It’s a tradition as old as time, the NFL season ends and the firings begin. It may seem morbid, but the NFL’s Black Monday is actually a positive moment for fans.
Admittedly, not so much for coaches and their families, but eh, that’s how the game goes. An NFL coach’s life is sort of like that quote from that Batman movie, you either retire as a hero, or you draft badly long enough to become an idiot.
For fan bases that have been watching their expectations go from good to bad to awful to straight-up despair, this week is usually the first step towards regaining hope. But this season, it’s not that simple.
I really wanted to be able to start over with the Texans, but firing David Culley now after he got a supremely untalented team to play hard for him every week down the stretch just seems vindictive. He was always going to be a one-year band-aid because no one else with a head coaching past or future would have taken that job last year, but is this really a better job now?
That’s going to depend on trading Deshaun Watson, getting some good pieces in place in the draft, and finding a coach who can deal with a front office that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional.” I doubt they’re going to attract a name coach like Josh McDaniels without giving him some kind of input on the roster, or at least allowing him to keep certain members of management away from those decisions.
And by the way, what’s up with waiting four days to fire Culley? Did something change from Sunday afternoon until Thursday? Did they find him making personal copies on the Texans official Xerox machine, or stealing office supplies? You know, even on “Love Connection,” Chuck Woolery just gave you one date, he didn’t say “Well, you’ve had four days to consider your options, do you want to go out again?”
The Jaguars are in the same place, although they have their franchise quarterback. At least, they hope they do. The Bears and Raiders are in the same boat, strong fanbases with questionable front offices and guys they think are their quarterbacks, or at least guys they’re not ready to replace yet. Minnesota had some success, but also failed a lot of big questions centered around some semi-reasonable expectations.
Miami’s question centers around quarterback, and whether they’re going to gut their draft picks and trade for Deshaun Watson, so that’s a question a new coach will want answered before he hires a U-Haul. Denver has the misfortune of playing Patrick Mahomes and Justin Hebert twice a year, combined with the fact they haven’t drafted a quarterback worth keeping since 1983.
And then there’s the Giants. Hoo-boy. The Giants gave their head coach the old “vote of confidence,” then watched Joe Judge treat the last two games like George Costanza trying to get fired from the Yankees. After calling a quarterback sneak in the wrong Red Zone last week, he had to go, and he leaves behind a team that has just enough talent to drive a General Manager crazy deciding whether or not to keep them.
Luckily, the Giants don’t have one of those either.
Now on to the picks.
I wound up week eighteen at 5-3, and also 5-3 against Vegas. That makes me 73-43 straight up, and 58-55-2 against Vegas. In my defense, I forgot that the last week of the regular season is basically a preseason game for most teams. In my time here at the paper, I am now 309-185-2 picking games, and 371-342-15 against Vegas, which sounds a lot better than it actually is, mathematically speaking. As always, these are for the purposes of comedic discussion only. No wagering.
Las Vegas (+5.5) at Cincinnati: The last time the Bengals won a playoff game, “Home Alone” was the number one movie in the country. And ironically, Joe Burrow looks a lot more like a grown-up Kevin than Macaulay Culkin does at this point.
Pick: Bengals to win and cover, winning by six or more.
New England (+4) at Buffalo: Longtime readers may notice I always pick the Patriots to beat the Bills. The reason for that is a simple one. I’m a Bills fan. If you see something happen over and over again for twenty years, you kind of assume it’s going to stay that way until enough evidence swings the other way to change your expectations. This theorem is also why I stopped watching Nicolas Cage movies in 2005.
Pick: Patriots to win it outright.
I’ll be back Sunday with the rest of the picks, where I’ll also spend the day feeling really old because those Cowboys-49ers NFC Championship games I remember so well are now more than twenty-five years ago. Good luck everybody.