"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) --
With all the money that the NFL has one would think, maybe, as with the sport of horse racing, that there is a farm out there somewhere, one where the trees are laden with footballs growing on their limbs and the pastures have yard markers from one end to the other. A stud farm for quarterbacks that belong strolling and grazing meadows, foraging for press clipping of their moments in the sun...for those that actually earned and enjoyed them.
|Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb slaps hands with a fan as he leaves the field following the team's 47-17 win over the Green Bay Packers. Philadelphia fans are expecting nothing less than a trip to the Super Bowl.|
The season is almost over and what has been undeniably established is that the Philadelphia Eagles improved their team to Super Bowl participation potential at a time when the rest of the NFC embraced mediocrity as though Angelina Jolie had just entered the locker room and offered herself to the worst of the lot. All, save the happily wed to his wife and team Donovan McNabb, fought over who would get to her first.
The crop of quarterbacks presiding over teams that were supposed to be battling the Eagles for the NFC crown is not even adequate or tolerable. It pains one to watch them on the field. Most would gain greater respect by returning their paychecks. The standard has become bland and unnotable. If timing is everything, the Eagles had to possess a crystal ball. Are they good? Yes, they are good. Do they have competition? About as much as Catherine Zeta-Jones would have in a beauty contest.
There is a battle in the AFC, where there are quarterbacks with talent, a competitive fire in their hearts and abilities beyond the wildest dreams of the combatants in the NFC. That is where the drama leading up to the Super Bowl, with all due respect to the Eagles, is being played out right now.
New England has Tom Brady and the Patriots only had one hurdle to solve heading into the final weeks -- how to stop the running game of the Steelers, if they encounter them on the way to Jacksonville. Speaking of the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger is doing what no rookie before him has ever done and is having the time of his life. The fans adore him, the media loves him, his teammates respect him and Pittsburgh seems able to overcome a secondary that is not the greatest we have ever seen since the NFL came into being, while the defensive line does what it has to do to put another "W" in the column.
Peyton Manning, the "machine," will keep Indianapolis in every game and demolish his opponents in most of them. Meanwhile, everyone keeps questioning the defense of the Colts. When you have the best and fastest gun in town do you really have to worry about ducking bullets from the other guys heading up to the OK Corral? Not right now. But, heading over to Gillette Stadium or Heinz Field when you can freeze your tush off, not to mention your fingers, and the snow might be falling all around you, is a definite minus. If they can manage to keep Manning warm when he gets hot, the Steelers and Patriots will have to concentrate on defense, defense, defense.
Donovan McNabb is good but not as good as the three above right now. OK, he is as good as, or better than, Roethlisberger. Calm down. But, he has gone from good to very good and beyond with all sorts of new weapons from the supply store, both offensively and defensively. The game has become more than enjoyable for the boys from the City of Brotherly Love...it is almost laughable. The folks in Philadelphia just might have their trip to the Super Bowl in 2005, finally. Only their team can blow it. No one in the NFC can stop them right now.
|Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning is on the verge of setting the all-time single-season touchdown record for a QB (currently held by Dan Marino).|
Go figure Atlanta. The Falcons have been doing it with mirrors and Tampa Bay shattered those this past weekend. An already suspect secondary was undressed and Michael Vick still has an offensive line that either allows a ton of sacks or forces him to look like a bank robber with no visible means of escape, one whose driver has left the scene at the sound of sirens approaching. Nice record for the season but not much more. Vick is allowed to stay out of the pasture.
The biggest surprise in the NFL, NFC or AFC, is the San Diego Chargers, where Drew Brees, ready to take a legitimate position in the work place of business somewhere, has found a continuity of life in football. They have an offensive line put together with chewing gum and Scotch tape with a secondary that is prone to underperform. But, they can hear Marlon Brando?s voice shouting, "I [am] a contender!! Charlie, I [am] a contender!" Yes, they are.
Quincy Carter is simply not an NFL quarterback but the Jets will start to give opponents fits with Chad Pennington back at the helm. Despite a garden variety secondary, Pennington has the ability to keep New York in the game and not play down to the level of their opponents, as they did with Carter at the helm. Send Quincy out to graze.
