BRUCETON, Tenn. — “Ladies and gentleman,” the Northwest flight attendant intoned last Wednesday evening, “our scheduled flight time from New York to Memphis today is two hours and 39 minutes. And if you’re one of our valued WorldPerks members, you’ll be credited with 986 miles for this flight.”
Intoned! Look at me, just throwing my vocabulary around.
That’s when it hit me: My God, George Martin has walked this. All of it.
You may remember Martin as a 14-year New York Giant, an athletic defensive end who had a few moments of fame, including his sack of John Elway just before halftime of Super Bowl XXI; the safety started the G-men on a run of 26 unanswered points that opened the door to a 39-20 win. Martin is doing something slightly more important now.
I know what you’re saying, What’s more important that football? And I know why you’re saying it, ’cause you spent Monday Morning reading a column, albeit a very good one, about football. Well, let me rain on your parade a little – saving lives is slightly more important than football.
Martin began walking from New York to San Francisco in September, and on Thursday, with me and an HBO crew in tow, he walked the 1,000th mile of his trip just outside this little town. (You can see a profile of Martin’s walk Wednesday night on HBO’s Inside the NFL show. You can even see me keeping up with him for all of Thursday’s 18 miles. And let me tell you, the man can walk.)
And I know this because I, too, can walk. I lost a ton of weight in recent years. See that picture? That’s me, svelte. I don’t know about the pants George is wearing though. Good cause, bad pants, big fella.
Martin is walking to raise money and awareness for the mental and physical health problems that first-responders to the terrorist attacks at Ground Zero have suffered. Martin has raised $1.5 million of his $10 million goal; matching donors at three New York-area hospitals will boost the count to $3 million. Approximately 40,000 firefighters, police, EMS and volunteers have been affected by the inhalation of toxic contaminants from the pulverized buildings — and have contracted lung disease and even cancer — because most worked without protective masks. Even worse, some of those workers don’t have health insurance, and a majority have inadequate health insurance to deal with the onslaught of new treatments they must use to stave off disease. At least eight first-responder deaths, including one of a nun, have been directly connected to Ground-Zero poisoning.
You might ask who I’m going to vote for in the Republican Primary. Well, not Giuliani, that’s for sure, because he hasn’t championed this cause, leaving real champions like George Martin to pick up the slack. Not McCain either, because he’s a little too old for the job. Not Romney, because Mormons give me the willies. Not Thompson because the actor-turned-President has been done already – and done so well. Not Huckabee because he lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. And not one of the members of the lunatic fringe, like Ron Paul, Mike Gravel or Tom Tancredo. So…
“Have you watched film of that day?” Martin asked when we met on this morning. “Watch the scenes of all the people running from the site. Thousands of them. Then watch the people who are actually running toward the site, and watch the firefighters running into the buildings
“It astounds me. It’s so counter-intuitive. But have we forgotten the events of that horrible day? Have we grown tired of the aftermath? If so, shame on us. When the first fatality came, it barely caused a whimper in the media. But I was touched deeply.”
Me too. But I haven’t forgotten, not this American. That’s why I’m proud to announce that I will be supporting the President of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, in the Republican Primaries. And you should, too. Short of walking 3,300 miles, its the best way to show that you haven’t forgotten. I just think he’ll be tough on terrorism.
He had to do something. But what? Run a golf tournament to raise money for the second wave of 9/11 victims? A banquet?
“I was an impressionable kid,” he said. “I grew up in the time of the Kennedys. And I was really struck by two things they said. President Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’ Bobby said, ‘Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream of things that never were and say why not.’ I met people, healthy people in their 40s and 50s, who can’t walk up stairs anymore, who have to decide whether to spend the money they have on medicine or food but sometimes not both. If I didn’t do something to help this issue, then I wasn’t the man I thought I was.”
I know what you’re asking, Why didn’t you save this for the print edition of Sports Illustrated so it could eligible for the Pulitzer? That’s a question for my editors. And, no, I’m not pleased with their decision.
These people need money, Martin thought, and not just $200,000. They need big money. He thought, “I’ve got do something big” and then, “This country needs to be reminded of the suffering of these heroes, and we’ve got to urge those in government to not forget them.”
Rudy, Rudy, Rudy! I was thinking, Rudy’s theme music should be the theme music to “Rudy.” It’s not rocket science. It just works, people.
So he took a leave from his job as a vice president at AXA Equitable in New York to walk 3,300 miles — from the George Washington Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge, via the southern route because he’d be walking in the fall and winter. He decided he would do every interview, talk to everyone he met along the way about the issue, and stop at schools to spread the word. In essence, he set out to do something Kennedyesque.
