Vince Young

2011 NFL Season: Championship Week

And then there were four:

Baltimore Ravens (13-4) vs. New England Patriots (14-3). 3:00 pm ET. Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Give me the Ravens over the Patriots (-7.5). How much of the betting line is driven by the Patriots impressive win over the one-dimensional Denver Broncos? How much is driven by another underwhelming performance by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco? The Patriots are at home and have the better quarterback. They also have a defense that just might be coming together at the right time. The return of Patrick Chung (#25) to the lineup has inspired some confidence in New England that the back end just might hold up under duress. Who knows! The Patriots haven’t faced a team with a decent passing game since Week 12 (Philadelphia), and in that game, they surrendered 393 yards to Vince Young.

Conventional wisdom says the Ravens have to run the ball to win this game; that Ray Rice is their most reliable, consistent, and dynamic offensive player. The “smart money” says that Baltimore’s defense is beginning to show signs of age and strain; and, that they will be hard-pressed to defend the new tactical weapons in Brady’s arsenal (tight ends Gronkowski and Hernandez). Perhaps, this game will be decided by the battle between Patriots safeties Patrick Chung (and whomever else Belichick puts back there) and Joe Flacco. The Patriots tight ends have been tremendous all season long, but the Ravens tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are very talented and capable of exploiting mismatches all over the field.

The production of Gronkowski (90, 1327, 17) and Hernandez (79, 910, 7) during the 2011 season has been historic. Still, the more conventional and conservative Ravens had a productive duo. Hickson and Pitta combined for 94 catches, 1033 yards, and 12 touchdowns.  Gronkowski and New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham were the only single players to eclipse those numbers. So, the Ravens also bring a viable tight end duo to this contest.

Perhaps the single greatest advantage in this game goes to Tom Brady. However, in recent years, Brady has proven susceptible to pressure up the middle combined with press coverage on his slot receivers. This approach compels him to hold the ball longer, while in a collapsing pocket. He must wait for his excellent (but slower) tight ends to uncover against man or zone coverage, or he must buy time with his feet. The Ravens have a solid rotation of defensive tackles, including Haloti Ngata, who are capable of man-handling the Patriots interior lineman, pressuring Brady, deflecting passes, and defending the run. I believe the game will turn on the ability of these players to pressure Brady and slow down the Patriots offense.

The 2011 Ravens defense, in my estimation, is not as powerful as the 2008 version. Still, the Ravens have some options. I believe that Lardarius Webb (#21) may wind up facing Wes Welker in the slot. The Patriots have the option of featuring Welker or either of their tight ends. I’m not sure that Deion Branch or any of the other wide receivers are still capable of having a big game against the Ravens (#Ocho!!). Ed Reed is going to spend a major portion of the day dealing with Gronkowski and/or Hernandez. This will place a premium on Bernard Pollard’s ability to cover, make tackles, and deliver big hits.

The Patriots did not win any games this season against teams that finished the season with winning records. I’m not sure what difference that makes. The Patriots beat teams that had Super Bowl aspirations all season long: San Diego, the Jets, Philadelphia. Still, they have managed to lose to teams that used physicality to dominate the line of scrimmage: the Giants and Steelers, in particular.

I like the Ravens physicality in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Baltimore 31, New England 21.

Stats of interest:

Tom Brady’s 300-yard passing games vs. Baltimore: 0

Brady’s 3 touchdown games vs. Baltimore: 0

Games completing under 60% of passes: 3

New York Giants (11-7) vs. San Francisco 49ers  (14-3). 6:30 pm ET. San Francisco, California.

It’s pouring down rain in San Francisco. I like the Giants as much as any team in the league in bad weather. The last time these teams met, Frank Gore played a half, and Ahmad Bradshaw missed the entire contest. Bradshaw’s return to the lineup means a great deal for him and Eli Manning, but it also makes Brandon Jacobs more dangerous…and in bad weather, with a wet track, Jacobs’ change of pace may be just what it takes to finally power through that impenetrable San Francisco defense.

The Giants have more versatility on offense. The 49ers have more depth on defense. But if the rain is going to affect the Giants pass rush, it’s also going to affect 263 pound Aldon Smith. I like Cruz, and Nicks, and Manningham more than I like Michael Crabtree and whomever else the 49ers have found to play opposite him. Vernon Davis is a phenomenal talent, but he is not a wholly unique talent. I like the Giants to live with his production and force someone else to beat them.

New York 27, San Francisco 17.

2010 NFL Season: Titans To Go Fishing For Head Coach

According to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, the Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher have severed their relationship.  Fisher had been the longest-tenured coach in the NFL.  Over 17 seasons spent exclusively with the Oilers/Titans franchise, he compiled a record of 142-120 (.542).  Under Fisher, the Titans missed the playoffs in 11 of 17 seasons.  His post-season record was 5-6.  Three Titans teams won as many as 13 games in a season.  Twice, however, highly anticipated playoff runs ended in home losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis (2000 and 2009).  In 1999, Fisher led the Titans to the Super Bowl on the heels of what became known as The Music City Miracle vs. the Buffalo Bills in a wildcard game.