Weeks ago I would have said that Daunte Culpepper is a keeper, a guy that can keep pace with the best of them. That was weeks ago. His supporting cast is nothing to write home about, weak line-backing corps, no pass rush and an inability to put anyone away. Whatever talent Culpepper has, it is best suited to the North Forty. Crushed at home by the Giants, squeaking by Detroit and losing in Chicago? Mooooo!
Denver is the yo-yo team of the west. How do you lose to Oakland and Kerry Collins at home, snowstorm or not? Chump, whoops...Champ Bailey was as naked as anyone ever seen on the gridiron. They are a weak team and the Broncos have a sorry pass rush to complement the inept secondary. Jake Plummer has to be Houdini reincarnate to take this team anywhere but skiing in a few weeks.
Defense might win games but the Baltimore Ravens are proving that it is not enough. Kyle Boller is a high school level quarterback whose offensive line has been ravaged by injuries. Make Boller is the youngest pony at the farm but he does not belong in the NFL. The guess here is that he will not be the starter next season, if he is still on the team.
Has Brett Favre had it despite his record of games played? Probably not but, after watching the debacle against the Eagles this past weekend, the team?s defensive coordinator should definitely have answered any and all ads for McDonald?s counter personnel. Embarrassing is being kind. Yes, they would have lost anyway but an NFL caliber team did not show up. Favre stays for another year but he cannot do it with a defense that plays like an elevator and a talented running back, Ahman Green, that thinks fumbling is part of the game.
Byron Leftwich is one of the young breed that is here to stay and Jacksonville will be a contender next year if they develop a running game behind Fred Taylor. A better pass rush on defense might not hurt either. As for this year, the best they are guaranteed are good seats for the big dance.
|Jaguars' quarterback Byron Leftwich is a solid young leader for Jacksonville.|
Seattle is a press clipping team. They read about themselves in the pre-season and determined that all they had to do is show up. The problem is that they did not. Coach Mike Holmgren will be blamed (as coaches always are) and Matt Hasselbeck was last seen at Home Depot purchasing super glue for his receivers to put on their fingers. Put that together with a porous secondary (no pun intended re the glue) and Hasselbeck has had it.
Marc Bulger is trying to guide a team, St. Louis, whose offensive and defensive lines are among the worst in the league. Tough job, like building a house without a structural support. These folks are playing out the string and Bulger is already purchasing tickets to Europe for himself and his family that are good on the day the last game is over.
Tom Coughlin blew it in New York. It is one thing to sell the store for Eli Manning but the name does not necessarily bring the talent and how tough would it have been to tell Kurt Warner to: (a) Tuck the ball in, (b) Don?t hold it so long, (c) Throw it out of bounds, (d) Do not run when there is no place to run, (e) Throw it faster, (f) Become more of a leader? Instead, the Giants are having tryouts for Manning in December without an offensive line and no Michael Strahan to lead the defensive charge. This team imploded, Coughlin is to blame, Warner will become an analyst at the pasture and Manning is two years away.
On to the one-liners, starting with David Carr at Houston, where his good looks do not help the youngest secondary in the NFL and the absence of a running game is not geared to any offensive stability. Carr takes the Texans nowhere, not for years. A name like Carson Palmer belongs on a plantation in the south not in the NFL on a team that is among the worst in the NFL against the run and doesn?t do much better in the pass rush department. Cinci has its moments but Palmer does not have enjoy many of them. Buffalo is on a hot streak complemented by some good fortune, as they experienced against Miami, but Drew Bledsoe is doing it behind an offensive line that cannot block to save their own lives, no less that of their quarterback. A coach, Hall of Fame credentials or not, cannot make a team that does not have the talent. Bill Parcells cannot do an impression of George Foreman and make cooking a simple thing. Also, the lead chef, Vinny Testaverde, is not the Emeril of the NFL and Dallas made a mistake believing Drew Henson can be the quarterback of the future or today. They are a team with a disaster for a secondary and their practice time looks more and more like a refuge for the aged.
