Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Philadelphia Eagles

Sorry for the delay, but my last few days have been booked solid -- class, and working when I'm not in class, and running around looking for another job once I get done temping at the college bookstore, and doing all this on a bad foot. I am finally back to continue with the Quarterback Quizzes, and with the Eagles will conclude both the NFC and the AFC East. Only six more divisions and twenty-four more quarterbacks to go! Huzzah.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-8): Donovan McNabb

McNabb is roughly the NFL equivalent of MLB's Rich Harden, which is to say, a phenomenal talent who just can't seem to stay healthy long enough to actually put it into gear for sustained stretches. That's unfair to McNabb, as he's actually played more than one game at a time without breaking something and has been very good when he does, but it's also fair to say that he has durability issues. He missed only two games this year, but six the year before that, almost half the season in 2005, and although he got in a few almost-full seasons in 2004 and 2003, he yet again missed six games in 2002. Seeing as the season, after all, is only sixteen games long, that's a sizable chunk of time. He led the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX in 2004, but Philadelphia was only 6-10 the following year. They rebounded to 10-6 in 2006 and then fell to break-even 8-8 this year.

The funny thing was, there were none of these durability questions for McNabb at the outset of his career. A four-year starter at Syracuse University, he started every game for the Orange, amassing a 33-12 record and a whole slew of awards and accomplishments. He was drafted second overall in 1999, otherwise amusing because Philly's responsible and intelligent fans booed the decision -- they wanted the Eagles to pick UT running back Ricky Williams. Yep, the one who loves him some Mary-Jane. Then again, no one had ever doubted the brilliance of Philly fans before, so it was totally out of character for them to do that, of course. Also, nobody has a 20/20 hindsight glass, otherwise the world would be a lot different, but I enjoy laughing at those Mensa Philly fans' expense.

When healthy, McNabb possesses elite-level talent. His ratings for the last four years (in reverse from this year) are 89.9, 95.5, 85.0, and 104.7 (the last coming in 2004, the Eagles' NFC championship season, where they lost 24-21 to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. McNabb threw for 30 completions, 357 yards, and 3 TDs, but also was responsible for three killer interceptions, including a Hail Mary in the endzone in the last seconds, and got sacked four times). He's good about maintaining a high number of TDs to a low number of INTs (19/7 this year, and 18/6, 16/9, and 31/8 for '06, '05, and '04). His 3,324 yards total this season was his highest since his elite '04 campaign, and his third-highest overall. He also doesn't get picked often -- he trails only former Steeler Neil O'Donnell in picks-per-passes ratio, averaging an interception once every 46 attempts. And despite being sacked 12 times in one game this year (against the Giants, and six of those were by Osi Umenyiora) he has generally good control of the ball, with only nine fumbles (and three of them in that disastrous Giants game). Nobody has doubted that McNabb has the physical skills to compete at the highest level, but all the injury concerns make it unclear that he'll be able to stick around a great deal longer.

Of course, McNabb also has the misfortune to be playing in front of some of the most obnoxious and crass fans in the NFL, who routinely launch calls to have him cut when they think he's not living up to their standards. After McNabb had to miss the Patriots game in Week 12 (due to an injury incurred against the Dolphins) and backup A.J. Feeley turned in a fine performance (27/42, 345, 3 TD/3 INT, 83.9 rating) the Philly sports media was predictably rife with calls for McNabb to step aside gracefully and cede the job to Feeley. The very next week against the Seahawks, Feeley completed 19 of 42 attempts, threw one TD and four interceptions to record a miserable 30.0 rating, and the media backtracking almost left carpet burns. McNabb has patiently stuck out nine years in front of this carnival of sports wolves, who are just as (if not more) vicious as the ones in Boston and New York, and while he has the tools, the longevity is a question. As of now, McNabb still expects to be taking snaps for Philly in 2008, but the problem with fragile quarterbacks is that they constantly break and then you have to play your pick-machine backup for long stretches at a time. After 2001, McNabb signed a $115 million, 12-year contract with the Eagles, so he could be around as late as 2013, but it wouldn't hurt the Eagles to see what's out there in case he goes down, again. A team with A.J. Feeley as the starter isn't one that can compete in the NFC East, a team with a healthy Donovan McNabb is -- but that's the question.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Washington Redskins

First of all, I have to express my amazement that in this day and age of lily-white political correctness, a professional sports team is still able to get away with having this name. You have people raising the hue and cry about Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians (and I for one am a little edgy on that) but this name? Sheeeee. I guess their only redeeming factor is that their logo isn't as offensively stereotyped as Cleveland, otherwise the ACLU would really be unleashing the lions.

Washington Redskins (9-7): Jason Campbell

Although 37-year-old backup Todd Collins led the 'Skins to a 4-0 record (and a wild-card playoff loss in which Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney got to be extra special friends with him) in Campbell's injury absence, he'll open next year as the starting QB once his knee is better. And if he has another season to grow and mature, he'll fit that role just fine for a competitive team in a tough division. The 26-year-old Auburn product led the Tigers to an undefeated season in 2004, was named MVP of the SEC Conference Championship Game, the Sugar Bowl, and NFC Offensive Player of the Week, and was taken 25th overall by the Skins in the 2005 draft. It took him a year to nab the starting job from Mark Brunell, but after a 3-6 start in 2006, Joe Gibbs gave him the nod. Campbell finished his first season as a starter with 110 completions in 207 tries for a 53.1 completion percentage, 10 TD/6 INT, and a 76.5 passer rating.

He improved on those numbers somewhat this year, making 13 starts before having his season prematurely curtailed with a dislocated patellar ligament in his left knee. Still, he had trouble keeping a good TD/INT ratio, as he threw 12 passes for scores but 11 that ended up in the hands of the other team. He finished 250 of 417 passes for 2,700 yards, a good 60% completion rate, and a 77.6 rating. He's still young, and has time to continue to mature, and he'll need to grow into the role of leader for a team that will have a different coach than their Hall of Famer Gibbs next year. The 'Skins have questions now that Gibbs has resigned from his head coach post -- in the eleven years he was in between coaching stints, they qualified for the playoffs once, in comparison to twice in the four years of 2004-08 and 4 NFC East titles in the 12 years before that, along with only one losing record (7-9 in 1988). His style of play could compensate for not having a Hall of Fame-type quarterback in the pocket (The Hogs and the triple tight end set) so Campbell may have to learn a new type of offensive schematic and the Skins weren't particularly successful without Gibbs. (He will, however, stay on as special adviser).

The 'Skins are also still emotionally rocked from the traumatic shooting death of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor. They'll have to deal with head coaching questions, personal tragedy, and the still-evolving maturation of a young quarterback in a different system in order to compete in the tough NFC East next year. If Campbell can step up and make this his team, in the way that the Patriots, Cowboys, Packers, Colts, etc are defined by their signal-caller, that has a much better chance of happening.

Bootgate: I Despair of Human Civilization

Honestly, is there not one sports-related media outlet that has nothing better to do with their time than print breathless minute-by-minute updates on whether or not Tom Brady is wearing a boot on his right foot? Look, I know the man's a big celebrity and he's going to be playing in his fourth Super Bowl next week, but please. First off, I'm fairly sure it's all another Belichick mind game, and Brady's perfectly fine, and secondly, nobody really gives a crap. Is he or isn't he wearing a walking cast? What did he give Gisele, bodega lilies or those ridiculous white posies he was carting to her cool $16.5 million West Village pad? How much was their check for dinner at Butter? I mean, come on, people. Maybe I just fundamentally misunderstand the cult of celebrity and sports that exists in America. I may not be the fondest of Brady (or of his coquettish-nymphette-ice-queen girlfriend) but sheez. Cut 'em a break. You're doing exactly what Belichick wanted you to do, which is try to bamboozle everyone into thinking that Brady was somehow less than 100%, and since you are such gullible and easily manipulated fools, he can pretty much start yanking the marionette strings to make you dance.

