- The NFL season is an unpredictable beast, yet every year we attempt to predict what the overarching storylines might be ... and we did nail a few! (Christian McCaffrey, Jon Gruden...) So at the midpoint of 2018, we look back on what we were wrong about.
Coaches take the bye week, or any downtime around the mid-season mark, to evaluate themselves—Self-scouting, they call it. For those aware enough to recognize their own deficiencies, it can be a wonderfully productive exercise.
While many of my co-workers in this industry would benefit from a similar peek into their psyche, it’s far easier to keep barreling along at the speed of their own voices. I, however, am ready to look at some things I got wrong in 2018.
Last year around this time, I tallied up some regrettable blogs from 2017. I was wrong about the Browns. I was wrong about the Giants. I was wrong about the Patriots going undefeated.
Will the Steelers be able to recover from all this chaos?
Mike Tomlin is a good coach, guys. Pittsburgh at large may forever compare him to Bill Cowher and, for some reason, believe that Cowher is markedly better in some intrinsic, unshakable way. The reality of the situation? Tomlin has handled a troika of mercurial superstars better than just about any coach I can imagine. He does not have the traditional locker room leader at quarterback, despite that quarterback having more than a decade of experience. His running back and offensive linchpin opted to turn down a contract extension and essentially pass on the season. His star receiver had multiple temper tantrums. And yet, here we are. Le’Veon Bell has been replaced. Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to throw for roughly 5,000 yards and Antonio Brown is expected to shatter his career high in touchdowns. Life is good.
Pat Shurmur and the Giants are ready to win now
Hit a few snags here, including the observation that Pat Shurmur seemed unflappable in public situations. Turns out, one has to pinball a little bit before ironing things out in New York. The fatal flaw here was over-estimating the presence of Nate Solder on that woebegone offensive line. In theory, this was a better Giants team than the 2016 playoff team that lost to Green Bay in Lambeau. In practice, they cannot give their offense enough time to develop whatever Shurmur’s offensive vision is. While I didn’t think Odell Beckham would all of a sudden morph into a traditional, milquetoast locker room leader type after signing his megadeal, I also did not anticipate him launching an M80 into the locker room after four weeks.
Could this be the season that sinks the NFL?
I still maintain that there is a section of the multiverse in which our president is still railing against toughness in the NFL and protests against social injustice in America. Turns out, in our current reality, he went in a different direction to manufacture a clamor before midterm elections. Still, I think the NFL was legitimately at a crossroads before this season. I wrote about a month later that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may have saved them from some legitimately dark times. The truth is, it wasn’t just Mahomes. Offensive minds have finally been able to leverage the overwhelming advantages they were given through years of rule alterations. Whomever was left finger-wagging at the NFL for their previous sins is now so fat and happy on white-knuckle, high-scoring affairs that there’s no room to complain. Sure, it isn’t your dad’s NFL. But it’s way better.
I even did that thing where I talked about how he couldn’t catch passes. Whoops!
NOW ON THE MMQB: The Waterboy came out 20 years ago yesterday. On a strange movie, and why it still resonates with football fans everywhere. … Where do the NFL’s owners, GMs and coaches donate their political money? ... On Cleveland’s meltdown, and the fallout from Hue.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: The unexpected and surprising storylines of 2018. ... How much longer will Jerry Jones hold his tongue in Dallas? ... Why you should get on the Marquez Valdes-Scantling train now.
1. After getting Wally Pipp’ed, Le’Veon Bell is unsure what the next move will be.
3. The Saints are following up a victory that completely legitimizes their current roster by … signing Dez Bryant maybe?
4. Should Aaron Donald run away with the 2018 DPOY?
5. So far, Kirk Cousins doesn’t regret that move to Minnesota. And who knows if he’s even been to pizzeria Lola yet?
6. The Demaryius Thomas trade was rubber stamped by none other than Wes Welker.
7. Troy Aikman goes all in on the Cowboys
A friendly reminder: Every generation thinks it’s the end of the world.