Thursday, January 28, 2010

Warner Probably Retiring On Friday

Possibly the biggest surprise story of rags to riches in NFL history is about to come to a close. Sure there have been stories about a kicker picked up from bartending and making a field goal the same week.
But never has there been a story about a quarterback stocking shelves in a grocery store, playing some Arena Football and then becoming the NFL MVP, Super Bowl winner and basically dominating the NFL for more than a decade!
Well, the Kurt Warner charmed-life story is about to close the book on his football glory days after leading the once sad-sack Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl last year and back to the playoffs again this year before falling to the Super Bowl bound New Orleans Saints.
If and when Warner says goodbye, don't expect a Brett Favre-like return by fall. Kurt Warner has a lot more than football in his life to keep him off the field for good and feel good about walking away still playing great football.
The Arizona Cardinals will miss him greatly, as they will have to turn to the QB they thought would have been leading them a couple of years ago, but Kurt Warner's play and leadership would not let him on the field. The NFL will also miss what he brought on the field and off!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brees and Manning; The Best Go To Miami

I do not consider myself a prognosticator by any stretch, but you must agree that my pre-game predictions hit pretty true, especially Brett Favre's bad choice that forced overtime and gave the Saints the victory.
It started to get interesting with Mark Sanchez playing very well in the first half and the Jets staking a lead, but as mentioned, it was Manning's greatness that persevered the 60 minute ball game and put him in the Super Bowl for a second time.
The Vikings would never have been in the NFC Championship without Brett Favre's performance this season and it is sad that he finished it with a pass that he has been told not to throw since he was in Pee Wee football, but that is what you always got with him, the great and the bad. Mike Holmgren tried to beat it out of him in the first few Green Bay years, but he just couldn't help himself when it mattered most, almost 20 years into his Hall-Of-Fame career.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In AFC it's Great vs. "Green"

Peyton Manning was this season's NFL MVP and many say he is the greatest QB of all-time. I say not yet. For all of his regular season heroics, he hasn't won enough in the "money" games to be given that title, hence the reason Tom Brady was the ABQB of the decade. Manning has a chance to change that with another Super Bowl title and the only way he gets that chance is a win against a very game Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets.
The Jets have won in similar fashion to last year's Baltimore Ravens and their rookie QB Joe Flacco. The QB manages the game, doesn't lose it, and gives the defense a chance to make enough plays to win it. They have held to that philosophy in the playoffs and now make another trip to Indianapolis for all the marbles.
The Colts win today because of Peyton Manning's greatness and Mark Sanchez's "greenness". The Colts' pass rushers will get enough shots on Sanchez to force mistakes by playing the old Tampa 2, making Sanchez hold it just a bit too long.

#1 QB vs. #2 QB--Brees vs. Brett in NFC

The New Orleans Saints have never been here before, the Minnesota Vikings have plenty of experience, as does their signal-caller. Drew Brees and Brett Favre will headline the battle inside the Superdome today, finishing the regular season as the top rated quarterbacks in the entire league.
Favre is the first 40 year old to QB his team into the conference championship game, playing arguably the best football of his entire career. Why did Vikings' Head Coach Brad Childress continue to work on getting Brett back on the field after another retirement and even an injured shoulder last season? Because this was the possibility, maybe even the probability, with the rest of the Vikings team so talented.
The Saints have been waiting a long time for this chance. Through so much adversity over time and through Katrina in recent years, the sad-sack franchise has come alive under Drew Brees' leadership. And the silly move by the Houston Texans a few drafts ago, allowed Reggie Bush to go to the Saints and give them another piece to the puzzle.
Percy Harvin has been slowed, ever so slightly, by migraines throughout the year, but still managed over 2,000 all-purpose yards. He missed practice time this week due to those bad headaches, but you can bet he will be trying to slice up the New Orleans defense today.
Playmaker vs. Playmaker--Bush vs. Harvin and Brees vs. Favre. The table is set for a fabulous game, but who will come out on top?
The New Orleans Saints will end the day victorious because New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and his QB will not hold onto the ball long enough to give the vaunted Vikings' pass rushers enough opportunities. They also have the receiving staff to give their secondary fits. Brett Favre has made many incredible plays this season, but they come later and after some moving around, which will come back to bite them just enough to put the Saints in the Super Bowl for the first time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saints Have Prayers Answered

It hasn't been easy to be a Saints' fan or player over the decades, but Drew Brees and his crew have made it a bit easier in the Big Easy.
After disappointing losses ended their regular season, doubt crept in to many of those fans and probably some of the players as well. A "one and done" possibility seemed all too real, but Brees and Bush got back to form and bullied their way to the NFC Champion by knocking off the defending NFC Champion!
The Cowboys seemed to be the pundits favorite while visiting the Minnesota Vikings, but Brett Favre's 40 year old arm threw 4 TD's while blowing out the team that had been on fire for the last few weeks.
This weekend's NFC Championship game in New Orleans should be great entertainment in one of the great entertainment cities in the world!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Playoffs: QB Showcase

