The Daily Lives of Justin Herbert and Kirk Cousins
Walkthrough Presents: The Daily Lives of NFL Quarterbacks
NFL Week 13 - Daily Quarterbacks and Coordinators
In the Chargers quarterback room...
JUSTIN HERBERT (Internal monologue): I worry that my offensive coordinator has no idea what he is doing.
JOE LOMBARDI: This week's game plan is to dink, dunk, and dink some more. Forget about your strong arm and the downfield capabilities of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. My short-passing tactics worked wonders for Drew Brees, so…
HERBERT (Internal monologue): There he is, name-dropping Drew Brees again. This must be the way Adam Gase talked about Peyton Manning and Bill O'Brien talked about Tom Brady. These mediocre coaches glom onto already-excellent quarterbacks and ride their coattails to promotions.
LOMBARDI: Don't worry if a drive stalls. We can always rely on our field goal unit. Or you can try to move the chains on fourth-and-8. Why, when I was Matthew Stafford's offensive coordinator…
HERBERT (Internal monologue): Stafford? That's his other success story? The Lions finished 19th and 13th in offensive DVOA the two years he coached Stafford AND Calvin Johnson! When Jim Caldwell replaced him, Coach Lombardi ran right back to Brees and Sean Payton for another five years, then escaped before he could be held accountable for Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill!
LOMBARDI: So hey, if you lead the team in rushing for a third consecutive week, that's not that big a deal. Furthermore…
HERBERT (Internal monologue): This guy is holding me back, but he's going to get a head coaching job because I am skilled enough to make our statistics look good! I must confront him, no matter what the stakes.
(Out Loud): Coach…
HERBERT (Sweating profusely, grimacing) I ... I … I SHALL DO MY BEST TO HUMBLY CARRY OUT YOUR INSTRUCTIONS!
HERBERT (Internal monologue): Sigh, this must be how Ryan Tannehill felt.
Daily Quarterbacks and Bloopers
After Sunday's Vikings-49ers game…
JIMMY GAROPPOLO: Hey Kirk, do you ever get embarrassed by a trending blooper?
KIRK COUSINS: You mean like this one?
Kirk Cousins lined up under the guard 💀 pic.twitter.com/oAEq01DdVx
— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) November 29, 2021
Not at all.
GAROPPOLO: No, I mean like this one.
Justin Jefferson is SICK of Kirk Cousins. pic.twitter.com/hZ6Y6O3m8n
— The Big Lead (@TheBigLead) November 28, 2021
Lining up under the guard is just a silly thing that happens now and then, like not knowing the overtime rules or throwing out of bounds on fourth down. But missing a wide-open receiver for a two-point conversion and having him show you up? It really undercuts the theory that you provide some sort of heady situational brilliance or leadership. That has to be embarrassing.
COUSINS: Not at all. At a certain earning level, a quarterback becomes absolutely shameless. You have made a few bucks over the years: does it ever bother you that you would obviously devolve into Trevor Siemian if Deebo Samuel and George Kittle didn't break 200 tackles per game?
GAROPPOLO: Hmm. I see your point.
COUSINS: The only quarterbacks who need to be ashamed are the ones who produce lots of bloopers before they sign huge contracts.
(Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson walk past.)
GAROPPOLO: Shall we warn them?
COUSINS: Nah, let's go get ramen.
TankWatch: Detroit Lions
As the 2021 season draws toward its conclusion, TankWatch examines teams at the bottom of the standings and determines how they can claw back toward respectability over the next few weeks/months/years.
Lions Season in a Nutshell: They're 0-10-1 but 7-4 against the spread, which counts for something. (Specifically, it counts for money in Walkthrough's DraftKings account). The Lions are best thought of as wrasslin' jobbers who often get over thanks to strong play in the trenches and some spirited coaching by Dan Campbell and his staff.
Coaching Situation: Obligatory sentence acknowledging that Campbell is not really a braying lunatic and that the Lions do not appear to have quit on him.
Quarterback Situation: Jared Goff tastes like the broth he's cooked in. The Lions will need to replace him once they're serious about trying to contend.
Building Blocks: Penei Sewell, T.J. Hockenson, and D'Andre Swift are the best young players on the roster, and Swift will likely be worn down by the time the Lions are competitive. The Lions really needed an unknown wide receiver, edge rusher, or defensive back to make a splash this season, but none did. There's very little to show for the 2019-2020 drafts except Swift and Hockenson, which will only slow down the rebuilding project.
Future Assets: The Lions possess two first-round picks in both 2022 and 2023 as a result of the Goff-Matthew Stafford trade. They lack fourth- and fifth-round picks in 2022: another small problem for a team in need of a deep roster cleanse. They now have a 76.6% chance of selecting first overall in next year's draft.
The Lions possess a middle-of-the-pack $39.9 million in cap space for 2022, with no pricey in-house free agent priorities. There's a very low $62 million in available space on the books for 2023, but that figure will go up when cutting Goff and a few others becomes economically viable after next season.
