Monday, November 12, 2007

Pats spend off-weekend relaxing, Shula calls bye tainted.

It was either that or, "Shula notes Pats failed to win over weekend, unaware they were on their bye."

Currently the AFC East is a hotbed of perfection. Possibly for the first time in the history of the NFL, the same conference is hosting two teams in pursuit of a record with a goose-egg. The Patriots are 9-0, with their toughest competition likely coming from the Steelers, and maybe the Giants.

The Dolphins, the one-time paragon of winning with a 14-0 regular season back in 1972, are fighting for another perfect season - they're seven losses away from 0-16. Of course the perfect season that the 'Phins is a dubious honor to say the least.

Miami likely has four chances out of their final seven games to avoid becoming the first non-expansion team to go an entire season without a victory, and the first team since the NFL expanded to a 16 game slate. Those four games? A rematch with the Jets (1-7), and games against the struggling Ravens (4-5), Bengals (3-6), and Eagles (4-5).

I have my doubts that Miami can go into Buffalo and beat the Bills, or go to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers, let alone go to New England and pull out a win there.

Sure, there's a reason for the term, "any given Sunday," and an upset could happen. However, I'm guessing that the Dolphins will be the underdog in every game remaining on their schedule, so even if they beat the Ravens, it will technically be considered an upset.


Last night the Chargers won ugly, the Colts lost ugly, Tony Dungy coached ugly (that time-out to argue a penalty was mind-bogglingly stupid, and ended up costing the team at the end of the game), and the Colts special teams - from top to bottom - were ugly.

Vinnie Iyer at the Sporting News was busy trying to put the best spin possible on this loss from the Colts standpoint. He notes that the Colts should not be counted out because of two losses in a row. He's right about that. What he is wrong about is that Manning played like a champion - in spite of playing poorly.

The Colts lost because of a variety of reasons - Manning being one of them. Special teams (Adam Vinatieri left six points on the field), and, as previously mentioned, Dungy and some poor coaching decisions.

When a quarterback throws six interceptions, you can't absolve him of responsibility in a loss.

What this did remind me of - the old argument about swapping the teams of Brady and Manning to see how well each would have done. I seem to remember a couple of years back (2004) that the Patriots went 14-2. Their leading wide-out was David Givens with 874 yards. Reggie Wayne already has 870 with seven games left. Leading receiver for Pats tight ends that year was Daniel Graham with 364 yards, if Dallas Clark (405 yards) remains out, Ben Utecht could still top 300 yards receiving. Joseph Addai (pace for 1400-1500 yards) is comparable to Corey Dillon (1635).

Manning was brutally bad - and the argument that the Colts O line is banged up. The Patriots were starting former Tampa Bay practice squader Russ Hochstein whom Warren Sapp famously said couldn't block Tony Kornheieser. The team started corners Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland, and used wide-out Troy Brown as their nickel corner. In spite of losing weapons to an injured defense, losing protection (line-men), and losing Ben Watson for all but one game of the season, the Brady never looked as bad as Manning did yesterday.

I think we have our answer as to who does the most to elevate his team to the next level.


Teresa said...

What I think this loss proves is how bad the Chargers really are. We throw you 6 interceptions, miss two fieldgoals and give up two runbacks for TDs and you beat us by 2?? If that would have happened in almost any other game, the score would have been 40+. I think the Colts will be fine as long as we can get healthy. We had 14 players dressed for offense last night--counting the Harvard RB and Sorgi. Not much to work with.

Kevin Smith said...

They still suited up a receiver that's considered better than any the Pats were suiting up during their last SB run, and a tight end considered a better receiving tight end. The Pats got a start out of Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland got significant playing time against a Rams team that was pass happy - and still decent passing the ball - because Asante Samuel went down.

Linebacker Don Davis was playing safety. Troy Brown had three tackles and a pass defended on defense. I didn't even mention the rookie center or the guard (Steven Neal) who had been nothing more than a practice squad player until that year and hadn't even played college football.

It's the GM's job to make sure there's enough depth to withstand this sort of thing. It's the coaching staff's job to make sure that the players are in place to avoid two big run backs, and it's the quarterback's job to make good decisions. If Manning makes good decisions (and several of those picks were brutally bad), this is a Colts win.

I don't deny that the Chargers are bad. As a matter of fact, that backs up my point - Manning thrwe the ball to the (now ranked) 25th pass defense in the league.

My point, however, is that Brady was able to win with what was considered substandard personnel. This, in fact, is the first season he has had a receiver that scouts would refer to as a true number one. In 2004 the Pats only had three receivers that suited up for 12 games or more - Troy Brown (12). David Givens (15), Bethel Johnson (13), David Patten (16). Of them, Only Patten and Givens had more than 40 catches.

