You might remember that strange report from March. Foles got four years and $88 million by the Jacksonville Jaguars even though there was no other team that seemed to be in the running. The reason that was floated through the media was that the Jaguars didn’t want to lowball him because they wanted him to be seen as a leader in the locker room. Sure.
It wouldn’t have mattered at all if Foles played well. The Jaguars turned the page from Blake Bortles and hoped Foles would be the answer. They had to figure that an upgrade at quarterback would bring everything together.
Nobody knew in March that by Week 13, Jaguars fans would be chanting for Foles to get benched for a rookie sixth-round pick. The Jaguars could have saved themselves a lot of money had they seen that coming.
Foles was benched in a horrific 28-11 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gardner Minshew II, who became a cult hero as Foles was out with a collarbone injury, started the second half after the Jaguars fell behind 25-0. The Jaguars’ season is done and there’s really no reason to turn back to Foles now.
Doug Marrone’s decision to turn back to Foles was reasonable, and it is also likely to cost him his job. Minshew struggled in a loss to the Houston Texans in London, the Jaguars were 4-5 going into a bye, and Foles was healthy enough to return. The Jaguars didn’t pay $88 million for Foles to be a backup. So Foles got the job back, and the Jaguars promptly lost three in a row to effectively end their season.
Like the decision to sign Foles, the decision to start him again didn’t seem egregious at the time but certainly didn’t work out.
It’s hard to believe that the Jaguars were on the verge of a Super Bowl just a couple seasons ago. Nothing has gone right since they blew that second-half lead to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. And now the Jaguars face an offseason that could include a major overhaul. The Jaguars can’t do much about Foles, who got more than $50 million guaranteed (this is where we point out again the Jaguars were telling people they purposely overpaid Foles because they were worried how he’d be perceived in the locker room). Marrone is on thin ice at best after another horribly disappointing season. The team already traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey, probably its best player, after an early season debacle when Ramsey felt disrespected. A team that looked like it was on the rise has fallen apart at the seams. Things change fast in the NFL.
Whatever happens with Foles now will be a significant story in Jacksonville. Foles has had one of the strangest careers ever. He had an all-time great season with the Eagles in 2013, fell off the map for a few years and almost retired, returned to the Eagles and led them to a Super Bowl after Carson Wentz was hurt, led the Eagles back to the playoffs and a postseason win last season after another Wentz injury, and now is looking like he might be one of the bigger free-agent busts in NFL history for the Jaguars. Try finding another NFL odyssey that compares to Foles’ journey.
We’ll have plenty of time to evaluate Foles’ incredibly strange career. There are more pressing issues in Jacksonville, like what to do with its benched $88 million quarterback and how much different the franchise will look in 2020 after the bottom once again fell out this season.
Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 13 NFL action:
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs aren’t necessarily back on track because they beat the Oakland Raiders, but Sunday was a reminder of their top gear.
The Chiefs destroyed the Raiders in Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes is healthy and made some nice throws, though the Chiefs led by so much that he didn’t need to throw it much. The defense completely shut down the Raiders, and scored itself on a pick-six.
A division title hasn’t been in much doubt, though the Raiders momentarily looked like they might make the Chiefs sweat. Kansas City had bigger plans anyway. It’s not impossible they could get hot when it matters. The Ravens look great and the Patriots are always tough, but the Chiefs are scary too, especially if the defense plays anywhere near like it did Sunday. At very least, we shouldn’t count on a Ravens-Patriots AFC title game quite yet.
Justin Tucker: Don’t forget in the hoopla over the Baltimore Ravens that they have a weapon on special teams too.
Tucker is a phenomenal kicker, and the Ravens could trust him in terrible conditions on Sunday. In a 17-17 game Baltimore got close enough for Tucker, who didn’t seem worried at all by a 49-yard attempt in the rain as time expired. He nailed it and the Ravens won 20-17 in a hard-fought game over the previously 10-1 San Francisco 49ers.
Fox said that it was Tucker’s 14th game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime, and his 38th straight successful field goal in the fourth quarter. His teammates lifted him up on their shoulders after the kick went through. Any other team might be nervous about a long field goal attempt in bad conditions, but as soon as Lamar Jackson converted a fourth-and-1 to about midfield with less than five minutes to go, everyone knew they didn’t need much more to give Tucker a shot.
The Ravens have an MVP favorite in Jackson and a very good offense. The defense has been remarkable for weeks. And they have the best kicker in the game too.
Dallas Cowboys and Jason Garrett: Despite all the angst about the Cowboys and Garrett likely losing his job, they’re still in the worst division in the NFL.
The Giants and Redskins haven’t been factors since September, and the Philadelphia Eagles are awful too. They lost to the Dolphins on Sunday, allowing 37 points to a team that has looked inept on offense at times this season. The Cowboys are desperately trying to give away the NFC East title, and the Eagles are totally incapable of taking it.
Not that a division title would save Garrett’s job, but it at least gives him a chance to make a playoff run. And the Cowboys look like they’ll still win the division by default. The Eagles look terrible, and they’re 5-7. Theoretically they could still win the division by beating the Cowboys at home in Week 16, but they don’t look like the type of team that can beat anyone right now. And the Cowboys are thankful for that.
Derrius Guice: It took a while, but Guice finally showed the talent the Washington Redskins thought they were getting in the draft.
