Here are my REAL thoughts on football this week.
NEW YORK — “And the legend grows,” Eddie George said just after 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the NBC studios, staring up at the nine-television wall the crew members of NBC’s Football Night in America fixate on every Sunday during the NFL season.
The legend of Tony Romo, he meant. George, a former Heisman Trophy winner, was in town for Saturday night’s Tebowfest and stayed over to visit with his good buddy Jerome Bettis and to see how our show is put together. He saw a little drama — the 16-yard Romo-to-Jason Witten touchdown that saved the Cowboys’ bacon in a 28-27 win at Detroit, the Chargers rebounding from a 17-3 deficit with 10 minutes left at Tennessee to win in overtime and the Giants clinching a playoff berth despite New York running back Brandon Jacobs trying desperately to give the Eagles a chance — in an otherwise pedestrian Week 14 Sunday of football.
I’ll be honest. I really dislike when people other than Bob, Bus, Tiki and Cris and some various crew members are in the nine-television room on Sundays with me. I like Eddie, sure. Very good player, could have been great, real nice guy, but seriously, does he have to talk so much? Eddie was waxing not-so-poetic on everything from why Darren McFadden was the Real Heisman winner to why Mike Huckabee is going to win the Republican nomination. Finally, I turned to him and said, “Eddie, if I put you in MMQB, will you pleeeaase Shut Up?!” There was a deafening silence, followed up by uproarious laughter from everyone in the room, Eddie included. Needless to say, that was the end of the Eddie George show.
The story of the day might be the Patriots re-establishing their mojo in crushing one of their last obstacles to perfection … and how fresh they might be heading into the last 19 days of their regular season. I’ll get to that, and to the headlines of the day, in a few paragraphs. But I want to lead with a cautionary tale for the owners — you know who you are, Wayne Huizenga and others — thinking about their coaches of the future.
This is my favorite thing to do. I love to help people out. It always leads to all those phone calls about hiring ME to be their GM or coach, but all you owners – Huizenga et al. – I’m not available.
I’d like to see owners stop looking for the miracle cure when they pick a coach. I’ve got proof it doesn’t work. Since 2000, by my count, NFL teams have hired seven big-money geniuses (average salary per year: $4.3 million) to take their teams to the promised land.
The Magnificent Seven: Nick Saban(Miami), Steve Spurrier (Washington),Dick Vermeil (Kansas City), Dennis Green (Arizona), Bill Parcells (Dallas), Joe Gibbs (Washington) and Bobby Petrino (Atlanta). They have coached a combined 21 years with those teams. Playoff appearances in those 21 years: 4. (It’s mathematically possible to be five this year, if the 6-7 Redskins run the table and get some help.)
Why did I picked these guys and not other well-paid coaches who lead their teams to lengthy playoff berths, super bowl appearances and championships? I wasn’t cherry-picking, as I’ve often been accused. I have good reasons for all.
Gruden? Too Young. Didn’t make enough money. So, it doesn’t matter that he was a big-name hire who won a Super Bowl. He’s never been in Petrino’s class.
Dungy? Didn’t make enough money. Doesn’t matter that his annual salary when he signed his Indianapolis deal in 2002 was higher than Dennis Green’s deal signed in 2005 or that he was a coach with a pretty impressive resume. That’s not what this was about.
Holmgren? Uh, uh, wait a sec! You didn’t read the rules. I said since 2000. Holmgren was hired in ’99. Last Millennium! The game has changed since then, big time.
Playoff wins in those 21 years: 1. Championship Game appearances: 0. Super Bowl appearances: 0. Gibbs won the playoff game with Washington, 17-10 over Tampa Bay in January 2006. Parcells made the playoffs in two of his four Dallas seasons. Vermeil had the other playoff season, a one-and-done job in 2003 with the Chiefs. One playoff win by the geniuses in 21 years.
Also, I’m purposely not including other things that happened in previous millennia, like Parcells getting two big contracts and being tasked with turning a team around – and succeeding. Or Vermeil getting a big money contract to coach his second team, losing his quarterback and then riding a supermarket bagger to a Super Bowl Title. Or Joe Gibbs winning three championships over the course of 9 years with three different quarterbacks. Ancient history.
I’ll get to the moral of the story here in a moment, but one last bit of they’re-not-who-we-thought-they-were data to make my point. The records of each coach with the team that hired him to turn the program around, including playoffs:
There’s something more important than a $4 million coach — a quarterback. Vermeil had a chance every year because he had Trent Green. Parcells milked Drew Bledsoe for a while, then gave the team a bright future by putting Romo in the lineup in 2006, his fourth and final year as coach. The Cowboys are glad he made the switch and are benefiting from it now .