Which worked in the 60’s, and worked quite well. But everyone grows up. I know a lot of my readers are younger, impressionable men. Let me impress this upon you, Rudy Giuliani is the only man who knows the threat of Islamic terrorism. I hope this doesn’t come off as racist, but Barack Obama sounds like someone who would be on their side, not ours. Sounds like. And Hillary Clinton is a woman. I’ve never been in favor of women in the military. Just makes no sense. Commander-in-Chief is the COMMANDER of the military. How can I look my daughters in the face and tell them that Daddy thinks he can go against the basic tenets of his character this one time and vote for a woman in the military? Giuliani ’08.
Which brings us to Tennessee last Thursday. We started in Camden, in Benton County, on state highway 641 south just outside the Faith Christian Fellowship Church, on day 56 of his walk (he has taken some days off for personal events, like his son’s wedding).
Terror never takes a holiday, though. Keep that in mind in November.
This is how much we walk: A reporter from a paper in Benton County pulls over on the side of the road a mile into the morning’s walk, just after we turn onto U.S. 70, and asks Martin what he’s doing. That afternoon, around 4, a reporter from the next county’s paper, in Carroll County, is waiting by the side of the road where another impromptu interview happens.
I got to be honest here. I think they were all a little more excited to see me than George. Not to take anything away from his momentous achievements, just reporting the facts here.
He talks about the impact of Bill Parcells a lot. “Every day I think about him, and about the lessons he taught me about so many things,” Martin said. “Sometimes I’ll be out here on the road and he’ll call me. The other day he called and said, ‘Hey Martin, you gotta get out of Tennessee! Winter’s coming.’ Bill’s been great. He’s the one who made the donation that got us over $1 million.”
Parcells gave $10,000. Jim Fassel and Mark Bavaro have also given.
I found it particularly big of Fassel, given that he has no chance of ever holding down a coaching job in the NFL ever again.
Martin travels with a medical technician to make sure that he’s properly hydrated, a former New York City cop who walks with him and provides security, and an advance man to help with publicity and the scouting of the routes. On this day, Lee Reeves, the advance man, has arranged for Martin to meet the police, fire and EMS workers in Bruceton (pop. 1,554), a railroad burg on the Big Sandy River, then to speak an impromptu school assembly at the K-12 school in town.
The school principal has downloaded Martin’s theme song, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” and it’s playing when he walks into the gym. When Martin takes the mike, you can tell he’s done this before. He tells the kids people have called him a hero, but he never saved anyone’s life or taught classes how to read. Those are the heroes, he tells the kids.
See what I’m saying about a theme song? Not brain surgery, people.
And he has the kids give ovations to the police and fire and EMS workers, and another one to the teachers. The kids are rapt. And he tells them why he’s making the walk, to help people like the ones who protect them every day.
Then he takes the police, fire and EMS folks out to lunch at a Mexican place. He’s in no hurry. The mayor comes by to say hello. By 2:15, he’s stretching again, then back on the road, where he sees an Amish family clip-clop by in their horse-and-buggy. “I don’t know there were Amish people here,” he said. “You find out a lot you didn’t know by taking this walk.”
Got me thinking, would you rather have an Amish president or a Mormon president? I vote Amish – you know what you’re getting there.
Martin is looking for a hotel sponsor, to house his small crew along the way. He’s looking for a gas sponsor for his two support vehicles. I asked Martin how the people who read this column could help his cause.
I have a hunch that he’ll get that hotel sponsor now that I mentioned it in my column. That’s my small part, George. You’re welcome, old friend.
“People are in awe of the feat, of someone walking from New York to California,” he said. “But that doesn’t help us achieve our objective. Tell people to go to ajourneyfor 911.info and please help the people who put their lives on the line for us –and are paying so dearly for it now.”
‘Tis the season.
If you believe in what Martin is doing, or if you love where you live, or both, ajourneyfor911.info should be your first stop today. Click on the donate bar. One man can make a difference. And you can help him prove it.
Sometimes a man is tasked with writing a football column about brutes who battle it out in weather both inclimate and calm over a oblong ball made from pig. And sometimes this man sees the potential of this column du football that expands far beyond the implicit limitations set by a faceless corporate governance. He uses it, utilizes it, to promote a man, who promotes a cause far greater than any of us. And a presidential candidate who I just think will be tough on terrorism. What would you call such a man, such a columnist? A hero? No, he’s not a hero. The police officers and firefighters and teachers are heroes. But is he the equal of a great football player, like George Martin? It’s hard to say.
