Gator Bait

January 29, 2010

Any general manager of an NFL team who uses a first round pick on Tim Tebow should be immediately fired.

There.  I said it.  And I’m not ashamed of it.

Sports Illustrated‘s Don Banks, author of the “Inside the NFL” column, has Tim Tebow locked in with the Arizona Cardinals at selection 26

“This one is pure projection on my behalf, but hear me out: Tebow’s rough week at the Senior Bowl notwithstanding, it’s only going to take one team to fall in love with him to make him a low first-rounder. Why the Cardinals? If Kurt Warner retires Friday as expected, does anyone think Arizona has 100 percent confidence in Matt Leinart at this point? And we already know Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t mind playing two QBs in the same game, because he did it with Warner and Leinart in 2007. As rough as things were for the Cardinals defense in the playoffs, that side of the ball probably should get first-round attention. But for now, we’re sliding our Tebow chips to Arizona’s square.”

Kurt Warner has retired today as of 2 P.M.  Matt Leinart is most likely not the answer at quarterback for Coach Whisenhunt and staff, according to ESPN’s NFC West blogger Mike Sando.  The Cardinals have had incredible success the past two years with Warner at quarterback.  They will not be selecting high enough in the first round to take either of the two consensus top pro prospects, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (shoulder injury inspection notwithstanding) or Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame.  With that in mind, why not take a chance on perhaps the best college football player in modern history?

How about these reasons?

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Never let the refs or a coin flip decide the game: An NFC Championship Story

January 25, 2010

Full disclosure – I missed the 2nd and 3rd quarters because I decided to drive my girlfriend back to Queens early because we had to run some errands in Manhattan on the way back to her place.  But let’s be honest here – I didn’t miss much.  The Vikings played a sloppy game and the Saints were out of sync (I’ll let you decide whether it was due to the Vikings and Leslie Frazier’s game plan (probably) or if the Saints were a bit overwhelmed by the moment (probably played a part as well.)

So instead of recapping a game that everyone either watched in its entirety, watched in part, or saw the highlights, I am going to take the time to address a few storylines that I am sure the media will be beating us over the head with today and tomorrow.

The referees did not cost the Vikings this game (re: the phantom pass interference on David Thomas.)

No one player lost the Vikings this game (i.e., Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, etc.)

A coin toss did not lose the Vikings this game.

And the overtime rules are just fine, thank you.

Here’s the deal: when I played football in high school we were forbidden from complaining about the referees or for worrying about things that were out of our control.  I was always taught that if you allowed a game to be decided by the refs or something like a coin toss, then that’s on you.  The Vikings had 60+ minutes to take care of business and they didn’t get it done.  In fact, it was remarkable that this game even made it to overtime considering they turned the ball over 5 times.  Refs will make bad calls.  Weird plays happen.  But, if you take care of business and even if the refs make a bad call, you should still end up on the winning side.

Further, to place the blame for a loss on a single play or a coin flip is ridiculous and diminishes the hundreds of other plays that happened over the course of a game.  Of course any single play can swing the outcome of a tightly contested match, but to try and play this game of isolating THE play that swung the game is a fool’s errand and misses the point.  Football is a team game and there will be many plays during the course of the game that do not go your way.  Good teams minimize the bad plays against them and exploit the other team’s breakdowns.

As for the overtime rule, I love the NFL’s overtime rule.  As a Packers’ fan I know first hand that winning the toss in OT does not guarantee victory or defeat (see Al Harris picking off Matt Hasselbeck, Corey Webster picking off Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers being “picked off” by the Cardinals in the first round this year.)  Further, defense and special teams are part of the game!  How about the Vikings make a play on special teams and not let Pierre Thomas return the overtime kickoff to the Saints’ 40?  How about the defense step up and make a play?  The trend over the last few years in the NFL has been to glorify offense and short change defense and special teams.  I think this is a travesty and this is why I love the NFL overtime rule: it emphasizes all three phases of the game.

