NFL

2010 NFL Season: Week 15 in Review

A game of inches, obscene noises, and definitive silence.

Antonio Cromartie, aka The Jersey Boy: Nice Grab

And this, too. (And it’s not a replay.)

Antonio Cromartie Masterfully Turns the Inside Shoulder

Um, and this one, too.

Antonio Cromartie Demonstrates Desperation

And this, too.

Dwight Lowery Snuggles Close to Emmanuel Sanders

Jets 22, Steelers 17.   “Emmanuel!! Wait!  Dont’ leave me this way.   I luuuuuuuv you, man!  Don’t go!  I need you.”

No whistles.  No biggie.  It all evens out in the end.

In other news: (more…)

Newton and Shanahan: A Tale of Two Dads

The college and professional football seasons come to a head around this time of year.  For collegians, awards are handed out; bowl games are scheduled; and players retire to spend time with their families and friends.  They’ve earned a break from the grind that begins in the dog days of summer.  At Auburn, from August and throughout autumn, the NCAA code of amateur austerity was tested mightily by a man of god.  Cecil Newton, pastor and father of Tigers QB and Heisman Tropy winner Cameron Newton, was implicated in a scandalous effort to enrich himself in exchange for the services of his son.

Far away in the nation’s capital, where politicians are almost as duplicitous as football coaches, Mike Shanahan embarked on a year long detour of deception.  Working in cahoots with fiendish owner Daniel Snyder and newly well-heeled GM Bruce Allen, “Coach” Shanahan sold a bill of goods to the Redskins faithful.  The bill of goods was read from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as if it were signed by the hand of God, or at least by St. John (Elway).

Mike Shanahan: Crazy as All Hell - And Just as Red

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2010 NFL Season: Week 12 in Review

The season is winding down and the significant games for this week are in the books.  Tonite, the San Francisco 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals.  The game may well prove to be very entertaining (Remember last year’s tilt in San Francisco?), but both of these outfits have proven unfit for the rigors of this season.  Big winners this week: the New England Patriots who have found a way to get deep without deep speed; the San Diego Chargers who are serving notice that they are a team to be reckoned with — until the playoffs start; the Chicago Bears who provided a template for beating the high-flying Eagles; the Atlanta Falcons who showed that in the Dirty South, they have just enough to take all comers; and the “Survivors” — Pittsburgh and Baltimore — who were probably peeking around their Week 12 opponents, and thinking about health insurance for Week 13.

Chargers, Chargers Everywhere!

A few random thoughts:

  • As great as Peyton Manning has been in his career, he cannot like living THE LIFE OF MCNABB right now.  Without Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and Ryan Lilja, Manning is experiencing life on the other side.  He still has Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and others, but this is his first taste in years of getting hammered — with no hope of relief.  Manning, unlike McNabb is not able to make plays with his feet — and it shows.  He’s giving up interceptions for touchdowns.  He isn’t choosing to throw the ball at the feet of his receivers to avoid turnovers.  He’s taking big risks and losing.  Fortunately for Manning and the Colts, they’ve lost 2 games in a row, but moved ahead of Jacksonville in the playoff hunt.
  • In 5 of his last 7 games, Manning has averaged less than 6 yards per pass attempt.  That’s awful.  You cannot win in today’s NFL doing that.  During that span, the Colts are 4-3, with one of those wins coming by 6 points over the Bengals who were “fueled” by Carson Palmer’s 3 INTs.  Manning has thrown 10 picks over the frame — and had two games with no touchdown passes.
  • The national media is articulate, understanding, and acutely accusatory in their analysis of Peyton Manning’s present condition.  Commentators are able to identify injured players at skill positions and along the offensive line.  Many have become Maddenesque with their ability to break down offensive line play (Exhibit A: former wide receiver Cris Collinsworth; Exhibit B: Yahoo.com’s Shut Down Corner column).  THE LIFE OF MCNABB, however, is not about making excuses.  It’s about making plays…even when playing with guys like James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Hank Baskett, and Freddie Mitchell.  It’s about figuring a way to move the ball on the ground even when your running backs all weigh 180 pounds soaking wet and the last tackle they broke was made by a toddler on the living room floor.  The Colts may make the playoffs, but I suspect Peyton Manning may need what Jay Cutler needed last year if he is to right this ship, right now.

