Monday, November 17, 2008

Am I the only one tired about hearing how good the Eagles are? Maybe its because their not!

The best division in football all season long has been the east. However it is now time to shift that talk from the NFC East to the AFC East. The AFC East has 4 teams that all have a shot at the top right now, whether all 4 are great teams, or it’s a division of mediocrity is a topic for another time. The Giants have taken control of the NFC East and look to run away with it, but the real reason we have to stop talking about the dominant NFC East is because we have to finally accept what I’ve have been saying all year long (on Free Ballin’ with JB and Pauly, Thursday nights from 6-7 on; the Eagles are not only not that good, but their not a top team at all. The Eagles were predicted to do very well this year in the east because of the return of Donovan Mcnabb, that’s it!

The whole concept of pre-season predictions has gone too far, all our talk is based off them when in reality we don’t know anything about the upcoming season. The Giants and Redskins were predicted to finish 3rd and 4th in the NFC East respectively. In week 6 with a record of 3-3 the Eagles were being called the best 3-3 team in the league…why???? Because in the pre-season they were predicted to do well. More importantly this past team just tied the previously 1-9 Cincinnati Bengals! The Eagles went into Cincinnati and couldn’t beat an atrocious Bengals team, and it was the Eagles fault. The Bengals didn’t go in there and play unbelievably, they played like the Bengals! They made mistakes, turned the ball over and were completely ineffective on offence, and even missing a game winning field goal with 7 seconds left in overtime. The Eagles offense, more to the point Donovan Mcnabb lost them this game. The Eagles defense showed up, sacking Ryan Fitzpatrick 8 times, (the second time they’ve gotten that many in one game), which puts them back into the league lead in sacks as their tied with the Steelers with 36. The defense did their part not allowing the Bengals to get anything done, but Mcnabb and company didn’t show up to this one at all. Mcnabb threw 3 interceptions, and lost a fumble, that’s something that should earn him consideration as a top quarterback in this league? To top it all off Mcnabb showed his ridiculous football IQ after the game by telling the world he had no idea the NFL had ties. Do you really not know that Donovan? Have you ever looked at the standings in the newspaper and seen that there is a T column, for ties? Yes that column is usually filled with 0’s but its there for a reason? At the rate this game was going this game could have gone into 5 overtimes before someone scored which would have meant that the two teams would have played over 2 games in one day; which if the Eagles had any shot of anything would effectively end that. The best was yet to come when Mcnabb said I just wonder what would happen in the Super Bowl or playoffs. Really Donovan, you don’t think the NFL would keep playing and end the tie, you know just like the 2003 playoffs when the Panthers beat the Rams in DOUBLE OVERTIME? Just for good measure Donovan, those Panthers won that game and went on to beat your team in the NFC championship game the following week. Does Donovan Mcnabb watch any sports at all, look at every other sport that has ties, especially soccer in which many games end in ties, and its premier tournament the World Cup final is viewed by more people then the Super Bowl; hey Donovan has that game ever ended in a tie? Of course not, because like any logical event, any playoff game in any sport keeps going until there’s a winner.

The Eagles are not a good team by any means, they’re good on reputation, and that reputation is that they had a solid team which took advantage of a weak NFC and went to 4 strait NFC championship games. The problem being they lost 3 of them! Deshaun Jackson has a lot of talent, but I don’t know if we can call him a star in this league yet, other then that could you name one star this team has added since they played in the Super Bowl? They had a powerful defense where they have since lost star players and Steve Spagnuolo who has proven to have overtaken his former mentor as a defensive coordinator. There’s talk that this is Mcnabb’s most talented receiver group ever; but he has never had a great receiver group to begin with. This season the eagles have 8 players with over 200 yards receiving, but of those 8 only two of them have over 250 yards recieving, doesn’t sound like there’s any real receiving threat in Philly, just whoever has the hot hand. Most importantly like we’ve said all year Donovan Mcnabb is not the guy to get it done in Philly, I’ve said it all year (on Free Ballin’ with JB and Pauly, Thursday nights from 6-7 on and its time that the Eagles realize that so they can move in the right direction, and its time that the media realized this so they can stop the propaganda that the Eagles are a good team and actually can do something this season.