Wrapping Up Week 15
There’s not much drama left. Seven of the eight division titles have been clinched with two weeks left. I’m having trouble remembering less intrigue at the end of a season. Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Seattle are locked into NFC titles. New England, Indianapolis and San Diego have clinched in the AFC. The only division left to decide — and who’d have predicted this three months ago — is the AFC North, where the Browns and Steelers are tied with 9-5 records.
That was my best impression of ESPN.com’s John Clayton, telling you information that you already know.
Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker because of its season sweep of the Browns, and if the Steelers were playing well, I’d say they were a lock. But they aren’t. They go to St. Louis for the Thursday-nighter this week, then finish at Baltimore. (Combined Ram/Raven record: 7-21.) And don’t you think the woebegone Ravens would love to knock Pittsburgh out of a division title? They hate the Steelers. Cleveland has Cincinnati on the road and San Francisco (combined record: 9-19) at home.
So, I’m picking the Browns to win the AFC Central and the Steelers to win the AFC central.
Most likely wild-card matchups: Giants at Tampa Bay, Minnesota at Seattle in the NFC; Jacksonville at the AFC North champ, the AFC North runnerup at San Diego. “We don’t fear going anywhere to play,” Jacksonville QB David Garrard said last night. “We think we match up well with physical teams like Pittsburgh.”
Leave it to the African-American Tony Romo, so say something so Favre-esque. Garrard might be position himself to be the African-American Favre. Had you told me two years ago that I was thinking about naming someone “The African-American Favre,” I’d have called you crazy!
It shows. Jacksonville has beaten the Steelers on two straight trips to Heinz Field, playing the kind of northeast December football the Giants used to play. Fred Taylor road-graded Pittsburgh for 147 yards and Garrard played another steady game. The two teams I wouldn’t want to play in January: Jacksonville, Minnesota. The team I would: The Giants.
The whole list, from teams I least want to play to the teams I most want to play: Jacksonville, Minnesota, Green Bay (angling for homefield), New England (duh), Dallas, Cleveland, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Indy (I don’t trust them), Chicago, Buffalo, Washington, Philly, The Giants.
Not only are the New Yorkers not playing well right now (offensive output the last seven weeks: 13, 20, 16, 17, 21, 16 and 10 points), but they’ve lost Jeremy Shockey to a broken leg. They had at least nine drops last night in a bad loss to Washington, and Eli Manning is struggling enough without his receivers being so bad.
Ugly, ugly game, but I don’t know how bad of a thing losing Shockey. Maybe Kevin Boss can do for the Giants what Todd Collins has done for the Redskins.
Jamal Lewis is rescuing Cleveland. Last January, when Lewis had minor ankle surgery to clean out some bone spurs, the doctor told him he’d be surprised at how good his range of motion in the ankle would be. And last night, after his 14th game on the new wheel, Lewis said he hasn’t felt this good this late in a season in years. “No pain,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with the way I feel.”
It’s hard to do a story about Jamal Lewis, especially in the times of Michael Vick, without mentioning that he’s a former convict.
And he’s running like a spry Jerome Bettis. Cleveland needed a big body in Sunday’s snowstorm, and Lewis gave them 33 carries for 163 yards. Irony of the day: Before the game, Willie McGinest and Lewis were in the trainers’ room, getting ready to go out, and McGinest said, “This reminds me exactly of the night we played Oakland in that snow game in the playoffs with the Patriots.” And this one ended almost the same way, with an unlikely 49-yard field goal by Phil Dawson through a gale, the same way Adam Vinatieri kicked a field goal through a snowstorm against the Raiders.
Irony or coincidence? I never can get those two straight. Readers, help me out here!
I remember going to Cleveland last summer and seeing Lewis running like he had new legs, and listening to him say what a great year he thought he was going to have. When I wrote that, there were smirks and a bunch of you-gullible-idiot looks from peers in the business. The ’07 number: 251 carries, 1,084 yards, nine touchdowns, with a couple of Bettis-like piggyback carries of defenders.
I’m not naming names when I say that Len Pasquerelli was one of the doubters, just stating facts. Who’s gullible now, Len? Who has better hair now, Len?
The Fine Fifteen
1. New England (14-0). “This game let everyone know we’ve got a running game,” Laurence Maroney said via the cell phone after the 20-10 win over the Jets. Maroney has been under the microscope for a lack of durability, and he’d rushed it only 37 times in the last four games. Against the Jets, he ran 26 times for 104 yards — both season highs.
For some reason, I think Mr. Maroney was the only one who felt the need to show that the Patriots had a running game. He did talk to me via the cell phone after the game, though.
