Friday, December 05, 2008

Take me, take me to the movies

Okay, here's the pitch...

A championship caliber team, riddled with injuries, is in danger of missing the playoffs for only the second time in eight seasons. What does the team do? No, they don't throw the waterboy out there. They don't do some hair-brained thing like rumble off the field with the league bullies to make them come together as a team.


They bring back the grizzled veteran - the guy who everybody thought was done. Tough as nails, old school, the guy shows the young guys the right way to play, and is the impetus for the team's playoff run.

I'm sure that's what the Patriots are hoping for with the likelihood that 39-year old Junior Seau likely to be back in the fold today.

I do see this in movie terms, but I see this as one of the two following...

Bill Belichick and Dean Pees as John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd respectively, standing in Rosevelt Colvin's living room earlier this week wearing sunglasses and pork pie hats while telling Colvin, "we're puttin' the band back together."


Belchick with his head shaved, a-la Yul Brynner, and Pees looking like Steve McQueen...maybe Scott Pioli is McQueen and Pees is the ineffective, impotent Robert Vaughn in the magnificent seven as Brynner assembles the team. Offhand, I guess that makes Jerrod Mayo the young hot-head played by Horst Buchholz, Tedy Bruschi is somehow the Mexican/Irish gunslinger played by Charles Bronson, Rosy Colvin as the money happy Harry Luck, and Mike Vrabel in the roll of Britt, as played by James Coburn. Right now, the rest of the team is pretty much the villagers.

Yeah, it would be nice if it all played out like the Magnificent Seven. Sure, not many of them were left in the end (which also sounds like the Pats linebacking corps), but they won.

At this point, I make no assumptions regarding the team's final record, but I'm guessing if the team is signing Seau that the injury to Bruschi's knee is worse than initially reported. Signing Seau gives the team five healthy 'backers - along with Vrabel, Mayo, Gary Guyton, and Colvin. I think that Bruschi will see snaps against the Seahawks this weekend, but no more than Seau will.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Race relations?

I don't know if race figures into this or not, but the more I see what's happening with Charlie Weiss at Notre Dame, the more I'm seeing s definitive double standard with the school's handling of Weiss when taken against the background of how they handled Ty Willingham.

Speaking of potential race issues, with Michael Vick back in the news for the state dog fighting charges and the upstart UFL announcing they have a place for Vick, all the idiots are crawling out of the woodwork. The ones that are yelling for the NFL to take him back, and the others that the way Vick was treated smacks of racism.

Whether the NFL takes Vick back or not is their business - however, as much as people will want to scream racism if they don't, the decision will be based on business, pure and simple. It is not in the NFL's best interest to have fans walking past protesters at games where Vick will be, bringing their children past photos of abused animals. Vick has, in essence, made himself an unmarketable commodity, and unless he becomes a very vocal spokesman for animal rights, he will continue to be a very unmarketable commodity.

Beyond that, with the NFL, there's a league with roughly 3,000 players, 70 percent of which are black. I have a hunch that the vast majority of them don't believe they've been the victims of racism from the league.

As for the government, I would be surprised if they gave a rats ass whether Vick was black, white, or plaid. The bottom line is he broke the law, federal law, and the government actually gave him a sentence that was light considering the statute.

I can't say for sure whether or not Vick will get a chance to play in the NFL again. The UFL might be a step in that direction, but there are a number of things Vick will have to overcome to be a quarterback in the NFL again and rehabilitating his image is only the first step.

In light of Matt Ryan's success with a team that has been Vick's, Vick is going to need to show that he can be an effective leader. Given the fact that he had teammates that questioned his commitment to the game, putting into question his abilities as a leader, he has his work cut out for him.

In a year in which we could be seeing as many as 13 coaching changes, who are the potential coaches of the year?

If the Patriots make it to the playoffs and do better than one and done, Bill Belichick will get some consideration, but he's likely not the most deserving. Nor is Tom Coughlin, who will get consideration as well for guiding the Giants to an impressive record following their Super Bowl season. Jeff Fisher will get some serious consideration as well, but for my money, these need to be the top candidates -

Mike Smith - The Atlanta Falcons first year coach has been doing more with less this season than any of the above. He's got a team that was decimated last season by the Vick issue, and the whole coaching fiasco. He's doing it with the arm of a rookie quarterback, the hands of a rookie receiver, and the legs of a free-agent career back-up running back. Those were the big additions in the off-season. He's already doubled the team's win total from last season (4), and, barring a meltdown in the final four games, will make double digits and have a legitimate shot at 12 wins.

John Harbaugh - The rookie coach of the Baltimore Ravens has done something that supposed offensive guru Brian Billick was never able to do during his entire tenure in Baltimore: install a working offense (11th), with a rookie QB who's putting up solid numbers. Harbaugh, however, inherited a talented defense, more talented than the one Mike Smith inherited. The Ravens have the hardest road over the last four games with the Skins, Steelers, Jags, and Cowboys over the final four weeks of the season.