Despite the fact that Giants have the most difficult remaining schedule in the NFL it is looking more and more likely that they will run away with this division. Not just because they're better then every other team they still have to play, but their division is actually surprisingly week. The Cowboys are looking lost, even though they just got back Tony Romo, but at the same time they're also only being talked about because of pre-season rankings. The team that most people thought could hold up with the Giants, the Redskins seem to have lost their magic. They’ve lost their last two games knocking them off the pace for the division, but the big problem here is their past two games were lost at home and at night. The Steelers are a top team in the AFC, an important statement game for the Redskins and the Cowboys; their top rival is always an important game to win. The Redskins dropped both games in front of their home fans. Being at the University of Maryland I’m around a lot of Redskins fans, and they are good fans who get very fired up and are very passionate about their Redskins. As fired up as they get for a Sunday afternoon game they are about 10 times more fired up for a night game, and they have that stadium rocking. If the Redskins couldn’t feed off their fans tremendous energy for night games this team is in trouble especially since this team has to play 4 of its last 6 on the road. The silver lining to that is that 3 of the Redskins 4 losses have come at home, so maybe it’s a good thing to be playing more road games.

Meanwhile in the AFC East, the Jets have jumped to the top with a big win over the hated Patriots; the Dolphins are shocking the world with their 6-4 record, the Patriots are still the Patriots and can’t be overlooked, and Buffalo, at 5-4 has cooled a bit but still has a winning record. Though the Jets are in first place the Pats are still a force in that division. I said when Matt Cassel took over for Brady he would be successful because the Patriots run such a simple offense. The fact that it took Cassel this long to break out is because the coaches had him playing an ultra-conservative offense when he first stepped in. The fact that the coaches had him playing that ultra conservative offense, only furthers my belief that the reason Tom Brady become Tom Brady is because the Pats didn’t put him into this conservative offense because they knew the opposing teams defensive signals and knew what defense they would be facing, therefore they knew where Brady could and couldn’t throw the ball. But Cassel has now stepped into this offense and is proving he could throw the ball in the NFL, which keeps the Patriots as a top force in the AFC East. The Jets have seemed to have found their stride led by not Brett Favre but their defense, even beating the Patriots for just the second time in god only knows how many games, I lost count several years ago. I don’t know if the Dolphins are a playoff team, but they sure are making a statement, and they have a weak remaining schedule so they could crash that party. Buffalo’s hot start seems to have cooled down and its looking like they’ll finish out the season in the cellar of the division, but their not a team that could be overlooked, and with matchups against each team in the division still remaining Buffalo could still jump over each one of these teams. Hell this entire division is so close that it could finish in a whole variety of ways. That’s what makes a competitive division, and the fact that these teams beat teams outside their division, makes it the best division in football.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"You didn't do anything at all. Ya gotta do more then that." (just barely)

Is Paul Rudd (Chuck, “Cunu”) teaching Jason Segel (Peter) how to surf or be an NFL head coach in this great scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall? When Peter turns to “Cunu” for surfing lessons, Cunu tells Peter that when trying to stand up on the board you should do the least possible movement. When Peter simply gets up, Cunu tells him “your doing to much, do less.” He constantly tells him to do less until Peter simply doesn’t get up at all to which Cunu replies, “nah there you didn’t do anything at all, you gotta do more then that.” Cunu then says ah screw it you’ll just learn when we get out there. Was that a lesson in surfing or how to be a head coach in the NFL where it seems that in order to be a successful head coach it needs to appear to the average fan that you’re not doing anything?

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is a great example. What exactly does he do? We all know him as the disciplinarian who is always angry and yelling. He lays down the law and gives out the suspensions to Plaxico Burress. But to the average fan he doesn’t do much more then that; and that could be the best key to success. The Giants defense is always attributed to Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnolo. When Eli Manning takes strides in his playing, who gets the credit? That goes to Giants Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride. In fact when Burress was recently benched for the beginning of the Steelers game he was asked if he was fighting with Coughlin, to which Burress responded that during the week he spends his time with the Offensive Coordinator Gilbride and the Giants Wide Receivers coach and that he rarely even sees’s Coughlin during the week. If Coughlin isn’t the genius behind the Giants offense or defense then what exactly is his job with this team? Coughlin is simply the manager so to speak of the team. He lays down the law, makes sure everyone is staying in check and gets very angry on the sideline which seems to make for good TV. So the Giants coach isn’t required to be heading a high powered offense or a crazy good defense, and guess what, they won a super bowl last year and Coughlin is in his 5th season with the team and it looks like he’ll be here for at least another 2, which is pretty good job stability in this days NFL.