As I have said, I don't have that great of a fondness for Brady as a person, but I don't doubt that football is his entire life and he loves it with the consuming passion that has gotten him to the current high status he enjoys. To my horror, I find myself paraphrasing Peter King when I say that, if there was any chance his availability would be in question, he'd be in Foxborough getting it treated, not waltzing around midtown with his panty model. Then again, maybe hot blonde pieces of ass can throw off your concentration (see: Romo, Tony) but not this Brady. He came out of Michigan as a long shot to be a backup, let alone a starter, let alone the massive award-winning sexpot machine he's turned into. As I said, he sometimes creeps me out, but I think it's an insult to what he's done to doubt that he takes his job very, very seriously. So in other words, there is no story here, people. Put down the spyglasses and get a job aside from print voyeurism.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Step Back From The Cliff Edge

Apparently it's all rumor and incorrect hearsay that Jessimo is broken up, and Jessica is so angry about this calumny that she's called her lawyers in to make OK! magazine publish a "prominent and unambiguous retraction." So, in other words, Tony Romo actually isn't as bright as I didn't think he was. He's a pro athlete, so let's just say he doesn't pick 'em for their ability to converse on Proust, Spinoza, Tocqueville, and Habermas. Jessica probably thinks those are types of vodka.

Jessimo is dead. Long live Jessimo! It's all right! The world turns! Thank heavens, we avoided a catastrophe there. If Tony should last that long with this vacuum-headed bimbo, look for the calls for dumpage to begin right after his first shitty preseason game.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: New York Giants

(Note to Eli: If a strange blonde woman approaches you in a pink "Manning 10" jersey and promises to be your new best friend, run far, fast, and more importantly, in the opposite direction. Trust me, you do not want to speak to or approach this person, and should call authorities as quickly as possible).

New York Giants (10-6): Eli Manning

Elisha Nelson Manning has the misfortune of a) a disturbingly feminine-sounding first name that gets whipped out whenever his detractors wish to make a point, and b) sharing a gene pool with his older brother Peyton, who he's expected to be and continually fails to be, thus disappointing all involved. Eli is the progeny of football's most famous family, and has a father who had a long and storied career despite playing on a uniformly shitty progression of New Orleans Saints teams (it bears noting, however, that Archie had 125 career TD to 173 career INT, a career 67.1 rating, and a 35-101-3 won/loss/tie, so perhaps Eli actually is just like his father and therein lies the problem). Not to mention his brother, who despite taking eight years to win a Super Bowl, finally did so, and is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of the era. Eli, however, is neither great nor a total chump, and as in Your Face Is A Sports Blog pointed out, the weird thing is that his closest comparison is... Joe Namath. Yes, and if Eli wins a Super Bowl while being the underdog by approximately a zillion points (as Namath and the Jets famously did in 1969 against the Colts) the comparison will grow even further. Everyone (well, Giants fans) are hoping that his sudden coming-of-age during Week 17 in the close 38-35 loss to the Patriots signaled that the quarterback they've been waiting for (not too patiently, this being New York) has finally arrived. The only way to tell for sure? Wait 'till next year. Sports fans of all stripes are familiar with this refrain.

The thing is, Eli was already supposed to be at this level coming out of Ole Miss. Following in his father's footsteps, he quarterbacked the Rebels for four years while setting or tying 47 (!) school records. His Ole Miss rating was 137.7, and he finished third in Heisman Trophy voting behind winner Jason White of Oklahoma and runner-up Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh while racking up a slew of other ones: the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete Award (that's a mouthful, but he actually did graduate with a 3.44 GPA and a marketing degree) and various others. Based on his pedigree and his impressive college career, he was the consensus number one pick in the 2004 draft and was taken first overall by the San Diego Chargers, but San Diego had gone 4-12 the year before and Archie didn't want his boy playing there, in the relaxed, warm environment of SoCal -- so he worked out for Eli to be traded to a swamp in Jersey, in exchange for fourth-overall pick Philip Rivers (a name that may be familiar) and the Giants' first and fifth-round picks.

This also ended up netting the Chargers Nate Kaeding, who they used one of the Giants' picks on, but this is less of a loss if his habit of missing crucial field goals in the playoffs is any indication. In thus doing, Archie diddled Eli out of having LT around to make him look very good, and set his unsuspecting offspring up for a lifetime of being ridden by the New York Post. What Archie was thinking, one wonders, seeing as the Giants too had gone 4-12 the year before, and if Archie can recall his own career, he wouldn't be surprised to see that yes, Mannings were no stranger to playing on shitty teams. (Archie played for the Oilers and the Vikings during the last few years of his career, teams that went a combined 6-35).

Eli spent his first few years in Gotham making enemies of Giants fans, certainly not the way he wanted to arrive on the scene. In 2005, his first year as a starter, he finished 294 of 557 passes for a 52.8 completion percentage, a 75.9 rating, and 24 TD against 17 INT -- Eli, as everyone's aware, still has an unfortunate propensity for getting picked. In fact, his 2007 season showed him record his lowest passer rating --73.1, with 23 TD/20 INT, 3,336 yards, a 56.1 completion percentage, and 27 sacks. Not to mention he suddenly developed slippery hands, fumbling 13 times (after fumbling nine times in 2005 and 2006 each) and losing 7 of them. (Five of these, and two of the losses, came in one game). But everyone began to overlook that when the season ended and Eli had a great game against the Patriots -- 22/32, 68.8 pct, 251 yards, 4 TD, only 1 pick, and a 118.6 rating (after a 32.2 rating in the Buffalo game the week before and a 52.1 rating against the Skins the week before that, when he completed 18 of 52). As the Giants moved through the playoffs with tilts against Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay, winning all of them, and Eli began to play much more like his older brother, Giants fans, in the way that NY sports fans do, turned on a dime and decided the guy wasn't so bad after all.

Of course, as everyone knows, if Eli somehow manages to pull off one of the biggest upsets in history next week and beat the Patriots, New York will decide he really is Joe Namath reincarnated. Also, he's perfectly capable of having two or three good games in a row, so the allegations that he's "turned the corner" always come if he's managed to pass a few weeks without doing anything completely disastrous. But the Giants somewhat remind me of my Rockies -- mediocre team suddenly turns on the afterburners and goes roaring through the playoffs, then has to sit a few weeks and play a much stronger team from Boston. It'll be interesting to see how the Rockies, and the Giants for that matter, do next year now that they've had a chance to see what success tastes like.

But although Eli got called "skittish" by the Giants' owner after the horrendous four-pick game against the Vikings (the owner also publicly questioned whether the Giants could win long-term with him) it's amazing how winning has a way of putting that all to rest. Eli has saved his job for at least the next few years, and the Giants have a good running back combo (Jacobs/Bradshaw) and a still-fearsome defense (which does have questions about whether or not defensive end, and half of the Big Blue Sack Machine, Michael Strahan is planning to hang it up). They'll be good again next year, but with the Cowboys in the division, who aren't looking to get much worse, they'll have to play top-of-the-heap all year to win the division title. Can Eli do that? That's what everyone else wants to know as well.

What A Sad, Sad Day

Moment of silence, everyone.

Please, pipe down, this needs to be properly observed. It is a catastrophe of epic proportions and the world may never see something like it again. I am shocked and heartbroken.

Tony Romo has given the boot to Jessica Simpson.


Next Quarterback Quiz: sometime this afternoon. Quarterback of team? New York Football Giants. Tony wishing how much he'd done this before that game? A lot.

In other news, the Giants are going to almost beat the Patriots.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Dallas Cowboys

(Random note of no significance: I really should have gotten my glasses adjusted when I was home for the winter break. My prescription dates from the Mesolithic and now I can barely read Starbucks menu boards. Yes, well, moving on -- if I abruptly stop blogging, it won't be due to a sudden slovenly nature but rather an inability to see).

Anyway, onto the NFC East. This was the strongest division in football this year, supplying three of the NFC's six playoff participants -- the Cowboys, the Redskins, and the Giants, one of whom will be playing for the Super Bowl title in Glendale a few weeks from now. (Three guesses as to which this one is). Still, the Beast of the East was the Cowboys, who went 13-3 behind coach Wade Phillips, QB and Simpson-shagger Tony Romo, and freak of nature Terrell Owens. It's the middle entrant that we'll be examining today, and since he got a six-year, $67.5 million contract to call the signals for Dallas (especially if they've all had their Diet Pepsi Max lately and don't go for 60 Stretch Far -- aaaaaah) it's likely that he'll be there for quite a bit longer. Still, with an 0-2 record and two flops in the playoffs, what might Dallas fans have to fear from their 27-year-old Texas star? Let's examine.

