A Very Joe Judge Christmas Carol
NFL Week 15 - Urban was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Urban Meyer was dead as a door-nail. This must be understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
Joe Judge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Judge and Meyer were peas in a pod; cut from the same cloth and dyed of the same material. And even Judge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event; 'twas a cutthroat business, this of the NFL head coach, and the passing of yet another college master was not an event that would prey so significantly on his cognation that he would give a tuppence worth of thought to the matter.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Judge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous old sinner. Hard and sharp as flint; secret and self-contained and solitary as an oyster. The media would point their fingers and mock as he made his charges run yet another lap, or blamed his headsets for his offenses' struggles, or challenged unchallengeable plays. But what did Judge care! It was the very thing he liked.
And after yet another loss, the latest tally in the long string of failures of the New York Giants Football Club, Judge had settled in to take his melancholy dinner in his melancholy study; and, having read all the recaps and reviews, set about to beguile the rest of his evening with special teams footage to prepare himself for next week's matchup. When, without the slightest warning or provocation, a terrible noise arose from deep down below—the pulsing, rhythmic sounds of club music; as if some person had decided to stick behind after a team flight.
To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy would be untrue. But, true to the machinations of his inner nature, Judge put those thoughts aside with a harsh "Bah! Humbug. I won't believe it."
His colour changed though, when, without a pause, the noise grew much louder. On the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door; it came on through and passed into the room before his eyes.
The same face; the very same. Urban in his khakis and windbreaker standing there, true as life.
"How now!" said Judge, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?"
"Much!"—Urban's voice, no doubt about it.
Judge looked over the specter, warily. "You are fettered," he growled. "Tell me why."
"I wear the chain I forged in Jacksonville. I made it link by link and yard by yard; girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. A chain made of rash decisions, inattentiveness, and outdated philosophies. Ah, but would you know the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It is nearly as heavy and long as this, and you continue to labour on it. It is a ponderous chain! You have attempted to offset its weight by releasing your clerk, Jason Garrett, but look upon your offense and weep, for it is naught but a bastion for Loserdom of the highest order."
"Well, get on with it," Judge growled. "Why do you trouble me? I have plenty to clean up before gameday. I have to make a quarterback decision; my wide receivers need to know whose passes they won't be catching. I do not have time for shenanigans."
"That's just it, Joe. I'm here tonight to warn you," Urban moaned. "You have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate—a chance and hope of my procuring. It is required of every coach that the spirit within them should reflect on both their own shortcomings as well as the shortcomings of their rosters; and if that spirit reflects not in employment, it is condemned to do so for all eternity on morning radio shows and second-tier cable channels. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness victories they cannot share, but might have shared with their own fanbases, turning misery into happiness!"
"… and they sent you to give me these warnings?" Judge said, confused. "You said it yourself—society has changed. Everything is so fragile now, where it used to be team, team, team. You and I, we're both—we're both men of the old school. It's enough for a coach to understand their own business—the results will come, Urban, they must!"
"I thought it was odd, too, but they told me they don't micromanage who gets to be in these seasonal parodies," Urban shrugged. "Nevertheless; this is no light part of my penance. You will be haunted by Three Spirits—the ghosts of Losers Past, Losers Present, and Losers Yet to Come. Take heed of their stories, and look that, for your own sake, you take their lessons to heart!"
"And they'll visit me one by one, and show me the error of my ways?" Judge asked, scratching his chin.
"Uh, no, not exactly; those of us in the Halls of Loserdom generally haven't excelled in time management," Urban admitted. "They're all waiting right outside."
"And I've got to say, you're blowing this, Judge." The new voice came from a strange figure, clad in a tattered Chargers jersey and leaning against the wall.
"Ryan Leaf? You're the Ghost of Losers Past?"