The current trend in the NFL is to hire big time coordinators to become head coaches and solve all your issues. The only problem is that a defensive coordinators job is to handle the defense, he game plans the defense, draws up coverages and blitzes, that’s all he does. When a coordinator becomes a head coach in the NFL, he’s now in charge of everything, not just the defense but the offense, special teams, drafting, scouting, and every other function of the team. A head coach simply doesn’t have time to concentrate only on his specialty. Brian Billick was labeled an “offensive genius,” the mastermind behind the 1998 Vikings offense that set a record for point in a season. When he became head coach of the Ravens he was already joining a team with a great defense, his job was to get that offense up to par. Yes he won a super bowl there, but he did that behind one of the greatest defenses of all time, and he had Marvin Lewis leading that defense. His offense simply had a game manager (Trent Dilfer) at quarterback and rode the defense to the Super Bowl. The credit for that great defense went to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who turned that into a head coaching job in Cincinnati. Lewis was able to squeeze one 13-3 season out of that Bengals team, but only after Carson Palmer started playing and Rudi Johnson established himself. Where did Lewis great defense go? Defiantly not to Cincinnati as the Bengals haven’t had good defenses since he got there. Billick’s offensive mind never created a respectable offense whatsoever in Baltimore as the team has always been identified by their defense, this would finally lead to Billick being fired after last season.

An NFL head coach is really nothing without his coordinators. Bill Belichick the “football mastermind.” He has been called one of the best coaches ever in football. But why don’t you look back at what he did in Cleveland, his record there was not good at all. He found success with New England while flanked by Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Both of whom have moved on to take head coaching jobs, Weis at Notre Dame which is now currently experiencing some of the lowest time in Notre Dame football including last years loss to Navy ending a 41 game winning Streak. While Crennel has become the head coach of the Browns and is always mentioned in the worst coaches in the NFL discussion. Meanwhile back in New England the Patriots, who won three Super Bowls with those three men in power, have won zero since Weis and Crennel left. This also asks the question, if Belichick and his coaching staff turned unheard of 6th round draft pick Tom Brady into a superstar, why isn’t Matt Cassel experiencing the same success. Not only does Cassel get the same coaching but he also gets mentored by one of the best quarterbacks ever in Tom Brady. When Brady first came into the league he wasn’t surrounded by the talent that Cassel has today, but Brady played the same way his whole career, while right now the Patriots have Cassel in a very conservative offense. Could it be that Belichick is not some “super coach” but rather Brady was able to throw the ball downfield because it was relatively low risk because the Patriots had filmed everyone’s defensive signals and knew what defense they were playing against? If you know the defense then playing aggressive becomes less of a risk, allowing Brady to be aggressive and therefore become a better quarterback, however now the Patriots are not stealing signs and don’t know the defense that’s coming against them, forcing Cassel to play in a very low risk offense. Maybe Belichick really is that same guy who had an awful tenure with the Browns and is just winning now because of the talent his team already has.

The end of the scene brings us to another awful trend in the NFL. When Cunu tells Peter to screw it, you’ll learn when you get out there. There is a huge rise in coaches with no head coaching experience. Time and time again teams are turning to coordinators who have specialized in either offense or defense exclusively and are now in charge of the entire team. These coaches usually end up either failing or not getting enough time to succeed. Even more mind boggling is even with the absolute incompetency of coaching in the NFL nowadays, Marty Schottenheimer is still available. Schottenheimer available because he was ridiculously fired after a 14-2 season! Schottenheimer had the games best player on his team and simply did the smart thing and gave that man the ball. When the playoffs rolled around he decided to change that style and put the ball into his quarterback’s hands. After the loss he was fired, and since then he’s been overlooked for every NFL job.

The competence of an NFL head coach can almost be measured by how much credit your head coach doesn’t receive and how much your coordinators do. When Eric Mangini took over the Jets in 2006 he took the team to the playoffs. Mangini was given a lot of credit for that, but this team also played a very interesting offense, they didn’t have a premier running back so they ran a lot of different unique plays to try to make up for that and gain back those yards. The credit for this all went to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Since 2006 though Schottenheimer has received no credit for anything, he’s still with the team, but when you hear anything about the Jets all that is ever spoken about is Eric Mangini. However the Jets also have one of the best special teams units in the league, its not just because of Leon Washington that its this good, it was good before he got there. The reason that the special teams are so good is because of Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff. Mangini is never given credit for special teams, but whenever you talk about either the offense or defense all the talk focuses on Mangini. Compare that and the struggling Jets with the other New York team, as the Giants keep winning, Coughlin keeps everything under control, and the offensive and defensive coordinators are the ones getting credit for on field performance.