Dallas Cowboys (13-3): Tony Romo

Unfortunately, Mr. Romo is getting himself a reputation more for what he does off the field than what he does on it, which is somewhat unfair. True, if you date Jessica Simpson (and her attention-whoring father) you ask for it, but Romo is a very good quarterback, if not yet a great one. The playoff bugaboos are a problem, of course, but look how long it took Peyton Manning to win his first Super Bowl and he's probably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The problem with Romo, of course, is that he hasn't won any playoff games yet, but that's due just as much to the vagaries of chance and the rest of the team as it is to him. If a wide-open Patrick Crayton had caught that pass instead of dropping it and given the Cowboys a first down inside the 20, the Cowboys might have been the one facing the Packers, but Romo was also the one who threw the last Hail Mary that ended up in the hands of New York's R.W. McQuarters to end the game. He'll have time to refine it over the offseason and see if he can get off the playoff-game-winning schneid. Then again, ever since the departure of Aikman, the Cowboys have tried such illustrious NFL stars as Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, and Drew Bledsoe; needless to say, Romo is a significant step up from any of these options. He went undrafted out of Eastern Illinois University and was signed by the club in 2003 as a rookie free agent to serve as the third-stringer behind Carter and Chad Hutchinson. Romo was almost cut from the roster due to a surfeit of quarterbacks until Carter was popped for substance abuse -- it's a decision that Cowboys fans are now relieved didn't go the other way.

Romo spent a few years in obscurity behind the Cowboys' musical chairs of starting QBs (eight in all since 2000, Aikman's last year) and finally got his break in 2006 when Bledsoe went down with an injury. Romo's first pass was a 33-yard completion against the Texans, and it went generally well from there. On November 19, 2006, the new starter helped the Cowboys beat the Colts, 21-14, and then against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, recorded a 38-10 victory while throwing five touchdown passes with no picks. In his first real season, he garnered a 95.1 QB rating in 10 starts, and improved this year -- 36 TD passes against 19 picks, 4,211 yards, and a 97.4 rating while leading the Cowboys to the NFC East division title. He completed 335 of 520 passes for a 64.4 percentage, averaging 8.1 yards an attempt and 263 passing yards a game, and holds an impressive slew of franchise records: a Pro Bowler in 2006 and again in 2007, he is the owner of the most 300-yard games (and only three short of Aikman's career-total 13) and most TD passes, most passing yards, most completions, and most TDs thrown in a game by a Dallas QB. All of this was done while the high-octane Dallas offense averaged 28.4 points a game (second behind you-know-who), 365.7 total yards a game (third) 256.6 pass yards a game (fourth) and 109.1 rush yards a game (17th).

So why isn't Romo a great quarterback yet? (And no, it isn't because of Simpsongate). And you can debate until you're Dallas-deep-blue in the face about the meaning of "grittiness" and "clutchness" come playoff time; it's hard to quantify intangibles because they're, well, intangible. Still, fairly or unfairly, Romo will still be only very good until he wins in the playoffs and breaks Dallas's 11-years-and-counting streak while not doing something boneheaded, be it fumbling the snap or yelling at his All-Pro offensive line (Jason Witten, Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis, and Andre Gurode -- aka most of his protection -- are going to Hawaii along with Romo himself and T.O.) Also, he still has an unfortunate propensity to have really terrible games, especially when his newest blonde love-interest is in the crowd. (Aside from the much ballyhooed 10-6 loss to the Eagles that started the Anti-Simpson hysteria in Dallas, he had four games in 2006 with a lower-than-60 QB rating, and three in 2007). The talent surrounding him can also occasionally save his skin -- he threw five interceptions against Buffalo and the Cowboys still pulled it out, 25-24, on a last-second Nick Folk field goal -- and he has a tendency to fade down the stretch in December after starting the season with ratings regularly well over 100. Once he learns to pace himself and perform as well at the end of the season as he does at the beginning, not to mention learn when not to set himself up for ridicule (Jessica Simpson bouncing her boobs and cavorting in that pink jersey made me ill) and win some playoff games, Romo will finally enter the great echelon instead of just very good.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Miami Dolphins

Even as the 2007 Patriots are doing their best impersonation of the 1972 Dolphins, the 2007 Dolphins did a slightly worse impression of the 1972 Patriots, who went 3-11 in what was then a 14-game season. (The crown for futility went to the Houston Oilers, now the Titans, who went 1-13). Following this season's 1-15 showing, head coach Cam Cameron was relieved of his job in favor of former Cowboys assistant coach Tony Sparano, and Wayne Huizenga, the same guy who completely dismantled the 1997 Marlins World Championship team, hired Bill Parcells as director of football operations -- he of Giants, Patriots, Jets, and Cowboys guru-fame. The Dolphins are a team that has holes all over the place, which the Tuna hopes to fix, but is QB one of them? Let's take a look.

Miami Dolphins (1-15): Cleo Lemon

First off, you have to feel sorry for Dolphins fans, who got so excited over their one lonesome win this year (in overtime, for that matter, after the Ravens missed a chip-shot field goal that should have given them the game) that you'd think they'd just won the Super Bowl. I know how hard it is to live and die with your team on a daily basis, and imagine suffering through 17 weeks of mind-boggling incompetence and another dreary L at the end of it -- I expect you get used to it, or start laughing at yourself for caring so much, or rip up your jersey and become a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan -- whatever works. Basically, the Dolphins would like to forget this year and work on improving for the next one. Aside from the Patriots, there aren't any particularly formidable teams in their division -- both the Bills and the Jets have plenty of flaws. With Parcells, who is appropriately nicknamed the Big Tuna, at the helm, the Fins have a chance to get back to competency, if not outright success, next year. Let's just put it this way -- could they do much worse?

Cleo Lemon is a 28-year-old product of Arkansas State who went undrafted out of college and was finally signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. That went nowhere, he never even saw a snap, and ended up on the Chargers in 2003, where he spent several years on practice squads and third-string on the quarterback depth chart. In other words, he's the football equivalent of baseball's minor-league drudges, who faithfully serve their time without real hope of seeing the Show, and you have to admire guys like that, who keep going just because they love the game -- God knows they're not making much money at it. But in 2005, Lemon was traded to the Dolphins in exchange for A.J. Feeley (who is now in Philadelphia backing up, and spasmodically being called on to replace, Donovan McNabb. At least until he has another four-INT game, but that's a different story). Backing up then-starter Joey Harrington (now in Atlanta while Michael Vick sits in jail) Lemon finally got his first start on December 31, 2006, against the Indianapolis Colts; he played reasonably well but the Fins lost, 27-22.

Lemon didn't break camp the next year (2007) as the confirmed starting quarterback; he was again second behind veteran Trent Green, who was starting his fourteenth year as signal-caller. But Green was injured in Week 5, and Lemon did his best for the next six before Cameron, displaying some of the indecision that later got him canned, decided to try out first-year Brigham Young product John Beck in Week 11 -- recall, the Dolphins didn't beat the Ravens until Week 15, so a non-win season was still possible and nobody had put their stamp on the job. Coincidentally, Lemon got the starting job back just prior to Week 15 and turned in his best performance in his team's lone win -- 23/39, 315 yards, 1 TD pass, and no interceptions. The TD came at the best time imaginable -- his 64-yard game-winning bomb to Greg Camarillo set off celebrations in Miami and saved the Dolphins the ignominy of not getting a win in the year that their predecessors were outdone.

But although Lemon turned in decent service, the team still has plenty of flaws. Due to the Fins' porous O-line, being in the pocket for them is dangerous -- Lemon got sacked 15 times in his last four games, including seven by the Patriots). Cleo finished the year with 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 1,773 yards, and a 71.0 passer rating. The Dolphins ranked 26th in points scored with 16.7, 28th in yards per game with 287.5, 24th in pass yards with 189.4, and 23rd in rush yards with 98.1. The offense has problems, as you expect from a 1-15 team -- a lot of bad breaks fell their way, but they were generally inept as well. They converted only 81 of 218 third downs, a 37% success rate, while allowing their opponent to convert almost half of theirs -- 98 of 208, or 47%. The team scored 29 TDs -- Tom Brady threw for 50, which is conveniently the number that the Dolphins D yielded.

What's the outlook for next year? Parcells has to work his football-guru genius, the team has to make smart selections in the draft (they have a history of not doing this) and take advantage of the fact that at least their terrible season set them up for priority choice from a talented emerging class. Sparano has to translate successful coaching strategies from the Cowboys to Miami, in a different system with less talent, in his first assignment as head. As for Lemon himself, I wouldn't assume anything, much less that he'll go into next season as starter. A 1-15 team needs to be open to all options, and if the Tuna or Sparano think that Beck can do better than Lemon, I doubt they'd hesitate to yank him. Better luck next year, fellas. Oh, and reinstate Ricky Williams, we can all use the laughs.