Tennessee is trying to find itself but does not know where to look. That means that the talents of Steve McNair are wasted. Add a defensive line that is not strong, a season riddled by injuries and McNair might be asking to be let out of his contract to go and pursue a contender. Kerry Collins has always been awful and that did not change in Oakland regardless of the win in Denver. This time he cannot find heart or courage with a free pass to the Wizard of Oz. Collins is bad enough on his own but without a running game to offset his own inefficiencies? Forget it. He should have stopped playing in New York. The Raiders are desperate. Carolina has a legitimate quarterback at the helm in Jake Delhomme but not many positive things are going to happen for the Panthers when they are without the services of folks like RB Stephen Davis, WR Steve Smith and DT Kris Jenkins. Jake will better his golf game very soon.
Arizona is just bad. The Cardinals figure to go with Josh McCown and ask Shaun King and John Navarre if they really want to continue in the NFL, particularly behind an offensive line that wants to see them hurt. The Saints have the worst overall defense in the league and Aaron Brooks at quarterback is certainly not the man to offset that for New Orleans. Early retirement might be in his best interests.
As a side note, it is interesting to observe how Major League Baseball teams trade every month, week, day, hour, minute. The NBA is close behind, NHL follows suit to a degree and the NFL relies solely on the draft, contract expiration, free agency and folks like Terrell Owens dictating where they want to play. In other words, you play the game with the players you were dealt and pray for help from the annual draft. Consequently, the leaders stay at the front of the pack and those that fall behind remain there for years. It is the way of NFL and they will never change.
Craig Krenzel is not the quarterback of the future in Chicago and the Bears are relegated to an occasional upset (as with Minnesota this past weekend) for years to come. Getting paid to hold a clipboard seems to be the future of Chad Hutchinson who might be better served to use those smarts garnered at Stanford to start some high tech company. Vikes made them look good. Offensively, they flat out stink. Speaking of offense, meet the new power house in the neighborhood, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite major injuries and a seemingly suspicious running game, they have coupled their defense, albeit a little too late this year, with the ability to put points up on the board. They will be in the hunt next season. Brian Griese stays. I cannot entertain Joey Harrington as a legitimate threat to anyone playing against the Detroit Lions. The lack of a running game makes him a passer and that simply does not work. Another "not to be" for the next five years, minimum.
Trent Green is simply bad. Turnovers make him look even worse and Kansas City has a defense that is a sieve. Time to revamp the entire team going into next season. Jeff Garcia showed some talent in San Francisco and has to believe leaving there was the best thing he ever did. Cleveland will battle every game it can and has to improve upon its corps of receivers for Garcia while beefing up the offensive line. Kelly Holcomb will not play unless Garcia gets hurt, by the other team or a sucker punch delivered by Holcomb in the locker room. The Redskins beat the Giants this week and think that made them a team. Wrong! They are bad, Joe Gibbs will not change that, nor will Patrick Ramsey calling signals behind a terrible offensive line. No winning seasons coming, no playoffs and a Super Bowl is nothing more than dream. Miami can live in the past and have Don Shula come by to tell stories of the glory years but that is about it. A.J. Feeley single-handedly lost the game to Buffalo on Sunday, and the Dolphins have offensive/defensive line players that couldn't start in NFL Europe or Arena League. How does Feeley find a new team in the off-season? The worst team in years in the NFL is the San Francisco Forty-Niners and Tim Rattay could not compete on most high school teams. As a matter of fact, this team?s average age is about that of your son?s, brother?s or nephew?s high school senior class. Rattay should really leave now before it is too late and see if there is a place for younger guys at the farm.
Such is the state of things in the NFL. Lots of quarterbacks and teams that are ordinary, undistinguished and basically blah. Occasionally, there is a Pittsburgh/Jacksonville game or San Diego/Denver. Not often. No matter how loud and often the NFL blares its trumpets, the level of play ranks right up there with the color commentator who, this weekend on national TV, referred to a player as being "shooken" up. Is that like freshly "squozen" orange juice?
There are as many good teams in the NFL today as there are fingers on one of your hands. Go ahead...think, figure it out, review every one of them and make your own decision. Right now, it is all a matter of who will play Philadelphia in the Super Bowl and that is up to New England, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis to decide. What about next year? You gotta be kidding!