Black Quarterback: The New Year New Future Episode
By Brandon Simmons
Is Gruden on the Longest Hot Seat Ever?
After Week 17, there will be teams firing coaches left and right and had it not been for his 10 year contract, we might be the saying the same thing about Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden made his return to Oakland this year and it has not been the red headed magic they were hoping for. The Raiders went 4-12 and lost 2 of their best players, wide receiver Amari Cooper and linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack. Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a hefty load of draft picks while Cooper was also dealt for a first rounder, right before the trade deadline. All of this occurred while the Raiders struggled on offense and in pass rushing, which drew the criticism from the entire league.
The bottom line is the Raiders fans were expecting immediate gratifying results and did not get them. Instead, Gruden took this year as a clean out year for his own sake, and build his own squad, which is understandable, especially if he was given that long of a contract. However, starting next year, every season will have to be an improvement, until they are competing for a championship. The team is set to be moved to Las Vegas in 2020 but their fans would like to have at least one more winning season before then. It’s bad enough there is no solid place for them to play in 2019, now they must be patient through all the questionable moves made. They are going to expect a lot to come from these transactions in a very quick fashion. And if the fan base is putting the pressure on Gruden, then management will not be far behind.
The Future is Now for Baltimore and Cleveland
Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns represented something a lot more than the AFC North battle; this was the future stars of the league being put on display that they have arrived. The Pittsburgh Steelers, led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger – a staple at QB of the last 15 years – had their playoff hopes rest in the hands this season’s number one draft pick, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns had to beat the Baltimore Ravens, led by rookie quarterback and fellow first round pick, Lamar Jackson.
A lot has been said about this year’s rookie quarterback class, but this game really put things into perspective. It’s been a long time since the terms “big game” and “Cleveland Browns” were put together but here they were, about to change up the playoff landscape with their young QB. However, the Ravens were right there to stop that narrative with their own young signal caller, whom they gave the keys to earlier this year to take over the position.
The Browns and Ravens are in pretty good spots to build a future for their young QB’s. Cleveland started seeing much progress after inserting Mayfield into the lineup, as well as a coaching change. The Ravens put Jackson in after Joe Flacco got injured but decided to stay with the hot hand and ride into the playoffs. These two teams may have found their quarterbacks for the next 10 years, and today was just the beginning of that journey.
The Peril of Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers got bounced out of the playoffs in a manner fitting for their season. It was a Cleveland Browns’ non-win that got them beat, just like it was a non-win that got them into this predicament. If they did not tie with the Browns earlier this year, they may have been at the top of the division, while the Ravens helplessly watched their playoff hopes flush away.
But it’s hard to really blame it on a tie when so many other things did not go their way. The team did not have Le’Veon Bell due to a contract dispute. Despite the rise of rookie running back James Connor, the Steelers still finished 31st in the league rushing. The more crucial blows to their postseason hopes came later in the year. At the end of November, they went on a 3-game losing streak, which included losses to the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, 2 teams they should have easily beaten. In their Week 16 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled away a catch as they were storming down the field in the last 2 minutes.
Up until those late season moments, the Steelers looked like a strong Super Bowl contender but could not capitalize on their successes. They beat the New England Patriots at home, went on the road to beat the Ravens and only a secured catch away from possibly beating the New Orleans Saints. Still, as evidenced by yesterday’s events, they did everything a contender is supposed but still didn’t succeed in getting their playoff goal.
Marvin Lewis Finally Out…What Now?
After 16 years, the Cincinnati Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis are no more. The team fired the coach Monday morning after 3 straight seasons of missing the playoffs, following 5 straight years of making the postseason. However, none of those postseason appearances culminated into wins, which brought his overall playoff record with Cincinnati to 0-7. Granted, he was an upgrade to what the Bengals were dealing with in previous years, but at some point, it was time to take that next step.
So what should the Bengals do next in their coaching search? Their main priority should be finding someone who can elevate this offense. The past 3 years they have finished 24th, 26th and 17th in points while finishing 13th, 32nd and 26th in yards. Their defense has not been spectacular either finishing 32nd just last season as well. However, in this era, you need to score points to win games more than worrying about stopping offenses powered by innovative schemes and rulebooks. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has 2 years left on his contract and wide receiver A.J. Green has only one. The team could be poised for a rebuilding era pretty soon and might get a younger coach to work with a young, rookie QB they can build for the future.
We have arrived to the NFL Playoffs for 2019 and every matchup looks salivating for this weekend. Black Quarterback will be doing its Playoff Preview, where I’ll break down each of this weekend’s matchups. One of those games that you can look forward to is the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Los Angeles Chargers. The Ravens beat the Chargers 22-10 in L.A. in Week 16 by busting up Chargers QB Philip Rivers, holding him to 181 yards and sacking him 4 times. It was an impressive win on the road for Baltimore led by their rookie quarterback. However, the Chargers will seek to get revenge by winning on the road, such as they have done against the Steelers and Chiefs a few weeks prior. The Chargers defense will be coming with their best fight all year to avenge that Week 16 defeat but until then…I’ll holla!
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