Rebuilding Plan: It's all about leveraging those four first-round picks, including one likely first overall pick, over the next two years.
With no clear first overall-worthy quarterback likely to emerge in the 2022 draft, the Lions should neither select a quarterback nor assume some suitor will emerge willing to offer them a ransom for the top pick. So they should start with the best overall athlete, regardless of position (unless perhaps it's a left tackle, because you cannot build a whole team out of them). Their second pick is likely to be somewhere in the 20s; fishing for quarterbacks down there gets dicey (there are more Paxton Lynch-types than Lamar Jackson-types), so the Lions can look for an impact receiver, even if they drafted one first overall, or trade down to try to irrigate the whole roster.
The Lions should seek a veteran wide receiver to stabilize their passing game in free agency. Assuming Chris Godwin-tier targets are either off the board or sneer at them, the Lions can shop for Jamison Crowder- or Christian Kirk-types who can gobble up a half-dozen shallow crosses per game. Downfield speed must be sought in the draft.
As for quarterback, the Lions are best served feathering the nest for a 2023 solution. That's rarely the advisable course of action, but they won't be players in any theoretical Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, Jameis Winston-type solutions don't have a high enough risk-return rate, and any 2022 rookie would end up looking like weak-tea Justin Fields if the Lions cannot upgrade their receiving corps.
Final Prognosis: Get ready for another year of trying to undo the damage of the Bob Quinn/Matt Patricia administration, and also the decades of mismanagement which came before. Until then, keep on covering!
Walkthrough Returns You to: The Daily Lives of NFL Quarterbacks
Daily Quarterbacks and Benching
In the Panthers quarterback room…
P.J. WALKER: It seems as though you have gotten benched for me.
CAM NEWTON: Indubitably. After I got benched for you.
WALKER: After Sam Darnold got benched for me.
CAM: Say, have you noticed that Darnold doesn't appear in Walkthrough much anymore? Do you think it's because he's not an interesting character?
SAM DARNOLD (behind a table): Shhhh. I am hiding.
CAM AND WALKER: From whom?
MATT RHULE: Gentlemen, Christian McCaffrey is on IR. I don't know who our quarterback will be after the bye, and heaven knows I'm not going to schedule any situational drills to help us prepare better, but one of you will need to step up to salvage the season.
CAM: Clever, Sam. If you don't play anymore this season, you could latch on as a backup for a contender next year, something I am incapable of doing because of my aura.
DARNOLD: That's not who I am hiding from!
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOE BRADY: Gentleman, this week's game plan is to dink, dunk, and dink some more. I know none of you are cut out for this system, but it worked wonders for Drew Brees, so…
PANTHERS QUARTERBACKS (Sweating profusely, grimacing): LET'S GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.
TebowMania Ten Years After: Tebow's Greatest Game
I wanted to believe. Or at the very least, I didn't want to disbelieve.
The 2011 Broncos were on a four-game winning streak when they faced a woeful Minnesota Vikings team led by Christian Ponder and (filling in for Adrian Peterson) plodding rusher Toby Gerhart on December 4. They had won their last three games by final scores of 17-10, 17-13, and 16-13. Tim Tebow completed a total of 20 passes across three games, ran for a total of 178 yards and two touchdowns, and was the biggest, dumbest story in the NFL by a wide margin.
It turned out that the Vikings could not make Tebow any more Tebow, but Tebow could make the Vikings extra Vikings. Substitute Kirk Cousins for Ponder and Justin Jefferson for Percy Harvin and this highlight reel of the 35-32 Broncos victory in 2011 could easily have come from this year's Vikings, right down to the heartbreaking end-of-game mistakes and opposing field goals.
Tebow's passing numbers were relatively normal: 10-of-15 passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns. I wasn't the only member of the Football Outsiders team that thought he might have been developing into more than a delusion, though it sounds like I was the biggest optimist among us.
Vince Verhei: Tim Tebow is not waiting for the fourth quarter this week. He has thrown a pair of touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter. One was a fade route in the end zone where it looked like the nearest defensive back was more concerned with an imaginary receiver running a skinny post. The other came when Tebow scrambled to the sideline, the defense came up to cover, and Tebow threw back to the middle to Thomas on a crossing route.
However, both touchdowns left the Broncos down by two points, and they opted to go for one each time. I know there's a whole quarter to go, and the Vikings haven't let you do much on the ground all day. Still, your quarterback is theoretically a great goal-line weapon, and it's better to be tied than to be behind. Anyone want to argue for taking the single point(s) there?
Aaron Schatz: Nope. I agree. I think it makes sense for Denver to always go for two. Probably Carolina as well.
Mike Tanier: The Broncos fail a lot in short yardage. Two fails would be a four-point swing. They tend to win by three, and they thrive on only having to drive for a field goal late in games.
Aaron Schatz: Denver in short-yardage situations before Tebow became the starter: 33% conversion rate.
