Sorting through coach speak is part of the task in the pursuit of a fantasy championship. Since the NFL news cycle never sleeps and we're all desperate for some sort of edge, we're left to sift through the ashes of coaches' statements to the media about plans, players and personnel. We all fall for it, there's no need to be ashamed and none of our records are clean when it comes to being lured in by optimistic offseason proclamations about players.
Now that the wreckage of the 2017 fantasy season is behind us and the reality of what unfolded is on the table, let's revisit some of the most outrageous instances of coach speak we never should have bought into. Perhaps it will teach us some lessons to apply when we inevitably live this Groundhog Day over for yet another summer, or maybe we'll just settle for cheap self-deprecating laughs. Here we go.
Pete Carroll's boundless misplaced backfield optimism
When asked about his backfield situation back in late May, Pete Carroll indicated that he expected the ground game to "come roaring right back." The Seahawks passed more in the first year of the post-Marshawn Lynch era than any other under Russell Wilson, but Carroll assured us all would be well following the addition of Eddie Lacy to a backfield containing former third-round pick C.J. Prosise and 2015 hot-finisher Thomas Rawls. The veteran head coach doubled down later in the offseason saying Rawls was back to the form of year's past.
Oh, Pete. We love you for your upbeat optimism that often manifests itself in strange, yet endearing ways, but come on. You sold us an atlas of deception on this one.
A defunct offensive line doomed this prediction from the start and a stable of woebegone backs didn't do their part. Eddie Lacy was largely a non-factor. Thomas Rawls cleared 40 yards rushing as many times as NFL Fantasy's own Michael Fabiano. Look at the numbers, Fabs didn't do it once this year either. C.J. Prosise remains merely a myth at the NFL level; often spoken about in grandeur but never actually seen in existence. Quarterback Russell Wilson led the team in rushing. Roar, the run game did not.
One Twitter follower noted that the May article didn't even mention Chris Carson, who was clearly the best running back the team had all season. Carson's 208 rushing yards led the running back group for most of the season. He went on injured reserve after Week 4, by the way. Mike Davis finally took his "throne" in Week 17 with a 48-yard effort against the Cardinals to finish with 240 yards. In case you're curious, Davis joined the team after Week 10.
Steve Sarkisian tells the latest lie about Julio's red zone use
Julio Jones is 6-foot-4, a 220-pound alien sent to our planet to decimate opposing defenses with his 4.3 speed. A player like that should be tearing through those who stand in his way for touchdowns at any moment. Yet, Jones has just one season in his seven-year career with double-digit touchdowns.
Back in June, Steve Sarkisian believed he had the answers to solve this problem. Sarkisian, he of a let's just say interesting college coaching career path, believed he could take the offense to the next level despite predecessor Kyle Shanahan clearly maximizing it in 2016. It would all center around using Jones more in the red zone to bolster Atlanta's ninth-best red zone conversion rate.
Here's what actually happened: Atlanta cratered to 27th in red zone conversion rate and Jones scored just one red zone touchdown on 19 targets, tied for seventh-most in the NFL. The offensive coordinator's words brought us just three touchdowns in total for Julio, a career-low for the All-Pro wideout. So, thanks for nothing, Sark.
Cam Newton will run less and we mean it this time (they didn't)
Look, maybe Carolina did intend to run Newton less. They drafted a running back eighth overall, extended their veteran starter and got Newton some quick-strike weapons in the passing game. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
We'll keep this one simple. Newton ended up finishing with career-highs in rush attempts (139) and rushing yards (754) in 2017. He actually doubled-up his rushing from 2016. Perhaps we should be happy this one ended up being as wrong as I was that Ty Montgomery would be an RB1 this season (we'll get to that soon), since his rushing yards boosted him to another top-10 finish. But we should still approach the keyboard with caution when we're ready to write the 576th story of Newton's career about how his team wants to limit the attribute that makes him special.
The DeVante Parker saga
Wow. Where to begin? Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen set the tone for DeVante Parker by forecasting a giant year. He wasn't the first in the Miami area to crank up the expectations and he wouldn't be the last. Even new quarterback Jay Cutler joined in on the fun by saying Parker was "a faster Alshon Jeffery," the receiver once the apple of the mercurial quarterback's eye in Chicago.
Here are just some of the coach speak highlights from Parker's Rotoworld news page from May to August:
"Really different from last year."
"Ready to get after it."
Literally none of that came true. Not one small portion bore out in our reality. Parker struggled with an injury, not so different from 2016. He didn't have a big season, he scored just once. Parker didn't become a dominant threat, hell, he didn't even become the team's top threat. Jarvis Landry led the team with a whopping 161 targets, while Parker finished third with 96 in 13 games.
The Dolphins coaching staff weaved together a pretty good story about Parker's impending breakout. If you adjusted the EQ settings on your speaker just right, it almost sounded like that steady drumbeat you want to hear in the offseason news cycle. In the end, this was just another beat to march you right to a wasted mid-round pick you probably convinced yourself was going to work out all the way until like mid-November.
Wait, do you even remember this guy?
You can say "no one bought it," and certainly most cast at least a glance of skepticism at this unproven back leading a backfield that hasn't produced a 900-yard rusher since the last time The Office was on the air (2012, so, just on the air not actually good). But Perkins was still a seventh-round pick, per Fantasy Football Calculator's ADP. So at least a few people took the bait, even if it was with the type of sigh you emit before knowingly doing something you'll regret in the not too distant future.
