None of the remaining unbeatens will run the table
Posted: Friday October 17, 2003 4:36PM; Updated: Friday October 17, 2003 5:28PM
Well, folks, Jimmy's the star of the show this week. Remember that guy from Canada who wanted to pay me off because he got some air time in the mailbag? And I told him Jimmy was the guy to send the dough to, not me? Well, I've started something, as I usually do when I'm trying to be, ugh, funny. He now directs his e-mail to Jimbo and wants a mailing address where he can send his $10 (Canadian). Dear Kip of London, Ont.: This has gone far enough. We can't be bought, see. At least not for a measly 10 bucks. I mean not at any price. Take that tenner and go to the bakery and treat the house to a nice plate of Persians and crullers (I know about Canadian things like these because the Redhead and I were in Thunder Bay last February).
OK, OK, I can hear the yawns already. What shall we talk about now? Football? Sure, I can do that.
First up is Aaron of Cleveland, Tenn., who begins with a compliment. Now that's the way to get us off to a good start, and thank you. Question: Of the trio of unbeatens (Minnesota, Carolina and Kansas City), will any of them go 16-0? No. These teams are OK but not really special, not really that far above some of the other good ones. To accomplish something that's never been done (I mean the 16-0, not the perfect season), you must have the mantle of greatness, and I don't see it in any of these clubs.
To balance off Aaron, the nice guy, we have Chip, an aggressive chap from Binghamton, N.Y. (when I was a kid I went on a tour of the shoe factory there), who gets me searching for my war bonnet right away with the comment, "I guess this is just the way it goes with the media..." (which he claims is all too ready to jump on the K.C. bandwagon). The media mention is a rather sneering reference to creepy, front-running types that include ESPN and FOX, (yeah, I'll agree with you on those two) "and even you to a certain extent," the you meaning me, poor old me, your faithful narrator who doesn't cop out, who admits when he's wrong, etc. What's the beef? I am accused of getting all gaga about the Chiefs and failing, along with the other media idiots, to see their faults. Man, I just love it when I get ripped by someone who hasn't bothered to read what I've written. Power Rankings column this week ... my lead on the Chiefs ..."Well, they squeaked another one out. Another seat-of-the-pants victory over a team that shoved them around plenty." So shove off, Mac, OK? Next!
Now what the hell is this? Oodlez from Crestview, Fla. Jimmy, is this code for something? Are you into tormenting the old doc, as well? OK, Oodlez from Crestview, meet Foodless from New Jersey. And your question? The envelope, please. Given the injuries to IanGold and JakePlummer, can the Broncos still be a serious Super Bowl contender? Depends when Jake comes back. They're not gonna contend with Steve Beuerlein running things, if the Pittsburgh game was any indication.
A couple of questions about my Anderson/Andersen piece, and thanks for the nice comments, fellas. Edgar of Monsey, N.Y., wonders if Gary Anderson has a shot at the Hall of Fame. Tommy of Portsmouth, Va., wants to know my choice of greatest kicker ever. Well, Gary is the career record holder for field goals and scoring right now, but if things go according to plan and he retires after this season while Morten soldiers on, then the latter will pass him. And how could you vote the runner-up into the Hall? So I think your question can only be answered when both of them are safely retired, and if Morten keeps going until he's 50 -- which is what he wants to do -- then he should make it and Gary will be just another fine kicker who's not enshrined. The only pure kicker in the Hall of Fame, and I can remember at the time how much bitter opposition there was to the idea of enshrining a kicker -- any kicker -- is Jan Stenerud. And when he was elected, in 1991, he was the all-time leading field goal man by a wide margin. As far as my No. 1, well in his prime, Gary Anderson didn't have the range Morten Andersen did, but I always figured Gary was a lot more accurate. Then I did the up-to-date math, and nine-hundreths of a percentage point separates them. So I'd have to say Morten is my all-time No. 1 based on his longer range.
From Jim of Sioux Falls, S.D., where they like to use big words: "What is the most egregious penalty someone can make?" When you say egregious, do you mean a dumb penalty or a nasty one or an unforgivable one? I'm guessing that you mean dumb, since you cite the nose tackle jumping offside. Oh, I guess I'd say offside on the defense when the other team is obviously faking a scrimmage play on fourth and short in an attempt to get a flag, and everyone on the defensive side is yelling, "Stay onside, stay onside." I saw the 49ers commit that one against the Rams this year, and I let out an audible groan, since the Niners were one of my special weekly can't-miss selections.
To Will of Las Vegas: Thank you and thank you (two nice comments). Where does Joe Gibbs rank in the pantheon of great coaches? Very high indeed. A great offensive innovator. He could load up with big guys, or go with the three-wideout bunch package that somehow always managed to shake someone free. A strange person, though. Very suspicious. He once publicly accused me of being Buddy Ryan's spy and of feeding the Eagles' coach the inside information that Gibbs was putting in the shotgun (for the first time) in Washington's upcoming game against Philly. We ironed the whole thing out a year later, but guys on the Skins told me that he still used to bring it up at team meetings, how Buddy had spies around the league who would feed him inside stuff. Hey, Buddy! Run for it! He's onto us!
George of Nashville, Tenn. wants to know what's wrong with Jeff Garcia. I think he still has the bad back that plagued him in the preseason, along with other possible injuries. I still love the way he plays, selling out to get those first downs, but things just aren't clicking in the old timing department. Having Terrell Owens drop his usual two or three passes per game, and then complaining that he isn't seeing the ball enough, doesn't help, but I guess by now Garcia is used to that.