I’ll be honest. Including Saban, Spurrier and Petrino in this group sort of felt intellectually dishonest. Sure, they made a lot of money – so they’re in the same group in that way – but college coaches almost never succeed in the Pros – and vice versa. For every Jimmy Johnson there are 10 Butch Davises (just as for every Pete Carroll there are ten Dave Wannstadts). And, Dennis Green isn’t exactly in the same class as Vermeil, Parcells and Gibbs – all coaches with rings and all coaches who made double what Green made. Can you really call the Parcells era in Dallas a failure, coming off of the Dave Campo years – or the Dick Vermeil tenure in Kansas City, after years of irrelevance? Well, if you group them in with lesser coaches who failed miserably and use a very wide brush to paint them all failures? Sure!
Saban never had a quarterback, and Green didn’t have one until Matt Leinart was drafted in the coach’s last year, 2006. Spurrier had a bunch of Shane Matthewses. Gibbs picked Jason Campbell in 2005 and waited too long to play him. Gibbs won’t get the full benefit of the brightness of Campbell’s future, obviously, because he may be in his last year. Petrino got jobbed by Michael Vick ‘s dog fighting conviction, and he’ll pick a quarterback of the future, most likely, high in the 2008 draft.
Coaches can’t do it without quarterbacks. What was Bill Belichick like before he put Tom Brady in the starting lineup early in 2001? A lot less of a genius. Look at the recently hired coaches who have succeeded. Mike McCarthy is 19-10 in two years coaching Green Bay — Brett Favre‘s resurgence has helped. Sean Payton got to the NFC title game last year, thanks largely to Drew Brees. Mike Tomlin‘s Steelers are 9-4 in his rookie coaching season, with a big assist to Ben Roethlisberger. Romeo Crennel was a lock for the unemployment line ’til Derek Anderson started throwing strikes all over the field for Cleveland this fall.
It seems like an obvious point, but to many football people don’t seem to get that having a great quarterback makes winning that much easier. Not brain surgery, people. Sometimes I wonder, though…
The moral of the story? Patience, a good personnel staff and a quarterback. I said on NBC last night that Huizenga does not want to fire Cam Cameron, 0-13 as a rookie head coach. The owner shouldn’t fire his head coach. He should give Cameron and GM Randy Mueller at least another year to put their program into place. If Huizenga doesn’t, what does that say about the hiring process that brought Cameron to south Florida last winter?
For the record, I was never for the Cam Cameron hiring. And you’ll never find anything on the internet – or the outernet – that says I was.
Yes, John Beck looks like anything but the Dolphins’ quarterback of the future. But look at the early-career resume of Phil Simms with the Giants and John Elway with Denver. It would be polite to say they struggled early in New York and Denver. Really, they stunk. But they hung around long enough to get a hard shell and some experience, and they became two of the best quarterbacks of their era, obviously.
I’m not predicting superstardom for John Beck. But, if he does become the next Tom Brady, can’t say I didn’t warn ya. If he flames out, can’t say I didn’t warn ya.
A month ago, Brad Childress looked like he might be in over his head, and Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was overmatched. Minnesota fans were thinking, “Hmmm. Donovan McNabb sure will look good in purple next year.”
The Vikes have gone on a 4-0 run since, with Jackson leading a run-heavy offense averaging 35 points a game — while completing a Brady-like 74 percent of his throws. Patience, people. Patience. So avoid the star system in the coaching office. Don’t go looking for an Urban Meyer to save your offense, or a Parcells to drag out of retirement again to put the fear of God in your undisciplined team. Doesn’t work.
Will I bash the inevitable Bill Cowher hiring? How ’bout the inevitable Kirk Frenetz hiring? Probably not. I’ll just hope that everyone forgets I wrote this column.
What caught my eye Sunday:
The faith Tony Romo showed in Jason Witten and the tight end’s historic day. “I should have been the goat today,” Witten said over the phone from Detroit. “But Tony didn’t give up on me.” With six minutes left, Romo hit Witten with a pass, and Witten bulled for what should have been the winning 10-yard touchdown … except he fumbled at the Lions 1, giving the ball back to Detroit.
“I’m coming back to you, so don’t worry,” Romo said to a downcast Witten, who thought he’d blown the game. When the Cowboys got it back, with 2:17 left on their 17, Romo drove the 83 yards, covering the last 16 yards with a throw to Witten running a skinny post, alone, near the goal line. Touchdown. As he usually does, Romo (35-of-44 on the day, another ridiculous day in a season full of them) sprinted to the end zone and screamed to Witten: “Way to make a play! You the man!” And he was, on this day.