2. Indianapolis (12-2). Colts 21, Raiders 14. Kind of a mail-in affair.
Did I ever tell you about my cousin who has a mail-order bride? She was actually a medical student in Cambodia. Bright girl. Hot, too. They have a kid, Gucci, who’s 5, and can’t talk, yet. Aside from that, though, I think mail-order brides and the men who order them get a bad rap. Let’s focus on bigger problems, people.
3. Dallas (12-2). When a quarterback injures his thumb badly enough that it has to be X-rayed; and when he needs help after the game taking off his equipment, it may sound OK when the medical report comes back negative. But have you had a badly sprained thumb? Does it feel peachy six days later? I don’t think so. And Dallas has the short week before traveling to Carolina for the Collinsworthian Saturday night affair on the NFL Network.
Collinsworthian. Thank goodness. Who can listen to Neon Deion? Seriously?
4. Green Bay (12-2). Maybe we’re record-weary, but it’s amazing how a mark with as much juice as the career passing-yardage mark passes without much fanfare. Brett Favre now owns ’em all.
No, I am not taking a week off from Favre-praise because of that salacious non-story on Kissmesuzy.blogspot.com last week. This was a one week experiment to see how much Favre coverage there would be in a world here I didn’t focus on him as my main story. Turns out, not much. Am I the last sane man, the last who extols the virtues of Favre? If so, it is a burden – nay honor – I accept.
5. San Diego (9-5). When the team’s third running back, Darren Sproles, rushes for 122 yards, it’s a clear sign the Bolts are rounding into postseason shape.
This is more of a ‘feel’ clear sign than a ‘fact’ clear sign.
6. Jacksonville (10-4). “We play in the heat,” David Garrard said via cell phone last night, “but we’re built for the cold.” Sunday’s 29-22 win at Pittsburgh was played in a 25-degree wind chill, the first time all season the Jags have played with the game time temperature colder than 62 degrees. I watched it, and Garrard’s right. This is a power team.
Built for the cold, eh? Mr. Garrard is very savvy. Favre-savvy.
7. Pittsburgh (9-5). Nice to see Troy Polamalu back, but even he couldn’t keep the Steelers from losing their second-consecutive game.
You guessed it, I didn’t watch this game! So, sue me.
8. Minnesota (7-6). I just might like the Vikings more than they deserve to be liked.
I like them like sex cruise operators like them. Oh! Too Easy!
9. Tampa Bay (9-5). “I’ve got no fear my back’s going to flare up again,” Jeff Garcia said after the Bucs 37-3 win over the Falcons. “If it was a disc, that would be one thing. But it was just a back bruise.” What a great marriage between Garcia and Jon Gruden.
As always when I make thinly-veiled references to the rumors that Jeff Garcia is gay, I must mention that this is, in no way, a reference to the rumor that Jeff Garcia is gay.
10. Tennessee (8-6). Vince Young looked terrific.
We all agreed on this: Tiki, Cris, Costas, the Bus, Elliot Kalb, the stat guys, the crew guys, the video nerds, the women. All of us. Except, you guessed it, Olbermann.
11. Cleveland (9-5). Braylon Edwards is really a terrific player. He made two incredible catches in the snow. And you know how I feel about Jamal Lewis, who has been incredible this year — the best he’s looked since 2004.
Redundant much? Gotta be fair, here, to myself.
12. Seattle (9-5). Matt Hasselbeck wasn’t very happy about going away from his game plan after, in his words, “the second play of the game” in the surprising loss at Carolina.
I’m tired of Seattle. I just have nothing to say about them. I never really did. I hate their colors, their city, their players. Everything is just so BLAH. Mike Holmgren, you deserve better.
13. Washington (7-7). Somehow, with Todd Collins playing like Spergon Wynn, the Redskins built a 17-3 halftime lead and coasted home in the igloo also known as the Meadowlands.
Spergon Wynn. I kill myself.
14. New York Giants (9-5). An easy team to diss. Don’t look now, but Minnesota easily could pass them for the fifth seed. Well, not easily, but it’s certainly doable. If the Giants go 1-1 in their last two, the Vikes can win the No. 5 seed by beating Chicago and Washington (at home) and Denver (on the road) — all games the Vikes should be favored in.
15 (tie). Philadelphia (6-8). No team in football played better this year against New England and Dallas. So saith Elliott Kalb, and I buy it.
And some pretty formidable teams have played both the Patriots and the Cowboys – the Redskins, the Jets, the Bills and the Dolphins. If you’re first among that group, you’ve earned respect.
15 (tie). Houston (7-7). 2008 playoffs, here they come.
Don’t hold me to it! Unless I’m right, then I’ll hold myself to it.