Guess They Breed 'Em Crazy Everywhere

We all know that football players are thugs, but now we find that they are dating thugettes as well:

Steeler's girlfriend arrested after standoff

Honestly, is it any wonder that these guys are always in trouble?

Philip Rivers: Poltroon

The picture speaks volumes. Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya, Phil.

Hey, at least you played better than Brady. He threw three picks, you threw two. That's comfort, right? Right?

YA BETTA ASK SOMEBOOOODDDDAAAYYY! .... how to be less of a whining douche! [Kissing Suzy Kolber]

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Nailed One, Missed the Other

... which bore a great resemblance to Lawrence Tynes' field goal kicking tonight. The Giants finally won a crazazy NFC Championship game in overtime, when Corey Webster intercepted a floater by Favre, ran it back into field goal range, and gave Tynes, who had already shanked 43-yard and 37-yard attempts (the latter with 4 seconds left in the 4th quarter and the game tied at 20) a chance to kick the winner. Which he did, nailing a 47-yarder, the first time an opponent had ever made a field goal longer than 40 at Lambeau in the playoffs. Believe it or not, the Giants are headed to Glendale, Arizona and Super Bowl XLII (which will be much warmer than the -24 F, with the wind chill, that Green Bay registered at tonight. They showed an informative graphic -- it was colder than Siberia, Alaska, and Moscow there. Zoinks). Just as it did in Week 17, it comes down to the Giants standing in the Patriots' path to perfection.

Speaking of the Patriots, they won, to nobody's very great surprise. If Tom Brady hadn't been picked three times, it wouldn't have been nearly as close as 14-12 going into the fourth quarter suggested, but they put away the Chargers 21-12. I am grateful to them for doing that (no sense in risking the Chargers going to the Super Bowl) but I am rooting for the Giants. Still... Boston-NY, how original. Seeing as Boston already won one major championship, I don't see that they need another, and the Giants do remind me of my plucky but doomed Rockies -- getting hot at the right moment, but needing every inch of gumption to topple a stronger opponent. They're even NFC, as the Rox were NL, and the Patriots are AFC as the Red Sox were AL.

I'm in New York safe and sound, everything went as it was supposed to, thankfully, and seeing as it's midnight here and I was up at 5:45 this morning, I apologize if this post isn't particularly lengthy or insightful. Once I get back up to school and run errands tomorrow (I'm staying at a friend's house tonight) I'll see if I have enough in the tank to finish the AFC East quarterback previews with Cleo Lemon of the Dolphins. Once that's done, I'll turn my attention to the NFC East, examining the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, and Eagles. We have a two-week interim until the Super Bowl, so I'll continue to provide my assorted interesting insights then. For now, I think I'm going to bed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The NFC Championship: Surprising Dork vs. Savvy Geezer

This isn't necessarily the matchup that was supposed to happen -- if Patrick Crayton had caught that pass, the Cowboys would probably be the ones heading to subzero Green Bay for a rematch of the Ice Bowl -- but it did. Instead, the surprising Giants have ridden the #5 wild card seed all the way past the Buccaneers, the Cowboys, and now into Green Bay, where they battle the Packers for a trip to Super Bowl XLII. And since my internet is being slower than molasses today, it may take me a while to dig up all my numbers, but once we have them, I'll break down the matchup between the Lesser Brother and the Wisconsin Deity, better known as Eli Manning and Brett Favre.

Interesting sidenote time: I've had sort of a vested interest in the Giants since long before I ever followed football. When my sisters and I were kids, our dad's bedtime stories were set in New York with a vast cast of eccentric characters, and several of them played for the Giants. Buck Smith and Duke Novotny were the tackle and guard, Sparky Malone was the running back, Painless Johnson was a linebacker, and Joey (I wish I could remember his last name) was the cornerback. My dad having the fertile and demented imagination he does (hey, I had to get it from somewhere) they were all, um, interesting. Buck stuffed hamburgers in his helmet in case he got hungry on the field, Duke's idea of offseason training was to sit in front of the TV and eat M & M's by the fistful, Painless never spoke and ate wall telephones, Sparky ran backwards and dared the defensive "elephants" to catch him, and Joey sidelined as a fire-and-brimstone Harlem-church preacher. We used to laugh ourselves sick at them, and since I now go to school in NY anyway, I want the Giants to do it.

That diversion aside (and can you believe that Photobucket has still not opened? I am almost tempted to get on the arthritic desktop, it has to be faster) let's see about the specs.

How The Giants Can Win:

Like their underdog compatriots, the Chargers, the Giants have a strong running game -- 6'4/260 lb running back Brandon Jacobs and smaller, speedy Ahmad Bradshaw have both done well this year, and the Giants rank fourth in the NFL with an average of 134.2 rushing yards per game. The Packers rank fourteenth in run defense, allowing about 102.9 a game, so if the Giants can force that figure closer to what they normally rack up, they can find seams and score TDs without having to count on the Eli Manning Coming of Age continuing. Jacobs can use his size to gain yardage after the first hit, and Bradshaw has excellent speed.

2. Speaking of which, the Giants will need the aforementioned Eli Manning Coming of Age to continue. Heckled and belabored for years for not being his talented older brother, Eli nonetheless has done very well in the playoffs. He's finished 32 of 45 passes for 348 yards, a 71.1 completion percentage, four TDs, no picks, and a 123.2 rating. Asking Eli to air it out downfield is a recipe for a pick such as the 20 he suffered on the season, since he doesn't have Peyton's arm and accuracy and probably never will. But he's done well with short routes, counting on receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress to gain the yards, and will have to continue to play at this level and generally getting the fickle New York sports fans to throw all their support behind him and have them excited for him to be the guy. The bugaboo: The cold. Last time Eli was playing in frigid temperatures, the Buffalo game that the Giants nonetheless won, he fumbled five times, losing two, and got sacked and intercepted twice. He will have to avoid that type of turnover at all costs, but if he can be the same player he was against Tampa Bay and Dallas, the Giants will have doubled their odds -- they can rely on both the pass and the run. Eli lost a favored target when TE Jeremy Shockey broke his leg, but Kevin Boss has stepped up in his place.

3. Keep the Big Blue machine of the D well-stoked. The Giants have a fearsome defense that recorded 53 sacks while allowing only 28, and the combo of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan can cause headaches for the Packers with their blitzing. (Earlier this season, the Giants actually sacked Eagles' QB McNabb a whopping 12 times, half of those by Umenyiora). They'll also need their battered corners to step up -- Sam Madison is out, Aaron Ross got shaken up last week in Dallas, and that leaves Gibril Wilson, Antonio Pierce, and Corey Webster to handle the picking duties. If the Giants lose any more cornerbacks, they practically won't have a secondary at all, and everyone knows how important a pass defense is against the ageless-wonder Favre.

4. Not allow the Green Bay mystique to get into their heads. It'll be about zero degrees Fahrenheit, cold as the blazes, in the far north with a bunch of screaming Cheeseheads drowning out Eli's best attempts at calling the signals all day. Lambeau is a terrifying place for an opponent, especially if it feels like you just walked into a freezer, but the Giants are now 9-1 on the road, their only loss coming against the Cowboys in the early going. (They have a rather pedestrian home record at 3-5, and this makes sense to me -- who would want to play in front of a bunch of bitter New Jersey drunks?) They, like the Chargers, have all the momentum and confidence in the world, and need to see if it'll be enough against the #2-seed Packers. Then again, they polished off the #1 seed Cowboys last week, and have shown they can handle pressure.

5. Not letting the Green Bay TV stations' plan to pull Seinfeld (Eli's favorite show) get into their heads. Just kidding.

How The Packers Can Win:

Take advantage of the sizable advantage they have in terms of familiarity with the climate. Eli and Brett Favre are both from the South (Eli from New Orleans, Louisiana; Favre from Kiln, Mississippi, but Favre has played the vast majority of his career in the arctic climes of Lambeau and is well used to it). The Packers practiced with balls that had been put in the freezer, in order to best mimic the conditions come Sunday, and since they played in a blinding snowstorm against the Seahawks, they aren't going to let a little thing like a high of zero bother them. Once you factor in that a wind chill could make it feel like -35, we really are hitting Ice Bowl rematch here. The Giants are going to be cold. So will the Packers. Fortunately for the Pack's chances, they're used to it.

