The Red Zone: Getting The Point Across

(Video tip to Black Sports Online.)

Seahawks 34, 49ers 13 – Normally I would not lead with this because there were a litany of better games on, and I was saved from having to watch this travesty by the grace of my local Fox affiliate who rationally decided that no one in our little part of California wanted to watch the Niners get beat. However, it produced the most coherent yet quotable of coach rants from Mike Singletary, who is visibly and understandably frustrated with a quarterback who is responsible for 11 fumbles and 17 interceptions, a tight end that dogged it a bit and cost them 15 yards on a dumb penalty, and a defense that allowed a fullback, a fullback, to gather up 116 yards and two TDs on only four receptions.

Saints 37, Chargers 32 – Essentially, the Chargers stalled themselves early in London, which allowed Drew Brees and whatever mishmash of talent he has catching footballs to get up early and get a lead. 14 penalties for more than 100 penalty yards don’t help, especially when the defense has completely quit or doesn’t have enough to stop any sort of potent offense. The AFC West is slowly morphing into the NFC West, if you can believe it.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 23 – Kurt Warner got the Cards out to a 17-3 lead, but then Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith powered a Carolina comeback in Charlotte, prodded on by an amazing play where Smith looked like he had gone out of bounds on his way to the end zone, but his heel had not touched the sideline while his foot came down near it.

Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 9 – An ugly game in which Tampa Bay essentially got stopped in the red zone when they were able to mount drives, including the last failed drive with less than a minute to go. Brad Johnson threw one TD pass to Roy L. Williams, and if you have any Dallas players on your fantasy teams, I’d advise benching them until Tony Romo comes back.

Jets 28, Chiefs 24 – New York won in spite of Brett Favre as much as they did because of him. The Gunslinger threw three picks, making Tyler Thigpen look like a competent quarterback until Herm Edwards’ late conservative playcalling got int the way. Thigpen finished with two TD passes.

Giants 21, Steelers 14 – Something I’ll never understand about defensive coordinators: you go to all this trouble, if you’re Dick LeBeau, to develop good coverage and blitz schemes to use on Sunday, yet, after your team’s offense gives up and awful safety on a botched punt snap, you play prevent. Of course, when you play prevent, you give up a score, and Eli Manning hitting Kevin Boss to go ahead for good seemed utterly predictable. It would help if Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t spending half the game on his back.

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The Red Zone: Insane Finishes

Falcons 22, Bears 20 – Qualifying for the bizarre in the end.  Kyle Orton is officially a good QB to me now, having led the Bears on an incredible drive for the go-ahead score, and finishing it with a perfect fade throw to Rashied Davis, putting it where only his guy could get it. But then, the Chicago coaching staff decided to squib kick, and those ten extra yards wound up mattering: Matt Ryan, finishing off a 300+ yard day (first of his career), hit Michael Jenkins at the 34 of Chicago with one second left. Jason Elam then redeemed himself from 48 out after missing one that might have iced the game for the Falcons earlier.

Cardinals 30, Cowboys 24 – We all saw the punt block in OT that won the game (nice play.)  But there are concerns now to addressa bout Dallas’ D, which not only couldn’t get any pressure on Kurt Warner (who hit Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston all day), but looked like a colleciton of talent more than a squad. The same went on offense, where Tony Romo fumbled as much as he threw for touchdowns.

Rams 19, Redskins 17 – So, after beating Dallas and Philly on the road and getting a good jump start on the season, Washington gives up five turnovers en route to allowing St. Louis its first iwn on the season. What  a letdown.

Eagles 40, 49ers 26 – Thankfully, Donovan McNabb led a comeback, because this didn’t look good Philly at the end of hte first half, after San Francisco returned a blocked FG for a score and took a 26-17 lead in the third. The Eagles’ defense got into turnover mode, though, creating short fields and reminding the NIners that they are, well, the Niners.

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The Red Zone: Week 1 Highlights

Patriots 17, Chiefs 10 – It’s all about Tom Brady probably being out for the season, and the Patriots’ chances riding on that — so much so that it overrode the game itself, where the Chiefs failed at a last second comeback. Now, it’s a question of whether Bill Belichick will stick with Matt Cassel or who he will bring in to take Brady’s place.