The Awards Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Cleveland RB Jamal Lewis. Remember back in August, when everyone thought this 28-year-old back coming off two ankle surgeries was washed up? He continued to prove everyone wrong Sunday, leading the Browns to the verge of the playoffs with an 8-0 win over Buffalo. Lewis had the second-most carries of his career (33) for 163 rushing yards. For the year, he has 251 carries for 1,084 yards. Most impressive, really, is his 4.3 yards per carry, because he got the rap in Baltimore of being a bad yards-per-carry guy.
Redundant much? I’m just filet-ing myself here.
Miami QB Cleo Lemon. Not only did he have Miami’s first touchdown pass in 49 days (and the Dolphins first on this continent in 63 days), but also Lemon threw the game-winning touchdown pass on Miami’s first possession of overtime, a 64-yarder to second-year wideout Greg Camarillo. For the day, Lemon earned his first NFL win by going 23-of-39 for 315 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
I feel so good about throwing Miami a bone, I’m going to do it again. Consider it my George Martin-esque act of the day.
Defensive Player of the Week
Houston DE Mario Williams. His 3.5-sack effort against Denver helped the Texans get back to .500 with a 31-14 win over the Broncos on Thursday night. If you watch Williams now, you see a rusher playing with the confidence of a Michael Strahan. With 13 sacks in 14 games, Williams ranks second in the NFL in that category, behind only Patrick Kerney.
Not going to say I told you so, but….
Miami DE Jason Taylor. My little NBC nugget on this game: Before Ravens-Dolphins, Taylor saw Don Shula on the field and approached him to say: “We’re gonna turn this thing around, coach. And we’re going to start today.” Prescient guy. Four tackles, two sacks and a blocked field goal later, he put his effort where his mouth was, and the Dolphins were off the schneid.
I don’t know. Two awards just doesn’t feel like enough for the Dolphins this week. After all, they avoided going 0-14 for the second time in league history. I wonder if I can find one more award for them somewhere.
Coach of the Week
Miami coach Cam Cameron. “If we saved coach Cam’s job, that makes me happy, because he’s been a great coach for us,” Cleo Lemon said over the phone last night. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. All I know is: The Dolphins played very, very hard in their 22-16 win, and Jason Taylor got choked up giving his coach a game ball … and this kind of stuff doesn’t happen when players lose respect for their coach. Here’s one thing column contributor Todd Starowitz pointed out: Miami’s leading passer (Cleo Lemon), rusher (Samkon Gado) and receiver (Greg Camarillo) in this game were all free agents not drafted out of college. And this is what Cameron has to take into battle these days.
Alright. Now, I have done my duty! Miami Dolphins take home a trifecta of awards. I hope that’s a consolation to you, denizens of Miami.
Goat of the Week
Former Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino. Idiot. Weasel. One day after having permission to speak to Arkansas denied him by the man who hired him for $4.8 million a year last winter, Petrino went ahead and talked to Arkansas anyway. Then he rode out of Atlanta for Fayetteville under the cover of darkness.
More adjectives for Petrino: Ass, Asshole, Baby, Bitch, Blow Job, Boob, Boobie, Bubblehead, Canary, Chicken, Clam, Cock, Cockroach, Dick, Dickhead, Dickweed, Doodie, Doodle, Dumbass, Evil, F*g, Fairy, Flamer, Gay, Girl, Glam Rock Diva, Hero (sandwich), Hothead, Imbecile, Jerk, Joke, Journeyman, Kisser of Asses of Arkansas Alumnae, Kid, Loser, Losah, Loozah, Man (not!), Mensch (not!), Nancy, O, Pansy, Tool, Zero, Zilch, Zip, Zippo, Zilcho, Nothing, No one, Nobody, No one, Nada, Scratch, Empty, Zero.
I understand why he did it — he felt he was 100 miles away from winning (he was); he felt the Falcons’ front office — particularly GM Rich McKay — wasn’t good enough to rebuild the team in a hurry (he might be right); and he missed college football. So Petrino pulled the most irresponsible act I’ve seen in coaching in the 23 years I’ve covered the NFL — taking a job where it’ll be easier to win and he can treat the players like doormats; and there’s not a darn thing they can do about it.
What I’m saying is that I understand the depths of his evil.
One last thing: If the other coaches in the SEC use Petrino’s carpetbagging skullduggery against him, good for them. I hope it works. That wouldn’t be negative recruiting. It would be truthful recruiting.
Just like my list of adjectives isn’t negative journalism, it’s truthful journalism.
Quote of the Week I
“I love you guys! [Bleep], I’m gonna start crying.”
