How can a man coach two of the last three year’s rushing champions, and end up without a job? Under Earnest Byner’s tutelage, Titans RB Chris Johnson and Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew each had their best year as a pro. Not only were they formidable weapons on the ground attack, but they became better blockers under Byner, and more importantly, each also became supremely viable weapons catching passes out of the backfield.
Did we mention that both runningbacks won the NFL’s single-season rushing title with him as their coach?
How did the Titans let him get away? How did the Jags not renew his contract when it expired at the end of last season? We have no idea what Tennessee’s or Jacksonville’s thinking was, but we here at BuccaneerTalk.com are very appreciative of their lack of loyalty and appreciation for one of the league’s most underrated assistant coaches.
There’s a dark cloud that ominously follows Coach Earnest Byner wherever he goes. That dark cloud, is “The Fumble”. Its a chapter in his history, that it seems will never go away. In the 1987 AFC championship game, the Earnest Byner and Bernie Kosar led Cleveland Browns stormed back from a 21-3 halftime deficit, to tie the game at 31-31. With six minutes left, the John Elway led Broncos scored the go ahead touchdown. Under Byner’s running and pass catching, the Browns got to within the Broncos 8-yard line with 1:12 left in the game. On the legacy-altering next play for Byner, he ran a draw, and had a clear path to the Broncos end zone. But, when he got to the 2-yard line, an admittedly fearful Broncos defensive back, Jeremiah Castille, avoided trying to tackle Earnest and instead reached out for the ball. It worked, Byner lost his grip on the football, and Denver recovered the fumble to seal their trip to the Super Bowl. According to the scared/lucky Castille, “I saw it was a draw play, and that Byner had the ball. I remember thinking that Byner ran all over us that entire second half, so there was no way I was going to tackle him. Instead, I went for the ball the whole time.” If you google “Earnest Byner”, countless references to this play will be listed on your search results. Any time there’s been a featured story on this coach, “The Fumble” is always mentioned. To us here at BuccaneerTalk.com, its a damn shame that this is what he is remembered for. What about the 67 rushing yards, 7 receptions for 120 yards, and 2 touchdowns in that AFC Championship? Everyone seems to forget that he was the reason that the Cleveland Browns were even in contention to win that game.
Speaking of the word “Fumble”, Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount has earned himself the reputation of being one of the league’s most fumble-prone ball carriers. He also has a reputation of not being much of an option in the passing game. If there ever was a coach that can help somebody get over a costly fumble, it would be Earnest Byner. During their seasons playing under Byner, Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson both became highly regarded as pass-catchers out of the backfield. We hope that Coach Byner will have us speaking of LeGarrette in the same breath as the two aforementioned backs when this season is all said and done. Word is, LeGarrette Blount has treated this offseason very seriously, and has done everything asked of him by Coach Byner. This is a very good sign for our team. If Blount’s bought into Byner’s philosophies, coaching style, and NFL experience-based life lessons, this could be one of the league’s best rushing attacks along with rookie RB Doug Martin.
In 2009, with Earnest Byner as their runningbacks coach, the Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson had 2,006 rushing yards, and won the league rushing title. He also had an extra 503 receiving yards to go along with that, and led the entire league in total yards from scrimmage with a grand total of 2,509 yards. He broke Hall-of Famer Marshall Faulk’s NFL record for most yards from scrimmage for a single season. How did Tennessee reward Earnest Byner?
The Titans let Coach Byner go.
Two years later, last season to be exact, with Byner as their runningbacks coach, the Jacksonville Jaguars also enjoyed a season with their runningback being the league’s rushing champ, Maurice Jones-Drew. He had 1,606 rushing yards, a franchise record for a single season. He also added in another 374 receiving yards as well. His season total of 1,980 total yards from scrimmage was also another Jags single season franchise record. How did the Jags reward Earnest Byner?
The Jaguars let Coach Byner go.
We here at BuccaneerTalk.com are absolutely thrilled. Ecstatic. Elated. Overjoyed. For their shining examples of overlooking production, and lack of loyalty, we would like to thank the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars for allowing a highly accomplished coach to fall into our laps. Go Bucs!