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.