There was a time I didn’t get the phrase “You’re the man!” Huh? I’m not saying that hip-hop culture has hurt our language, but from where else do declarations that one is the man come? The definitive article renders that phrase nonsense. Or so I thought. Now, I totally get it. I also like Jay-Z.
The Packers have a real, live star running back. This is not just a game or two of blessed relief for Brett Favre, who had to take the Green Bay offense on his shoulders for the first half of the season. It’s seven games. Over that span, Ryan Grant, acquired from the Giants for a sixth-round draft choice late in training camp, has averaged 102.4 yards per game. His 29-carry, 156-yard day against Oakland on Sunday was the kind of clock-eating performance Dorsey Levens used to give coach Mike Holmgren. “I really like the way he runs,” coach Mike McCarthy said afterward. “No wasted steps. One cut. Always moving forward. That’s the style in the NFL that works the best, I think. I’ve been around a few backs who run like that — Marcus Allen, Deuce McAllister, Frank Gore.”
Lofty company. Convenient that he came along in time for McCarthy to reduce Sunday’s workload on Favre, who still has some numbness in his throwing hand from the Nov. 29 banging of his funny bone on a Cowboy helmet.
My daughter, Mary Beth King, read this and said: “Lofty Company? That’s one legend, one okay guy and a one-hit wonder. That’s like comparing a guitarist to Eddie Van Halen, Pete Wentz and Eagle-Eye Cherry.” I thought it was cute that she thought Eddie Van Halen was a legend, don’t you?
Wasn’t this supposed to be New England’s toughest game since Indy? It was, but Belichick let his tired team — after three straight night games, culminating in the emotional Monday-nighter at Baltimore — skip practice on Wednesday and go lighter than usual Thursday and Friday. That’s not the sole reason the Patriots manhandled the Steelers, but it helped.
“In Baltimore, guys really felt beat down, tired,” defensive end Ty Warren said Sunday night. “It was a good idea to have a mental day Wednesday. The vibe in the locker room tonight — it sounds crazy — was like it was after the first game of the season. Guys feel fresh, like they’re not nicked up. There was a lot of exuberance in that room.”
That’s just another of the million reasons Belechick is a genius. Not practice? I never woulda guessed.
In the way: the 3-10 Jets, the 0-13 Dolphins (both at home) and the 9-4 Giants, in New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see how both teams play that last game. If the Giants, with no bye week before their wild-card road game, are locked into the fifth seed, will they rest banged-up starters like Plaxico Burress? And will the Patriots, with a bye on the horizon, play their starters most of the game so they don’t get stale? That’ll be the game within a game in Week 17.
You heard it here first. The game, within the game, will be who the Giants and Patriots play. Mark it down.
The Fine Fifteen
1. New England (13-0). Has there ever been an easier path to 15-0? The next two foes, Jets and Dolphins, come to frigid Foxboro, a combined 3-23.
No. Never. And not just because the only other path to 15-0 in the NFL included a playoff game.
2. Indianapolis (11-2). Funny how they’ve become the NFL’s forgotten team while putting up 31, 28 and 44 points the last three weeks, and winning this year at Jacksonville, Tennessee and Baltimore. Perhaps an indication that Jan. 20 at Foxboro might not be such a house of horrors for Peyton Manning & Co.
Another Peter King exclusive: Maybe this year Peyton might just perhaps be okay in Foxboro, maybe! Another reason I love having my own column(s), I can really put myself out there.
3. Dallas (12-1). Name the quarterbacks you’d take over Romo for the next few years. Brady and Manning. OK. Now who? Big Ben, Carson Palmer? Maybe. But it’s a discussion.
I’m surprised that you don’t hear more about Romo. He’s one heckuva QB. The media’s gotta pull their head out of the sand on this guy.
4. Green Bay (11-2). No one heard of Ryan Grant 10 weeks ago. Now he’s the key to the Packers’ playoff fate.
Also, Favre was the Sportsman of the Year. This “blog” Kissing Suzy Kolber (wonder what that’s a reference to, wink wink) wrote a fictional account pretending to be me patting myself on the back for pushing Favre through on Sportsman of the Year: ( http://kissmesuzy.blogspot.com/2007/12/i-did-it-brett-i-made-you-sportsman-of.html ) It was funny, I guess. Silly idea – pretending to be me, but funny-ish. Inaccurate, but funny.
A few clarifications:
1. Believe it or not, Brett Favre was the unanimous selection for Sportsman of the Year. And we have 104 voters. The “My Sportsman” stories penned by SI writers were simply to fill up space and sell ads. Favre was first-place on all 104 ballots. Can’t make that up.