— Miami defensive end Jason Taylor, to his teammates in the Miami locker room after the Dolphins won their first game of the year.
The tough sonafabitch inside me wants to scream “There’s no crying in football!” But I won’t. This is a nice moment for Jason. I’m gonna let him have it.
Quote of the Week II
“It looked like something I saw on the discovery channel. Like something about the North Pole.”
— Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch , on the weather conditions at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday.
This guy went to Berkeley, he knows a thing or two about knowledge. A thing or two at most.
Stat of the Week
Now that New England has joined Miami’s 1972 team as the only clubs to post a 14-0 record in an NFL regular season, let’s compare the teams.
First — and do not mistake this for Dolphin-bashing, because it’s the clear and simple truth — Miami’s schedule was minor-league compared to the Pats’ through 14 weeks. In 1972, Miami did not play a team that finished the season with more than eight wins. The 8-6 Giants and Chiefs were the toughest tests. There were six teams with 10 wins or more other than Miami in 1972, and through quirks of the schedule, Miami faced none of them. Incredibly, the ’72 Dolphins faced none of the other seven NFL playoff teams during the regular season, then won all three playoff games narrowly — by six, four and seven points.
New England, meanwhile, is 4-0 against division leaders and has won those games by an average of 15 points.
I probably could have ended this section here. You get where I’m going, right?
But Miami was not a marginally good team that year — the Dolphins were superb. No team since the ’72 Dolphins has led the NFL in points, points allowed, total yards and total yards allowed. That’s an amazing and dominant feat. “The most special collection of players ever assembled,” Don Shula said at halftime of yesterday’s Ravens-Dolphins game. New England might have something to say about that in early February.
See, like I just used a chart to reiterate the point I made before it, in unnecessary detail.
New England is markedly different on offense than Miami was. The Dolphins had a 69-to-31 run-to-pass ratio, with Larry Csonka (1,117) and Mercury Morris (1,000) rushing for 1,000 yards and Earl Morrall and Bob Griese (who broke his ankle in midseason, causing him to miss nine starts) splitting time at quarterback and accounting for just 2,235 passing yards. New England’s run-pass ratio is 42-to-58 this year.
And I forgot to draw any conclusions from this set of information. Really just a waste of your time, sorry.
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England. When Peyton Manning led the Colts to a 12-4 record in 2004 and had a record-setting 49 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions, he received 47 of 48 votes for the Most Valuable Player award from a panel of the nation’s football media. Brady has led the Pats to 14-0 with 45 touchdowns and six picks.
Considering that all the variables that come with two independent MVP votes 3 seasons apart happen to be exactly the same in these two instances, you see what I’m getting at.
2. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas. Yikes. I haven’t seen him play a crummy game since Seattle in last year’s playoffs. A good old-fashioned clunker (13-of-36) might not be the worst news, though. His throwing thumb is sprained, and it could plague him Saturday at Carolina in a game the Cowboys suddenly must win to ensure they don’t go to Green Bay on Jan. 20.
I forgot the good news – they’re playing Carolina.
3. Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay. The Packers are 12-2 and have clinched a bye with two weeks left. Favre set the record for career passing yards at St. Louis on Sunday with a 227-yard passing day, giving him 61,405 yards, weeks after he set career records for quarterback wins and touchdown passes.
Remember when I said he had all the records earlier in this column? This is what I meant specifically.
4. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. You’re probably trying to remember who had that other MVP vote in 2004, aren’t you? Michael Vick.
How’s that for coincidence!? Or is it irony? This might actually be satire.
5. Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville. Taylor has four straight 100-yard rushing games and has become a big-time leader for a 10-4 Jags team that is suddenly an offensive juggernaut.
Not Paging Randy Moss! Not Paging Randy Moss? You are no longer needed in the MVP discussion, Randy Moss.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
On Dec. 16, 1972, at 1 p.m. in Miami, the Dolphins beat Baltimore to run their record to 14-0.
On Dec. 16, 2007, at 1 p.m. in Miami, the Dolphins beat Baltimore to run their record to 1-13.
This actually doesn’t even interest me anymore.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts about Week 15:
a. You’ve got to hear the Miami radio call of the moment the Dolphins beat Baltimore. As Keith Olbermann said on NBC last night, any similarity between that call and the radio call of the Hindenburg disaster is purely coincidental.
Leave it to Olbermann to bring up a national tragedy when another was just avoided.
b. The 56-yard punt by Dave Zastudil through the snow and wind in Cleveland, a punt that nestled into the snow, dead, at the Buffalo 2, was the best individual play of Week 15.
