Usually, when a NFL coach benches a quarterback in favor of the backup, you can expect a bunch of coachspeak about why "this was the right move for this team right now," or, "we just felt it was time for a change." Or, as Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin put it on Sunday after he pulled Mason Rudolph in favor of Devlin Hodges in the middle of his team's victory over Cincinnati, "our offense needed a spark." In reality, the guy getting benched is probably doing a bad job but nobody wants to say it.
Well, nobody except Tomlin, who changed his tune at his Tuesday press conference, where he fielded questions after announcing that Hodges would start Pittsburgh's upcoming game against Cleveland over Rudolph. When asked what he's seen from Hodges that made him name him the starter, Tomlin offered up a scathing review of Rudolph's play of late by simply stating that Hodges "has not killed us." Brutal.
Here's the full video clip, which includes a wry smile from Tomlin after delivering the line:
Holy moly. For a coach to say something this disparaging means Rudolph must have been really killing them, or, as some conspiracy theorists on social media are saying, Tomlin knows what Rudolph said to Myles Garrett that caused Garrett to swing Rudolph's own helmet at him two weeks ago.
While I love a good conspiracy theory, Rudolph has indeed killed them. Over his last two games he's gone 31-for-60 for 306 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Hodges did provide the "spark" Tomlin spoke of in the postgame, going 5-for-11 for 118 yards and a touchdown in a 16-10 win over the Bengals. In two other appearances this season, Hodges has gone 22-for-29 for 200 yards, one touchdown and only one interception. Not eye-popping statistics, but ones that scream "he has not killed us." We'll see if that keeps up on Sunday, when Pittsburgh welcomes the Browns to Heinz Field for the biggest game of the year for both teams.