The Music City Miracle Ushers Titans to 1999 Super Bowl

(more…)

Running Out on You — The Favre Edition

Week 11 was the week the chickens came home to roost — sort of.

Brad Childress was handed his walking papers and the cash cow jumped over a Warring Moon.  Brett Favre has been firmly established by his interim head coach Leslie Frazier as that ride or die dude for the rest of the 2010 season.

Vince Young went ball-istic on his idiot savant idiot coach Jeff Fisher for being benched — again — with the game in the balance.  At the end of their rat-a-tat boom bap, Fisher called to Young, “Don’t run out on your teammates.”  The prodigal QB with the penchant for pounding the alma mater of his coach and pulling out close games responded, “I’m not running out on them…I’m running out on YOU!”  Young’s on-field success (a .638 winning percentage) has provoked the question, in some circles, of whether or not the Titans win games in spite of Jeff Fisher (.551 winning percentage).  In a bit of a twist, Young tends to catch flack for taking clothes off, whereas Fisher tends to catch hell for the clothes he puts on!

Jeff Fisher Working the Trifecta: Boobs, Belly, Butt. GO JEFF!!

Take that!

Brett Favre never needed to run OUT of the locker room and he certainly never ran IN to the locker room.  He mosied here and there, to and fro…from Green Bay to New York (into the waiting cell phone of Jenn Sturger) to Mississippi (into the waiting arms of wife Deanna) to Minnesota (to the waiting chauffeured ride with Brad Childress) back to  Mississippi (to the waiting arms of wife Deanna) and back to Minnesota (with hunting buddies Jared Allen and company).

In all of this back and forth, Favre made it clear that when he skipped the types of activities intended to keep interceptions to a minimum, he wasn’t running out on his wide receiving corps or his offensive line or his running backs.  He was running out on Brad Childress.  Now, Childress is gone.  Last Sunday, Favre ran out on a conversation with his BFF, Darrell Bevel (aka, the Guy Who Couldn’t Pull a ‘Jason Garrett’ and Get the Job He’s Coveted for 10 Years).

Running out on coaches is a common theme around the NFL this season.  Brett sets the records and writes the book — just like those career marks for interceptions, and one big incomplete pass.

And….fade to gratuitous Sterger shot:

Brett Favre may not be able to see defensive backs in zone coverage worth a damn, but he’s not blind.

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?

(more…)

2010 NFL Pre-Season: Early Thoughts

It’s that time of year again.  The NFL season opens on Thursday with a highly anticipated rematch of the defending champion New Orleans Saints and the team that thoroughly dominated them in the NFC Championship Game, the Minnesota Vikings.  Darrelle Revis is on the roster and ready for a visit from Anquan Boldin.  And Anquan’s not coming alone.  He’s bringing a 10,000 pound offensive line, that “other” defense, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  These are great bookends to the first week.

Anquan Boldin Discussing Exit Strategies

"Don't Leave Me Hanging on the Island!"

But before we get ahead of ourselves, I have a few takeaways from the pre-season.  Last pre-season, I was impressed by a few teams.  There was something about their intensity, passion and power that stood out.  The Jets were not on that list.  I did put a spotlight on the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals.  Not bad…those teams went 33-15.  That was much better than their combined 20-27-1 record in 2008.  I was also down on Denver.  When they started out 6-0, I was thinking — “Hmmm, might have missed on that one.”  When they finished 2-8, I felt better.

So, who do I think is the real deal this season? (more…)

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: “The Best Chance to Win”

The Tale of the Once and Future Panthers

“[Fill in name of miserably performing quarterback] gives us the best chance to win.”  This season we heard this repeatedly from Jeff Fisher and John Fox.  They said it week after week after week as if it were the gospel truth.  The Titans lost games where Kerry Collins hardly moved the ball past the line of scrimmage.  Remember the stat line: 2-12, -7 yards, 1 interception? The Panthers dropped contests were Jake Delhomme could barely complete a pass — to his own teammates.  Remember the stat line: 7-17, 73 yards, 4 interceptions? And, they both had superior running games and strong, physical defenses to support them.  In short, there were no excuses.

Tennessee Titans QB and 2009 Comeback Player of the Year - Vince Young

(more…)

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

(more…)

Is the Wonderlic an Intelligence Test?

A few thoughts on an article discussing the Wonderlic Test scores of NFL quarterbacks including Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Vince Young, Eli and Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb:

http://blackathlete.net/artman2/publish/Football_7/Conversion_Rate.shtml

Thanks to Miranda over at TSF for providing the link.

Those test scores are pulling out something discernible to me. (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.