The Josh McDaniels firing was a “shock” in the sense you probably didn’t see the timing of it coming. I certainly didn’t, if only because McDaniels was two years into a six-year contract and Raiders owner Mark Davis had been preaching patience when it came to his new owner and general manager. I’ve been running through all the various franchise machinations involved over the last 48 hours, including live on an emergency Pick Six podcast after the firing was announced (watch below), and a couple extra post-pod things stood out to me.
One — if you really break down all the moves the duo of McD and Dave Ziegler made since arriving in Las Vegas, well, they’re really bad. Even the Davante Adams trade — which netted them an elite receiver who produced big numbers during his first year — has been a massive bust. Especially compared to the Tyreek Hill trade the Dolphins made with the Chiefs (everyone won that deal, whereas the Packers appear to have fleeced the Raiders).
Two — and I think this one really stood out to me as an interesting hypothetical motive for the firings: What if Davis felt the ex-Pats running his franchise were completely icing him out? Davis has been involved in this franchise since taking over, much like his father. He also owns the Las Vegas Aces and recently won the second of back-to-back WNBA titles, dancing on the floor with the team. You can see how he likes to manage a franchise. I’m *guessing* here, but it would check out that McDaniels and Ziegler, coming from the Bill Belichick school of thought, don’t want their owner to be hands on.
Again, it’s just a guess. There was plenty of evidence already mounted against McDaniels and Ziegler (check out Vic Tafur’s viscous/honest breakdown at The Athletic if you haven’t — he pulls zero punches but does so politely), so my little conspiracy isn’t necessarily necessary.
But I think it makes sense. If they were essentially taking control of his team and purposely distancing his involvement in the decision-making, it would certainly have increased the pressure on his trigger finger. Factor in all the dumb, dumb stuff they did with the roster, McDaniels’ previous flameout in Denver and a huge pile of embarrassing losses, and it wouldn’t be crazy for the Raiders owner to get fed up and move on.
Backing either Kenny Pickett or Mitch Trubisky against Mike Vrabel as an underdog doesn’t bother me per se. What bothers me is backing Matt Canada, but clearly he’s discovered some endless supply of magic beans, sold his soul or is doing an incredible modern-day update of “Weekend at Bernie’s,” because the Steelers have managed to come up with some *stuff* on offense the last few weeks that they have no business really discovering. My hunch is it’s mostly Pickett freelancing during no-huddle drives and Canada playing the role of middle manager at Initech and pretending he’s not surprised when his offense does something good. Against the Titans, the Steelers should be able to move the football enough to win.
Panthers (+2.5) vs. Indianpolis
Do you believe in miracles? No, OK, fine. Do you believe in Revenge Games™️ ? Great, because this is the perfect Revenge Game™️. Frank Reich was fired midseason last year as Colts coach for Jeff Saturday. If you don’t know the details, here’s a quick download: Reich won a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator, and Saturday hadn’t coached above the high school level prior to that year. Jeff isn’t to blame, though; Jim Irsay is to blame. And Lil’ Jimmy Irsay is missing his quarterback and equipped only with Gardner Minshew. The Panthers aren’t good and the Colts aren’t bad, but Indy shouldn’t be favored here on the road. Bryce Young probably got the game ball last week, but even if Reich did I can easily picture David Tepper handing him another one, slapping him on the back and getting a good guffaw in on Irsay’s behalf.
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Ravens/Seahawks over (44)
This ends up being the highest-scoring game of the week somehow. Both teams love to get weird and chuck it around in the second half. Lamar Jackson and this Todd Monken offense is starting to click. We’re going to see an explosive game soon, especially with the Ravens defense being thin on the backend. Eugene Cyril Smith III (you know him better as Geno Smith but I digress) is, and it’s funny to write this sentence, the perfect foil, too. Think Seahawks-Lions where this thing gets into the 70s.
The Buffalo Bills are my Super Bowl pick, so I’m OK being wrong here … I just don’t think I am. The Bengals are laying less than a field goal against a banged-up rival in the AFC just as Joe Burrow is getting completely healthy, Tee Higgins is coming back, the defense is really starting to mesh and everything is going right for Cincy? Buffalo added Rasul Douglas (DNP — “just got here”) but didn’t beef up the offense, and even with Douglas added this defense has been ravaged by injury. Play two high, blitz aggressively, do whatever you want — a mobile Joey Burrrrr is gonna be locked in and carve up this injury-riddled unit. He gets up big time for Buffalo and Kansas City, and he’ll do it at home on Sunday night for sure.
The Saints aren’t good? Or are they? Maybe it doesn’t matter in this version of the NFC South. If you listened to my Wednesday hit on Audacy’s “You Better You Bet” with my good friends Ken and Nick, you would have heard Locky answer my “who are the Saints” question with (paraphrasing here): “a questionable team with bad coaching, good defense that will end up at like 8-9 and host a playoff game,” and MAN it is tough to beat that description. Walk through the Saints resume this season and you won’t come up with an answer on how they work. But the Bears are rolling out Tyson Bagent and, despite his dad’s huge muscles and his cool nickname, he’s not the answer against a quality defense like New Orleans. This one gets out of hand in the first half and doesn’t ever come back.