Carson Palmer

2010 NFL Season: Historic Day for Black Quarterbacks

For Black quarterbacks across the NFL, October 10 is a day that many of them (based on their previous recorded statements) will view as just another Sunday.  But, for observers of the game and others aware of the way that questions of race color perceptions of performance, yesterday was a historic day.  For the first time that I can remember, more than one or two Black quarterbacks faced off against elite non-Black quarterbacks on the same Sunday.  I’m sure it’s happened before, but my memory is not coming up with another such Sunday.  I might have to go all the way back to the heyday of Daunte Culpepper and Aaron Brooks to find such a week.  I’ll take a look and see what I come up.  But for now…yesterday was one interesting day.

Irrelevant Excellence?

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2010 NFL Season: John Clayton’s Quest for Integrity

ESPN reporter John Clayton is routinely lambasted on his “blog” for ESPN.com because he makes outlandish and often ridiculous statements.  Perhaps no single statement has garnered as much ridicule as his singular proclamation that Baltimore Ravens starter Joe Flacco is “an elite quarterback.”

Clayton has been stuck on stupid for some time now.  He affirmed Flacco’s future greatness years ago.  He was sure the evidence would come.  Clayton even went so far as to suggest that we were seeing was merely a mirage.  Flacco’s 4-10, 34 yards, 1 INT nightmare vs. the New England Patriots was not really a disaster!  It was a sign of greatness because he was a young QB winning playoff games on the road.  Clayton’s statements read as if Ray Lewis and Ray Rice had suddenly changed uniforms; as if Flacco’s 4 measly completions actually impressed someone in Foxboro other than his own mother and John Clayton.

Clayton, a former beat writer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even went so far as to ignore the pitiable performance Flacco offered up in the 2008 AFC Championship game.  He served up another fitful apologia after the Colts put Joe to bed without any dinner in 2009.  In 2010, it’s been CRICKETS. (more…)

Troy Polamalu: Quintessential Anticipation

Week 10 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals

Troy Polamalu Knows What's Coming

On this play, Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu has anticipated the snap of the ball and diagnosed the play.  He is already across the line of scrimmage and bearing down on the ball.  Bengals QB Carson Palmer hasn’t even raised the ball to his waist.  The play is a power rush to the left side for Cedric Benson.

Benson doesn’t make it.

No wonder this team was 9-7.

Bengals Hustle on Russell

JaMarcus Russell, the 2007 number one overall draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, was cut this week but may find a home in Cincinnati.  All-World Media man Chad Ochocinco is reporting that Russell will be with the Bengals at mini-camp in June.

From a personnel standpoint, this moves fits the Bengals M.O.  Russell is a great physical talent who will come at a discount.  Mike Brown is a discount shopper of outstanding talent.  The Bengals have signed Adam Jones, Tank Johnson and several others.  The team drafted A.J. Nicholson from Florida State and Rey Maualaga from USC.  And that’s the short list.

From a football perspective, the decision makes sense as well.  If you saw Carson Palmer struggle against the Jets in the playoffs, you know the Bengals have to be looking for a quarterback of the future.  Palmer was unable to make a number of throws against the Jets that cost his team the game.  His abysmal performance did escape close media scrutiny (not surprising given Palmer’s blond hair and USC pedigree), but management and head coach Marvin Lewis must have noticed.

The situation in Cincinnati may not be urgent, but it bears watching.  Palmer, for all his troubles in the passing game, can teach JaMarcus Russell a great deal about playing the position.  I don’t know how much he can teach him about leadership.  I’ve always felt that the true leadership of the Bengals was at other positions (wide receiver, offensive line (Willie Anderson)).  Still, Cincinnati provides a second chance for Russell to learn away from the bright lights of high expectations.  He can toil in the shadows and master his craft.  Twenty games at LSU was clearly insufficient.

In Cincinnati, Carson Palmer will not be looking over his shoulder.  Russell might not even make the team.  The Bengals are looking to contend for a Super Bowl title this season and need some depth at this position.  Palmer has been injured before and four games vs. the Steelers and Ravens will provide ample opportunity for a recurrence.  And, then there is the potential of another visit to Revis Island.

McNabb Trade: Playoff Bound Redskins Cause Expert Reversal

All it took was ONE DAY for ESPN’s Mark Mosley to start hedging his bets.

All it should have taken was a quick look at the fact Washington lost 7 games by less than a touchdown last year…that they always have a chance to beat their division rivals (because that’s the way it is in the NFC East)…and they’ll play the AFC South next season and will surely benefit from Mike and Kyle’s familiarity with Houston, Albert’s knowledge of Tennessee, and their ability to compete against the largely one-dimensional attacks of Indy and Jacksonville.

The Unstable Stable

The additions of Maake Keomeatu on the D-line, the conversion of Brian Orakpo in the new alignment and the addition of quality depth in the secondary and in the offensive backfield mean this team is poised to go to the next level. The Bengals went from 4-11-1 to 10-6 and a Division Title with Carson Palmer at the helm.  The Redskins should have similar expectations.  The Giants and Cowboys cannot be expected to pose a tougher challenge than the Steelers and Ravens.

Good to see Mosley get that hedge in early.  The problem is that the first piece was written as if he’d neglected to even look at the Redskins roster or to weigh the impact of how they will operate on offense.  The Redskins are going to feature three experienced backs in Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker.  Each one has faced different challenges over the past few seasons, but none of them should be concerned with hitting the wall in Week 16.  The Redskins should have one of the most dominating rush attacks in the league in 2010.  Mosley spent so much time attempting to minimize the impact of this trade that he ignored the return of Chris Cooley and maturation of Fred Davis until today.

