Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to our great readers.
It's also important to remember the NFL fans going through a classic case of "Bah, humbug!" at this time of year.
1) Cam Newton
The sad thing is, before the clueless, irresponsible, and disgraceful player-kicking and ref-intimidating incidents on Sunday, Newton was playing his best ball of the season. But this is the problem with Cam Newton: He cannot get out of his own way. It's the body language. It's the zany press conferences. It's the maniacal touchdown celebrations when the Carolina Panthers are losing big during this awful season of underachievement.
For the record, I think Newton can be saved. I think Ron Rivera should be replaced; the right structure-oriented coach with the right offensive system can help Newton. But Newton has to become a better leader this offseason, handling the "fifth quarter" of being an NFL quarterback with true aplomb. Study Tony Romo's growth with the Dallas Cowboys in these areas. It's possible.
It can't get worse. His 2012 season has been a public regression and a black eye. Newton needs to understand the difference between perception and reality.
2) Chan Gailey
It is so en vogue to roast coaches. Gailey has skated by, perhaps because Buffalo Bills fans are, sadly, so used to disappointment. But make no mistake; he is inept. He should get a lump of coal this Christmas and, if the Bills care about winning, a pink slip next week. And he should take general manager Buddy Nix with him.
The Bills were offseason champs and in-season chumps. Gailey is supposed to be an offensive guru, yet quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has regressed mightily, proving he cannot be a starter for a good team. Gailey's play selection is beyond suspect. I feel like C.J. Spiller should walk around with a "Hello, my name is ..." sticker on his shirt. The defense has underachieved; Mario Williams hasn't helped. Gailey doesn't attract strong assistant coaches.
The Dolphins have embarrassed Buffalo this year in terms of professionalism. Imagine the response if one had uttered that in the preseason.
3) Tim Tebow/Rex Ryan
I'll take a break from my (justified) Mark Sanchez bashing for the week, because Tim Tebow, the supposed poster child for helping the team, decided to take his ball and go home.
Long-time ace Jets beat writer Rich Cimini broke the story on Sunday night, reporting that Tebow told coach Rex Ryan he didn't want to run the Wildcat packages after being passed over for Greg McElroy as the Jets' starter. That's the first chink in the armor for the golden boy. Frankly, while Ryan and the Jets have totally misused Tebow and botched everything about the situation, that's totally unacceptable, and it conflicts with the notion that Tebow is only about winning.
I'm sure Tebow feels like he was misled, promised he was going to run the ball all year long. The Jets should've used Tebow, but they didn't. And look how the season has played out. Remember the Jets' clandestine approach to Tebow in training camp, meant to keep the Tebow packages secret? What a joke.
The Mike Tannenbaum bashers are out, and the general manager does deserve blame. But he and Ryan are, in my opinion, attached at the hip. Ryan is very involved in picking the roster. And Ryan has failed.
The Tebow nonsense is a great illustration of the horrible job Ryan has done as a team leader and manager. Tebow wasn't healthy enough to throw a pass on Thanksgiving night, yet he was active and McElroy wasn't? As it turned out, the so-called "butt fumble" game presented a good (but missed) opportunity to replace Sanchez. McElroy finally got a chance the following week, stepping up against the Arizona Cardinals, but was inactive for two weeks after that, sitting out a stretch that included the ill-fated Monday night matchup against the Tennessee Titans, when the Jets really needed their backup quarterback.
4) Mike Wallace
Funny, I'm not getting any more tweets, calls on the SiriusXM Blitz, or comments calling me clueless for predicting in the preseason that the Pittsburgh Steelers would miss the playoffs.
The Steelers have had issues all year long, from bad luck with injuries to a lack of a pass rush to Troy Polamalu's health and regression. Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley weren't on the same page. The offensive line was a mess. Special teams play was spotty. It was a predictable 8-8 brew.
But I go back to Wallace's offseason absence as a turning point. It took the receiver awhile to get comfortable in Haley's offense after missing time due to a contract dispute. He never matched his productivity from last season, failing to give the Steelers the jolt they needed. And he had to know that he was never going to get paid.
In the end, Wallace didn't fatten his wallet, but he did hurt the team. Attaboy, Mike.
5) Gregg Knapp
If there was ever an offensive coordinator destined to be "one-and-done," it's Knapp. This Oakland Raiders offense was offensive, a total failure; everyone in Oakland and the NFL knows it.
6) Jerry Gray
7) Perry Fewell
8) A.J. Smith
Think of how Smith handled receiver Vincent Jackson, making contract negotiations between the Chargers and their veteran receiver personal; Jackson eventually bolted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A similar thing happened with Marcus McNeill. Did Smith replace key running back Darren Sproles? How has Larry English panned out, or Ryan Mathews?
9) Gene Smith
There are plenty of good reasons for Gene Smith to lose his job as the Jacksonville Jaguars' general manager. The consistent first-round reaches in the draft and the bad free-agent deals quickly come to mind. He also didn't want Tebow, and that was a mistake.
But there is no more damning Cecil Fielder-style swing-and-a-miss than this:
Hey -- Happy Holidays!