Eagles 38, Rams 3 – More notable for Donovan McNabb being good as we’re used to from him, with three TD passes. Here’s how lousy St. Louis is: Philly had three — count ’em — three receivers reach the 100-yard mark for the game.

Cowboys 28, Browns 10 – The Cleveland hangover from the pre-season is still there, and Tony Romo and Marion Barber basically tore it up, so much so that Felix Jones could get into the act late too.

Jets 20, Dolphins 14 – Brett Favre throws two classic Gunslinger TDs (one on fourth down when kicker Mike Nugent twinged his leg) and the New York secondary picks Chad Pennington in the end zone to seal the win.

Bills 34, Seahawks 10 – Two massive special teams plays, a punt return by Roscoe Parrish and a fake punt to a TD pass, help bolster a rout of the NFC West favorite.

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Ill-Advised NFL Previews: AFC East

1) New England Patriots – Basically an automatic winner of the division until proven otherwise, or Tom Brady is catastrophically injured in such a manner that he has to miss regular season games. I don’t remember them making a significant signing (John Lynch doesn’t count) in the off-season outside of re-signing Randy Moss, and that may be enough to keep the equilibrium going. I would safely bet against another perfect REGULAR season, but they could totally sweep their in-division matches again.

2) Buffalo Bills – Generally, my guess is a team that finished second and did okay while trying to find itself in the middle of a QB switch can get better, and if head coach Dick Jauron isn’t asking Trent Edwards to do too much, they can and should be able to ride Marshawn Lynch to a second-place division finish. They’re trying to get better on defense, but it’s not like anyone in this division plays lockdown on that end, anyway (the Pats bent but did not break, let’s put it that way.)

3) New York Jets – Yup, raining on the Favre parade. Sorry. Signing Alan Faneca to beef up the O-line is a good idea and might also reap benefits for tailback Thomas Jones, but I’m not sure how much the Gunslinger’s propensity to improve will help this team be too much better than what they were last year. I’m not seeing a whole lot of a chance to be better than 8-8. I want to say they’ll be better than the Bills, but I just can’t do it.

4) Miami Dolphins – At least they won’t finish 1-15 this year, I think. Do not confuse this squad with a .500 team, but they won’t be as horrid as last year (how could they, anyway, unless they went 16-0?)  We don’t mean to slag on Chad Pennington too hard, but when your likely starter has a wet noodle for an arm in a pass-happy division, it doesn’t look good.

Cheap Shots #106.

Update #1: 9:30 AM

Damn It, I Hate It When Whitlock’s Right: Broken clock rule on Roger Clemens. [Fox Sports]

Congresscritters Kiss Clemens’ Ass: No jury would actually, say, meet with the defendant before a trial — but essentially, that is what the House Government Reform Committee has done, according to Murray Chass. GC got similar remarks off the tube coming from the mouth of Bryant Gumbel. [NYT, Can’t Stop The Bleeding]

The Big Man Code, Ordinance 225.7: The fascinating war of words between Bill Walton and Shaquille O’Neal. [Awful Announcing]

Behind The Swoosh: CNBC’s Darren Rovell did a documentary-style program on Nike, and it’s airing tonight. Supposedly it contains some stuff about its seedier side — particularly in Vietnam. I’ll probably have to catch it on repeats, but it sounds good. [Sports Biz With Darren Rovell]

2008 Swimsuit Issue: Yawn. Read once, ogle twice, ignore for rest of the year. [Sports Illustrated]

Speaking of Nike-Related Stuff: The Legend of Cecilio Guante pays tribute to another product that Michael Jordan helped make big — the Jordan Jammer.

Bigger Choke Job: Bugs and Cranks looks at the 2007 Patriots vs. the 2001 Yankees.

The Latest Berman Video: This only gets more and more amusing.

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The Pendulum Swing Is Complete.

If you look at the Atlanta Falcons’ offering of their head coaching job to Jaguars’ D-coordinator Mike Smith in and of itself, you’re likely to think one of several things:

  • Who the fuck is Mike Smith?
  • Has Arthur Blank gone crazy?
  • This franchise is destined to lose even more.