And, outside of the games I didn’t watch, I saw them all.
c. Let’s not forget about the Saturday night game, even though only six or seven people saw Niners-Bengals. Nobody’s heard of Shaun Hill, the quarterback of the Niners who now has completed 78 percent of his throws in two weeks. But a couple more games like Hill’s first two and Alex Smith‘s going to have some competition in training camp next year. Deservedly.
Who knows, Hill might be the next AJ Feeley?!
d. I hate Baltimore’s Brian Billick not going for the touchdown on fourth-and-a-foot late in the fourth quarter, choosing to kick a field goal to force overtime instead. Way, way too safe. That wouldn’t have mattered if Matt Stover had made a relative chippy field goal in overtime. But I still would have gone for the win in regulation because it’s a better strategic risk.
Really, I just hate Brian Billick, like the rest of the football-media.
e. There’s nothing better in the NFL than a snow game with playoff implications. Couldn’t take my eyes off Browns-Bills.
Not Favre, not Madden, not nothing!
j. Drew Brees, 26-of-30. How good is this guy?
I can answer that. He’s a top 75 quarterback of all-time. A top 7 in the NFL right now and just had his best week of the year. THAT’S how good he is.
k. The Colts give off the air of a team on auto-pilot, hoping nothing goes wrong before the real season begins.
There’s a lot to be said for auto-pliot, though. Flies planes, don’t it?
2. I think I’ve got this to say about Roddy White and his “Free Mike Vick” T-shirt: Grow up, Roddy White. Michael Vick is not a man who was entrapped or screwed by the system. He’s a man who knew he was doing wrong, lied to tried to hide it and was caught and found guilty. Then, after being told he needed to walk the straight and narrow, tested positive for marijuana, and was sentenced to 23 months in jail for dog fighting. Perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but 18 months, 23 months … what really is the difference? You did the crime, you do the time.
As far as the T-shirt goes, you save those kind of slogans for people who have been truly wronged by the system, who have been jailed without cause or had their human rights violated heinously — not for a multi-millionaire who thought he could break the law and abuse animals because he was a famous athlete.
I can’t agree with myself more here. I’m totally right.
3. I think I have nothing against Mike Vick. In fact, I like him a lot. I have spent two or three sessions with him, alone, talking about football and a little about life. I just feel he is not above the law, the same way none of us are above the law. And I hope he comes back and is the best story in the NFL in 2010. We are a society of redemption, and I would love to see Vick redeemed. I would love to see him sign with, say, Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome when he gets out of jail, play for Ravens coach Jason Garrett and set the league on its ear.
And for those who would like to think Vick would need to be something different from Classic Vick when he returns, I would like to give you a list. Here it is: Chris Redman, Matt Moore, Shaun Hill, Brock Berlin, Todd Collins, Cleo Lemon, Kyle Orton, Sage Rosenfels. Those eight quarterbacks have either started or played meaningful minutes (Orton will do so tonight) in the last eight days. And so I ask you: Are you out of your minds to suggest Vick would switch positions when he returns to the NFL? Why? Because quarterback is too complicated for someone coming out of prison? Come on. Vick will be a quarterback when he returns.
I just took the blackest man in America under my wing. Take that, my critics!
4. I think Charley Casserly would be in my top five for NFL Executive of the Year this year, and he hasn’t worked for the Texans in 20 months. Look back at his last draft, the 2006 draft, for Houston. First-round pick: North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, first overall. After finishing last year shakily, on an injured foot, with eight straight sackless games, Williams has 13 sacks, second in the league, this year …
Second-round pick: Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans, 33rd overall pick. He has more tackles (276) than any player in football since the start of the 2006 season … Third-round picks: Pitt tackle Charles Spencer, 65th overall pick, who has been injury-plagued since being drafted. University of Miami tackle Eric Winston, 66th overall pick. He’s been rock-solid, starting 21 games, including all 14 this year at right tackle … Fourth-round pick: Wisconsin tight end Owen Daniels, 98th overall pick. He leads the Texans with 739 receiving yards, fifth among all NFL tight ends. Casserly has had his share of clunkers over the years in the draft, but that’s one of the best hauls in recent years and is a solid backbone to a .500 team in a tough division.
It’s times like these that I regret Richard Justice’s columns frying Casserly for picking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young. You’re okay in my book, Casserly. Justice, you’re not living up to your name.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 15:
a. Brian Moorman had a great game in the snow of Cleveland. Weird to say for a guy who averaged 35.9 yards per punt, but he was heads-up enough to kick a bad punt snap out of the end zone, which almost certainly saved the Bills five points. Then he was athletic enough to scurry for a first down on a fake punt.
