1. “Our receivers need to improve their route running.”
When you say it: Any time a pass play doesn’t work and it’s not because of an obvious mistake by the quarterback and there aren’t any famous receivers on your team.
Whose fans are saying it this season: New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers.
2. “Our offensive line needs to get more push.”
When you say it: After a run of any kind fails to pick up at least four yards for any reason at all.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Michigan Wolverines, USC Trojans.
3. “Our defensive line needs to get more push.”
When you say it: Any time an opposing quarterback completes a pass on third and long without any noticeable pressure from the pass rush.
Whose fans are saying it this season: The Steelers and Giants only have four sacks each on the year so far. (The league leaders, the Chiefs, have 18.)
4. “We’ve got to start mixing up our coverage schemes.”
When you say it: Any time more than two consecutive passes are completed against your defense.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Everyone who plays against the Broncos.
5. “If we don’t develop our vertical passing game they’re just going to keep stacking the box against the run.”
When you say it: When a running play doesn’t work and it’s been a while since you had a long pass.
Whose fans are saying it this season: The Minnesota Vikings, as always.
6. “[Quarterback’s name] needs to be more confident in the pocket.”
When you say it: After any inaccurate pass.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville Jaguars. Probably somewhere someone is still saying this about Kevin Kolb.
7. “Winning starts in the trenches.”
When you say it: If your team gives up a sack or, more optimistically, drafts an offensive lineman.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Actually, for the first time in about eight years, Bears fans are not complaining about their offensive line this season. You know why? Because the Bears realized that winning starts in the trenches.
8. “You simply have to wrap up the ballcarrier at this level.”
When you say it: When the opposing running back bulldozes your guy’s crap attempt at a shoulder tackle for yet another first down during a soul-crushing 10-minute fourth-quarter drive that puts the game out of reach.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Texas Longhorns.
9. “Our receivers have to learn to run to the sticks on third down.”
When you say it: When you fail to get a first down.
Whose fans are saying it this season: According to Football Outsiders, the worst-passing teams on third and fourth down this season include the Jaguars, Steelers, and Cardinals. The Steelers are coming up a lot on this list.
10. “[Name of guy who just screwed up] needs to improve his footwork.”
When you say it: Literally any time something bad happens and it’s not obvious why, you can blame it on “poor footwork” or “a lack of technique.”
Whose fans are saying it this season: USC and Notre Dame have not demonstrated a great surplus of footwork or technique in any aspect of the game this season. It seems possible that no one on USC even has feet.
11. “Our play-calling is too predictable.”
When you say it: When a traditional power run doesn’t work.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Florida.
12. “We need to get back to old-fashioned hard-nosed power-running football.”
When you say it: When anything that’s NOT a traditional power run (counter, option, end around, etc.) doesn’t work.
Whose fans are saying it this season: Fans of teams that have switched to a spread offense LOVE saying this, so after a few more losses, expect to hear it a lot from Philadelphians.
13. “Sweet Jesus — for the sake of society-wide health and sanity, some sort of legal authority needs to arrest and imprison every single member of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization.”
When you say it: Before, during, and after Jacksonville Jaguars games.
Whose fans are saying it this season: An rapidly dwindling number of unhappy human beings in northern Florida.