2. There’s a strong implication throughout the article that I am gay. Particularly gay for Brett Favre. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a family and two daughters, one of whom is named Mary Beth and goes to Colgate. I don’t like men. If I did like men, I wouldn’t like Brett Favre for sure. I’d imagine I’d be more of a bear.
3. The article assumes one side of an imaginary conversation between Brett Favre and myself. It’s patently absurd, in tone and content. I am FRIENDS with Brett (as I am with 98% of the league – 99% now that Sean Taylor is dead). We’ve sat on long bus rides together and talked about our family and our Gods. The insinuation that I am some kind of stalker is silly. The syntax and grammar is also terrible.
4. The Fake Peter King in this “blog” post calls Deanna Favre a “whore.” Let me make this clear: I. WOULD. NEVER. CALL. DEANNA. FAVRE. A. WHORE. NOR. WOULD. I. CALL. ANY. WOMAN. A. WHORE,. BITCH,. CUNT,. SLUT,. CUNTBAG,. CUNTSLUT,. WHORESLUT, SLORE, OR SIMILAR DEROGATORY TERM. ESPECIALLY. DEANNA. FAVRE. A. WOMAN. FOR. WHOM. I. HAVE. THE. UTMOST. RESPECT.
Funny, though, guys. Keep it up!
5. Pittsburgh (9-4). We’re all left to wonder how much of a factor Troy Polamalu would have been at the line of scrimmage in Foxboro last evening.
I know, he only plays up at the line of scrimmage 4-6 plays a game, but what those plays would have been life is really capturing my imagination right now.
6. Jacksonville (9-4). Jags at Steelers this week. Game of the Week. A Jag win and they’ve pretty much got the fifth playoff seed locked up.
I wanted to say “Game of the Weak.” Too mean. Mike Tomlin’s one helluva a coach. And David Garrard is the African-American Romo. I have too much respect for these guys.
7. Minnesota (7-6). I am bullish on the Vikes being the NFC’s sixth seed. Maybe the fifth. Look at the schedule: Chicago, Washington, at Denver. Look how they’re playing. Look at the competent quarterback.
Everyone understands that the Viking train start behind me, right?
8. Seattle (9-4). Matt Hasselbeck‘s four-TD day put him two short of his career high for touchdowns in a season. How nice that his little brother, Tim, was on the other sideline (Arizona’s) to witness it. And nice to see the Hawks get another three-sack day out of Patrick Kerney and three interceptions from Marcus Trufant. They’re clicking on all cylinders in the Pacific Northwest.
I don’t mean to imply that Tim Hasselback wasn’t firmly entrenched in rooting for the Cardinals, the team that employs him. I know Tim pretty well. There are few more fiery competitors, even when holding a clipboard. Nice-looking wife to boot.
9. San Diego (8-5). TV sets all over the southern tip of California had tomatoes thrown at them for three quarters (or longer) Sunday. Then Philip Rivers woke up from his nightmare and actually played competent football.
Remember when I called the 5-5 Chargers “frauds,” three weeks ago. Neither do I!
10. New York Giants (9-4). Plaxico Burress (900 yards, 10 touchdown catches) is campaigning very, very hard to get one of my two all-pro votes at wideout.
Only one is up for grabs. Unless he’s found to be American Al Qaeda, Wel Welker has got one locked down.
11. Tampa Bay (8-5). Think the Bucs are flukish? A lie. Three different quarterbacks have engineered the team’s last four games. Including the kicker and punter, 23 of their 24 starters are signed at least through the end of 2009. (Only center Jon Wade will be a free-agent next March.) Good thing the Glazers hung onto Jon Gruden after last year’s debacle.
I’ll admit. I have to have a few latenight Hazelnut lattes to meet my deadline. It amps me up, sure, but sometimes I write things just to get this column finished with. That’s why I love writing these follow-ups on Coffeenerdness so much, I can critique myself. Like here, for example, I’m not really sure what difference it makes if “three different quarterbacks engineer the team” if they lose to the Texans. Right? I was so high on Hazelnut. Forgive me.
12. Tennessee (7-6). Isn’t it funny how, looking back at the 2006 draft, we all laughed at Houston for even suggesting Mario Williams was better than Vince Young? Who’s laughing now?
The team starting Sage Rosenfels at quarterback, that’s who!
13. Cleveland (8-5). I wish the Browns, just once, would put away a team they should put away. But as NBC stat maven Elliott Kalb pointed out last night, we’re getting to Jamal Lewis season, when he can ground out a couple of wins in 13-degree wind chill and swirling flurries and get the Browns into the playoffs.