What Can This Brown Do For You?

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NFL: Concussions or Cash Flow?

“Taking $75,000 away from James Harrison is criminal to me.” — Mark Schlereth, former Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos offensive lineman…current ESPN Analyst.

NFL: Player Safety Policy or Revenue Risk Management Strategy

Quotes from Troy Polamalu in 2008 on NFL rules and hard hits:
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3646392

Note the absence of references to helmet-to-helmet (H2H) contact. I believe that the NFL began to move in a direction of limiting hard hits for largely economic reasons.  The H2H hits are the gross manifestation of hard hits and require some nuanced treatment by the league.  I read where the league only offers health insurance for players for the first 5 years after retirement. I don’t know much about that, but it’s very interesting. I would imagine that the NFLPA should have a hand in that as well, but players are clearly of the mind that safety is a low-level concern of the league.  Offensive stars are the revenue engines for the league.  Defensive players acknowledges that these players (and the rule changes which facilitate scoring) allow everyone to eat.  The popularity of the league is due in large part to two factors:

1.  The capacity of the NFL to promote offensive stars, particularly quarterbacks, whose demographics are largely aligned to the fan base across the nation.  Players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Brett Favre drive the revenue train for the league.  [The demographic factor cannot be underestimated, because it contributed mightily to defensive star, Chicago Bears MLB Brian Urlacher’s, multi-season dominance in jersey sales.]

2.  The competitive balance across the league.  In any season, a significant number of the league’s franchises legitimately believe they have a shot at winning the Super Bowl. (more…)

2010 NFL Season: 6 Questions Before Week 3

After two weeks, there are many teams around the NFL with some tough, hard questions at hand.  For those teams that had high expectations entering the 2010 campaign, these questions better get answered quickly.

1.  Minnesota Vikings. Are you willing to meet the demands of the San Diego Chargers for wide receiver Vincent Jackson?  The Brett Favre Experiment concludes at the end of the 2010 regular season.  The Vikings will not compete for a Super Bowl (and may miss the playoffs) without the addition of a high-quality pass catching option like Vincent Jackson.  Sidney Rice, thinking optimistically, cannot be expected to be a force on the field until Week 8 or 9.  While management debates the value of a 3rd round pick in a season that may or may not happen (2011), your offense will gear up to get beat down by and/or keep pace with the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.  It won’t be fun.  By Week 8, Brad Childress could be looking for a job as a color analyst on the NFL Network — covering Viking’s games.

2. Buffalo Bills. Are you willing to trade Marshawn Lynch to ensure that you make one positive contribution to the 2010 NFL season?  This team is going nowhere this season.  As you prepare to face the New England Patriots and their confounding defense, you’ve decided to ditch the “smart quarterback from Stanford” (Trent Edwards) for the “smarter quarterback from Harvard” (Ryan Fitzpatrick).  It won’t make a shred of difference.  If C.J. Spiller is supposed to be the Bills Most Valuable Player on the roster, Marshawn Lynch in the Most Valuable Player in trade. The Bills can retain Coe College’s Fred Jackson and then focus on figuring out a way to get these guys the ball.  The Packers could use a runner with Lynch’s power around the goal line.  It’s time to pull the trigger.

3.  Dallas Cowboys. Are you willing to reign in the Romo-Garrett Show and cede some time to the true triplets of Jones, Barber and Choice?  If the Dallas Cowboys are to win and compete for a Super Bowl title in 2010, they need to run the ball more, pass the ball less, and figure out a creative way to dump Roy Williams.