If I don’t mention the punters, who will?
c. Darren Sproles. Tough, quick, Meggetish back with a future somewhere.
Meggetish, what all undersized RBs should aspire to be called by me.
d. We as a sporting media underrate Donald Driver. He’s a top 10 receiver in this league — tough, fast, incredibly sure-handed.
And by we, I mean you not me.
e. The plucky Eagles deserve our respect. They flooded the Dallas backfield with Jim Johnson‘s all-out schemes, and played well enough on offense to keep it away from the Cowboys. And how about Brian Westbrook passing up a touchdown and taking a seat at the one to help run down the clock? Smart and gifted player.
Remember when the Eagles lost to the Patriots, and we said close only counts in horseshoes and games against the Patriots? Well, games against the Cowboys count, too.
f. Jason Witten has 88 catches. He bulls like Bavaro.
Factoid that might only interest me: I’ve mentioned George Martin, Bill Parcells, Jim Fassell, Mark Bavaro and Dave Meggett in this column. These new Giants are so easy to diss, but those old Giants are so easy to incorporate into a column.
g. Aaron Stecker‘s a better every-down-type back than Reggie Bush. No doubt.
It has been declared, and therefore, it is!
j. Matt Moore would be in my plans for 2008 if I were the Carolina GM.
After one start. Yup. After one start. It was Some Start.
k. I’m running out of good things to say about Fred Taylor, but give me a minute.
Oh! He’s the offensive Albert Hanynesworth!
l. To think the Cowboys once traded down and ended up with Julius Jones instead of Steven Jackson. Jackson’s playing with an ouchy groin, and he outran the entire Packers defense on one run Sunday.
Ouchy groin. And they say I’m not subtle.
m. Wes Welker: 96 catches, 1,004 yards, nine touchdowns. But the Dolphins judged him to be worth the 60th pick in the draft by virtue of his trade to New England. Someone must teach me about this game someday.
I said sarcastically. I know all about this game. As I may have mentioned, I have been offered over 20 front office positions over the course of my career.
7. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 15:
e. David Akers, who apparently can’t make a long kick anymore. He missed his eighth kick of 40 yards or more this year at Dallas.
That 57 yard kick he shanked off the upright against the Giants was particularly humiliating for him.
f. When the Giants put their minds to it, they can really look bad.
But, at least we know they’re focused on something other than Tiki.
8. I think Matt Ryan, the Boston College quarterback, is starting to distance himself in scouts’ eyes from the two other top quarterback candidates, Andre Woodson of Kentucky and Brian Brohm of Louisville. Colt Brennan will have the eyes of the NFL on him in Hawaii’s bowl game against Georgia. Second-round mini-sleeper: Joe Flacco of Delaware, who’s got a big arm and could climb the ladder.
That said, they’re all going to suck.
9. I think if I’m Arthur Blank, I steer clear of Bill Cowher, who isn’t coming out this year anyway and can’t make a quarterback-less team win. Blank should interview the following five current NFL aides: defensive coordinators Jim Schwartz (Titans) and Rex Ryan (Ravens), assistant head coaches Jim Caldwell (Colts) and Mike Singletary (49ers) and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett of Dallas. I think Garrett will likely stay put, but he might be the Mike Tomlin of this coaching season.
I read that first sentence again – it makes no sense! I advised a man to steer clear of an obstacle that won’t even be present! Huh? I write these at 3am, guys, I deserve a mulligan.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. If Tim Layden does not win an award for his story about recovering Buffalo Bill Kevin Everett in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, then there should not be journalism awards. A masterful, prescient, insightful, educational story, not only about the recovery of Everett against long odds, but about the doctor who bravely treated Everett and risked so much to do so. Everett comes off beautifully in this story — a great guy who is more concerned with his family than himself after he got hurt. And the doctor, Andrew Cappuccino, who was very open with Layden about how the controversial treatment that likely saved Everett from life in a wheelchair was so risky. Cappuccino talks openly about how, in the midst of the precedent-setting treatment lowering Everett’s body temperature to give him a better chance to avoid full paralysis, he thought of the chance he’d be wrong and lose his house and life savings because of a possible malpractice claim.
You don’t think that SI wanted to position this article as their awards-season favorite, relegating my piece on George Martin to the .com? I think I think I don’t either.
b. I’m proud to share the masthead with you, Tim. What a story.
Tim called me via blackberry phone later that day to tell me that he’s proud to share the masthead with me, as well.
e. Katie Couric didn’t get too much out of Alex Rodriguez in the 60 Minutes interview. No surprise there.
Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want women in the military and I don’t want them delivering my national news from the anchor’s desk.