Ah, to be a young stat maven livin’ in New York City. Elliot, my man, you have the life.
14. Buffalo (7-6). The offense is catching up to the defense. Trent Edwards (four touchdown passes in the win over Miami) gives the Bills a fighting chance in their big playoff-implication game this week at Cleveland.
Edwards is the real deal. Sure, he completed only 48% of his passes, but 36% of those completed went for touchdowns! Some guys just have a nose for the endzone. Trent Edwards, with four touchdowns over his past two games, is one of them.
15. Washington (6-7). A reward for their perseverance — and for the best game of Todd Collins‘ life.
Now that they’re in the Fine Fifteen, the Redskins can finally have peace.
The Awards Section
Offensive Player of the Week
Washington QB Todd Collins. I never thought I’d be writing that name into the “Offensive Player of the Week” slot. Before last Thursday night, the 36-year-old Collins’ last completion was three years ago. His last touchdown pass was five years ago. His last time playing a half in any game was 10 years ago. That’s right — the last time he threw more than seven passes in a game was Dec. 14, 1997, as a Bill.
When Jason Campbell went down (probably for the season with a left kneecap injury) late in the second quarter against Chicago, in came Collins. He was offensive coordinator Al Saunders‘ hand-picked insurance policy at quarterback before the 2006 season.
First snap: incompletion. Second snap: short completion. Third snap: sack, fumble, Chicago ball. Fourth snap: 21-yard perfect strike for a touchdown to tight end Todd Yoder. In all, after not playing much for a decade, Collins completed 15 of 20 passes for 224 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a better performance coming off the bench — ever,” coach Joe Gibbs said of Collins.
I have a list of all the guys I think might become offensive players of the week, from Wes Welker down to an unretired Deion Sanders. Only names who aren’t on the list? Todd Collins and Willis McGahee. That’s it. That’s the list.
Dallas TE Jason Witten. Fifteen catches for 138 yards, including the game-winning 16-yard touchdown pass from Romo with 18 seconds left, giving the Cowboys a scintillating 28-27 win over the Lions. For the record, there are six Hall of Fame tight ends, and none of them ever surpassed 15 catches in a game. In fact, no tight end in NFL history has. Kellen Winslow and Mike Ditka had 15 in a game, Ozzie Newsome 14, Dave Casper 12, Charlie Sanders 10 and John Mackey, interestingly (for its smallness), eight. “That is such an honor,” Witten said after the game. “I play this game to be a great all-around tight end, and I’m glad I could be there to make a big play when my team needed me.”
These are the kinds of tidbits that come up all the time in the Hall of Fame voting room. When I make my case for Witten in 7-13 years, believe you me I will reference his legendary, Hall-worthy 15 catch performance against the Lions in week 14 in a game they just didn’t have to have.
Coach of the Week
Dallas coach Wade Phillips. I remember when Pat Riley was asked once about how good a coach could be for a Lakers team with Magic, Kareem and Worthy steamrolling the rest of the league. “There’s no such thing as ‘rolling the ball out there’ and letting the player play — in any sport,” he said. Same thing this year with Phillips, who had a good table set for him by Parcells.
You might think this contradicts what I said in the beginning of MMQB which was, essentially, you need great personnel and a coach isn’t really that important. You might be right, too.
But Phillips has done some really smart things this year, not the least of which is making Terrell Owens a team leader by having him stand in front of the team — often — and talking like a leader. Maybe T.O. isn’t the perfect guy to do that, but it makes Owens feel like a king and makes him toe the line as a team player. The Cowboys are 12-1 because they don’t wilt when the pressure’s on. Phillips was the right hire at the right time.
Had he had any major previous success as a coach, though, he would have been a terrible hire.
Goat of the Week
Pittsburgh FS Anthony Smith. After his ill-timed guarantee (is there ever a good time to inflame the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl?), Smith got beat for two long Brady touchdowns. I’m not sure anyone cared much about his statements, but why antagonize a great team?
File this under “Duh.”
Quote of the Week II
“Well done is always better than well said. That’s been the motto of this team.”
— New England quarterback Tom Brady, three days before the Patriots beat Pittsburgh. He was responding to reports of Steelers safety Anthony Smith guaranteeing a Pittsburgh victory in the days before the game.
Am I alone in thinking that Brady always says the right thing? I mean, always? So I asked him: Where’d you learn the “well done” line, and who taught you to always say things the way your coaches and parents and fandom would want you to say them? Which leads me to my …
Text Message of the Week
“Ben Franklin said that. I learn from where we all have, my dad!”
