Friday, January 16, 2009

8 In The Box

1. If the History Channel has not convinced you that the world is ending very, very soon, consider that we are now this close to having the Tampa Bay Rays reach the World Series and the Arizona Cardinals reach the Super Bowl in a span of 3 months. If that isn't the seas turning to blood and the dead rising from their graves stuff, I don't know what is.

Of course, since it's well document that Kurt Warner is very much down with the King, that's really not a problem for him. He hooked up with Larry Fitzgerald 8 times for 166 yards and a TD, as the Cardinals shocked pretty much everybody by pounding the heavily favored Panthers in Charlotte, 33-13.

What has gotten into the Cardinals? A lot has been made about how they've shut down two teams with strong running games, which they have. I think you have to pay attention though to why they've done that. The Cardinals have been starting fast and getting out to leads, forcing the Falcons and Panthers to throw more and run less. When teams are playing from behind, you get things like the 5 picks that Jake Delhomme threw in this game. If anyone is going to beat the Cardinals, they cannot fall behind early. That's when their aggressive defense is at their best and can force turnovers, which put the game away.

2. While everything we think we know about the NFL crumbles around us, one thing does remain constant, and that's that it is virtually impossible to repeat as Super Bowl Champs. We now know the Giants won't. They completed their end of season Cowboy-esque plunge into the Hudson River by losing for the 4th time in 5 games, this time 23-11 to the Eagles. Eli Manning had a miserable game on a very windy day. He completed only 51.7% of his attempts, with a passer rating of of 40.7.

Meanwhile, the great Donovan McNabb completed 55.0% for a passer rating of 58.0. He was picked off twice and got flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone (a 2 point safety). He also got a 15 yard penalty for picking up a phone on the Giants sideline after running out of bounds and pretending to talk to someone. Probably the president of the National Jagoff Association telling him he has won their man of the year award.

McNabb's 58.0 passer rating earned him heaps of praise from Andy Reid, who said after the game, “He is the best quarterback in the NFL. I don’t think I have to say anything more than that.” Oh Sweet Jesus. All I know is you can't spell "Diva" without a bunch of letters that are also in "Donovan". Look up "sense of entitlement" in the dictionary and there's a picture of him and Joe Buck giving the thumbs up sign.

3. So that gives us an NFC Championship game of Eagles vs. Cardinals in the desert. This brings up another interesting contrast. The national media luuuuvs McNabb. One thing I keep reading and hearing about in that media is his heroic "resiliency". Resiliency because he had to sit on the bench for one half in a blowout game? Other than that he's had the media kissing his ass for 10 years, and his coach kissing his ass for 10 years. I'll remind you that in those 10 years he has reached only 1 Super Bowl, something even Rex Grossman has done. Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer have each won a Super Bowl, but Donovan McNabb hasn't. Donovan is the best quarterback whose been starting on a team for 10 years without winning a Super Bowl. You know why? Because he's the only one. John Elway's the only other guy I can think of who was in that situation and ending up winning one, and guess what, Donovan is no John Elway, so it ain't gonna happen.

Meanwhile, if you want to talk about "resiliency", I direct your attention to the OTHER QB in this game. You know, the guy who despite going to 2 Super Bowls and winning one, and winning MVP of the league twice, has been crapped on and had dirt shoveled on him by 3 different organizations, including the one he currently has led to more playoff wins in one year than they had in the 50 some years prior to that . And all of that was after he was out of the NFL and bagging groceries in between playing Arena Football in Iowa with goggles on the front of his helmet. THAT is "resiliency". I will be rooting hard for Kurt Warner and the Cardinals in this game. Do I think they will win? Sure, why not. I've already said as much in the Mr. Football Mailbag:

Dear Mr Football,

When looking at the road records of teams, it is obvious to me that Arizona will beat Philadelphia this week. Do you agree? If not, you know nothing about football.
Also, what is worse - the Chicago Bears defensive line, or the Chicago Bulls?

Rookie Monster

Dear Rookie Monster-
I agree with you that Arizona will win. Fish swim, ducks quack, Donovan McNabb loses in the NFC Championship game. It's what he does. It's what he was born to do.

On your second question, do not worry about the Bears defensive line. Rod Marinelli will save it. He is your personal savior. Now let us pray to Obama to end this cold weather.

Mr. F

Rookie Monster Replies:
I choose to pray to tim tebow, rather than obama.

4. The Baltimore Ravens caught a huge break last week. Chris Johnson was running wild against them, with 72 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Then he got hurt. Even with Johnson going down, the Titans hung 391 yards of total offense on the vaunted Ravens defense. But due in large part to Alge Crumpler fumbling on the Ravens nine yard line in the 4th quarter of what was a 7-7 game, Baltimore somehow was able to get the win and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

I was expecting more out of the Ravens in this one. They really got dominated but somehow won. The Titans had almost twice as much offensive yardage (391-211), and 21 first downs to the Ravens' 9. The Titans pushed the Ravens defense around all day, getting 16 rushing first downs. The Ravens managed only 1.7 yards per carry on offense. The Titans held the ball for 9 more minutes than the Ravens. It's almost completely defies any explanation that the Ravens won this game. Until you look at the turnover margin. 3 for the Titans, 0 for the Ravens. They took care of the ball, and in the playoffs that counts for a lot.

