Week 9 of the NFL season saw several candidates vie to take Hue Jackson’s vacated spot at the top of the “which head coach will get fired next?” betting sheet. Vance Joseph and Sean McDermott rose to the top of the list last week, but each earned some small mercies in Week 10.
Sunday bore witness as McDermott rode Matt Barkley all the way to a blowout win. Joseph couldn’t screw up a bye week. That temporarily cooled their hot seats and allowed the world the opportunity to take solace in non-Bills, non-Broncos failures for the weekend.
And we got plenty of chances to take pride in their shame Sunday. The weekend was loaded with blowouts, ranging from the Saints’ 37-point de-pantsing of the Bengals to the Buccaneers’ quieter, but somehow similarly embarrassing, 16-3 defeat in Washington. So which head coach did the worst job? Here are five candidates, including admitted felon Sean Payton.
Jon Gruden’s franchise quarterback has openly given up
Gruden isn’t getting fired. He’s on the hook for nine more years and $90 million after this season, and his one true mission over the next two seasons is to build something resembling a talented young roster for the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas in 2020.
But, eesh, 2018 started off embarrassing and has only gotten worse. The Raiders have hemorrhaged star players (Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper) in their quest to rebuild, leaving Derek Carr left to cosplay as Oakland’s 2016 playoff team by his lonesome. On Sunday, the shill echo of a season spent screaming into the void finally broke him.
Down 14 in the 4th quarter Derek Carr intentionally threw it into the ground....ON 4TH AND 5 pic.twitter.com/9iF95RMnG4— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) November 11, 2018
So, how does the typically optimistic Carr feel about all this?
Derek Carr isn’t as upbeat today: “Something happened that just frustrated me ... It has nothing to do with me, but I’m not going to tell you.”— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) November 12, 2018
The Raiders locker room has become so toxic that Jordy Nelson, who has been nothing but a consummate professional over a long NFL career, was rumored to be so fed up with Oakland that he was going to outright quit football — and the rest of the world was like “yeah, alright, sounds legit.”
That wasn’t true (at least not yet), but this week’s loss to the Chargers did give us this chestnut:
One Raiders veteran to another, on his way out of the locker room past three reporters, including myself: “I gotta get the f*** outta here.”— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) November 12, 2018
Again, Gruden isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but good lord.
Todd Bowles is ... (tugs collar, sighs concernedly)
Second-year safety Jamal Adams told reporters he was “sick of losing” last week, and we all thought “hey bud, good news, the Bills are coming to town in Week 10 and bringing Matt Barkley as their starting quarterback.”
Playing Buffalo should have been a quick-fix cure to at least lift the club’s spirits for one week. Even with Sam Darnold out of the lineup due to injury, the presence of veteran backup Josh McCown made the Jets a seven-point favorite against their division rival.
And then New York took the field Sunday, stared victory in the face, and whispered “not today.”
The Jets painted the bowl against the Bills, giving up 41 points to a Buffalo team that had scored 46 total points its last six weeks. McCown regressed from “replacement-caliber starter” to “peak Ryan Mallett” in a 34-pass, 135-yard performance. The Jets defense got a solid performance from Adams (1.5 tackles for loss, two QB hits, one pass defensed) and approximately no one else while allowing Barkley, signed off the street as a free agent on Halloween, to throw for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Any progress the team had made in its 3-3 start to the 2018 season was promptly wiped away, likely taking Bowles’ chances of a fifth year at the helm with it.
At least Adams, presumably after a series of awkward talks with upper management, seems slightly less depressed this week.
Jamal Adams: "T. Bowles is not the problem. I’m going to ride with T. Bowles until the end. I don’t care what the fans say. It’s T. Bowles. I’m going to support my coach through thick and thin."— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) November 11, 2018
Dirk Koetter took over playcalling just to urinate all over the red zone
The good news is Koetter guided Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers offense to 501 total yards against NFC East leading Washington. The bad news is this somehow led to only three points in Tampa Bay’s sixth loss of the season.
The Bucs pushed six different drives into the red zone and came away with only a field goal for their troubles, being undone at different steps by interceptions (two), fumbles (two) and missed field goals (two) in a truly display of offense. While the Tampa defense limited Alex Smith and his team to just 286 total yards, the outcome of this team was never really in doubt.
It was a rough go for Koetter, who took over playcalling duties from Todd Monken and had his best laid plans derailed in a borderline impressive display of unified incompetency from his players. According to tackle Demar Dotson, the veteran coach understands the problem but also has no idea how to fix it, which probably isn’t the kind of inspirational example he was hoping to set midway through the season.
Even worse, Washington took the opportunity to turn this delightful video of Koetter throwing old man candy to reporters:
Media members..— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 8, 2018
YOU get a Bit-O-Honey and YOU get a Bit-O-Honey! pic.twitter.com/vLMIWs3IGG
Into a bit where Koetter throws “L”s into the crowd. On the plus side, the weird outrage that stemmed from Washington’s since-deleted tweet seems to taken some of the pressure from his awful 3-6 team.
On the negative side, Koetter brought the element of “what the hell is going on over there?” right back Monday when he reportedly cut kicker Chandler Catanzaro, then told reporters he hadn’t cut Catanzaro, and then, 30 minutes later, sat back as the team confirmed the kicker’s release.
Marvin Lewis is the Bengals’ ouroboros of shame
The Bengals are having an entirely Bengals year. Cincinnati is firmly in the playoff picture at 5-4, and that leaves the club in great position to make a run to the postseason and deliver the good people of southwestern Ohio the Wild Card playoff loss they’ve come to expect.
Lewis’s team had its “contender” status revoked, burned, and the ashes fed to alligators who were then skinned and turned into tacky, Bengals-themed luggage and sold at a northern Kentucky airport in a home game against the Saints. New Orleans thrashed Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium, scoring 35 first half points in a game cosplaying as ritual sacrifice.
The defeat wiped away any fond memories of early season wins against the Ravens and Falcons, but a soft back half of the schedule can still afford this team enough of a runway to get to nine wins and fulfill its destiny of a 20-point loss to the Chargers in Week 18. Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and appointed himself the defensive signal caller, and another four wills will probably be just enough to earn another inexplicable two-year contract extension.
And if he needs another fall guy once the Brown family comes calling in January? Guess what — HUE JACKSON’S BACK, BABY.
Having a hard time ranking today's LOL Bengals moments, but here we go from most LOL to least.— Rebecca Toback (@Rebecca_Toback) November 13, 2018
1. Hue Jackson back
2. Marcus Lewis quit on Bengals w/o the public knowing for weeks
3. Marvin Lewis says "watch and see" 3x in his presser
4. Marvin to be DC, too
4. Teryl Austin fired
This is all delightfully terrible, but Lewis’s greatest sin may be creating a world in which we all agree with Stephen A. Smith.
Sean Payton, fire alarm tamperer, raises questions
Payton’s philosophy of breaking things when he needs them to be quiet is probably not a great indicator of his parenting abilities.
Sean Payton said he'll gladly pay to repair the damaged fire alarm. "Clearly, we were having issues with a fire alarm. ... I just needed the noise to stop."— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) November 12, 2018
But who among us hasn’t broken something in a fit of distress in the great state of Ohio? Payton’s not getting fired unless he neglectfully allows his entire locker room to be consumed by fire, so he makes the list this week.
(but not really)