Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jaguars Hire Doug Marrone as Assistant

Doug Marrone during his tenure in Buffalo (photo via Zimbio)
Today it was announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars have hired Doug Marrone as an assistant head coach for the offense and offensive line. This comes after opting out as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills for hopes of possibly getting the head coaching nod at a more reputable organization. After the opt out, rumors swirled that in no time he would be the next ball coach for the Jets but when the Jets went with Cardinals defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, the talk surrounding Marrone deflated until today. Lesson learned: Don't opt out of a head coaching job in the NFL! To go from head coach of the Bills to an assistant job with the Jaguars without being fired is quite the turn around. 

In two seasons at Buffalo Marrone went 15-17 (.470 win %) which is subpar, but he lead the Bills to their first winning season this past year since 2004. The future looked bright in Buffalo, now it's once again up in the air. 

For Jacksonville this is a great hire. Don't be surprised if in the next season or two he actually moves up to take Gus Bradley's position as the Jaguars head coach. For Marrone I'm sure he's disappointed that he didn't land a head coaching job, but on the bright side, at least Marrone won't have to worry about apocalyptic snowstorms in Jacksonville...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Power (Curse) of 3

The 2014-2015 college football season ended with a bang as #4 Ohio State beat #2 Oregon in the National Championship. While Buckeye RB Ezekiel Elliot stole the show, it was 3rd string QB Cardale Jones who many people had their eyes on as the young man was brilliant in just his 3rd career start. However, looking ahead to next season and Ohio State head coach, Urban Meyer, will have a tough task of picking between Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, and Cardale Jones as his starting QB, that is to say they all come back. But is that decision a blessing or a curse?

Braxton Miller (photo via Bleacher Report)
The case for Braxton Miller: Braxton Miller was a very highly touted recruit coming to Ohio State and showed promise immediately tossing 13 TD's and just 4 INT's as a freshman while adding an additional 715 yards and 7 TD's on the ground. While the team struggled (finishing a 6-6 season with a loss in the Gator Bowl to Florida) the future looked bright as the Buckeyes hired Urban Meyer prior to the 2012 campaign. Despite being ineligible for the postseason, Miller made a case for the Buckeyes to be one of the best teams in the nation leading them to a 12-0 record while tossing for over 2,000 yards, running for more than 1,200 yards and amassing 28 total TD's en route to an All-Big Ten first team selection as well as winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. The sky was the limit in 2013 as the Buckeyes were a favorite to win the National Championship as they came in preseason ranked #2 and Miller was a Heisman favorite. However, Miller got injured early on in the season and all that hype quickly vanished as they dropped to #4 and stayed there for a while despite going 12-0 in the regular season. Kenny Guiton, who replaced Miller, threw for 14 TD's and just 2 INT's while running for another 5 TD's in the 8 games he saw action in during the 2013 season. He graduated and was invited to the Buffalo Bills training camp but failed to make the roster and is now playing with the Los Angeles Kiss of the Arena Football League. Miller would get healthy but lost in the Big Ten Championship to Michigan State completing just 8 of 21 passes and then would lose again in the Orange Bowl to Clemson throwing 2 INT's. There was much speculation of whether Meyer should have stuck with the hot hand at the time in Guiton but nontheless Miller finished off the season throwing for 24 TD's, 7 INT's and adding an additional 1,000+ yards and 12 TD's on the ground and again was awarded an All-Big Ten first team selection as well as Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Coming into the 2014 season with Guiton gone there was no real competition for the starting job but that changed when Miller hurt his shoulder and was deemed to miss the entire 2014 season. Enter JT Barrett.

JT Barrett (photo via ESPN)
The Case for JT Barrett: Barrett is a 6'1, 225 pound redshirt freshman who has a similar game to Miller in the respects that his mobility is very much a strong part of his game. He struggled early on as Ohio State only beat Navy 34-17 in the opener and then lost to Virginia Tech at home in a game where Barrett went 9 of 29 throwing just 1 TD and 3 INT's but more importantly all hope of winning a National Championship was lost as a tough Big Ten schedule was still to come. However, from their on out Barrett was spectacular. He threw 6 TD's following the lost to VT and then would toss 11 TD's and 0 INT's in the three games after that in wins over Cincinnati, Maryland, and Rutgers. There was even an 8 game stretch where Barrett threw 26 TD's and just 4 INT's, winning all 8 games. Late in the second half of the Michigan game, Barrett broke his ankle and Ohio State fans hearts sunk once again despite what was looking like an 11-1 season. Miller would finish off the year with over 2,800 passing yards, 34 TD's, 10 INT's, 930 rush yards, and 11 rush TD. But now it was time to turn things over to QB3. Enter 12 Gauge.

