more than the Steelers recently.
You know what will happen if the Steelers crush the Patriots Week 15? Nothing. People have already made their mind up about Mike Tomlin and the job he’s doing. He’d have to beat the Patriots a second-time in the playoffs to even move the needle…and then if they went on and lost in the Super Bowl it will be back to criticism.
I took a class on goal-setting and achieving last year. The premise/problem to overcome – we set goals way too high, and then we inevitably fail/get off track early on, and then we beat ourselves up over it and then we seem so far behind that we give up quickly and figure we’re defective and never going to achieve said goal so we quit. Then we turn around and expect our kids and our NFL teams to hold to that higher standard, and then piss and moan when they don’t achieve OUR impossible standard.
The problem isn’t always the person…it’s the way the goal is set and how progress is tracked along the way.
We do it in fantasy football too…which is crazy because how the hell can you perfectly predict what direction random marbles are going to roll in every week? You can’t win every week. Even if you do…not every player is going to ‘go off’ every week. We only think our opponent’s players do that…and only when they play us. Play to win…and sometimes you’ll lose, but with enough patience and skill…you’ll win more than you lose. Picking the wrong player to sit/start should not make you have an aneurysm.
I have a number of clients and fantasy friends that play in like 40+ fantasy leagues of all kinds + do daily stuff, etc. They don’t go into the fantasy season thinking they’re going to go 40-for-40 winning titles. They bake in that they need to win/place 20% or so of their leagues to win enough prizes to cover all their entry fees in order to turn a sweet profit. NFL handicapping is like 56% to breakeven/start turning a profit. Yet, everyone in 1-3 fantasy leagues thinks they’re going to win every league every week…and they go insane/get depressed and ready to change everybody when they lose and euphoric when they win.
You can’t win at fantasy every week. Mike Tomlin may never beat the Patriots. But that doesn’t mean you’re not a well-informed, great fantasy GM or that Tomlin is a bad coach. Because you play fantasy differently than everyone else in the league…you’re not a lunatic. You adjust and keep fighting. You play to win and not be afraid or become melancholy to lose.
The past 2-3 years, I have run about 50% on actual betting of football games. I’ve received a number of emails from members of the audience the past 2-3 years asking me to stop doing the handicapping segments/picking games…because I obviously wasn’t figuring anything out with my computer models. They had followed some advice from our ‘picks’ in a given week or two or three and lost a big bet or series of bets or an office pool, etc., and then emailed in to tell me to stop prognosticating games because I wasn’t very good at it.
Week 1 of this season, a person I did not know emailed me and told me ‘nice job picking games’ (I had like a .500 week) and that I was ‘terrible at what I do and should be fired’. It was written in a manner where I felt like I might need to contact the authorities.
What if I gave up my handicapping studies because my last 2-3 seasons were average? What if I stopped pursuing my insane dream to build a computer model to help me handicap games for a profit? What if I quit tinkering because of the criticism or down results? I would not have hit gold in 2017 with a you-can’t-touch-this and you never will 75.0% on Blazing Five predictions. Sometimes the losses help us learn how to win big later. That sounds like hippy-talk…but it’s true.
In the face of 75% handicapping success on selected games, the email or chat I get the most with people now is – you know it won’t last. People are saying the same to Tomlin, I’m sure.
Mike Tomlin is doing things differently than all other head coaches…he has his own unique style. It’s working pretty well it seems. I’m not going to tear him down because he’s not ‘doing it’ like Belichick. No one does…that’s why he’s superior. No one has been able to out-Belichick Belichick, so Tomlin is going to try to out-Tomlin him.
For the sake of letting the stars shine, and that it might topple the ancient coaching axioms…I hope the Steelers vanquish the Patriots because it will be a small step for Tomlin and a big old step for man/coaching kind.
What do I know?
Where was I? Oh, the Steelers won again and have a big game coming up in a few weeks. I’ll probably tune in if I’m not too busy.
Speaking of stars being stars…Green Bay is praying to every god they can think of that Aaron Rodgers comes back Week 15 and saves their season -- because systems and playbooks matter so much, right? If Green Bay beats Tampa Bay this week (at Cleveland the following week)…the Packers just might get their wish of a miracle run to the playoffs.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- So, Brett Hundley (17-26 for 245 yards, 3 TD/0 INT)…not so bad, huh?