4.  Baltimore Ravens. Are you willing to start Marc Bulger ahead of Joe Flacco?  The Ravens signal caller ranks 32nd in passer rating at 41.2 and has a completion percentage of 48%.  At this rate, Flacco would have to throw something like 70 passes a game just to post mediocre numbers.  He has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions.  His receiving corps is as accomplished as any in the league.  Will the first matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 determine the long-term fate of this franchise?

5.  Kansas City Chiefs. Are you ready to find out what is behind Door #1?  Over the next four weeks, you will host the hungry, angry San Francisco 49ers; have a bye week; then travel in consecutive weeks to Indianapolis and Houston.  Surely each of these opponents will take you lightly.  You will retain the element of surprise.  Are you ready?  If the Chiefs can get through this portion of the schedule, they have some “winnable games” ahead with Jacksonville, Buffalo and Oakland beginning in Week 7.

6.  New England Patriots. Are you leaning toward Julian Edelman or Aaron Hernandez to replace the injured Kevin Faulk?  The Patriots are going to need another reliable go-to-guy on 3rd down.  Edelman has the experience, but with Wes Welker healthy, are his services really just a duplication?  Is Hernandez flexibility as an in-line tight end and an outside receiver or H-back better suited to replacing Kevin Faulk?  After scoring a mere 14 points vs. the Jets, the Patriots need to come up with answers fast.  Everyone is pouring over that video tape and looking to replicate what New York was able to do.

2010 NFL Season: Early Season Reflections (Week 2)

This season, time may not permit weekly postings of game predictions or detailed recaps of games.  The heart is willing, but the schedule is uncompromising.  So, let’s get to it.

A standard barometer for predicting playoff teams has been survival through Week 2.  In the AFC, there are 4 teams who’ve managed to get to 2-0: the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.  It’s hard to say which wins have been more impressive.  The Chiefs scored a surprising win over the Chargers, but the Chargers are always slow to wake for the season.  Kansas City also beat the Browns.  The Dolphins beat the Vikings on the road, but the absence of Sidney Rice is more significant than most suspected.  Miami also beat the Bills.  The Texans, however, have wins over the defending conference champion Colts and at Washington.  Houston even mounted a comeback from a 17-point 3rd quarter deficit in DC.  Then, there are my Steelers who are down to their 4th string quarterback.  (Thank goodness for depth.)  The defense has been resurgent and led the way with dominating performances against high-powered offenses from Atlanta (41 points vs. Arizona) and Tennessee (38 points vs. Oakland).  Troy Polamalu has interceptions in consecutive weeks and Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Chris Johnson have all run about as far as a toddler on a short leash.

Minnesota Needs to Get Up

Minnesota Needs to Get Up

I have a pro-Pittsburgh bias, to be sure, but I am fairly certain that no other team in the NFL has the type of depth at QB that the Steelers have.  Also, given that the benchings of Vince Young (as if there was something that he could have done!), Jason Campbell, and David Garrard stood in bold contrast to the extended on field misery of Joe Flacco, Brett Favre and Eli Manning; Pittsburgh’s depth is “remarkably Black.”  In and of itself, this would and should mean very little, but it still has meaning in this league where certain failures get glossed over and others become terminal indications of a “need for change.” (more…)

A Look Back at the 2005 NFL Draft

Back in April, the NFL concluded the 2010 draft.  This year’s draft was punctuated by the prime time debut of Round 1 at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall.  The draft was extended over a three day period and received wide acclaim from fans and media, alike.

It is too early to say who the winners are for the 2010 draft.  Some draft picks never make it out of camp; some never fulfill the promise of their rookie contract.  Still others exceed the greatest expectations.  It has been widely stated that the average career of an NFL player is 4-5 years.  Given that, let’s take a look at the 2005 NFL Draft.