That’s right. I’m one degree of separation from Giselle Bundchen and Bill Belechick.
Stat of the Week
So you want to know how active your team will be with a good free-agency market coming up in three months? Here’s a chart of how much cap space each team was due to have next spring as of Saturday, along with how many players each team has under contract:
And yes, you read it right. The Washington Redskins are $20 million over the projected ’08 cap, a number that will be reduced once the ‘Skins convert some bonuses assigned to the ’08 cap (including a hefty one paid to tight end Chris Cooley) to signing bonuses, which can be pro-rated over the life of the contract.
Here’s a tip for aspiring columnists: When you have a weekly column and you set the expectations high with a thought-provoking “Stat of the Week” every week, understand that you will get fatigued looking for stats. You should have some charts that you can find anywhere on the Internet handy to plug in for one of those weeks you’re too sick of it all to research a good stat of the week.
Also, if you’ve already mentioned something in a pervious column, like the Redskins’ cap situation ( http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/peter_king/11/18/week11/7.html ), it doesn’t to mention it again, even if you have nothing new to add.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
So you wonder how important Romo is to the Cowboys? He came along not at the right time, but at the perfect time.
The Cowboys began selling tickets to their new stadium in Arlington last week, and the prices floored some buyers. Lower-bowl seats will have one-time personal seat license (PSL) fees between $16,000 and $150,000, which will give each ticket-holder the right to purchase seats at the stadium for the next 30 years. Those who pay the license fees will have to fork over $340 per ticket for 10 games — eight regular-season, two preseason. Team Marketing Report claims that the previous highest PSL price was $12,000 per seat in Carolina, and that Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, did not have PSL fees when it opened.
The prices seem other-worldly. That’s putting it mildly. Dallas owner Jerry Jones is fond of saying the public will determine the market. If he sells out the new palace, either Texans are flush with more money than the rest of the country, or they’ll mortgage their futures to make sure they see how far Romo can take this team in the next few years.
Or they love the Cowboys, which is entirely possible, if not altogether likely.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Brett Favre flew from Green Bay to the Teterboro Airport in suburban New Jersey late last Tuesday afternoon, then was driven into New York to accept the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award that night.
The first 756 miles of the trip, in the air, took 105 minutes.
The last eight miles of the trip, on the ground during rush hour, took 65 minutes.
That’s 432 mph on phase one of the trip, 7 mph on the second leg.
This information came from one of those non-Gay personal conversations I have with Brett Favre all the time in which I do not call his wife a whore.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 14:
b. It’s just time to go, Rex Grossman. And understand that scores of really good players had to go to a second or third team before finding NFL success. The worst thing for both sides would be for Grossman to even talk to the Bears in free agency. He needs a fresh start, as do the Bears.
It’s pretty egregious for Rex to get hurt when he was getting auditioned for next year and beyond. Shame on you, Rex.
c. Whatever happened to Matt Leinart? Has he been kidnapped?
It’s like one day, he’s starting for the Cardinals, the next, he’s out with some undisclosed mystery injury. Who knows with Hollywood types.
d. Stop showing stonefaced coaches all the time, NFL Network. How many times can we look at Lovie Smith, expressionless, for five seconds, without throwing the remote at the TV?
Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me madder than Lovie Smith looking expressionless. If I have to look at his unmoving face once more, by God, I don’t know what I’m capable of doing. I’d advise all residents of North Central New Jersey to watch out. Just saying.
f. How, exactly, will NFL Films put a highlight film together for the Miami Dolphins?
They should call in the America’s Funniest Home Videos guys, right? You know what I’m saying?
g. I’ve never seen a colder shoulder than the one LaDainian Tomlinson showed Philip Rivers as the latter was stinking up the joint in Nashville on Sunday.
The five coldest shoulders I’ve ever seen, before Sunday, in order:
5. Cold: Democratic Party to Walter Mondale after the 1984 Presidential election.
4. Colder: Keith Olbermann to Production Assistants every Sunday.
3. Colderer: Ross to Joey in that one Friends episode where Joey become a tour guide at the museum where Ross worked.
4. Coldererer: United States to Lobbyists lobbying for higher health standards in America.
5. Coldest: This one waitress at a pre-Starbucks Coffee Shop in St. Louis to me when I asked for sugar and Sweet ‘n Lo in my coffee. I am what I am, Doriz.
i. Adrian Peterson rushed 14 times for three yards at San Francisco, and the Vikes won by 20 points. Yes, the tide is turning for the Vikes all right.