5. I send a huge thank you to the Pittsburgh Steelers. If they would have lost to the Chargers in what was the last game of last week's playoff docket, we would have had a team that went 9-7 hosting the conference title game in one conference, and a team that went 8-8 hosting the title game in the other conference. Seriously, when Vincent Jackson caught a TD pass at the beginning of this game to put SD up 7-0, I turned the game off, laid down, and felt very depressed about all the time I had wasted watching NFL regular season football this year. I fell into a deep, sad sleep.

When I woke up, I was happy to see that the Steelers were well in control of this game, and other than that early score it was never really close. The Chargers found out that well, maybe they do need LT after all. Darren Sproles had only 15 yards on 11 carries, and though Philip Rivers hung in there and threw for 308 yards, you really have no chance when your leading rusher gets 15 yards. For the Steelers, Willie Parker , who has been hurt and/or bad all season, finally came to and shredded the Chargers defense for 146 rushing yards.

6. The Steelers win gives us one hell of a matchup in the AFC Championship Game. Pittsburgh and Baltimore will meet for the 3rd time this year, with the Steelers needing to get their 3rd win over Ravens team that has gone 13-3 against teams that are not the Steelers this year.

As I've already talked about, the Ravens really are lucky to be here. They got beat everywhere but on the scoreboard in Nashville last week. Their defense got torn up by an offense that plays very similar to the Steelers. Willie Parker is the same kind of back as Chris Johnson, and Johnson imposed his speed on the Ravens last week. Ben Roethlisberger can beat you deep, just like Kerry Collins was able to do with Justin Gage last week. Pittsburgh looked like the best team in the AFC last week, and they will officially be that after today. Pittsburgh wins and goes to the Super Bowl for the second time in 4 years.

7. This was a very active week on the NFL Coaching Carousel of DOOM.

- Jon Gruden was unexpectedly told to walk the plank in Tampa. The Bucs lost 4 straight to end the season and missed the playoffs. They also let go GM Bruce Allen.

- And, as Patrick wrote about earlier this week in a very nice piece, Tony Dungy has stepped down as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. I think it's the best thing for both him and the Colts, and he left at the right time.

8. Out with the old, in with the new:

- Tampa moved very quickly to fill their coaching and GM vacancies. 32 year old defensive coordinator Raheem Cook is the new head coach, making him the first head coach in NFL history to be younger than me. Pro personnel director Mark Dominik is the new GM. Dominik had been in that position with the Bucs since 2001, and has been with the club since 1996. Spanning 2 centuries.

- Mangenius is the new head coach in Cleveland. Mangini this week hired his new offensive and defensive coordinators. Raiders DC Rob Ryan will be moving to Cleveland to fill that same position, while Jets QB coach Brian Daboll will be the new OC.

- Scott Pioli, who has had a huge part in building and maintaining the New England Patriots, is the new GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. Herm Edwards is still the coach, I guess, but somehow I don't think that will be the case for too much longer.

- There are now 2 NFL head coaches younger than me. Not only Raheem Cook, but new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. He was the Patriots OC this year, and we can only hope he makes as great a head coach as his predecessor, Charlie Weis, has.

- Jim Schwartz, who has been the Titans' DC for the last 7 years, is the new head coach of the Detroit Lions. Schwartz is an interesting dude. He has been a contributor to Pro Football Prospectus, which if you don't know is analogous to the statistical analysis that is so common in baseball thru things like Baseball Prospectus. He is also an avid chess player. That and he's been a defensive coordinator for 7 years working under Jeff Fisher, who is probably the best head coach in the NFL. I am going to go ahead and call this the best coaching hire so far. And it was by the Lions?

- Steve Spagnuolo is the new head coach of the St. Louis Rams. The DC of the Giants had a huge hand in the Giants winning the Super Bowl last year, and winning the NFC East this year. Seems like another good hire, especially since the Rams big draft choice last year was Chris Long, a pass rusher. Spagnuolo has had just a wee bit of success with young pass rushers like Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka.

- Finally, there are still a bunch of coaches who are conspicuous by their absence from the list of fired coaches:

- Herm Edwards
- Wade Phillips
- Dick Jauron
- Marvin Lewis
- Jim Zorn

Of these guys, Jauron and Lewis are almost definitely coming back. Congratulations Bengals and Bills fans. Herm is certainly gone, while Zorn and Phillips are going to have the sword of Damocles dangled over them by their diva owners for a while.


Patrick N said...

Dude you're writing like mad!

Nick Pomazak said...

Yes...more time writing and less time "Dusting Off Edgerrin James", which is my new euphemism for bomping the baloney

dook!e said...

I just have to say this..

I see your schwartz is as big as mine.