2. Keep riding Brett Favre's spring of youth as far as it goes. The Pack ranked second only to the Patriots in terms of yards per game (370.7) and passing yards (270.9). 38-year-old cactus Favre put together another strong season -- 28 TD, 15 INT, 4,155 yards, a 95.7 rating (his highest since 2004, and third-highest of all time) and a 13-3 record in resuscitating the Packers, as happens every few years, to the NFC North title. Nobody's doubting that he's still perfectly able to win 'em when it counts, and since he may only be around for a few more years, the Pack is definitely motivated to help him go out on top.

3. Turn Eli-Peyton Manning back into Eli Manning. Before the postseason, Eli was talented but inconsistent, showing flashes of promise and then turning back into a pumpkin. If the Eli that fumbles and gets picked on a regular basis shows back up, the Giants fans who have been cautiously accepting him will return to scorning him, and the Giants themselves will have another offseason to prepare. In short, if the Pack can force Eli to show that his late-season success has been fluky, all they have to do is give to Favre, stop Strahan and Umenyiora, and let him gunsling at will. The Pack rank fourth in points scored with 27.2 on average a game, and sixth in points allowed by permitting only 18.2. The Giants rank fourteenth in points scored with 23.3, and 17th in points allowed with 21.9. A great deal of this can be attributed to how their quarterbacks played in the regular season.

4. Be careful when using the run game against the aforementioned tough Giants' D. Rookie RB Ryan Grant has been performing very well for the Pack, but the Giants hold opponents to 97.7 rush yards a game, good for eighth in the NFL, and the Pack run game languishes a distant 21st with 99.8. Like their compatriots the Patriots, the Packers rely heavily on the right arm of a very talented quarterback, and use the run game mainly to throw off the defense. However, since the Giants cornerbacks are so thin and dropping like flies, the Pack would be better off going passing-heavy and avoiding the still-formidable middle more than they strictly have to.

5. Find out what Osi Umenyiora's favorite show is and cancel that too.

Who Wins? Packers. I want the Giants to win, and will be rooting for them, but it's a pretty large leap to see Eli and Big Blue knocking off Brett and Giant Green on their own (frozen) tundra.

The AFC Championship: Mismatch or Upset-in-Waiting?

A lot of people, myself included, were hoping for the Colts/Patriots rematch in this game, but I imagine it gets as irritating to non-fans of these teams as Yankees/Red Sox ALCS match-ups are for me. Of course, everyone knows how that one ended -- Tom Brady picked with less than two minutes to go seals the championship for Indy, the Colts go to Florida and beat the Bears to put to rest the talk that Peyton Manning can't win the big one. This year, the Chargers knocked the champs for a loop, continuing a hot streak that has seen them lose exactly once since November 18, 24-17 to the Jaguars; they then ripped off eight straight. They then set themselves up for a clash with the big dogs of the AFC, who everyone assumed would be here, and they open as 14-point underdogs. Will the game really be that much of a blowout? Sure, the Pats handled the Chargers with little trouble in Week 2, 34-17, but that could end up meaning as much as the fact that the Rockies won two of three from the Red Sox in June. This is a completely different Chargers team brimming with self-confidence, completely sure that they are the rightful champs of the AFC -- and if they beat the Colts and the Pats to claim that title, they will sure as hell have earned it, my virulent distaste for them aside.

How The Chargers Can Win:

Hope that LaDainian Tomlinson's knee is back to normal and he can plow through piles with typical LT-like verve. Everyone yaps up the fact that the Patriots' run defense isn't the greatest, but in all honesty, does it matter that much if they have that incredible offense that can score seemingly at will? And yes, we know the Patriots are flawed, but the fact remains, they still haven't lost and everyone on the Chargers is going to be playing at top effort. If LT can barrage the defense, get them worked out and worn out, he is also capable of taking off and making this one a lot more uncomfortable than the 60,000-odd screaming Bostonites packing Gillette would like.

2. Have Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman do their job -- namingly, blitzing the quarterback. Tom Brady is dangerous even when he's hurried, and if he has all day, he will select receivers as he wishes and throw for three or four TDs. -- which will make the spread even larger than it's projected to be. Merriman and Phillips make a formidable duo that has racked up a combined total of 20 sacks on the season (almost half of the team's total 42) and if they can finally crack the hermetically-sealed pocket that's protected Brady this year, they can rush him, try to force him into mistakes, and have a chance at least of making him throw a bad pass that ball-hawking cornerback Antonio Cromartie, with 10 interceptions, can pick off. Brady, despite all appearances to the contrary, is human, and last year in the divisional playoffs against the Chargers, he was picked three times. Of course, the Patriots won that one, but still.

3. Take advantage of the fact that they're one of the best defenses New England's going to face this year. Capable of defending both the run and the pass, San Diego isn't going to focus exclusively on Brady and let Laurence Maroney run wild on them, or vice versa. If the Patriots only pass, pass, pass, then the defense is going to pick that up quickly, but since that's not likely to happen, they're able to put up a strong front against the multi-pronged New England attack. The Patriots, to no one's surprise, rank first in passing yards (295.7) but a slightly more distant 13th in the run with 115.6.

4. Put together long, clock-chewing drives. The Pats defense is good, as it should be for a 16-0 team, but the offense is the real wheels for New England. Everybody says it, but you have to do it -- the Chargers need to keep the ball and play mistake-free football, with no interceptions, turnovers, fumbles, three-and-outs, or boneheaded passes into double coverage. The longer you can keep Brady and Co. off the field, the better your chances, and since the Chargers matched up so evenly against the Colts and put Peyton Manning out of action for long stretches at a time, they'll need to do the same thing here.

5. Just go out there and play their game. The pressure is all on the Patriots -- a loss will spoil their perfect year and cloud the 16-0 with the legacy of a second consecutive post-season choke. Also, the Chargers have history on their side -- the last time that the Patriots were riding a historic win streak (consecutive victories at home) the Chargers came into Foxborough and KO'd them 41-17. The Chargers are enormously confident and are playing their best football of the year, but will that be enough? Wait and see. I'll be on a plane somewhere over the Midwest while this is going on -- I may be able to check in at the airport in Minneapolis, but I'm not sure. I can't believe I have to miss this one.

How The Patriots Can Win:

This is clearly a lot easier for them. They're 17-0, at home, playing in a way that has various pundits nominating them for Best Team Ever, and are more focused, determined, and dedicated than ever to ensuring that their historic streak doesn't end messily at the hands of a supposedly inferior opponent. They're 14-point favorites (but don't tell them that, Bill Belichick has been beating it out of their heads for the past week). They have the reigning MVP putting together an otherworldly season, surrounded by A-caliber talent and a collective chew-through-steel mentality.

2. If Philip Rivers' sore right knee isn't up to par (although he's optimistic he'll be able to play) the Chargers will start Billy Volek, their backup. This surprisingly isn't as much of a handicap as you might think -- Eagles backup A.J. Feeley looked positively Hall of Fame-caliber against the Patriots in a victory that they just squeaked out, 31-28. But let's be honest, Billy Volek and the Bolts putting down Tom Brady and the Pats would be something worthy of a sports movie. It could happen, but if Volek has to start, the spread gets larger. Asante Samuel is the Pats' biggest INT threat, nabbing 6 on the year.

3. Use the Chargers' excitement and energy against them. San Diego is going to come out of the gate fired up, while the Pats will come out with their typical steely-eyed intensity. If they can get the Bolts to make emotional mistakes, they can get another leg up.

4. Constantly test whether or not LT's knee is up to scratch. It'll fall to the linebackers -- Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas, and Junior Seau -- to keep on stuffing LT so he can only pick up short gains, and if they can bang him up again early, that's a huge loss for the Chargers. I don't expect LT will want to miss a game of this magnitude, so he'll insist on playing. The same corps, owner of 24 total sacks on the season, will want to test the Chargers' O-line early and often. Even if Rivers is playing, he can be more easily coerced into making mistakes than Brady.

5. Stop the Chargers on third-down conversions. The Bolts have been excellent at converting any third-down situation in the playoffs -- third and short, third and fifteen, whatever -- and if the Patriots can stop that, they can both collect takeaways and get the extraordinary machine known as their offense back on the field with good position. Prospects are dim for the Bolts if Tom Brady is spending more time in the pocket than on the bench.

Who Wins? Patriots, but not by much.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: New York Jets

And we go on, taking a look at the signal-callers for Gang Green (and I also realized that the name of my blog is the name of a The Rock movie, reversed. Whatever). Let's just say, cloning Namath may one day be a viable option, but it isn't at the moment. Therefore, the Jets have to look elsewhere. And elsewhere.