Additionally, as I alluded to earlier, to claim that a coin flip decided the game totally diminishes the 60 minutes of football that preceded overtime.  There were plenty of opportunities for either team to handle their business in regulation.  Heck, if Favre had just tucked the ball and ran with it, chances are Ryan Longwell nails a 50 yarder for the win.  Games between teams as evenly matched as the Vikings and Saints are essentially sudden death matches anyway, with the team who has the ball last usually the one who wins.  In  fact, announcers say this all the time.  So why does everyone lose their minds over the overtime rules.  Isn’t it essentially luck that determines who ends up with the ball last in regulation of these types of contests?

Well now I am ranting so I’ll wrap this baby up.  My ultimate point is that no single play or event determines the outcome of a football game.  That might be the storyline the next day, but it’s false.  Plays count just as much in the first quarter as they do in the 4th quarter or in overtime.  The Vikings have no one to blame but themselves, as a TEAM, the same way my Packers had no one  to blame but themselves for spotting the Cardinals a 14 point lead in the first round.  To claim otherwise totally diminishes what else happened during the game.


A post-mortem (AFC Championship Edition)

January 25, 2010

New York was strikingly quiet at about 6 PM yesterday when the final seconds ticked off the game clock.  Mark Sanchez was still slinging passes down the field in a blatant attempt to pad stats and please the fans who thought the Jets were a sure bet to cover as 8.5 point underdogs, but it was clear – this game was over.  The clock reading 00:00 was merely a formality.

In retrospect, that the J-E-T-S would go on to lose this game was obvious at about with two minutes and eleven seconds left in the first half.  That’s when, after the Jets forced a turnover and took a totally improbable 17-6 lead, the real Peyton Manning took the field.

Peyton Manning has engineered drives in the last two minutes of the half this year and come away with 77 points.  For some perspective, writes Paul Kuharsky for ESPN.com, that’s as many points as the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and St. Louis Rams have scored in a half this season.  That statistic isn’t just a league leader – it’s flat out exceptional.  When the pressure’s on, Peyton Manning delivers.  So color me as less than surprised when he picks apart the best defense in the league on a drive that took less than a full minute.  58 seconds after getting the ball, Austin Collie was in the end zone, the dome was shaking, and a Jets fan sitting on the couch could only sigh as they ran a few meaningless plays to get them into the half. Deflated barely does justice to the feeling of watching Peyton Manning have his way with your team.

Still, even coming out of the half, you had to feel relatively good as a Jets fan. Up by 4 on the road in the AFC Championship game with the best defense in football and a running game that exhausted opposing defenses.  A few long drives, playing field position and another score could’ve locked this game up.  That good feeling was put to rest when Shonn Greene, one of three breakout stars this post-season for the Jets and the team’s most dominant rusher, went out with a rib injury.  Thomas Jones is a solid runner who had an excellent year (1402 yards, 14 TD), but he’s been shy of contact during the playoffs and has a tendency to dance instead of just hitting the hole.  Greene gets yards after contact and is a pure North-South runner, which is exactly what was needed in the second half in order to keep drives alive.  With only a semi-healthy Jones, the Jets rushed for a paltry 86 yards (averaging only 3.0 yards per carry) and couldn’t sustain drives against a team that suddenly developed a killer instinct with the last drive in first half.

But there are no excuses, really. The Colts were the better team in the regular season and the better team now because they have the best player in football lining up under center. There’s a reason why QB17 is terrific – when the chips are in and everything is on the line, Peyton Manning drops the hammer.  It wasn’t a skill that he was born with, but one he developed over time. If Mark Sanchez can be 50% of the QB that Manning is right now, he’ll have had a heck of a career.

Jets fans have a lot to look forward to now. They have a rookie running back who has looked like the league’s next breakout rusher, a rookie head coach who instills confidence in his team with every word and enjoys the spotlight afforded to him by New York, and a rookie QB who is so excited to play the game that he looks like Shelley Duncan in the Yankee dugout.  They have the league’s best defensive player and a defensive team that lacks a pass rushing star but plays well together.  The Colts had too many weapons today, but the core of the Jets makes the future look bright.  Congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts on a fine regular season and AFC Championship.  The game against New Orleans in Miami in two weeks should be exceptional.