Friday, January 30, 2009
Kurt Warner won it in 1999 and Ben Roethlisberger just two Super Bowls removed from his first NFL championship. Sunday night one of those two will add another and put himself in rare company, most of which are in the Hall of Fame.
The Arizona Cardinals will depend on Kurt Warner to drive the train for his team to be successful, while the Pittsburgh Steelers stand a good chance of winning the game if Ben Roethlisberger just stays out of trouble. That is not a knock on Bib Ben. He is very good, but it is just the make-up of his team to play it a little closer to the vest and let the defense take care of the other team's offense.
The Cardinals defense has shown throughout the playoffs that they are no slouch unit, but it is the wide-open offense, triggered by Warner's quick decisions and release that make most of the headlines.
While I love offense and am very comfortable in the Cardinals style offense, I do understand the history of this game favors the better defense and in this case I believe it will be Ben Roethlisberger hoisting the Lombardi Trophy once again.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
As a current player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 1991, I remember the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in the midst of Desert Storm (the original Iraq war) under then president George H.W. Bush. Tampa Stadium was surrounded by chain-link fence as security precautions were ramped way up against terrorist threats and Whitney Houston sang the most memorable rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Fast forward to 2009 and the Super Bowl is back in Tampa, but the chain-link fence has shifted to the parking lot of Raymond James Stadium where “The NFL Experience” is now in its 18th year. It is now an amazing extravaganza, growing bigger and better each and every year. In 2001, it was on the north end of the stadium's parking lot, but has grown in scale that it had to move to the south side to accommodate all the fun. The economy may be in the tank for everything known to man, but it hasn’t touched this experience. The price-point on entry isn’t stopping massive crowds from piling inside the chain-link fences that cover the entire south side parking lots of the stadium.
I took my two sons to the experience this past weekend, hooking up with a couple of other friends on the way in. We traversed the crowds at every feature and made our way into the most important portion of the attraction for the kids, The NFL Pro Shop, to get our commemorative Super Bowl mini footballs. We stood in line for a number of the football related simulations, only to have our young ones get bored each time and decide to move on over and over. What turned out to be the #1 attraction for our group of boys aging from 6-11 was a dirt area about 25 yards square, where they played their own pick-up game of football for the better part of 30 minutes. Yes, the NFL has a winner with the fans in The NFL Experience, but it is the love of playing THE GAME OF FOOTBALL in the dirt that makes it the real experience come to life!
P.S. Don’t make the mistake of buying footballs at The NFL Store. The footballs are half the price on the other side of the event at the football manufacturing display. And by the way, I now know that I am exactly the same speed as my 11 year old thanks to the "Under Armour Combine Experience" 40 yard dash event!
I read an article in the St. Pete Times by John C. Cotey about high school players fulfilling their dreams of a college scholarship on national signing day, only to quit, transfer or flunk out the next year. The statistics are pretty staggering. Most of the kids that sign letters-of-intent don't make it to their degree and a big percentage don't make past their first year. Locally, Robert Marve was the Florida Player of the Year two years ago and now he is looking for a new school to take his QB services, after falling out of favor at the University of Miami.
I almost didn't make it past my freshman year at Weber State. Bobby Petrino (University of Arkansas Head Coach) almost single-handedly drove me back to a southern California junior college at the Christmas break. I may have been a little home sick, but it was my treatment on the football field that I felt was my biggest disappointment and biggest reason for checking out the local JC's back home.
After much thought and prayer, I decided to return, mostly so that I wouldn't burden my parents by coming back and the gamble that I could find the right fit in a new school that I could earn another scholarship the following year.
Thankfully Coach Petrino moved on to another school and I flourished under Dave Arslanian and Mike Price. I earned my degree and made my football dreams come true in the NFL as well.
So to all of you who are priveleged to sign your scholarship papers next week and consider transferring because things aren't going as planned, be careful, the grass isn't always greener elsewhere.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
It is always just a matter of opinion on post-season awards for any sport and so it is with the best NFL QB in 2008. I believe the award deservedly goes to the Patriots' Matt Cassel. Arguments will be made that Drew Brees almost broke Dan Marino's single season yardage mark and Peyton Manning did great things to get Indianapolis back to the playoffs again and the Patriots didn't even make it. All those things are true, but what Matt Cassel did this season as he came off the bench in the first quarter of the first game to replace Tom Brady was truly remarkable.
Cassel did not play much at USC behind Matt Leinart, but he is a top notch player with a huge future. Not only that, but talk of the future of playing QB for the Patriots was put to rest by Cassel himself, assuring us that there is no quarterback controversy in New England. It's Tom's team. Check out the link to this ESPN story (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3854561). Now that is leadership, something sorely missing in Big D and elsewhere. Matt's full-time work will come and it may even need to be in New England if Tom is not ready to go, but Cassel's technique is almost as clean as Tom Brady's and that will spell success wherever he may go.
Congratulations to Matt Cassel, America's Best Quarterback of 2008.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I think Troy Aikman has a pretty good grasp on the Cowboys' leadership issue with Tony Romo. Leadership is talked about with regard to the quarterback position as much as anything and it will always be a nebulous concept. It's one of those things where you say I can't explain it, but I know it when I see it.