The Case for Cardale Jones: Jones is a 6'5, 250 pound monster who's arm, mobility, and size remind me of a young Jamarcus Russell - when he was in his prime...As a freshman in 2013 Jones appeared in 3 games attempting just 2 passes but running 17 times for 128 yards (7.5 YPC) and 1 TD. Prior to the Michigan game, Jones had appeared in 6 games this season completing 8 of 14 passes for 111 yards, 2 TD's and 0 INT's while running 24 times for 188 yards (7.8 YPC). His relief session for Barrett in the Michigan game went well and the Buckeyes won and were headed to a Big Ten Championship with a potential playoff appearance on the line but the questions were how would Jones fare? Jones fared just fine in his first career start completing 70% of his passes for 257 yards, 3 TD's, and maybe more importantly 0 INT's in a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin. While the numbers were impressive, there was no chance he could beat #1 Alabama and Nick Saban with a National Championship appearance on the line. But the man they call 12 Gauge for his gun of an arm did just that passing for over 240 yards and rushing for more than 40 remaining calm and collected as the Buckeyes advanced to the BCS National Championship where he was again impressive in an upset win over Oregon piling up 280 total yards and scoring 2 TD's.
Cardale Jones (photo via Buckeyextra)
So let's skip ahead to next season for a second and try to diagnose who will be QB1. Miller will be granted another year of eligibility but there are already rumors of him transferring to schools such as Florida State (assuming Winston declares) and Duke. He could enter the draft but his whereabouts of what round he would go are a bit foggy due to his health and style of play. Barrett will be a sophomore and Jones will be junior next year. I'd be surprised if they both came back to Ohio State next year because they have both proven they are starting caliber guys. Jones is draft eligible but with just 3 career starts is he NFL ready? The obvious answer might be not but he certainly has the measurables and in a weak QB class I could see a team drafting him and having him learn a system for a few years. I could see him going as early as the late-3rd round. And that money is hard to turn down, especially considering Jones has a kid at just 22 years old. He did however say that "he was not NFL ready" in an interview today but that he is still considering entering the draft. The deadline is this Thursday, January 15th so we will see what he does in these upcoming days. Barrett may be the guy you want to build a team around now as he has the most years of eligibility left and has clearly proven what he can do.

But for now, congratulations to Ohio State. Although I've had a love for the Ducks in their recent reign, I found myself rooting for Cardale Jones because what he has done is truly something we may never see again in the college football. I just wish it was any other team other than Ohio State #GoBlue!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Bills Choose Rex?

The Buffalo Bills have hired Rex Ryan (photo via Bleacher Report)
It's official, two weeks after being fired by the New York Jets, Rex Ryan is set to be the next head coach of the Jets divisional rival, the Buffalo Bills. According to multiple sources, Ryan will make $5.5 million a year for the next 5 years in Buffalo. Ryan was hired by the Jets in January of '09 and his hire looked very effective as he immediately brought an inconsistent Jets franchise to back-to-back AFC championship appearances in both '09 and '10 but lost them both. It was all downhill from there as the team hasn't made the postseason or even had a winning season since 2010 and it was clear after a 4-12 season this past year that changes had to be made. But is he the right guy for this Bills team? A team that hasn't made the playoffs in the last 15 seasons. A team that has only had 2 winning seasons in that span. A team with an unproven QB in EJ Manuel. Really, Rex Ryan is your guy to change all that around? 

Now I am no anti-Rex guy, in fact I'm a fan of the 52 year old coach. I became a huge proponent of his philosophy and passion for the game after watching the 2010 Hard Knocks, an HBO Series that follows an NFL team around for the entire preseason. But going by the facts, I'm just not sold on the fit with the Bills. First off, in order to win this division, you have to be able to beat the Patriots who have won the division 12 of the past 14 seasons including winning the past 6 seasons. I believe the Patriots will be the team to beat in this division until the day Brady and Belichick are split up, and with the way things are looking right now, I think that could be well more than the 5 season span that Ryan will be under contract for in Buffalo. In Ryan's 6 seasons with the Jets, he posted a poor 3-9 (.250 win %) record against Belichick and the Pats. However, he does have 1 postseason win against the Pats in the 2010 divisional round, but that seems like forever ago. Now lets agree that the Jets will be in the rebuilding stage the next few years but that still leaves the Dolphins left in the AFC East. The 'Phins are a team that can't seem to get over the hunch and deep into the playoffs but I am a strong believer in the Philbin-Tannehill coach-QB combo. It's worth mentioning that Ryan's record against the Dolphins is also sub .500 at 5-7 (.416 win %). 

So does Ryan really have the best track record in this division to lead the Bills to a Super Bowl appearance? He'll take over a team with a strong defense anchored by DE Mario Williams and a young offense lead by the explosive young WR Sammy Watkins. Lets give him some time to be fair, but I'll be very curious to see how this ends up working for Buffalo.