A strong running game and defense are the ways to win in January in the NFL. Well, that has been a successful recipe, but these 2010 playoffs are shaping up as the QB playoffs.
The Packers and Cardinals earned their name of "Wildcard" game, with offensive records breaking all over the place and both quarterbacks putting up outrageous numbers.
The Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets are built in the classic model and still left in the these playoffs, but the Ravens travel inside to the dome of the Colts and the Jets will be in warm San Diego, California to take on the hot Chargers, who have become a QB dominated team with Phillip Rivers' dominance this year.
The NFC stays inside at 72 degrees in New Orleans and Minnesota, probably the best four quarterback matchup in NFL history. Kurt Warner and Drew Brees regularly carry their teams through games and Tony Romo and Brett Favre can do the same.
I looked forward to the Green Bay/Arizona game last week with great anticipation, because I like Aaron Rogers as much as these other guys and expected a great shootout--not quite expecting it to be what it turned into, but this weekend's games should be just as entertaining.
And the only way for the NFL to get a cold weather game of any kind before the playoffs, is if both the Jets and Ravens--the old school teams left in the tournament--win. Otherwise, it is warm weather all the way to the Super Bowl. Wait, the Super Bowl in Miami, Florida may be the coldest game from here on in.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Former QB Danielson Misses Bigger Point

Broadcaster Gary Danielson weighed in on the subject of these wayward coaches and taking their jobs a little too far in the "fatherly" department, saying something to the effect that it's his (Danielson's) job to be the father, not the coaches. I believe the reference is from The Dan Patrick show. I saw it in the newspaper today. Mike Leach tried to act like he was looking out for Adam James' best interest and USF's Jim Leavitt was "concerned" about his player.
I agree with Charles Barkley, who famously said years ago, that he is not a role model, parents should be their kid's role models. True, true, true. I agree with Gary Danielson's point as well that it is actually the father's role to be the supreme person concerned about a players well-being.
Here is where both former players miss the bigger point. I broadcast high school football games in the greater Tampa Bay area and when senior night rolled around at a particular game this year, about 20 or so seniors were introduced to the crowd with their parents or parent or grandparent or coach. Of those 20 senior football players, maybe four or five had a father to walk with. Approximately 75% of the players had no father looking out for their best interest and professional players are role models, like it or not Mr. Barkley. They have no father concerned for their well-being Mr. Danielson.
And the college football coach that came into their living room and told them that they would take care of them and be their family now and always, might need that guy's emotional support during times of struggle.
This is not to say that what Mark Mangini, Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt did or may have done was appropriate in any sense, but the bigger point here is not every kid has the same support system that Gary Danielson's children have and that is why these situations are so critical and important on a grander scale.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sanchez Wins--Jokes With Former Coach

New York Jets rookie NFL QB won his first playoff game in grand fashion and gave his old college coach a good ribbing. Remember back about a year ago when Pete Carroll was trying to keep his star player from making the jump to the NFL and take advantage of a weak QB draft class. After cashing in as the fifth pick in the draft and now winning in the Wildcard round, he let his former coach, who is now jumping to the Seattle Seahawks that statistics say it's not a good choice.
What a difference a year makes. If Carroll was successful in keeping his QB in school, he may not be making that move after posting one of the worst years USC has ever seen by starting a true freshman as his quarterback all year. So Sanchez has a very big hand in what happened to USC's hard fall to alsoran and with Carroll's move back to the NFL for the third time.

