The playoffs are here, so naturally this week’s edition of Four Verts we’re going to be spending time talking about two high-profile NFL figures who aren’t in this year’s playoffs. The Rams got their leading man back, the Raiders had a player rejected from the All-Pro team, and a few injuries will really hurt the AFC playoff race.
The Rams’ future isn’t so bleak with McVay back in the fold
Sean McVay is back! The 36-year-old head coach who won the Super Bowl has decided he won’t be the great millennial of all time. He chooses to keep working instead of taking some time off to enjoy the millions of dollars he has earned. Seriously, this brightens up the Rams’ near future and makes their situation a little more hopeful than this season.
It’s easy to see why McVay was hesitant to come back to the Rams and submit to the grind of another NFL season. The Rams just played the most insignificant season of all time. They were fresh off a Super Bowl, they don’t have their first round pick for next season (which would be sixth overall), and all of their superstars, except Jalen Ramsey, got hurt en route to a 5-12 finish. The Rams had been unable to play this season and ended up in the exact same situation they are in now. That’s a lot of work to get through a season by the end of the year that has no tangible football advantage. Many people may wonder what they are doing with so few results to stand on.
McVay is back though, what real benefits the Rams as they begin to shape the next era of what their franchise looks like. They clearly need to make some adjustments in the next few years to be able to use the NFC again and that would be almost impossible without McVay leading the team. He is easily one of the elite head coaches in the league and has actually been since he took over the Rams in 2017. He has been able to adapt and change his offense based on the staff and won a Super Bowl. McVay has become synonymous with the Rams and it would be hard to find someone better if he had actually decided to leave the team.
This team still has holes and will continue to be a top-heavy roster for the next season, but at least they have a chance to maximize their talent with a top-notch head coach. They will get quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald back next season, which will clearly increase their chances of returning to the playoffs and becoming a feared team. As long as the Rams have their elite core of players, it’s still an attractive job. The presence of those players had to matter to keep McVay.
Now the Rams can focus on the league in 2023 instead of thinking about a breakdown that would reset the clock on this franchise. Who knows how long McVay will stay, but for now this is a great sign of things to come for the Rams.
Brandon Staley really hurt the Chargers
Star wide receiver Mike Williams is officially out for the Chargers’ playoff opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which was a totally avoidable outcome. In a pointless Week 18 game, Chargers coach Brandon Staley opted to play his starters against the Broncos, backfired in serious fashion. Williams suffered a fracture in his back and will likely be out for the Chargers’ playoff run. Given that the Chargers were tied in the fifth seed no matter what happened in their season finale, playing Williams and other Chargers starters was just an incomprehensible idea.
Staley tried to soften the blow to Williams’ injury after the game by saying the Chargers had to dress 48 players, but that really doesn’t make any sense. Week 18 is a great opportunity for practice team players to get in the game, which the Giants did before their similarly pointless game in Week 18. The Giants had most of their starters on the inactive list and they will be at full strength for their rematch against the Vikings in Sunday’s wild card playoff game. The Chargers will miss their top wideout for no reason.
Williams is a necessary piece for the Chargers if they are to pray to get deep into the postseason. Keenan Allen is still a solid receiver, but he’s not the dominant threat he used to be. Without Williams, the Chargers suddenly have a very limited pool of wide receivers that won’t be a threat to many secondaries in the playoffs. They have a chance as long as Justin Herbert is below centre, but the difficulty of what he has to achieve has definitely gone up with the loss of Williams.
This was all avoidable and Staley should definitely feel some heat for that. Williams is too important a player to take chances in a game that has no bearing on playoff placements. It was an unnecessary risk and now they will have to bear the consequences. Even if Herbert is able to take this team to a playoff run, the actions that made his life difficult should not be forgotten. If they lose, people could start calling for Staley’s job given the decision he oversaw.
Staley has been a risk taker on the field since he became head coach, but this is one set of dice he just didn’t have to roll.
Maxx Crosby was rejected by the All-Pro team
In a season with many good rushers, not everyone would be on the All-Pro team, but leaving Raiders pass rusher Maxx Crosby off the list is a glaring mistake. Crosby was definitely one of the top four pass rushers in the league this season and was one of the few bright spots on a Raiders team that really struggled in 2022. Crosby should be up for Defensive Player of the Year, but did not him. even make the All-Pro team. That’s a big miss.
Crosby started all 17 games for the Raiders and finished with 12.5 sacks, which is incredibly impressive considering the Raiders only had 27 sacks as a team. That means 46.2% of the Raiders’ loot production came from a single player. No one else on the Raiders finished with more than 4.5 sacks, and only three players on the team could record multiple sacks: Crosby (12.5), Chandler Jones (4.5), and Clelin Ferrell (2).
Perhaps Crosby took a beating for not playing on a good defense, but that should only make his season more impressive. No Raider made more snaps on defense this season than Crosby. According to Pro Football Reference, Crosby played 96.3% of the Raiders’ defensive snaps. That workload is unusual for a defensive lineman, but Crosby was able to keep them productive all season. It is both an iron man’s feat and one of skill and production.
Crosby is one of the best pass rushers in the league and performed well in an impossible situation. snubbed! Don’t worry, Maxx, real people know how good a season you’ve had.
Injuries crushed wild card weekend
A few games this weekend went from looking tempting to erupting with a few injuries. The Ravens will miss Lamar Jackson this weekend as he recovers from a knee injury and the Dolphins will miss both Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater as they travel to Buffalo. That’s a huge, huge bummer for what were expected to be fun matchups with those below center quarterbacks. The biggest problem in terms of excitement is the fact that we’ve already seen these teams without their star quarterbacks.
The Dolphins will rely on rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson to come through for them against one of the best teams in the NFL in the Buffalo Bills. Thompson can grow into a solid backup, but that hasn’t happened yet. As great as the Dolphins offense has been this season, they really fell off a cliff when Thompson had to step up as the leading quarterback. They just scored 11 points against the Jets to clinch their wild card spot, which was just enough to win. Thompson also managed just 17 points in a blowout loss to the Jets earlier this season. There’s just no reason to believe the Dolphins can score points against the Bills with Thompson. If the Dolphins can win this game, they should build a statue for head coach Mike McDaniel.
The Ravens take on the Bengals with either Tyler Huntley or Anthony Brown on their offense. No offense to Anthony Brown, but he just played against the Bengals a week ago. The results weren’t pretty and, frankly, it’s not fair to expect much from him as far as this game is concerned. He was an undrafted free agent for a reason and didn’t have many NFL prospects coming out of the University of Oregon last year. Playoff games are way too costly and the Ravens won’t have one of the most exciting players in the NFL at their service. That stinks to the Ravens and game spectators.
Hopefully Huntley can adapt to the Ravens so they at least have a chance to score some points, but the Ravens offense was a pared down version of itself without Jackson playing quarterback. That is an unavoidable fact and it reduces the hype for the wildcard weekend.
The Bengals-Ravens and Bills-Dolphins prospects have been greatly altered by the way their injuries have unfolded as a quarterback. We can only hope, as an NFL viewing audience, that Tyler Huntley, Anthony Brown, and Skylar Thompson can play at a level we haven’t seen yet.
At least next weekend we can see Patrick Mahomes play for the Chiefs.