"You were expecting maybe Jamarcus Russell? Look, I worked long and hard to establish myself as the epitome of the draft bust, and I'm not giving up this gig for anything. I only actually started 21 games, but 16 of them had single-digit Loser points, so I know a thing or two about bad football. And coach, you don't have to have supernatural history-reliving powers to see that your past is filled with the shadows of the decisions you have made. You're an autocrat, and yet all the yelling and tough guy act you put on hasn't revealed itself in any sense of discipline on the field. You harp on building a foundation, and yet you alienate your players. And what has it given you? Zero receivers with positive DVOA; zero running backs with positive DVOA, an offensive line made out of Swiss cheese, and the most depressing quarterback situation outside of the Carolinas. There's no wonder every quality loser league team routinely grabs from your sorry excuse of an offense."
"Woah, woah, can we limit the personal attacks? It's hard to play quarterback in New York; I would know!" a new voice joined in, wincing as he bumped into the doorframe.
"Sam Darnold? The Ghost of Losers Present?"
"Excuse me, I'm injured. And at least I've played better than P.J. Walker."
"You had a point you were trying to make?" Judge muttered.
"Right, yes, a point. Look, you've already gotten rid of Jason Garrett; it was his backwards, conservative play calling that was limiting Daniel Jones and your new playmakers on offense. And yes, the guy you turned to in relief, Mike Glennon, just put up the second-worst Loser score of the season, but, hey, everyone sees ghosts out there every once in a while … no pun intended. I lived through the Adam Gase era; I know of the perils of Ignorance and Want. These are what you must beware, Coach, if you want to continue your coaching career—the Ignorance of modern play calling which had led to wasting Kadarius Toney's potential, and the Want of quality quarterback play that has led to seven single-digit Loser days from your passing stable. Survive these, and you may live on to coach in 2022; likely with a brand new top-10 quarterback."
"And … and is it that quarterback who stands before me in the hall? The figure shrouded in a deep black cloak, concealing its form from all that's visible? Are these generally good signs?"
"That? That is Kenny Pickett. Or perhaps it's Matt Corral, or Malik Willis; the shadows of things that may be only are not always as clear as one might hope. But nevertheless, it is your future—the savior passer who will come in and immediately alter the face of your franchise. Just like Zach Wilson. Or Justin Fields. Or Trevor Lawrence. Or, for that matter, Daniel Jones."
"If you do not change your ways quickly, Judge," Urban said, the three Ghosts of Failure lingering behind him, "this is not only your future, but the future of your franchise. You must dispel these shadows, and take the lessons of the Spirits within you. You must take the wisdom of the Past, the Present, and the Future to heart—then, and only then, will you avoid the fate which befell me."
"You're right. You're all right," Judge said, nodding his head. "I must … I must change my ways immediately. I must set aside the pointless cliches, the excessive discipline, and the bad Bill Belichick cosplay, and learn to make positive decisions going forward, to best help my football team succeed."
Running to the window, Judge threw it open and put out his head. Golden sunlight, heavenly sky, sweet fresh air. "You there, boy! Hallo, my fine fellow. What's your name?"
"Me? I'm Jake, sir. From the State Farm."
"Perfect! You're my new starting quarterback."
"Walk-ER!" the boy exclaimed.
"No, no. I am in earnest. Go and find a helmet, and return so we can prepare for this week's matchup. Come back with it in less than five minutes, and I'll give you the greatest mark of respect the New York Giants franchise can bestow—a free medium soda."
"Oh, he's doomed," Urban said. "God help us, every one."
Week 15's Biggest Losers
Worst of the Worst
Yes, Mike Glennon (-2) became the second passer of the year to put up negative points, as the Neck Who Thought He Was A Man was a complete and utter disaster, 13 completions for 99 yards and three interceptions placing him firmly into negative value territory. He was pulled for Jake Fromm (4), who put up more value in just 12 passes, and it's hard to imagine what, if any, value the Giants could get from starting Glennon again now that Daniel Jones has been ruled out for the year.
Mike Glennon has 1 win since 2014
Glennon's earned over $5.3 mil per win in the NFL (6-24) pic.twitter.com/6WkLGHFFuO
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) December 20, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
We wish Teddy Bridgewater (5) a very swift recovery—the Broncos are not placing him on injured reserve, so hopefully his concussion looked much, much, much worse than it actually was. Drew Lock (5) will get the start in Week 16 against the Raiders.
