Monday, December 13, 2004

What it was, was football...

On Friday, Big Al dropped off the office pool.

There’s nothing philosophical about it. Circle your winners, rank each game from 16 down, and watch them play. At the end, most points wins the pool.

That’s pretty much never me at the end. In Week One this year, I won for the first time ever – in fact, the only time ever, and often because the Seahawks have blown a big lead. (More on THEM later. For now, suffice it to say that even at five bucks a shot, Mike Holmgren owes me about a week’s pay.) But if it really bothered me, I wouldn’t spend the money. Where else can five dollars last an entire Sunday?

In any case, that was just a springboard for me to start wondering about what’s going on in the NFL. I tend to wonder out loud – lucky you.

1. Some people say the Giants are too predictable. Some of those people are Giants. I think that’s silly. The real problem is that they’re one-dimensional: Tiki Barber is the only viable option they have to reliably gain yards. Given this tidbit, you’d think that they rely on him in big spots more often, but no. In Kurt Warner’s last game, on their last drive, the Giants went EMPTY BACKFIELD on both 3rd and 4th down – with only two yards to go. You may as well put out signs reading “Free Beer with Your QB Sack.” Fast forward a couple of games, and it’s first and goal, and Eli Manning is … throwing a fade to Jeremy Shockey? He’s fast on his way to becoming Brian Bosworth with better hair. How is this preferable to lining up and trying to power your way in with one of the best five backs in football this season? (Going into yesterday's games, Barber led the entire NFL in total yards from scrimmage.) The Giants aren't predictable, they’re just not that bright. (Not that good, either.)

2. Have the Saints fired Detective Medavoy yet?

3. The Seahawks went one better than their week five El Foldo against the Rams – they managed to gack TWO ten-point leads against the Cowboys’ awesome offensive machine. The second of those was entirely after the two-minute warning. Ye gods. Matt Hasselbeck’s final line: 28-40, 414 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT, and a big fat L. But this is the eminently reasonable outcome for the league after restricting defenders trying to cover wide receivers. Hasselbeck became the fourth different guy this year to pitch for 400 yards and three scores while losing the game. The others:
Kelly Holcomb, CLV (v. CIN 12) 30-39, 413, 5-2
Jake Plummer, DNV (v. ATL 8) 31-55, 499, 4-3
Peyton Manning, IND (v. KC 8) 25-44, 472, 5-1
Manning gets special mention – the week before, against Jacksonville, he put up this line: 27-39, 368, 3-0. The Colts lost. And now, just yesterday, Brian Griese threw for 392 yards and 3 TDs, but he also threw 3 INTs, including one returned for enemy points. (Against whom? The
San Di-e-go...Chargers!)

UPDATE - of course, the 'Hawks beat Minnesota, 27-23, with a big rally, in Minnesota. Who took the Vikings because he didn't trust Seattle anymore? Five more bucks, Mike.

4. You’d have to look it up, like I did: the Colts backup quarterbacks/Maytag repairmen are named Jim Sorgi and Joe Hamilton. They have four total passes this season, all Sorgi’s. Center Jim Saturday has one more pass than Hamilton this year.

5. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman reports that Cleveland’s new coach, Terry Robiskie, tried an odd motivational ploy before his first game – he asked for anyone to step forward if he thought of himself as a leader on the team, and set a bucket of ice and a shovel before them. “If I had to dig a hole to hell and fight the devil with nothing but this ice,” he asked, “who would come with me?” (When you click, scroll waaayy down to #30 out of 32 to find the report. Dr. Z may have overestimated them a touch.)

Leave aside the dippiness of the metaphor – was he expecting to actually find the leaders of the Browns by asking them to put themselves forward? Only showoffs and loudmouths nominate themselves like that. The leaders are the ones their teammates look to without having to have them pointed out. Besides, Robiskie has been an assistant with the team all year. If HE has to ask, then he’s either not the right man for the coach’s whistle, or his team doesn’t have leaders.

UPDATE – Apparently, Jeff Garcia subscribes to the Nightfly theory. And now he has to have his leadership questioned because he didn’t buy into that prefab silliness in the clubhouse? He’s hurt, he’s getting crushed every week, and the team is foundering from the front office downward; what you look for there is someone to admit that and then move on. Going all rah-rah when your team is 3-9 is patronizing, especially from a guy who is going to be replaced at the end of the year. “Come on guys, we can do it! I’m right behind you – far behind you, in fact!” Uh, thanks, Coach. Garcia, who was chased out of San Francisco by a guy who promptly bolted the city himself, chose to come to Cleveland, and deserves better than to have these questions pop up again – and from a coach who has NO SHOT of being retained after this interim gig is done.

UPDATE II - Robiskie started rookie Luke McCown for his second game, and got rolled by the Buffalo Bills. The Browns gained only 17 yards of net offense for the whole game. This is beyond embarrassing - "and now, you are 3-10," as TMQ would say. Garcia played one series, got sacked, and left with a damaged knee. Time to raze this ballclub and start over.

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