Tony Sparano - The Dolphins actually still have a shot at the division one season after going 1-15. Like Smith, Sparano took over a train wreck of a team, well, THE train wreck of a team and has them at 7-5. The idea that this is a team that could feasibly win 11 games one year removed from a season in which they flirted with going winless is amazing. Honestly, as much as I dislike the Dolphins, if the Patriots drop two of their next four, I'm hoping the 'Phins and Jets go into week 17 tied if for no other reason than to see Chad Pennington outplay Brett Favre.

That said, I still want to see the Pats beat out the Jets and 'Phins. However, whether the 'Phins make the post-season or not, Sparano deserves serious consideration.

For my money, right now, the horse race for COY looks like this -

1A. Sparano

1B. Smith

2. Harbaugh

3. Fisher

4. Coughlin

5. Belichick

6. Zorn (dependent on whether or not the team continues its recent struggles, or gets it together for a playoff run, he could move up or off the list).

On a final note - Victor Hobson signed with the Bengals, ending any speculation that he will rejoin the Patriots this season.

News, notes and the weekend's meltdown

I'm going to start with Sunday's fiasco.

It was a complete clusterf#@k.

From top to bottom, this was an almost epic failure by the team. Yes, there were two blatant pass interferences missed by Ed Hochuli's crew, but that would have been irrelevant were it not for the the dropped passes, the missed blocks, the muffed kick returns, and the blown coverages.

Yes, Cassel had a bad game, throwing several interceptions, but he was hardly the goat of the game. Two drives ended with blind side strip sacks courtesy Matt Light being tossed around like he weighed one-hundred pounds, giving the Steelers short fields to work with. One drive never started because Matthew Slater coughed up the ball on the Patriots 20 on a kick-off. Then there was Randy Moss dropping three catchable passes - one in the endzone before a missed field goal attempt.

And that was just the offense and special teams.

That doesn't even take into account the fact the defense couldn't get off the field unless they were aided and abetted by the Pittsburgh offense.

Overall, the only player that I can't fault from this past weekend's travesty of a game is Kevin Faulk who accounted for 121 yards of the team's total offensive output of 267 yards. Almost half.

After this travesty, the Patriots are likely going to need to run the table in order to make the playoffs, and even that won't guarantee them a spot as they now have to rely on others to lose.

At this point, however, I'm convinced that even if they do make the big dance, they're going to be done after only one partner.

Hopefully the latest news will help a defense that ha been brutal the last couple of weeks -

On Wednesday the Patriots welcomed linebacker Rosevelt Colvin back to the fold. Colvin, who inked a one year deal with the Patriots, will help to shore up a depleted linebacking corps that now has injuries to Adalius Thomas, Bo Rudd, Shawn Crable, Eric Alexander, and Pierre Woods, and is playing with an injured Tedy Bruschi. Theoretically, if Colvin can get up to game speed, he should also help with the team's lackluster pass rush, which in turn will aid the inexperienced secondary which has been getting carved up as late.

Word is the Patriots have contacted Victor Hobson as well, who was with the Patriots in training camp. With Colvin in the fold, I think Hobson is unlikely to join the team, but it would not surprise me if he did, considering Bruschi is listed as questionable on the injury list.

Trading on the Gridiron for a walk in the Park

As the Red Sox are taking a deliberate approach to shaping the roster for 2009 - exploring trades, feeling out free agents, and offering arbitration - the Yankees are aggressively pursuing free agents like CC Sabathia, offering the pitcher a 6-year $140 million contract roughly two weeks ago.

Curiously, there has been no movement from the Sabathia camp, which begs several questions - Is he waiting to see if Mark Texiera signs with the Sox, freeing up money for a big contract from the Angels? Is he looking for more money? Or is it possible he just doesn't want to play in New York?

If the issue is the last, it begs the question of how effect the Sox chief rivals are going to be - if the big free agents are spurning the money because they don't believe they can win in the Bronx, what does that mean for the Yankees in 2009? Are we looking at a team that will truly have to give in to the philosophy of rebuilding, or is there any chance tat they will be able to buy their way into...well, being competitive as in past years? If that's the case, then what are we looking at? A team that has shifted from overpaying for highly talented players just past their prime, to a team overpaying for mediocre middle of the road players in the prime of their careers (see Nick Swisher).

While I'm not convinced it's happening yet, it is interesting to think we might be witnessing the death rattle of what had been one of the most dominant professional franchises in North America over the last decade and a half (when championships and post-season appearances are considered). If this is happening (and until Sabathia spurns the offer, I'm not sure it really is happening) after the first season in which they missed the playoffs in more than a decade, it makes me wonder if the Yankees, even with all that cash at their disposal, are going to be able to buy their way back into contention any time soon, or if they really are going to have to build from within.

From the Park to the Garden...

Two quick final items...

The Celtics are looking like they're still hungry. So far the team seems to have picked up where they left off after their championship season. I can't say for sure that they are going back to the finals again, it's early for that, but they certainly look like they're favorites to make it back. Even so, I think the Pacers and the Hawks look tougher this season than they did last.

Over on the ice the Bruins are looking pretty good, but they looked good early last season as well. With any luck, they keep the good play up and go deep in the playoffs.

For years they have either been a just miss, or a one and done team. With recent championships from the Sox, Pats, and C's, I think the pressure is on the Bruins to perform.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Plaxico in the only news that counts...