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Monday Morning QB (Cont.)

Posted: Monday October 16, 2006 10:03AM; Updated: Tuesday October 17, 2006 1:40AM
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The Giants' Tiki Barber lit up the Falcons for 185 rushing yards on Sunday.
The Giants' Tiki Barber lit up the Falcons for 185 rushing yards on Sunday.
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6. I think I never thought I'd say that Tennessee owner Bud Adams was right. But Bud Adams was right in making Jeff Fisher play Vince Young when he did three weeks ago. It got the Titans a victory at Washington, because there's no way Kerry Collins would have won that game. The Redskins would never have respected the quarterback enough to give Travis Henry the kind of holes he needed to rush for 178 yards.

7. I think this is what I liked about Week 6:

a. You will never see a more beautiful, well-placed long pass than Matt Hasselbeck throwing into triple coverage for Darrell Jackson. Touchdown, Seattle.

b. Tiki Barber had runs of 18, 15, 16, 29, 16, 13, 12 and 17 at Atlanta. He is indestructible. Never thought I'd see the Grady Jacksons give up 6.6 yards per carry to anyone, but that's what the suddenly plastic Atlanta defense did to the Giants. By the way, excellent story by Pam Oliver on the Fox pregame show on how Barber and Warrick Dunn stay so healthy despite their diminutive stature, with a shot of Barber getting acupuncture and deep-tissue massages.

c. LaDainian Tomlinson has 87 touchdowns in 84 games. He is 27. Imagine if he's just semi-normal for the rest of his career. The guy's got 42 touchdowns in the last 2½ years. Dare we say he might get 200? Dare we?

d. I loved Joey Harrington's fire in the fourth quarter at the Meadowlands. A little too little, too late.

e. Ahmad Brooks, 11 tackles. Rangy and fierce. If Brooks keeps his nose clean for Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis might have added the sideline-to-sideline linebacker he lost when Odell Thurman imploded.

f. Philip Rivers and Alex Smith, two guys who didn't and couldn't play, respectively, a year ago, were a combined 49 of 70 for 448 yards, four touchdowns and one pick in San Francisco.

g. In case you hadn't noticed, we are in a new Golden Age of quarterbacks when Rivers, Smith, Young and Gradkowski, who all got their driver's licenses in the past two weeks, are lighting it up on Sundays.

h. Rod Marinelli knows what's important. Game balls are nice, but he was almost flippant about getting his first after the Lions' first win of the year and the first of his career. "I'll probably just put it in my locker,'' he said. I like the way he doesn't phony-up the moment, and I still think he's going to be a good NFL coach.

8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 6:

a. Stupid, idiotic roughing-the-passer call by Mike Carey's crew on Justin Smith in Cincinnati's 14-13 loss to Tampa Bay. Instead of it being second-and-18 from the Bengals' 40 with three minutes to play, the Bucs had a first-and-10 at the Bengals' 25. Smith was flagged for driving Tampa QB Gradkowski's head to the ground, though replays clearly showed that all Smith did was tackle the guy. "I guess you've got to cuddle him to the ground,'' Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. Great line from Bengals.com guru Geoff Hobson: "The Bengals thought they were in the middle of the NFL and a tough football game when the Kennedys broke out.'' Edgy, Geoff. Very edgy.

b. How does Michael Jenkins drop that touchdown from Mike Vick?

c. The Redskins used to play defense. In the two losses that will spell their playoff doom -- to the Giants and the Titans (the Titans!) -- Washington gave up 755 yards. On Sunday, the 'Skins really missed the inactive Joe Salave'a and Cornelius Griffin in the middle of their run defense.

d. Arizona-Oakland in the Black Hole next Sunday. Football Fever. Catch it!

e. Actually, that could be the first NFL game all season that does not officially sell out.

f. Re: the Jerry Porter grievance: Does anyone care? He has become football's most irrelevant player. As to whether the Raiders were within their rights to suspend the poor, unfortunate Porter, there's not a soul in America who gives a flying crapola, other than Porter.

g. Never thought I'd see the day when the Bengals were 3 for 14 in third-down conversions ... against an 0-4 team.

9. I think I hate to do this. I really do. We're in Week 6 of the football season, but I have to give some advice to Joe Torre and Brian Cashman right now, because they are decent men, even if they do work for the Evil Empire. Get in a car sometime this month, and drive 3½ hours up I-95 to Foxboro. Visit the Patriots. Or if you're inclined to go a place where you might be more invisible, fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive north to Lake Forest, where the Bears are headquartered. Learn how to build a winning team and how to navigate through the noise that disrupts every big-market team today.