Denver in short-yardage situations after Tebow became the starter: 67% conversion rate.
And as I type this, Denver scores a two-point conversion to tie the game. They scored on two plays. The first one was a long pass to a wide-open Thomas. Thomas sure has been wide open a lot today, but this wasn't a play that had broken down. This was just him beating Cedric Griffin straight out.
Vince Verhei: After Percy Harvin takes a 3-yard crossing route 48 yards for a touchdown, the Broncos drive down the field again and Willis McGahee scores from 24 yards out. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos finally go for two, and Tebow runs it in to tie the game. Harvin, by the way, has caught all seven passes thrown his way for 145 yards and two scores. This may be the best game for the Florida Gators all year.
Aaron Schatz: Ponder throws a pick in his own end and the Broncos are going to have it on the 20. They are going to win again in the fourth quarter, and we're going to hear about Tebow some more, apparently because he inspired Andre' Goodman to make that pick.
Mike Tanier: I guess one of us should point out that he looked real sharp much of the game and found a lot of open receivers. It might as well be me.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, Tebow definitely did look better as a passer today. It helped that the Vikings cornerbacks kept waiting for safety help that wasn't there, but Tebow did have to find those guys with accurate passes, and he did.
Vince Verhei: To be fair, Tebow made a lot of plays in the second half. Mostly because his receivers were wide-open, but he has missed a lot of wide-open receivers in recent weeks. Still, keep in mind how lousy the offense was in the first half: Seven drives, one first down, 45 yards, two lost fumbles, one safety given up.
Mike Tanier: But I remember a quarterback about 23 years ago ... great runner, technically very raw, had a great defense helping him, made two or three plays per game with his arm, and he led a team to a lot of 11-win seasons. Games like this are viable, when you are completing about 10 passes. All Tebow needs is a Gumby haircut and a return of The Arsenio Hall Show...
Vince Verhei: It's funny, because after charting Denver's game against Kansas City this weekend, I was ready to come on here and talk about what a guilty pleasure it was watching Denver's offense and their slavish dedication to the running game, full of triple-tight end sets, options, end arounds, and other creativity. But that's not really the offense we saw today, or at least not the offense that won the game. Denver only had six rushing first downs all game, and from what I saw it was your basic I-formation inside zone stuff. The big plays all came via the pass, and most of them with Tebow throwing out of the pocket.
Although I agree with Tanier that Tebow would be a lot more popular with a Gumby haircut.
Rivers McCown: Who wouldn't?
Mike Tanier: Vince's point about the Broncos offense is dead on. This is no longer wacky option stuff, this is just basic conservativism. And before my Tebow = Randall remark becomes a position statement, let me just say that I am drawing comparisons in the name of framing debate in a way that goes beyond Tebow Stinks and Tebow is Awesome, not suggesting that they will have the exact same career trajectory. Though I will say that I can now imagine the Broncos being exactly where the Jets now are in two years.
I had forgotten about the Vikings game before starting this Ten Years After series. I also forgot that I ever expressed any genuine optimism about Tebow's development. But I am glad I did. True skepticism requires the constant reevaluations of suppositions based on new evidence. The evidence on December 3, 2011, suggested that Tebow may have been improving as a pocket passer. In fact, the Vikings game points toward a road not traveled, a universe in which Tebow's decisiveness and accuracy improved just enough to make him a viable starter for a few seasons in a league that was rapidly becoming more open-minded about read-option tactics.
Tebow did not really improve, of course. He just took advantage of a terrible opponent that had no one who could cover Demaryius Thomas. The league was actually just about to figure out how to irrevocably shut Tebow down.
But first, Tebow would throw down the gauntlet against rational thinking with the most ridiculous victory of his career.
Next Week: PraterMania: Ten Years After.
Walkthrough Brings You the Thrilling Conclusion of: The Daily Lives of NFL Quarterbacks
Edge Rushers are Funky!
Wherever defensive players hang out…
JAMAL ADAMS: I am mad that quarterbacks got their own anime-inspired series in Walkthrough and we didn't!
MICAH PARSONS: So am I! Let's ask T.J. Watt how to take our aggressions out on quarterbacks without getting penalized.
T.J. WATT: Wait … are you two even edge rushers?
ADAMS: Of course! We each have many sacks! What else could we be?
WATT: I dunno … maybe a strong safety who couldn't cover a pot with a lid and a rookie linebacker on a poorly coached team?
PARSONS (Sweating profusely, grimacing): Ungh...
ADAMS (Sweating profusely, grimacing): Ungh...
WATT (Sweating profusely, grimacing): Poser! (Punches Adams in the stomach.) Pretender! (Knees Parsons in the privates, then exits).
PARSONS (Gasping in pain): Our plan worked. Watt—ouch—showed us exactly—ow—how to take out our aggressions on quarterbacks.
ADAMS: Next time—youch—we should ask Cam Heyward.
T.J. Watt entered COVID protocol after beating up Adams and Parsons, but this is all a skit, so everything turned out OK.