Doesn’t Mosley know that the last thing a defensive end wants to face is a zone-blocking, two tight end offense featuring all of those backs and Donovan McNabb or any elite mobile QB running play action?  Apparently not.  Mike Shanahan coached a Top 10 offense in Denver for a DECADE.  His son just converted Michael Vick’s perennial backup into the leading passer in the entire league.  And, the Redskins defense has been ranked in the Top 10 for 8 of the past 10 seasons.  Do you really think the wheels are going to fall off with the addition of elite offensive coaching, play-calling and execution?  Really?

GOLD STAR QUESTION: By how many games did the New Orleans Saints improve when they added Sean Payton and Drew Brees?

GOLD STAR ANSWER:  SEVEN.

RED STAR QUESTION: By how many games did the Atlanta Falcons improve when they added Matt Ryan and Alex Gibbs?

RED STAR ANSWER: SEVEN.

Both New Orleans and Atlanta made the playoffs.   Perhaps all that can be said about Mosley and the Redskins playoff chances is that he denied it was possible before he thought it might be “kinda-sorta” possible.


Looking Ahead: Top NFL QBs in 2010

Who is in your Top 10?

Drew Brees is a no-brainer. What about Vince Young (26-13 as a starter)?  Joe Flacco (21-13 as a starter)?  Alex Smith?  Mark Sanchez?  Are you looking to the upside of a quarterback who has yet to make his mark, or are you sticking with the men who’ve done it before?  Manning (2x) and Brady.  What about the potentially retired?  Are you expecting a Beltway Revival for choir boy turned QB, Jason Campbell?  How much are you going to hold Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl loss against him?   How much are you going to hold Eli Manning’s late season collapse against him?  How ’bout them fumbles (Tony Romo)?

Romo: "Sometimes, you've got to give the defense...give the defense what they want."

Who do you rank in the top 10 — and who is number one on your look good chart?

2009 NFL Season: Week 6 Recap

There were some compelling story lines that emerged this week.  The Bengals took a not-so-surprising plunge back to earth after beating the Steelers and Ravens.  The Giants were undressed.  The “Sanchise” took it on the chin 5 times and the Jets found a new way to lose.  The Vikings showed just how tough they’re going to be down the stretch.  (It looks an awful lot like the Saints and Vikings are going to play for the NFC Championship.)  The Eagles did the unthinkable.  With all of these stories, perhaps nothing was more surprising that the rapid and complete demise of the once-proud Tennessee Titans.

Welker_v_Titans

AP Photo - Winslow Townson

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2009 NFL Pre-Season: Early Thoughts

The NFL pre-season means absolutely nothing.  Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost every single game and were particularly ineffective on offense.  Pre-season means nothing.  Still…

Santonio Holmes - Super Bowl MVPSantonio Holmes – Super Bowl MVP

I can’t help thinking that some of what I’ve seen is instructive as a prelude to the 2009 season.  Here are some early thoughts: (more…)

What’s a White Guy Gotta Do???

To get on the cover of a Madden NFL video game?

Aside from the game’s namesake, it’s been a blackout and it’s been CURSES going all the way back to 2001.

madden06.jpg

madden07_.jpg

This has certainly been one of the more interesting phenomena in sports marketing over the past decade. It flies in the face of film and television marketing which seeks the token inclusion of whites in the most inconceivable of places. After two generations of gratuitous “buddy films” (all following from the surprising success of Sidney Poitier’s pairing with Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones), I’ve had enough. No more Negro sidekicks for me. I haven’t purchased a second-billing Negro title in more than a decade.

This Madden thing, though, is interesting. Consider that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have never been on the cover. Brian Urlacher? Nope. The Madden franchise, at this point, stands nearly alone as a testament to the extent to which Black quarterbacks have changed many aspects of how the game is played. Perhaps what is most interesting of all is that DEFENSIVE players (aside from Ray Lewis) have been an equal if not greater part of this transformation, but not have garnered the attention of quarterbacks. For all the excitement and on-field regular season success of Black quarterbacks, there has not been as much post season success. Perhaps there would have been more if Robert Smith never retired and the Vikings were able to keep their core together. Perhaps if the Steelers had not set Kordell Stewart up to fail (according to Jerome Bettis), there would be other examples. In Philadelphia, the Eagles have had some success, but it has come using a finesse offensive approach and a scatback incapable of moving the pile or dominating power defenses in inclement weather. Perhaps the Titans under the leadership of Steve McNair and Eddie George came closest precisely because they most closely followed the formula – sound decision-making in the pocket, power running, stout defense. Perhaps a long bomb to Isaac Bruce is all that separated the Titans from forcing a new conversation – that Black QBs can win big games when the teams are up to the task.

After all, for all of Peyton Manning’s success, it was last year’s TEAM and its RUNNING ATTACK against the mighty Ravens which proved decisive in their playoff run. There are so many specious claims about biology in sports. Claims about the respective intelligence and athleticism of players based on phenotype remain part of the game. Those claims remain part of our conversation about the game – and about ourselves.

Looking forward, this year’s cover man is off to a roaring start having been suspended for a game in preseason. I saw a few highlights of Vince Young recently. He looks great. If Norm Chow has the type of success with Vince that he had with the quarterbacks at USC, the league is in for a shock this year. I know you cannot put much stock in preseason football, but if Chow’s work holds form, Vince will the most dangerous player in the league by the end of this season. Some might argue he already is…but that’s hyperbole given the freshly minted rings held by #18 in Indianapolis and the rock redundancy held by new Baby Daddy #12 in New England.

If Vince can dodge the curse this year, it might be time for Madden to consider putting a player like Carson Palmer or Marc Bulger on the cover.