These are all justifiable reactions. Mike Smith is the defensive coordinator of the Jaguars in the same way that Rick Neuheisel was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore until recently — someone named to the position, but it looks like he had very little responsibility for the actual schemes despite calling the plays; that was on Jack Del Rio, a defensive specialist himself. And after the GM search landed a Patriots college scout to be the new general manager, this is the latest questionable move — never mind that the hire for a rebuilding team would not look good, especially with a bang-up defensive coordinator like Rex Ryan looking for a job.

But this would obscure an obvious trend. You hear a lot on ESPN and probably read a lot more about a GM or owner looking for a coach on the same page as they are when going through candidates. Tony Sparano is the new coach in Miami because he’s one of Bill Parcells’ boys; he knows how to work with him. John Harbaugh, despite never having coordinated anything outside of special teams in the NFL, was hired by the Ravens. Norv Turner just somewhat rehabbed his reputation in San Diego — after Chargers’ GM A.J. Smith got in such a spat with Marty Schottenheimer that Dean Spanos said he had to fire the coach. Mike Holmgren may be back for one more season, but by all appearances, that looks like it.

About 10-15 years ago, we were seeing an apex of the coach/GM phenomenon, with coaches amassing enough power and influence through victory to essentially control all aspects of football operations for pro teams; either they held GM titles or had simpatico execs as semi-figureheads/sounding boards in that spot. Mike Shanahan still has that to an extent with the Broncos; Holmgren got that when he went to Seattle, and had the GM label removed a few years back. Bill Parcells is in the front office after having that same power wherever he went post-Giants; he retired after clashing with Jerry Jones in Dallas, someone just as egotistical about the make-up of a football team as Parcells.

Bill Belichick is the only coach left who wields the kind of power that coaches held as all-knowing personnel men in the 90s (Scott Pioli is very good as a personnel guy, the Pats speak for themselves, but Coach Hobo holds the final say). What we are seeing now is the hiring of either complete newbies lacking comparative experience to former head coaches or the hiring of re-treads who are not seeking that final authority and decision making. The pendulum is now completely on the side of ownership and the front office folks they hire with regard to personnel and final say. It’s why you’ll never see Pete Carroll in the NFL again any time soon (not that he deserves that kind of power.) The old-school coaches that get mentioned every year (Bill Cowher, Schottenheimer) want and feel they have earned more say than some front office people are comfortable giving right now, never mind the money involved.

Thus, we have these complete unknowns as head coaches.

Free At Last, Free At Last. Thank God Almighty, I’m Free At Last!

Daunte Culpepper, freshly released from the Dolphins one day before the grievance hearing, would probably have thought to use MLK if he hadn’t gone with the Gandhi quote first.

“As I was going through this process I heard about a quote by Gandhi that best expresses my thoughts about this victory: ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win,”‘ Culpepper, who serves as his own agent, said in an e-mail. “Now that I have won my freedom and I get to choose my next team, I am just like many other people who have to go out and find employment so that I can take care of my family.”

My first thought is that Culpepper must remain his own agent, even though it’s probably the wrong thing for him to do while searching for a new team, because it provides the interweb with tons of consistently mockable material (please see Pacman Jonesin’ for an expansion on this.)  To actual football ramifications: I just wonder who’s going to pick up a QB that wants to start, but still probably has more rehab ahead of him, and the last thing any coach who gets Culpepper wants is to have the same problems with rushing him back as Miami did.  Let’s look at the suitor possibilities:

  1. Jacksonville: back-up for Leftwich, Mike Tice is on the coaching staff.
  2. St. Louis: Marc Bulger is a free agent after the year is done, Scott Linehan is familiar with Daunte.
  3.  Baltimore: Steve McNair, though steady, ain’t what he used to be. Then again, neither is Daunte
  4. Chicago: always in the running for another QB until Rex is consistent.
  5. Atlanta: only if Mike Vick is truly ditched by the Falcons with the charges over his head, and even then, I don’t know.  Being around Joey Harrington again might be an uncomfortable repeat of last season.

My odds say Jacksonville, although I’m guessing Jack Del Rio just hates any quarterback he gets these days, regardless of whom he might be.