I know it was just against San Francisco, but…oh, right, it means nothing.
j. I’m no ratings maven, but I’ll bet a dime that a Dallas-New England or Green Bay-New England Super Bowl would draw the biggest audience in American television history.
Oh, to be a young ratings maven in New York.
k. Why do I think the Vikings might have something to say about that?
Because I’m overly reactionary, that’s why!
2. I think it’s all well and good for Eagles president Joe Banner to say, as he did the other day, that he “can’t envision a scenario” in which Donovan McNabb is not the Eagles’ quarterback in 2008. It’s a fine thing to support your starting quarterback and to try to put out all the fires raging in Philadelphia in the media and the public about McNabb’s future. But if that’s the way Banner’s really thinking, he’s Nero, and Rittenhouse Square is on fire.
That’s right, I know Philadelphia geography. So what if its a poor comparison?
I’m not saying McNabb can’t save his job by going 3-0 down the stretch and playing great football, and I’m not saying the die is cast and he’s definitely in his last month as the Eagles’ quarterback. But let’s be realistic. He’s not the pal he once was with Andy Reid (for a lot of reasons), and that goes both ways. You can’t win in the NFL when the house is divided, and you just get the feeling this house is falling apart and can’t be rebuilt.
See that parenthetical – (for a lot of reasons)? Sometimes a journalist doesn’t want to divulge everything they know. If George Lucas told you that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father in the first Star Wars, why would you ever watch Empire Strikes Back? This is the same thing.
One final McNabb note: Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News is one of the most fair-minded and even-handed NFL writers in the business. The other day, he noted how rabbit-earish he’s found McNabb and wrote: “For a guy who says he doesn’t waste energy worrying about what people think of him, it seems as if he does nothing but worry about it. Buy a pair of freaking earplugs and stop reading the paper, will ya, fella.”
Donovan, however, you can still read my column. Because it’s on SI.com, the best sports website in the world.
3. I think the NFL found two widely diverging explanations for official Phil McKinnely‘s “boy” comment to Samari Rolle during the conflagration in Baltimore last Monday night. Rolle told league disciplinary VP Ray Anderson that McKinnely used the word in a denigrating way late in the game. But McKinnely, according to a league source, told the argumentative Rolle to “stop acting like a boy” and be an adult.
Rather than keeping the dispute alive, the league did two things last Friday: It elected not to discipline or fine Rolle or his teammates for their onfield abuse of the officiating crew, and it sent a warning letter out to all officiating crews advising them to walk away from disputes in the future. And Anderson reminded the Ravens players to walk away from arguments before they escalate. I’m told the league believes McKinnely’s side of the story.
You thought I was going to discuss how this would have been dealt with by the league office had McKinnely been a white official, right? I’m not touching that with a ten-foot-pole. Except to say that the official would be fined and possibly fired. That’s it.
5. I think if you ever question the brutality of this game, and wonder if people like Mike Ditka, Kyle Turley and Daryl Johnston are doing the right thing in campaigning for better medical care and benefits for retirees, consider this headline you will never see on NFL.com: John Elway just had a knee replaced. At age 47.
Oh, it’s not on SI.com, either? Eh, it’s the Internet. I wrote the backpage column on Favre in the magazine.
6. I think, if I’m the Patriots, I’m dealing the pick I got from San Francisco, the one that might be the second overall pick in the draft. I’m resisting all temptation to choose Darren McFadden, because I know I can trade down and get a good back down the line. The league’s full of them — at far more manageable money than the $28 million guaranteed you’d probably have to commit to a McFadden if he’s picked that high.
Also, if the Patriots actually picked a Running Back second over all, I would probably have to admit that I was wrong two weeks ago when I said never pick a Running Back in the first part of the first round. So, don’t do it, guys. Please.
7. I think it’s only fair to continually praise Fred Taylor, seeing that he’s been so ignored in his NFL career. He passed Eddie George and Tiki Barber on the all-time rushing list with his 132-yard day against Carolina that included the longest run of his life, an 80-yard touchdown run. Here’s what I find amazing about the supposedly aging Taylor: He’s averaged 7.4, 7.4 and 7.3 yards per rush in the last three weeks.
As I mentioned, I was watching with Tiki and Eddie George as Fred broke their career marks. If you look up uncomfortable in the dictionary, there would be a picture of that room during that game. If you looked it up on an interactive encyclopedia, there would be the accompanying awkward silence. If you looked it up on wikipedia, it would be inaccurate!
8. I think this is what I liked about Week 14:
b. The pursuit of Nick Collins, the Green Bay safety who chased down Justin Fargas on a fourth-and-short in the first quarter and chopped him down like a dad at a Christmas Tree farm.
