Power Rankings and cornerbacks ratings cause a flood of complaints
Posted: Friday October 31, 2003 3:23PM; Updated: Friday October 31, 2003 3:26PM
Before I begin the depressing journey into the realm of the rankings, which once against have infuriated my most loyal readers, let me clear up one very significant misconception.
As you know, I am only allowed to use first names here because the Surgeon General has issued a warning that the use of both first and last names may be detrimental to one's health. But I can petition for a special dispensation in the case of any e-mail that will significantly change my lifestyle. So now I can report the following from Chris Horton of Phoenix, and that's in Arizona (first and last names of cities must also be used). He has pointed out, in gentle, almost apologetic fashion that the Arizona State Fair is at 19th and McDowell, not 27th, as I wrote last week. Ever since I met the Flaming Redhead eight-and-a-half years ago, "27th and McDowell" has been one of my favorite sayings.
"That's not fair!"
"You want fair? Go down to 27th and McDowell."
It's a Mike Walker expression, passed on to Linda in Phoenix before I knew her, and then passed on to me for non-stop usage. I read Mr. Horton's e-mail to the Redhead and right away she started Flaming. Pure stream of consciousness, and here it is:
"Well, he's wrong. Uh, it's a big area and it stretches for eight blocks. I'm not sure ... I'm gonna look it up on Google." And then she did.
"It is at 19th and McDowell," she said. "So I guess Mike Walker has fouled me up all these years."
So there it is, and for those of you who are looking at your wristwatches and wondering why I'm wasting everybody's time with something which at first glance seems trivial, let me ask you, please, if there isn't, perhaps, a phrase that you're in love with, that you repeat until people start rolling their eyes? Oh, God, there he goes again. And now I'll have to change it and I don't think it'll feel the same. "You want fair? Go down to 19th and McDowell." Nope, doesn't have the same ring to it.
Thanks for your subsequent compliment, Chris. Thanks for your information about the triple-digit weather in Phoenix on Oct. 23, which happens to be my birthday. And I can hear the chorus out there. "What year?" Yeah, right, like I'm going to tell anybody.
OK, I've stalled long enough. Time to face the music, the music being three tubas and a guitarlet (toilet seat with strings).
These are the questions that begin with "How could you?" And the first set, represented by Mark of Reading, Pa., and Ron of Cincinnati and Ott of Indianapolis, follows that opening question with "rate the Titans ahead of the Colts, who have a better record and defeated Tennessee in convincing fashion?" And the second set, led by Don of Heidelberg, Germany, and Ben of Alberta, Canada, and Max of Waltham, Mass., comes in with "rate the Titans four spots higher than the Patriots, who have the same record and likewise beat Tennessee?"
The problem came two weeks ago when I saw Tennessee do a number on unbeaten Carolina. So it was a ring-around-the-rosie type of thing ... Titans beat Panthers, Panthers beat Colts, Colts beat Titans. One of them would have to be rated ahead of a team it lost to. Besides, the Colts' victory over Tennessee came seven games ago, when McNair dislocated his finger and everything was generally messed up. The Patriots vs. Titans thing is a little tougher to cover. The reversal in positions came after Week 7, when, as I mentioned, Tennessee beat Carolina (that game had a profound effect on me, too much so, I'm afraid). In my haste to move the Titans ahead of the Panthers I gave Tennessee a huge hike, and during the journey, New England somehow got overlooked. The Patriots' victory over the Dolphins in Miami, with a banged-up lineup was no less impressive than the Titans' victory over the Panthers. Don, Ben and Max are absolutely right. It's a glitch in my board that needs fixing. What more can I say? We don't have capital punishment here in Jersey, so you can't kill me. A session of torture will do, you say? OK, fair enough, as long as it doesn't mean having to listen to that Sports Reporters thing on ESPN.
You know something? I don't feel too hot right now. I'm not my old self. Guilt has grasped this mailbag with its icy fingers. Forthcoming e-mails will be answered in snappy, serious fashion.
Robert of Las Vegas wants to know some other Titans to pay attention to, other than McNair. OLB Keith Bulluck is a strong All-Pro candidate. Tennessee has a good wideout corps, with a vastly improved Drew Bennett (injured now) and Derrick Mason, who's always been good, along with very solid Nos. 3 and 4 in Justin McCairens and Tyrone Calico. It's unusual to find this much quality, going down to the fourth guy. And there's the remerged Jevon Kearse, back after an injury-racked season. Enough?
Oops, here come some "How could you leave off's?" This is in relation to my cornerbacks column and the names mentioned are Ty Law, and arguing his case is Pat of Boston; Chris McAllister, represented by Chris A. of Millersville, Md.; Samari Rolle, wearing the silks of the David J. Stables in Kissimmee, Fla., and Terence Newman, a new client of an old e-mailer, or at least his name seems familiar, Mookie of New York. There are lots of good corners around. The guys I picked are, in my opinion, the elite. Law has been a sturdy veteran for many years. He's slowing down now, although he'll still make big plays. McAllister's play fits the typical pattern of the modern cornerback, sometimes fine, sometimes vulnerable. I feel that Rolle's game has slipped. I've also seen teams work on Newman. I mentioned only one rookie, and that was Marcus Trufant, who I think has been better than Terence.
