Willo's 2021 stock report: Week EIghteen

By Thomas Willoughby

Well, that’s that. Eighteen weeks of fast-paced, high octane, regular season football, over in a flash. It’s been pretty good, hasn’t it? Even this extra week served up a healthy dose of the unexpected. You can’t ask for much more, can you?

We’re going to take a quick break, stock-wise, by the way. Just like last season, we’ll deliver playoffs stocks after the championship games, and a season round-up stocks after the big game. So, for the last time (for a few weeks), here we go again: here’s the stocks!

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We love the do-it-all types, here. My glowing write-up of the league’s best player, Cordarrelle Patterson, only a few weeks ago. I’m delighted to talk about another one of those players, doing bits for a team that isn’t awful. Deebo Samuel is pretty sensational, you know? He doesn’t split his snaps as a receiver and a runner quite as equally as Patterson, but he’s throwing the ball, now, so that’s something Cordarrelle needs to catch up to. 

The 49ers knew that they had to win on Sunday to make the playoffs, let’s be honest. A loss, and they’d need the Falcons to pull out a win against the Saints to make it, and the Falcons were never going to do that. Early on, they were down by multiple scores. 17-3 at halftime, and looking utterly listless. Enter: the man that’s been their go-to all year long. Deebo Samuel took over, ending the day with 95 receiving yards, 45 rushing yards and a touchdown, and 24 passing yards and a touchdown. How can you defend a man that plays everywhere? You can’t.

Samuel ends the season with 1405 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns, 365 rushing yards, 8 receiving touchdowns, 24 passing yards, and a passing touchdown. That’s mad. He’s far and away the 49ers MVP. If they’re planning on making some noise this postseason, he’ll be the reason why.

Jayne Kamin-USA TODAY Sports

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Right, let’s take our collective hat off to Mike Tomlin. That man is a coach of the year material, and he won’t get a nod because the Steelers as a team are NOT GOOD. But that guy just completed his 15th full season as the Steelers head coach. Would you like to know how many losing seasons he’s overseen in that time? Exactly 0. Yes, even with the corpse of Roethlisberger under center. He’s an utterly underrated genius.

The Steelers couldn’t finish below .500 on Sunday, but they had playoff implications on the line. Thanks to the Colts (we’ll get to it), they knew they’d be alive heading into Sunday night kick-off with a win. The awful awful Steelers ground out an atrocious win over the broken Baltimore Ravens, in Baltimore, who had their own permutations on the line. It wasn’t pretty, but it was emblematic of a coach capable of turning water in a competitive football team. Honestly, I’m stunned.

Will the Steelers do anything in the playoffs? Probably not. They travel to the Chiefs this weekend, and will likely get the brakes beaten off them. But the fact they’re even there, even after the 1-3 start, and the tie with Detroit, is something. Mike Tomlin will be asked to do something he’s never had to do in 2022, and that is starting a season without Ben Roethlisberger. Whoever that player will be is going to be one of the luckier quarterbacks in the league.

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The league’s darkest tradition is upon us. The first Monday after the end of each season is known as Black Monday for a reason. It’s the day that every team that is going to make a coaching/management change moves on from their existing coaches/general managers. This season, Black Monday began a day early. The moves have begun, and will likely continue for a while.

Vic Fangio, Brian Flores, Matt Nagy, and Mike Zimmer make up the head coaches currently removed from their positions. It’s difficult to make an argument for any of these guys remaining in post except Brian Flores. How/why did this happen?!? The entire NFL world is in collective shock that the Dolphins’ most recent head coach is out. Literally, every team looking for a head coach should hire him tomorrow.

On the general management side of things, Dave Gettleman was forced into early retirement, Ryan Pace finally saw his time end in Chicago, and Rick Spielman joined Mike Zimmer out the door in Minnesota. Again, it’s difficult to argue that those three names deserved to stick around longer than they did.

What Black Monday brings in vacancies, it makes up for with opportunity. We’re going to see the next generation of first-time coaches and GMs interviewed and hired in real-time over the next couple of months, and that’s exciting! We’re also going to see a bunch of new jobs open up as playoff teams underwhelm and look for their next era. Obviously, The Touchdown will have the best analysis of it as it happens.

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You had one job, guys. Just one. Just one very straightforward job. And you couldn’t do it. The Indianapolis Colts, despite surviving a slow start, and despite having everything in their own hands heading into the season finale, blew it. They lost, to the Jaguars, on the final day of the season. To miss the playoffs. Awful.

I’ve been saying all season long on The Touchdown Review (excellent show, listen to it), that divisional games are a toss-up. Case in point: the Colts haven’t won an away game to the Jaguars (including London) since 2014. But the Jags are the worst team in football, by some distance! Surely! Oh wait, no Carson Wentz is going to have a shocker. Nice one.

He ended the day with an adjusted QBR of 4.4. Out of 100. That’s pretty bad. But the Colts across the board had no answer for the Jags. Jonathan Taylor seemed alive, but he got no help. The defense was sliced apart by a Trevor Lawrence finally looking league-ready. No matter which way you cut it, though, you cannot defend that result. The Colts had the easiest opportunity to make the playoffs imaginable, and did not succeed. Tragic. You better hope they get better (or a legitimate quarterback) over the off-season.

Stephen B. Morton-AP Photo

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I told you all, last week, of how we would be allowed a moment of history on week 18. If the Jacksonville Jaguars could overcome the Indianapolis Colts, the final game of the regular season would see both sides progress to the playoffs if they tied. The Jacksonville Jaguars, as we already know, did indeed win their game. All eyes turned to Nevada. Never has a tie been wished for by so many fans. Would we get what we all craved?

I want to caveat this by saying that the game itself was excellent. A real humdinger. If it were a winner takes all affair, it’d be the sort of game that would be considered a classic. 28-28 in regular time, we had a proper back and forth affair. Even into overtime, we had a pair of field goals to get us to 32-32. With the ball, and knowing a tie would get them in regardless, the Raiders started to march. And march. And, off of a sudden, they were threatening to win the game. 

Now, were Las Vegas really going to score? No! They weren’t! But Brandon Staley, knowing what was at stake, folded. Like origami, he was, as he called a time out with 30 seconds to play. And the Raiders pounced. They went for the win, and got the win, and the Chargers, despite their season, went home empty-handed. We all lost.

15 kneel-downs each and a 0-0 was all we wanted. We were deprived history. Brandon Staley, I think you’re a smart guy. But your stupidity hurt us all. Have a terrible offseason, sir.

Featured Image Credit: Joe Sargent-Getty Images

Thomas Willoughby