Right now Tony Romo is a fun-hearted guy that doesn't take his game seriously enough. Aikman made the point about perceptions. Romo doesn't currently understand that perception is reality and when you lead "America's Team", those perceptions matter. Aikman was careful in wording Romo's weekend jaunt to Cabo San Lucas with Jessica Simpson and Jason Whitten while waiting for the wildcard playoffs to finish and how it wouldn't reduce your preparations for the following week, but let's get real. It was a real dumb "life-choice".
Keeping a low profile off the field is important, so when the playoffs roll around and the ball slips through your fingers holding on a field goal try and you lose or you throw it to the other team a few too many times and you go "one and done" again as favorites, at least the fans' perception is that you were 100% focused on winning the game, not a celebritiy's heart!
Perception is reality, not reality TV. Leadership--good leadership is key to a QB's success!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It happens every year. Players voted into the Pro Bowl back out due to injuries or other reasons, like playing real games into January. Last year Jeff Garcia went to the Pro Bowl after leading the Buccaneers to a 9-7 season and first round exit from the playoffs. A couple of QB's bow out of the post-season fun in Hawaii and Garcia adds another Pro Bowl appearance to his resume, but should replacement appearances really go on the players' resumes?
This year both Brett Favre and Phillip Rivers decided to stay on the mainland and Kerry Collins will make the trip to the island. Not that Collins didn't surprise everyone this year with his guidance and leadership of the Titans to the top of the AFC, but was it all-star worthy?
Shouldn't the players voted in as the best in their conferences in a particular year be the only ones considered as Pro Bowl players? After all, across the board there are scratches from the roster and undeserving players get extra bonuses from their teams and get all the backslapping that goes along with the trip to Hawaii. I just don't think the 4th or 5th best player should get that consideration, only because it can be misleading as to their season's performance. What do you think?
Sunday, January 18, 2009
On my weekly radio show here in Tampa (TheGameRadio.com ESPN 1040) I picked the Eagles to win the game, but said I am hoping Kurt Warner and the Cardinals win and get into the Super Bowl. It looked like it was going to be easy after the first half saw Warner connect with Larry Fitzgerald (best receiver in football right now) time and again, three of which were scores!
Donovan McNabb redeemed himself in the second half to take the lead for a very short time in the fourth quarter, but Warner and company drove the field and took the lead back for good.
Kurt Warner gave the usual thanks to God afterward and now will be the third oldest QB to start in the Super Bowl history.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
First Colt McCoy said he was coming back for his senior year. Saturday Tim Tebow let Gator Nation know after almost walking off the stage at their stadium celebration that he would come back to do it again and now Sam Bradford, Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy winning sophomore quarterback announced that he will also come back to school. That is quite a trifecta of sorts. And it may leave USC's junior QB Mark Sanchez as the top QB in the draft if he indeed does declare on Thursday.
I have said that I like McCoy as the best prospect of those top three, but I am a Sanchez fan as well and think he is smart to come out now that Bradford is staying. All three of those other guys will come out next year and right now it is Matthew Stafford and Graham Harrell topping the list, which gives Sanchez a higher slot than next year in my book.
Can someone give Donovan McNabb some credit? He was written off as trade bait--we were talking about him coming to Tampa very recently--and now after knocking off the Giants, has his Philadelphia Eagles in another NFC title game. That's his fifth if anyone is counting. No one seems to put him in the elite QB category, but not many have led their teams to as much success. I think he just seems to have too much fun while playing and of course that lackadaisical look during the Super Bowl didn't help, but nonetheless he will have a pretty strong record of success when he wraps up his career and he's only 32 right now.
I would really like to wish McNabb luck this weekend, but I'm hoping Kurt Warner can lift his Cardinals to their first appearance in a Super Bowl in their team's history.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Maybe it wasn't a titanic upset. With a great defense and a good running game, there aren't many that thought this game wouldn't be a great match and probably low scoring. That is exactly what we got from these clubs.
I thought the Titans should have won the game as they had the most scoring chances, but Alge Crumpler's fumble at the 5 and other mistakes cost the Titans a chance at an AFC title game.
Even though the play clock expired at least 2 seconds if not 3 before the snap of the ball that would have made the 3rd down conversion much more difficult, the Ravens and Flacco did what they needed to do to win the game.
Joe Flacco didn't get votes for Rookie of the Year and I'm still looking into that travesty, but he made the big throws and even underthrown throws to make the difference. This team is so similar to the 2000 Ravens that won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback. The difference is Dilfer threw a 5 yard pass to Shannon Sharpe who ran 80 yards with it and Flacco throws it 50 and the receivers just catch it near the goal line.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thursday night determined that the Florida Gators are the 2008 National Champions. If the Oklahoma Sooners and the Florida Gators played 10 times, I believe the Gators would win at least seven or maybe eight of those games. They are the best team in college football this season with the best football player as their quarterback. Another thing that was determined is that Tim Tebow is not ready to be a passer in the NFL any time soon. I felt that he and his coaching staff lost all confidence in his passing down the stretch. Yes, he completed a five yard jump pass to seal the deal, but they reverted him to the battering ram that he was the last time they were in the championship game in Tebow's freshman year.