I know, I know, Mom’s can chop Christmas trees down, too. Here’s my take: Unless you’re a single mom, let your husband do it for you. You can get hurt, ladies.
e. Brian Dawkins‘s neck tackle of Reuben Droughns in Philadelphia, stopping the Giants at the Philly one and holding them to a field goal. Defensive play of the day.
You can’t teach neck tackling. You either have it, or you don’t.
f. Albert Haynesworth did his job Sunday, as did Kyle Vanden Bosch. Haynesworth’s impact was on display in Nashville. Six of LaDainian Tomlinson’s first 12 rushes were for zero yards or less: -1, 2, 5, -1, 3, 0, 3, 0, 6, 16, 0, 0. And Vanden Bosch’s three-sack day terrorized Philip Rivers.
So what if LaDainian Tomlinson ended with 146 yards rushing and 2 TDs. Look at those first 12 rushes. That’s what really matters to me.
j. The two leading rushers Sunday: Ryan Grant, Selvin Young, with 156 yards each. See what I mean about being able to find backs without spending big money or big draft picks on them?
If this doesn’t prove the point, I don’t know what does.
9. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 14:
a. How undisciplined the Bears look. In their first series after going down 14-0 in the third quarter at Washington, the Bears got whistled for a delay of game, false start, false start and delay of game in an 11-snap sequence.
Now, if they had another quarterback, and a coach with a face that wasn’t so gosh-darned expressionless, things might start to change over there in Chicagoland.
b. What an idiotic flag thrown by the Ron Winter crew in the Philly-Giants game, the delay-of-game spike call on Plaxico Burress, after Burress mildly slammed the ball down after a play. Call the penalty when someone truly spikes it, guys.
You still think I’m racist? That’s the THIRD nice thing I’ve said about Plaxico Burress today! Plaxico!
d. Could Vince Young please start playing like the third pick in the 2006 draft?
This didn’t work in 2003 when I implored Joey Harrington to please start playing like the third pick in the 2002 draft. Or in 2000, when I begged Akili Smith to please start playing like the third pick of the 1999 draft. But, it’s worth a shot, right?
f. Donovan McNabb: 14-18 in his last 32 starts.
I’d still give a second-round pick to Philly if I were Chicago, despite worse receivers, a worse line and a worse running game than he has in Philly. It’s a ll about a change of scenery. Obviously.
g. I wish PR people would edit post-game quote sheets. When a writer has 16 sheets and has to wade through 15.8 pages of total bullcrap, it tends to aggravate him at 3:23 a.m.
That’s the part of the column where play Olbermann for a minute and I stick it to the little guy.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. The Heisman voters got it right. What quarterback, in any league, has ever thrown more than 20 touchdown passes and rushed for more than 20 touchdowns in a year? Tim Tebow had 51 combined. And, apparently, Tebow is a heck of a kid.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever, ever had a better winner for college football, or for life, than Tim Tebow,” Lee Corso said after Tebow won the Heisman on ESPN on Saturday night. Hard to imagine a kid who was raised better, and is more mature as a college sophomore, than Tebow.
“We think about this as a team award,” was one of about 75 humble things Tebow said upon winning. The praise of his parents and coaches and the university president, for crying out loud … No wonder the state of Florida loves this kid.
For some reason, I don’t see a dog fighting trial in his future.
b. Greg Schiano stays. He turns down Michigan. He did not get a dime from Rutgers for staying. You can knock New Jersey over with a feather right now.
I wrote this at 4am. I don’t know what I meant, either.
c. I’ve always felt Schiano had at least one move left in him. Maybe to Penn State, someday. Maybe to the Chicago Bears. I don’t know. Maybe Michigan was too preppy, too blue-blooded for him. Maybe just moving into a palatial new home on the edge of campus this fall and being happily ensconced with his wife and three kids had something to do with it. But it’s darned impressive that a guy turns down one of the best four or five jobs in college football to stay at the State University of New Jersey.
One place I wouldn’t advise him going? The NFL. After GMs are done reading this column, no successful college coach will get an NFL job ever again.
f. I would hire Steve Mariucci to fire up the troops at my company any day of the week. You should have heard his heartfelt talk at the Favre Sportsman event the other night. Moving.
We all went out and beat the daylights out of Time in our intermural, inter-magazine floor hockey league 11-0. Could’ve have been even more of a beat down, but we pulled out starters midway through the 3 period. Special note goes to Gene Menez, who had four goals, three assists and a wicked check on Joel Klein. Thanks, Mooch.
g. I really wish these movie channels