New York Jets: (4-12): Chad Pennington/Kellen Clemens

By a number of measures, including but not limited to the standings, the Jets just weren't that good this year. Then again, they generally aren't that good, which makes it even more of a surprise when things happen like them getting to the playoffs a few years ago (where the Patriots took it upon themselves to ensure they weren't confused any longer than they had to be). As such, the quarterback situation is uncertain. Pennington was the Comeback Player of the Year in 2006, but led the Jets to a 1-7 start in '07 and was benched in favor of second-year Oregon product Kellen Clemens -- his first start, against the Cowboys, resulted in a fumble and a gift-wrapped touchdown, but Gang Green was 3-4 in his following seven starts. Therefore, as the Jets head into the offseason, they may not know which of the two will be receiving the lion's share of the play-calling, but they seem reasonably content with their options.

Pennington, who was a Rhodes Scholar finalist at Marshall University with a 3.75 GPA, is in his eighth season and among quarterbacks with more than 1,500 pass attempts, his 65.6 completion percentage leads the board. Pennington doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, but makes up for it with knowledge of the game, pocket awareness, accuracy, and selection -- then again, this being the Jets, bad hoodoo happens anyway. His numbers remained respectable this year -- 10 TDs against 9 INT, 1,765 yards, and an 86.1 rating -- but the bad start was the reason that the Jets decided to see what could happen with the 49th-overall pick, Clemens, running the offense instead.

Clemens had a decent but not strong debut. He threw twice as many picks as TDs -- 10 to 5, which he'll want to reverse -- with 1,529 yards and a 60.1 passer rating in 10 games, 8 of which were starts. He enjoyed a stellar collegiate career in Oregon, especially in 2005, finishing with 19 TD, 4 INT, 2,406 yards, and a whopping 152.87 QB rating. But as every prospect learns, it's a bigger jump than it looks from the NCAA to the NFL, and he'll need to continue to grow and mature.

Still, no matter whether #10 or #11 is taking the snaps for the Jets, they need to find a way to jump-start a dolorous offense -- the team ranked 25th in points scored with 16.8 averaged a game, 26th in yards with an average of 294.7, 25th in pass yards with 188.4, and a slightly better 19th in rushing with 106.3. It seems as if bad luck is generally the case for the Jets, but they seem to be satisfied with their QB options, and work on improving the rest of the team come April, particularly the D. They could use a pass rusher and a stronger offensive tackle and guard -- they recorded only 29 sacks while letting the opponent get to the QB 53 times. If they're protected more securely in the pocket, either Pennington or Clemens, whichever one wins the job, will have a chance at looking better, and helping out the hapless in a division that's weak-sauce aside from the heavyweight Patriots.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Buffalo Bills

The next part of my quarterback analysis continues with the Bills.
Buffalo Bills (7-9): Trent Edwards

Signal-calling duty in the frigid north New York football mecca this year was split between fourth-year starter J.P. Losman and rookie Trent Edwards, and as the season wore on, it became more apparent that the Bills were looking to Edwards as their primary QB. He started Week 4, 5, 7, and 8 (the Bills had a bye in Week 6) before missing the next four weeks due to a wrist injury. He returned to finish the last five weeks of the season for Buffalo, and his performance showed that he's still a rookie and has a lot left to learn -- he completed 22 of 36 against the Redskins, 11 of 23 against the Dolphins, 13 of 33 against the Browns (in the impromptu "Snow Bowl") 9 of 26 against the Giants, and 16 of 30 against the Eagles. Trent's final numbers on the year were somewhat serviceable, but by no means stellar: 7 TDs against 8 INT, 1,630 passing yards and a 70.4 passer rating. This was a change for the highly regarded prospect, who was a three-year starter at Stanford and racked up passer ratings of 110.29, 139.01, and 120.55. He's never thrown for a great number of yards -- his high was 1,934 set in junior year -- and he's had trouble raising the TDs higher than the picks -- his ratios were 9 : 11, 17 : 7 (again during his junior year) and 6 : 6 (his last season was curtailed by a broken foot after only seven games).

His collegiate career suggests he can develop into a decent frontline starter, but not a star -- he was taken in the third round and his Stanford record was 10-20 (then again, the Cardinal isn't exactly, say, the Gators or the Buckeyes in terms of NCAA programs). Edwards was, however, rated as the third-best quarterback available in the draft (behind LSU's JaMarcus Russell, taken by the Raiders, and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, taken -- finally -- by the Browns) suggesting that the class might have been a bit thin that year. (Then again, neither Russell nor Quinn have had a chance to prove themselves in a consistent role as NFL starter yet, and all three are still young). If you wanted to learn more than you ever wanted to know about Edwards, you can read his Stanford questionnaire here.


What have you learned since coming to Stanford?
"There are a lot of overachievers." (Yes, Trent, there are. That's why they go to that school).

Least favorite food:
Asparagus. (I hear you).

If you had to cook all your meals, you'd survive on:
Scrambled eggs. (Not much of a foodie).

Ten years from now, I'd like to be:
Happy. (There are worse things to aspire to).

The best advice I received was:
Never go to Cal. (Spoken like a true Stanfordite).

J.P. Losman, the Bills' other QB option, finished 4 TD/6 INT/1,204/76.9, and is still young at 26, but has expressed a desire to be traded since he's unhappy in Buffalo. There has been some dissension in the ranks since Losman was originally and unquestioningly cemented as the Bills' starting quarterback (per statements from management) and then was abruptly relieved of his duties midway through the year, angering both him and other teammates. Statements from Losman's agent seem to indicate that his prospects for remaining in Buffalo are dim; if they don't trade him, he'll leave, and is frustrated with the lack of support he received from the team.

An unhappy player isn't the player you want to count on, and so the Bills may be forced to go QB-hunting in the draft again this year. They took Edwards last year, in 2007, and their only other internal option for a backup if Losman leaves is third-stringer, seventh-round pick Gibran Hamdan, who's played in exactly one game since 2003 and has exactly one completed pass to his pro-career credit. The situation isn't resolved, they may want to keep Edwards, or they may want to see what they can get in the draft -- if they trade up picks again, and depending on who falls where, they can have access to a talented 2008 class that includes Brian Brohm of Louisville, Matt Ryan of Boston College, Chad Henne of Michigan, Colt Brennan of Hawaii, Erik Ainge of Tennessee, John David Booty of USC, Paul Smith of Tulsa, Sam Keller of Nebraska, Matt Flynn of LSU, and Andre Woodson of Kentucky. Of course, at 7-9, the Bills aren't bad enough to get their crack in the draft until after woeful showings such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Atlanta, and of course the luckless Dolphins get to pick, so they'll have to see what's left for the taking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lest You Think

that only Patriots fans are psychotic, I bring you compelling evidence to the contrary:

Father forces son to wear Pack jersey

So, this luminary and front-running candidate for Father of the Year evidently decided that since his 7-year-old wouldn't wear a Green Bay Packers jersey while they were whupping holy hell out of the Seattle Seahawks, there was proper call to tape him to a chair for an hour while also taping the disputed jersey to his person. Now, I'm sure that not all Cheeseheads are such bad parents, so I shall refrain from smearing anyone unnecessarily. But seeing as we were just talking about how sports fans are irrational by nature, maybe we should open an investigation into just how much they actually are. Booing your team's rival is one thing; physically forcing your young son to wear a jersey is quite another.

Then again, the report mentions that other domestic issues had surfaced, so maybe the guy's just off his rocker and the sports thing is just the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately, his wife asked for a restraining order against him, otherwise the fruitcake might be blithely forcing goldfish, doorknobs, mailboxes, and little old ladies to don Green and Gold. I hope his son grows up to root for the Bears or the Cowboys, just to spite him.

Patriots Fans' Shit Don't Stink

At the San Diego/Indianapolis divisional playoff on Sunday, before the start of the fourth quarter, a bunch of kids who won the "Punt, Pass, and Kick" competition (I have no idea what that is, but it's probably exactly what it sounded like) were honored. They came from different age groups and were all wearing (presumably) their hometown team's jersey. Of course, when it came to the girl in the Patriots jersey, the Indy crowd (at least, some of it) booed. I was watching, they sounded scattered anyway, and the winner, 14-year-old Anna Grant, just smiled and took it in stride. She knew that by wearing the jersey of a team's fiercest rival into their stadium, she was going to receive exactly what she got (from a minority of the type of bonehead fans who really have nothing better to do than boo, and who you find in every city, but that's a different story). As a result, Pats owner Robert Kraft, in a kindly meant gesture, extended an invitation for Anna and her family to come to Foxborough this weekend and be "properly" honored. He claimed that he couldn't understand why she'd been booed, since after all she'd won a competition, and in so doing displayed ignorance of the behavior of every fan since the history of sports began. The Patriots fans were also getting hot under the collar. However, neither Kraft nor the Patriots fans are really getting the point here.