Coaches Getting/Leaving Black Eyes On Gridiron

Two head football coaches at top colleges have been fired with cause recently over their treatment of players. I would venture to guess that almost every college football over the last 30 years would have a story or two of player mistreatment somewhere in their memories.
In the most recent cases, Texas Tech fired Mike Leach for sending a player to a dark room for an extended period after the player showed up at practice unable to participate because of a "mild concussion". Last Friday the University of South Florida fired Jim Leavitt, the only football coach in its history, for grabbing a player by the throat and slapping him in the face twice during halftime of a game and because his report of the incident did not match up with any of the witnessed accounts of the incident. Both coaches are indignant and Leach has sued the school. Leavitt's firing is so new he probably hasn't had a chance to make that decision, but it seems most coaches do fight back in court.
I understand how frustrated coaches can get during the course of a game. You have tried to prepare your players for every situation and even though you (the coach) were never a perfect player in your own time, you wish your players were. Many times you have corrected a player's mistake on the practice field or gone over the exact situation prior to the game and then you watch the same thing happen on the field only to see a player make the corrected mistake. This can boil over and has too many times. The Woody Hayes incident still lingers in our memories (if you are old enough) and that is a good thing, because there aren't that many public incidents that we can all refer, but it is a different world of political correctness that we live in today. Sometimes it may seem a bit too PC, but as far as player treatment, we need to remember it is a game.
My wife has been "beating me up" over my treatment of my son's middle school basketball team recently. She says I yell too much at the kids, especially my own 12 year old son, and have even touched them in a too-aggressive manner, pulling on their uniforms or such. I disagree and may even seem like Leach or Leavitt in their lack of understanding of the situation. When a kid is told to go to a specific spot on the basketball floor and just looks at you and doesn't respond, it kind of frustrates you. I try to control my emotions at these times (which, in middle school basketball, happen about every second of the game) and substitute a player that either doesn't understand what I am asking of him or is just doing his own program, but it is not easy and isn't on a national stage like NCAA football.
Every situation will have its own unique details, but coaches now know what the "rules" are for player treatment in the 21st century.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

BCS Title Game: A QB Story

It was supposed to be Colt McCoy's swan song, like his friend Tim Tebow, two of college's most heralded quarterbacks of all time. Tebow's Gators didn't make it into the championship game like they had planned at the season's outset, but in his career finale, he left the Sugar Bowl with the best personal stats of his career and a huge blowout win. The game had even more build-up and emotion because of Urban Meyer's recent announcements.
Colt McCoy entered the BCS Title Game as the winningest QB in college football history, starting since his freshman year. But only moments into the game, he took a hit on the back of his right shoulder and his world changed, as well as the fate of the Texas Longhorns.
Enter true freshman QB Garrett Gilbert, one of the biggest recruits last season. With Colt McCoy in Heisman Trophy contention, Gilbert got spot work this year after McCoy put his team well ahead in some of their games, but this was no UTEP. This was the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, who had recently made Tim Tebow look very mortal. No one was ready for this, not the QB and not the coaches who dramatically changed the game plan for their young signal caller.
Things couldn't have gone worse for Gilbert in the first half, with even a shovel pass (low risk right?) getting intercepted and returned for a touchdown. I felt for the kid and his family (father Gale, a former NFL QB himself). I have two sons that could be in that situation down the road and it was hard to watch, but Gilbert did gather himself after the break and put up two TD passes. He and the Texas defense also got them back to within 3 points before Alabama woke back up and slammed the door shut in the final moments.
This game was another example of just how important the QB position is to the game of football, even more so now with all of the spread formation teams.
Colt McCoy has been fun to watch run that spread offense of Texas for four years. I hope his shoulder heals and he gets all he hopes and dreams for in the NFL. He seems to be a great person, like his buddy Tim Tebow.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Teams Aren't Looking For Outside Help

Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon reached out to help the struggling Oakland Raiders and their underachieving former #1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell, but that didn't go over too well.
I was talking with someone earlier today actually that asked me why teams don't call in some of these former player analysts for consultations. My answer before reading of the Raiders rebuff of their former all-star was that they don't want the help. If they asked for help, they would be showing weakness, like they don't know what they're doing, even though we can see that they don't know what they're doing every Sunday.
Coaching is an insecure business in the first place, with job security always an issue, so allowing anybody from the outside, even if it is a former player with the intention of helping, it won't happen.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tebow Goes Out Winner In Final Game

He didn't plan on playing in the Sugar Bowl to finish his storied career. No, when Tim Tebow began his senior season he planned on adding another BCS Title to his and the University of Florida's resume.
A major concussion early in the season almost derailed the Gators season, but a perfectly timed bye week allowed him to return without missing a game. Unbelievable. That has been Tebow's life-story thus far.
Saturday night in New Orleans his unbelievable career came to a close in a fitting way for one of the greatest players in college football history. His passing technique, which has been the topic of more sports conversations than Tiger Woods problems, set records and was extremely efficient after not being able to generate anything against Alabama in the SEC Championship.
Tim Tebow goes out the winner on the field that he has proven he is off it as well!

Best Teams Choose Losing Streaks Into Playoffs

The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints posted the top records in their respective conferences, but chose to rest their best players in the season finale and before another week off with their well deserved byes. Peyton Manning played a bit in the snow, but not enough to make a difference as the Colts got blown out.
Win the Super Bowl and it is a great decision, but if they don't play well after the layoff, the second-guessers will be in full force as both teams head into the playoffs with two game losing streaks.
The New England Patriots also lost their final game of the regular season and watched one of their best offensive weapons limp off the field with Wes Welker reportedly tearing up his knee. The second guessers there will say he should have sat and waited for their first round game.