OK, now we move into Courtroom C., where still another trial is in session -- The Defenders of Sharpe v. The Evil Z. Call the first witness for the prosecution. Spencer of Boston. Call the second witness. Jeff of Denver. Both offer the same testimony, and I'm sure there's a whole gang out there that feels the same way. How could I say that Shannon Sharpe was only in my top-15 -- or maybe top-10 -- tight ends all time, when he's so clearly better than that? Let's see now ... Mackey, Ditka, Bavaro, Winslow, Casper, Christensen, Newsome, and these are not in any order, Jackie Smith, and what's that? You absolutely won't accept that last one? Well, going into this season, Sharpe averaged 12.3 yards per catch and one TD for every 13.9 receptions. Smith's numbers were 16.5 and one for every 12. How's that? Sharpe caught more balls than any of them, you say? Well, sure, but it's a different game now. A lot more passes are thrown. So how many tight ends have we named? I count eight. Let's say that if I go over the list carefully, I'll find one or two who weren't as good as Sharpe. That'll put him at No. 7 or 8, all time, or something like that. I'll tell you what ... I'm getting bored with this whole thing. Call the next witness already. No more witnesses? Good, let's break for lunch.
From Jim of St. Louis: "When are you going to take credit for predicting thatMarc Bulger (not Kurt Warner) was the QB who would take the Rams to the playoffs?" Never. I don't feel smart or perceptive or anything. I feel like I want the party to be over so I can go home and go to bed. Jim's question: How do other teams view Warner? Oh, I'd say as a major puzzle. No one knows what's in his future. Eventually someone might pay to find out, if he washes out in St. Louis, but not at the numbers Warner's agent will undoubtedly demand. The wife will have to stay home, though. That'll be in the contract.
Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
Ben of Delaware wants to know who should be the Eagles' starting RB. Well, Brian Westbrook might be too little to take the steady pounding. I'd say he was more valuable as a return man and situational runner. Correll Buckhalter has had, by my count, six significant games in his career, but that's over three years. When he's been good he's been dazzling, such as his 15-for-100 game against the Jets last week. His injury history makes him a gamble, though. Some of the punch has gone out of Duce Staley's game. He's in the doghouse. I don't want to lay all this on his holdout, because that's always management's convenient excuse, and I'm basically an anti-management type of person, but you have to wonder. I still haven't answered your question, have I? Buckhalter is very flashy but I don't think you could honestly send it all in on him. I think if somehow they could get Staley in the right frame of mind or something, he might once again be the heavy-duty guy he used to be. But maybe it's just wishful thinking. Steve Van Buren, incidentally, is too old.
Here's a rip I'm gonna enjoy answering. Geoff of Arlington, Va., cites my prejudice, bias and totally unfair treatment of the Redskins, ending his rant with, "Keep up the shoddy work, baldy." Baldy? BALDY! You know there's a reason why my picture is printed on the Web site, alongside the stuff I write. And the reason is so everyone can see that even at my advanced age, I still have a full head of hair. I mean, granted, it's in the form of a crewcut from the 1950s, when I was in my prime, but it does happen to be hair. Anything else? Oh, the Redskins stuff. No, I don't like Vinny Cerrato. He's the Iago of the NFL, whispering evil into the ear of... well, that's where the analogy ends because Danny Boy sure ain't no Othello. The two of them cut Spurrier's backup QB by committee. They dragged an old timer like Joe Bugel out of retirement because their coach's scheme is getting his QB killed. How could you not rip these clowns, this joke of an organization? I'm tempted to call up Red McCombs and have him visit their locker room and give them some of the same stuff he treated his own Vikings to last week.
Teddy of Greensboro, N.C., the betting capital of the South, is annoyed that I "somehow picked" the Saints to upset his Panthers last weekend. C'mon now, I wasn't that far off, was I? I mean a 3-4 team takes a 5-1 club into OT, so it wasn't such a crime that I had them, right? My answer to the last part of your e-mail is that no, I don't think that Jake Delhomme can take New Orleans very far in the playoffs.
A thank you to Scott of Hudson, N.H. This is the week in which I need uppers real bad. You're absolutely right. In mentioning significant Patriots rookies, I forgot all about their fifth-round draft, Dan Koppen, who is doing such a good job at center. Belichick is turning in some coaching job this year. I'd say he's tied with Parcells for best in the league. I wonder what the Pats will look like when all their wounded return. Off course by then they'll probably have new wounded, so it'll be a revolving door.
Finally a rare e-mail from a woman, and it gladdens my heart. Delia of Southlake, Texas, just can't understand the "hideous gold jackets" worn by Hall of Fame inductees. "Far removed from being stylish ... just plain ugly!" she says. This is an area I am very familiar with. Did you know that I used to be a male fashion model? I modeled lobster bibs. OK, all this fraternity-boy humor aside. As soon as I read your missive I got on the phone with Joe Horrigan, the Hall's vice president of communications, and asked him to please communicate to me his thoughts on the future of those ugly gold jackets. "I like 'em," he said, which was not the comment I wanted to hear. "They started out as the design from NFL alumni. There have been three different shades of yellow-gold. As far as I know, no one has suggested changing them." Delia, I have to admit that I'm so out of it in this department that until you mentioned it, I couldn't even have told you what color the jackets were. But I'd suggest you drop Joe a note ... he's a nice guy. Address: Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2121 George Halas Drive, NW, Canton, Ohio 44708. Don't phone him, though. He likes to catch a quick nap from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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.