The Colts did everything they could to prevent Carson Wentz (5) from beating them, with Wentz completing just five passes against New England. Three quarterback sneaks for first downs are valuable, but not in the Loser League! You also have poor days from Taysom Hill (10) and Ryan Tannehill (10), whom I am skimming over to get to…
Tom Brady (6). A fumble, an interception, no touchdowns, and just 214 passing yards. It's not his worst day of all time (one point against the Dolphins in a 21-0 loss back in 2006), or his worst day with the Buccaneers, or even his worst day against the Saints (both being his three-INT day against New Orleans last November), but it does become one of the worst 10 days of his careers by Loser League performance, and it's always worth noting when a legend screws up.
Your Tuesday addition was Russell Wilson (5); that came just before press time, so you're getting a mention and not much else.
Were you aware Jared Goff (22) was 7-1 all time against the Arizona Cardinals? Make him 8-1 now, as the biggest upset of the week featured Goff slicing the Cardinals' defense from gun to gun, throwing a wrench into the NFC West. Jared Goff, still helping the Rams out in 2021.
Worst of the Worst
We have a four-way tie! Cordarrelle Patterson, Mark Ingram, Michael Carter, and Najee Harris each had just one point on the day. That's probably most embarrassing for Harris, who led the quartet with 12 rushes and five targets, but he couldn't muster anything all night long against the Titans, including getting stuffed at the goal line.
Other Loser Leaders
Too many to mention—it was a terrible week for offense in the NFL. You had bad days from superstars such as Alvin Kamara (2), Melvin Gordon (5), Joe Mixon (5), and Saquon Barkley (5); you had bad days from injury fill-ins such as Chuba Hubbard (4) and Tevin Coleman (5). And you had bad days from everyone in between: Rhamondre Stevenson (3), Rex Burkhead (4), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (4), Dontrell Hilliard (5), Melvin Gordon (5), and Myles Gaskin (5). They all contributed to the lowest scoring week for running backs this season.
And you had another entry on Tuesday: Rashaad Penny (3).
We have spun the Shanahan Wheel of Random Running Backs, and it has landed on Jeff Wilson (17). Wilson had the third 100-yard day of his career against the Falcons, one of seven running backs who have gone for triple digits in Kyle Shanahan's tenure, but one of only two who have done it in different seasons. Never pick a San Francisco running back.
Worst of the Worst
Eight Goose Eggers this week: Rondale Moore, Ja'Marr Chase, Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, Michael Pittman, Odell Beckham, D'Wayne Eskridge, and Demarcus Robinson. Cooper and Pittman managed to do it on five targets a piece, while Jeudy and Robinson managed to avoid catching a pass for 60 full minutes.
Other Loser Leaders
Twelve, count 'em, twelve players with one point each: Courtland Sutton, Nico Collins, Chris Conley, Tavon Austin, Marvin Jones, Mecole Hardman, Tre'Quan Smith, Sterling Shepard, Chase Claypool, DeSean Jackson, DeAndre Carter, and Scott Miller.
Long live the Houston Texan passing attack! Against a Jaguars defense struggling as much as they were, Brandin Cooks (22) once again became Davis Mills' favorite target—seven receptions for 102 yards and a pair of scores. Both of his touchdowns came when he was uncovered, once on a screen and once after pretending to be a blocker. That's unlikely to happen too often going forward, but a win is a win is a win.
Worst of the Worst
Ryan Succop (-2) only had one attempt as Tampa Bay's offense sputtered to a halt on Sunday night. He missed it.
Other Loser Leaders
Greg Zuerlein (-1) missed two extra points (!), but managed to recoup most of that value with three field goals in one of the odder kicking performances I can remember. Both Zane Gonzalez and Chase McLaughlin ended up with goose eggs; Gonzalez got hurt and no Panther attempted a kick to replace him, while McLaughlin's missed field goal was balanced out by a pair of extra points.
Ka'imi Fairbairn (12) has been a safe pick for basically the entire season in Loser League, but the comparative Texans offensive explosion saw him make three field goals and three extra points to lead all kickers this week.