While I think that Manning is indeed a talented quarterback, I don't think he makes the talent around him better - I think Brady does. I think you can look at both players' early career and see that - the Colts didn't improve until they drafted Edgerin James. Where as on the Patriots, you can see the entire team lifted their level of play when Brady started playing.

1st year's starting-

Brady -
11-4 taking over for a 5-11 team. 63.9% completions

Manning -
3-13 taking over for a 3-13 team. 56.7% completions.

Announcers regularly attach the words Hall of Fame to Marvin Harrison, James (while he was there), Tarik Glenn and it's even begun to come up for Reggie Wayne from time to time. Which of the Patriots weapons received that distinction from 2001-2006? Corey Dillon and who else?

David Sullivan said...

Last year the Pats had no secondary, no receivers and a flu bug that 3/4 of the team was fighting when they barely lost to the Colts. You did not hear one Patriot blame any of the above for the loss. Brady didn't even get props for having no #1 receivers and barely a number 2 and still managing to get them one game from the Super Bowl. Manning, on the other hand, has shown that without his perennial All-Pro's Clark and Harrison that he is worth six interceptions and erratic throws.

Why is Brady able to win without any receivers, but Manning gets pummeled? Brady is better. Without his safety net of Clark he was forcing balls in left and right. This is the same Manning that was considered a disappoinment his first few years in Indy before the team got a good "D" and a stable of great offensive players. Its eassy to be good with all the talent surrounding you as evidenced by Brady's play this year. The true measure of greatness is can you get the job done with less than top of the line weapons. Brady won three Super Bowls with the likes of JR Redmon, Jermaine Wiggins, David Patten, David Givens, Deion Branch and Troy Brown.

Why can Manning use the injury excuse and the Pats couldn't? Manning is the face of the NFL and has been since he came into the league. He was the annointed, next great QB and until last year almost made the NFL marketers look foolish. Brady, on the other hand, came out of no where and won without the fanfare, so he doesn't need the adulation to validate himself as a player. His validation is the rings he collects. Peyton has been lucky to have WMD's at his disposal. Lets see how he plays with the tables turned and he has to rely on Kenton Keith, Bryan Fletcher, Ben Utecht and Craphonso Thorpe. I think we got a taste last night.

Teresa said...

It doesn't matter what I say or how I say, you two are going to find a way to turn it around as a contest between Brady and Manning. :) I really don't see the point. They are both very talented QB's. Brady has more rings, Peyton has more records. Brady isn't even close in career completions, yards or TDs. They are both professional and respectful of each others' play.

People here really don't dislike Brady. They only dislike because he is good. And, they respect that. And everyone outside of the East Coast respects that about Manning.

As for depth, even the backups, backups are hurt. I don't think anyone used that excuse last night on the team. Sure they miss them, but they still have to play. And when backups come in, that has always been a time for someone new to shine. I believe that is how Tom Brady became a starter, yes?

Just as a side note, there is another QB out there that is also very good--with a ring, three MVP's, a boat load of records and an 8-1 record. He'll beat them both to the Hall.

Have a great day!!

Kevin Smith said...

Don't get me wrong - I think Manning is a highly talented, top notch quarterback. I just always found it interesting that all the pundits put him ahead of Brady when talking about how good each one was - always failing to mention that Manning has always been surrounded by other just about sure-fire hall of famers (2 wide-outs, 2 running backs if you include Marshall Faulk, at least one tackle) while putting up his big numbers. Who has Brady had? One good season with Corey Dillon? A left tackle that made the pro-bowl for the first time in his career last season as an alternate? Until this season, name a wide-out that the Pats had that would even be considered the match of Reggie Wayne. Most scouts would argue that the Pats wideouts since 2001 were more like a stable of Brandon Stokelys.

I haven't seen anything in his career that has convinced me that Manning could have done it with the likes of Givens, Reche Caldwell, and David Patten, or even Deion Branch (really, these guys were either no ones before coming to the team, or became non-factors after leaving).

That said - I agree about Favre. The man has done more with less throughout his career than any quarterback I can think of. If I was to rank the QB's in the game right now, I'd say Favre, Brady, Manning, in that order.

David Sullivan said...

I ain't mad at cha Teresa!

I am mostly talking about the media and NFL's marketing machine's buildup of Manning. Its unfair for him to have to live up to the hype and frankly I think its great that Brady doesn't have the pressure of having to produce. That said Brady has never gotten the recognition for doing more with less and Peyton hasn't been tested with having less than adequate talent as Brady has.

As far as stats, Manning has been in the league for three more years than Brady and if Brady has three more seasons like this then the stats gap will close significantly.

chris said...

great write up. What's the controversy? Of course Brady's better. And he whines less too.