Chuck of L.A. wonders whether or not Eric Dickerson would have buried the all-time rushing record if he'd have stayed with the L.A. Rams and their great O-line. This one drove me to what-if land, which is built on a whole set of assumed statistics. Not that I mind ... I like researching stuff like this, but there was quite a bit of work involved. Right now Emmitt Smith has 4,095 yards more than Dickerson (fourth all time) had. Let's assume that Emmitt comes back sometime this year. How many more yards do you want to give him? A couple of hundred, maybe? So that'll put him roughly 4,300 yards ahead of Dickerson. This doesn't even take into consideration the fact that Emmitt might be back next year. I don't even want to think of such a possibility. So let's allow the number to hold at 4,300. Dickerson averaged an amazing 1,742 yards per season in his first four years in Los Angeles, ages 23 to 26. His next season, 1987, was a swing year, three games with the Rams, nine with Indy. His total for the strike-abbreviated season was 1,288 yards. Sorry, but I can't award him any more. The Colts team he was traded to was run-oriented, with three Pro Bowlers on the offensive line.
In his next two years he averaged 1,485 per, with Indy. OK, to be generous, let's say that if he were still with the Rams, with whom he had a big blow-up over his contract, he would have hit his old 1,742 average. That would have given him an extra 514 yards in those two years in our mythical race to overtake Emmitt. Only 3,786 to go. In 1990 and 1991, at age 30 and 31, Dickerson missed 11 games. More contract problems, injuries, you name it. In the two seasons he gained 1,213 yards, total. By 1992 he was a 32-year old Raider, just about washed up, and then next season he made it through four games with the Falcons and packed it in. How many more yards do you want to give him during this four-year stretch, assuming he remained a Ram? Another 1,000 to be kind? Two thousand? Still not enough. So in answer to your question, I can report that no, Dickerson would not hold the all-time rushing record if he had never left the Rams, and I can honestly say that until I embarked on this voyage I had absolutely no idea in what port my shop would eventually dock.
Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
Bobby of Savannah, Ga., asks a question that had me wondering the same thing while I was watching the Rams-Falcons Monday nighter: "Why has Mike Vick's absence had such an effect on the Falcons' defense?" I think the dropoff in talent was so great, from Vick to Doug Johnson, that it had a rather chilling effect all around. Add to that the fact that Peerless Price hasn't exactly been the world beater they thought they were getting. Add to that the strange demise of their former offensive line star, LT Bob Whitfield. So what you have is a once-dynamic offense that now flatly stinks. The pressure of having to carry the load forced the defense to crack, at least that's the way it looked Monday night, when it seemed to have packed it in. Rams receivers ran free downfield, Marc Bulger was hardly pressured, and how about that goal line defense, with no MLB and the tackles spaced so wide apart that Bulger just strolled in? The defensive coaching has gone into the tank along with everything else.
Peter of Chicago rates the Cowboys' cornerback tandem of Mario Edwards and Terence Newman fifth-best in the NFL. Not me. I haven't ranked them all, but I'd say the Dallas pair is somewhere around the middle of the pack. I've always liked Edwards, in fact he was on my all-pro checklist last year. But people have been picking on Newman. In the only game I saw him, in the flesh, the Giants' Kerry Collins threw 17 times into his coverage and completed eight passes for 78 yards.
"Hi, Doctor," says Janet of Valley Village, Calif. Hi, Janet, what's up? She's had it with Marty Ball, she says, and needs a strong recommendation for a new coach for her beloved Chargers. She wants to know if I approve of her suggestion, Denny Green. Yeah, I'll go along with that. I always thought that Dennis got involved in a political situation in Minneapolis, and if they would have left him alone he would have done just fine. I'll give your regards to Jimmy and the Flaming Redhead, as requested, but Jimmy has already monitored your letter and says he wouldn't mind finding out about the $30 cheeseburger at Outlaws, or the offer for a free surf lesson as well. (How can they charge 30 bucks for a cheeseburger? I mean, is it Kobe beef, or what?)
To Geoff of New York City: I'd like to get into your theory of why the backup Viking QBs like to go deep to Randy Moss (because he's more likely to snag any errant tosses) but I'm afraid it would take too long and I can't say I go along with it. As far as your wondering what I think of Herman Edwards benching John Abraham because of the DE's DWI, well, I answered that one in my rankings column. But since you seem like a nice guy, I won't get mad, as I did with that guy from Binghamton. I'll just repeat that it was a good move because I think people were getting too complacent under Herman, one of the really nice guys in the business. His players needed to see some toughness from him.
Campbell, our high school Scotch whiskey expert from Livingston, Scotland, says that I can breathe easy. He adds that, in his e-mail last week, he must have neglected to say, "in high school a few years back," and that he's 21 now and fully licensed to drink in all respectable establishments. He also adds that I "missed the chop blocks," presumably on Dante Hall's TD in the Denver game. Campbell, if you're going to be serious about American football, you have to get your terminology right. A push in the back is not a chop block, or a veal chop or chopped liver. It is technically a clip, but really just a push, which is the same thing you get if the margin of the points in the game you're betting on falls right on the spread.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman covers the NFL for the magazine and SI.com. His Power Rankings, "Inside Football" column and Mailbag appear weekly on SI.com.