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Steelers, Redskins among teams facing offensive identity crisis

Sean McVay's offense was a shell of its former self in Super Bowl LIII.

The Rams' offense that thrived off creativity and Todd Gurley's All-Pro ability during the regular season was all out of sorts against the Patriots. A unit that scored 32.9 points per game in the regular season was held to just three(!) on Sunday.

How does that happen? It's simple. The Rams hit somewhat of an identity crisis in that game. McVay explained Monday the game plan was to get both Gurley and C.J. Anderson involved. Look, I get that Anderson played well over the last month, but it's hard for me to understand how Gurley, who was in the MVP conversation for most of the season and scored 21 scrimmage touchdowns, wasn't the focal point of the Rams' attack in the biggest game of the season, especially considering he was healthy going into the contest. Sunday's offensive showing lacked rhythm, creativity and an up-tempo nature that it previously thrived on.

Heading into Championship Sunday, I wrote that McVay has the tendency to get caught up in the "I'm a good play-caller" trap. That's exactly what happened Sunday, and McVay agreed in his postgame press conference.

"I was not pleased at all with my feel for the flow of the game and kind of making some adjustments as the game unfolded and with giving ourselves a chance at some success and put some points on the board. Credit to them, they did a good job, and I certainly didn't do enough for us."

The Rams strayed from what got them to this point: A consistent running game and a prolific play-action attack. Hopefully, McVay and this young Rams offense will learn from Sunday's mistakes and get back to their identity in 2019.

The Rams were by no means the only team to lose its way on offense by season's end. Here are five other units suffering from an offensive identity crisis heading into the offseason:


When the Jaguars drafted running back Leonard Fournette No. 4 overall in 2017, they envisioned being a team led by a dominant defense and a powerful run game. The offensive strategy was run, run and run some more. But Fournette's injuries -- and suspension -- have prevented the offense from keeping up its end of the deal, and the Jags faltered in 2018 when leaning on Blake Bortles (who was benched) and the passing game to carry the load. The Jaguars can't rely on Fournette to stay on the field, and their quarterback situation is dicey with Bortles failing to fit the bill after signing a three-year, $54 million contract last offseason. It's not an ideal situation to have major questions surrounding the two most important offensive positions heading into the offseason.


The Dolphins introduced new head coach Brian Flores on Monday and it appears Ryan Tannehill might not be part of the picture in the near future. General manager Chris Grier told reporters that while no decision has been made on Tannehill, Miami will consider drafting a quarterback in April. With Chad O'Shea expected to be the new offensive coordinator, per the Miami Herald, it makes sense why Tannehill could be on the outs. O'Shea spent the last 10 years in New England as the wide receivers coach, and Tannehill is not the same mold as Tom Brady. The Patriots' offense requires the quarterback to do a lot at the line of scrimmage, and although Tannehill is a good athlete, he is not even close to the field general that Brady is. Without a solid foundation and relationship between a coordinator and quarterback, it doesn't matter how many other weapons are on the field.


The Steelers' locker room feels like it's been in a crisis for quite some time. It's never a good sign when teammates start pointing fingers and taking issues public, and it happened almost weekly in Pittsburgh this season. Like when Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pounceycalled out Le'Veon Bell early in the season or when teammates raided Bell's locker when it was clear the running back wasn't returning to the team this year. To make matters worse, Ben Roethlisbergerpublically criticized teammates, and Antonio Brown's status with the Steelersis unknown following a weird Week 17, when Brown failed to communicate or show up prior to the game and ultimately led to him being inactive for a must-win contest.

Most of Pittsburgh's issues are internal because it seems like no one is on the same page. But some concerns lie on the field. Bell, one of the best running backs in the league, will likely hit free agency in March, and it's possible that Brown could be elsewhere before the start of the season, too. The Killer B's that were once so dominant could all be wearing different uniforms before long.


With an exquisite ground game led by Derrick Henry, which looks to continue under new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, the Titans' biggest issue lies in Marcus Mariota. He's not a traditional pocket passer, but a player who can beat you with his arms and his legs. But, as dynamic a runner as he is, using him in the run game increases the possibility of him taking big hits. (We've seen this before with mobile quarterbacks, such as Robert Griffin III.) It's a conundrum that the Titans haven't quite figured out how to resolve. Last season, Matt LaFleur tried to fit Mariota into this mold of a dropback passer, and while Mariota improved his game in the pocket, he wasn't nearly as effective. If the Titans don't use him as part of the ground game, he'll be mediocre for six or seven seasons. If they do, he could max out his potential and have a few great seasons -- of course, that comes with a potentially higher risk of injury for a guy who's yet to play an entire 16-game season. But, in my opinion, Mariota should be exhausted after every game because he should be making a decision to keep the ball or throw it on almost every play. That's what made him so successful at Oregon.


The Redskins' offense looked bleak by season's end with a plethora of players on IR, including quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy, tight end Jordan Reed, receiver Paul Richardson and several members of the offensive line. Now, it's unclear when Smith will play again, if at all. Jay Gruden is back at square one after finally landing his QB of choice a year ago. With a glaring question mark under center, the running back position is also up in the air, with Adrian Peterson set to hit free agency and Derrius Guice coming off an ACL injury.

Follow David Carr on Twitter @DCarr8.

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