Kelly said...

Just something to consider-

If you give Brady the extra time that Manning has had in the league, add that to the new talent he has at receiver, I bet he's going to be breaking some of those records that Manning holds... then he'll have both that and the championships.

Manning is a good quarterback, no doubt, but Brady is far superior.

eric said...

this is one of those discussions that could go on forever, and Indy fans will all say one thing and Patriot fans will all say something else, so a discussion involving those two parties will never result in anything productive as far as making points worthy of changing someone else's mind. From an outsiders perspective, not being a fan of either, I have always thought that Peyton Manning was the greater of the two quarterbacks. Sure he has had some bigger names around him, but to me that doesn't mean all that much for two reasons. While Brady never had the big names, he always had good well-coached teams, and you don't need great players to be a great team, you need great team players and great coaches to be a great team. It is kindof easy right now for Pats fans to pick on Manning vs. Brady right now because Manning is having the worst year of his career and Brady is having the best of his career. I would say that any team would be blessed to have either of these two guys as their quarterback, and these are two of the best of all time, along-side the likes of Favre(who was mentioned). Great teams can't be great without great quarterbacks. Great quarterbacks on great teams can make players around them great. With that said, I have always contended that if I had Randy Moss on my team, I would just drop back and throw bombs all day long knowing he was going to come down with the majority of them. Obviously that is not exactly how it works, but right now you have two GREAT players together on a GREAT team and this is what happens.

David Sullivan said...

Eric: You obviously are an outsider to the rivalry because you are just spouting off the national media's claim over the past 5 years that Manning is a great quarterback and Brady plays in a great system. Manning has the pedigree and Brady is a mutt. Any quarterback could excel in the Patriots offense and Manning has overcome poor coaching and game planning.

All I can say is at the end of this season when Brady has the TD record, passing record and a forth Super Bowl ring and we have rolls of videotape with Manning grimacing and poutng will it be that Indy's Super Bowl was a fluke or will it be that the Patriots will finally get the recognition that they have deserved for going on five years? Will Brady be the quarterback against how all other quarterbacks are judged?

Does everyone outside of Indy and NE remember that before last year Manning was considered a loser and not a big game player? The NFL sooo wants Manning to be THE guy because of his media appeal.

Who is the greater quarterback Marino or Montana? Most would say Montana. Marino had better numbers, was a better passer, but Montana had a better game under pressure and was a winner.

Manning is a great quarterback, just don't call him the greatest when you have a guy with more wins in the playoffs and two more rings playing at the same time.

Manning may or may not be a better passer, Brady IS the better quarterback.

Kevin Smith said...

Eric - ask yourself this: Why is Manning having a substandard year? The reason is because he doesn't have the tools around him that he had in the past. Brady has always played like that. Are you saying then that Dungy isn't really that good a coach? And that Manning has overcome poor coaching to be a great quarterback? That is what it sounds like -

"Sure he has had some bigger names around him, but to me that doesn't mean all that much for two reasons. While Brady never had the big names, he always had good well-coached teams, and you don't need great players to be a great team, you need great team players and great coaches to be a great team."

For the first time in his career Brady has the same sort of weapons at receiver that Manning has had through his entire career and Brady is on pace to shatter each of Manning's single season records. Is that because he has talent around him, or because he's on a well coached team?

Talent means nothing if the team isn't well coached - look a the Bengals. They've got a QB generally acknowledged to be one of the three or four best in the league, what is considered to be one of the most talented wide receiving corps in the NFL, a top ten running back, and a defense peppered with first round draft picks. Talent hasn't gotten them very far.

As for "he's had some bigger names around him" -

Tarik Glenn, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison have been mentioned with the words "future Hall of Famer" by announcers during games. As have Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James. Dallas Clark has been called one of the best pass catching tight ends in the game, and Brandon Stokley, while with the team, was considered one of the top slot receivers out there. Tell me another team in the league that has had a line-up since 2000 that matches that.

Like I said - I'm not saying Manning isn't a great QB, he has the numbers to prove that he is. I just haven't seen anything that shows me that he makes his teammates better.

And if it really were just about the coaching in New England, than why all the comments (from the pundits) about how lost the team would be without Brady? It's gotta be more than just the coaching for that to be a concern - otherwise you could plug anyone in there and it would work.

eric said...

if your measure of greatness of a quarterback is who won the most championships then Trent Dilfer is better than Marino in your book. While you are obviously not making that claim, there is more to it than that, and different peoples measures of "great" for a single player can be weighted more by different elements (winning, stats, game management, leadership). Like I said, I believe that Brady has always been on great teams, Manning has also been on some great teams. These guys are both great quarterbacks, and I will take any one of them any day of the week. I honestly believe that Brady has historically been on the better teams despite the lack of big names surrounding him. I think that these guys can probably be debated every which way but Sunday on who is better, and to discredit someone else's opinion of being "better" regarding these two is foolish

eric said...