Still, I’m not impressed.
I’m watching him in detail so maybe I can be spared from the humiliation of calling him the best QB prospect of 2015, better than Winston-Mariota…but I’m not seeing any evidence Hundley is making a turn; despite this great stat line.
Hey, the way Mariota and Winston are playing…I might be right after all, no?
Hundley was not as bad as his stat line the prior week vs. Baltimore (0 TD/3 INTs, and got shutout), and he’s not as great as his sweet stat line here. He is getting better…he’s getting more comfortable. Had he been pushed in the same manner as Winston-Mariota from day one, then today, we might have a decent QB we all don’t care about like Winston-Mariota too.
In his last 4 games, but ignore the Ravens debacle for a moment...in three of his last 4 – Hundley is completing 68.5% of his passes, has 4 TDs/0 INTs, and averaged 231 yards passing per game…along with 14.7 yards rushing per game with 1 rushing TD…5 TDs total in those three games. Not horrible.
Hundley has had five ‘real’ starts this season…5 TDs/7 INTs. Winston’s first five starts in the NFL…6 TDs/7 INTs. I realize it’s apple and orangutangs but let me at least take Winston down with me.
I will say this…down 7 points and embarking on a final drive, Hundley stepped up on the road and drove the team on a 12-play, 6:40 drive to tie the game. In the red zone, on 4th and 6 from the Steelers 12-yard line, Hundley hit Davante Adams with a bullet for a first-down. Hundley may not be mechanically stellar, but with a rocking stadium in a do-or-die spot, Hundley delivered.
Don’t write him off yet, but also I’m not seeing anything to get Trubisky-Garoppolo-Goff excited about.
-- Missing Aaron Rodgers half the season+, Davante Adams (5-82-1/8) is proving he’s not just a creation of Aaron Rodgers.
Maybe Tyreek Hill didn’t hit WR1 status as our collective 3rd-4th round redraft pick but how about Adams as a 4th-5th-round redraft grab to go-with? Adams is currently #9 in PPG among all fantasy WRs.
-- Jamaal Williams (21-66-1, 4-69-1/5) had two TDs but I didn’t see any ‘wow’. He’s serviceable and got touches. If Aaron Jones is back this week, they’ll likely be in a hot hand situation.
Williams playing solidly. Jones returning… When Ty Montgomery returns it will probably be a confusing cluster to try to play week-to-week for fantasy.
-- Le’Veon Bell (20-95-0, 12-88-0/14) is great, but it’s odd seeing the lack of rushing TDs and the poor yards per carry (3.9 YTD). Four of his last 5 games have been under 4.0 ypc in each game. He has 2 rushing TDs in his last 7 games, and 5 rushing TDs total…on pace for 7.2 TDs this season.
At the same time, Bell’s rushing numbers are sagging a touch…Big Ben’s (33-45 for 351 yards, 4 TDs/2 INTs) passing numbers are rising after a dreadful start to the season.
Mike Tomlin usually rolls with what’s working. Last year, Bell was rushing 30+ times a game and dominating…opponent’s couldn’t stop him. This year, they are…so, Tomlin is getting Bell more passing game work and throwing more in general, even in goal-line situations.
-- How about Blake Martinez (15 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT, 1 FR)? He has moved up to #4 among all IDP linebackers in fantasy PPG this season. Our #1/#2 linebacker scouted in 2016…and rated well ahead of Reggie Ragland. Remember, when Ragland was every football analysts top 10 overall player for the 2016 draft? A year later Ragland was dumped on the Chiefs instead of cutting him.
Scouting is a science.
Martinez should be a Pro Bowl player this year, but probably won’t be.
Ragland will be out of football in a few years.
-- One last note… The Packers DST faces the Browns Week 14. It’s NOWHERE near the Chargers play we proposed a few weeks ago. I’m just mentioning it for those who might be in need. The Packers defense isn’t great but it’s not horrible…and the Browns can make everyone look good.
Snap Counts of Interest…
74 = A. Brown
58 = M. Bryant
55 = Eli Rogers
52 = Jordy
48 = Adams
38 = Cobb
39 = Kevin King
26 = Josh Jones (6 tackles)