Before we get to the footbaw, I must give credit to Barry Petchesky for covering the most important story currently appearing in North America. (Admittedly, I don’t think even the top team in the Western Conference would have been able to pull off that comeback if Gritty were allowed to make road trips.) The only two things to add are that 1)despite the inordinate number of 3rd period comebacks the Flames are a top possession team, and 2)Rittich is now in the top 10 in Sv%; I have no idea whether he can keep anything like that up, but they’re only fated to have bad goaltending if they keep kidding themselves that Smith can still play.
Anyway, to move to the matters of less widespread appeal Barnwell has a good roundup of the progress rookies have made so far (Jets fans will obviously feel a little better about Darnold after yesterday, while Mayfield wasn’t great but hung in OK against a very tough defense.) The massive improvement Mayfield showed after Hue and Haley were cashiered, combined with yesterday’s win, brings up this interesting counterfactual:
If Sashi Brown had won the power struggle with Hue Jackson and had this coaching staff in place for the start of the season, he might be in the running for Executive of the Year.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 16, 2018
If Hue had been replaced by an NFL-caliber coach after last season, would the Browns have made the playoff this year? My guess, particularly given how weak the second AFC wildcard is likely to be, is “probably.”
And while it’s true that the 1st rounders have struggled at times, it’s also worth noting that the return on high-priced free agents this year was also pretty underwhelming. Admittedly, there’s been some bad luck involved. The Snyders would still be in the division hunt if Smith had stayed healthy, and the Broncos have been better than their record and have lost some close games to good teams, although Keenum himself looks good only in comparison to the other QBs John Elway has recently taken a shine to.
THE IMPUDENT MAYFIELD IS BUT A FALSE ELWAY. BELIEVE NOT IN HIM, INSTEAD, HAVE FAITH THAT I SHALL DELIVER MINE BRONCOS WITH JOURNEYMEN AND FAVOR'D NEPHEWS.
— ANGRY STORM GOD ELWAY (@MikeTanier) December 16, 2018
But even so, if the gambles had worked it would have only been in the “eked into a wildcard round loss to save our phony-baloney jobs for another year” sense. If Darnold or Rosen is a bust, at least you took a risk with some real upside.