I agree Kevin that is absolutely why he is having a sub-standard year. I also believe however that Manning is a good part of the reason that these guys are potential HOF's... I honestly believe that Manning makes players around him better to an extend, as they do the same for him. This year that has been nipped in the bud some, but I don't think you can look back at any Quarterbacks career and not say, "hey look, here are a few games where things didn't go so hot for this guy". Look at Brett Favre, he has had some real down years in there. We could go on about this forever, I completely understand your points, I just don't think it's THAT easy to say that Brady is better. I think a completely legitimate case can be made for either.

Kevin Smith said...

Look, I'm not trying to discredit opinions, but I am trying to spark debate - and the great thing about sports is that it provides empirical evidence with which to make arguments. I have to agree with David, you sound like you're spouting off the line that has been forced down our throats by the national media for the last seven years. What's the evidence to support that it was just coaching in Brady's case?

If that were really true, why wouldn't the Pats save money at the position and keep plugging in someone new when the QB came up for a new contract? We saw what happened when Matt Cassel came into the game in Miami. It wasn't pretty.

Manning still has a better number one receiver in Wayne than Brady had at anytime previous to this year, a better running back than Brady had - except for in Dillon's first year with the team, an equivalent or better tight end in Utecht to anything Brady had previous to 2005. His O-line is no worse off than the Pats line was in 2004, and still Manning was brutally bad against a Chargers team that couldn't muster 200 yards in offense. If he adjusts, I'll give him all the credit in the world and I will put him and Brady neck and neck - but the empirical evidence, right now, bears out that he really isn't quite as good.

eric said...

well I actually wasn't directing a comment towards you regarding discrediting my opinion. That particular comment was actually directed at the other guy. He really wasn't discrediting me either, but certainly the general stance of "how could you think that?!?!" does not apply here because we are talking about two of the best.

The bottom line for me is I think both of these guys are capable of getting it done almost anywhere (I do believe that some teams will make ANY quarterback look bad). Manning is entitled to his occasional slump and Brady can get all of the accolades in the world... he deserves them. I am not saying that Brady is one of the best just becaue of good coaching, I am saying though that in my humble opinion, Brady has been the benefit of being apart of overall better teams than Manning(which includes coaching). Does Brady have a lot to do with them being such a great team? Absolutely. He is a HUGE part of that, in fact the biggest part of it.

At the end of the day, I just like Peyton Mannings commercials so he gets the nod from me :)

David Sullivan said...

I'll reiterate that the reason why we are having this debate is because the national media and NFL has made Manning the poster boy and Brady is rarely mentioned in the upper eschelon of players in the league. When you watch the NFL pre game shows (with the exception of ESPN) its all about Dwight Freeny, Bob Sanders, Peyton Manning etc...but the Patriots are viewed as a team without individual stars. I guess its there own fault because they were introduced as a team in the 2002 Super Bowl.

Maybe this year Brady can get some individual an MVP!

Kevin Smith said...

Sorry, blogger freaked, but the following was left -

eric has left a new comment on your post "Pats spend off-weekend relaxing, Shula calls bye t...":

I agree Kevin that is absolutely why he is having a sub-standard year. I also believe however that Manning is a good part of the reason that these guys are potential HOF's... I honestly believe that Manning makes players around him better to an extend, as they do the same for him. This year that has been nipped in the bud some, but I don't think you can look back at any Quarterbacks career and not say, "hey look, here are a few games where things didn't go so hot for this guy". Look at Brett Favre, he has had some real down years in there. We could go on about this forever, I completely understand your points, I just don't think it's THAT easy to say that Brady is better. I think a completely legitimate case can be made for either.
That's fine - however, until this past weekend, when has Manning had to work with the likes of Reche Caldwell, and Jabar Gaffney, or David Givens and David Patten as his top targets? Show me when he's done that and I'll agree with you whole heartedly, but he's NEVER done it. He has always had talent around him, and he looked horrible last week with what was still more talent at wide-out than what Brady was doing it with in 2004. Scouts have said that Wayne would be a number one receiver on other teams (and has already put up better numbers than the Pats best receiver from that year). Utecht is considered a better receiving tight end than Graham was, there's a drop-off for the Colts at two, but Moorehead, Keith, Addai, and Fletcher are all improvements over the three and four spots for the Pats that year - and Manning still has at least as good a line in front of him as Brady had then.

Unless he shows some success against a few winning clubs with the talent he has around him now, then, no, I don't think he elevates the level of play of those around him. I think what he will have shown is that he can use great tools well, but not that he elevates their level of play.