It didn't help that the Giants coaching staff attempted to sell a distorted view of what was to come. Now castaway head coach Ben McAdoo named Perkins the starter publicly back in May without even a hint of a competition. The message of deceit trickled down the chain of command, as running backs coach Craig Johnson told us that Perkins had three-down back potential.
Three-down back? Paul Perkins didn't even average three yards per carry this season. The second-year back gave New York 61 yards on 32 meaningless carries over the first four games of 2017 before suffering a rib injury that took him out of action. Even when he was healthy enough to return, Perkins was essentially never heard from again.
Critics review: God bless the actors, they did their best to sell what was a script ultimately set up to fail, but in the end, I found the plot all too predictable. Left the showing wishing I had spent those 60 seconds of my fantasy draft watching something else.
Local Green Bay man believes in position change fairytales
Sometimes you feel as if you just say something enough and with the right amount of gusto, you can will it into existence. Even as the words escape your lips, you don't actually regard them as fact. Looking back in hindsight, it sure seems like that's what Mike McCarthy was doing when speaking of his confidence in converted wideout Ty Montgomery's role as the Packers feature back for the 2017 season. Let's revisit portions of McCarthy's full statement of Montgomery propaganda to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero from late July:
"He plays 16 games plus the playoffs..."
Okay. Pause. We can probably start here mid-sentence. The converted receiver played just eight. He was injured five touches in to his fourth game.
"...we'll be saying a lot of great things about him in January."
Well, actually, it's January now and we're all wondering how high to take Montgomery's former backups Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in our 2018 fantasy drafts and theorizing about how the workload split will look between the duo. Not sure what Mike McCarthy is saying these days outside of words of farewell to members of his coaching staff as the Packers reboot the operation after missing the playoffs. In fairness, NFL Fantasy LIVE host James Koh did say on last week's podcast that he forgot Montgomery existed. While that counts as things, they were hardly great.
"He can obviously run it..."
How obvious is it? Montgomery averaged 3.1 yards per carry in the first three weeks of the regular season when he was the feature back and checked in at a sterling 107th in Pro Football Focus' elusiveness rating among all backs this year. He finished in the same range as rushing luminaries such as Robert Turbin and Fozzy Whittaker.
"That guy's a stud now."
That guy finished third on his team in rushing, edging out backup quarterback Brett Hundley by just three yards. Mike, it definitely appears you were trying to talk yourself into believing this one. In fairness, you got a lot of people to buy-in, myself included. Perhaps the words of George Costanza do indeed ring true, "It's not a lie, if you believe it."
Andrew Luck's flexible timetable
We never saw Luck take a snap during the 2017 regular season.
Things Hue Jackson Said
Hue Jackson may not have won a game as the Cleveland Browns head coach this year, but we're going to give him the special honor of getting his own section in this article anyway. Jackson famously made his push for the NFL's Disinformation Artist in Chief position when he puffingly proclaimed "it felt like the Earth moved beneath my feet," when watching Robert Griffin III go through a private workout before the Browns owner directed "go get him" at Jackson's behest. He hasn't let-up since then. Let's revisit some of the highlights where Jackson was "generous" with his stretching of the truth.
After the Browns made a curious pick of Cody Kessler in the third-round, Hue Jackson said, "You have to trust me on this one." Fast forward to 2017 and Cody Kessler finished third on the team in pass attempts (23) and was always a distant third behind DeShone Kizer and current Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler in the preseason quarterback battle. So, do we have to, Hue?
Speaking of Kizer, when Jackson named the rookie his starter for Week 1, he said "This is not just for the moment. We're going to get with DeShone, (and) ride with him through it all." Jackson benched him by Week 6. The rest of the regular season ride was a doozy and included several more instances of Kizer being yanked in and out of games. The Browns would later engage in a failed trade attempt for Jackson's former backup with the Bengals, A.J. McCarron.
Jackson insisted to us back in June that the Browns had "to run the ball more. I will be the first to tell you that." He even went so far as to say, "I beat myself up about that," in regard to how quickly the Browns got away from the run in 2016 under his watch. Hopefully, Hue is about to forgive himself a little easier this time around because Cleveland ranked 28th in run play percentage this year. Lead back Isaiah Crowell, the centerpiece of Jackson's promises to run more, finished with just eight more carries in 2017 than the 198 he totaled in the season prior.
In a piece full of the heightened mythical words only Hue Jackson can muster, the head coach laid it on thick in his projections for running back Duke Johnson. Jackson spoke glowingly of Johnson, proclaiming "he is a weapon for us. We are just trying to use him as much as we can, and we do." Well, "try" as they might, it didn't happen. Johnson averaged just 9.7 touches per game as the Browns marched to 0-16, despite the exciting back clearly offering some dynamism with the ball in his hands.
Thanks for the exaggerations and good times, Hue Jackson. We will (somehow) see you again for the fibbing season when 2018 training camps open.
A Marvin Lewis special for the road
To celebrate his recent unexpected contract extension with the Bengals, let's give Marvin Lewis the quick final say of this article. Back in May after the Bengals took John Ross ninth-overall in the NFL Draft, Lewis called him an all-around football player. Not but six months later did that very same Marvin Lewis say to the media in regards to that very same John Ross, "he let me down," in a striking public-shaming of his oft-injured rookie receiver. In fairness, a report did surface that the Bengals considered giving Ross reps at cornerback before he landed on injured reserve. Maybe that's what Lewis meant? Either way, enjoy the offseason, Bengals fans.