The Redskins scored a 29-21 upset over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday — thanks to a goal-line stand in the final minute — and Guice was the star. Guice had 129 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. It was the first 100-yard game of Guice’s career, and he showed remarkable strength and explosion on many of his runs.
It was a long time coming. Guice missed his rookie season after Washington drafted him in the second round, due to a torn ACL. He had a few setbacks with the ACL. He then went on injured reserve after the first game this season with another knee injury. When he returned, Washington slowly brought him back. He still didn’t get enough opportunities on Sunday, he just took advantage of them.
Guice’s talent was on full display Sunday. If he can stay healthy, he can be a star and a rare bright spot for Washington.
Zac Taylor, Andy Dalton and the Bengals: Taylor made a mistake to bench Andy Dalton so early in the season. He at least deserves some credit for admitting his mistake and going back to Dalton.
That decision will keep the Bengals off a list nobody wants to be on.
There will be no 0-16 team in the NFL this season, thanks mostly to the Jets (oh yes, we’ll get to them in a moment). The Jets, who lost to the 0-7 Dolphins earlier this season, lost 22-6 to the 0-11 Bengals on Sunday. In fact, the Bengals crushed the Jets, who were never in the game. Dalton played pretty well, and it must have felt like redemption after he was benched in a lost season that wasn’t his fault. Taylor isn’t Don Shula because he fixed an obvious mistake, but at least he got to experience a win as an NFL head coach. He even got a Gatorade bath at the end.
Now the Bengals just have to make sure they don’t screw up and win too much, blowing the No. 1 overall pick. But they’re off the 0-16 watch, and that’s not too bad.
Adam Gase: CBS had a fun stat on Sunday: No team in NFL history had lost to two teams that were at least 0-7 in the same season.
It’s not that fun of a stat if you’re a Jets fan, and it underscores that the franchise still is spinning its wheels.
Sunday was an absolute, utter embarrassment for the Jets and Gase. They were awful against a Bengals team that had been the NFL’s worst all season. Gase’s offense was incompetent against a Bengals defense that had given up yards and points out like Thanksgiving leftovers. Sam Darnold continued his maddening inconsistency by laying an egg against the Bengals. Whatever slight momentum the Jets had is clearly gone.
The Jets have already said Gase will return, but it would be hard to find anyone who is optimistic about that working out. Gase was a bad coach in Miami and might be even worse with the Jets so far. You could call the loss to the Bengals a low point, except the Jets hadn’t had a similar low point against an 0-7 Dolphins team a few weeks ago.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings might be the best team in the NFC North, but schedules matter too.
The Packers played at a horrible Giants team on Sunday and blew them out 31-13. Aaron Rodgers looked fantastic in a nice bounce-back game. There has been little in-between for Rodgers this season; he has either looked like his old MVP self or been surprisingly quiet. Sunday was a good day against a bad defense. He had four touchdowns and no interceptions. When Rodgers is good, he’s still really good.
The Vikings not only didn’t get any of the help they wanted, they also ruled out receiver Adam Thielen due to injury right before a tough Monday night game at Seattle. Hopefully Monday goes better than Sunday did for Minnesota.
Adam Vinatieri and his rough season: Nothing that happened to Vinatieri on Sunday was necessarily a bad mistake or even his fault.
But in a rough season, three of his kicks were turning points in the Colts’ crushing 31-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Vinatieri missed a 55-yard field goal, then had a 53-yard field goal blocked. Then came the real game-changer: In the fourth quarter Vinatieri had a field goal blocked and returned 63 yards for a touchdown to give the Titans a 24-17 lead. CBS said it was the first time Indianapolis had ever allowed a blocked field goal for a touchdown in team history. Jacoby Brissett threw an interception right after that and Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown to put the game away.
Vinatieri is likely the greatest kicker in NFL history, or on a very short list. But this season has been a trying one, and it was another tough day on Sunday.
That fun Cleveland Browns playoff run story: Well, the thoughts of the Browns coming from the back of the pack to make the playoffs was a fun thing to think about for a week or two.
The Browns still aren’t out of it at 5-7 because the AFC isn’t that deep, but it’s pretty hard to see them making a run after a 20-13 loss to Pittsburgh. The Mason Rudolph revenge game didn’t even include Rudolph; rookie Devlin Hodges replaced the benched Rudolph and put up a solid game with 212 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns didn’t score in the second half after Baker Mayfield banged his thumb on a Steelers defensive lineman’s helmet just before halftime. If he is affected by that injury going forward, it puts the Browns in an even bigger hole.
The Browns had a ton of offseason hype. There probably won’t be as much hype around them after this disappointing season.
Kyler Murray: There were gong to be days in which Murray looked like a rookie.
Sunday was one. The Los Angeles Rams seemed to know where Murray’s passes were going before he did. A pick-six by Taylor Rapp made the score 34-0. It was ugly. Murray finished with 163 yards passing in a 34-7 loss.
Murray has had a solid rookie season for the Arizona Cardinals. He is obviously a playmaker. His bad games have been pretty bad, but that’s not unusual for a rookie. Lamar Jackson had a really rough game in the playoffs as a rookie last season, and now he’s the MVP favorite. Murray will improve too.
But Sunday had to sting a bit.
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