The Rules of the Game

There are as many ways to evaluate the success of a draft class as there are to evaluate players.  What matters most?  Years as a starter, Pro Bowl selections, All Pro selections, team wins, championships, value at selected position, value over next selection?  There are a lot of criteria to consider.

I’ll leave that final determination to you.  For my own purposes, I admit using a subjective mix of all of those criteria.   Here is a link for you to make your own decision.

Top Dog of the 2005 NFL Draft

1. Dallas Cowboys.   The Cowboys used two first round selections to grab DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears.  Ware has become a dominant defensive force in the league.  He has been selected to four Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro three times.  He is arguably the best player at his position in the entire NFL.  Ware, to the Cowboys credit, was taken just before Chargers LB Shawne Merriman.

DeMarcus Ware: 2005 Draft Cream of the Crop

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Is Joe Flacco the Worst Post-Season QB of All Time?

It is possible that Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the WORST POST-SEASON QUARTERBACK in the history of the NFL?  While the national media (and Baltimore’s local media) have given Flacco a pass for his ineptitude, 2010 will be the season where improvements must manifest.  ESPN’s top football writer, John Clayton,  considers Flacco to be an elite quarterback and cites his post-season performance as proof.  While no one at NFL.com is quite that delusional, Flacco has managed to escape public scrutiny.  If Flacco cannot perform with the addition of Anquan Boldin to the receiving corps, Baltimore needs to look for a new quarterback.

In five post-season games, Joe Flacco has an abysmal rating of 46.5.  He has completed 57 of 120 passes (47.5%) for 660 yards.  The Baltimore signal caller has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions.  The Ravens are 3-2 in these games.  The defense and a powerful ground game were able to mask a horrific 4-10, 34 yard, 1 INT performance vs. the New England Patriots in January.

Brady Consoles Flacco for Piss Poor Performance

Flacco has yet to pass for 200 yards in the post-season.  He has had two games with ratings under 20 and two games with ratings under 60.

How much worse does it have to get before Ozzie Newsome turns to the guy he originally envisioned in this position: Troy Smith?

Addendum:  If Flacco is not the primary candidate, “Jaws” is in the running.  Ron Jaworski completed 46.5% of his post-season attempts and finished his career with a 4-5 record, including one Super Bowl appearance punctuated by 3 interceptions to Oakland Raiders LB Rod Martin.

Drew Bledsoe is in the conversation as well.  7 games.  51.2% completion percentage with 6 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.  Cumulative rating of 54.9 and a measly yards per attempt measure of 5.3 yards.

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?

Super Bowl XLIV – Quick Postscript

The New Orleans Saints outplayed the Indianapolis Colts. Drew Brees outplayed Peyton Manning. Gregg Williams’ guys outplayed Larry Coyer’s’ guys. The Colts led 10-0, but were outscored 31-7 for the rest of the game.

On this historic night, Jim Nance twice mentioned the 1987 Washington Redskins, but was so overcome by the disease that he could not mention the name of the architect of that win – Doug Williams. Williams overcame a 10 point deficit against a “Golden Boy” (John Elway) and had one of the greatest Super Bowl performances of all time.

The Saints deserve a lot of credit for building the type of team that is more balanced than the experts think…more experienced, and just a bit tougher. For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding largely one-dimensional offenses run by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, both the Patriots and Colts were only able to muster 17 points.

That defense played better than I thought they could, but they gave us a glimpse of what was possible earlier this season. On offense, the Saints simply did what they do. The Saints were clearly the best team tonite.

END NOTE: It is ironic that in the past two seasons, where the Super Bowl featured three of the most prolific offensive teams in recent memory, the games have been decided (in large part) by interceptions returned for touchdowns.  That the passers were Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning makes this fact all the more intriguing.  Both were intercepted trying to make quick throws to the left side against a blitz.  Both quarterbacks were targeting a favorite receiver on a route to the inside that was successfully read and jumped by the defense.