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Posts Tagged ‘NBC Media Room’

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.

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Note: I got confused while writing the original column and used italics for no reason whatsoever. I have de-italicized all erroneously italicized paragraphs from Monday’s column. I will keep italics correctly used in context to add emphasis to a word or phrase, and, in parentheses, I will add (Italics Mine from the past). Got it?

 

NEW YORK — So many thoughts after the Patriots beat the Eagles 31-28. It’s good for the NFL, first of all. A week ago, after a 46-point win on the road against a team with a winning record, all hope for a suspenseful January was lost. The Patriots were untouchable. Now they’re not.

Remember last week when I surmised that maybe the ’27 Yankees could give the Patriots a game? Well, you can add the 2007 Eagles to that list. Current list of the five greatest teams of all-time: 2007 Patriots, 1927 Yankees, 2007 Eagles, 1967-73 UCLA Men’s Basketball, Lance Armstrong.

And it was one heck of a football game, a terrific example of what sports is capable of when it’s done right. Bill Belichick couldn’t have read his team the riot act after the game — at least I hope he didn’t. The Patriots did not play poorly. The Eagles played a tremendous football game, with a bad decision at the end leading to their demise. New England didn’t turn the ball over once, gained 410 total yards, and turned the tide of the game with three interceptions by a beat-up secondary.

Pretty much what I’m saying is, the entire game was won or lost by the following decision, which lead to their demise! I love using the word demise when talking about football. Makes me feel like Sue Grafton.

Re: the bad decision: You can’t kill A.J. Feeley for one terrible throw, because in the midst of a 60-minute ball game against the Team of the Decade, on the road and in your first start in 35 months, bad things will happen. They’re bound to. But there were still so many things wrong with the interception that sealed the deal for New England with four minutes left. The Eagles, trailing 31-28, moved 63 yards in seven plays to the New England 29, where Philadelphia had a second-and-4 and one timeout left. The Patriots had three timeouts left. The goal for Philly here should have been to milk as much of the clock as possible, because if the Eagles scored either a field goal or touchdown quickly, New England would have four stoppages of the clock and three-plus minutes to tie or win the game. Tom Brady could bake four loaves of bread in that time.

I watched these tense last few minutes in the green room outside the Football Night in America studios at NBC. Cris Collinsworth sat to my right. As the time ticked down, Collinsworth, maybe 15 seconds before the ball was snapped, said, “I don’t know why, but I just have a Jason Campbell feeling about this one.” Campbell, the Washington quarterback, threw three bad interceptions in the previous two fourth quarters, at Dallas and Tampa Bay. Now Feeley faded back, felt some pressure, and threw down the right side, deep into the end zone for Kevin Curtis — and the ball was picked off by Asante Samuel, his second interception of the day. True story about Collinsworth, and he didn’t even gloat. The Eagles could probably have run the next three plays (assuming one of the first two resulted in a first down) and gotten the clock down close to the two-minute warning.

Man. How cool is it that I get to hang out with Cris Collinsworth every day? Scale of 1-10, its a 9. Seriously. Hanging out with Tiki is like a 4. Costas, who I have the utmost respect for, is like a 5. Hanging out with Jerome has gotta be a 7. You can;t tell me its not a 7. Olbermann is a 1. That’s not a knock on Keith, though. It’s a strong crew we have at Football Night in America.

Impatience was mistake number one. Two: Why on God’s green earth was Feeley throwing at Samuel, who got ahead of Curtis and outran him to the end-zone pick? In the game, at the time, because of injuries to other Pats’ defensive backs was Eddie Jackson, a special-teams maven. Why not go after Jackson if you’re determined to throw the ball? Two very big mistakes.

I know, I know. It’s far easier to dissect a play with 20/20 hindsight. And I know, Feeley, who the smart money had selling Title Insurance by now, played the game of his life. Heck, he probably even did more good than bad this game. But, I gotta call it like I see it, and AJ Feeley blew this game for the Eagles that they wouldn’t have been in had it not been for AJ Feeley. Shame on you, AJ.

That’s football. In my view, New England survived because of Wes Welker. When the Patriots traded second- and seventh-round picks (60th and 238th overall) in the draft last April for Welker, it was clear they were buying Tom Brady a security blanket for five years. A quick receiver who runs route precisely and gets open in space near the middle of the field consistently is what Brady needed at the end of last year.

The fact Brady also got Randy Moss was an unexpected bonus when the Raiders and Green Bay Packers couldn’t reach agreement on a deal on the first day of the draft, and Al Davis was forced to send Moss to New England. Moss has been spectacular. Welker has been steady and hugely valuable, often times acting as a kind of extended handoff for Brady, increasing Brady’s completion percentage with the running game stopping and starting as it has all season.

I’ve given a lot of consideration to voting for Welker for MVP. Can’t do it…yet.

In the fourth quarter Sunday, with the Patriots’ unbeaten season on the line, Brady threw 16 passes. The breakdown of where they went and how successful each was:

• Welker was thrown seven balls and caught five, for 54 yards.

• Tight end Ben Watson caught two of the three balls thrown his way, for 12 yards.

Donte’ Stallworth caught both balls thrown to him, for 15 yards.

• Randy Moss caught neither of the two passes thrown his way.

Kevin Faulk and Jabar Gaffney each caught the only pass thrown to him — Faulk for 12 yards, Gaffney for 16.

I just reread what I wrote about where these passes went, with the Patriots’ unbeaten season on the line. Forget league MVP for a sec, guys. I have to seriously rethink who the most valuable Patriot receiver is. My internal monologue: “Moss caught NEITHER of the two passes thrown his way? How can he seriously be considered the MVPR over Welker??” I’m not saying that Welker is the MVPR. I’m also not saying he’s not.

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