Every year, it seems that there are certain players and coaches who are scrutinized more than most, unjustly or not. The reason for the scrutiny vary: overall job performance, legal issues, front office politics, or any combination of the three. Here’s some players and coaches to keep a watch out for:
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
We all know that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is on borrowed time. But under even more pressure is Peyton’s brother. I think it is officially time for this young quarterback to develop some consistency. Last year, the Giants’ second half was marred by bad collapses, spurred on by futility in the passing attack. Manning’s games against Jacksonville and Tennessee were eye-sores, to say the least. And even in the wins, like against the Panthers, Manning showed an inability to make accurate throws. This year the odds appear to be stacked against Manning. Tiki Barber is gone, and Luke Petitgout is gone. It’s all up to Eli now. But Plaxico Burress actually stayed in New York to work on his timing with Manning. And the Giants smartly scooped up polished USC receiver Steve Smith in Round 2. This is a huge year in his development, especially with Philip Rivers dazzling on the West Coast. So in essence, the time is now for Eli. Sort of a “put up or shut up” kind of year.
Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Assuming that the Feds don’t press charges against him and/or he doesn’t get suspended by the League, the heat’s (pun not really intended) on Vick. He has to adapt to yet another offensive scheme (Bobby Petrino’s), which puts a premium on accuracy. It is imperative that Vick develops some chemistry with the Falcons’ wideouts (Roddy White and Michael Jenkins – two classic underachievers) to make this offense go. And of course he has to improve on his overall accuracy (witness the rotten performances last year vs. Cleveland, New Orleans, Carolina and the New York Giants). My money, despite all of this, says that Vick is going to get suspended and the Feds will bring up charges against him.
Joe Gibbs, Head Coach, Washington Redskins
Even Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will have to realize that if Gibbs doesn’t markedly improve upon their record from last season, then Gibbs will be shown the door. He definitely has his work cut out for him. Gibbs has to somehow neutralize the negativity that permeated the team for the bulk of the season. Also, QB Jason Campbell will have to step up his game a bit for their offense to click. On the flip side, their defense improved some with the addition of London Fletcher and Laron Landry. I say that Gibbs is released if the Skins don’t win at least 9 games. And you know that Snyder has Bill Cowher on speed dial.
Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
I think it is safe to say that the honeymoon is over for Mario. We know he had some nagging injuries (what NFL player hasn’t). Also consider he only had 4.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, which makes DeMarco Ryans the best rookie on the team. And then there’s the Texans not drafting Reggie Bush. The Texans’ front office have to be kicking themselves for that mess-up. So warranted or not, Williams will have to put up Dwight Freeney-type stats to take the pressure off of him.
Norv Turner, Head Coach, San Diego Chargers
Man it really sucks to be him right now. After all, all he has to do in San Diego is get to the Super Bowl or else (After all the disappointment that Chargers’ fans have gone through, the Spanos’ team I suspect has a mandate for Norv to follow). True enough that Turner is a QB makeover artist and should make QB Philip Rivers that much better; however, his previous coaching gigs were disappointments, to say the least. Not only that, but the Chargers really liked playing under former HC Marty Schottenheimer. Fair or not, these are the cards dealt to Turner.
Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, Oakland Raiders
It is a good thing that Kiffin has excellent work habits (like former Raiders HC Jon Gruden). He’ll need them for the Raiders to hopefully have a respectable season. He has his hands full: getting the Raiders offense in sync (easier said that done with Jamarcus Russell being the starter WEEK 1), ensuring that the offensive line improves immensely (always a sore spot), and of course, winning more than the number of games they won last season. Al Davis’ patience has always been limited and this season’s no different. This year’s the honeymoon year for Lane; but depending on what the Raiders do this year, he may be on a short leash in his second year.
Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Poor Chris. Can’t stay out of trouble if his life depended on it. But that’s what he will need to do if he expects to continue his career in Cincinnati or elsewhere. The Bengals, despite Henry’s missteps, still believe in him. This blind faith better pay off; Henry’s obviously talented (arguably the best 3rd WR in this league) and just has to simply learn to stay out of trouble. The Bengals will benefit if Henry does these things. Which leads to our next person…..
Marvin Lewis, Head Coach, Cincinnati Bengals
A mark of a good coach is one who, in my opinion, is able to get his troops to respect him and actually like to play for him. I’m not sure where Marvin fits on that scheme of things, but considering that with all the Bengals who have gotten into legal trouble, someone obviously is not doing their job. It’s probably the Bengals’ front office fault (they chose to have people like Chris Henry, ex-Bengal-now- Brown Eric Steinbach and LB A.J. Nicholson playing downs for them, not Lewis). But like most pro sports teams, if the team stinks, who’s the fall guy? You got it – the head coach. If I was Marvin, I’d dust off your resume.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers
One would think that Panthers head coach John Fox is on the hot seat. If Fox was let go after this season, there are teams out there who would love to have him manning their sidelines. Forget him – their QB is really the one who has to watch his back. Delhomme better perform to the standards he had when the Panthers were regular visitors to the postseason. Cause the team didn’t pick up David Carr because he is just another QB. Simply put, if Jake doesn’t produce, then Carr will be the starting QB, possibly as early as WEEK 7.