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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

When's healthy enough enough? Jay Cutler is in, Robert Griffin III out

Washington Coach Mike Shanahan, who is all but out the door, has shut down his quarterback for the last three games. Chicago Coach Marc Trestman is giving Cutler a chance to prove himself.

December 14, 2013|Sam Farmer
  • Jay Cutler will start for the Chicago Bears against the Cleveland Browns after missing four games because of a high-ankle sprain.
Jay Cutler will start for the Chicago Bears against the Cleveland Browns… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )

It's a strange week when Washington Coach Mike Shanahan is rolling the dice by taking out the healthy-enough Robert Griffin III, and Chicago Coach Marc Trestman is rolling the dice by putting in the healthy-enough Jay Cutler.

If Cutler doesn't match or exceed what hot-handed successor Josh McCown has done, it looks like the end of the road for him in Chicago.

As for Shanahan, who has shut down Griffin for the final three games of the season — citing all the punishing hits the quarterback has endured — the paved road in Washington ended some ways back. Shanahan is all but out the door, and the reason he doesn't quit (as opposed to being fired) is he would have to forfeit the $7 million he's owed for the remaining final year of his contract.

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Some notes, quotes, and anecdotes heading into Week 15 …

With road wins at Denver, Kansas City and Philadelphia, the Chargers could do some damage were they to sneak into the playoffs as the AFC's sixth seed. That's a big if because: a) they need help from both Miami and Baltimore, and b) they still have to beat Oakland and Kansas City at home, and San Diego isn't reliable in must-win games.

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What if San Diego had kept Eli Manning when it took him first overall in 2004 instead of trading him for Philip Rivers? For one, Peyton Manning wouldn't be playing for Denver. He wouldn't want to be in the same division as his younger brother, having to play him twice a season.

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In his first 25 games as an NFL head coach, Bruce Arians has gone 17-8. That's 9-3 with Indianapolis as an interim last season, and 8-5 with Arizona this season, two teams widely predicted to finish at the bottom of their divisions. That's not bad.

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Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles crank the music at practice, more than most teams. This week, in preparing to play at Minnesota, whoever is in charge of the tunes blasted a horn sound similar to the one used to celebrate Vikings touchdowns at the Metrodome. Kelly insisted he had no clue that horn would be sounded. "I literally have nothing to do with the music," he said. "I thought it was the horn from 'Anchorman.' "

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The Texas Rangers selected Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson this week in the triple-A portion of Major League Baseball's Rule 5 draft. He played second base in the Colorado Rockies farm system for two years before turning his attention back to football. He's sticking to the NFL but, hey, who wouldn't be flattered by being drafted three times in two different sports?

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It's another season out of the playoffs for Cleveland, which has lost four in a row. But the 4-9 Browns didn't shut it down the way it seemed they were poised to do back in September, when they benched Brandon Weeden and shipped Trent Richardson to Indianapolis. They have played a lot harder than that.

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Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he'd be the No. 1 overall pick if there were a redo of the 2013 draft, and he might be right. He's a rising star. But there are several of those in this rookie class, among them Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon, Cincinnati running back Giovani Bernard, Carolina defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso, San Diego receiver Keenan Allen, and New Orleans safety Kenny Vaccaro.

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Jon Gruden's name is connected to just about every high-profile coaching vacancy in the NFL and college, but I bet he doesn't return to coaching for a long time, if ever. His TV gig is too good. His younger brother, Jay, will be a head coach sometime soon, though, and maybe by next season.

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Parents of punters have to hate the Red Zone Channel. About the only time their sons show up on it, they're desperately trying to make a tackle.

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Thursday was the 25th anniversary of the NFL's "Snowplow Game," when Mark Henderson, a convict on work release, drove his snowplow onto the field in New England and — under orders from Patriots Coach Ron Meyer — veered off course to quickly clear a spot for the winning field goal in a 3-0 victory over Miami. The current NFL rule book reads: "Under no circumstances will a referee permit clearing by the grounds crew of a spot for a PAT or field-goal attempt. It is permissible for players to clear such spots by hand or foot." Given a chance, Dolphins coach Don Shula would have loved to use the rule book to wind up and plunk Henderson off that plow.

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Since the summer, the New York Giants had a Super Bowl "countdown clock" on a bulletin board in their locker room. It was two sheets of paper, one with a Super Bowl logo and the other a number changed daily to reflect the number of days remaining until the NFL's marquee game, which will be played Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium. This week, after the Giants dropped to 5-8 and out of playoff contention, the handmade calendar found a new home in the trash can.

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Charles Woodson says he wants to come back to the Raiders next season. At 37, he's six years younger than George Blanda was when he played for them. In other words, Woodson's just a pup.

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Rivers on Thursday joined Vince Young as the only quarterbacks to beat the Manning brothers in back-to-back games. Sunday, the Carolina Panthers will face the second half of another brother tandem. They play the New York Jets, coached by Rex Ryan, a week after losing to New Orleans, whose defense is coached by Rex's brother, Rob. When asked this week whether he had reached out to Rob for tips on the Panthers, Rex said: "Oh, yeah, without question I've already talked to him."

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In his memorable news conference this week, in discussing his decision to shut down Griffin for the rest of the season, Shanahan delivered an all-time classic quote.

"What I'm trying to do is be as honest as I can. And I don't normally do that."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

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