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Hue Jackson isn't Burfict: NFL Unfiltered Wildcard Playoff Edition


The bizarre ending to another Marvin Lewis playoff production masked the fact his offensive-coordinator, Hue Jackson, made the game closer than it should have been.  

Clearly, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam Jones lost their composure, and did what losers of four consecutive playoffs games do when things get tight.  But Jackson committed an equally egregious mistake because his game plan emphasized passing.  

At first glance, it made sense, since Pittsburgh finished the regular season ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, but 5th in opponent rushing yards.  

However, the stats skew the fact Cincinnati’s quarterback, A.J. McCarron, is a 2nd year backup making his fourth professional start, and they played most of the game in a driving rainstorm.  

Quickly, does anyone know what the Steelers’ defensive stats are against a backup quarterback in cold, rainy weather?  Photo: baltimoresun.com

Pretty darn good.  

Turns out the Bengals only managed 188 yards passing despite Pittsburgh’s awful regular season numbers. But in the 19 times Jackson allowed a running back to carry the football, the Bengals averaged 4.3 yards, a full half yard more than the Steelers allowed over a 16-game schedule.  

The point here isn’t to bombard you with statistical data.  It is to illustrate the fact Jackson suffers from the same affliction many coaches do.  He places far too much emphasis on scheme and places too little value on adjusting to the skill of his players, or the tenor of a particular game.  

Sound familiar?  

Regardless of what head coaches and analysts want us to believe, football isn’t complicated. It is about deciding how you want to lose. It is about understanding where you are weakest, and doing your best to prevent your opponent from exposing that weakness.  

In Cincinnati’s case, Jackson knew the elements were challenging and knew McCarron was a fill-in. He just didn’t care, at least not until the 2nd half.  

And because Jackson’s football knowledge is unquestionable, hubris is the only logical narrative for why a coach with an otherwise strong acumen, waited until his team went scoreless for two quarters before adjusting to the obvious.  

Unfortunately, Jackson is just one of many coaches who allow arrogance to dictate strategy.  And in my view, it is the primary reason they fail.  

Yet, the Cleveland Browns had no issue hiring Jackson as their head coach.

Do you think the owners and general managers of the teams that interviewed Jackson asked him why he called for 14 passes and 6 runs in the first half of McCarron’s lone playoff start?

Indeed, head coach Marvin Lewis is now 0-7 in the playoffs, and Burfict and Jones are big reasons why.  

But Jackson, and his clear need to either show everyone how smart he is, or audition for a head coaching gig, was just as harmful.  And now he's an NFL head coach.

Go figure.
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-Count Houston’s Bill O’Brien as having the “Hey, look at me” coaching disease.  Why else would he let quarterback Brian Hoyer throw the football all over the lot?  Predictably, Hoyer gave the ball away like he wagered his house on Kansas City.  When they had their first game plan meeting last week, did anyone suggest to coach O’Brien that Hoyer isn’t very good?  

-It isn’t easy to gloss over a fumble when your team has a lead with less than two minutes left in the game. But Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill might just be the biggest beneficiary of the Burfict/Jones meltdown.  

-Speaking of Hill, Hue Jackson also decided he should start ahead of Giovani Bernard.  Hill: 3.6 yards per carry and 3 fumbles in the regular season compared to Bernard’s, 4.7 yards per carry and 1 fumble. Yes, Hill is bigger, but he is by no means better.  The only reason you choose Hill over Bernard is size and if you only give Hill 6 tries, it doesn’t matter how big he is.  This is another Jackson failure.  

-Washington must decide whether quarterback Kirk Cousins  is worthy of a hefty pay raise. And because of the dearth good signal-callers, it’s just the thing owner Dan Snyder will do. Once he does, you can officially write Washington off as a serious football team.  

-That was a heartbreaking miss by Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh and it’s certainly one he should have made.  But running back Adrian Peterson spent too much time looking for a 70-yard touchdown run when 3 yards would have sufficed.  You simply cannot beat Seattle’s defense running laterally.  

-Assuming his injured foot is healthy enough to compete, look for Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart to have better success against Seattle than Peterson.  

-Many in the media judge coaching searches by the buzz surrounding a candidate and how swiftly a particular team hires him. Therefore, the perception is the Miami Dolphins did a good job by targeting former Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase and getting a deal done.  Fine, but keep in mind he doesn’t have a quarterback he can trust, and his best defensive player is as likely to get suspended for Ndamukong Suh-ing, as he is to play like an All-Pro.   

By the way, how did Gase become the “it” guy?  Supposedly, he works hard, let Peyton Manning be himself, and managed to help Jay Cutler play, like … Jay Cutler.  For that, he gets control of a 53-man roster and a hefty raise?

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.


Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Photo: baltimoresun.com