Football isn't baseball, you'll argue. Football is the ultimate team game, and baseball is more of a stars' game. But the one thing all good baseball teams have is the one thing all good football teams have -- role players. Guys who don't need the credit and who don't earn the big money. In baseball, David Eckstein is a winning player, much the same as Mike Vrabel is. It wasn't so long ago that both of them were on the street. The best team in football right now is the Chicago Bears. Look at their roster. Ever hear of Bernard Berrian, Rashied Davis, Mark Anderson, Tank Johnson, Alfonso Boone or Jason McKie? Don't feel bad. Not many football fans have, either.

Those are six of the 25 or 30 most important players on the team rampaging its way through the NFL right now. I'm guessing their combined salaries equal one month of Alex Rodriguez's. This is what Bears GM Jerry Angelo told me the other day: "One of the things I learned from the Patriots and Steelers in the last few years is they lost more than they gained in free agency, and they never were worried about it. They drafted rank-and-file players, developed them, were patient with them, knew the exact roles they wanted them to play and put them in those roles. Dan Graham, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson ... are any of them stars? No. Are they Patriots players? Yes. And that's all they care about.''

Before this season, Angelo was assailed for not getting a big-name receiver in free agency. He was in the game for Antwaan Randle El but didn't think he was worth $6 million a year, and lost him to Washington. "I got hammered by the local media for not getting a good receiver,'' he said, "but I said, 'Guys, we've got good receivers here. They fit the profile of what we want in a receiver.' But because we'd done a poor job of stabilizing the quarterback position, you couldn't tell what we had at receiver. We'd gone for five years playing three or four quarterbacks almost every year. How do you know if your receivers are any good? They never work with the same quarterback. Now that we've had Rex for an offseason and he's been healthy for the regular season, now we can judge the receivers. And what we have is pretty good.'' To say the least. It's a lesson for all other franchises, regardless of the sport.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Observation from an evening watching my New Jersey Devils on Saturday night: Hockey fans really like the word "suck.''

b. One more: Brian Gionta was two things against Philadelphia -- the smallest man on the ice and the best player on the ice.

c. If the Mets win two of three from the Cards, they'll have won a pennant with one bona fide starting pitcher.

d. The Tigers are one of the best stories in sports in a long, long time. I mean, who isn't rooting for them? How can you not root for them?

e. CSI is a compelling but entirely creepy show.

f. I walked in on an episode of South Park one night last week. Perhaps the show's creators have gone slightly over the line. There was a graphic scene with a cartoon George Bush shooting some guy in the head. Now there's some quality American television. We ask why our kids have become desensitized to things like gun violence. Gee, I wonder why.

g. Coffeenerdness: Quad venti hazelnut latte this morning, and believe me, it's not nearly enough. Three of them wouldn't be enough.

h. Finally, this dispatch from Brian Hyland, my tough-talking HBO boss who's got a pretty soft side: "Sometimes you see something that makes you remember why you love football. Saturday night I was at a fund-raiser for a buddy's sick father -- a mountain of a man who's been cut down by pancreatic cancer. When I say mountain, I mean it. Jack Sullivan is a gigantic guy -- 250-plus pounds, with one of those tough, whisky-soaked Irish faces and a smile that would make any stranger in the bar feel welcome. His friends gathered together to raise money for his care and to show how much he's loved as he fights this horrible disease.

"Jack is just a normal, knockaround guy, which means he's a prince of his city. He's worked for Con Ed for over two decades and three of his sons have fought in the war against terror. His son Matty Sullivan, my friend, is a New York City cop who just got back from a year-long tour or duty in Baghdad. Anyway, the things that have been most important to Jack over the years have been family, friends, hard work, service to country and the New York Jets.

"Old Jack and his boys are there rooting on the Jets every Sunday. Have been for years. From Shea to the Meadowlands; from Namath to Pennington; from bad football to truly horrific football; from one chemo treatment to the next, Jack Sullivan has been there, a normal guy who loves his team. So what does it mean? What does a fan, who is fighting cancer, get back from the players he's loved and supported for so many years at the most vulnerable time of his life? Well, after a few beers were drunk and after the speeches from Jack's union brothers and Army buddies, who comes out from the back room to surprise Jack Sullivan? Only Wesley Walker, Bruce Harper and his all-time favorite Jet, Joe Klecko (holding Jack's baby grandson).

"These old Jets did not know Jack Sullivan. They were made aware that Jack was sick and that he loved the Jets so they went out of their way on a Saturday night to show up and tell Jack Sullivan that he meant something to them, because he was a great, great fan. More than a few tears were shed -- not just for Jack Sullivan, but for the reminder that there's something special about heroes.''

Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser

Chicago 35, Arizona 13.

Not much drama. Not much reason to tune in past midway through the second quarter. By that time ESPN will have shown you the grand new stadium in Glendale (across the parking lot from where the Coyotes play), and you will have heard some of the Matt Leinart miking (now that's a great idea, wiring a quarterback about to be sacked nine times), and the Bears will be up 21-0. Around that time, weather permitting, the Mets and Cards will be 1-1 in the fourth and a better watch.

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