As you might imagine, the holier-than-thou has already started. Pats Pulpit has gotten all up in arms about it. Of course, they don't start out very well by claiming that, " The New England Patriots, an organization that understands and exemplifies class..." Whoa now, do you really want to go down that road? Bill Belichick wins at all costs, not by playing nice. Spygate -- do you really need help to beat the woeful Jets? Tom Brady's, um, interesting approach to fatherhood (although I don't think it's all his fault?) Running up the score against the Dolphins (and everyone else, for that matter) when you're already winning by two touchdowns and a field goal? The (of course denied) allegations made against Randy Moss for committing battery on a woman, which in my mind is a tad worse than booing your team's rival?

Anyway, Pats Pulpit is carried away in its own indignation. "The act is beyond comprehension, beyond words. It was by far the most classless act by the most classless fans imaginable." Yeah. Right. Suuuuuuure. This coming from the same fanbase that chants, "Yankees Suck!" at every public function or sporting event, is generally regarded as one of the most insufferable in all of pro sports, and has only a 2007 World Series Championship, 16-0 season, and likely Super Bowl appearance to wipe their poor, long-suffering eyes with, not to mention two World Series wins in four years and three Super Bowl wins in five years. Hey, thin-skinned Bostonites -- how long have you all been sports fans, or did it start after 2001 when the Pats won their first title, increase in 2004 when the Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino and hang on from there? Booing the opponent is part of the game. Are sports fans irrational? Heck yeah. Why the hell does it matter so much if the guys dressed in our colors score more points by tossing a ball around? It's a game, after all. No big deal. Does it matter? You bet. And therefore, you support your team with the mindless fervor that is needed, and hate their rivals. If the kid walked into Gillette in a Colts jersey, you would have heard it all the way to Cambridge, and she probably would have laughed it off anyway, because she seems to get what the fanbase-at-large does not. It happens. Look in a mirror, people.

When I went to Shea Stadium in April wearing my Rockies cap, shirt, necklace, etc, for an early-season game between the Mets and the Rockies, I got heckled. I wasn't standing on the field, so the whole place never had an opportunity to boo me. Did I start ranting out the ears about the most classless fans imaginable? (Having been to a few games in the Yankee Stadium bleachers, I hasten to assure you that New York and Boston fans deserve each other). No, I did not -- in fact, I laughed about it, just like Anna Grant did, and just like most ordinary people who get that while sports are a big deal, it's not like they were committing some sort of heresy against your precious Patriots, and if you wear enemy colors into enemy territory, the result will be expected. Hell, it wasn't even a Yankees shirt -- I can only imagine what sort of new epithets I would have learned if it was.

Lest you think that the Colts fans were picking on a poor, innocent girl, Anna also mentions that they told her it wasn't her personally, it was just her choice of duds -- something which you should understand, because the Patriots and the Colts do not like each other, people. Let's put it another way -- what would have happened to her if she walked into Fenway with a Derek Jeter shirt on? Would the noble, selfless Boston fans refrain from razzing since they knew it would reflect poorly on their spotless, upstanding organization? No. "Jeter Sucks, A-Rod Swallows" would be about the start of it. Do I do this, or would I do this? No, but that's the kind of person I am -- too shy, anyway. Do I understand what makes them do it? A-yup. Are the booing Indy fans tools? Probably, but they support their team and hate their rivals. They are booing the Patriots, not the girl. There is a big difference.

Get over yourselves, people. Congrats to Anna Grant for winning (I always give female athletes the thumbs up) and it was a kindly gesture by the Pats to offer to fete her in fine feather in Foxborough this weekend (go me with the alliteration). But claiming you "don't understand" why they booed her, Mr. Kraft, shows a fundamental ignorance of the crazy, undying, probably misdirected, and definitely unhealthy passion of sports fans. We're a weird breed. Get used to it.

The Quarterback Quiz: New England Patriots

Here, as promised, is the first segment of my inaugural feature, which may be prosaic, but what hey. I figured that it would be interesting to go through each of the 32 NFL teams, some of which I know quite a bit about and some of which I know cotton-pickin'-zilch about, to examine the central part of their offense, the QB, and see how important they are to their team, if their team needs to target a new signal-caller in the draft, etc. So, I started with the AFC East, in order of finish, and of course, this one is fairly easy. Aside from the Patriots, the East is a woeful division, which is accurate for its baseball counterpart -- the Yankees, the Red Sox, and a whole lotta also-rans. So, look for the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins next.
New England Patriots (16-0): Tom Brady

This year should just be renamed The Year It Was Good To Be Thomas Edward Brady and have done with it. 50 TD passes broke the all-time record (49, set by Peyton Manning in '04) and he had just 8 picks, 4,806 yards, and a 117.2 passer rating -- his previous high was 92.6, also set in 2004. Not to mention a Pro Bowl selection, a near-unanimous MVP, an AP All-Conference selection, a supermodel girlfriend, and, as far as I know, still only one illegitimate son. It was kind of ridiculous how far Brady took off this year -- just last season, he had 24 TD passes and 12 picks, which is downright Rex Grossman-like if you take a look at the spike his performance took.

Of course, that might have had something to do with the Patriots themselves going undefeated in two more regular-season games than the '72 'Fins -- who still have not been able to recover from it, it seems, especially if you listen to Don Shula doing all sorts of verbal cartwheeling. The season Brady put together had people discussing if he belonged in the Namath/Montana/Bradshaw/Elway category of the all-time greatest QBs ever, and come February 3rd, he very likely will have the chance to win his fourth Super Bowl ring in eight seasons. Not bad for a sixth-round, 199th-overall draft selection out of Michigan, whose scouting report basically equated to, "Tall, skinny, and useless. Miracle he even got picked."

According to Brady, the one thing that the scouts must have overlooked was his competitiveness; this being a guy who hates to lose at anything and even challenges his family to contests such as "See how much salsa you can eat without taking a drink." Aside from being alternately venerated and reviled in Boston (depending on whether or not he's been spotted wearing his Yankees hat recently) Brady is the keystone for a formidable offense that broke the 1998 Minnesota Vikings' record for all-time points scored in a season, with 589 over the Vikes' 556. The Patriots' offense is largely centered on the rifle attached to Brady's right shoulder, and in fact, you sometimes wonder if Laurence Maroney is standing on the sidelines waving his hands in the air and yelling, "HELLO! Belichick! Yo! Running game, remember that? I get handoff, I go?!" Which no one can hear anyway, so he's left to plead his case to Matt Cassel, Brady's backup, who must be either totally relieved or deeply dismayed to get drafted to a team where he's only likely to see a set of downs in case of Armageddon and simultaneous mass suicide by Boston sports fans.

The Patriots have been trying to balance out their attack by calling more play-action fakes and running plays, so now Maroney gets to get into it while Cassel is patiently holding the clipboard -- but the fact remains that this is a case of a team defined by a quarterback and a franchise centerpiece. The Patriots may target a quarterback in the draft (not in the first round since they got stripped of it this year due to Spygate) -- in 2016.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Welcome to Gang Gridiron

If you found this page through Sparks of Dementia, congratulations for still reading -- I swear I'll have more stuff up soon. If you found this page of your own accord, wow, that was quick. If you found this page through one of my signature links on Mile High Report or Purple Row, thank you for helping an old pal out. Anyway, you have now found the possibly most terrifying football blog on the Web, written by a dedicated female sports fan who has no problems giving into the occasional insanity from which my blog names stem. I call 'em as I see 'em, know my stuff, and take a definitely offbeat approach to situations and analysis. Still, I love writing about sports, have several ideas for the type of content and exploration I want to do, and can now happily pursue my football-writing side here instead of on my baseball blog.