Tebow was asked about staying at Florida and he said he would have to look at it, but that he loved Gator Nation. He needs to love it one more year, because I believe his stock is lower now than before the game. Sam Bradford's stock is probably higher even after losing. Bradford throws an effortless ball even though it comes off a little low most of the time. Tebow has taught himself how to overcome very poor balance and bad footwork to make his passes work most of the time, but it can be painful to watch. I'm not sure what he will hear back from the NFL search committee, but he needs to refine his mechanics before going to the NFL draft.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
This year's model is taller, more slender and a better passer. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner is simply a better football player and Florida should win college football's national title. Sam Bradford has done a great job running the fast-paced Oklahoma offense and if he decides a personal trophy and a shot at the title were enough for him and turns pro, then he should be the #1 QB to go in the NFL draft.
Tim Tebow, on the other hand, as I have said here before is the best football player in the nation, bar none. He is not the best passer by far and should remain at Florida for another year. What he should do is take a road-trip down I-75 and come see me. In short order, I would help him make some subtle changes to his throwing motion to improve the snap of his throws, the quickness of the release and his balance. All that would do is make him a better NFL prospect, but he is already an incredible player that will probably add another national title to his trophy case before nights end.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The New Orleans Saints have never had a player win the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award until now. Drew Brees passed his way to #2 on the season yardage list, just missing out on Dan Marino's record from 1984. Marino's record took his Dolphins to the AFC title and a Super Bowl appearance. Brees' efforts weren't enough to get the Saints into the playoffs, but he deserves a lot of credit nonetheless. He has helped keep the energy in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. Hopefully next year all those yards will give them a post-season berth.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Of the QB's to play in this weekend's Wildcard games, Phillip Rivers in the AFC and Kurt Warner in the NFC get the game balls. Yes, Rivers got help from big little man Darren Sproles with over 300 all-purpose yards, but Rivers kept things alive many times and I liked his sideline effort to get the first down--in which he fell short, but the effort was great. This will be the end of the road for the Chargers though, as they will lack the ability to get past the Steelers once again.
Kurt Warner brought back thought of the 1999 St. Louis Rams and "The Greatest Show on Turf" with his performance Saturday. When things are clicking for Warner, offense run by him at QB is a thing of beauty. I don't think he or his teammates will be able to reproduce that performance in Carolina in the divisional round, but it is a better matchup for them than if they had drawn the Giants in the Meadowlands.
Friday, January 2, 2009
It's the award season and Peyton Manning has nabbed the NFL MVP for the 3rd time in his career. The Colts got off to a slow start as he was slow in coming back from knee issues this off-season, but as Manning warmed up, so did the Colts as they roared back into playoff contention and ultimately one of the best records in the league. Another 12-4 season got the future HOF'er another personal award.
I like the pick over guys like Drew Brees because although both teams were dependent upon their QB's for their success, Manning played his team into the playoffs and I don't care what numbers you put up, your team must be successful to win an MVP award!
Congrats to the Manning family as they seem to take some kind of hardware home each year.
The list of quality QB's out of USC recently is pretty strong and I think Mark Sanchez, the junior, might be the best of the crop that includes Matt Leinart, John David Booty and maybe even Carson Palmer.
Sanchez threw for 413 yards and four scores in yesterday's Rose Bowl versus a game Penn State team that got crushed in the second quarter, but came back strong in the second half.
What I like about Sanchez is his mechanics and energy. He doesn't move around the well, but he throws strikes, is ready to throw the ball immediately after setting up and his balance will help him to remain an accurate thrower. Sounded like from the commentators that he plans to stay around for his senior year and that is probably a very good thing for him, except his coordinator Steve Sarkisian is now the University of Washington's head coach, so that will have an impact. Regardless, look for Sanchez to be at the top of the NFL prospect list for 2010.
Chad Pennington played poorly enough in New York last year for the Jets to take on Brett Favre at the last minute and make him their starting quarterback. The Miami Dolphins were so bad last year at 1-15 that they took on Chad Pennington as their starter. Fast forward to December and the Miami Dolphins win the AFC East and the New York Jets are sitting home with teammates talking about Brett Favre's poor play down the stretch and his separation from the team all season.
Congratulations to Pennington for winning the award for the second time in his career, but the winner of this award was no doubt Jake Delhomme of the Carolina Panthers. He and Kerry Collins tied for second in the voting and I would have made Collins the second place recipient and put Pennington in third.
Delhomme had "Tommy John" surgery last year and the team was 7-9. He came back healthy this year and his team won the NFC South division. When you mess with a QB's throwing arm, especially his elbow and an unheard of injury for a quarterback, he deserves the award more than a team known for its "Wildcat" formation that produced a huge early win and momentum to carry them further.
Collins hasn't had to lead a team in a long time and when he stepped in for Vince Young early in the season to lead them to 11-0, a division title and home-field advantage, now that's a comeback.