Five Wide: 2023 Week Nine

By Thomas Willoughby

After a little breather, we’re back on the international train. Two weeks in Frankfurt sounds like a delightful getaway, one that I sadly will not be enjoying, but I’m sure Rich Eisen and company are having the time of their lives.

Big fan of the early kick off, though. Having three slates of games that I can watch without risking oversleeping on Monday morning truly is a dream come true.

Right, that’s the waffle-y bit out the way. Let’s crack on.

Out of Tune

Being an NFL quarterback isn’t easy. If it was, there’d be more than like 10 good ones. You can have things around you make it easier. A smart playcaller, some top level talent, a soft opposition. Stuff you can’t necessarily control, but can go a long way to making you feel comfortable in the league.

Clayton Tune had, like, none of those things. He stepped in for his first game as an NFL professional, and managed 58 passing yards, 28 rushing yards, and got picked off twice. His top target was Marquise Brown, who hauled in 4 catches for 28 yards, and his faced a Cleveland Browns defense that is up there with the best in the NFL. The Cardinals were defeated 27-0. That poor boy had a debut he’ll never ever want to remember.

It’s pretty clear the Cardinals have kind of given up pretending to be competitive. They’re in line for that first overall pick, and a shot at one of Caleb WIlliams or Drake Maye. Kyler Murray is back, so the question I ask is this: should they play him to try and improve his stock around the league for a bigger trade package in 3 months time but risk winning a game or two, OR shut him down knowing his stock will decline, but all but guarantee that first overall pick? What a question. For me? Let Murray heal up a bit more and make that decision AFTER you’ve played the Falcons. Thanks.

Jason Miller-Getty Images

Quarterbacks of the week

On the flip side, I’d be remiss for not mentioning the heroics of C.J. Stroud and Joshua Dobbs; two guys who, arguably, put up the most impressive quarterbacking performances this weekend. For very different reasons. 

For Stroud, whose rookie season has been an undeniable success, all he did was stare down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (themselves a largely fine team), and decided to beat them singlehandedly. 470 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a gamewinning drive that feels like it’s primed for being replayed against and again. A statement performance from, who has to be, the offensive rookie of the year front-runner for 2023.

Dobbs’ game was impressive for different reasons. He started as a Cardinal, keeping the seat warm until Kyler Murray was fit. He gave a pretty good account for himself, too. With Murray on his way back, Dobbs was surplus, and so he was dealt to Cousins-less Vikings for a late round pick. He was expected to start this past week, but an in-game injury to Jaren Hall forced him into play. Obviously, they won. Despite Dobbs not knowing his teammates names, and despite having to ask his receivers what the play he’d just called actually meant. What a story, man. A guy who’d been with the Vikings for like a day, playing at a legitimately high level. Fair play to the pair of them. Excellent work.

It's coming up, it's coming up, it's coming up: it's Dare

But, the biggest winner of the weekend, for my money, wasn’t a rookie QB that threw for a billion yards. Nor was it a perennial backup that torched an allegedly good defense having been with his current team for all of 20 minutes. Biggest winner, bar none, was a player called Dare Ogunbowale, a backup running back for the Texans who played his way into history this past Sunday.

Not for anything he did as a runner, by the way. He ran the ball exactly zero times, for a gain of zero yards. But Ka’imi Fairbairn, the Texans regular kicker, suffered a game ending quad injury, leaving them without a recognised kicker on the roster. So, with the game insanely close, up steps Dare Ogunbowale from 29 yards. And he nails it, too. Sparking one of the most visceral reactions I’ve ever seen from a coach.

Ogunbowale is the first non-kicker to kick a field goal since Wes Welker in 2004 for the Dolphins vs New England. And those points proved to be absolutely vital, given Houston won by 2. I doubt he gets offered the gig long term, or even until Fairbairn is deemed healthy enough to start again. But he’ll absolutely be taking kicks in practice regularly from now until the end of the season, just in case.

See C.J. Stroud’s thoughts here!

The Patriots Way: 2000-2023

I wanted to talk about the New England Patriots here, but I feel like I’ve done a fair bit of that this season, so we’re going to pivot to something Patriots adjacent. The Patriots dynasty is over, even though Bill Belichick is clinging onto his current gig for dear life. The dynasty, as far as I’m concerned, did not (or does not) end with Bill, or even the Patriots themselves. The moment Josh McDaniels was booted from the Raiders, that era was over.

Not necessarily because of the firing, but from a meeting hours beforehand. Where players and coaching staff basically tore McDaniels apart, begging him to change. A man that has overseen some of the greatest offenses in NFL history, won a billion Super Bowl rings, and worked directly under the tutelage of Bill Belichick himself, reduced to being a punching bag for an entire organisation before being told to sling his hook.

The Raiders looked really good on Sunday, albeit against a very very very bad Giants side. What’s more, the Raiders players looked lighter, and more free, without The Patriot Way hanging over their heads. Josh McDaniels, meanwhile, has seen probably his last chance at making a success of being a head coach go up in flames. Bill’s protege? Done. All that’s left is a ceremonial “moving on” of arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, and we can finally breathe easy.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA Today

Poor-ilna Panthers

Listen, this is not my NFC South biases coming out to play. Genuinely. I’d hold this belief if I supported a team in the NFC North. The Carolina Panthers’ season is probably the funniest I’ve seen from any team in a WHILE.

Clearly they’re bad, that’s undeniable. They’re not in the market of being good right now, to be fair, having basically torn down and started again. This year is all about making Bryce Young as comfortable as possible in the NFL. He doesn’t look very comfortable just yet, and they’re losing a lot of games as a result. No problem, at least they’ve got a nice draft pick to fall back on, right?

WRONG. Part of the deal they made to secure the services of Bryce Young was giving up this season’s first round pick. So they’re out there looking awful while the Bears reap the benefits. If you’re a Panthers fan, how do you get yourself up for the rest of the season? How do you get up for next season? Not my problem to solve, fortunately.

Features Image Credit: Eric Sauseda-Houston Press

Thomas Willoughby