Just as I did on Sparks, I'll start out with an all-purpose football likes and dislikes:

The Denver Broncos. My hometown team, thank God they fired Jim Bates, can we have an actual defense next year? There are other teams that I like, but the Donkeys have the top. I'd also say they're the only team I really passionately root for -- I like the others and hope they do well, but that's it. I am quite a fan of young quarterback Jay Cutler, who had better become the next John Elway and not the next Jake Plummer. Denver has all had quite enough of Jake the Snake, and Cutler has the tools to become a superstar.
The New York Giants. I go to school in New York, but I wouldn't call myself a Giants fan -- I just would watch them in a New York minute over the Jets, for which you can't blame me. I think Eli takes too much flak since he's expected to be something he's just not, and I'll admit it, when McQuarters intercepted Romo in the endzone to send Big Blue to the NFC championship, I cheered. Loudly.
The Indianapolis Colts. Maybe it's a horse thing? Colts, Broncos? I know the Donkeys and the Horses have a bit of a contentious playoff history, but I really enjoy watching Peyton Manning play, and I even like his commercials. Yeah, there are 1,000 of them, but he has a dry sense of humor and seems perfectly able to laugh at himself, which I appreciate in a Super Bowl-winning, mega-endorsement-dealing, $98-million making pro athlete. Plus, I wish more athletes married women like his wife, Ashley. Both the Manning brothers are such gigantic, Southern-drawling dorks that I can't help but like them, for some reason.
Quarterback sneaks, rushes, and bootlegs. I like multi-dimensional QBs who can do things aside from just stepping back in the pocket and firing downfield, and always like to see them taking a more active role in the play.
Long kickoff returns. Unless your name is Devin Hester, in which case do not pass go, do not collect $200, sell your house and give away all your money, and then go to Todd Sauerbrun's place -- he'll serve you up a bunch of meatballs and make you right at home.
Faked punts. These do not happen nearly enough.
QB-WR-QB Laterals, aka the Tom Brady/Randy Moss trick. These also do not happen enough.
Going for it on fourth down, especially fourth and short. It always makes it more exciting, and if it's a 4th and 1 situation, I am always in favor of aggressive play-calling. Now, if you're the Patriots and go for it when you're up by 20, not cool. (Of course, if you're the Patriots, you'll get it because some bonehead Ravens defensive coordinator will call for a time-out that nullified a fourth-down stop, or you'll get penalized to nullify another fourth-down stop). Of course, at the same time, I'm always leery when the team decides to actually go for it, seeing as some of them (Shanny's) favorite play is to try to get one yard by running it up the gut into a forest of mammoth humanity that promptly quaffs any such flickering ambition.
Kickers. Yeah, I know, not a real position. But they're extremely amusing (all their twitchy routines) they're generally trim (nice change from all the fat boys on the O-line) and hey, can you kick a pointed prolate spheroid 40-odd yards through a pair of yellow uprights? If so, sign up.
Blitzes. Especially when they happen to a quarterback (see: Rivers, Philip) that I don't like.
Safety hits. Generally it means that the runner or receiver has already evaded the linebackers, cleared the cornerbacks, and is on the verge of getting on a breakaway out of the secondary and all the way downfield when -- WHAM! Stars and birdies. Especially when it happens to the other team, of course. We Broncos fans are lucky to have John Lynch, but this may have been his last year.
Interceptions. Also when it happens to the other team, of course; it's maddening to have your own quarterback picked repeatedly (another reason I could never entirely be a Giants fan, Eli) but I love the sudden-death momentum shifts they create and the way the whole play-action can turn on a dime.

The Green Bay Packers. Get a dome already so teams don't have to play in -46 weather (ask the 1967 Cowboys what they think about this) are you really wearing a giant fake cheese on your head, Brett Favre is a great quarterback but he is getting old and nor is he the Green and Gold Messiah, and if you have ever heard a chorus of nauseating first-grade children singing "Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers" to the tune of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," you'll know what I'm talking about.
The Dallas Cowboys. America's team? I don't think so. Haven't won a playoff game for 11 years and counting. They're from Texas, not good. Have a QB who has the benefit of a great O-line, but hasn't really proved himself to be a bona fide star, fades in December, takes ill-advised Mexico trips with his latest celebrity flame (I don't think that the trip itself was the problem, I'm sure Romo was prepared, but he had to think about all the media hysteria the side jaunt would engender, which would take away from questions about the game and put the focus on his traveling habits instead. Or not -- he is dating Jessica Simpson, after all) and is now the owner of two brutal season-ending implosions -- the botched hold for the field goal in Seattle last year and the last-second pick in the endzone against the Giants this year. Not to mention T.O.'s weepy, Romo-defending press conference in which he claims he's always been on good terms with his quarterbacks. Really, T.O.? Don't mind if I ask Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb, do you?
The San Diego Chargers. Aside from the fact that they're in the AFC West and therefore a Broncos divisional rival, they're full of a bunch of smart-mouthed little punks. I hate Philip Rivers (dislike is not a strong enough word for him) since he is a giant tool that loves to run off his mouth, yell at home and opposing fans alike, and scream self-righteously at Cutler with a priggish little smirk on his face. Although Albert Haynesworth got nailed with a 15-yarder for prematurely sending Rivers ass over teakettle during the Chargers/Titans wild-card playoff, it was sweet. Except the Chargers then took advantage of their newly improved field position and scored a TD. I hate the Chargers. Also, seeing Steroidhead Shawn Merriman get knocked flat by 5'7" Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jags was a highlight.
Running it up the gut, especially multiple times in a row. Yes, I know -- use the run to set up for the pass, and I have no objection to the running game at all -- I love it when a RB finds a seam and goes tearing up the field as a bunch of wheezing fat boys attempt pursuit. However, certain coaches (Shanahan) keep trying to run it right up the middle for about three plays in a row, all the while hemorrhaging downs and getting exactly nowhere.
Patriots fans. They're from Boston, 'nuff said, and the one Red Sox/Pats fan I have the misfortune to know personally at school is a giant pain in the ass. As for the Patriots themselves, I'm ambivalent. Watching them play is somewhat awe-inspiring -- I don't get how anyone can stop that offense -- but their coach failed charm school by negative numbers (I know they don't pay him to be a nice guy, they pay him to win, but still) Randy Moss has gone to the T.O. School of Sucking Up Now I'm Off That Shitty Team, and Tom Brady, while amazing to watch play and generally not dislikable, has just enough twerp moments to keep me from really getting behind him. Besides, if they did go 19-0, the pundits would never shut up, and I, as a Rockies fan, do not feel kindly toward Boston sports teams. I am, however, rooting for the Pats in the AFC Championship, since they're playing the Chargers.
Pink jerseys and gear. Oh dear GOD for the love of all that's holy do I hate pink jerseys (coughcoughJessicaSimpsoncough). Bad enough that people already think female sports fans are doing it solely to look at hot butts in tight pants, then you have to go add pink to the equation because you are too sissy to wear the actual team colors? a) Football is not a sport for looking at men, especially if they are on either offensive or defensive lines, although quarterbacks and kickers are all right. The rest of them are just abnormally large and oftentimes porky. b) Wear a pink jersey and you are wearing your bimbo status on your sleeve and setting female fans back another decade or so. Stay at home, you twat, and that way, you won't annoy people when your cell phone keeps ringing.
Phantom penalties. As it's been called elsewhere, the No-Fun-League likes to lock down on any and every perceived slight. Now, I get that they had to institute some of these (excessive celebration, face mask, horse collar) because football players are essentially millionaire thugs who sometimes have the restraint of third-graders and the violence of convicted criminals, but sometimes, I swear referees call offsides or pass interference for the hell of it. I generally think that refs get involved too much, and I know that football is a game of inches and precision, but come on. If I watch the replay four times and can't see the foul, I think that you, sir ref, are the one jumping the gun.
Thugz 4 Life. Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, etc. You guys are making millions of dollars to play a game, you can have whatever you want, and unfortunately, you do. I know that brains aren't your strong suit, but how can you guys just go around squandering everything you've got, getting into trouble, etc? It just doesn't make any sense and it bothers me. Football is essentially ritualized war, guys get into that certain mindset as if they're going to battle, and it carries over off the field. Not good. Shape up, guys. No excuse.
College marching bands at bowl games. Dear God, just shut up. We know your team scored a touchdown/a field goal/completed a pass/got a first down/took a step. If we have to hear you playing the fight song one more time, complete with close-ups of all the excited band nerds, I will throw a rock through my TV.

That's all I have for now; if I think of something to add to this list, I'll edit it in. In the meantime, thanks for visiting, keep checking this space for assorted updates (have to amuse myself as best I can until spring training games start -- the Death Valley for me is the few weeks in between the Super Bowl and spring training) and I'll do my best to balance my football/baseball blogs in the future. Check back for picks, team-by-team quarterback examinations, post-game wraps, etc.