Week 15 Contest Results
Look, Tuesday night football threw us all for a loop, and the final results for this week didn't come until after press time for this. They're going to be edited in here by either me or one of the editors, but I'm afraid no commentary can really be offered; I have no idea who won at the moment. Great picks! Or you got really lucky! One or the other! An appropriate amount of seasonal greetings to you, hero!
Wednesday Morning Edit: It's Mumoo13! Mike Glennon, Rhamondre Stevenson, Rashaad Penny and Zane Gonzalez leading the way to 10 points! Congratulations!
Your top five for Week 15:
1. Mumoo13 -- 10
T2. Scott Spratt (yes, our Scott Spratt) -- 11
T2. Dudune -- 11
T4. BigRichie Wants To Play Double Survival Too! -- 13
T4. Davante's Inferno -- 13
T4. Arandom -- 13
On the overall leaderboard, AlecV taking the lead for the first time all season! He had been hanging in there with the Mojo Momenteers and Octuplicate all season long, and now he has the lead going into the final stretch. He ended up starting both Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm, determined to get the Giants starter, no matter who he be. That, plus a Rex Burkhead/Chuba Hubbard combination at running back, earned him just 22 points and pushed him into the league over the Momenteers (who had quarterback troubles with P.J. Walker and Zach Wilson both hitting double digits) and Octuplicate (replace Walker with Jared Goff)
Your top five:
1. AlecV (471)
2. Mojo Momenteers (475)
T3. Octuplicate (482)
T3. Deacon Blues (482)
5. Davante's Inferno (489)
There are now only six teams within 30 points of the leader (How to Lose a Game in 10 Plays is lurking just behind the top five), and 67 within the 50-points-per-week limit which is about as much as one could reasonably hope to achieve. Things are coming down to the wire!
You can check your results and the rest of the Loserboard here!
Plays for Week 16
Alright, this week, for sure, Jake Fromm is bound to get the start. Load up on those third-string quarterbacks and set sail.
I also want to lay off the rookies—call it my heart growing three sizes for the season. So I'll pick on Ben Roethlisberger instead; I expect him to have a terrible day against a Kansas City defense which has stiffened dramatically over the back half of the season. Roethlisberger has been terrible in three of his last four halves, and I'm counting on that to continue.
Other promising picks: Baker Mayfield (@GB), Tim Boyle (@ATL), both pending COVID results.
Pick your Texan! I'm sticking with Rex Burkhead over Royce Freeman, because whoever is getting the majority of the totes in Texas is going to appear near the bottom of the leaderboard every week.
Going back to Latavius Murray is a gamble—it has been Devonta Freeman carrying the load for most of the Baltimore backfield this season, but Murray jumped him on the depth chart against the Packers. An artifact of a different offense with Tyler Huntley in there? I don't think so, and I'm willing to gamble on it.
Austin Ekeler's status is still very up in the air at the moment—beat writers swear he'll be put on the COVID list, but it hasn't happened yet, so we have to wait and see. If he is inactive against the Texans, I'll plug Josh Kelley into my lineup and be happy for it, but that's something we may have to see on Christmas Day about.
Other promising picks: Damien Harris (v. BUF), Melvin Gordon (@LV), Devin Singletary (@NE)
I just saw Adam Humphries catch four balls for less than 40 yards, which means I either watched Tuesday's game or about a half dozen other games this season. Dallas should hold him to his standard, especially if the quarterback situation doesn't clear itself up by then.
Jakeem Grant is questionable this week, but he at least is certainly eligible to play; that may not be the case for Allen Robinson. I will take whomever the second Chicago receiver is against Seattle, but it's too early to determine who exactly that will be.
Albert Wilson is coming off of a down day, for sure, but before his two-target outing against the Jets, he had avoided the penalty in four straight matchups, as he has been forced into a significant role for a Dolphins offense not exactly loaded with talent. Here's counting on a bounce-back performance, but not too much of one.
Other promising picks: Chester Rogers (v. SF), Jauan Jennings (@TEN), James Washington (@KC)
Matthew Wright and Ka'imi Fairbairn remain locks, no matter the situation.
Other promising picks: Cairo Santos (@SEA), Whoever Is Kicking for Carolina (v. TB)